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"Under Commissioner Sam Adams' plan, residential customers who qualify for a discount by taking steps to reduce their runoff can get as much as a 35 percent discount." Oregonian, November 29, 2005

Adams has received less credit publicly for reshaping plans for the Columbia River bridge. He joined three other leaders who yanked their support and called for an independent review. That study led freeway engineers to narrow the bridge..." Oregonian, November 21, 2010 

"When the two state highway divisions were stonewalling and manipulating data --basically just spewing a bunch of fiscally irresponsible propaganda --it was Adams who finally commissioned some reliable, independent engineering work," David Bragdon, an Adams critic and former Metro Council president, said in an e-mail." Oregonian, November 21, 2010

"The mayor closed the deal to bring major league soccer to town." Oregonian, November 21, 2010

"Adams has sharp policy people on his team. They've done some good work, particularly in finding often low-key ways to help public schools and smaller businesses." Oregonian, January 5, 2011

"Help extend light rail to Milwaukie. Reduce Portland's greenhouse gas emissions...Recruit foreign companies to remake our economy. Build more streetcar lines..."  Oregonian, January 5, 2011

“With boundless energy and big ideas, he seemed poised to transform Portland from a progressive haven with a struggling economy into a model city for the new century.” 

“It was an early mid-January evening, and Sam Adams was about to step into an intersection in Portland's Old Town when the flashing red hand went solid. Despite an empty street, he stepped back onto the sidewalk. I cant jaywalk as mayor, he said with an embarrassed grin. It takes a lot longer to get places.” 

“First your legacy—what do you think it will be to the city? I don’t give a damn about legacies. What I give a damn about is what we got done that helps the here and now and makes other opportunities for existing folks and future folks. It’s not only the quick sort of fixes and the quick changes, but it’s doing it in a way that sets up more improvement and more progress. This is a city with high expectations and high involvement, and that’s the raw material of a great city. I’m very optimistic that a lot of the stuff we put in place will continue to be improved upon by people to come.” []

“Do you recall a single, best experience? Oh I have so many. I would say that I’m so lucky. As mayor you get a lot of feedback, good and bad— Especially in this town.It’s very intense. I love it. Even when people are yelling at me at Fred Meyer, and someone comes up and hugs me sort of randomly and tells me why later. I would say that I really like the everyday interactions, and when people come up to me and engage on an issue I love to hear how they describe it, how they think about it. That’s how I get my energy. I’m a geek in terms of statistics, but I also want to talk to the people involved, face-to-face, and I want to see things first-hand. I think that’s my upbringing in Oregon and in Portland. You know, one of the most touching things is that I recently got an award for my work helping the janitors in Portland get basic healthcare and basic wages. They handed me a Pendleton blanket from the great Pendleton Woolen Mills that was embroidered with the words, “Thank you for being the janitors’ mayor.” My great grandma from Ireland worked for 17 years cleaning the Catholic cathedral here, before I even lived in Portland… You know, I teared up.” []

[Adams] …has always described you as very tenacious, very driven and the kind of guy who goes after something and gets it.” []

“…[Adams has one of] the most nimble minds, hardest working and politically astute characters in Portland politics. Whether it was Adams’ support for sustainability, the arts or public education, Adams’ vision for a city that benefits “all citizens” is a force to be reckoned with. Adams inherited an economy shed-ding thousands of jobs per month. Forbes Magazine now calls Portland one of the most promising cities for job creation.” []

“The mayor probably should have better things to do with his time, but Adams' first-season Portlandia  cameo as an eager aide to the fictional mayor was a well-played turn. "He really has taken the quirkiness of Portland and ridden it out," says Len Bergstein, a political consultant who advised Adams' opponent, Sho Dozono, in the 2008 mayoral race. "The young-and-restless, hip, quirky nature of it all is being written up in all kinds of magazines…and he has encouraged it and fanned it and made it into a positive in a way that a lot of mayors might not have been able to." 

“UNDERDOG PERSPECTIVE: Adams didn't just get a rough start as mayor. He got a rough start in life. Not a lot of closeted, bullied, small-town welfare kids with divorced parents grow up to be the mayor of a major U.S. city. Unlike some politicians, Adams has not made his personal story a platform. But his tough upbringing in Newport shapes his priorities. For example: his Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative, which put PDC's urban-renewal tools to work in impoverished stretches such as Rosewood in outer East Portland, Parkrose, Northeast Cully Boulevard, and at Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street. "I thought that those parts of Portland were a lot like small, struggling cities in rural Oregon," Adams says. "I know how many smart, hardworking people are trapped in bad circumstances."”

"I think it’s pretty awesome that #inPDX @MayorSamAdams responds to tweets from the constituency. #PDXisthebest," Daily Journal of Commerce. August 27, 2010 

"In his first 100 work days on the council, Adams -- Vera Katz's chief of staff for her first 11 years in the mayor's office -- visited 100 small businesses in Portland to get a better grip on their needs and peeves." 

"The gap between buying power and what people have to spend on bare necessities is widening," he says. "That's not unique to Portland. What is unique is the lack of urgency about it. I couldn't believe when Erik (Sten) and I tried to get more money for affordable housing and we were told, 'We did that last year.'" Oregonian, August 21, 2005

"Both candidates were asked if they support a proposal by the Affordable Housing NOW! coalition to replenish the city's housing investment fund with $30 million. The coalition of housing advocates, tenants and community members will stage a rally March 11 at City Hall to generate support for the idea, which would emphasize using the money to create housing for residents making less than 30 percent of the area's median family income.

"Adams said he supports the proposal while work continues to find a new source of local funding, such as a real estate transfer tax or a voter-approved bond levy. He said part of the money should be dedicated to subsidizing college housing for students with children, and building affordable housing closer to jobs."

