Tag Archives: Sam Adams

Mayor Sam Adams reflects on his time at City Hall and Portland’s future

by Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Mayor Sam Adams has spent the majority of his life serving the City of Portland. Love him or not, Adams has helped build a foundation for Portland that will last well into the future. Street Roots recently sat down with Mayor Sam Adams for an in-depth, hour-long discussion about his leadership style, technology, poverty, cycling, the police and the future of the city we love.

Israel Bayer: What more are you working on through the end of your term?

Sam Adams: There is a lot. What probably is less known to most folks is that a lot of the projects that my team and I work on take years to come to fruition. Between now and the end of the year there is a lot on the docket because there has been a lot in the hopper for the past three or four years. This includes everything from coming up with a good, solid, meaningful plan to improve the Portland Police Bureau with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division findings, to getting council approval to make it exponentially cheaper for folks who live on gravel or dirt roads in the city to be able to pave their streets. Those are two bookends, but they are big issues, and there is a lot in between.

I.B.: Portland continues to reinvent itself. Where do you see Portland in the next 50-years?

S.A.: We’ve had a chance to put our fingerprints on the next 25 years with the Portland Plan. Portland has to become more prosperous. The strength of our economy does not match, for example, our quality of life. We have to become a more successful and stronger economy. Continue reading

Mayor Adams: Local obligations will suffer under planned federal budget cuts

By Sam Adams, Contributing Columnist

Last August, Congress passed a bill authorizing the president to increase the nation’s debt ceiling, while also requiring that the deficit be reduced by cutting spending by $2.3 trillion over 10 years. However, $860 billion of these cuts come from non-defense discretionary spending — community development block grants, housing programs, education, social programs, workforce development, transportation, and other programs that are vital to cities like Portland. Local jurisdictions rely on those funds — either directly from the federal government, or as pass-throughs from state government — to keep our local programs and safety nets intact.

The proposed federal cuts could be devastating locally, in Portland and Multnomah County, and in other metro areas. From social-service programs and affordable housing to economic development programs and infrastructure projects that put people back to work directly, our city and county rely on federal funding. Continue reading

Calling City Hall, Occupy Portland on housing…

In spirit, the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland protests over the past five weeks are about creating social change, locally and nationally, on a range of policy matters from poverty to foreign wars.

For better or worse, many of the organic protests staging camps throughout the country have gotten a hard dose of reality about what life is like for hundreds of thousands of people experiencing homelessness in the United States.

Occupy Portland, the media, City Hall, police and others around town have more times than not keyed in on the mishaps and barriers to people experiencing mental health and homelessness at the downtown camps. What none of the parties have effectively done is put things into perspective, and call on specific policy changes and resource development for people experiencing poverty.

In one of many of Mayor Sam Adams communiqués to general public he said, “The Occupy Portland movement has highlighted the challenges our community, like many across the country, are facing with homelessness. Too many in our community are without a safe place to call home. Despite fiscal challenges, the City has continued to invest in long-term solutions to end homelessness. Commissioner Fish and I will be working closely with our dedicated network of service providers to make sure everyone at the camp is aware of the resources that are available. Experienced outreach workers will be reaching out to the homeless people at the camp to help them access existing resources in our community, like health care, emergency shelter, permanent housing placement assistance, and short term needs.”

The problem is that adequate resources do not exist for permanent housing or mental health services in our community.

The City of Portland is anticipating significant federal and local cuts that will challenge its ability to keep the safety net intact and provide housing for those most in need. No doubt, we live in challenging times. During a period of increased need for our services, and the people of Portland, budgets are declining — seriously declining for the Portland Housing Bureau.

In fact, if projections are correct, the city’s essential housing agency is on pace to lose tens of millions of dollars next year due to the decline in tax increment financing, cuts at the federal level, and sweeping city-wide cuts of between 4 and 8 percent to all city bureaus. In addition, one-time general fund dollars allocated for homelessness and housing services are always a crisis away from disappearing. The other side of this coin is unsustainably high unemployment and dwindling support systems to staunch the flow of tomorrow’s homeless.

The system is teetering. Hence, Occupy Portland and the call for social change.

What’s the answer? Nationally, the Occupy Wall Street Movement has been met with mixed results and a growing movement of people who call the group disorganized, fractured, and lacking in planning and objectives. Saying that, even in the face of apathy and a conservative backlash, the movement has inspired close to a million Americans over six weeks to move their accounts from larger banking institutions to local credit unions and community-owned banks. The movement also influenced other banking institutions to drop debit card fees — showing that regardless of all of the white noise — consumer power still has muscle, even if on a smaller scale.

