While Mayor Sam Adams is out of the country, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, right, will be in charge.
Mayor Sam Adams convened a quick Occupy Portland press conference this morning before heading to the airport for a 10-day business and cultural trip to Asia. Although thanks to handsome man Lars Larson and some other TV reporters asking TV reporter-like questions, things got a bit testy at times. But the mayor stuck to his guns.

He declared himself a "progressive" and repeatedly used the word "discretion" in a message that roughly distills to this: I support Occupy Portland's message and methods, and as long as things stay peaceful and polite in a campsite that's not close to many residents or businesses, I'm not going to clear out Chapman and Lownsdale squares. In fact, he sounded a lot like Randy Leonard, whose bullish support of Occupy I first reported yesterday.

Lars Larson!
  • Lars Larson!
"I know this might frustrate folks," he said, including media, asking about an "end game." "The answer is we're looking at this on a day-to-day basis and the details matter."

Earlier, he said, "I have long held the view that there are national policies that hurt Portlanders and Oregonians, that make it more difficult for hardworking folks to get the kind of employment and educational opportunities they have a right to. That Occupy Portland and Occupy Wall Street have come along is great. It puts a focus and a spotlight on some national policy issues that need to be addressed."

Update 1:35 PM: Occupy Portland's media team has posted its press release here. I've got it pasted in at the end of the original post.

The mayor also partially shrugged off concerns from business interests like the Portland Business Alliance and said the same discretion he's extended to Occupy Portland—not enforcing camping ordinances and parks curfews—would also apply to a tent refuge set up by homelessness advocates on a private lot at NW Fourth and Burnside. (Later, when pressed, he even said he'd do the same for rabidly homophobic Westboro Baptist Church if they came to town—which I hope they won't now see as in invitation to, you know, actually come to town.)

"Fundametally, we are using the same type of discretion for that. With slight differences because it's private property," he said of the Old Town camp. "Again, it depends. If suddenly their activities change tomorrow, there might be a different balance that would require us to treat that encampment or the encampments at Lownsdale and Chapman squares, differently. The location matters; the behavior matters."

What about the inconsistency of selectively enforcing the city's anti-camping laws? Larson, who twice was passed over for asking too many questions, kept hammering the point, at one point getting City Attorney Linda Meng to reaffirm that she believes the camping laws are constitutional, even though the city has the right to choose how and when it enforces them.

Adams, when he spoke, once again invoked the word "discretion."

"Like every city in the United States, we still have folks who are homeless. For me, as your mayor,
for me, it's hard to see people on the street, to see folks who are suffering for one reason or another. That happens every night in this city, and we do use discretion," he said. "If we arrested every single person sleeping outside, in parks, or in doorsteps, we wouldn't have a place to hold everybody. We use discretion. It's just the practical reality of any city government. It's no different here than anywhere else."

Adams also said what Leonard said yesterday: He's been communicating with other mayors who've been less accommodating, and he agreed that taking a more violent tone with policing could have easily wound up costing Portland far more in police overtime costs (plus park repairs) than what some other cities are facing. Preliminary numbers are expected the first week of November.

"I'm pleased that our costs will be lower because we have all dealt with this in a peaceful manner," he said. "There will be overtime costs, but it could be a lot worse."

Adams deftly handled what potentially could have been a vexing question, on whether he'd extend the same courtesies to a group he didn't agree with. Although I'm not sure if the assembled crowd of reporters necessarily believed him.

"I'm a progressive. I'm a Democrat. You all know that. But when I'm acting as mayor, our discretion is not based on the content of free speech. We all need to wear different hats," he said. "If the Westboro Baptist Church wanted to occupy a portion of the park in relation to a free speech issue... we would approach this in the same balanced way. This is day-to-day discretion."

Adams closed by invoking "unscrupulous and illegal actions" by businesses on Wall Street that he says directly drove the economy off the cliff in 2007 and 2008.

"I'm just a local mayor [a turn of phrase that actually made me chuckle out loud] and I read the same info and I read the same news as you all do," he said. "There have been relatively few people brought to inquisition, justice, trial, whatever on what roles they've played. The fact that so few people have been held accountable makes me angry and it makes most Americans angry, and it should."

Here is Occupy Portland's release:

For as long as there have been politics and wealth, there has been corruption and disparity. The fight against oppression and inequity is a never ending battle, but it is in this most opportune time that we the people have set out again to raise our voice in the name of justice, not to relive history, but to make it.

The City of Portland, the Mayor’s office, and various government agencies have repeatedly expressed a central idea: the issues that Occupy Portland and the greater Occupy Movement are discussing represent a tipping point within our society, and the ideas expressed are foundational not only to the situation we find ourselves in today, but the very principals upon which the Constitution is based.

We are the 99%, but even more importantly, you are the 99% as well. Some have said that we are vague and lacking specificity. The truth is that Occupy Portland represents something quite specific: a voice. Those who have expressed hesitation over our goals and messages have been just as marginalized as those of us who have set up tents and expressed discontent.

The Mayor’s office today restated that our protest represents an important message, and that so long as the function and safety of the city is not compromised, discretion will be used to address our situation. Occupy Portland has been engaging in peaceful, non-violent protest for fifteen days. We have learned a lot, grown a lot, and integrated ourselves with neighbors, friends, and the community at large.

We invite people of all walks of life, of all political and ideological backgrounds, of all educational and vocational opportunity to come and participate. We hide nothing that we do, we keep our meetings publicly available, and we do not exclude voices from the process. If anyone feels their voice is not represented, we invite them to contribute to our conversations.

Some have attempted to paint with a broad brush, and color everyone at Occupy Portland with imaginative descriptions or accusations. Anyone who perpetuates such fantasy is either lying or has never actually seen the occupation. We challenge everybody to uphold intellectual honesty, ethical conduct, and to avoid cheap labels.

People of the entire world—no matter their ideologies—are waking up to the fact that their voices are not represented, and that their representatives often govern without consent. We all experience this in different ways, but the injustice and inequality is systemic, and so to voice our concerns we venture outside the system, where we can talk to each other and collaborate on what really matters to us as people and citizens of the United States of America.

The entire world has been waiting for things to be different. It is time to stop waiting and start doing. For every protester that sets up a tent there are thousands at home who silently understand. We can’t be silent any longer, and neither should you.

Occupiers, detractors, media, small business owners, union members, laborers, public employees, police officers, and more… we are all the 99%.