03-30-2023  4:27 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Mayor Sam Adams
Published: 25 February 2009

Thank you all for being here today, and, my thanks to the Portland City Club for hosting these important civic discussions.

We are a fortunate people to live in a city so distinctive, so spunky and so unique; to live in a city of small city blocks, big hearts and open minds; to be fortunate to live in a tri-county region that is economically better off than many others in this nation.

But now the world's economic problems are impacting our community.  Just in the past year, 45,000 people in our region are newly jobless.  45,000: that is like filling Memorial Coliseum almost four times.  Other Portlanders are still employed but scraping by with dwindling hours and benefits. Still others live in fear of losing all that they have worked for.

And this is the work we need to do. Today I am going to focus on how we can improve job security for more Portlanders by helping more Portland businesses succeed.  How we will help those facing hardship right now as we lay out a new economic strategy for Portland's long-term prosperity; and, how we are going to do it all as quickly as possible.

From the days when the fork in the road on the Oregon Trail forced travelers to choose between the potential riches of the California Gold Rush or a sign that simply read, "Oregon," Portland's ambition has always been to be a place of quality, not quantity.  We have always been about how good, not how much.  So with this in mind our job creation and economic development efforts need to be strategic, very strategic.

In this cut-throat global economy Portland must focus on what we do best compared with anyone else in the world.  We are lucky.  We have many standout business clusters but with five we have a competitive advantage: advanced manufacturing; apparel and active-wear design; software and bioscience. But one of the fastest emerging industries right now is clean technology and sustainable design and development.

Portland is already often ranked as America's greenest city.  We have been the living laboratory for clean technology and sustainable policy and practices. Sometimes we make the world's top ten most sustainable cities.  Now, we will set the goal for Portland to be the most sustainable city in the world. And in doing so we will make Portland the hub for the global green economy.

The biggest long-term challenge we face is not only this hurricane-force recession; it is the two-sided coin of complacency and fear:

o              Complacency in the form of those who read Portland's glowing national newspaper stories about how great we are and thus feel we coast only with the way things are now.  We must resist this urge.  We are great not because of what we have done but only by what we will do; and,

o              Fear, the kind of fear that risks putting a freeze on the creative process, the kind of fear that will keep us from taking smart risks now, even in the face of strong economic headwinds.

Portlanders can take comfort in the fact we are changing city government to be more nimble and focused and responsive in these difficult times.  To help now with the hardship so many Portlanders and Portland businesses are facing now, in just 39 work days in office, we on city council embrace the need for change and action; we are:

o              Reorganizing the city's bureaus to improve the delivery of programs and services;

o              Cutting spending now even before revenue shortfalls show up on the city's budget bottom line, to prevent deeper cuts later;

o              Reforming the city's budget to require bureau expenditures and revenues by each program and service;

o              With the great partnership of Chair Ted Wheeler and Governor Ted Kulongoski, gaining low interest FEMA business loans of up to $2 million to help businesses hit hardest by the winter snow storms,  the season when the sales of most retail businesses carry them through the remainder of the year;

o              Fast-tracking city spending to get those jobs on the street in the next 18 months instead of the next five years; and,

o              Achieved a groundbreaking agreement for new bi-state regional transportation partnership.

As we move forward, City Hall is also losing a change agent. For more than a decade, Gary Blackmer has served Portland as our City Auditor, making sure our city government is meeting performance measures, managing the city's records, and providing excellence in service to all of City Hall. While Gary is retiring from City Hall, he is going on to provide his knowledge and expertise on behalf of all Oregonians at the state's Oregon Audits Division. Gary is at home today battling the flu, so rest up, and thanks for all you've done, Gary.

Before I describe how make we can Portland greener and use that as a foundation for a new aggressive new economic development action plan, upfront, I want to answer three related questions:

First question, doesn't being "greener" cost more money?

Answer: Portland has proven it does not have to.  In fact, our sustainability has given us a competitive green dividend that helps our families save money and boost the economy.            

Portland based economist Joe Cortright in a White Paper for the CEOs for Cities Foundation said it best when he wrote about the green economic dividend Portland has created for itself related to transportation.

