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Arise, Sir Sam

Portland Knights its New Mayor

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"THERE MAY NOT BE ERMINE, and nobody may be getting tapped on the shoulder with a sword," said Parkrose School Board Chair James Woods, in his opening remarks at Sam Adams' official swearing in as mayor at Parkrose High School on Monday, January 5, "but that's because that's not the way we do things here in Portland."

Ermine is the ceremonial white fur traditionally worn by celebrated British citizens—like Sir Sean Connery and Sir Anthony Hopkins—on their way to Buckingham Palace to be knighted by the Queen of England. And while Mayor Adams' day of inauguration earlier this week may have lacked the trappings and accoutrements of a foreign monarchy elevating one of its common citizens to the aristocracy, it certainly had much the same feel.

"I don't know anybody who doesn't like him," said Gary Brown of the Northeast Business Association, grinning broadly as he introduced Adams at a breakfast on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, first thing in the morning.

"We thank you, Lord, for Sam, and all those who will help keep Sam real as he helps us to lead," prayed the Reverend William Lupfer at the conclusion of Adams' ceremony, shortly before lunch.

Indeed, it was impossible Monday to find anyone with a skeptical word about Portland's new commandant.

"I'm a big fan of letting things play out a little bit and then making a judgment call," said Sarah Anderson, owner of Anna Bannanas coffee shop in St. Johns, where Adams went for a walkabout with small business owners in the afternoon. Earlier, Anderson had asked for Adams' help filling some of the vacant storefronts in the neighborhood.

Even the recently unemployed director of the St. Johns Boosters, Gary Boehm, whose bed store closed for economic reasons in mid-December, seemed hopeful about Adams' ability to stimulate the economy when the new mayor dropped in to see him.

"How's the Murphy bed business?" asked Adams, breezing into the store after a marinated tuna sandwich and some curried vegetable soup at Ladybug Coffee, around the corner.

"The Murphy bed business is closed," said Boehm.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that, Gary," said Adams, evidently taken aback.

"That's okay," Boehm responded. "Hey, I can do you a really great deal on a Murphy bed."

One reason for Adams' overwhelming popularity so early in his term may be the perceived failures of the man he is replacing.

"It'd be hard for him to do a worse job than Tom Potter, as far as being charismatic is concerned," said Ira Ryan, a custom bike-frame builder whose designs Adams admired for a while, later in the afternoon. "He's a lot more willing to take steps forward, it seems."

Adams also comes well connected and recommended, having served as chief of staff to Potter's popular predecessor, Vera Katz, who was honored, along with Adams' mother, father, and grandmother, with a bouquet of flowers at Parkrose before the swearing in. Curiously, there were no flowers for Adams' camera-shy boyfriend, Oregonian reporter Peter Zuckerman, although he did warrant a thank you, by first name only, in Adams' acceptance speech. Potter, too, was nowhere to be seen.

As for steps forward, Adams is yet to make any, although he has hired a youthful and ambitious team of staffers (including this newspaper's former news editor, Amy J. Ruiz, on a salary of $50,000 a year) to focus on his stated priorities: the economy, education, and sustainability. Adams plans to release a plan for his first 100 days in office later this week.

In the meantime, Portlanders seem to be enjoying the ride. A party at city hall Monday night offered free beer from Roots Organic Brewing, and performances from the MarchFourth Marching Band and the Wanderlust Circus for over 500 revelers.

"I can't believe the mayor asked you for your card," said a young woman to her companion, as they stumbled away from the party across SW 5th, shortly after 6:30 pm. "It's like you're friends with him, now."

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