Sam Adams

Portland City Council, Position 4

Sam Adams is a candidate for Portland City Council Position No. 4. He has worked as a mayor, city commissioner, mayoral chief of staff, nonprofit leader, entrepreneur, and consultant.

He has more than 35 years of hands-on experience leading and collaborating with diverse teams to create, develop and implement policies, plans and strategies that have helped Portland, Oregon be one of the best cities (Bloomberg Businessweek 2012) and the most sustainable large city (Mother Nature Network 2009) in the nation.

Since leaving the Mayor’s office, Adams was the founding director of the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) US program, expanding WRI’s work with American states and cities, and creating new research partnerships with think tanks in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Prior to his work at WRI he served as the Executive Director of the 100-year-old civic improvement nonprofit, the City Club of Portland.

View Sam's response to the Candidate-Platform Alignment Questionnaire:

Basic Rights: I’d like to use this opportunity to focus on LGBTQ+ rights. I have been a champion of gay rights in Portland for more than 25 years. In 1994, working as Chief of Staff to Mayor Vera Katz, we secured healthcare benefits for city employee domestic partners. In 2011, I led Portland to become 3rd city in nation to offer employees’ transgender health benefits. But there’s more to be done. I want to continue to ensure that equity and representation for the LGBTQ+ community is considered in City decision making.

Economy: Below, in the first of three parts, are my ideas on local actions we can take to protect jobs and businesses and move forward our local recovery and become a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable city. You can read more about them at
● Don’t make and business losses worse with siloed government budget cuts
● Protect jobs and stimulate job creation.
● Support small business during and following the pandemic (coming soon)

Related to job protection and creation efforts, there are equity and inclusion policies and frameworks that we must be sure to consider. They include:

Worksystems, Inc., Oregon Department of Employment, Oregon Apprenticeship, Portland Clean Energy Fund, Portland Apprenticeship, PCC Apprenticeship & Trades, Proposer Portland Workforce Training, New Avenues for Youth Job Training & Employment, Central City Concern Supported Employment, and more.
We can use these frameworks to review the performance of established equity and inclusion measurable goals and metrics and inform our next steps :
● Align measurable equity and inclusion goals and measurable able goals and metrics across the jobs protection, creation and training continuum.
● In the spirit of the Green New Deal goals, strengthen combined sustainability, equity and inclusion goals, metrics cross-agency and alignments.
● Include aligned job protection, creating and training goals and metrics in agreements with contacted combined sustainability equity and inclusion goals service providers.

We are in a deep economic recession. There are many things out of our control as a city and a region. But some things are in our control, and we need to maximize our efforts when and where we can.

I. Basic Rights
We call on our state legislators to pursue universal publicly funded health care for the state of Oregon.
We call for all members of Oregon’s Congressional Delegation to co-sponsor and actively work for the passage of expanded and improved Medicare.
We support the continuation and expansion of Medicaid.
We recognize that there is a housing crisis in our local communities and across the state. We direct Multnomah County and the City of Portland to develop affordable housing for individuals and families with zero to moderate incomes. Agree
We strongly support women’s rights to reproductive freedom of choice including unfettered access to reproductive health care services regardless of their ability to pay.
We oppose any legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood.
Comments (optional) We are in a housing crisis, and it’s time for the city of Portland to start acting like it. As Mayor during the great recession I was able to cut the city budget while investing $42 million (a 30% increase) in houseless and affordable housing services. We also invested $150 million in constructing new affordable housing. I would bring that same solution oriented approach to the City Council. You can read more about my equitable, sustainable, and quickly achievable solutions to houselessness and affordable housing at
II: Natural Resources Protection and Recovery
We support passage of state legislation to change our goals for economy-wide reduction of Oregon’s Greenhouse Gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and at least 50% reduction by 2035. Agree
We support the development and passage of legislation to provide mandates and incentives to:

• Expand public transportation systems; Advance an early transition to electric and zero-emission vehicles;
• Advance weatherization and structural improvements in existing buildings; Support implementation of solar energy production;
• Advance new net-zero-energy buildings and methane-free new construction; Incentivize energy efficiency in Oregon’s industries;
• Improve tree canopy and rooftop plantings where possible in all urban areas to reduce heat island effect;
• Require that electricity be produced entirely by renewable sources by 2040 and require net zero carbon building codes by 2030.