"…for some, our green streak is viewed as a sort of environmental hair-shirt. Portlanders deprive themselves of prosperity in the name of saving the environment. Skeptics view biking, transit, density and urban growth boundaries as a kind of virtuous self-denial, well meaning, but silly and uneconomic.

"Critics see the seeds of economic ruin. They claim planning, policies and regulations that restrict use or access to resources impede growth and lower household income.  Both the skeptics and the critics are wrong.              Being green means Portlanders save a bundle on cars and gas, and local residents have more money to spend on other things they value, which in turn stimulates the local economy."

Second question, what does Portland being a "living laboratory of sustainability" have to do with creating jobs?

Answer: Almost every city in the world is now making a claim to be a hub of the sustainable economy.  But few cities have the number of green workers and businesses with actual hands on skills of designing, building and manufacturing green goods and services.

Two examples help answer this question.  One underway. One with potential.

In 2001, Portland became the first city in America to reintroduce streetcars into the city transit network. Those streetcars supported Portland's deserved reputation for planning and public transit. They attracted visitors from across the nation who wanted to see how we did it. And now, a Portland-area business is manufacturing street cars, for the first time in America in decades. 

And I want to take a moment to specially acknowledge the work of Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio for working to secure a federal investment in the expansion of the Portland streetcar grid.  Thanks to their belief in our vision for a more sustainable city and economy, Congressmen DeFazio and Blumenauer have requested 45 million dollars for the design and engineering of the eastside streetcar loop.

And a second example: Last week in my meeting with Ditlev Engel, the CEO of Vestas Wind Systems I learned that each of their wind turbines contains 9,000 components.  What if even a fraction of those components was built and distributed here in Portland?              Even a tenth of the components, that's 900 parts, hundreds of supplier companies, the potential for thousands of jobs, and an even stronger claim to a green economy.

And, third question, what are the biggest long-term threats to Portland's environmental sustainability efforts?

Answer:  There are two.  One is an unnecessary expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary and the other is our failure to more actively manage our roadways.

The first long term threat to Portland's environmental sustainability efforts is misguided Urban Growth Boundary expansions.               And when I say, "we cannot afford," it, I mean it, literally.  Continued expansions of the boundary spread the already meager regional transportation funding thinner. 

We upzone the land use in the outer reaches of the region with a promise for connecting services; promises for transportation connections we cannot fulfill.           We do not have the billions necessary to maintain the transportation infrastructure we already have, we do not have the funds to build the improvements within the UGB on the drawing boards. 

My approach: accommodate more of our needs within the existing UGB.  Find the employment lands we need by aggregating smaller parcels within the UGB and clean up the hundreds of acres of poisoned brownfields in Portland to put that land back to productive use.  Amanda and I were just in a briefing that showed if we cleaned up and repurposed Portland's river adjacent industrial brownfield sites we could reap up to an $81 million annual economic benefit.

The second long term threat to Portland's environmental sustainability efforts is the passive management of our vehicular roadways, especially freeways.

Our region has been a global innovator in developing and managing transportation systems for transit, bikes, and pedestrians. But we have remained in the dark ages when it comes to managing our vehicular roadway systems to protect and support community values.

To date, we have built our freeways, highways and streets - and then largely just walked away. Local leaders on both sides of the Columbia River including Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, Metro President David Bragdon, Vancouver City Council member Tim Leavitt, and Clark County (WA) Commissioner Steve Stuart offer the better approach of performance-based active transportation management as we find common ground to build a new Colombia Crossing. 

As Mayor Pollard and I co wrote in an opinion newspaper piece this week:

"Done right, the project promises safer and more reliable multi-modal travel for people and goods, while reducing negative impacts on our environment.

"Done wrong, today's gridlock moves south to downtown Portland; and twenty years from now the new bridge is once again filled with stop-and-go traffic."

I know, the phrase "performance-based active transportation management," does not exactly roll off the tongue.

"So we liken this new cross-river partnership to a thermostat.   You would not build a home heating and cooling system without a way to regulate the airflow and control the temperature based on the time of day, outside conditions, and who is using what rooms.

