Friday, March 27, 2009

Right Now, Mayor Sam's Strategy Seems To Be Working

And what is that strategy?

Play it cool. Wait it out.

Back on January 20th, which should have been the best G-d d-mned day this country ever had, Mayor Sam Adams blew a whole lot of good will when he revealed that he did, in fact court Beau Breedlove–in contrast to his protestations of earlier.

There's been a great deal of water under that bridge since. And, at first, it looked very much like Sam would conclude what a great many people had–it was a breach of trust that fundamentally changed the nature of the Sam Adams-Portland polity's relationship.

A lot of people sprang to Sam's defense when the meme was mooted that he was being smeared because he was gay. A lot of people felt used afterwards.

But there was an entrenching afterwards. After about a week's worth of seculsion, Sam came back to City Hall and just got back to work, L'Affaire Ruiz came (and went). Calls of "Recall!" were heard from the east side to the west side and it seemed like the perfect career-ending storm. Randy was no longer Sam's friend.

Come with us back up to the present. What do we have?
  • Randy Leonard (still stylishly sans 'stache) heartily holding forth on the plans to condemn the Made In Oregon sign in the lobby of City Hall. Sam's on board but we don't see him.
  • Amy Ruiz unironically holding forth on something or other that's sustainable on KATU News.
  • Most of the Student Council celebrating the ascension of PDX to MLS. Sam's out front.
  • Someone from the Recall Sam Adams campaign finally testifies in front of Student Council. Forgets to dress for success. Goes off like a wet fart; is savaged by the commenters as PMerc's Blogtown.
  • That zombie of Portland politics–the Convention Center "Headquarters" Hotel–stalks the landscape again. They say it's a sure thing. Also, again. You can pop this tape in the Teddy Ruxpin of city gubmint and rerun it every so often. It's a golden oldie.
In short, City Hall's kind of back to normal, mostly.

Will there be a credible recall challenge to Mayor Sam? There could be, I suppose. The statutory 6-month waiting period for the recall is giving the whole thing a chance to cool off. Sam's doing what Sam does. Randy's making noises about–well, seems to be about wanting to be Mayor, but things are so odd around here lately, I could have misunderstood them.

Sadly to say, Jasun Wuerster pretty much shot himself and what recall movement there is left in the foot with his underwhelming City Hall testimony.

A long time ago, there were radio ads for a company's product called "Verbal Advantage". They make you talk pretty. You may remember they began It's alarming but true ... people do judge you by the words you use!"

Well, back on the 18th, Jasun learned to his dismay that it's alarming but true: in politics, people do judge you by the image you project. And Portland is a pretty laid back place, it's true. But when you get into the chambers of power you better look like you've suited up to play your "A" game. In the comments, Jasun himself averred that his financial situation (we can relate) and his health (we can also relate) dictated his choice of attire. But we've also latterly been to Value Village and Goodwill, and it's not that hard to find an acceptable looking jacket and tie for really fricken' cheap. And the way they take pictures, hey, he could have gone in in tattered jeans and still accorded himself.

There's not a dress code for democracy, no. There's not a dress code for life, either. But there is a dress code for important events. Ignore it and you lose face. By showing up by looking like he just rolled out of bed, he delivered what might be a shot below the bowline of the only recall campaign that seems to be out there. And it didn't have a great deal of credibility to begin with. You can be whatever you want, but when you show up to City Hall, you better look like you mean business. Perception is the reality.

And I can see I've gotten distracted by what the Blogtown commenters (who, I think–for the record–were really a bit too cruel on Jasun) got caught up in. Like I said, Perception is the reality.

Now, back to the nut of things: Sam's back at work; the Portland Student Council is back to its charming old dysfunctional self; the Sam Adams recall campaign is looking like a group of tyros; the scene has cooled off considerably.

Already I see the conventional wisdom swinging over in Sam's favor.

Sam getting recalled? He's stood pat and kept his head down.

Magic 8 Ball say outlook not so good.

Maybe Sam understands PDX better than we know.


  1. Hi Chinuk,

    Thank you for blogging about I understand that wearing a hoodie *may* not have been the best idea and I very much appreciate you reporting that I was pretty ill with the flu when I gave my speech.

    Please know that the recall is made up of hundreds of volunteers and we are gaining more each day. Come July 1st, 2009 we will file to recall Sam Adams and I promise to wear a collared shirt for that press conference ;)

    If I may point out a few things:

    1) It is really difficult to get any message out via the Mercury's blog as there are a select few individuals who are very caustic and resort to various logical fallacy when debating. For example: attacking my dress is known as an 'ad hominem' attack. (Latin for "argument against the man"). At PSU I was taught that people do this when they can not debate the message. I do ask for your readers to give us a chance and listen to my 3 minute speech to Adams here:

    One reason I think the media did not pick up on the story is because the recall has already built a high level of credibility with our earned media efforts over the past 2 months. NOTE: No other media has condemned us, aside from Mercury bloggers and Matt Davis' all-in-good-fun fashion advice (which was more of a good thing because it extended the story).