"The dishwasher and busboy at Papa Haydn's" in Northwest Portland "shouldn't have to commute to Gresham," Adamssaid. Oregonian, March 3, 2004

"Adams said he will fight for affordable housing and against gentrification." Portland Mercury, January 6, 2005

"Adams promised to put more money into low-income housing, noting that he helped pass a rule requiring that 30 percent of the budget in each urban renewal district go to affordable housing." Oregonian, March 15, 2008

"Sten's affordable housing goals were expected to be open for battle during this Wednesday's city council meeting. At issue is a resolution co-sponsored with Adams that would require 30 percent of all urban renewal dollars to be spent directly on affordable housing." Portland Mercury, APR 27, 2006

Two weeks ago, City Commissioner Sam Adams paid a visit to a large immigrant rights march/rally downtown and said a few words to the crowd about "the positive contributions that immigrants make to our city, state, and nation." His speech hit the local broadcast media, and not long after, his office was inundated with calls, including this one from a screeching, breathless woman: "You queer, spic-loving bastard! Why don't you go down to Mexico and help them out there? We'd be happy to be rid of you, you rotten, spic-loving queer." Portland Mercury, APR 27, 2006

"Adams has worked hard on issues of economic development, affordable housing and education." Oregonian, March 8, 2004

"City readies plan to boost sagging local economy Goal to help Portlanders cope with recession. Portland Tribune, Jan 11, 2009

"The Portland City Council will unveil a local economic stimulus plan on Tuesday morning. The plan is intended to help city businesses and residents deal with the worsening economy. "This will be the city's first stimulus plan," Mayor Sam Adams told the Portland Tribune. "in previous recessions, the City Council has pulled back and looked inward, dealing with cutting budgets and things like that. I want the council to be more aggressive in helping businesses and residents."  Portland Tribune, Jan 11, 2009


Adams said Portland’s economic stimulus plan would include the following additional initiatives: 

  • Creating a new “Portland is Better Together” business-support and family support Web site. City readies plan to boost sagging local economy ‘

  • Using the city’s allocation of federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds to buy foreclosed properties. 

  • Creating partnerships to fund additional pre-foreclosure counseling by proven community-based homeownership organizations.

  •  Encouraging new development with a city property tax investment program. 

  • Pursuing a Locally Based Enterprise program (LBE) to ensure that Portland’s construction firms get preference for subcontracting opportunities on large-scale city projects. 

  • Promoting and partnering with a “Chose Local” campaign to increase the sale of local goods and services. 

  • Reconstituting the former Fair Contracting and Employment forum. 

  • Holding a New-Opportunity Fair that would make it easier for people with business ideas to connect with funding partners. 

  • Increasing financial support within the Portland Development Commission for small businesses. 

  • Providing scholarship opportunities for basic skills remediation, high school completion and trade-specific training. "All of our efforts need to be aimed towards helping Portland businesses and people cope with the recession," said Adams.

Portland’s groundbreaking live/work space for artists, Milepost 5, has provided affordable space for hundreds of artists over the years. Its offbeat history offers a mix of lessons about mashing up art and commerce. apartments that start at $375 a month...The project’s advocate was then-Mayor Sam Adams, who was trying to make space for artists in a city that, even in 2006, had started getting too expensive for the creative class." OPB Feb. 15, 2018 

"Mayor Sam Adams, who initiated the idea for dedicated funding, have stated they are emulating successful past coalitions, such as those efforts around affordable housing and greenspaces." Oregonian, September 7, 2009

"Portland Development Commission (PDC) presented the findings of an internal audit that revealed how much (or how little) the agency spends on affordable housing projects. The results: PDC has spent as little as 16 percent of its urban renewal budget of affordable housing, much to the chagrin of city council." Portland Mercury, AUG 24, 2006

Poor People Need Roofs Too Developers vs. Affordable Housing

"Affordable housing on waterfront is debated

Hide Details. How much? | Some say that the 30 percent goal would cut into amenities such as parks and streets"

"City Commissioner Sam Adams, who voted for the study, said the city needs to make up for declining federal support of affordable housing development. "You've got to have some resources available to make deals and leverage that with the private sector," Adams said. "Our best source is tax increment financing."" Oregonian, August 12, 2006

Commissioners Sam Adams, Randy Leonard and Erik Sten --a council majority --said they endorse spending at least 30 percent of redevelopment money on affordable housing. That would be nearly double the 16 percent the city spent in the past eight years on affordable housing.

Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Dan Saltzman said they support affordable housing but were less firm about using 30 percent as the standard.
The council has made affordable and family-friendly housing a key part of its agenda given the city's surging home prices, drop in public school students and rise in poverty. "Rarely have the stakes on this issue been higher," Adams said.

In 2000, about 9 percent of Portland families were in poverty and the median house value was $155,000, U.S. Census data show.
Four years later, an estimated 11 percent of Portland's families were in poverty and the median house value jumped to $202,000, a 30 percent increase.

"We need so much more (affordable housing) in this community," said Doreen Binder, executive director of Transition Projects, a Portland housing nonprofit. "The difference between rich and poor is just incredible right now." Oregonian, August 17, 2006
"Council backs more spending on affordable housing, Three commissioners want to nearly double the amount the city spent in the past" Oregonian, August 17, 2006

"It's mayor, PDC vs. council on housing

The political power play for control of the Portland Development Commission is back on. City Commissioners Sam Adams, Randy Leonard and Erik Sten pushed the Portland Development Commission again Wednesday during a council debate to increase spending for affordable housing. And they found Mayor Tom Potter, who runs the PDC, pushing right back." Oregonian, October 20, 2006

"Q: What are the top three issues facing the city and how do you think the council should deal with each?

A: The economy: We need to spend taxpayers' money wisely and make sure that money is spent to provide good jobs in Portland. Planning and basic services in all neighborhoods: I will work closely with Mayor Adams on the Portland Plan. We've never done a document like this that has an element of strategic investment connected to it. Schools and work force training: We need to support families so they can stay in Portland. If you're moving from school to school, you're not going to be able to succeed. We must also fund affordable housing in inner-city neighborhoods."