"Nor should we build a new freeway bridge without a mechanism to adjust conditions for maximum efficiency. Just as you would at home, we will define the "comfort zone" for the new Columbia River Crossing.  

"We propose that the bridge be built to accommodate up to three add/drop lanes and three through lanes. But these lanes will not be created equal. Our new partnership agreement will determine how the lanes will be phased and managed over time to get the right mix of tolling, HOV or HOT lanes, vanpools, and transit fare programs to reduce vehicle miles traveled and pollution.  Because our partnership recognizes that these decisions affect more than just the limited I-5 Bridge Influence Area, we propose to actively assess and manage other impacted areas, including the I-205 river crossing and Rose Quarter.

"The Columbia River Crossing will function differently in 2030 than it does on opening day. Technology will change, as will community needs.  We share the belief that a performance-goal-based "thermostat" is the best tool we have to ensure the new bridge meets the needs of current and future citizens.

"What we envision as an actively managed Columbia Crossing, no other jurisdiction in this nation has done. We are determined to blaze a new trail toward smart transportation management and protect our investment for generations to come."

Now, let's talk about boosting Portland as the living laboratory for green and sustainable practices that will serve as a foundation for our new economic development strategy.

As I have mentioned, one of Portland's competitive advantages is that we have more sustainable thinking and doing than almost any other city. In order to keep and enhance that advantage, we need to continue to push forward on what a sustainable Portland looks like. 

That's why, today, I'm announcing that:

o              This spring, the City of Portland and Multnomah County, together, with the co-leadership of Commissioner Jeff Cogan, will launch an ambitious new strategy to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change. Our city has a history of outstanding action to reduce carbon emissions—cutting emissions back to 1990 levels—but we need to do more.  Together, we propose to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. To accomplish this, I will bring a solid action-based plan to Council by June.  It will focus on real steps we can take that will cut emissions while creating thousands of jobs. 

o              Also, I'm pleased to announce the launch of the Portland Clean Energy Fund to help Portlanders invest in energy efficiency in their homes. Together with the Energy Trust of Oregon, Multnomah County and local utilities, we will put contractors to work to weatherize Portland homes with no upfront cost to homeowners. That means good insulation and super-efficient furnaces.

We will start with a 500-home pilot and move toward a citywide rollout by the end of the year. The cost of the work will be repaid over time on utility bills, with the energy savings repaying the loan.  Once the loan is paid off, the homeowner keeps the monthly savings, all the while enjoying the benefits of a more comfortable, more efficient, and more valuable home. This creates jobs now and keeps money in Portland in the long run. It is a critical part of the City's Climate Protection Strategy and a great example of how we can reduce carbon emissions while strengthening our local economy. And, it's a program that adds to our city's triple bottom line and is working to create long-term, living-wage jobs.

o              Businesses need to act as well.  Commercial buildings are big users of electricity.  And remember 42% of Portland electricity comes from coal-fired power plants in the Rocky Mountains and Boardman, Oregon.  And that is why today, I'm pleased to propose today that, in order to help businesses reduce their and their energy bills and carbon footprint, to those that use local suppliers, we will offer a local tax credit of up to $5,000 to businesses that install solar energy systems in the next two years.  Solar in Oregon you ask!?  Yes.  Portland has better conditions for solar energy production than the Germany, the world leader in solar installation.

o              This city is a world leader in green building. We have more LEED buildings and more LEED-accredited builders than any city in the nation. But, like all sustainability endeavors, we're facing stiff competition from cities all over the globe.

Imagine a future where every building constructed in Portland produces more energy than it consumes. Where buildings are part of, not a burden on, the overall ecological health of our region. It may sound far-fetched, but innovators in green building are aiming for this goal right now.

