Bike-friendly former Mayor Sam Adams could be headed back to City Hall

Wheeler and Adams working together?
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A bit of interesting local political news got completely buried by the domestic terrorism incident at our nation’s capitol yesterday: The Oregonian reported Tuesday night that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is considering adding Sam Adams to his staff.

This would be the same Sam Adams who, as commissioner of transportation in 2005, passed out “Go Platinum Portland” reflectors atop the Fremont Bridge in 2005, vowed to make Portland the first city in America to have a bike share system long before it was cool, rode his bike to work in his mayoral campaign video, promised to ‘Enhance the safety and accessibility of bicycling for everyone’ in his “First 100 Days” as mayor, built Portland’s first-ever cycle-track, and was considered by some to be, “the most pro-bike mayor we’ve ever had.”

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According to The Oregonian, no formal offer has been made by Wheeler and it’s not yet confirmed what role Adams would play: “But Wheeler and some of his staff and advisers see an upside to a seasoned City Hall power broker, albeit one with baggage, joining his administration, the people with direct knowledge said.”

Wheeler is currently looking to hire a new chief of staff, but it’s unlikely Adams would take the same job he had in 1993 (when he served in that capacity for former Mayor Vera Katz).

Adams left City Hall in 2012 following one term as mayor; a term that was marred by scandal after he lied about a relationship with a 17-year-old intern.

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Given Adams’ baggage, Wheeler needs to be careful how he handles this. If he does plan to bring Adams on board, it would much easier for Wheeler (political optics-wise) if Adams came in as a hired-gun with a narrowly-defined assignment. Wheeler is desperate for help on a number of fronts and Adams is known as a deft City Hall denizen who can bring people together to get big things done (at least he could back in 2012 — which is light years ago in local political terms). He’s also relatively popular. Adams received 59,000 votes in his bid for a seat on Portland City Council last May, just 2,049 fewer than eventual winner Mingus Mapps.

The question is: What issue would Adams work on?

Climate change is an area Adams knows well. After leaving Portland in 2015 Adams was hired to lead the U.S. Climate Initiative at World Resources Institute, a Washington DC-based think tank. A climate change portfolio would also mean Adams could tap into his passion for transportation policy.

On his “Stumptown Sam” website, Adams has laid out a detailed plan on how to tackle Portland’s most pressing problem: homelessness. Adams has a vast professional and personal network and given his past experiences, this is another area where he might be able to offer Wheeler a life raft. Homelessness is also such a big issue in Portland that bringing on a former political heavyweight like Adams could be seen as a reasonable move by Wheeler.

Wherever he ends up, it’s clear Adams wants to return to public service in Portland.

When asked via text today to respond to The Oregonian story, Adams didn’t deny the news: “Nothing more to share,” he texted. “I’ll keep you posted.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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buildwithjoe
1 year ago

I went to rallies to support him outside city hall. I can still say he does not belong back in our public service. I can still make note of where he went wrong: He obstructed justice and abused power. He may have had a legal relationship with someone in his power, but all HR departments prohibit this. This is the problem with the bike community in general. Very faulty transparency; few apologies for racist systems. Sam had so much potential and wasted it. Other than Bernie, I have never seen a public rally for any lawmaker the size of the rally for Sam outside city hall. It was before I had a mobile phone, so I don’t have any photos.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

Adams got more transportation projects funded AND immediately implemented in East Portland than any previous mayor or since. He knows exactly how PBOT operates.

dan
dan
1 year ago

Please, just no

Even if he still has the juice to get things done (questionable in my opinion, he lost to both Chloe and Mingus), the ends do not justify the means. This is a man who likely used his position as mayor to get out of drunk driving charges. He doesn’t deserve a second round in Portland’s government.

rainbike
rainbike
1 year ago
Reply to  dan

I recently received a notice about being delinquent in my Arts Tax payments. Remind me, what has that supported lately?