"Adams, a hard-working (some would say overachieving) visionary with big plans for meeting the economic, developmental and educational challenges of the next two decades." Oregonian, November 27, 2008

"Q: What are the top three issues facing the city, and how do you think the council should deal with each?

A: I said these things from day one of my campaign: a 47 percent eighth-grade dropout rate; 28 percent of Portlanders unemployed or living on poverty wages; a million new residents coming here in the next 20 years. We're not ready. We're at risk of having our quality of life trampled by that kind of growth. So you must first focus community attention on these problems. The most common reaction I get still today is surprise. You bring together stakeholders who can solve these issues, develop a strategy that people can buy into. You may not be successful the first time, but you keep at it and persevere."

Q: Any aspirations for higher office?

A: For a kid from Newport, Oregon, who grew up experiencing Portland as this far-off, distant, big city, I've long ago surpassed my youthful goals. 

Q: [Fish] You ran against Sam Adams in 2004. What's your impression of him? How do you see him as mayor?

A: I would call him an intellectual omnivore. He seems interested in just about everything and open to the best ideas from any source. He has an informal problem-solving style which relies heavily on face time with people. He has a vision about how Portland can become a world-class city and has shown a willingness to take big risks.

"Mayor Sam Adams’ proposed urban renewal area around Portland State University could significantly aid efforts to provide affordable housing downtown." Daily Journal of Commerce, March 23, 2011 


A Davis, Hibbitts survey conducted last year found no clear consensus on what issue should be the city's top priority. The rankings:

  • Schools and higher education (42 percent)

  • Transportation (22 percent)

  • Police and public safety (20 percent)

  • Environment (18 percent)

  • Jobs and economic development (14 percent—what, no trust fund?)

  • Fire (12 percent)

  • Affordable housing and homelessness (6 percent)

  • Libraries (4 percent)

  • Parks (2 percent)"

Willamette Week, January 15, 2008 

"Luckily, I was born with the ability to juggle muti tasks at once. That attribute was honed early on by working for year as a cook at Mr Steak restaurants in Eugene and Missoula: dozens of table order tickets, hundreds of individual orders; each with individual preferences: all have to be delivered perfectly in 7 minutes. Then: order up! And, the wait staff takes it to the table." Daily Journal of Commerce, August 27, 2010


"Adams did say, more seriously, that the financial hardships his family endured helped push him into public service and political work. His family drew from food stamps and lived in subsidized housing, and with that help, his mother could manage to feed her kids while getting a high school diploma of her own and, eventually, attend college.


"I got a sense of how government can help folks get a leg up to self-sufficiency," Adams said." Portland Mercury, Oct 8, 2010


"Adams has never shied away from addressing climate issues. As mayor of Portland he announced his goal to make the Rose City the most sustainable city in the world, then shrank its carbon footprint through the Clean Energy Works program, established curbside composting, and passed the Climate Action Plan and the “We Build Green Cities” economic development strategy." UO Alumni Association website, May 27, 2015


Adams grew up in a working-class household that he said was at times dependent on food stamps and subsidized housing. Just as being a gay man drives much of his political activism, he said, his working-class background influences his ambitions as mayor.


"My passions for public service includes promoting social-justice equality for all, but it obviously also includes finding good jobs for people, which is also part of my family's background of not being able to always have economic security," he said. "Being gay is part of me, so is being Irish American, so is being from a small Oregon town." The Associated Press, January 2, 2009


""From my background," Adams said, "I know what it's like for families to struggle. For me, these aren't academic issues." Oregonian, September 24, 2004

Notable Oregonians talk about the adults who changed their troubled lives


It was a dark and stormy age.


"Fifteen sucks," said Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, who struggled through his teenage years. "Added to the angst of being 15, alcohol and drug abuse in the family . . . it just amplifies the problems."


He might not have made it at all, he said, if it weren't for two caring adults. "They paid just enough attention to make me think outside . . . to see the possibilities." Oregonain, June 1, 2009


Growing up, Sam Adams' home life was marked by violence and alcohol. When he was 15, his mother --who was divorced from Adams' father and living in Portland --helped him find his own place in Eugene. "I may have been living on my own," Adams said, "but I didn't do it on my own."


Two teachers in particular, Sue Addicott and Byron Dudley, connected with him. They encouraged him to pursue photography and run for student government. When he said he couldn't speak in front of groups, they cajoled him.


"My Dad and I had a combustible relationship. I had to get out of his house. I feared for my safety. So I moved out. I lived largely on my own at 15.


"My life could have gone bad, but Sue and Byron made the difference. I knew they were there, keeping an eye out for me, and helping me to see beyond the problems in my family to all the possibilities in my life.


"They didn't fawn all over me. I would not have liked that. They just showed a little extra interest.


"If it hadn't been for Sue and Byron, I would have disappeared."


Not everyone in Adams' family was so lucky.


"My siblings have suffered mightily," he said. "They struggled a long time. Everyone in my family has overcome their drug and alcohol problems.


"But when I was 15, they weren't in a place to help me."


While Adams knows that problems with drugs, alcohol and domestic abuse are not peculiar to any economic group, he does think financial difficulties can exacerbate them.


"One of the reasons for getting interested in politics," he said, "is to fight the good fight for those good kids, those good people, who've had really tough challenges." Oregonian, June 1, 2009


“How has your interest in and leadership around bicycling evolve over your career? As a kid growing up in Newport on the Oregon coast, my Dad got me hooked on bicycling. When I was 14 years old, he bought us matching bikes. Neither wind, rain or logging trucks deterred us, although looking back it probably should have. We would ride up and down the Highway 101 and into the Coastal mountains. Our longest ride was 855 miles over the Rocky Mountains to Threeforks, Montana, to visit my grandparents.”