That's why I support putting policies in place to ensure the next generation of buildings is built at the highest possible level of energy and resource efficiency. And we're starting that now, with new commercial construction.  We'll be moving forward a policy to reward new commercial building projects that meet higher sustainability standards.

o              We will enhance and feature the sustainability of Portland's great retail districts.  Like the soon to be announced downtown signature retail district at the confluence of streetcar, light rail, bus and biking.  And we are greening local business neighborhood retail districts like Lents Town Center, Gateway and along Killingsworth.

o              Some sustainability achievements will be more challenging still. Take the north reach of the Willamette River, for example. It has the potential to one day house industrial companies that will employ thousands of workers. But it needs to be cleaned up. We need to ensure that we restore both the ecological and economic functions of that piece of our city. And that means working closely with all stakeholders as partners in this vision.

This will be hard work. But it's vitally important for both our economy and our environment. And it's why I'm so grateful to have Commissioner Fritz heading up the effort. Amanda – your work with the Office of Healthy Working Rivers is crucial. I look forward to working with you on this task. And I have full confidence in the results you and your team will deliver. Thank you, Commissioner Fritz – you're an asset to our Council and to the City of Portland.

Recently, the Oregonian editorial board wagged their finger at me for asking for comparisons of how city bureaus spend their money across the city.  They raised the concern I might be asking for too much data.  Well, I make no apologies for seeking geographic equity in city investment and provision of services.

This city council is committed embracing all of Portland.  We will do so with the upcoming development of the Portland Plan, we can look to on-the-ground examples of great, inclusive urban and community planning. One such example is the East Portland Action Plan, which is a model of community engagement.  

The East Portland Action Plan combines the community's top priorities with a strategic plan to deliver those priorities over the long term. I would be remiss if I didn't thank our city's past mayor, Tom Potter, for his leadership on this issue. Alongside Chair Wheeler and now-Senator Jeff Merkley, elected officials and the community came together to produce a powerful plan for the residents of East Portland. A plan that seeks to remedy many of the economic and social challenges facing those communities.

These sustainability efforts are as much about our quality of life as about creating a living laboratory for green excellence.  But true sustainability must be a part of, not apart from, our economic development and well-being.

Portland's welcome mat is out to any business that wants to operate in a city with that values Our economic development plan is not just about promises – it's about results.  Oregon loves dreamers, but right now Portland needs doers.

This economic development plan is based on real action items. Real metrics.  And real accountability.  The five-year action plan rests on three equally critical pillars:

Sustainable job growth: We will grow existing companies and attract firms in our target industries of clean tech, apparel and design, advanced manufacturing, and software.

Sustainable innovation: We will support the higher-education institutions and research efforts while putting on the ground eco-districts – sites that showcase the latest innovations in green building, infrastructure and development.

And, inclusive prosperity: We will ensure that our workforce development efforts match our targeted industries so that we can be sure our city's graduates are ready to fill the jobs and build the companies that will drive our city's green leadership.                And will work to insure that minorities and women workers and businesses get their fair share of the opportunities they have so long sought for and deserve.

We are going to do economic development in a way that benefits all Portlanders – big business, and local entrepreneurs. We must ensure that our produced economic benefits are enjoyed by all Portland residents.

This plan is ambitious. But already, we're seeing results.

o              First, Vestas.         We need the legislature to approve the state incentives package that will leverage up to $250 million in private investment in downtown Portland and create up to 850 new jobs.

o              Second, we also have a remarkable opportunity to leverage investment with the federal economic stimulus package or screw it up.   Federal money will flow from the federal stimulus program from 60 different spigots of funding – each with its own red-tape and mandates.  Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for this funding.  But to use it correctly we are synchronizing with the 45-odd public agencies to build a fleet-footed coordinated response that ensures that Portland is among the best-organized, competitive and prepared regions. Through this coordination, we hope to maximize the return on this investment for the benefits of Portlanders.

o              Third, we're already making headway in establishing Portland's international center of excellence. Just yesterday, in partnership with the Governor and the Oregon University System, we announced the four finalists for the feasibility and development of the Oregon Sustainability Center, future home of the Portland plus Oregon Sustainability Institute, P+OSI.  P+OSI's economic development director, Rob Bennett, will lead the coordination of the center.  Rob, please stand up to be recognized.

o              And, fourth, we have recruited a hands-on expert in for-profit sustainability to help lead our efforts.  I'd like to introduce you to Steve Straus, who I'm recommending to you as an impressive candidate for the Portland Development Commission board. As we craft an economic development strategy that positions sustainability as our region's competitive advantage, I believe Mr. Straus' experience and leadership in green building will be a perfect complement to the talents and expertise on the board.

