Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on January 6th, 2009 at 12:07 pm
Last night at City Hall was the big, public welcome party for Portland’s new mayor Sam Adams. There was lots of food and free beer and by all accounts it was a wild and zany night.
Before things really started getting crazy, Adams and each of the four commissioners addressed the crowd briefly. Adams said he feels Portland’s authenticity and quirkiness (that was on display all night) will help us stave off economic hard times and that he has “faith in Portland’s willingness to take on challenges”.
With a broad grin, Randy Leonard told the crowd he’s been holding himself back for the last few years (a joke, given his outspoken demeanor) and that, “Now Sam’s going to let me go.”
After the short press conference (if you can call it that), the party was turned over to an interesting mix of entertainers.
At one point, the “First lady of Portland” (according to Mayor Adams) singer Storm Large took the stage with a former Sesame Street cast member (his name escapes me) and the two sang a duet of the Carpenters’ “Sing, Sing a Song”. They even encouraged the audience to join in.
And that was the tame part of the night. The festivities also included the sounds and Portland-style pomp of the March Fourth Marching Band, the emcee talents of the Wanderlust Circus and acrobatic artistry of Kazuum. Filling out the night’s entertainment was local band Trashcan Joe, several juggler/magician types, and others.
Abbie Hoffman and said the freaks have
officially taken over City Hall.
The crowd was immense. People filled the three floors of City Hall. All four commissioners were there, along with their retinue of supporters, staff, and well-wishers. In just the time I was watching him, Mayor Adams probably hugged about 50 people.
It was a night for carefree optimism and a time for the citizens of Portland and their leaders to enjoy each other’s company before the real work begins.
I pulled aside Adams’ chief of staff Tom Miller and chatted about what’s on the horizon. Miller said their office is in full work mode beginning today. I asked him about the unexpected hire of former Portland Mercury News Editor Amy Ruiz. Miller was happy to have her on staff, saying, “She knows how to ask hard questions, she very smart, and she works hard.”
Miller also re-iterated a promise from his boss that I reported previously — that in his first 100 days in office, Adams will announce plans to build a “high-profile cycletrack facility” (cycletrack is a European term for a physically separated bikeway). Miller said bike coordinator Roger Geller and head traffic engineer Rob Burchfield are working on identifying where it will go. One possible location is SW Broadway.
Miller said the Mayor’s Office will release the full list of accomplishments they’ll hope to nail down in the first 100 days on Thursday. He was pretty secretive about list details, but told me there are other transportation-related things on that list including something about bicycle boulevards.
To try and get some perspective on the night’s happy vibe, I talked with Timo Forsberg. Timo is a Portland bike culture pioneer who was around the table when the bike-fun activism group Shift was formed and has been a major instigator of Breakfast on the Bridges for years (it was probably his idea). These days, Forsberg is the best kind of bureaucrat, he works in the Transportation Options division of PBOT, promoting bike use and spreading the gospel from the inside.
Forsberg moved to Portland in 1995 and he recalled the enthusiasm when former mayor Potter took office. “We were pretty excited about Tom too at the time. He was seen as a real change from the status quo.” Forsberg remembered how Potter rode his recumbent in Critical Mass at the outset of his tenure (which was unfortunately his last overtly bike-friendly gesture — more of my analysis of Potter’s bike friendliness here).
As to whether he thinks Adams will have more success in office than Potter, Forsberg said, “I think Sam has a pretty clear agenda, a focused agenda. Tom’s was more amorphous. After all, Tom wasn’t really a politician but it’s clear that Sam knows how to get things done.”
Hopefully Adams will indeed get things done. He’ll have to, if he wants to keep the party going.