“Adams supported himself during his last years in high school, working at a Mr. Steak restaurant in Eugene while his mom lived in Portland, 100 miles away.”


“Although it was only several hours away, Adams grew up in a different world: small-town Oregon, where his family lived on food stamps and housing assistance and he supported himself through much of high school. I come from a family of tough Montanans, he said. Theres a premium on being tough and strong, and being queer and a faggot wasnt strong. Adams dropped out of college to enter politics. He remained closeted at work until becoming chief of staff for Mayor Vera Katz in 1993. The attitude has changed now, he said. You can be openly gay at the outset of your campaign and its OK. But not then, in the 80s.”



“His mother could not find work in Eugene and moved to Portland. Adams stayed in Eugene and supported himself throughout most of his high school years.” 


“UNDERDOG PERSPECTIVE: Adams didn't just get a rough start as mayor. He got a rough start in life. Not a lot of closeted, bullied, small-town welfare kids with divorced parents grow up to be the mayor of a major U.S. city. Unlike some politicians, Adams has not made his personal story a platform. But his tough upbringing in Newport shapes his priorities. For example: his Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative, which put PDC's urban-renewal tools to work in impoverished stretches such as Rosewood in outer East Portland, Parkrose, Northeast Cully Boulevard, and at Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street. "I thought that those parts of Portland were a lot like small, struggling cities in rural Oregon," Adams says. "I know how many smart, hardworking people are trapped in bad circumstances."” 


“There's no doubt, however, that Adams grew up hard and poor. His schoolteacher father moved the family from Montana to the Oregon coast when Adams was in elementary school to try his hand --without much success --at commercial fishing. After his parents divorced, Adams' mother struggled to raise four children on her own. From a young age, Adams felt different from just about everyone else in his rough-and-tumble family. He was quieter, more inquisitive and more sensitive. As he and his mother tell it, his father and siblings bullied him. They criticized his friends, his hobbies, his longish hair. They called him "faggot" before he even began to consider that he might be gay.” 


“Sam Adams bootstrapped his way to power. Halfway through high school, at age 16, he eagerly took on the responsibilities of an adult. His parents divorced, and he lived alone. He kept up on his studies at South Eugene High School, worked on the school paper and yearbook, and earned spending money as a cook at a Mr. Steak restaurant.” Baker, Nena (April 7, 2006). “The Mayor’s Main Man,” The Oregonian. Page A1. 


The children knew Portland only as the big city from which they got their news; seeing it in person instilled in Sam a love for the bridges, the buildings, the energy of a city. “I am going to sound like a hayseed, but the buildings were so tall,” he tells me. “Portland has always been the shining city on a hill.””

Best Member of City Council

SAM ADAMS Admit it: You like him only because, with a name like that, you still think he can get you free brewskis. Well, he can't! Not that it seems to matter—for the third year running, openly queer Sam Adams is your favorite city commissioner (perhaps it's due to all the "campaigning" he still seems to do; see Best of Portland, page 52). Randy Leonard came in last. Hmmm...interesting. 


Adams refrained from trotting out flashy promises. Instead, most of his pledges were nuts-and-bolts issues." 


ADAMS' GRADE FOR YEAR ONE: A-, Keep up the good work!


Portland Mercury, OCT 13, 2005


Adams provided the most detailed plan of the evening, putting forward specific ideas about funding sources and where that money should be directed." Portland Mercuty, August 26, 2004


"Adams Brings Bright Ideas to City Politics. Adams went on to lay out detailed plans for his first 100 days in office, employing the unabashedly wonkish style that helped him edge out Nick Fish in the general election. But his tone was decidedly different from the campaign trail; no longer the desperate candidate, Adams has already emerged as a confident city leader." Portland Mercury, Januray 6, 2005


Adams said he will require each bureau under his direction to divide their budgets by neighborhood. Currently, the budget review process is so cumbersome that it prohibits actual citizen review. By making budgets neighborhood-specific, citizens will "know how money is being spent in (their) neighborhood and how that compares with other parts of the city," explained Adams. Portland Mercury, Januray 6, 2005


Adams said he will fight for affordable housing and against gentrification. Portland Mercury, Januray 6, 2005


Adams has become the leading voice for transparent government 


From a young age, Adams felt different from just about everyone else in his rough-and-tumble family. He was quieter, more inquisitive and more sensitive. As he and his mother tell it, his father bullied him. They criticized his friends, his hobbies, his longish hair. They called him "faggot" before he even began to consider that he might be 6.

Oregonian, Sept, 9. 2007


Sam Adams: Post-punk mayor fit Portland's image


Portland has become the first major American city to merge its planning and sustainability departments, the mayor said. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is in charge of energy conservation pilots and other sustainability programs." The Daily Jouanl of Commerce, May 26, 2009 


"The city of Portland and Multnomah County early this year drafted the Climate Action Plan, which calls for the region to cut carbon consumption to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050." The Daily Jouanl of Commerce, May 26, 2009 


"We've focused on creating jobs and stoking the economy while still making improvements in other areas as well," Adams said in a press release. "Portland landed $75 million in federal funds for the construction of the Eastside Streetcar line between the Pearl and OMSI. And if state revenues increase by at least $15 million, the city will dedicate funds to help replace the aging Sellwood Bridge." The Daily Jouanl of Commerce, May 26, 2009 


Under Adams' watch more than $150 million worth of affordable housing has been built in Portland since he took office four years ago. Daily Journal of Commerce,  December 18, 2012 


“(Adams’) drive toward connecting PSU and OHSU to the city in a stronger, more meaningful fashion … has made a huge difference for those of us in (the) commercial world here,” he said. “Sam has a true love of … making connections between the cultural community and the built community through the arts, schools and others.”Daily Journal of Commerce,  December 18, 2012 


Adams’ efforts to make Portland one of the nation’s most sustainable and transportation-accessible cities will help it attract young innovators and creators, Daily Journal of Commerce,  December 18, 2012 


“Mayor Adams was a man of action,” he said. “He had the courage to champion several issues that prior mayors chose not to or could not address.” Brian Owendoff of Capacity Commercial Group and formerly of Opus Northwest, which folded during the recession. Daily Journal of Commerce,  December 18, 2012 


Perhaps Adams’ biggest direct influence on construction was his commitment to affordable housing. In 2007, while serving on City Council, Adams and three other councilors voted to set aside a 30 percent citywide average of urban renewal money for affordable housing.

