Sam Adams as leader of City Club: Good news for bicycling?

Sam Adams as leader of City Club: Good news for bicycling?

Adams sticking around policy debates.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Former mayor Sam Adams hasn’t taken much of a vacation after his four tumultuous years leading the city. Today the City Club of Portland named Adams their new executive director. He starts next week.

If you feel (as I do) that Sam Adams understands (and cares about) the issue of transportation — and specifically the role bicycles should play in a healthy transportation network — than this should be seen as good news.

City Club of Portland is a non-profit, member-supported organization that works to promote civic literacy (their motto is, “Good citizens are the riches of the city”). Governors and members of Congress speak at their “Friday Forums” luncheons, which are held in a large ballroom of a stuffy downtown hotel. By way of their history and membership base, City Club has significant political heft and respect among electeds and policymakers. They use that respect to elevate and take positions on important issues through the publication of policy and research papers.

I probably don’t have to remind some of you how influential (for better or for worse) their report on Forest Park was in changing the tone and political dynamics around the bike access debate back in 2010. Now they’re actively working on a comprehensive study of bicycling in Portland that’s due out this spring.

Sam Adams was known as a wonk who loved to sweat the details, type long blog posts, and debate finer points of policy. Combine that with his knowledge of city power dynamics and it’s easy to see him having a big impact on the issues City Club puts resources into. For example, could Adams encourage City Club to delve into the topic of finding new transportation revenue streams?

Portland Mercury News Editor Denis Theriault is thinking the same thing:

“I’ll be most interested, though, in how Adams might approach the group’s policy research arm. Years as the city’s chief executive never dulled his love for white papers and wonkiness—a bad thing, for some people. And good, sharp reports will let both Adams and City Club make a lot of noise.”

This town needs more noise-making. And with Adams, City Club has just added swagger, energy, and a lot of transportation policy knowledge to their team. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be listening carefully.

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