January 03, 2005

A Very Full Day Of Swearing

Potter, Adams, Leonard Take Oath Of Office

I , (name), do solemnly (affirm or swear) I will support the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Oregon; Charter of the City of Portland and its laws; I will faithfully, honestly and ethically perform my duties as (Mayor/Commissioner/Auditor); I have no undisclosed financial interest in any business located in Portland or having contracts with the City; I hold no other office or position of profit; and I am not a member of any partisan political committee (; so help me God).

Over the course of this morning and afternoon, Mayor Tom Potter, Commissioner Sam Adams, and Commissioner Randy Leonard each took their respective versions of the above oath.

Yes, we managed to make it to all three ceremonies, which together comprised the partying before work described by The Oregonian today. Remember the reader who got us down to Salem several months back for the drafting of the Voters' Pamphlet language for Measure 36? Same one got us from SE 130th to SW Broadway so we could get from Potter's event to Adams'.

For that matter, a handful of people at the time asked us if we had a ride back from the Potter event, and more asked us later in the day if we had managed to find one. All of which made for some of those odd moments where our readers go from anonymous numbers (excluding our commenters, of course) incrementing our visitor count to flesh-and-blood people.

(We also received two entirely separate apologies from Potter staffers for having managed to leave us off the media distribution list.)

None of which has anything to do with the events themselves, but we're coming to that. It's just that it's been one of those marathon days and we're feeling a bit punchy in the aftermath.

Mayor Tom Potter

Potter repeated his oath Monday at a public swearing-in ceremony. The ceremony began at 10 a.m. at David Douglas High School in east Portland. It was a geographic gesture on Potter's part. He wants to make clear that he is equally committed to east Portland.
-- New Mayor Begins Tenure at Portland City Hall

Today marked only the third day we've ever spent any time in East Portland (the other two being sit-downs that Potter and Nick Fish did with the East Portland Chamber of Commerce). We had at least a mild taste of sympathy for some of the complaints that come out of that part of town, after walking south on SE 130th from Stark and experiencing the singular oddity of intermittent sidewalks. All the more asinine since we were walking a street that contained a school.

The gesture of holding his inaugural ceremony in East Portland parallels an event that was fairly full of symbolism of one kind or another, most of it communicating a general inclusiveness -- the Native American blessing, the belly dancers, the presence of all four Commissioners (each of whom gave their own set of remarks, but we'll come to that momentarily).

Potter's speech, we suspect, will be viewed as less than specific. However, he did expand, in something of an interesting manner, on the previously-discussed idea of a focus on children: He referred to them as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. In essence, the ills which we allow to befall children reflect the ills we are permitting to undermine the fabic of society as a whole.

We're probably not alone in wishing at least in part that Potter had used his first speech as Mayor not merely as a fairly general and ceremonial occassion. We've cut him more slack on that count than have others, but at some point that game is going to smell stale even to us. At the same time, the symbolic nature of much of Potter's inauguration at least gives people something to hold him to, should there be no follow though in substance.

"Okay, you came to East Portland to be sworn in," they could say. "But what have you done for us lately?"

We actually don't say that to be cynical (although cynicism is merely frustrated optimism), but to point out that at least, to stick with the example of the moment, East Portlanders aren't in a position of being able to say both that officials don't come out that way and that officials don't pay attention to their needs. Potter deliberately made a symbolic choice of being sworn-in at an East Portland school -- residents there now have his own symbolism against which they can weigh his performance. That's a plus.

Potter says he will work with Commissioners Eric Sten on homeless problems, Randy Leonard on management and labor issues, Dan Saltzman on regional metro matters and with the Sam Adams on his proposal to battle the proliferation of methamphetamines.
-- Tom Potter Sworn In as Portland's Mayor

At any rate, before we get back to Potter, there's the matter of the remarks made by the other four City Council members. That last pullquote, by the way, was not part of Potter's speech today. But it's the first we've seen Potter mention his intended policy relationships with other Council members, so it's worthy of mention.

(It appears to be drawn from a direct Potter quote in the Oregon Considered coverage of today's swearing-in ceremonies.)

But we said we weren't getting to Potter again just yet.

