Does Portland owe Mayor Adams an apology?

An alt-weekly writer looks beyond the squabbling around his city's mayoral 'cluster-kerfluffle.'
An alt-weekly writer looks beyond the squabbling around his city's mayoral 'cluster-kerfluffle.'

The news coverage has been strong on Portland Mayor Sam Adams and his involvement with a young man, and the lies he told to cover it up. Willamette Week led the way, the Oregonian stayed with it, and The New York Times' Tim Egan crafted characteristically intelligent commentary. (A piece which must hold the record for number of irate reader comments from people age 17 and younger.)

What's been lacking is thoughtful stuff by a Portland insider. A piece seeking to put the whole matter in a light that allows Portlanders to move beyond the he said/he said stuff.

Finally, Portland Mercury writer Wm. Steven Humphrey stepped in and started the ball rolling in his piece, "No One Is Innocent What Sam Adams Did Wrong; What Portland Did Wrong."

Humphrey talks tough about Adams, and expresses the pain felt by the mayor's many supporters, gay and straight. But he also pushes his readers to consider the reasons a politician lies, and the impossibility of one saying "no comment" in a case when a personal relationship breaks no laws, but will look bad to a lot of the constituents. (Yes, yes, I know the law-breaking part of this is still unsettled.)

He's certainly the first interesting writer to ask what role Portlanders have played:

So Sam's not innocent, the people directly involved are not entirely innocent — and guess what? We're not innocent either. Portlanders have gone out of their way to protect Sam over the years, and often for good reason: His transportation and environmental policies line up almost exactly with what a modern progressive city should be striving to attain. And though the "Support Sam" rallies struggled with their message, their basic idea was sound: What goes on in Sam's pants and inside his head are two separate things. Portland hired him for his head. (Thank god.)

Now, says Humphrey, its time for some of that forward-motion that our new president sold us on:

When our new president talks of change, he almost always adds that the change in question doesn't come from him'ꀔit comes from us. If we choose to do so, we can accept our responsibility in this situation. We can accept that we, as a culture, often rush to judgment. We can accept that we often judge people for their sexuality (both positively and negatively), rather than what they have to offer to society. We can admit that we often lump morality and sexuality into the same simplistic basket. And we should admit we sometimes overprotect certain minorities solely out of guilt.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors