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Full text of Mayor Adams’ swearing in remarks

Posted by on January 6th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

The speech below was given by Mayor Sam Adams at his swearing in ceremony at Parkrose High School on January 5, 2009.

Thank you Portland! My name is Sam Adams. I am honored to be your mayor.

Thank you for the introduction. And thank you Parkrose High School Broncos for your hospitality!

What a glorious and quirky city we have. Where else can you buy a donut designed to look like “dirt?” Or browse one of the world’s largest bookstores and then walk a couple of blocks to the world’s smallest park. There is a reason experts always seem to rank us so high. As the nation’s most livable city, the best city for seniors, the best city for walkers — a city known for its bikers and hikers; food and flowers; beer and bridges.

The reason for all this is clear: That reason is you. Us. All of us. Because we have created this think-different, keep-it-real, improve-the-world kind of culture; a culture of sustainability, a culture you can’t find just anywhere else. It is the reason why Portland is a city we can love. And it’s those values that position us to thrive at this moment of transition and transformation.

Portland has also become what it is, in part, because of our leaders. Like Mayor Tom Potter. He brought youth, immigrants, Portlanders of color into civic decision-making. Like Mayor Bud Clark. He boosted the city’s rainy day fund from a few thousand dollars to $20 million.And like my dear friend, Mayor Vera Katz. She created beautiful Portland places like the esplanade that circles the Willamette. Thank you. We are better people and a better place because of you.

And before I go further, I want to thank my family, like my brother and sisters, my Mom and Dad; my boyfriend, Peter; and all the friends who keep me grounded and accountable. I love you guys.

It’s a new year, and now Portland has new leadership. The 2009 City Council brims with fresh ideas. Please stand up. Auditor Gary Blackmer; Commissioners Nick Fish, Amanda Fritz, Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman: I am excited to work with you. We are a small team with big plans, a city council willing to take on smart but unconventional ideas that give Portland its standout innovations. Also: Portland has strong bureau management and dedicated city workers. You will help us steer a constructive course. I have a tremendous team: perhaps the best mayoral staff in public service today, anywhere. Will my team please stand up.

Together – with all Portlanders – we will make the city even better. Because Portland is better together and because Portland belongs to all of us.

We will do more than just push back on the problems that confront us. Together, we will push ahead. Our goals are tough but doable. Make Portland the greenest city on earth. Stoke our capacity for creativity and groundbreaking innovation. Brand and sell Portland-made products and services around the globe. Find more of our people family-wage jobs and affordable housing. Keep Portlanders
safe. And, regardless of neighborhood or race or household income, educate all of our kids to world-class standards.

As mayor, I will take risks to innovate. I will be grateful to those who help. If things don’t work out as expected, I will take responsibility for failures. To those who disagree with me, let’s not be disagreeable. I promise to listen to you. Your ideas may be better than mine and your participation makes us stronger. Because Portland is better together.

Our community, of course, has problems — big problems – and fixing them will be tough. The work might go slow. This will be frustrating, at times. But we need to recognize that our problems can
also offer us opportunities. One thing is absolutely certain: Despite the worst economic recession in 60 years bearing down on us, Portland cannot wait; the time to move is now.

To set a standard of action, in coming weeks I will announce my plans for the first 100 days in office. Toset a standard of inclusion, I will soon announce my citizen mayoral cabinet members.

In addition to supporting the work of my council colleagues, as mayor, my focus is on jobs, education and sustainable planning.

Let’s talk about jobs first.


Almost three out of ten Portlanders are unemployed or make so little they can barely afford basic essentials like food. This means the city needs more family-wage jobs. Good jobs that come from successful and ethical businesses. The City Council will work to support such companies to open, expand and stay here. And we have already started.

The resurgent Portland Development Commission and Governor Ted Kulongoski last month helped us attract the proposed North American headquarters of Vestas Wind Systems. That’s 850 more jobs and aquarter of a billion dollars in a private-sector investment in Portland. Now we need our legislature to approve the deal.

To help businesses more immediately, the Portland City Council this month will unveil the city’s first local job creation and economic stimulus package. I intend it to include scholarships so people recently laid off can get training at our Worksource Centers and community colleges. Also, I want provisions in the stimulus package to give local companies – and companies that hire local workers – “buy local” preferences in awarded city contracts.

