Like most Portlanders, I’ve been wrestling with whether or not Sam Adams should be forced to resign after admitting that he lied about and then covered up a sexual relationship. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best move that Mayor Adams could make for Portland’s future is to resign now.
I think Mayor Adams is a good and decent man who fell into a trap that many before him have fallen into (think President Clinton or Newt Gingrich, or any of our family and friends who have one time or another failed us). All things being equal, I would like to give the mayor a chance to redeem himself. He is, in theological terms, a broken and sinful person (so are we all in one way or another), but grace ought to be offered at times like these. His twenty years in public life have been productive and I suspect he still has plenty of good to offer.
But two weeks ago I sent the mayor a letter, copied to the city council, offering concern that the mayor’s otherwise ambitious 100 day agenda did not deal with the issue of poverty. Poverty is a growing issue in Portland and it needs the attention of the mayor. Now, however, the entire 100 day agenda is in ruins. The next hundred days will be taken up with investigations and debate will center not on the needs of Portland but on the actions of Sam Adams.
I have a suggestion on how we all might channel our frustration and move this process forward:
And a recall that Sam Adams openly encourages -- and privately supports -- because the voters deserve a referendum on whether or not he is still qualified to serve as Portland's mayor.
While calls for Adams' resignation are the crusade du jour, a recall allows both the mayor and the multitude the opportunity to step back from the week's numbing revelations and assess the damage.
State law bars the filing of a recall petition until July, after Adams has served six months in office.
Mix in the time necessary to gather and verify the required number of signatures -- 32,183 -- and schedule that vote of the people, and we're talking about either a Sept. 15 or Nov. 3 referendum.
That would give the voters valuable time to assess the full measure of Adams' truthfulness, contrition and effectiveness. And it would allow the mayor to make the case that lying about sex, however pathetic and opportunistic, does not fully eclipse his potential to reshape this city.
In part, I like the idea. But does anyone really want the central debate in Portland during a time of deep economic recession to be about the mayor’s personal life? I want it to be about poverty, the economy, how we protect Portland’s environment, and how we provide the best education possible for our children. Basically, I want the debate in Portland to be centered on the ideas and challenges that Sam Adams ran on and not on Sam Adams himself.
As I said earlier this week, in truth, his winning campaign only succeeded in the fashion it did (with a weak opponent and broad public support) because he lied and never let Portlanders grapple for themselves with his actions. When a politician doesn't trust the people how can the people trust the politician? He brought this on himself.
Mayor Adams needs to resign so that we can get to the business of quickly finding a new mayor who can meet the challenges we commonly face. His resignation would be a gift and would set him on a path of recovery. There is still a place for Sam in Portland. It just isn’t in City Hall.
In time, however, I hope he finds his way back into the public arena. Sam Adams is smart, dedicated, and deserving of the forgiveness he has asked for.