City council hopefuls, elected officials, and curious constituents crammed in alongside Jefferson High School students on Friday afternoon, January 18. The audience quickly took their seats in the school's auditorium, ready to hear what Mayor Tom Potter had to say in his last annual State of the City speech.
Which wasn't much, as it turns out.
More than a third of Potter's speech was a look back—not on his three years so far in office, but on the week he'd just spent at Jefferson, observing the reportedly troubled school in action. A student had invited him, saying, "you need to come and see the real story for yourself."
Potter's speech—which could have been dubbed the "State of Jefferson" speech—retold "the real story," from the success of the girls' basketball team, to the need for mentors.
Finally remembering that he's the mayor of Portland, and not the superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Potter recapped what happened at city hall in the past year: While his council colleagues did a lot of important stuff—like increasing recycling rates, getting biodiesel into Portland's service stations, and reducing homelessness—the mayor was busy having "visions."
(Okay, that was mean. Potter took partial credit for "successfully [changing] the feel of many of our downtown streets," with help from Commissioner Randy Leonard's Project 57 jail bed program, and added that he funded daytime facilities "where the homeless can get a shower." Never mind that the showers at that center have been non-functional for all but a few days in the past several months, and were turned off again on January 21 for repairs.)
So what can we expect in 2008? Potter touched on the upcoming election, noting the "historic opportunity to remake the council into one that will bring more diversity to city hall." He didn't name any names, however—barely mentioning Commissioner (and mayoral candidate) Sam Adams even when handing out the year's accolades. (Ouch.)
Citing his own accomplishments, Potter unsurprisingly led off with the visionPDX project, now in the "vision into action" stage, and asked the council to permanently fund "inclusionary programs" like the new Office of Human Relations. He also pledged to lead a discussion on race, which is "an ugly, open sore on the body politic."
In other words, the fourth year of Potter will be much of the same—a bit of listening, a lot of vision, and an intangible legacy. "Many mayors measure their time in office by what they have built," he said.
Obviously, Mayor Potter isn't one of them.