To build our local economy on a firm foundation of accountability, we aim to integrate these and other efforts into an economic development plan. And, as Mayor, I am putting out the city’s “welcome mat” to businesses.


Another area of focus for me is schools.

Here’s one figure that scares me. Count off four eighth graders. One. Two. Three. Four. In Portland, chances are that two of them will drop out of high school.

Making sure our children graduate high school is more than an ethical thing; it is a smart investment in our future prosperity. Our economy hinges on an educated workforce.

So, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler and I have created a new education improvement partnership with local school districts and local school foundations. We are collecting the best ideas on how to reduce the dropout rate. Here is one idea. Studies show that 8th graders going on to 9th grade are more likely to excel academically if they get workplace experience during their summer vacation.

So let’s help our students get the experience they need. Let’s create the Portland Youth Corps. For the summer of 2009, just five months away, the Portland Youth Corp would need 250 adults to volunteer as
coaches. These coaches will partner with employers to welcome young people to the workplace. You will be asked.

Schools make the American Dream possible. We need our families and teachers to educate our students to first class standards so all our children can soar. Yes, education costs money. Ignorance costs more. Let’s invest now.


My third priority is sustainability.

Sustainability means meeting our needs without compromising our children’s ability to thrive. It means economic, social and environmental justice.

We all know which bad habits that contribute to this planet’s potential environmental doom. We rely on a dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Burning them poisons our atmosphere. Our climate is changing faster than experts expected.

Here’s a silver lining to this toxic cloud: Portland is the ideal starting place for this nation to get serious about environmental sustainability. We can show what’s possible, setting an example the rest of the world can follow. And we can prove sustainability pays off. Our economy benefits from an estimated $2.6 billion annual green dividend. Portlanders get money back into their pockets through the automobile miles not driven, worse congestion not experienced and pollution not breathed. Our green dividend grew from public investments in transit and land-use planning.

Portland may be the greenest city in the country. That’s no longer good enough. We aim to be the greenest city on earth. We can do this with thoughtful planning that integrates Portland’s value of sustainability into everything we do. I want to see this philosophy put into action with the completion of the Portland Plan, a blueprint for the next 30 years.

The Portland Plan will put density where density belongs and shape our city so that the necessities of a good life, like grocery stores, are a 20-minute walk from home.

But we need more than planning. We need more sustainable “doing,” too.

So, I am thrilled today to join the Governor and the Oregon University System to announce the proposed Oregon Sustainability Center, to be located in the Portland State University district. Governor
Kulongoski has included $80 million of state bonds in his proposed budget to help pay for it. Thank you, Governor.

A green revolution is about to bloom across America. Let’s make Portland the hub.

Better Together

In closing, I want to repeat a quote that I used on the campaign trail:

The Scottish writer Alasdair Gray once wrote, “Work as if we are living in the early days of a better nation.”

To me, this means working with a young nation spirit of belonging to something you can believe in. Even in the toughest of times, Portlanders never let our “young nation’’ spirit die. At our best, Portlanders do more than just push back on problems. We push ahead. If we can channel our collective energy for the common good, there’s no stopping us, no problem we can’t solve, no opportunity we cannot

In the coming days, the City Council will announce an initiative that will make it easier for Portlanders to pitch in. Imagine a Portland with more people like Matt Todd, a city maintenance worker I met in December during a late-night ride-a-long on a city plow.

Matt volunteers as a groundskeeper for Jefferson High School. Nobody asked him to, but every summer, he mows and edges the sports fields. He keeps the school’s outdated irrigation system functioning. He spends many, many hours making the fields look better. Matt has respect, appreciation and fulfillment that come with improving a piece of Portland. Thank you, Matt.

I will work hard as your mayor to make Portland even better. And I ask that you work at it, too: because Portland is better together, and the responsibility for its care belongs to all of us.

We need everyone’s help to move Portland forward, so I will close by paraphrasing a hero of mine, Harvey Milk, a great city leader, “My name is Sam Adams, and I’m here to recruit you!”

Thank you.

Mayor Sam Adams

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