Steve is President of Glumac, a building services engineering firm, with offices in Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Irvine and Las Vegas.  Steve leads a firm where all Principals and Associate Principals are LEED Accredited Professionals and are focused on and making a real impact on conserving our natural resources, for projects big and small. 

While we move forward on our economic development action plan, we're also finding ways to make green and sustainable projects easier to build.    

I want to thank Commissioner Randy Leonard for his leadership to improve the sometimes overly complicated and untimely city permitting process.  Randy will oversee the consolidation of permits under his Bureau of Development Services, and that means real benefits.

And I promised when I became mayor that we would find a way to streamline permitting. Especially now, in this economy, we have to make it easier for businesses, especially our small businesses, to start, grow and succeed here in Portland. 

But city efficiency won't get us all the way to where we need to be.  To be truly competitive, both nationally and internationally, we're going to need to grow our creative capacity.

o              We have completed the city's first ever Creative Capacity Strategy, which soon I will send to the City Council for their consideration.      A plan to move aggressively to find dedicated resources for arts education, operations and new investments for our for-profit creative service industries, especially our small business creative service industries.  It is why I am the first Mayor in a generation to keep the arts portfolio in my office with dedicated staff to support the issue.  Our stronger arts advocacy efforts are already paying off:

o              I'm incredibly pleased to announce that a successful T.V. series has chosen to base its production here in Portland. TNT's Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton, will begin shooting in Portland this spring. And it happened because the City of Portland worked speedily with the Governor's Office of Film and Television to pull together a package and secure the production in 48 hours. The project will bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of revenue to the Portland region.

If we want a sustainable economy, we must invest in our education and workforce development. We must ensure that our city has a workforce equipped with the skills and tools needed to build and sustain a green economy.

But education is not just about workforce development. And sustainability is not just about the environment and the economy. True sustainability must include social equity, and it's in this sector that Portland has real work to do.

o              With this in mind, I am pleased to announce today that Portland will use $8 million dollars of the federal economic stimulus package to train unemployed and dislocated workers in basic skills training, computer skills and vocational English as a second language.  We will also use this money to pay for online high-school degree completion options for adults.               

Why this?  Over 50% of the 100,000 people circling through our public workforce development system today read at a 6th grade level – there is an enormous need for basic skills training.

o              And with Chair Ted Wheeler, I am pleased to report progress on an emerging unique integrated city and county strategy called the Prosperity Alliance to provide better one-stop services to those seeking help in growing their skills and increasing their education.  Look for an announcement this summer.

Next, I also want to emphasize the importance of K-18 education to a region's economy and livability, I want to share a staggering fact with you: In the state of California, decisions made about how many prison cells to build are partially based on the reading scores of California's third-graders. And research shows that 8 out of 10 gang members are disconnected from school by academic failure, suspensions, truancy or dropout. Think about that. The chilling reality is that we pay for our investment in education – or lack thereof – one way or another.

Here's a statistic that hits closer to home: As of now, Oregon spends 3.4 times as much per prisoner as per public school pupil. Combine this with the fact that only 57 percent of Portland city students complete high school. This means a 43 percent drop-out rate. The number is even more staggering for students of color. We cannot talk about being a sustainable city and a sustainable economy if we continue to allow this kind of failure on our part.

Education has always been a top priority, and that imperative is as true now as ever. The city of Portland and Multnomah County are rich with talented and committed leaders, from the classroom to the halls of government. One of these key leaders is Chair Ted Wheeler.

Ted and I work together on our county-wide Education Strategy. And Ted makes sure the dialogue between Multnomah County and the City of Portland is always frank, forward-looking, and committed to the best results for all our citizens. Neither the city nor the county can solve this problem alone. But together we can truly make big strides forward. Ted couldn't be here today, as he tackles the county's dramatic budget challenges. But I want to personally thank Ted for his steadfast leadership and involvement.

Chair Wheeler and I have set an ambitious target – to cut by 50 percent the non-completion rate by 2013. Students who do not perform well academically in eighth grade are nearly 3 times as likely to leave school.  Identifying these students early and supporting them through key transitions can increase their likelihood of success.  

Through the Portland Multnomah Youth Corps, we will contribute to increased graduation rates linked to academic support plus career and college exposure during the crucial summer months for youth at-risk of not completing high school. And thanks to the three million dollars of crucial financial support provided by the federal economic stimulus package, we'll be able to change the lives of the 2,500 students by 2013.

To be a truly sustainable city, a basic need, like education, is our city's public safety.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman is a long-time colleague. And I've always had confidence in his abilities. But many people said that only the Mayor's office could oversee the Police Bureau. So when I announced that Dan would take on that responsibility, we all knew it would be a challenge he would take on with full faith. Well, I'm very glad to stand here and tell those naysayers that they're 100 percent wrong. The work Dan has done, alongside Police Chief Rosie Sizer, has been fantastic.

Whether it's been working to reduce gang-related crime and deliver a successful Operation Cool Down for our neighborhoods. Or working closely with the Police Bureau to reduce administrative expenses and get more officers on the streets and in the communities. If you want to know what a great police commissioner looks like, look no further than Dan Saltzman. Thank you, Dan. And thank you, Rosie.

Public safety is a priority for City Hall. It's about keeping Portland the most livable city in America.  And we need to ensure that our city remains both a wonderful and an affordable place to live.   We don't want to be Seattle or San Francisco, great as those cities might be. We want to be a better version of ourselves, a better Portland.

And that's why I'm grateful for the work Commissioner Nick Fish is doing to answer the housing challenges in our city. Whether it's been his work continuing the ten-year plan to end homelessness. Or overseeing the newly reorganized Bureau of Housing. Nick has embraced his responsibilities. And his work on affordable housing and especially green affordable housing is to be commended. This city has consistently led the nation on affordable green housing, and Nick continues to drive that leadership. Every home built in Portland should be energy efficient and foster a healthy environment. And this should be true for all homes, not just as a luxury for those who can afford it, particularly in economically hard times like these. Thank you, Nick.

Indeed, Portland, whether it's about planning neighborhoods or building businesses, knows that we are better when we work together. Already, we're seeing "better together" thinking happening across the city. One great example is in our own arts community.

We need to nurture our greatest strengths – our sense of community and looking out for one another; our belief that a sustainable way of life is in synch with, not at odds with, a strong local economy; and our innate drive to plan for the future, cultivate our resources, and share our bounty with each other.

Speaking of bounty, many of you know that vegetable gardening is a favorite pastime of mine. Maybe, as a column in the Oregonian discussed, between work and gardening, a little too much. But, it's a pastime that many Portlanders share. We as a city place great emphasis on our gardens, our farmers' markets, our fresh produce and local food.          

One amazing local nonprofit is called Growing Gardens. For more than a decade, they've organized volunteers to build organic, raised bed vegetable gardens in backyards, front yards, side yards and on balconies.   They've taught Portlanders about the sense of ownership and self-reliance that growing your own food can deliver. I bring up the example of Growing Gardens because they embody so much of what we need to do, as a community, to survive this downturn and emerge a stronger, healthier city.  I'm grateful to have their executive director here today, Debra Lippoldt, so I can thank her, her staff and the volunteers for all they've done for Portland.

But Growing Gardens is not alone. Portland boasts a breathtaking number of nonprofits, people coming together to give of their time and resources to make this City a better place. Yesterday, I met with more than 200 pastors and members of the faith community. In the 2008 Season of Service, the faith community mobilized 25,000 volunteers to give of their time for community service. And yesterday, I accepted a check on behalf of the City of Portland for 100,000 dollars from the Luis Palau Foundation. The money will be used to support homeless services and youth education. Whether people are giving time, money or their energy, Portland is better together.

In fact, Portland has always been better together.  It is in our DNA.

Office of Mayor Sam Adams
1221 SW Fourth Ave Room 220
Portland, Oregon  97204

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