We support the development and passage of a Forest Protection and Restoration Act that will:

• Eliminate clear-cut forestry on all publicly held and managed lands and maximize climate resilient management;
• Eliminate all tax incentives to industrial forests not employing climate resilient management practices that re-establish multi-species and multi-aged forests, including protecting riparian areas that will lower stream temperature for fish habitat, restore intact functioning watershed areas, reduce landslides, protect municipal water supplies, and restore floodplain functioning to Oregon’s rivers and streams;
• Maintain incentives and subsidize independent landholders who engage in these practices;
• Reduce roads in forests; Develop and implement treatments to restore healthy forest soils;
• Accelerate programs to reduce and eventually eliminate forest stream passage barriers in Oregon;
• And re-evaluate the property tax structure for Oregon’s commercial forests.

We support a ban for any new fossil fuel infrastructure. Agree
Comments (optional) I visited cities all over the world when I served the Director of the United States program for the World Resources Institute. Portland can do much better. I believe that Portland needs to recommit itself to achieving the goals and benchmarks laid out in the Portland Climate Plan. As Mayor, I led the creation of that plan, Portland’s first, and still believe that we need to strive to meet the goals we set for ourselves. Some of them are quite ambitious, but I believe as a city and a council we can think creatively to determine the correct course of action. Reaching our goals is critical to achieving environmental justice for all our citizens, and creating a more equitable and sustainable city for all Portlanders.
“Sam deepened and grew WRI’s climate action research and educational work in the United States and beyond. At a time when this country needed it most, Sam and his team, with evidence-based research and recommendations, pushed back on those that sought to dismiss the root causes of our collective climate crisis. And as co-manager of the launch of America’s Pledge, he showed how cities can and should step up their climate actions efforts.” Paula Caballero, World Resources Institute, former Director of the Global Climate Action Program*
III: Education
We call for legislation compelling large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes toward full funding to ensure the future of Oregon education Agree
We support public funding of a full-day, full-year, universal public preschool program for children age 3 to 4 in Multnomah County that is high quality, playbased, culturally responsive, and developmentally appropriate for young children. Agree
We recognize that poverty is a systemic problem embedded in society at large and believe that schools can be responsive in addressing poverty-related traumas, including the effects on highly mobile students. Therefore, we recommend that funding be invested in PreK-12 wrap-around services including mentoring, after-school programs, counselors, culturally relevant curriculum and instruction, and critical race theory initiatives, and other programs that have been proven effective in assuring student success. Agree
Comments (optional) I am a product and strong proponent of public education. I firmly believe that a city is only as good as it’s public schools. If we hope for a better future for Portland then we must invest in educating our future voters and decision makers. This includes the full spectrum of educational programming required to achieve balance, equity, and real results.
IV: Equity
We call for proactive educational programs for all law enforcement personnel and for all local, city, county, and state government personnel to safeguard black and brown lives and protect them from race-based law enforcement actions that far too often end in death. Agree
We demand equal pay for equal work for women from all employers in Multnomah County. Agree
Black Lives Matter. We call for legislation that provides meaningful protection for African Americans at all levels of the justice system Agree
Comments (optional) A huge division exists in Portland between those that have input in our City’s guiding decisions and those who do not. As a city, we are not alone in having these problems, but we must help to address them. We can do this by providing these groups a platform for real input City Hall decision making.
I propose to create official city commissions of historically marginalized stakeholders to create four official city commissions that would provide historically disempowered stakeholders a voice inside the city government’s decision making.
Black and African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders; Native Americans; and, Latinx, Hispanic: Create these four commissions including the diversity within each group, such as women renters, and LGBTQI+. These commissions should have that same standing as neighborhood associations on land use issues. They could be empowered to bring in elected officials and city bureau to examine equity and inclusion practices in services, hiring, budgeting and contracting.
