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Friday, March 2, 2012

Live from Mayor Sam Adams' State of the City Speech

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 12:25 PM

It's a curious thing—a State of the City speech for a mayor who's down to his final 9.9 months and free, as he so often notes, of the burdens of trying to govern while also running for re-election. It's clearly a sentimental affair for the mayor, who's been a denizen of city hall for 20-some years.

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But in terms of laying out a vision of change for his less-than-final year? The speech so far appears to be a recitation of Adams' record in office, and a defense of it, with themes of equity, job creation, quirkiness, arts, and education. When it offers change, it's an extension of that record. But the reality of next winter looms. Eileen Brady and Charlie Hales, looking to take over for Adams, were making the rounds before the mayor's speech starts.

"I apologize if I don't know you all by face yet," Adams said before getting them a standing ovation. "My staff gave me flashcards."

The speech started about 12:20. I'll be posting snippets every few minutes.

1:20 PM: There was time for just three questions:

What should happen next year? (Including the first and only Portlandia! reference.) Adams goes back to the Portland Plan but urges his successor to tackle chronic, unsexy problems, like what to do with West Hayden Island. Or Veterans Memorial Coliseum (he touts his own work), or to begin to tackle the issue of unpaved road. He's plotting "new options for financing" different kinds of roads in parts of town most recently annexed.

How would you rate yourself?
"I'm never satisfied with my own performance. The work is really close to my heart." Adams says Portland should do more to address ingrained disparity or we'll "decline as a city." It's one of the defining challenges of this city's future. That's an appeal to his successor and fellow commissioners to not strip away funding for the Equity office.

What's your position on the Columbia River Crossing?
"It will get built. It should get built. It's a difficult project no doubt." He pointed to the vision the council had when it threw in to get the new Interstate 5 bridge to Vancouver built: Tolls, light rail. Something that doesn't "blacktop most of Hayden Island."

And now comes a standing ovation of Adams' own. The sendoff was way warmer than what he got last year, when he was still considering re-election. History creeps ever closer. Thanks for reading!

1:10 PM: We're back to the Portland Plan. It's being billed as a tangible piece of the Katz/Adams legacy. Adams also reminds us that his three years came in the middle of a lousy economy and wants us to filter his accomplishments through that lens. He's painting a whimsical, happy picture of a place that works, that's beautiful, etc.

His closing sentiment: "Let's get to work." But! Questions from the audience!

1:07 PM: In another rerun moment, we're still talking about the Office of Equity and Human Rights (announced last year) in terms of aspirational goals. The office just announced a new director last month, after all. He's here saying hello.

1:05 PM: We're reminded of how the gun task force is doing, and also the new drug impact areas. Mike Reese, police chief and would-be candidate, saluted his boss. Then the mayor talked about new hires in the police bureau, and how the bureau has gotten just incrementally more diverse as a bureau. He also touted Portland's not-riotous-but-still-pretty-rough Occupy eviction. But the big applause line came as he promised to do all he could to avoid laying off cops and firefighters amid a $17 million budget hole: "I will work to protect all sworn public safety positions in our police and fire bureaus." Good bye park bathrooms and social services!

1:01 PM: Carbon emissions dropped 5 percent per capita since 2008. Also, composting.

1 PM: Adams promises $20 million for East Portland, for safer sidewalks, but also for greenways for cyclists, and better transit access. Road-paving fans will raise hackles about this, no doubt. Other news: Sunday Parkways is expanding to Southwest. East PDX and SW will each get six miles worth of new sidewalks, and bike sharing is moving forward.

12:57 PM: News flash: East Portland neighborhoods are not as nice as fancy ones closer in.

12:56 PM: Completing a promise uttered last year, Adams says he's gotten a deal with Multnomah County and PSU to create an urban renewal district targeting $100 million investments to grow the school and promote development. Adams is hoping to expand the tax base for the area to $1.7 billion. Jeff Cogen, a renewal skeptic and county chair, stood up when Adams called his name. They've made a bit of peace, it seems.

12:53 PM: Adams says he has more education benchmarks. For early learners (8 of 10 who leave school without an art class) will get help, maybe, from a public fund that seeks to restore arts and music education for elementary school kids.

12:51 PM: Adams notes that graduation rates have risen 5 percent at Portland Public Schools. But he also says his promise to halve the dropout rate in five years may take something more like "eight." So "we need your help to expand." Bring kids over to your job! Or hire a kid for the summer and get a credit on your business taxes of $500! Only one person in the crowd raised a hand.

12:45 PM: We're onto a recitation of Adams' record of attempting to influence high school dropout rates from city hall, one of his campaign promises. And now we're getting another video, featuring a student Adams' programs helped.

12:43 PM: Adams mentions his 10,000 jobs promise. Now he reports that employment is UP by 100,000over 10,000 jobs in Multnomah County. "We did it!" (Did we? Stay tuned as we parse whether that's apples to apples or not.) Now Adams is making a reference to getting scooped by the O: "An investment firm is giving us a sneak peek" at the $250 million Lloyd District superblock project. Housing. Streetcar. 700 units. 3,000 construction jobs. All for $37 million in city investment (in the streetcar line).

12:39 PM: Por que, Sam? Adams says we're getting a trade office in Brazil. He's still clinging to the Oregon Sustainability Center idea, too. And now he's on to announcing something the Oregonian scooped him on this morning: Columbia Biogas wants to open a plant in Northeast. It got applause.

12:36 PM: An actual announcement! The soon-to-be-renovated convention center building at the foot of the Burnside Bridge will become a new "tech hub." And after his renaming of downtown as "Pioneer Square," Adams has a new name for the Central Eastside: "Produce Row." Because, you see, it's where "entrepreneurial ideas grow." (Adams also just used the word "scrappy" again to describe the city.)

12:33 PM: Oh, look. There's a video. It's a founder of a startup helped by the Portland Seed Fund. Sheetal Dube says Portland is very "hot for technology" right now. Adams is announcing the second class for the fund, some eight companies.

12:30 PM: Adams, though, says people can't be forgotten by land use. He says the Portland Plan is meant to solve that. The goals are "prosperous, healthy, educated, and equitable." But we're looking back to his achievements first. The Housing Bureau. Fast-tracked infrastructure. The city's economic development strategy. Recruitments of green-energy companies.

12:27 PM: Adams is starting with a discussion of the Portland Plan and "what it is and why it matters." It's a dark history lesson: a stinky river and air pollution and a dying downtown. It's also a paean to Tom McCall, cast by Adams as the patron of the brand of land-use planning that Adams has championed in his time at city hall.

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