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Sam Adams releases letter to the City on radio show comments

Posted by on July 19th, 2006 at 8:50 pm

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams has just released an open letter to everyone in the City of Portland. Here is the text (or download the PDF):

To: The Public of the City of Portland
From: Commissioner Sam Adams
Re: Inflammatory Radio Comments

July 17, 2006

An open Letter to City of Portland:

It has been brought to my attention by several concerned members of the community that the 95.5 radio broadcast of “The Playhouse” on July 13, 2006 and July 16, 2006 included a number of inflammatory statements that could negatively impact the safety of Portland. These statements may have included sentiments that news of people dying is funny. It is not. The discussion included statements to the effect of:

“When I hear on TV that a cyclist has been hit and killed by a car, I laugh; I think it’s funny,”

“If you are a cyclist you should know I exist, that I don’t care about you. That I don’t care about your life.”

Upon first becoming the Commissioner of Transportation, I set traffic safety as my number-one priority. I believe that one death on our roads is one death too many, and in Portland, we have 10% more traffic fatalities each year than murders. Last year in America (I note that the show in question is broadcast in 12 markets), 43,200 people died in traffic crashes. This was more than any year since 1990. If the USA had shared the same success in reducing fatality rates as Australia, England, and Canada, we would have had 20,000 fewer dead people last year.

It is in this light that I wish to express my extreme concern for the statements in your show that made light of the tragedy that visits families coping with the aftermath of traffic casualties. This past year alone has brought us here in Portland an unacceptable number of tragic pedestrian and bicycle fatalities – fatalities of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. While making light of these tragedies exhibits poor taste, the main concern I hold is that the broadcast may have actually encouraged people to behave in reckless and dangerous ways towards others. While I am a strong defender of freedom of speech, incitement to violence is not afforded the same protections as other types of speech.

Through our “I Share the Road” campaign, the City is working to combat road rage and promote safety and tolerance through education, engineering, and enforcement strategies that relate to motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This effort is led by a coalition that includes the Oregon Truckers’ Association, AAA of Oregon, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, Elders in Action, and others. We take increasing the civility on our streets seriously. As a coalition, we have pledged to challenge statements that trivialize or dehumanize the effects of road rage.

I have had a chance to listen to some edited versions of the broadcasts in question, and am shocked by some of the inappropriate commentary I have heard. However, since the Jamn 95.5 has taken the full versions of the broadcasts off of their website’s public archives I have not had the opportunity to hear the entire unedited broadcasts. Because of this, I am calling on the 95.5 management to cooperate with community requests and provide a transcript, tape, or the podcast of the show to the public. This action would either alleviate community concern or help to foster a dialogue about appropriate action 95.5 could take to assist in efforts to improve the safety of our streets.

I hope to do what I can to help this seemingly unfortunate incident into a constructive event that may lead to something positive within our community. I look forward to continuing my work with transportation advocates of all sorts, as well as radio staff, in the case that I can be of additional assistance.

Thank you,

Sam Adams
Commissioner of Transportation
City of Portland

And on a similar note, the BTA has now made a statement via their blog.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dom July 19, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    *Bravo Sam Adams

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  • tim July 19, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks Sam!

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  • Tree July 19, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you, SAM! for caring about our lives, not just bicylists, but everyone’s in the great city of Portland.

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  • Jasun Wurster July 19, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    Thank you so much Sam!

    Please, for the sake of cyclist in all of the markets in which the show was aired, get a copy of what was aired on the 13th.

    Also, if you think it is appropriate, can you ask the transportation and police departments in the other markets if they have experienced an increase of hostilities in the past week? At the very least this would give a ‘heads up’ to other affected communities that may be unaware of this issue.

    Again my sincere thanks for your work on this,


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  • Scout July 19, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    I love that Sam Adams. One of these days, I’m gonna give him a great big hug.

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  • Ronald July 19, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    And I’ll vote for him again!

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  • John Q Public July 20, 2006 at 12:05 am

    Well spoken! Commissioner Adams’ email is commissionersam@ci.portland.or.us , if you want to thank him directly.

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  • Jennifer July 20, 2006 at 2:34 am

    thanks sam. you still need to come zoobombing with us you said you would at city hall when you got on the mini!

    on the other hand did anyone hear how it went for PK and riding to work?

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  • Wyatt July 20, 2006 at 5:35 am

    Thank-you Sam!

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  • Mick July 20, 2006 at 7:48 am

    Thanks, Sam. You said exactly what I felt.

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  • heather andrews July 20, 2006 at 8:26 am

    I’m being a little repetitive here, but I can’t resist…

    I (heart) Sam Adams!

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  • Jasun Wurster July 20, 2006 at 8:46 am

    Does the Mayor and the rest of the commissioners know about this? Can they sign the letter as well?

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  • Lanette July 20, 2006 at 8:56 am

    thank you Sam Adams. This was exactly my goal in bringing this issue to light.

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  • patrick July 20, 2006 at 11:28 am

    I like Sam and I ride my bike, but just because he crafts a letter saying he is concerned and comments were inappropriate doesn’t mean anything. I think it was appropriate for him to do this, I’m just wondering what it accomplishes. Is PK suddently going to go, “Oh well, if Sam Adams says this was wrong then I ought to change my behavior.” NO, really all the letter does is make the cyclist’s who felt the comments were inappropriate feel a little better. I appreciate Sam’s genuiness and concern.

    Oh and if the BTA has made a statement THEN surely PK will change his ways.

    Is this what people believe?

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  • Dom July 20, 2006 at 11:56 am

    Patrick I’m sure PK hasn’t change his views, but its more pressure from the correct places that will allow this topic to gain more momentum. Which, as well all hope, will in the end improve our saftey on the road.

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  • Mikee July 20, 2006 at 12:26 pm


    I think it does do something. It puts more pressure on the radio station and its corporate management. Its just a piece of the puzzle, as is the BTA’s response, and the W. Week, and all the people who have written and called. Tim McNamara’s response to Jonathan yesterday was a result of the pressure from a variety of sources, no one thing did it. That is what is goning to make things happen, showing them that this is too big for them to just blow off and hope that ist going to go away.

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  • Gregg July 20, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    It’s positive exposure and shows that we have one city official who feels that same way most bicyclists do. A good feeling goes a long way. I don’t think that radio host can be changed by anything short of electro-shock therapy but as long as he’s not inciting violence and hatred, the way he runs his life is not my concern.

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  • Garrett July 20, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    If the people paying for time on the air on his show go away then he may have problems.

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  • Nick July 20, 2006 at 9:43 pm



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  • Frank May 6, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    We are all in big trouble if this guy is put in charge of our fair city. I personally will move if he becomes Mayor. Other major cities have delt with this type of problem for many years. Take San Francisco for example.

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