It’s official: Mayor Wheeler adds Sam Adams to his team

Sam Adams at a Safe Routes to School event in north Portland in 2010.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Former Portland mayor and transportation commissioner Sam Adams is back.

Mayor Ted Wheeler has confirmed a strong hunch we shared earlier this month that Adams would be added to his staff.

In a statement published today, Wheeler said Adams will serve as his director of strategic innovations and, “lead work on key second-term policy priorities.”

“Sam’s knowledge of Portland City Hall and his track record of action and getting things done is much welcomed,” Mayor Wheeler said. “He’s innovative, smart and energetic. He will play an important role in advancing my second term priorities.”

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Adams in 2020.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Wheeler added that those priorities include, “Reducing homelessness and the impacts of street camping, cleaning up garbage and graffiti, improving public safety and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it has caused.”

Adams ran for a city commissioner spot in 2020 and finished third behind Chloe Eudaly and eventual winner Mingus Mapps. After spending nearly two decades at City Hall — first as a staffer and then as commissioner and mayor — Adams was director of the City Club of Portland and the World Resources Institute, a climate action think tank based in Washington DC.

During his time as commissioner and mayor, Adams was a major champion of bicycling and transportation issues. His mayoral tenure was marred by scandal in January 2009 when he admitted to lying about a relationship with Beau Breedlove, a young legislative intern who Adams had worked with.

Adams will start his new job on Monday, February 1st.

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

Good move.

rainbike
rainbike
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

A flailing Wheeler mayorship brings in a failed and disgraced fixer? No thanks.

Phil M
Phil M
1 year ago
Reply to  rainbike

A guy whose first action as mayor was to lie to the people. And rejected by voters after multiple attempts to get back into Portland government. Figures sleazy Wheeler would offer him a back door back into city hall.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil M

Ugh – really tired of all of the purity tests.

Portland is in a state of crisis and needs experienced, competent leaders working in city gov’t. Sam is one such person. We are lucky to have him.

dan
dan
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

Mussolini made the trains run on time, but I still don’t want him running Trimet

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  dan

Bit of a stretch to compare Il Duce to Sam Adams.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago

N/M

eawriste
eawriste
1 year ago

How about taking something from De Blasio’s recent playbook and promote a network of separated bike lanes on and connected to the St John’s Bridge?

Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

Talk about a tough gig…looks like Ted gave Sam ALL the high need hot topics (Reducing homelessness and the impacts of street camping, cleaning up garbage and graffiti, improving public safety and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it has caused)…making Portland into Bike Town in the 2000s will likely be easier…

Nadia Maxim
Nadia Maxim
1 year ago

Great News! I’m looking forward to what Sam can bring to the table. I like that he’s a unifier, unlike some of the divisive politicos we have/had in Portland (Eudaly, Hardesty and Iannarone).

dwk
dwk
1 year ago

How many mayors and ex mayors does it take to have people clean up camps and pick up garbage….
How hard is this? It took 3 weeks to clean up the Laurelhurst camp and the campers are already back..
What a joke.

Nadia Maxim
Nadia Maxim
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

Yeah, that is frustrating. We want to be empathetic in Portland but I fear we have veered into enabling. There still needs to be personal responsibility and consequences for one’s choices. Granted, many don’t have that ability but many do. And from a pragmatic standpoint, Portland can’t afford nor should it be expected to handle the region’s houseless.

Andrew N
Andrew N
1 year ago
Reply to  Nadia Maxim

I agree “Nadia Maxim”. It’s obvious that we have veered deeply into enabling a shortsighted and deeply-unjust economic system that values theft and obfuscation over personal responsibility and community health. I too look forward to seeing the people who operate and profit from such an unjust system suffer the consequences of their unfortunate choices. They may not have the moral or intellectual abilities to understand – but that’s why we have the police, to sweep them aside when they refuse to redistribute the wealth that they’ve stolen from the commons. You can only have so much empathy for such people. Thank you for bringing your wisdom to the Bikeportland comment section, thus undermining all the reactionary voices crowding this space recently (oddly, they seem especially aggrieved whenever the name of the only Black woman on city council comes up – I can’t figure out why). /s

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew N

Cancel my response.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Nadia Maxim

Hi Nadia. Please play this out with me. What does personal responsibility look like in this situation? What do we do with those who will not, or cannot, take responsibility for themselves?

