Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Trouble With The Recall Effort

I've read a lot of Jasun Wurster's comments (usually ending with his infamous closing: "with much respect") on various news website articles regarding Sam Adams. His comment left on a article yesterday is a good snapshot of his usual tactic:

Sam Adams is clinging to power, what he fails to realize is that his hand is around the throat of our democracy. The Recall effort needs approximately 2000 volunteers from the Portland-Metro area to spend a few hours this summer collecting signatures from Portland citizens. You do not have to live in Portland to volunteer for the recall. (emphasis mine)

Please do visit and sign up to help and learn of the may ways to hold Sam Adams accountable.

With Adams recall we will remind the nation of what it means to be an Oregonian and reclaim the tarnished name of Portland, Oregon.
Jasun Wurster

Wait, what? Wurster's actively recruiting non-Portland residents to volunteer for a campaign to recall Portland's mayor? Up to this point, I've had no problem with Jasun Wurster other than my obvious disagreements with him. Today, however, I'm pretty perplexed that he's encouraging folks who do not live in Portland to volunteer for the recall campaign. Frankly, it seems underhanded. We don't grant non-Portlanders the opportunity to vote in Portland city elections because they don't live here and, by default, their priorities are not reflected in our elected officials. Why, then, does it make sense to ask them to volunteer to recall our mayor unless it was to further an agenda that cannot find sufficient support in Portland?

When questioned about it, Wurster suggests that towns outside of Portland are affected by the actions of our mayor. While that may be true, I'm uncomfortable that the priorities of someone who lives outside of Portland might be reflected in changes to our city government. It is up to the citizens of Portland to determine the priorities of our city, to elect the appropriate officials, and to hold them accountable. These folks didn't vote for our mayor, so why do they have a say in recalling him?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Think Out Loud Recap

Commissioner Randy Leonard and mayor Sam Adams were the featured guests on this morning's "Think Out Loud" talk show on OPB. I'll do my best to summarize the show without succumbing to my unfortunate tendency for wordiness.

Leonard was on first and his main message was twofold concerning Sam's dishonesty: Sam's lie was a betrayal that hurt their friendship and will be difficult to overcome, but he is strongly aligned with the mayor's policies and wants to see their agenda accomplished. Leonard said he's worked with three mayors and never before has he had the kind of consensus he and Sam do. Leonard's wounded feelings were apparent and understandable: Sam's betrayal was unacceptable, especially since his denial of the Breedlove affair in 2007 prompted Leonard to very publicly defend him. His feelings, he said, don't differ from those of any Portlander. One thing Leonard said really stuck with me: he found Sam's distressed reaction reassuring, because it indicated that he grasps the gravity of his actions.

Leonard answered questions from four callers relating to a potential professional soccer team in Portland (the funds wouldn't be diverted from other projects but are generated from ticket taxes and other soccer-related revenue, and he feels it's a "good deal for Portland"), what sustainable energy practices the city is planning to implement (we already require that 5% of every gallon of diesel sold is Biodiesel, tax incentives to bring green businesses to PDX, solar energy), how council is working to avoid early school closures (more balanced tax system, including a sales tax, but there's not much that can be done with the current economic crisis: "I can't promise what doesn't exist"), and the proposed active management of the CRC (bilateral state commission to manage tolls, "we can't have a laissez-faire approach to driving").

Sam was then brought in by phone. He was asked how the applause at the city club speech felt: "heartwarming". Emily Harris surprised me by snapping at him, "what do you mean?" He responded with an acknowledgement that he'd screwed up, and to have people accept his apologies and move on to the business at hand is humbling. He feels that this will make him a better person and public servant, and he's committed to getting back to work. He characterized city council's reaction to the recession as "proactive", "as smart and possible" and "strategic".

The show then moved to listener questions. The first asked what Adams would tell his 14-year old daughter about lying to further one's career. Adams responded that he would not teach a teenager that this was okay, and that he's an example of what happens when one lies. He stated that it's appropriate that his reputation has changed and that he has paid a price. I think it was Emily Harris again who asked what price it is that he's paid. He stated that his reputation will never be the same.

The next question was via email: did he ever consider resigning, and was the lie to further his career? Sam stated, as I reported last week, that he was planning to resign. He said he sought out friends and allies for personal advice, but never really mentioned what convinced him to stay. Oddly, he didn't mention the rally. Moving to the second part of the question, he said at the time "the attack" (meaning from Bob Ball) coming at him was during the mayoral campaign and he felt there was no way people would believe the truth. So yes, he said, he did it to further his career.

Adams was then asked about the regressive taxation system in Oregon and whether he wants that to change. He agreed with the caller and stated that it's unfair, dysfunctional, and favors the rich. Another caller wanted to know which campaign promises Adams will have to delay or let go given the economic crisis. He answered that it might take longer than originally anticipated, but he isn't backing down on anything. "Why would you expect a leader to reduce their focus on these issues?" he asked.

Another caller asked about gang violence, but I missed it. The interview ended when Adams was asked if he's yet spoken to the attorney general's office as part of the investigation and he tersely responded that he can't talk about it.

All that having been said, what's my take? I was pleased with Leonard's interview and felt it reflected well, and probably accurately, on the climate in city hall these days. Frankly, I'm glad Adams has Leonard there to be hard on him-- he needs it. Adams, to me, sounded nervous and sort of scattered. Later he told me that he was walking while he was speaking, so it wasn't nerves making his voice shake. Still, I wished the interview had reflected better on Sam. I think he needs to be a bit more transparent when answering these questions-- he comes across as a bit hedgy. I know his desire to get back to work combined with the limits placed on him by the investigation are probably making it more challenging than usual to speak candidly. Still, it would do him some good for his city to see him in a more vulnerable light.