Adams related a campaign story, in which during the Belmont Street Parade he walked up to a street corner and the crowd went crazy. "Ah," Adams said he thought at the time, "finally the message is sinking in." Or not, as it turned out. Potter was walking by, and the crowd was chanting, "Tom!"

Leonard offered Potter some advice. Amongst his various tidbits of political wisdom:

  • "Don't put anything in your trash you don't want to read about in Willamette Week."
  • "We all agreed that you should keep the Water Bureau. ... Dan was particularly emphatic."
  • "When Steve Duin calls, call him back. When Lars Larson calls, don't."

He also suggested that Potter make sure his staffers, when sending email, know the difference between "reply" and "reply all" (a Leonard staffer recently managed to send out a message, curse-laden among other things, to more people than intended). Being the somewhat perplexingly fearless figure that he is, he also cracked that Potter should "nod a lot" when meeting with neighborhood activists. That one prompted a fair number of boos from scattered portions of the crowd.

(We had a conversation with someone later on, who expressed some concern that they were beginning to enjoy Leonard's sense of humor. That last remark is a good example -- a joke sure to hit the wrong nerve on a number of people, but the sheer act of making an impolitic joke in and of itself generates a strange sense of appreciation.)

Commissioner Dan Saltzman, always the lowest of the low-key, called Potter's inclusiveness a "welcome change of pace" and a "welcome sign of the future".

"Last time I saw this beautiful a crowd," said Commissioner Sten, "I was standing in this very room talking about sotmr water rates." He summed up his hope for the future direction of both the Counciil and the City this way: "There's got to be some place in this country that says there's a better way."

And, of course, there was the symbolism of the transition playing itself out at this event. Now-Former Mayor Vera Katz spoke as well. "Tom," she said, "I wouldn't return Steve Duin's call if I were you."

Katz described having patience, an ability to listen, never getting too excited, getting all the facts, caring about the people you serve, and making good judgements as the keys to a hopefully successful Potter mayoralty. "It's Tom's turn now to bring forward his own ideas," she said. "He'll have his staff to turn to for help, and his all-male City Council." Yes, the emphasis there was very decidedly hers.

"It doesn't mean you have to agree with everything he says," Katz added. "I don't. I still want Major League Baseball here." (To the applause which followed this remark: "Oh sure, where were you when I needed you?" She used the same line at the same moment in her final State of the City address before the City Club of Portland several weeks back.)

As we said near the beginning, Potter focused on underscoring his sense of children as the centerpiece of the City's intentions, evoking the canary in a coal mine image not all that long after a Native American blessing was given, which itself often referenced the concept of our responsibility being to that of the seventh generation yet to come.

"I believe in you, I believe in Portland, I believe in Oregon," Potter said. "There isn't anything we can't solve if we come together."

Commissioner Sam Adams

Potter's swearing-in ceremony began, more or less, at 10:00 AM. From there, it was all the way into downtown Portland, to the Native American Student and Community Center where Adams would be the next to take the oath of office.

There were some rearrangements and additions made to the schedule of events there, prompting Dr. Theresa Julnes Rapida (Professor of Public Administration at PSU) to comment that in his new position, Adams "will try to make everything better by adding more at the last minute".

"Portland is becoming a more diverse City," Adams said, remarking upon the array of speakers and performers at both his and Potter's events. "Our traditions need to reflect that." He added that the staff at City hall needed to reflect that diversity as well.

Singling out for momentary attention the other elected officials in attendance (other Council members, County Commissioners, the City Auditor, Metro President, etc.) -- Adams made a point of stressing "another person who made by run possible". That being County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey, who was once considering a run for the Commissioner No. 1 position now held by Adams. They had agreed not to run against each other.

Adams took a moment to comment on the absence of his former boss, Katz, at City Hall, saying that he had just spet his first day in his new office. "It felt a bit lonely to me, not having you there."

Saying that in some ways he ran "to be the jobs commissioner", Adams used his speech to re-emphasize many of the themes and ideas he advanced during his campaign -- beginning by announcing his attention to meet with one hundred businesses in his first one hundred business days in office.

While saying that "we are not at fault for national and international recessions", Adams said that "we do need to take responsibility" for the economic issues most directly facing Portland, such as an unemployment rate high in comparison to much of the rest of the country. He said that he would "work to get community agreement on what is a healthy economy".