Adams has since reinforced that policy by developing more urban renewal areas and establishing the Portland Housing Bureau. As a result, $150 million worth of housing has been built during his tenure, according to Nick Sauvie, executive director of Rose Community Development, a local affordable housing developer.

“Sam Adams was the driving force in creating the city’s affordable housing set-aside,” he said. “Thousands of Portlanders now have safe, affordable housing because (of) his efforts.” Daily Journal of Commerce,  December 18, 2012 


"He's got an incredible work ethic." Tim Boyle, Willamette Week, April 20, 2010 


"Some are now willing to say, however grudgingly, that Adams deserves credit for the ways he's used the political skills—intelligence, persistence and creativity—that got him elected in the first place." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


"Adams spent much of his term making cuts. Fortunately, he handles the proverbial budget ax like a butterfly knife. The contenders for his job—Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith—agree he's left the city's accounts in decent shape for the next mayor." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


"Adams cut chiefly from middle management. "We expected drastic cuts with frontline services," says Megan Hise, spokeswoman for Laborers Local 483, which represents city park workers, "but the budget he rolled out really responded to the concerns of the community." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


He's saved lives and limbs.

How many? Hard to say. "But we do know the more facilities that go in, the safer it is," says Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Adams pushed through bike boxes, green-striped lanes, special traffic signals and other subtle street improvements using money designated for sewer projects, sparking howls of protest. Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


Adams would rather be known as a wonk than a personality. But talk to him long enough, and it's clear he is emotionally invested in certain issues he has championed as mayor. "The tougher the issue, basically, the more personally involved I get," Adams says. "And I take it personally." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 

For instance: road safety. Adams was a know-nothing on the subject until, as Katz's aide, he attended a Linnton neighborhood meeting. Residents wanted the Oregon Department of Transportation to lower speed limits on a part of Highway 30. Adams took up the cause. During their campaign, a 14-year-old was killed trying to cross the street.


"I felt incredibly angry and embarrassed," Adams says. "Angry because this wasn't a higher priority. And just embarrassed that I had been unable, from my position as chief of staff, to impact this in time. Then I realized that the city didn't prioritize this, and that really pissed me off." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


As a symbol, Adams is flawed, but you'd think three-plus years in office might soften bigotry toward him. But it's still possible to hear vile remarks about his sexuality on TriMet and the comments sections of local news websites. Adams' inbox remains like a hate-crime tip sheet. 


"Part of the job," Adams says. "It's got to be." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


In January 2010, Portland police officer Ron Frashour killed an unarmed man, Aaron Campbell, by shooting him in the back. Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese fired Frashour 10 months after the shooting—a decision reversed by a state arbitrator.


Adams refused to rehire him and said Frashour would not wear a Portland police badge on his watch. A futile gesture? Maybe. But a meaningful one. Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


Even if he loses the Frashour case—city attorneys are making their case to the state Employment Relations Board—Adams has opened for debate some of the more questionable provisions of the Portland Police Association contract, which comes up for renegotiation next year. 


In the last round of closed-door contract talks, Adams showed his commitment to more police accountability by insisting the Albina Ministerial Alliance could sit in. "The police fought it," says Jo Ann Hardesty, a former state legislator and spokeswoman for the alliance. "They didn't want the public to know. He stood firm."Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 

It means "bringing parties together."


When Adams took office in 2009, the city, Multnomah County and the Portland Schools Foundation (now called All Hands Raised) each had separate, overlapping committees on how to improve the public schools. "Everybody had a good reason why we shouldn't merge the organizations," Adams says. "Meanwhile, everybody complained that we were having the same meetings with the same people."


It took two years, but Adams persuaded them all to merge. "He pulled it off," says former Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler, who is now state treasurer. "That ultimately is going to lead to better educational outcomes." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


Adams responded to Occupy Portland's protests by moving $2.5 million in city funds to 10 local banks and credit unions, instead of U.S. Treasury Securities and accounts with the big national banks. The new policy has one bonus: The resolution also increased transparency by requiring the city to publish monthly online reports on the location and status of its investments.Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 

One could call Adams' Twitter addiction a waste of time. Consider a selection of recent citizen exchanges with @MayorSamAdams:


Citizen: "Prostitution. Witnessed a women turning trix in the back of her pickup. 18th & Savier." Adams: "On it."


Citizen: "Dumpsters on the street…almost cause wrecks daily." Adams: "Yikes. On it."


Citizen: "Is your favorite pizza meat lovers?" Adams: "Yes."


Adams' habitual tweeting keeps him up with the times—and responsive.


"That's how I stick my head out of the bubble," he says. Willamette Week, July 17, 2012

Adams wants to be known as someone who picked priorities and made decisions based on data. It's hard to deny him that.


Adams' soft spot for charts, graphs and hard numbers was born of frustration. "The great strength of Portland is its willingness to be agile and move," he says. "The weakness of Portland is, we make decisions a lot based on experience and not enough on data.


Adams tried to change this. He prioritized street improvements by targeting those places where the most accidents occurred, not where residents complained the loudest. He focused certain Portland Development Commission investments on commercial strips that weren't generating enough profit for their owners to pay business income tax to the city.