Julie H.
Julie H.
1 year ago
Reply to  rainbike

Art & music teachers for every K-5 student in the city of Portland. That is what.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Julie H.

dan, there are many, many flawed people in the world. But Sam gets stuff done – and Portland is a city that has absolutely lost the ability to get the basic stuff done. We need to stop being such moral purists and give the guy another chance (and no, I’m not saying that all flaws are equal: you don’t give someone a second chance when he attacks his own gov’t).

dan
dan
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

I understand your position and I disagree. Character does matter, and so do ethics. Sam has proven himself lacking on both fronts, and short on judgment too. I mean, Ted will do what he’s going to do, but if it was up to me, Sam wouldn’t get another shot.

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

He had an affair with, *at best* a just turned 18-year old intern while mayor. This isn’t a case of being moral purists and having an issue with someone cheating on their spouse – his actions would have gotten him fired from any corporate position.

Bob R.
Bob R.
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

Once again someone has used the misleading description “17 year old intern”. Whatever your opinion about the scandal, the fact is that the person involved was NOT an intern for the City of Portland nor was Mr. Adams in any employer/supervisory role. The person was a legislative intern in Salem who met Sam at the legislature. Campaigners against Sam and pundits routinely tossed around “17 year old intern” to make it sound like the Bill Clinton scandal or some kind of employment-based sexual harassment.

rainbike
rainbike
1 year ago
Reply to  Julie H.

I support art and music programs for all K-5 students in Portland (benefited from it myself), but the Arts Tax is an administratively messy way to do this.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  rainbike

Messy compared to what viable alternative?

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

It’s incredibly inefficient, with a huge percentage of the fund going to admin costs. They could have increased the payroll tax, added development fees, or raised property taxes.

SteveG
SteveG
1 year ago

I’m a fan. City Hall has recently been stacked with sanctimonious, grandstanding navel-gazers. Someone like Sam who has great ideas and can actually get sh&t done would be a welcome change.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  SteveG

You nailed it, SteveG. Every time I bike past those stupid “Don’t drive thru this neighborhood” signs next to the orange barrels, the word “performative” jumps into my head. We’ve had (and still have) too many leaders who excel at LOOKING like they are accomplishing things.

eawriste
eawriste
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

Agreed Fred. Where other cities put barriers up to physically prevent cars from using residential streets as cut throughs, Portland put up well-meant suggestion signs. “Politically expedient. Practically useless.” For the most part PBoT’s designs embody this ideal.

Couple-a-Watts
Couple-a-Watts
1 year ago

We should leave it up to Same victim to decide what is right. Or if the young man is still too traumatized by his experience from then to comment..there’s your answer.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Couple-a-Watts

What if he just prefers not to comment? There are more than two possible outcomes here.

Christian Samuels
Christian Samuels
1 year ago

I think Sam Adams has served his time. He is a coalition builder and I would welcome his involvement to get Portland back on its feet.
After the recent atrocious assault on Mayor Wheeler he may also need to recruit Jesse Ventura to his team so he can have some protection from the violent leftists here in Portland.

Warning: Video in link has graphic language
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9125107/Portland-Mayor-Ted-Wheeler-punched-dining-outside-protesters-frustrations-boil-over.html

mran1984
1 year ago

He would not need Ventura to fend off anyone in that “gang”.

One
1 year ago

Good for this protestor. Ted Wheeler IS a disgrace.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  One

From the video, it appears those yelling at the mayor were able to present their point of view in a convincing and effective manner. I thank them for improving civil discourse and helping make Portland a better place for all of us.

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Yeah, that’s absolutely going to persuade him to do something differently – I know it would me.

ZBP
ZBP
1 year ago

Dropping by just to remind everyone that Ted Wheeler did war crimes

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  ZBP

Was he part of the Biden 4?

Brian
Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  ZBP

Is it a war crime if not being used in war?

Christian Samuels
Christian Samuels
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

So what is your point with that statement?