Saying that he was going to "boost City openness" he announced that one of his campaign issues -- the registration of paid lobbyists in Portland -- would be the focus of the first ordinance he would introduce as Commissioner. On the same theme of openness, and returning to another of his campaign issues, he pledged to push for state legislation which would allow Portland to add citizen members to the City's budget committee.

He said that he would require bureau heads to walk the City's neighborhoods and get a direct sense of their needs and differences, require bureaus have liasons to neighborhood associations and business districts, and push for bureaus to divide their budgets by neighborhood. "You have a right to know how that compares to other neighborhoods around the City," he said.

Adams also stressed the importance of solving the increasing crsis caused by the spread of methamphetemine, and said that the City should support every community to develop a community policing workplan. During the campaign, Adams suggested that every neighborhood create a "top ten list" of its public safety concerns.

He also pledged to "work to defeat the Home Depot on the eastside of Burnside" -- saying that there was nothing wrong with Home Depot (and that he used it himself when working on his house), but that the Burnside Bridgehead was "not the right place for it". Again sticking to his cmapaign issues, he also said he would work to make Portland reach the "platinum" level of bike-friendly cities -- a level he said no city has yet to reach. "Portland can," he said.

Amongst all of this reemphasis on his campaign themes and issues, Adams also called for supprot for arts and culture, and putting a hold on plans for the Centennial Mill property until the options can properly be examined.

Saying that as a child passing through Portland he thought the buildings were incredibly high (at least as compared to those in Newport) and that all Portlanders were incredibly tall (he had been taken to a Blazers game) he said: "The heights of this City are the high ideals we set for ourselves."

As for his approach to being Commissioner: "When I make mistakes I will admit them, and when we disagree I will do it with respect."

Commissioner Randy Leonard

"This feel rather like an intimate affair," Leonard said at his own swearing-in. As opposed to Potter's event at David Douglass High School and Adams' at the Native American Student and Community Center, Leonard's event was held before a small crowd in Council Chambers at City Hall. "That's exactly how I wanted it."

Leonard said that listening to Adams' speech earlier that afternoon "sounds a lot like what I said two years ago" when he was sworn in for his original two-year term. Reflecting on the time between then and now, Leonard observed: "Change is hard. ... Hopefully I've become a little more thoughtful at doing it."

He said he imagined that the reason commissioners have four-year terms is that it provides them with time to make mistakes in the early days, but have time to learn their way into their jobs before having to run for re-election. "Unfortunately," he joked, "I had two."

The fact that the notes we took at Leonard's swearing-in pretty much end at that point should not be taken as a reflection of the inherent level of our interest, but rather as an indication that this was our first marathon day of the new year, and on marathon days, mid-afternoon is about when we start dragging.

While we did return to City Hall this evening to attend the open house held by Potter and Adams, and have a few notes here and there from that event, we're going to either leave those to be tacked on as a small update to this post, or to be forgotten altogether. It was, in the end, mostly about the entertainment and the schmoozing. For us, events at which we can lurk and hover are fine. Events with are about the schmooze, however, not so much.

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Comments (2)

  1. MarkDaMan on 04 Jan 2005

    Congrats to Sam Adams for coming into the council with a vision and plans to accomplish his lofty goals. He seems to have "hit the deck running" being more prepared than I have seen from any other newbie counselor to date.

    As for the mayor I have expressed optimisim that Mr. Potter will, and is working hard, at producing a visionary agenda. However, I have grown a little worried that maybe nothing will be forthcomming any time soon and it will be up to the other counselors to pick up the slack to ensure the city is being lead in a responsible direction and addressing the pressing needs of it's citizens.

    Given the chance to shine in the next couple years it looks like Sam might already be positioning himself to run for mayor in '08...

  2. allehseya on 06 Jan 2005

    re: Centennial Mills

    Amongst all of this reemphasis on his campaign themes and issues, Adams also called for supprot for arts and culture, and putting a hold on plans for the Centennial Mill property until the options can properly be examined.

    When will the Centennial Mills issue be on the agenda at either City Hall or PDC -- any public testimonial / hearing dates?