IT'S A TRICKY THING—a State of the City speech for a mayor who's down to his final 9.9 months and free, as he so often notes, of the burdens of trying to govern while also running for reelection. Would Sam Adams go for broke with some last-ditch, transformative policy initiatives? Or would he wind up retrenching around the record he's spent the past three years building?
It was a lot more of the latter. But, naturally, the mayor left out a few things. Luckily, we showed up to watch his March 2 speech. Here's what we heard—and what we didn't.
Left In: "And while we face very difficult budget decisions this year, I pledge here today to work with my council colleagues to protect all sworn public-safety positions in our police and fire and rescue bureaus."
Left Out: The city budget that Adams will present this spring was facing, according to the last reckoning by finance staffers, a $17 million hole. Things are so shaky, in fact, that Adams has asked every bureau—including police and fire—to plan for three levels of possible cuts: four, six, and eight percent of current spending, respectively. Even the best-case cuts proposed so far by fire and police would see a handful of firefighters let go along with dozens of cops. In fact, police staffing cuts, at four percent, would save some $4.4 million. Saving even some of those jobs would force Adams to cut even deeper in other bureaus, like parks and recreation—all contemplating doomsday cuts of their own.
Left In: "When I took over as police commissioner, a goal was to improve the relationship between our police bureau and Portlanders... it's getting better, with 43 percent of our new hires [being] people of color or women."
Left Out: The police bureau has nearly 1,000 sworn members, and the vast majority are still white men. To get a real sense of how much more must be done, it's better to look at raw numbers and not percentages. How big was the hiring class Adams referenced? Turns out, just 53 cops. How many are black? Three. How many are women? Eight. How many are white? Thirty-nine.
In last year's class, just 10 of 33 hires were "people of color or women" ["A Diverse Crop of White Guys," Hall Monitor, June 2, 2011]. Yes, it's a start—and it's good that the mayor and police chief are talking about this in public. But let's not forget another raw number: As late as 2009, Portland's count of black cops stood at a mere 33.
Left In: "And we're working to invent the next clean tech building: the Oregon Sustainability Center."
Left Out: If the Oregon Sustainability Center ever goes forward, it won't be on Adams' watch. The Oregon Legislature dropped the gavel on this year's special session without approving millions in bonds that would have been used to pay for the $62 million project.
And that's not the only hurdle facing the would-be green-tech showcase. It's still not clear whether building it would put the city's budget at risk for millions of dollars—leading two commissioners, Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz, to withhold support for it during a vote last fall.
Left In: "While we're at it, we're rebranding Central Eastside our Produce Row—as a place where the best entrepreneurial ideas grow."
Left Out: The mayor was referencing a new "tech hub" of startup companies planned for a convention center building at the Burnside Bridgehead, but apparently forgot to spread the word about the area's new "Produce Row" moniker beforehand. The "rebranding" riffs off the name of a local eatery, which, unsurprisingly, is all for it. But the Oregonian reports that the Central Eastside Industrial Council has other ideas, calling it a "PR nightmare."