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Adams should reignite citys priorities

Our Opinion
by: Christopher Onstott MAYOR SAM ADAMS

In the 17 months he has remaining in his term, Portland Mayor Sam Adams cannot live up to the promise he carried into office after being elected in 2008 - that potential evaporated almost immediately with the unraveling of the Beau Breedlove scandal.

But Adams, who made the wise decision last week not to seek re-election in 2012, can still accomplish important things for his city before his departure.

In his 2 1/2 years as mayor, Adams has been hobbled by the scandal and unable to muster enough mayoral power to carry out some of his more ambitious ideas. His record is decidedly mixed, with many initiatives launched but few executed.

In addition to the damage caused by the Breedlove revelations, the mayor's momentum was slowed by an economy that produced few opportunities for the types of public-private development partnerships that he has promoted.

Adams can, however, point to progress in some areas. Now that he is free from concerns about re-election, he can more aggressively pursue major priorities that ought to be important to the entire City Council. Among the jobs that Adams should push closer to completion are these:

• Making the city safer. This includes following through on the anti-gang efforts that are already under way. Plus, the mayor, who now oversees the Police Bureau, must continue the work he started to force drug dealers out of Old Town/Chinatown.

• Finishing the Portland Streetcar loop. Work on the eastside extension is on target, but Adams and others are still $20 million short of the funding needed to extend streetcar tracks and make connections to the upcoming Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail bridge.

• Bringing renewed attention to the Rose Quarter. The area is long overdue for a redevelopment plan that would allow it to blossom as an entertainment district. But despite a protracted process to decide what to do with Memorial Coliseum, the Rose Quarter is no closer to renewal than it was three years ago.

• Reigniting interest in the old Centennial Mills building (which occupies a prime spot on Naito Parkway between the Broadway and Fremont Bridges). Adams scared off one developer with a requirement that 50 percent of the building must be dedicated to companies that meet the city's new economic development goals. We're not sure that such requirements are feasible for developers, but we do know that this particular site holds great promise worth pursuing in a more realistic manner.

• Helping Portland State University and the district that surrounds it take the next steps forward. The Oregon Legislature's decision not to authorize bonds for the Oregon Sustainability Center at PSU was disappointing. Adams and others must continue lobbying for that bonding, and the mayor also must follow through on his pledge to create a more compact urban renewal district around PSU.

Adams has taken a scattershot approach to many of his initiatives as mayor, which is one reason that the priorities on the above list haven't advanced as far as they could.

That doesn't mean Adams hasn't scored political successes - including the plastic-bag ban, the city's Clean Energy Works weatherization program and the Portland Bicycle Plan.

But with his newfound freedom as a mayor without political plans, we urge Adams to be more focused on advancing a few big ideas that can have long-lasting benefits for all of Portland.