ON DISPLAY this month at city hall? Mayor Sam Adams' continuing efforts to put his stamp on Portland—and shore up a legacy—before history otherwise dumps his lone term into oblivion. Also on display? Residue of the political style that's largely responsible for giving us only four years of Adams.
In a vote that might look cheery and breezy, but with a history that's anything but, Portland City Council is finally poised to approve Adams' long-hyped plan for an Office of Equity on Wednesday, September 21. Except now the office will have a new name: Office of Equity and Human Rights.
You might remember Adams first pitched it during his State of the City speech in February, back when we were so sure (whoopsy!) he would doggedly seek another term. The office is expected to do for race and disability issues in city government what the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has done for green standards.
Sounds good, but you might also remember that Adams almost dropped the ball.
Echoing a frequent criticism of Adams, his initial concept, while noble, was half-baked, more buzzword than useful concept. He then gave the office to Commissioner Amanda Fritz, and watched as she struggled to define both the office's mission and place in the city's infrastructure. Getting to a feel-good vote on Wednesday (even Randy Leonard, who snarkily suggested an "Office of Awesomeness," is going to say yes) came only after a summertime intervention by the other commissioners.
Then there's this item: the city's commitment to funding its half of the planned $62 million Oregon Sustainability Center. The building, planned for SW 5th and Montgomery, is billed as a showpiece of green technology—and it would be something that Adams, long after he leaves, can highlight as a tangible example of his stewardship.
That's if it ever gets built. Salem Republicans are holding up the other half of the funding, bond money backed by the Oregon University System. Adams' team will meet with lawmakers on Thursday, September 22, a day after the council weighs a symbolic resolution of support, to press the project's case. Adams was hoping for a 5-0 vote to bolster his argument—but it was looking like, as of press time Tuesday, September 20, he was going to fall a vote or two short.
His colleagues, certainly, were feeling rushed. Adams released the project's dense financial plan only last Friday, September 16. And commissioners still have big, multimillion-dollar questions. The press is on, even though any vote in Salem wouldn't come until 2012.
Which means we have to hope Adams' legacy doesn't include something else: a massively expensive boondoggle.