And he introduced "budget mapping": tracking where various bureaus are spending money. "I don't love how all the resources have been deployed," says mayoral candidate Smith, "but getting a better sense of that was good." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


Commissioner Nick Fish gives Adams credit for consistently finding money for safety-net programs, including short-term rental assistance and emergency shelters, managed by the Portland Housing Bureau that Fish oversees. "He had a clear set of priorities," Fish says. "I think that's what we're going to miss." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


Portland entrepreneur Josh Friedman recalls telling Adams of his frustration with finding seed money for high-tech startups in the city. "He sat back and he asked, 'Why can't the city do this?'" Friedman says.


The result: the Portland Seed Fund. Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


Adams didn't just get a rough start as mayor. He got a rough start in life. Not a lot of closeted, bullied, small-town welfare kids with divorced parents grow up to be the mayor of a major U.S. city. 


Unlike some politicians, Adams has not made his personal story a platform. But his tough upbringing in Newport shapes his priorities. 


For example: his Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative, which put PDC's urban-renewal tools to work in impoverished stretches such as Rosewood in outer East Portland, Parkrose, Northeast Cully Boulevard, and at Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street.


"I thought that those parts of Portland were a lot like small, struggling cities in rural Oregon," Adams says. "I know how many smart, hardworking people are trapped in bad circumstances." Willamette Week, July 17, 2012 


He  focused on three primary issues when he ran for mayor: creating jobs, increasing sustainability and reducing the high school drop out rate.


  • A $400 million stimulus program announced in January 2009.

  • The first comprehensive economic development plan approved by the City Council six months later.

Portland Tribune, December 15, 2010

'I'm not afraid to be controversial, to do what I think is in the best interests of the city and the region. I'm willing to stand up for what I think is right and take the heat for that. I think that's what people elected me to do,' Adams said 


Portland Tribune, December 15, 2010


Adams correctly notes that he was talking about structural problems within the local economy even before he was elected mayor. 


And [Adams] is accurate in saying that creating jobs has been at the top of his agenda for the past two years. According to the Portland Development Commission, the economic development strategy Adams pushed through the council retained or created 845 jobs in key industry clusters through last August. Portland Tribune, December 15, 2010


Adams closed by again quoting the Scottish socialist poet Alasdair Grey, whom he quoted often in his election campaign. "Work as if we're living in the early days of a better nation," he said. "Portlanders are special because we've never let our young nation spirit die."


Geneva's Salon co-owner Paul Knauls, who was referred to at one point as the mayor of Northeast Portland, told the Mercury he's thrilled at Adams' election. "He's progressive thinking, and he wants to work with the people, not fight them all the time," said Knauls. Portland Mercury, Jan 5, 2009 


Adams also successfully appointed an education cabinet co-chaired by himself and Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler. Community and Parents for Public Schools (CPPS) President Doug Wells says he's "impressed and pleased" with Adams' effort on schools compared to the mayor's predecessors. "I have not experienced collaboration with our schools at this level from city hall in the past," says Wells. "...the children of Portland are more likely to graduate high school than they were under former Mayor Tom Potter." Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


Turino says Adams is "certainly putting out the effort that was promised" in his election campaign, and is pleased that Adams' office has listened to the input of small business owners in crafting his economic plan. Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


Mayor Adams led the effort to snag federal dollars for Portland's streetcar plan and fix street infrastructure, and he has two fat checks to wave victoriously: $45 million for the streetcar and $10.6 million for safer streets. Long-term transportation planning looks good, too: The mayor checked off unveiling broadly supported streetcar and bike master plans.


Adams also won cyclists' hearts by following through on promised bike corrals, choosing cycle track locations, and upping Portland's measly bike budget by $500,000. "This is a great start," says Michelle Poyourow of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. "Next year we'll be asking for more." Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


Adams points to the creation of the Climate Action Plan as one of his biggest achievements as mayor so far. He's right—that plan spells out how Portland can massively cut its carbon emissions over the next 40 years despite gaining population. Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


It seems Adams' legendary love of the arts is paying political dividends. The arts community is "maybe his strongest base of support in town at this time," according to longtime gallery owner and art curator Mark Woolley. Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


Most arts leaders give Adams high marks. Portland Center Stage Artistic Director Chris Coleman says Adams gets an "A-plus" in arts policy. "I have never worked with an elected official who's so hands-on in a policy issue," he says. Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


The city has gained a $100 million stimulus grant to bring 1,000 electric cars here on a pilot program, and the state has gained $600 million for wind farms. A clean energy works program aims to retrofit 500 homes. Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


The mayor is more engaged than any of his predecessors in economic development. His goal of creating 10,000 jobs in five years doesn't look unrealistic. Portland Mercury, MAY 28, 2009


But to create jobs, we need to burst that bubble and drag profitable businesses here, as well as support the businesses we already have.


By any measure, Adams is doing a good job of talking us up elsewhere. Since taking office in January, he's been around North America (Washington, DC; Vancouver, BC; Chicago; San Francisco; Toronto; New York City; and Minneapolis) doing exactly that. And he went on international trips to Brussels in May to speak at a bicycle conference, and to Taiwan in July to pitch Oregon beer. Portland Mercury, NOV 5, 2009


NO MATTER WHAT you think of him, what he does, and how he does it, one thing is true: Mayor Sam Adams gets shit done. Portland Mercury, December 12, 2012


Adams has racked up a quietly impressive list of wins both small and large over the past four years.  Portland Mercury, December 12, 2012


"Campaign politics does not reward detailed agendas. I ran for city commissioner on a very specific agenda. I didn't start out in public service to be an elected official. I decided if I were going to run for public office, I'd do it my way. So I geeked out and put out really specific policy points, much to [political consultant] Mark Wiener's chagrin. We finished 11 points behind in the primary. And he said, 'See? Nobody cares.'  The Oregonian took me to task, 'The city doesn't need a wonk. They need a commissioner.' Different day, different editorial board. But we ran with it. We made signs that said, 'Honk for the wonk!'" Portland Mercury, December 12, 2012