Locally, the signs of success are harder to pinpoint.

City Hall and others have said Occupy Portland needs a goal, and contrary to the big picture messaging, that goal doesn’t have to be a nationwide sea change to be a success. There are real solutions within our reach, within sight of City Hall, and responsive to the issues Occupy Portland as amplified.

Here’s what Street Roots thinks the city and Occupy Portland should work toward:

—   Secure $1 million dollars for rent assistance this winter, protecting vulnerable renters from losing their housing. It is always less costly, and more humane, to preserve housing than to restore it.

—   Waive the budget cuts to the Portland Housing Bureau in the 2012-13 budget due to the financial, employment and housing crisis.

—   Guarantee one-time allocations towards homeless, housing and mental health services in the 2012-13 budget. There are thousands of people who are one service away from the streets, and countless services struggling to manage that demand.

—   Loosen the stringent laws around camping to allow churches and private businesses to host orderly places for people to sleep. (See our editorial.)

—   Work with the county and state to develop a strategy to backfill millions of dollars lost for mental health services.

—   Aggressively pursue a regional strategy – working with willing partners at the federal state and local levels — to develop sustainable, long-term resources.

If Occupy Portland and City Hall are both serious about creating social change and effecting policy in a healthy environment for people on the streets — the bullets outlined above are what help get us there. Everyone deserves a safe and decent home. Everyone deserves opportunity.

Walking the talk for an Office of Equity and Human Rights

By Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Sam Adams

Portland has the reputation of being a progressive and innovative city, however, not all Portlanders have access to opportunities or feel welcome. People of color and people with disabilities experience higher rates of poverty and unemployment, and have shorter lifes compared with other Portlanders.

Despite past and current equity-related efforts of various bureaus in the Portland City government, significant disparities persist.  The median income for black-headed households is $30,000, while the median income for white-headed households is $46,800 (State of Black Oregon, 2009).  Although 26.3 percent of the people living in Multnomah County are of color, nearly 30 percent of people who are unhoused are of color (Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile, 2010).  The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities living outside of institutions in Oregon is 74 percent (U.S. Dept of Labor).  These numbers do not reflect who we want to be as Portlanders.

What city government has done in the past hasn’t resulted in the desired outcome of everyone sharing in the riches of our city. Disparities persist in city hiring, promotions and contracting, and services in neighborhoods. To achieve different outcomes, we need a different approach. Continue reading

City elections an opportunity for renewed push on housing

SR editorial from the August 5th edition.

Announcements and rumors about the up and coming Portland election in 2012 have the city buzzing.

With the announcement that Mayor Sam Adams, an established housing advocate, and Randy Leonard, a rabble rouser on tough issues, will not seek re-election, the city now has two open seats. Incumbent and housing advocate Amanda Fritz is seeking re-election, but there is discord from her base in the far left that expected much more from her to counterpunch the downtown business machine. She faces long-time Oregon State Rep. Mary Nolan, who so far seems to be outraising Fritz and gaining broad support.

Lots of personalities have entered the race, or are rumored for a run: Charlie Hales, Eileen Brady, Steve Novick, Jefferson Smith, Tom Chamberlain and others. Regardless who wins, housing and homelessness has to be at the top of the priority list for those who would helm our government. Continue reading

Interstate and beyond: Lessons of history resonate as the city prepares to expand Urban Renewal Area

by Jake Thomas

Roslyn Hill can no longer quite visualize the neighborhood she grew up in. Probably because it doesn’t exist anymore.

While in the third grade, in the mid 1950s, her family had to leave their neighborhood in Northeast Portland to make way for development that would become the Memorial Coliseum.

The construction of the stadium has been part of the vexed history between the city and North and Northeast Portland. But the 64-year-old African American real estate developer with greying dreadlocks seems hardly bitter when recalling how her family was forced from their home. Instead she seems more focused on the commercial properties she’s been developing in Northeast Portland since moving back to the city in 1990 after a stint in the Bay Area.

Hill has been part of a renewed economic interest in Alberta Street and the surrounding area and has developed properties into coffee shops and art galleries. Today, the once gritty and crime-ridden street that is now better known for its eateries, boutiques and the creative types that have been drawn to it in recent decades.

Called the “Queen of Alberta” by some, Hill hopes that the revitalization will help transform the area into a vibrant neighborhood that retains its multicultural character while drawing newcomers who are genuinely vested in it.

But, according to Hill, Alberta isn’t reaching its full commercial potential and large chunks of it remain “underdeveloped” and could use the help of a powerful city agency that has big plans for the street and other parts of North and Northeast Portland that have followed a similar trajectory.

The Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development arm, has had an uneasy relationship with North and Northeast Portland, a part of town that has been the heart of Portland’s African American community and has suffered from racially motivated disinvestment in the past. Continue reading

Mayor Sam Adams talks with Street Roots

By Joanne Zuhl and Israel Bayer, Staff writers

Support him or not, probably few people would want to trade places with Sam Adams right now. His first 18 months in office as Portland’s mayor has been saddled with a crushed economy that has hobbled the city’s financial status while fueling the need for city services. It has been plagued by ongoing flare-ups with police and the public, resulting in the firing of the police chief and the takeover of the bureau by the mayor’s office. And lurking in the shadows has been the rattling of recall efforts that twice failed to garner enough signatures to reach the ballot.

If it’s getting him down, it doesn’t seem to effect his game face, which more often than not remains stern and straight ahead. When we talked with him, he had just completed the 2010 City Budget — the 17th of his career working under former Mayor Vera Katz and now as mayor himself. This budget not only reflects the funding available now, but also projects a warning to bureau chiefs of the bumpy ride still to come.

Street Roots questioned the mayor about the budget and how he’s going to keep the so-called “city that works” working for everyone.

Street Roots: How does this budget stack up in terms of difficulty, obligations, priorities, etc.

Sam Adams: Putting together a city budget that balances basic services with smart investments in our city’s future is always challenging. This year’s budget was especially challenging due to the cuts to ongoing and one-time funds available. Fortunately, I work with a smart, dynamic and pragmatic group of colleagues on City Council. They fight for their bureau’s needs, but they also recognize the financial landscape we’re navigating through, and each is willing to compromise where necessary.

In terms of obligations and priorities, my first priority for this coming year’s budget (fiscal year 2010-11) was protecting the core services of the City and the services to help people most at need. It’s why I directed non-public safety agencies to cut 4 percent from their budgets and asked public safety agencies to target 2-3 percent. It’s also why I worked with Commissioner Nick Fish to increase funding to pay for increased shelter bed capacity, especially to meet more of the demand for women’s shelter beds. And, coupled with the Portland Development Commission’s budget, we’re putting $2 million toward construction of the Hooper Detox Center and additional funds toward the construction of the joint city-county mental health crisis center.

In the face of deepening county and state budget shortfalls, the City of Portland is going to have to find ways to fill the gaps created by other jurisdictions. When a person in our city is on the streets and needs services, they’re not saying to themselves, “I wish the county better funded these services.” They’re saying, “Who can I turn to for help?” So, I’ll continue to push for better funding for services for those most at-need, but I’m also committed to getting other jurisdictions — neighboring counties like Washington County and cities in our region — to increase their financial commitment to these services.

S.R.: You called this a recovery budget— what do you mean by that and what’s the forecast for Portlanders in the years to come?

S.A.: A recovery budget means that we’re not just helping people day-by-day, but that we’re funding the programs and services for people to make long-term improvements in their lives. So, for example, the Police Bureau’s Prostitution Coordination Team is about enforcing laws to curb prostitution. But it’s also coupled with a contract with LifeWorks Northwest, an amazing organization that helps women transition from lives in the sex trade to safer, healthier lives and livelihoods in the community. And I’ve continued to fund economic development efforts that help small businesses get access to start-up capital and storefront improvement dollars. At my direction, the PDC made administrative cuts that transferred $4 million toward economic development front-line programs. Continue reading

You’ve stepped up to the plate, mayor; lets hit a home run

By Jenny Westberg

An Open Letter to Sam Adams:

Dear Sam,

Thank you for responding, finally, to our repeated calls to bring accountability to the Portland Police Bureau. It may have taken a couple of months, but you took our requests to heart.

We wrote and asked you to take a specific set of actions to address serious problems in the Portland Police Bureau. We directed your attention to an alarming number of tragic outcomes between police and people with mental illness. We noted a failure of police accountability that seemed to guarantee more tragedies in the future. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

You may be able to hold out a few more days before the skies break and the sun arrives, but you don’t have to wait a moment longer for a sneak peak at the new Street Roots, coming your way, hand delivered by your friendly neighborhood vendor. Here’s what’s packing the pages this issue:

The hot seat: An interview with Portland Mayor Sam Adams on the state of the city and his views on how the City of Roses will weather what remains a rough road ahead.

Just outside the gates: A pleasure trip to Rio becomes an exploration into the real world of Brazil’s masses. Story by Laura Moulton.

