Sam Needs A Plan
Sam Adams needs to do a lot more than hold regularly scheduled policy meetings in order to regain the trust of the people. He also needs to be a whole lot more creative and bold in order to dig himself out of the hole he's created. That recent hangdog look he's sporting, frankly, is not very inspiring.
Sam Adams needs to get a plan that will start to show him as someone deeply involved with the problems of the city, and someone truly committed to solving them. He also desperately needs to begin to repair fences that have been trammeled by his recent admissions to lying about his relationship with a teenage intern.
He might begin by checking out the following:
1). Represent the people of Portland by meeting with the families of the students killed and wounded at the recent downtown shooting spree. It doesn't have to be a grandstand play, simply meet in private with the Italian family now in town at the bedside of their grievously wounded student-exchange daughter. Represent to them the deep sorrow and despair and embarrassment of all Portlanders in the wake of this horrible crime. Then go and meet with the family of the Oregon girl who was killed, and at least telephone the family of the Peruvian girl who also was taken from us on the streets of the Rose City. He needs to contact all the other wounded victims and their families. This kind of gesture is desperately needed right now to display the city's profound concern and extreme sorrow over this awful incident. No one is better placed to do this than the Mayor of Portland.
2). Walk among the homeless and hear the concerns of the people who live on the streets of downtown Portland, especially those on the west end of the Burnside Bridge. If Adams is truly concerned with the needs of the city's homeless, get out there and talk with them, hear about their lives, and begin to get a real idea about what needs to be done. Of course, Portland is in the midst of its vaunted
10-year plan to end homelessness, and there are a lot of wonderful ongoing programs to deal with the scourge of homelessness. Still, Adams needs to get out on a bone-cold night or bitter early morning and feel the pain these people are living with every minute of their existence. At the very least, Adams will start to feel the urgency of this problem in a manner only an up-close and personal encounter can provide. He might also try hanging out at a place like the Sisters of the Road Cafe. Again, forget the earnest paperwork; dump the sessions with policy makers. Just get out and be among the citizens of Portland who are dying on the streets of this town every day and night.
3). Spend one or two nights each week attending city Neighborhood Association meetings until he has sat down at each and every one. Then go back and do it all again. This is a great way to really hear the concerns and attitudes of the citizens who care enough to be involved in solving the problems of their immediate locales. Yes, he will no doubt get an earful about his sex scandal. Too bad. He needs to get out among the people, deal with them one on one, eat humble pie, and then get on to their business. The city's dozens of Neighborhood Associations are an incredible civic resource. He will learn more there than he'd ever glean from his paid advisors and policy wonks. Adams better start to use the Neighborhood Associations, and use them now.
4). Meet privately with Sho Dozono and former Mayor Tom Potter, and then have all three discuss their session with the press. Adams gained his current office, in part, based on his false denials of the relationship with the teen intern. Dozono, supported by Mayor Potter, lost the race to Adams, and therefore was directly affected by this incident in a way few others were. Adams needs to go mano a mano with these two gentlemen and offer an honest face-to-face apology and explanation. Dozono and Potter deserve no less. If these two can begin to forgive Adams, and there's no guarantee they can or should, then few others would be in a position to hold a grudge.
5). Many critics of Adams feel he's refused to step down over the incident in large part to protect his salary. Let's face it, if Adams loses his office, what kind of job, exactly, is he going to find in this economy that will pay him anything close to the mayoral wage of slightly more than $100,000? For a guy who has been in politics most of his adult life, I doubt such a disgraced politician would command much interest as a well-paid advisor, consultant, or think tank associate. To help dispel any thoughts out there that Adams is hanging on merely to protect his wallet, he should declare his intention to donate a substantial chunk of his paycheck to a deserving nonprofit. And urge others in a do-able position to follow suit. If Adams gave up a quarter to one half his salary to charity, many of his critics would begin to understand that he truly is in office for the chance to serve, not just the opportunity to pay off his big mortgage.
6). Most importantly, Adams needs to hold a free wheeling, no holds barred press conference right away to answer any and all questions. Sorry, but video announcements, phone calls to council members, and brief walk-along answers to reporters' questions don't cut the mustard. Adams needs to take the heat, answer any and all questions, and just get it all out in the open. Just tonight, one of the local TV stations had a story about a friend of the intern who feels Beau and Adams had sex before Beau was 18. This thing is not going to stop until Adams gets out and answers questions from every reporter who wants to know more. A nice long press conference is a great way to get this done and over with.
Possibly, he has already done some of these things. If so, good for Adams. But to meander along at the approach and pace he's currently employing is just not cutting it. Portland deserves more than an embattled mayor in the infancy of his administration bunkered down at City Hall waiting for a dark political shitstorm to blow over.
Lawrence J. Maushard is a journalist and author living in Portland. More of his work is at www.maushard.net.
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