"When we sat down after the Portland Plan was approved, I convened all the transportation agencies in the city to talk about budgets. It was the first time TriMet, the city, the Port of Portland, and others sat down to make a consolidated financial sheet. This is what money we have, and here's where it's going. That work needs to continue. Let's spend our money in the wisest way possible. And with fewer state and federal dollars coming our way, it's a necessary thing to do." Portland Mercury, December 12, 2012


In my budgets, we've cut $36 million on an ongoing basis, so we can invest money back into services. Portland Mercury, December 12, 2012


after Mayor Sam Adams "laid down a marker" in his State of the City Speech (as Nick Fish put it this afternoon), the Portland City Council unanimously approved the creation of a new Office of Equity and Human Rights. Portland Mercury, Sep 21, 2011 


When he came into office, Adams pulled together an economic development plan that aimed to create 10,000 jobs by 2014. Just a little ambitious. The plan says the city should create jobs by attracting big businesses in four different "clusters" (sportswear, clean tech, advanced manufacturing, and software). Getting the city's first economic development strategy in 15 years written and approved was certainly a success Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010

I respect the work he's done for the gay community, too. When there were hate crimes, he was very proactive. Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Mayor Sam Adams is a wonk at heart, and he's hoping to promote non-car transportation as a way to make Portland the most sustainable city in the world (a promise from his first state of the city address). But selling people on the benefits of bikes and solar power, and digging up millions in federal cash for streetcar projects has created serious controversy Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Adams gets points for standing up against the Columbia River Crossing—he wrote a letter last winter with three other political decision-makers on the project that argued how plans for a $4 billion, 12-lane bridge to Vancouver would cause unbearable fiscal, environmental, and social damage. When the bridge project staff wouldn't answer critics' basic questions, Adams and his staff hired consulting firm URS to dig into the bridge's finances and show that a 10-lane bridge would work just as well as a 12-lane bridge and save (only) $50 million. Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Discipline for the Aaron Campbell shooting—Ron Frashour, the cop who killed Campbell, was fired last month—was pleasantly harsher than many reform advocates expected. Police union contract talks have been opened to the public for the first time. Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Under his watch, the city has found money to seed job-site and college visits and fund summer education programs Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Adams held several closed-door meetings with community groups and brought forward two ambitious proposals targeting youth violence. One was a five-point gun control package that creates exclusion zones and youth curfews, plus new penalties for failing to report lost or stolen guns. Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Mike Reese, police chief: "He's a consummate consumer of details. He likes a lot of information. He's been really engaged in that. He's also done some really positive things for the police bureau, like helping us navigate getting a training facility built, being there after the shooting we experienced my first day as chief and his first day as commissioner, being willing to take risks like with the gun proposals, being willing to put his political capital behind his ideas." Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Anonymous police bureau insider: He's been actually quite engaged, and in an appropriate way. You always worry: Is a commissioner going to weigh in too heavily and get too involved? He's attentive. He shows up for our meetings, at least. Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Randy Leonard: "I've worked with three mayors, Vera Katz, Tom Potter, and Sam. And Sam has been by far the most collaborative and the most, I think, approachable in terms of council members being able to sit down with him. Because you have five politicians, each of whom would not be here if we didn't have our own ambitions and vision of what needs to happen. It is more of a challenge than it might appear to have one person be the head of the group and have all that work boil down into an agenda we can all agree on." Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Then again, the council under his stewardship, compared to Potter's, has been almost creepily harmonious. They've banded together for tough votes, on things like expanding social services or making budget cuts that have paved the way for the city's relatively sunny financial position. Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Anonymous political insider: "When you compare him with his immediate predecessor, Tom Potter, Potter was heralded like Caesar, but he came in and did nothing for four years. The Oregonian has put the target on Sam as you know. It's going to be death by 1,000 cuts by that newspaper. It's not really two years. Sam's got 18 months to pull it off. There are some formidable candidates out there, but I wouldn't count Sam out. He's a junkyard dog." Portland Mercury, DEC 16, 2010


Portland Mayor Sam Adams sees improved approval ratings. Fifty-six percent of voters gave Adams a grade of "good" or "satisfactory" in the May 2-6 poll commissioned by The Oregonian and KGW (8). The results represent an upswing compared with polls in 2010 -- at the midpoint of Adams' term -- and 2011, after he announced in July that he wouldn't run for re-election. Oregonian - May 9, 2012


The mayor ...spoke passionately about improving education, and addressing racial and financial inequities. Oregonian, February 19, 2011


Eloise Damrosch, who heads the Regional Arts and Culture Council, told the crowd that night Adams has pushed Portland in completely new directions when it comes to the arts, "from local music on the city's phone system, to helping to develop MilePost Five." The Associated Press, December 20, 2012


Adams' approach on economic issues was informed by a hard-scrabble upbringing in Newport. The Asscoiated Press, December 20, 2012


when a wave of officer-involved shootings undermined public confidence, Adams stepped in, Hardesty said. He interacted directly with a group that frequently criticized the city's actions, the Albina Ministerial Alliance.


"He made himself and the police chief accessible to the AMA coalition on a quarterly bases," she said. "We'd sit down and check on progress, changes within the Portland police bureau, check on recent shootings."


Hardesty said Adams' reliance on personal relationships opened up some new fronts with the community. She gives him credit for trying to enforce the firing of an officer who shot an unarmed black man two years ago. The Asscoiated Press, December 20, 2012


there's no question Adams brought a consummate knowledge of government functions and budget to city hall. The Asscoiated Press, December 20, 2012


Travis Williams with Willamette Riverkeeper worked with Adams' administration on exhaustive, complicated issues like the PortlandHarbor superfund cleanup. While Adams didn't have an advocacy background, Williams said he never felt the Mayor was captive to any one interest.


Travis Williams explained, "He and his staff were open and communicative on a variety of issues. My sense is that he also had the capacity to try to bring others in on contentious issues. I think that's a testament to him trying to do the right thing, but to do it in a way that he could bring others along."