Voter-Owned Elections: The 60-cent question: Israel Bayer interviews Carol Cushman of the League of Women Voters on their defense of the controversial public-finance engine in Portland elections.

Trying to ‘save the world’ — through poisonous chemicals: From Agent Orange and Roundup to terminator seeds, Monsanto claims it just wants to help the world. A review of the new book based on the documentary film.

My journey: From the streets to the university: Vendor Sean Walsh writes about his life, from having it all to losing it all in the face of chronic health issues he and his wife endure on a daily basis.

Plus, commentaries by street-wise writers Julie McCurdy and Leo Rhodes, and housing guru Heather Lyons. There’s also reader feedback, a sweet vendor profile and lots of poetry. Get your Street Roots today, and don’t forget to let your smile be your umbrella!

SR gives recommendations for Sidewalk Management Plan

Attn: Mayor Sam Adams, Commissioners Randy Leonard, Amanda Fritz, Nick Fish, Dan Saltzman

Street Roots would like to thank both Mayor Sam Adams and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz for taking on the difficult subject of sidewalk management in our community.

Street Roots has the following recommendations for the ordinance:

–       Dedicate funding for two or three homeless outreach workers who work with individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty downtown, including youths and people dealing with mental health issues.

–       Dedicate funding for a neighborhood non-uniformed police officer to work with outreach workers and organizations working with people experiencing homelessness and poverty, including youths and individuals dealing with mental health issues.

–       With the resources above, organize a response team made up of homeless outreach workers who respond to calls regarding people experiencing homelessness and poverty and people dealing with mental health issues in non-emergency situations on sidewalks during peak hours.

–       Six-month reporting date to bring stakeholders, including people experiencing homelessness and poverty, to discuss the effectiveness of the ordinance.

Historically, Street Roots has come out against the sidewalk ordinance in 2002, and again in 2006 due to its strict enforcement guidelines that targeted people experiencing homelessness and poverty.

Street Roots feels this ordinance brings together a wide-range of community concerns, and on its face is fair to everyone accessing sidewalks. Saying that, in our recommendations, we suggest a six-month reporting date that will allow stakeholders to determine the effectiveness of the ordinance.

Mission: “Street Roots creates income opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and poverty by publishing a newspaper that is a catalyst for individual and social change.”

Opportunity awaits us at every corner

Editorial from the Sept. 18 edition.

The world is a very daunting place. From war to health care, the environment to the economy, and the H1N1 flu – people are feeling the squeeze. Locally, it’s no different. From the front page story on this edition of Street Roots to unemployment rates in Oregon to young Oregonians coming home in body bags; like we said, it’s a daunting place.

Saying that, we also live in a beautiful city, among amazing and innovative people, rich and poor, with a will to make the world we live in a better place.

Both big and small contributions are being made daily to make the city and region we live in a healthy and sustainable environment. From Metro’s stand on urban sprawl to the Portland Trail Blazers’ “Make It Better” Campaign, from the Reed College students raising money for sex trafficking victims to the vendor selling you this newspaper, amazing things happen.

Watching many of the newly elected officials in Portland navigate the recession while trying to improve the quality of life for Portlanders and Greshamites is assuring. You get the feeling that with the political intelligence and craftiness of many of the commissioners at the county – something special is on the horizon.

Nick Fish is finding his way. It’s not easy being the housing commissioner in Portland. He has taken shots from the left, including from Street Roots, while balancing a frozen market, a housing bureau reorganization and an increase of homelessness. And still, it feels like he’s just getting his engines started and that we have yet to see what he has planned for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness in the region.

While City Hall does feel more strange than Street Roots has ever seen it (and we can’t quite put our finger on it), there’s still great things happening. Commissioner Randy Leonard can’t seem to get enough of creating more public restrooms. And we can’t get enough of cheering him on. Sam Adams and Amanda Fritz may pull off the unthinkable on the sidewalks issues – and make both advocates and businesses happy. So, geez, it’s not all bad.

When President Barack Obama was elected into the Oval Office in November, Street Rooters, like many other Portlanders, had a sense of renewed optimism. It’s time to channel that energy. It’s time to stand up. No sitting on the sidelines. (Sidewalks are OK.)

There’s hundreds of non-profits and/campaigns working for the greater good in the region. Environmental issues, poverty, agricultural and immigrant movements, civil and human rights, there’s no shortage of great things to contribute to. No engine can ever pick up steam without a single spark to set it off. So be it pedal power or political engagement, there’s an important place for you in this town’s future.

