IT'S BEEN A TENSE WEEK in Portland following Reverend Jesse Jackson's visit. But the general consensus among Blogtown readers—whom I polled on Sunday, February 21—reflects my own feeling that Mayor Sam Adams has played an earnest game of catch-up after dropping the ball early on in the aftermath of the Aaron Campbell shooting.
For me Adams' make-or-break moment came the afternoon following Jackson's visit, when the mayor came face to face with Campbell's mother as he greeted over 100 protesters outside his office on Wednesday, February 17. The crowd wanted to know why the cop who shot Campbell was back on duty that morning: "What message does that send?"
"You wouldn't want me to pass judgment without a full..." began Adams.
"Can you face the victim?" asked one protester, as Marva Campbell-Davis stepped forward. Well, could he? Adams asked Campbell-Davis if she wanted to step into his office, and she did. I'm not sure if he had any option in the circumstances, but I respected the move: It was decisive, but it didn't seem cynical or rehearsed.
"There's blood on your bike paths, mayor!" shouted one protester, as the door closed. Since then, Adams has joined Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman in calling for a federal civil rights probe into the shooting. He supported Saltzman's call for the grand jury proceedings in the case to be made public, and even told reporters on Friday, February 19, that he has asked Saltzman to review the policy of letting officers return to the streets before inquiries are complete in deaths like this. All in all, it's an appropriate response—even if it did require Reverend Jackson's visit to make Adams step up to the plate.
Then again, I wonder if a community only ever really gets the leadership it deserves. By Monday, February 22, Adams was over the worst, even attending a panel discussion on making us a "world-class design city."
Instead of smugly listing Portland's achievements in urban planning, the mayor told the very white crowd at Urban Grind East on NE Oregon that Portland has done a "shameful" job of protecting the rights of African Americans in its urban renewal history, and even chastised the design community for being absent on the environmental/design debate about the Columbia River Crossing. "Make some noise," he told them. "Where the heck were you?"
"We haven't fully embraced" the "non-white" aspects of sustainability either, added the mayor. More please.