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Lies erode trust city wants in its mayor

Adams must go

It saddens me that Sam Adams has chosen not to step down from the honored position of mayor of Portland.

Being a mayor is unlike other political offices; a mayor has an ongoing relationship with the people of the city, a relationship that must be founded upon and maintained by honor, honesty and integrity. A mayor is not a president, who is kept at a safe distance from all but a trusted few. A mayor might own a tavern, might have a daughter on the police force, and certainly, a mayor lives in our town. A mayor is local, accessible, a friend and neighbor of the people he or she serves, personally known to those within the city.

By Adams' reported use of the phrase, 'I deserve due process,' he is casting this as a question of criminal action or of the legality of his actions, which is not the core issue here.

The core issue is lying, which undermines, erodes and washes away trust, connectedness and relationship. 'Is it criminal, or is it legal?' are not the minimum test of the actions of a mayor (or of a mayoral candidate). Instead, the true test is: 'Is it in the best interests of all involved?'

By that test, which is relationally and ethically more rigorous and a requirement for building and maintaining trust, Adams' lying in this case failed all involved. Further, his demand for 'due process' is a repudiation of his relationship with the people of Portland by replacing it with legal proceedings.

The relationship between a mayor and the people is not simply a raw legal matter to be decided by courts alone. If that were the case and if that is where you want this to proceed, the office of mayor would be a very different sort of position than it historically has been in Portland, and more like, say, Chicago. It will become one of distance and self-preservation, rather than one of openness, true care for the people and trust.

Relationships of trust are built upon being who we claim to be so others can relate to the true person. Once that trust is broken by lying (which is almost always, and certainly in this case, a self-serving action) the trust can only be rebuilt by openness, truthfulness and deep change - change starting with a heartfelt admission of wrong-doing and a commitment to changing oneself, because the relationship is of greater value than oneself.

This has little to do with any legal definition of right or wrong and everything to do with valuing the relationship above one's personal concerns.

I desire Adams to understand the depth of his impact, not just to his own political career, nor simply to the relationship between him and the city of Portland, but to the entire country, before whom his whole fight to receive due process will be played out blow by blow. Adams will be damaging the people of this city, the gay community of which he is a member and the country in this time of multi-faceted stresses.

In a simple, pragmatic view, if Adams does not resign, the cost in time, distraction, divisions, the mess of a recall petition, a criminal investigation and lawyers is a horrible waste at this stressed economic time, when time is of the essence.

I implore Sam Adams to resign quickly so the business of electing a new mayor and governing 'the city that works' can get under way right away. I ask Adams to ponder what is best for the city of Portland: a costly, distracting, wearying-for-all, 'fight-to-the-possible-recall-death' - or simply stepping away so the city can heal from this, begin to address its manifold troubles and carry on with the business of being a wonderful place to live, of which he is a valued citizen.

Charles Waugh is a portrait artist with a studio in Portland. He lives in Boring.