Nadia Maxim
Nadia Maxim
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Well in NYC for example homeless in shelters are required to save 30% of their income (yes, many have income) for permanent housing. That would be anathema in Portland.
I think we also need to disabuse ourselves of the local notion that we can house ourselves out of homelessness. Unless the federal government returns to caring for the mentally ill and drug treatment is provided we don’t have a chance. The more we house, the more will come from the rest of the USA.

https://ny.curbed.com/2019/8/23/20829616/homeless-shelters-nyc-savings-program

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Nadia Maxim

Ok, leaving aside the fact that we don’t have enough shelter space (as far as I know), what happens to someone who spends all their income and saves none? Or who shows up at the shelter high? Or screams all night because of some affliction, so no one around them can sleep? All roads lead back to the street, and that’s where we are now.

The fact is we don’t have the resources to pay for what we really need, which is residential drug treatment and mental health care. We need housing to support graduates from those programs, and others who are just down on their luck. We need jobs to keep people busy and helping them from re-establishing the patterns that led them to the street, and hopefully re-enter general society. And we probably need more policing to crack down on the low level criminality that some use to support themselves on the street.

We also need legal changes to allow us to compel people to accept treatment, which raises a whole host of issues, many of which make me very uncomfortable. We need boatloads of money, and it isn’t all going to come from the rich. How many of us are willing to pay significantly more in taxes to solve this problem at a time when confidence in government is at a such a low point? And it’s going to take lots of time to build the programs needed to address the problem.

When I hear “personal responsibility” decoupled from any real solutions, I hear pointless complaining. Sure, it would be great if more people had it, but they don’t, and that’s one of the unpleasant facts anyone who’s serious about this issue has got to work with.

Nadia Maxim
Nadia Maxim
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

We need a bit of “tough love” Kitty. Federal funding for drug treatment and mental health care as well but also a good dose of “tough love”. Currently we are simply enabling many.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Nadia Maxim

What does “tough love” look like?

Phil M
Phil M
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Who needs personal responsibility when you have a homeless-industrial complex here that enables and actually encourages the behavior? All hiding under the banner of “compassion”.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

Where are they going to go? If you think Sam is going to fix that, the joke’s on you.

PTB
PTB
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Leifsdad

I dunno, but it feels like we’re listening to Ned Flanders’ mom right now; We’ve tried nothin’ and we’re all out of ideas.

What is happening now, nothing, is not ok. It sucks for campers, it sucks for folks living near campers, and everyone in between. I live nearish Johnson Creek and all the seasonal wetlands and flood plains that so many people have put a lot of work into restoring are *trashed*. MUPs are sketchy to use for a lot of people. Trash bags are grabbed, shredded and strewn at bus stops and on sidewalks. There’s a camp near the Plaid on 21st and Powell. It’s gonna be having it’s 1 year anniversary soon. Initially it was a couple carts. Now it takes up what might be two parking spaces and the sidewalk is entirely blocked and unusable. Cars are dumped, stripped and sometimes burned out all over the place. It’s nuts, man. This sucks! If you had told me this is what Portland would look like ten years ago, hell, five years ago, I’d have said you were out of your mind.

If Sam Adams has any idea on what to do, or will listen to people with ideas and can get *something* going, then hell yeah, it needs to happen.

Sigma
Sigma
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

Agree 100%. According to the Oregonian article, Sam will report to the mayor’s *deputy* chief of staff. Going from mayor to mid-level staffer is a pretty big slice of humble pie, and if Sam can swallow it and make progress on these intractable issues, he has my full support.

On a completely unrelated note, the ad google is showing me while I type this provides info on who to contact if I’ve been sexually abused by members of the clergy.

