In his second State of the City address,
Mayor Sam Adams today wandered around Portland's urban landscape, introducing two "Joe the Plumber" characters and weaving those characters' needs for jobs, education and transportation into a tale of where he hopes to steer the city.
Adams unveiled three new real-life programs to the standing-room City Club of Portland audience at the Governor Hotel:
1. A $33 million "Sustainable Development Fund"
that will act as a pass-through for federal stimulus dollars.
2. A $500,000 "Portland Small Business Seed Fund."
The mayor challenged local banks to match that amount but did not identify the source for that money at a time when the city is asking bureaus to cut 4 percent of their budgets in the upcoming fiscal year.
3. A $2 million scholarship fund
for struggling students to attend Portland Community College or Mt. Hood Community College. During his speech, Adams did not address the source of funding for this proposed program. But he later said it would combine private money and money from the bills of water and sewer ratepayers.
Beyond those specific programs, the mayor showed a video of a home weatherization program run by the group "Green for All," a couple of confusing slides about economic disparity among minority groups; and a futuristic rendition of Lents Town Center, complete with a spiffy new version of the neighborhood's best known nightclub, The New Copper Penny.
He drew polite applause as he sketched his vision for the city:
"We are an emerging world leader in sustainable industries and clean technology practices in all industries," he said. "There isn't any reason why Portland can't become the nation's new hub for clean technology – a means to create electricity and fuels with a smaller environmental footprint. And we should be exporting all these goods and services all around the globe."
But rather than offering more specifics about how he'll make those green dreams into green jobs, he went back to "Jean" and "Mike," his stand-ins for Joe the Plumber.
"Of course, Houston, Chicago, San Jose and others also vie for that clean tech hub title," Adams said. "That's why this recession compels us to work from an economic strategy and give it everything we've got. Remember, Jean and Mike don't have to work in the clean tech sector to enjoy its benefits.
Adams added: "Now, if Jean chooses not to pursue a job in clean tech, Jean's children might. But today Portland's educational system may not prepare her kids for tomorrow's jobs. Just 63 percent of our eighth graders are graduating from high school in four years."
"My job is to look the Jeans and Mikes straight in the eye and say, 'I've got your back,'" Adams said.
Seemingly nervous throughout his talk, Adams stumbled repeatedly during the questions that followed.
In response to a question about how the City of Portland will handle escalating contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System, Adams said "we don't invest enough in wellness." He then rambled into a convoluted explanation of how the city, led by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, could save on health care premiums and use the savings to pay the steeper PERS costs. Or something like that.
When downtown jeweler David Margulis asked Adams whether he supported Police Chief Rosie Sizer's proposal to eliminate the Portland Police Bureau's horse patrol, Adams equivocated.
And when City Club Treasurer Ted Kaye, acknowledging criticism of the club's soft treatment
of Adams last year following the mayor's admission that he lied about a sexual relationship with a teenager, pointedly asked whether it was not Adams's duty
to support a recall
, Adams said, "I've answered that question repeatedly," and then proceeded to recognize his "wonderful staff" and ask each of them to stand.
Updated at 4:50 pm. Here is Kaye's question:
Last year, after you appeared here, City Club was roundly criticized for not asking you the hard question. I will do so now.
During your campaign for mayor, you countered allegations about your conduct with a teenager, saying, “I have been the target of a nasty smear by a would-be political opponent.”
After the election, you said, “I want to apologize to my colleagues for my dishonesty and especially to the people of Portland for my dishonesty. I should have been truthful from the beginning.”
Question: Now that the people of Portland have the facts not available to them during that election, isn't it appropriate for you to support the recall campaign, in effect have another election now, and let the people either decide not to have you serve as mayor or provide you with a mandate to lead?
Kaye never got an answer.