(Photos © J. Maus)
If Mayor Sam Adams hoped for progress overnight in his effort to save his reputation and his political life, it seems things have only gotten worse.
Yesterday at City Hall, in an attempt to “come clean” and start the rebuilding process, Adams was grilled by a packed room of reporters. He repeatedly told us this whole affair was “an anomaly, not a trend.” He implored us to look at “the whole swath” of his two decades of service.
to his boss.
Somehow, given all that was happening, he was still relatively composed and still deftly answered most of the questions being thrown at him. He sounded more humble than I’ve ever heard him, and also more listless.
I won’t soon forget the sullen, long looks on the faces of Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller and policy advisor Amy Ruiz — a former reporter who’s hiring by Adams is also now being questioned.
The reporters in the room smelled blood and they were on the attack. When I spoke up with a question, it barely came out right. I have to admit, my overwhelming feeling right now is of sadness. This is a big setback for our City in many ways and it feels, at least to me, like the wind has suddenly left the sails.
Adams acknowledged that he would have to work hard to “regain people’s trust” and said, “I have a lot of work to do.” Thinking of how Adams usually operates, when I heard that, I instantly thought to myself that today we’d see a big press release from his office with a tactical outline of action steps he’d take to make it all work out.
But since the press conference, I’ve read reaction on the Internet and in the papers, and I’ve talked to close friends and people I respect. It doesn’t look good for Adams at this point. I’m not sure if any amount of the political brilliance we’ve come to expect from him will help this time.
During the press conference, several people asked about his trip to Washington D.C. He was there not just for the Inauguration of President Obama, but as a representative of Portland at a lobbying and networking event for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Adams is a well-known champion of sustainable transportation and bikes. As Mayor, with the reputation of Portland strongly behind him, he was poised to become an even brighter beacon for those issues. Ironically, as he faced the barrage of questions and cameras yesterday, he was supposed to be testifying in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Adams was there to try and influence Congress to invest economic stimulus money in something other than new highways and roads.
It’s sad to see such a shining light for a new vision of urban transportation suddenly lose its brilliance, but we have to remember that Adams has been just a spokesman for something much larger. Portland, Oregon, and America are clearly ready to ride toward a new path for transportation — it’s just sad to think that Adams might not be joining us for the ride.