AS POLITICAL bully pulpits go, the State of the City is a pretty good one. Given an hour in front of a captive audience, a sitting mayor can soar high on an unfiltered storyline of his or her own creation. For a mayor on the ropes, it's a chance to spin some good news. For a mayor on the way out, it's one last chance to spit shine the ol' legacy.
But as an actual roadmap of a mayor's performance? Forget it. For that, you're better off considering what's left out of the speech—not what made it. The Mercury attended Mayor Sam Adams' address on Friday, February 18. Here's what we heard—and what we didn't.
Left In: "Thanks to these prudent early actions, and with some good luck, the city ended last fiscal year with a one-time $9.4 million surplus, and we start the next fiscal year with a one-time surplus of up to $22 million. We negotiated eight union contracts, saving an estimated $10 million over the next 10 years."
Left Out: Keeping up the current pace of city spending—including "one-time" funding that seems to make its way into every budget—means the city is heading back to the red. Oh, and those contract savings over the next 10 years? They would've been a lot higher if not for the more than $5 million in raises and perks traded to police officers for random drug testing and civilian oversight over the next three years.
Left In: "We have retained and recruited new firms to Portland, who are attracted by our commitment to sustainability and the overall quality of life."
Left Out: One of those firms, Vestas, is finding it more difficult than expected to bring in the hundreds of jobs that Adams promised after handing out a sweet development deal. At the Mercury and Bus Project's Brewhaha with state lawmakers February 16, Representative Jules Bailey said Vestas was struggling to attract workers, largely because of the troubled state of Portland's schools.
Left In: "Nearly all effective government action involves collaboration and compromise. It's the nature of the work, and it will be necessary in forging a regional consensus for the Columbia River Crossing."
Left Out: Another word noticeably absent from Adams' speech: bicycle. Although one of the mayor's most legitimate victories in 2010 was getting unanimous council support for a plan to remake hundreds of miles of streets into bike-friendly boulevards, that success was overshadowed by his botched pitch on the funding plan. No wonder he wanted to steer clear of "sewer money for bike lanes" in his speech.
Left In: "I'm proposing a new urban renewal area focused on expanding Portland State University [PSU] as a leading engine of economic growth, prosperity, and opportunity.... I look forward to having those conversations with my council colleagues, Multnomah County, and the school district."
Left Out: That "new" urban renewal area (URA) means Adams' dream of a much larger central city district, stretching squid-like from PSU to Northwest, has been shelved thanks to heavy concerns from officials like Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen, a potential rival for Adams in 2012.
Later, in announcing three "micro" renewal districts in East Portland, Adams failed to mention that controversial plans to add the Rose Quarter to an URA along North Interstate remain in place. In fact, there was zero mention of the Rose Quarter and plans to finally develop it, despite a summer deadline looming for the latest phase of discussions. Pushing that project forward would be a huge boost for Adams' legacy—but talks may yet come apart.
Left In: "Now, using tougher federal laws and other innovative enforcement tools, we are taking illegal guns off the street.... We have made tough but fair decisions about police accountability: We are hiring a more diverse workforce, adding drug and steroid testing, and increasing independent expert and citizen oversight of operations."
Left Out: One of those "innovative" gun tools remains mighty contentious: drawing up three "hotspot" areas where gun-crime convicts are banned. As for accountability, Adams never uttered the words "police shootings," nor did he name any of the men killed by officers in the past year. And when he mentioned drug testing, he neglected to say that random testing for steroids, while now permissible, remains technically infeasible. What's it mean? After months of hitting hard at the police bureau, it's time, he says, to make nice.
Sarah Mirk contributed to this report.