Portland’s nonprofit and private-sector employers also need to provide services, opportunities for minorities and women, and improve the diversity of their workforce and leadership.
V: Tribal Sovereignty
We call for universal, publicly funded health care to close health disparities exacerbated by Congress chronically under-funding Indian Health Service. Agree
We demand compliance with treaties between the United States and Tribal nations and hold the federal government to their trust responsibility. Agree
We support legislation that fully funds teams of investigators to work in consultation with Tribal authorities to respond to each murder and disappearance of Native American persons anywhere in Oregon. Agree
Comments (optional) We need to do more to support Oregon’s Tribal communities. Just down the road from my home in Concordia is the newly opened Nesika Illahee affordable housing community developed in partnership with the Siletz tribes to address homelessness. Venues and communities like this one are vital in making sure Tribal communities not only have the resources they need, but also the voice needed to have their concerns heard.
“He spoke up for it, pushed for it, made changes for it -as the arts commissioner, Sam knows a strong, diverse, inclusive and equitable local arts and culture community can bring our entire city together.” Phillip Hillaire, Artist and culturalist, member of Co-Salish Nation, East Portland resident
VI. Historical and Ongoing Anti-Blackness in Oregon
We call on the Oregon State Legislature to immediately assess the Black correctional populations at the county, city, and state levels.
We also demand that there be review of punishments (bail amounts, sentence lengths, amount of time served before parole) being levied at unfairly high levels on Black Oregonians. This is particularly important for disparities based on gender and race for similar crimes to other racial/ethnic groups.
We demand there be significant Criminal Justice reform in the form of investment into counseling, alternative sentencing, job training, and rehabilitation for Oregon’s over-incarcerated Black population.
We call on the Oregon State Legislature to authorize bank audits to expose patterns of racial discrimination in lending and require these banks to extend loans to Black businesses and Black institutions. Wells Fargo and Umpqua received bailout from taxpayers and owe a debt to all taxpayers regardless of race. Additionally, Wells Fargo has a long and storied history of using predatory schemes to extract wealth from Black communities. Increasing SBA loans to Black businesses would be an excellent way for banks to begin to redress the past harms they have inflicted on Black communities. Agree
The Oregon State Legislature must create a law that mandates public schools in the state teach students about America’s original sin of slavery and the Jim Crow era that followed, with an emphasis on the state of Oregon.
The legislation should also incentivize the training, hiring, and retention of Black American teachers to teach the aforementioned subject matters. This will help address the Black teacher shortage in Oregon.
Comments (optional)
VII. Justice
We call for the repeal of all mandatory minimum sentencing in Oregon, substituting Guidelines in its place, and allowing a judge to have discretion in all cases. Agree
We call on the State Legislature to pass pay equity legislation for Public Defenders and Prosecutors and their staffs. Agree
The Oregon Legislature should do away with cash bail, which discriminates against poor people, who are disproportionally people of color. Agree
We believe that the voters of Oregon should abolish the Death Penalty and life without parole sentencing. Agree
Comments (optional) I also agree with the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling on unanimous juries and think it will have a positive impact on our state’s legal due process.
VIII. Election Integrity and Legislative Alignment
We demand campaign finance reform.
We demand that the state Attorney General challenge corporate personhood, and that state and federal legislators pass laws and a constitutional amendment clarifying that corporations are not people and money is not speech
We encourage voters to pass an Oregon constitutional amendment to allow the state to regulate political contributions and expenditures.
We call for Oregon state legislation to set limits on contributions by individuals, PACS, corporations, and unions to candidates, candidate committees, political party committees and any other political committee
