Forget city hall: This week all the city council action took place across the river—or under it.

On Monday morning, December 10, Commissioner Sam Adams showed off where the city's put $1.4 billion: In a tunnel a hundred feet underneath the Central Eastside Industrial District, where a boring machine is carving out the Eastside Big Pipe.

"It's hard to imagine unless you've been down there to see it," Adams said after his first look at the 22-foot wide tunnel that will keep sewage out of the Willamette. It's a huge investment, but "most of it is underground," where ratepayers don't see where their money has gone. After the tour, staffers handed out fish-shaped cookies—apparently representing the happy fish that won't have to swim in poo once the Big Pipe is in service.

Later that afternoon (above ground), County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey—who has been contemplating a city council bid—met with a political consultant at the bustling Daily Café on SE Grand to examine her weaknesses. Clearly audible from the next table (where this reporter was sitting!), the consultant ticked off Rojo de Steffy's perceived shortcomings: A weak work ethic evidenced by a lot of days off this past summer, riding in at the last minute on issues like the Interstate rename, and embracing her "Mean Girls" nickname.

Rojo de Steffey defended herself to the consultant. On the vacation issue, "I took three weeks off, I really did. I spent two with my grandkids, then I took another week of Fridays" to have long weekends. As for the Chávez late entry, she said the committee asked for her help, and she stepped in. And when it comes to slapping a reference to Mean Girls on her license plate, "I was poking fun at us."

In other campaign news, Adams spoke to an overflowing living room full of supporters in North Portland on Saturday night, December 8—the first house party of his mayoral campaign, before stepping outside to pose for photos on a bakfiet Dutch cargo bike.

Adams reports that the party netted plenty of funds for his campaign. Good thing, because he also gave back a thousand bucks to one donor last week. As first reported on Blogtown, Patrick Lanagan of Fat Cobra Video and Eagle Portland (a porn shop and a gay bar, respectively) chipped in a combined $1,000 to Sam Adams' mayoral campaign in late October—$500 personally, and $500 from his business.

On December 7, Adams' campaign refunded all of it. "Sam felt more comfortable not accepting the funds," says campaign manager Jennifer Yocom.

Lanagan apologized if his contributions put the candidate in an awkward spot. "Regardless, I still support Sam," he says.

amy@portlandmercury.com