The Associated Press, December 20, 2012


Since taking office at the start of the year, Adams has earned two divergent sets of reviews: Outside City Hall, he's getting raves, especially from the business community. He came into office promising to visit 100 Portland businesses in 100 business days -- a mark he hits today -- and exceeded that goal with a good two weeks to spare.


"He's really trying to find out what people want," says Ethan Dunham, chairman of the Small Business Advisory Council and president of Pulse Business Systems. "I don't think it's news to anybody that under past administrations, we were all but ignored. Sam is changing that."


Says Gale Castillo, head of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber: "He's shown that he's concerned and willing to listen, so that business people can at least explain the challenges they face. So he's doing great."


Adams says he loves his new job, his first elected office after two decades behind the scenes helping other politicians. His enjoyment shows in how hard he's working: His staff, most of them newcomers to municipal government, is usually the last group to close up shop for the night on City Hall's second floor, home to all four commissioners' offices. His schedule stays packed to the point that he often looks exhausted, his light blue eyes shiny with the need for sleep, his close-cropped hair sticking up from the repeated swipes of his hands


Commissioner Erik Sten, who clashed with Adams in the mid-1990s when they were both City Hall aides rather than bosses.


"Sam has been very driven, and at times a bit pushy, but he hasn't been arrogant. He'll come in and say, 'I'm doing this next week.' If you say, 'OK, but I'm not going to vote for it,' he'll say, 'OK. I'll do it next month, then.' " Oregonain, May 24, 2005


But he's also not cutting down on the amount of time he spends outside the office. Now that he's finished his tour of 100 businesses, Adams is preparing for a summer project in which he'll work 100 hours alongside regular Portlanders in some of the city's most common jobs.


It's hard to picture a city commissioner abandoning his office and the relative opulence of City Hall to make shakes and mop floors at Burgerville, but that's the idea. Such jobs won't be an entirely new world for Adams, whose working class background in Newport and Eugene includes subsidized housing and food stamps. Now, he wants to use the low-end job experience to talk more about ways the City Council can fight poverty in Portland.


Adams said it's his job to watch public spending and "highlight the fact that it's not such a simple life here in Portland, not for everyone." Oregonain, May 24, 2005


"I think certain people assume that if you work really hard in this job, you're running for mayor," he said. "I'm not, despite what some people might think. I'm just doing what the people elected me to do." Oregonain, May 24, 2005


Adams took a lead role in trying to lure Columbia Sportswear back into Portland... and has engaged in shuttle diplomacy with a business community starved for any show of understanding from City Hall.


"I want to take on as much as I can for as long as I serve," Adams says. "I want this time to count. I want to make as big a difference as possible."


Adams pledged to be all things to Portland Public Schools --including "fundraiser in chief," "head parental cheerleader" and "honorary chief accountability officer" --school advocates tell me that neither the mayor nor his staff is doing much beyond rolling out an education Cabinet. Oregoian, April 19, 2009


Adams insists, "The details matter. The bridge has to have light rail to Vancouver, or I don't sign on. Oregoian, April 19, 2009


The mayor, according to colleagues and City Hall observers, is highly engaged in the day-to-day operation of the city. 


He's well-known for his frenetic pace. Longtime colleagues say his ability to juggle high-profile projects is vintage Adams...He often attends his first meeting at 7:30 a.m., long before any of his colleagues, and his office lights are regularly on after everyone else goes home.

“As mayor, Adams had a number of achievements:


Established curbside composting.


Banned single-use plastic bags.


Adopted a transgender-inclusive health plan for city employees.


Invested $340 million in the city's infrastructure, including a lead City investment to replace the Sellwood Bridge.


Recruited several TV and movie companies to do business and spend about $100 million on production in Portland.


Established a $2.1 million seed fund to help start-up businesses in Portland


Cracked down on gangs with a 14-month police undercover operation that resulted in the arrests of 31 gang members.”


“As mayor, Adams was focused on increasing Portland's high school graduation rates, creating jobs, boosting sustainability, championing gay rights, and fostering the city's burgeoning tech industry and creative community. Under Adams' stewardship, Portland acquired a Major League Soccer franchise and developed a carbon reduction strategy called the Climate Action Plan.”


“After leading hard hit Portland Oregon towards recovery through the Great Recession [], at the end of his term as Portland’s Mayor, Sam Adams enjoyed, “…record approval ratings…receives enormous credit for balancing one of the most challenging budgets in Portland history and swooping in with a plan to shore up Portland Public Schools and public safety.” [] 


“…through sheer will and hard work, Adams rammed through an ambitious priority list, easily eclipsing the record of predecessor Tom Potter… As he prepares to leave office Dec. 31, Adams can point to accomplishments that could reshape the city for decades: an office dedicated to equity, a tax for arts organizations and teachers, an eastside streetcar line, an expanded bike boulevard network.” 


““Sam’s got a city that’s got to figure itself out in a more complicated, global world,” says Len Bergstein, a veteran political consultant who once worked for legendary Mayor Neil Goldschmidt and served as an adviser to Dozono. “Portland is positioned where the world’s economies are heading. It’s a tougher job than Neil had.”” 


“In conversations about the evolution of American city politics, Adams is sometimes mentioned alongside other bright, young mayors who have entered office with more on their agenda than filling potholes…They belong to a breed of politicians who insist the political machine is dead and that ideas matter; in pushing transformational agendas they aim to deepen citizens’ tribal sense of place.” 


“A cross section of the city's political stakeholders applaud him (some with golf claps) for managing the budget, bailing out the schools and for many small-bore, behind-the-scenes efforts that don't often win headlines. Some are now willing to say, however grudgingly, that Adams deserves credit for the ways he's used the political skills—intelligence, persistence and creativity—that got him elected in the first place.”

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