We support legislation that requires voter-verifiable paper ballots in all elections, and tabulation software that is open source, non-proprietary, and available for public scrutiny and analysis with source code that is verified using a public method by qualified third parties independent of any political party or vendor, and that guarantees secure chains of custody so there can be no modifications after certification. Agree
Comments (optional) I am proud to be running a campaign that follows Portland’s Open and Accountable Elections law. I was also happy that the Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Multnomah County campaign donation limits approved by voters in a 2016 ballot measure are permissible under Oregon law. I believe it is an important step in upholding our democracy.
IX. Media
We support a comprehensive net neutral public utility to provide state of the art internet access to serve all end users. Agree
We support the full funding of Public Broadcasting stations and networks, possibly supplemented by small donations from the public, to eliminate the inhibition of investigative reporting of sponsoring entities.
We support the development of ways to assure stable funding well-protected from political interference.
We support corporate responsibility with the management of our personal data. We demand internet media companies pay individuals for use of their personal data, and if there is a data breach to pay for all damages. Agree
Comments (optional)
X. Economy
We support breaking up monopolies, starting with barring Internet common carriers (i.e. Google, Facebook) from competing with businesses that use them. Agree
We support the creation of a public bank in Portland/Oregon Agree
We support the creation of either a cap-and-trade program or a carbon tax with dividend to recognize the need to eliminate fossil fuel use as one means to fight global warming. Agree
Comments (optional)
XI. Labor and Workers’ Rights
We call for the decriminalization of paid sexual acts between consenting adults and legislation allowing sex workers to organize. Agree
We oppose all legislation that diminishes workers’ rights to organize. Agree
We support legislation requiring retraining of displaced workers. We call for state and federal legislation to provide transition plans as technology and innovation change the workplace Agree
Comments (optional) I come from a union family and am a strong advocate for labor. I am proud to already carry the endorsements of many unions, and hope to earn the support of more throughout this election. My current endorsements include:
XII. Immigration
We call on the Federal Government to never take immigrant children away from their detained parents and to reunite families that have already been separated. Agree
We call on every member of the Oregon Congressional delegation to cosponsor and actively work for the passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM Act). Agree
We call on the State and local governments of Oregon to adopt policies that protect immigrants from unlawful enforcement of immigration laws. In addition, we call on the institutions to not participate in the enforcement of Federal immigration laws Agree
Comments (optional)
XIII. Infrastructure
We support legislation to promote and implement high-speed rail or other high-speed technology, including monorail, within Oregon and along the West Coast. Agree
We support construction of renewable energy facilities or facilities that include carbon sequestration technology. Agree
We support public funding for electric vehicle infrastructure throughout Oregon. Agree
Comments (optional) I believe clean energy infrastructure to not only be good for our environment, but also the economy of our city and state. As Mayor, I led the city to a more equitable and sustainable future, and would do the same on City Council. Projects like those listed above create jobs for Oregonians in a time when we desperately need them.
XIV. Abuse of Power
We support efforts to stipulate that corporations are not people, and money is not speech. Agree
We call for responding to drug addiction with treatment not imprisonment. Agree
We support legislation holding law enforcement personnel liable for inflicting harm through the use of excessive force. Agree
Comments (optional) I believe that the City of Portland must regain local control over the conduct of its police officers. The current policies and procedures are overly advisory as long as arbitrators can overturn the approved discipline of police officers. I have firsthand fired and disciplined police officers based on the merits, only to have my decisions overturned.
This year, Portland Senator Lew Frederick offered an important step in the right direction. Senate Bill 1567 provides local governments with the control and oversight tools they need to address disciplinary issues within their police departments. The vast majority of police are hard-working officers, and everyone deserves due process and fair treatment in the workplace. We need Senator Frederick’s bill to place control over police bureaus back in the hands of local elected officials where it belongs.