Lastly, treat yourself right. It’s contagious. Then maybe, that daunting world, will have to take a back seat to the change we are becoming. There’s no time like now. The chance won’t come again.

Housing and homeless services saved for now…

Mayor Sam Adams and housing commissioner Nick Fish announced a total of $9.98 million increase in base services for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in the FY 2009-2010 proposed budget. The entire proposed city budget was slashed by $8.8 million – with 62 percent of that being administrative costs at the city level.

Street Roots along with Oregon On, 211 Info, Sisters Of The Road, and many faith based community members, including Chuck Currie, have been leading a campaign to save $6.7 million dollars in one-time funding.

Commissioner Fish says the move is a win for people experiencing homelessness and poverty and will bridge existing services and allow for expansion during the economic crisis.

Fish told Street Roots when the city started the budget discussions, it was looking at a 20 percent shortfall in funding, but that with an 11 percent increase in homelessness in the city, it was crucial that the city step up.

Here’s the breakdown:

– Ongoing funding to Resource Access Center operations: $1 million

– Additional one-time bridge funding for housing services: $5.8 million

– Expansion of rent assistance, housing and economic opportunities: $3.1 million

Public argues against extending Sit-Lie

Leo Rhodes

Leo Rhodes

Fritz and Fish insist they need time for further discussion

City Council heard a wave of public testimony this morning against the downtown sit-lie ordinance, which they are considering extending until at least October 23, 2009.

The 2-year-old Sidwalk Obstruction Ordinance was scheduled to expire June 8. A Street Access For Everyone committee report finding that the ordinance was predominantly enforced against homeless people was presented to council in November.

Rather than having the council decide whether or not to renew the controversial ordinance permanently, Commissioner Amanda Fritz proposed prolonging its term to give her and Commissioner Nick Fish — both relatively new to council — time to study the ordinance and discuss it with the wider community.

For the play-by-play: Continue reading

April Fools: Nick Fish spearheads acquisition of new furniture

chair22From the April 1 edition of Street Roots. (The April Fools edition was one of the most popular Street Roots ever published. We sold out of the newspaper in a week and ordered more. It’s on the streets for two more days – get your copy while it’s hot!)

Portland City Council officials were forced to postpone several pressing agenda items this week after their habitual praising of their own accomplishments ran even longer than usual.

When their April 1 meeting convened, council members unveiled their new set of swivel chairs, which they will sit in to deliberate city policy and hear testimony from the public. Commissioner Nick Fish spearheaded the acquisition of new furniture after a wheel broke loose from his previous chair, leaving it with a lean and prompting concern about the safety of all the council seats.

The commissioners often take time to acknowledge the work of their colleagues when a policy passes or a project kicks off, but they seemed especially pleased about this project.

“This morning has literally been hours – or even days – in the making,” Fish said as he sank into his plush new seat. “But I think I can speak for the rest of council when I say that it’s been a real labor of love. Before we continue, I want to make sure we recognize the people who spent significant amounts of time and energy making this happen.

“First,” Fish went on, “I want to recognize Roger Stillman of the Office Depot furniture department, without whom this really would not have been possible. It has truly been an honor to work with Roger, who was kind enough to walk me through the office chair aisle and offer his opinions and support.

“I’d also like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, chief of maintenance Edgar Delgado, who had to unpackage the chairs and screw all of the pieces together. And boy, you practically need a whole new committee to read those instructions,” Fish added with a chuckle. (The Furniture Assembly and Regulation Team appointed by former Mayor Tom Potter was cut in 2007 for lack of funding.)

Fish then presented Stillman and Delgado, who were in the audience, with the city’s first-ever “Spirit of Furniture” awards.

“I’d like to pause for a moment,” declared Commissioner Randy Leonard, swiveling his chair toward Fish and steepling his fingers under his chin, “to recognize what a great orator Commissioner Fish has become. It has truly been a pleasure to watch.” Continue reading

City set to streamline resources for affordable housing, homelessness and economic development

From the Dec. 26 2008 edition

Mayor-Elect Sam Adams and Portland’s housing commissioner Nick Fish announced on Dec. 16 the formation of a new city bureau.

The new bureau will replace the Bureau of Housing and Community Development (BHDC), the city agency responsible for economic opportunities, ending homelessness and economic development.

The new bureau will solely focus on Portland’s affordable housing stock and ending homelessness, including incorporating the housing development and finance functions currently at the Portland Development Commission (PDC).

“It’s a complimentary set of changes,” says Kate Allen with Nick Fish’s office. “The notion that we can create a new bureau with a clear focus on housing will give both the new housing bureau and the PDC much clearer direction.”

Continue reading