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Adams need: Ideas into action

Editorial

On his first day as Portland's mayor, Sam Adams struck the right tone in his remarks and he chose the right places to deliver those comments. Now, as Adams fully takes the reins from departing Mayor Tom Potter, he must act swiftly to consolidate his abundant ideas into a cohesive plan for immediate improvement of Portland.

Adams' choices for words and locales on Monday were laudable because he addressed Portland's problems as well as its accomplishments. The new mayor bragged about Portland's livability, but also acknowledged - quite directly - that this city has 'big problems' to correct.

To underscore the point that he is aware of the city's diverse needs, Adams delivered his swearing-in speech on the east end of the city - at Parkrose High School - and then traveled to the other side of town - St. Johns - to meet with small-business owners. Those locations were of symbolic importance because they are two neighborhoods that haven't enjoyed the benefits of urban renewal and neighborhood revitalization that are transforming other parts of Portland.

Concentrate on core issues

Adams' first-day decisions remind us that he is capable of being a good listener - and that's the first step toward being a good leader. But as Adams finalizes a work plan for his first 100 days in office, he must concentrate on a few core issues, some of which he already has described:

The economy: Adams correctly places this at the top of his list. One immediate goal is to work with Oregon's congressional delegation to ensure that Portland's list of infrastructure projects can obtain money coming from a federal economic-stimulus package.

Education: This has been a priority for Adams since the start of his mayoral campaign. Adams is frustrated that so many children drop out of Portland schools and that they often don't have the job skills needed to contribute to the economy and lead highly productive lives.

But when it comes to schools, we don't believe it's the city's job to ensure a quality education for all. That role is fulfilled by school boards, educators and the Legislature. The mayor can be a strong advocate, and Adams can use his office to encourage partnerships. In the end, however, the best thing the city can do for education is to promote a robust economy and growing local employment, which in turn will produce tax revenues for schools.

Sustainability: Adams wants Portland to be the greenest city in the world. He can best accomplish this not by asking city government to be a major funding source for environmental initiatives, but by seeking partnerships with local businesses engaged in sustainable enterprises. These partnerships should also include Portland State University, Oregon Health and Science University and other institutions to expand research and promote sustainable practices in Portland.

Awareness of emerging issues and trends: Adams and other city officials must be alert to how rapidly the economy is changing Portlanders' lives and be ready to help connect the growing number of local residents who are hungry or poor to the services they need.

Adams plans to unveil his 100-day plan soon. He should keep his priority list short, achievable and balanced. Portland needs both streetcars downtown and paved roads on the city's outer edges. It needs both a thriving Pearl District and vibrant neighborhood businesses. It deserves better low-income housing and more options for middle-class homebuyers.

Adams has shown that he grasps these diverse needs. Now, he must put that understanding into action and accomplishment.