Brian
Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

That may be, but that’s a different conversation. Facts matter. War crimes were not committed.

mran1984
1 year ago
Reply to  ZBP

Breaking windows and destroying statues is all you do. The city is a mess. Thanks. Do you know what a “war crime” is? In your free time please pick up some garbage. Oh, no “app” on your device for that.

Andrew N
Andrew N
1 year ago
Reply to  mran1984

In point of fact, tear gas, at least under the Chemical Weapons Convention, is illegal in “war” but legal for “domestic law enforcement”. I don’t think that nullifies discussion of whether the PPD/Wheeler’s use of tear gas is moral/ethical/a human rights violation/etc. Anyone remotely familiar with American history knows what a war crime is and that sh*t (the American kind anyway – I don’t mean to sweep the entire history of civilization under the rug or anything) started right here at home with slavery and the genocidal settler-colonial ideology of “Manifest Destiny”. If you consider the overall history of policing in the US, the recent history of militarized policing, and the US government’s extensive police-training exchanges with human rights violators like Israel IMO it’s hardly a stretch –or some sort of personal indictment– to make ZBP’s technical mistake of labeling Wheeler’s use of toxic gas for crowd control a “war crime”.

Don’t bother thanking me for picking up your garbage for you mran1984.

Brian
Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew N

I agree with most of what you wrote, but the last four years surely have taught us that words matter. Facts matter.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

Actually, if anything, they’ve shown words don’t really matter all that much. What matters is how loud you can shout them.

OGBrian
OGBrian
1 year ago
Reply to  mran1984

I think you may be tuned into the wrong “news” media if these are your beliefs. It was very common for BLM protesters to pick up the trash left by police including tear gas canisters and “rubber bullet” rounds (actually rubber-coated metal much of the time) that the police had been firing at them. To the extent that trash was left by protesters, in many (most?) cases it was because police forcibly removed groups of people before they could pick up their things.

“Breaking windows and destroying statues is all you do.”

Uh-huh. You don’t know that a lot of the property destruction was caused by thrill-seekers having no affiliation with BLM, and right-wingers trying to discredit the movement? Even police departments and federal investigators have said as much.

As Right-Wingers Block Evacuation Routes, “Antifa” Lead Relief Efforts in Oregon
https://truthout.org/articles/as-right-wingers-block-evacuation-routes-antifa-lead-relief-efforts-in-oregon/
– “Images on social media demonstrate how these groups in Portland, which have set up mutual aid projects near a popular theater in the city, are handing out a number of items for those who may have lost their homes. Aid is coming in the form of food (including cooked meals), hygiene supplies, toys for kids, masks and other devices to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and even food for pets. Camping space at a nearby park, as well as medical and crisis support, is also being provided by these organizations.”
– “Among many organizations taking part, Portland Equitable Workers Offering Kommunity Support (Portland EWOKS) is providing updates multiple times a day on social media on ways in which people can get involved to help those displaced.”

https://www.facebook.com/truthout/photos/a.324058561093/10157805308501094/?type=3&theater
– post by Truthout (Sara Rosenau) about BLM people giving aid to people displaced by fires
– “The same people who have been protesting every night in Portland are now mobilizing full force to help people being evacuated from the fires. Tonight I saw accounts of people dropping off pallets of water at shelters, transporting evacuees without cars, delivering free gas masks to vulnerable people in evacuations zones, and organizing to get homeless people indoors. They are tireless.”

Javier Sodo
Javier Sodo
1 year ago
Reply to  ZBP

ZPB,
Your statement is nothing more than hyperbolic nonsense. You must be a fan of Trump…you seem to have channelled him very well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_crime

Christian Samuels
Christian Samuels
1 year ago
Reply to  ZBP

ZBP,
War crimes? That is a ridiculous statement. A far left buzz word talking point. Nothing more.

Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

As for being Portland’s most “bike friendly mayor” that would be true of the “modern era”…but perhaps not forever as I would assume that earlier mayors (Mayor Williams et al) in the bike’s gilded age did more to facilitate its adoption as a transportation mode with the early bikeways and parkways. Welcome back Sam!

Fred
Fred
1 year ago

I haven’t read the 16 replies already posted, but my hunch is that we should be so lucky to get Sam back in city gov’t. Yeah he made mistakes – he let personal problems impact his job. But people can recover – do recover – from mistakes (if we let them). Sam knows how to get s**t done in Portland, probably better than anyone.

Eudaly is out and Sam is in?! Bring it on.

RudiV
RudiV
1 year ago

“Domestic Terror” seems like a a stretch. I don’t recall you referring to the people who assaulted the Hatfield courthouse every night for months as “domestic terrorists”. I fail to see how the behavior of those people is qualitatively different from the behavior of those who stormed the capitol.

Either you condemn this tactic in both cases or neither. You can’t have it both ways.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  RudiV

Five people are dead, and our elected leaders had to cease business and shelter in place. ***Portland of comment deleted by moderator.***

Simon Mottram
1 year ago

The photo of Adams almost makes Rapha look cool. Almost, but not quite

mark smith
mark smith
1 year ago

Compared to biden…is he worse? Nope. Portland is weird enough to take him back …

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago

I think you are all missing the context. Ted appoints Sam. Sam puts his head down, gets stuff done, does not offend anyone…is granted tacit pardon for all his past ‘sins’….Ted is recalled later this year…new surprise candidate wins replacement election….not an impssible scenario.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

Sam is Sam, and it will be very unlikely he’ll just put his head down and not offend anyone unless he’s done a full 180 on his personality. It is known to happen, but I’d be very surprised in Sam’s case.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

I’m kind of going out on a limb, but it is possible that ‘he just needs a job’. a lot is made of some people taking a new job (e.g. Sarah I.), but there is the reality that he might just need to pay the bills. That would encourage him, at least for awhile, to tone down his negative behavior). His resume the past years is not stellar.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
1 year ago

Sam Adams was one of the most effective agents for change in City Hall for almost two decades, as Mayor Katz’s chief of staff, as Transportation commissioner and as mayor. To turn him away now due to a personal misstep from years ago would be at best unfair; I have always sensed some homophobia in his treatment by the media and many in the public. Portland can be a prudish town. Let’s welcome him back!

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Lenny Anderson

Seriously… do you want someone with an unblemished personal life, or do you want someone who can get stuff done?

We’re living in the age of the neo-puritans. It’s not just Portland.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Exactly. Imagine if we had dismissed Trump for his past discretion!

John Mulvey
John Mulvey
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Yeah! That would have been… terrible?

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago
Reply to  Lenny Anderson

It was not a personal misstep! He, as Mayor, had an affair with a city employed 18-year old intern! Do that in your place of work and then use the defense that was a ‘personal misstep’ – let me know how that goes for you. This was so gross – and he seems to get a pass from some because the intern was male as if that somehow makes it ok.

Bob R.
Bob R.
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

Once again, when they met the person was a legislative intern in Salem, not the City of Portland.

Phil M
Phil M
1 year ago

Sam’s first action as mayor was to lie to the city. Are there no other choices? Is Portland really that broken?

Matt
Matt
1 year ago

He should move on.

John Mulvey
John Mulvey
1 year ago

Sam lies a lot and his positions shift with the winds. His ugly brand of backroom politics led to a plan to destroy Lents Park, and only a massive effort by the community stopped it from happening.

He’s a scandal waiting to happen. He cannot help himself. If Wheeler wants that then Sam’s a great hire.

nuovorecord
nuovorecord
1 year ago

Sigh…if our current leadership is incapable of addressing the serious needs of our city without resorting to bringing back a disgraced former mayor as a hired hand, we’re in worse shape than I feared.