Artwork / 2015 / Dirty Hands (Mayor Charlie Hales’ Legacy)

Charlie Hales, former Mayor of Portland
Gwenn Seemel
Dirty Hands (Mayor Charlie Hales’ Legacy)
acrylic on wood
19 x 14 inches


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In 2013, 2014, and 2015, before I moved away from Oregon, I was living in the middle of a bunch of bad decisions made by Portland authorities. My building in the north Pearl was surrounded by at least five active construction sites at all times, and, with the activity slated to continue at that same dangerous pace for years to come, there was no way I could stay.

Still before I let poor planning and unevenly enforced laws push me out of my hometown, I fought for the Rose City. A lot. And I made this painting in the hopes that the people who destroyed Portland’s livability wouldn’t ever be able to get away with it completely, no matter how many PR people they paid.

Charlie Hales, former Mayor of Portland
detail image

Mayor Hales is the center of the money sun in the composition. Beginning with the bearded man directly above him and going clockwise, these are the power players who harmed my community:

  • David Sweet is the Chair of the Noise Review Board, which decides how much additional impact a construction project can have on a neighborhood.
  • Doug Shapiro is the Vice President of Construction for Hoyt Street Properties and he manages the day-to-day operations of construction, including remediation of contamination.
  • Kevin Parrett is the Manager of the Cleanup and Tanks Section of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and he can compel the construction companies to comply with laws.
  • Tiffany Sweitzer is a developer and the President of Hoyt Street Properties as well as the poster child of sustainable development in Portland and now globally as well.
  • A nameless police officer represents his many colleagues in this image, and they all protect the City’s interests.
  • Bob Ball is a developer and the CEO of Astor Pacific LLC, and he is also the Commander of the Portland Police Reserve Unit.
  • A nameless construction worker represents his many colleagues in this image, and specifically those who follow the rules dictated by their companies before following city ordinance.
  • Mark Bruun is the President of Lorentz Bruun Construction and he makes money off of projects which often make noise during hours when they should be quiet.
  • Kathy Couch is an Office of Neighborhood Involvement bureaucrat, and she writes the minutes for Noise Review Board meetings, creating a subjective document of the proceedings that is also the official document.
  • Homer Williams is a developer and the Chairman of Williams & Dame Development as well as the stepfather of Tiffany Sweitzer.
  • Paul Van Orden is the City of Portland’s one Noise Control Officer and, according to City Hall, the only person who can enforce noise laws despite the fact that city ordinance clearly includes police officers among those empowered to do so.
  • Dike Dame is the President of Williams & Dame Development, and he serves on the board of Portland State University’s First Stop Portland, a program which he founded, which is intended to promote Portland development to the world, and which is headed by Mayor Hales’ wife, Nancy Hales.

To see the making of this piece, check out this video, and to see how I got to remake this piece as part of a public art exhibition in DC go here.