You have to give Commissioner Sam Adams some credit. He sure knows how to turn a politically driven evacuation plan into a chance to be seen as a ballsy leader.
Last week, just before the city council was poised to take a final vote on the contentious plan to move the defunct Sauvie Island Bridge to NW Portland, where it would serve as a bike and pedestrian crossing, Adams hastily called a press conference.
Flanked by charts showing an increase in fuel costs, and a corresponding decrease in gas tax revenue flowing back to the city—thanks to people reducing their gas consumption—Adams announced a $2 million hole in the city's transportation budget. He called for a 30-day evaluation of all city transportation projects, to see how higher fuel and materials costs for things like asphalt will impact their budgets.
He also killed the bridge project.
"I'm not confident we can bring that project in for $5.5 million," Adams said.
Adams' rationale is believable. Hell, it makes sense. He says he's concerned that the part of the bridge project the city planned to bid out would go over budget—it certainly could—and there certainly aren't extra city funds lying around to plug the potential hole.
But here's the problem: Adams originally had a $5.5 million guaranteed maximum price contract on the table. That contract tanked, however, when Commissioner Dan Saltzman balked that it was a sole-source contract. And since it was Commissioner Erik Sten's last day voting on the council, political calculus meant Adams needed Saltzman's vote.
What Adams has yet to explain, however, is why he put such a big, exciting project like this—one that's been in the works for years—in that sort of a political bind. Why wasn't the contract ready for a vote weeks before Sten's departure, or why didn't Adams address Saltzman's concerns earlier? Like Adams' Safe, Sound, and Green Streets proposal, the first bridge proposal wasn't sewn up tight enough to withstand a political storm. And like that street fee proposal, Adams yanked the bridge project off the table, while declaring himself a prudent leader.
Speaking of turning bad news into good: Sho Dozono picked up the sole endorsement of the Multnomah County Republican Party (Adams had earlier nabbed their Democratic counterparts' solo endorsement).
Dozono tried to turn the news into lemonade palatable to Portland's famously liberal voters. "As a successful civic and business leader I prefer to look for common ground and shared beliefs in all citizens, then build from those. I am willing to work with everyone for the betterment of Portland and the region," Dozono said.
But Adams' campaign had their own take on it. "While many individual Republicans appreciate Sam Adams' leadership and support him even though he is a strong and proud Democrat, Sam declined an interview because he could not in good conscience solicit support from an organization that subscribes to a platform that includes in part: opposition to civil unions and basic rights for same-sex couples; opposition to a woman's right to choose; and it supports numerous positions that breach the separation of church and state."