Here's some well-timed news for the Friday night news cycle. A rumor has been doing the rounds that County Commissioner Jeff Cogen told the Willamette Week this week he'd sign the petition to recall Sam Adams if he was asked to. The paper has been calling around local pols, asking them where they stand, and Cogen came out on the record with his surprising stance.
"Yeah I did," says Cogen, reached by cellphone this evening. "No one's asked me to sign it yet, but I guess no one else in the world is willing to say that. It's not like I'm chomping at the bit to do it. I just don't object to people being able to vote on it."
"I don't think it's gonna happen, it's all moot," Cogen continues, referring to the recall.
So then why stick his neck out and say he'd sign the petition, when it's not politically valuable or necessarily smart to do so?
"They just asked me what I would do, and I told them," he says. "I don't believe there's going to be a recall, and I'm not certain, if there was a vote, how I would vote on it, and I'm not cheer-leading to recall Sam or anything like that, but I do feel like in the context of everything that's gone on, I don't think it's unreasonable to give people that say," he says.
Here's the thing: I think there are plenty of other political leaders in this town who may feel similarly to Cogen in private, but who would never tell the local papers they'd sign the petition.
"I think the real question is why aren't they willing to say that if that's what they feel?" counters Cogen.
Apart from my spotless Christian soul and because I think it's probably in the best interests of Portlanders' emotional health, one of the admittedly less scrupulous reasons I've advocated for forgiving Adams so far is that none of our elected leaders have taken up the gauntlet and said they wanted him recalled. Pragmatically: Since we're stuck with the guy for the next few years, doesn't it make sense to at least forget his bad behavior and move on?
Does this "legitimize" the recall? Who knows. Probably not. But it's a big step: Cogen is a legitimate politician in this town. He was City Commissioner Dan Saltzman's chief of staff between 2003 and 2006, and since joining the Multnomah County board of commissioners he's led efforts to support returning veterans, and on installing solar electricity on Multnomah County buildings. He's a well-rounded chap, too: Founded the Portland Pretzel Company and is a Pie Off judge next weekend. He was off to a Phish concert when I caught him on the phone. Cogen is certainly sticking his neck out—and while I don't share his perspective on signing the recall, I certainly respect the political chutzpah it takes in this town to speak up when it may cost you dear. In fact, I've just become a fan of Cogen's on Facebook.
"I wasn't particularly trying to make a big news item or anything like that," he says. "I was more just saying I understand why people want to have a say, and I'm generally an advocate for democracy, I guess."
It will be interesting to see who else says they'd sign the petition, now.
Adams and Recall spokesman Jasun Wurster are yet to return requests for comment.