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Adams must resign

Mayor's actions, and his lies about them, make him unfit to serve

This is a moment when Portland should be joining fully in this nation's energized optimism for a new kind of politics, a new type of leader and hope for a better future.

Instead, Portland residents once again find themselves deeply disappointed by the inappropriate and dishonest actions of a local leader - actions that ought to lead to the immediate resignation of Mayor Sam Adams.

On Tuesday, the contrast between two political events - both of keen interest to Portlanders - couldn't have been more stark. Local residents crowded around television sets in offices and elsewhere to be inspired by President Barack Obama's powerful inaugural address. Just a few hours later, many of those same people felt betrayed as they watched Adams, who took office less than three weeks ago, attempt to salvage his job by apologizing for engaging in and lying about his sexual relationship with a young man, who at the time was barely 18 years old.

In Washington, D.C., our new president offered us promise and hope. Here in Portland, the new mayor delivered doubt about himself and uncertainty about the future of city government.

While Obama skillfully sought to unify us, Adams' actions are sure to divide us. The president focused our attention on the immense challenges ahead for our nation, while the sordid Adams' saga will distract us from the work needed to improve Portland.

And as Obama inspired us and offered a sense of renewed trust and confidence, Adams' admission of incredibly poor judgment and months of deceit only contributed to the public's skepticism about government and elected officials.

Dishonesty cannot be overlooked

When considered together in their polar opposition, Obama's soaring rhetoric and Adams' deflated apology ought to provide a moment of clarity for Portlanders: One of these men is the type of leader we want, and we are sorry to say it's not Sam Adams.

It is disappointing in the extreme to come to the conclusion that Adams must go. When measured by his experience, intelligence, enthusiasm and political skill, Adams is almost certainly the most qualified person in Portland to be mayor - which is why we endorsed him in the 2008 election. But he falls short when it comes to honesty - a trait that cannot ever be dismissed - and by displaying woefully poor judgment in choosing to have an affair with a very young man.

We don't care that Adams is gay. But we care - and believe that Portlanders deeply care - that Adams engaged in incredibly inappropriate actions and then lied about them for 17 months. In doing so, Adams created an irreparable breach in trust with the people who elected him.

Back in 2007, before the mayor's campaign began in earnest, Adams told news reporters and the public that he had not been sexually involved with Beau Breedlove, a legislative aide who met Adams in 2005 at age 17.

Now, nearly a year and a half after his public denial, Adams admits he lied. Sadly, Adams stumbled to this instance of honesty only after being confronted with new evidence by Willamette Week. Adams now admits the relationship was wrong. But he offers a weak defense that while 'inappropriate,' the consensual sexual affair was legal because the young man had turned 18.

Quick departure best for city

We don't believe the public makes much of a distinction when it comes to a man over 40 having sex with either a 17-year-old or an 18-year-old. And it makes no difference if the teenager is male or female - it's sexual opportunism, pure and simple.

When he met with the Portland Tribune editorial board on Tuesday evening, Adams said he would remain in office because he believed it was in the best interest of the city. But he also promised to resign if he became convinced that his departure would be best for Portland.

Adams doesn't need to wait for such proof. His own dishonesty led to him being elected under false pretenses, and his behavior now threatens to shatter his effectiveness at a time when Portland is in desperate need of dynamic and credible leadership. The sooner Adams leaves office, the faster Portland can begin the process of finding a mayor who still has the ability to inspire - not depress and distract - us.