    2) Our campaign is moving off of the Internet and into peoples living rooms. It may seem like we have slowed down, but we are really starting to gear up to get an effective campaign infrastructure in place. Please note that I was Amanda Fritz's volunteer deputy campaign manager for her primary election and a lot of the nuts and bolts of winning a campaign are never reported by the press. Our focus is now on gaining support of local Opinion Leaders to propagate our memes to those who are not on the Internet (which are a lot of people).

    We have looked very hard at the number of signatures we need to trigger a special election and how we can turn out the vote to reach our goal of '50 percent plus one' vote needed to recall Adams. Yes, it is a daunting challenge. However, it is one that we are dedicated to achieving and are getting the volunteer support we need. Plus a 10.8% unemployment rate makes for a good pool of volunteers to pull from who are looking to expand their professional network.

    3) Sam Adams is relying on political apathy and fear to stay in office. People know this and when we talk to them they are honest with us about not being able to volunteer in a way that is public (for fear of job or retaliation). This is a very sad commentary to why Adams is *really* in power and yet another reason why we will be successful in his recall (should the AG not remove him first).

    Lastly I very much would like to thank you for your reporting on this story. At times it is impossible for the Recall to be a part of the conversation as emotions are dominating. Please know that this recall will is one based on civic participation and we will succeed based on being honorable, intelligent, civil and caring (which may be another reason why the press did not understand how to report my speech).

    With much respect,
    Jasun Wurster

  2. Jasun, I'm flattered that you came by an left such a complete answer. Good on you ...

    I will say this for you. You have retained quite a bit of dignity in the face of a whole lot of poop-throwing due to your dress at your City Council appearance. You've also come here and taken my comments-as irreverent as they sometimes can be-in good spirit. Truly, you're a good sport.

    I look forward to the Recall Sam Adams campaign ramping up. You certainly can't start collecting signatures yet under law, but you can and should be plowing the ground as far as mindshare goes.

    This is a conversation that has seemed to go into suspended animation. I try to keep up on a whole lot, but it certainly look like it's cooled on all sides (with only Jack Bogdanski making his trademark asides as the only new thing in the evolving subject).

    As a result, I think "we're" postponing working something out that needs to be resolved.

    If you and the campaign can get some light on it, then maybe we can move forward, through, and beyond it, and resolve it in some way or another.

    As far as the points you rather thoroughly demonstrated above I can't add a thing. They stand rather commendably on their own.

    Good luck to you, and to all of us actually.

  3. how do you change google profiles with your setup? I can't get it off my other account! This is not Carla, it's TJ.

    I think you were right the first time, Chinuk--with every passing day, any impetus to recall Adams gets weaker and weaker. The central premise--his actions have made it impossible for Council and the City to move forward--is proving false. Think what you want of him, but it's not really proving a detriment to his job.

  4. And I really think the attire commentary is stupid. If you KNOW it's mere artifice to make a show of respectability by dressing up for Council, then why criticize when the artifice is ignored? It's not like he was there in a two piece bikini. Wearing a hoodie is not why the recall effort will fail...

  5. Carla (not Carla):

    Gosh, it sounds like you're having a weird problem with teh Google. You should just be able to sign out and then sign back in again. You could probably just spawn another account if all eles fail.

    Not necessarily to completely contradict Jasun's comment about the grassroots support of the Recall Sam Adams campaign–he's looking at it from the inside, and only he knows for sure what sorts of support he's getting (and probably just can't say right now-yes, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here). IMHO, we can suspect what we suspect, but we won't know for sure until the statutory deadline passes.

    Of course, that's all just bald assumption on my part. Regardless of what anybody says, as far as the subject and support for the recalls goes, I try to pay attention to a lot ... and I'm just not seeing it. It looks like it's all cooled off a whole lot, and while I am, as I said, willing to give the recall crew the benefit of the doubt, I'll be honest about one thing; I'd be surprised if it generated much interest or heat in six months.

    Maybe Randy'n'Sam'll kiss and make up when the heat's died down, eh?

    As far as the cotoure commentary goes, I agree with you. There's a lesson out of my favorite political text, Dune here. On the level of the nobility, there is a great deal of credit given to artifice. In the Great Convention, the 10,000 year-old contract that forms the basis of stable Imperial government, the words That the forms must be obeyed are used a great deal

    It's kind of a grammar of action. You show up one way, you are percieved as serious. You pay lip service to the artifice as a price of admission to the credible club.

    Is it right and fair? Hell no. Is it the social situation we're forced to accept? Sadly, yes. Look at how the the crowd at Blogtown sniped Jasun half-to-death in the comments (he redeemed himself by his own behavior there).

    Like those Verbal Advantage radio spots imply, it's unfair that people judge your book by its cover. But they do. Maybe we can evolve this in future (I'm not saying that we have to accept it) but we ignore it now at the peril of our public credibilty.

    Anyway, that's a conclusion drawn from years and years of addiction to the political arena. I could be wrong, but I don't think I'm totally off the mark.

    Thanks for your comments BTW. You're a very thought-provoking commenter.