Nadia Maxim
Nadia Maxim
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Leifsdad

Yep, many of the non-profits are feeding off the problem. Take for example the poorly structured recently passed Metro homeless measure. The majority of the local press were against it and/or highly critical of it. Yet it passed easily. It will be an expensive boondoggle. Of course many non-profits view it as a local “gravy train” without any need to show results for the money they will consume.

John Liu
John Liu
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

I work one block from the C3PO sanctioned camps on Water. They are exactly what we need more of: safe, supervised, sanitary, with showers and services, and with the kind of shelter that people want (tiny houses). They also make sense financially (a $5K tiny house that will house 2 people and last for years, vs $7K/mo for a shelter bed). Finally, they are scalable: each camp is large and houses 100+ persons, so the supervision and services reaches a lot of people. The C3PO camps don’t have much negative impact on the neighborhood, because it’s the Central Eastside industrial district.

We could have dozens of similar sanctioned tiny house camps, located in areas where there are large enough empty lots. There are surface parking lots, vacant lots awaiting development, warehouses, etc. They could be the middle tier in a homeless housing system. Start in a shelter, if the person’s behavior is okay then a sanctioned camp tiny house, then to a motel room (the city should be buying those too), then graduate to a transitional housing and then affordable apartment, and finally a regular apartment. During this time the person is working with counselors, job training, addiction treatment, as needed to be able to “re-enter” the normal job and housing market. If the person has serious mental health or substance abuse problems, he or she would be on a different track. If the person won’t stop drug dealing, bike theft, other crime, then he or she would be on a different track.

This would be a lot of work and money. But the city and county are already spending well over $100 million/year and employing or paying for many thousands of people to tackle the homeless problem. Homelessness is the #1 problem in Portland – chronic problem that is, not comparing it to the pandemic for example. The Metro tax will bring in over $200 million a year more. This can be solved and if Sam can help, I’m willing to forget his past mistakes.

What is not working is the city and county’s current direction. Which is to allow camping everywhere – with no safety, supervision, services, sanitation, shelter – until a place gets totally out of hand, then push it to another place and let that place get totally out of hand. They call it “sanctioned camping” but all they mean is that they’ll look the other way, until they don’t. That’s the worst possible approach I can think of, for the homeless and for everyone.

Nadia Maxim
Nadia Maxim
1 year ago
Reply to  John Liu

I think you make some good points. Just not sure the taxpayers of Portland can afford the Cadillac level “wrap around” services you describe. People come to Portland from all over the USA due to the programs currently offered and the leniency shown here. I think all we can afford is bare bone shelters. Build enough and then we can vigorously enforce no camping laws. At least we would then have some normalcy in our neighborhoods. Until the feds begin funding mental health services again (cut by Reagan) as well as drug treatment I think local efforts will simply be overwhelmed by new arrivals.

PNWPhotoWalks
1 year ago
Reply to  John Liu

Well stated, John. I’m also willing to forget Sam’s past mistakes.

…then graduate to a transitional housing and then affordable apartment, and finally a regular apartment.

Here is a time-lapse series I took from 1/26/2018 to 10/26/2018 of The Louisa Flowers as it was being constructed. I included some reference links in the video description. From Home Forward’s website: “With 240 homes, this new development is Multnomah County’s largest apartment building financed with low-income housing tax-credits during the past 50 years.”

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago

But how will we tell them apart? Will they wear name badges?

mark smith
mark smith
1 year ago

Might as well enjoy his time…Hardesty will be taking over.

Nadia Maxim
Nadia Maxim
1 year ago
Reply to  mark smith

Doubtful. People are fed up with the crime and the lack of enforcement and “police hating” being promulgated by Hardesty.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/katu.com/amp/news/local/commissioner-jo-ann-hardesty-claims-officers-starting-fires-police-chief-chuck-lovell-union-president-daryl-turner-want-evidence

mark smith
mark smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Nadia Maxim

What people? The actual taxpayers? There are fewer and fewer of those…