Adam Rahmlow interview transcript

Adam Rahmlow interview, part I: In person

Tuesday, May 17, 4:50 p.m.

Adam Rahmlow interview, part I: In person

Tuesday, May 17, 4:50 p.m.


Rahmlow: What’s up?


Vanguard: I just have a few questions for you about a story that we have coming out in our Friday issue.


Uh huh.


The story regards an incident from last August…we received some information, after the campaign was over with, that on August 7 you were arrested for—


Resisting, yeah.


Yeah, resisting arrest, and I believe, attempting to assault a police officer, uh, harassment.




And some other charges; uh, we wanted to get a reaction if we could.


Wow, what kind of reaction?




That’s interesting, because it’s a personal story.


Well, I would argue that it was a personal story until you became a publicly elected official. 


That’s fine.


I mean, particularly since there was some controversy during the campaign process about rules being broken…this can’t necessarily help your credibility. Obviously there are going to be questions from the voters. I guess the reaction we’re looking for is whether or not this impacts your ability to lead? I mean, do you think this is a good image for PSU?


Um. If anything I think it’s made me, I don’t know, it’s given me different experiences to draw from, as a citizen in the United States. I think, you know, it’s a learning opportunity. I’ve actually planned—especially now that you’re, you know, it’s…it’s public knowledge. I mean people, anybody can look it up, anybody can see what happened. I’d like the chance to, you know, personally go through the events and answer all the questions that you’re trying to answer, you know? Am I going to be a good, uh, is this going to impact my ability to lead, my credibility?

I would obviously say “no” to all of those. I think my credibility and my character goes a lot deeper than what happened one night out in Portland. But that being said, you know, it’s an important event in my life, and again, like you said, now that I’ve been elected to represent the students of Portland State, um, I would like an opportunity to personally, you know, have a connection with the voters and the students. I’m planning a press release of sorts, to answer any kind of questions or any kinds of doubts that people may have, to really hear it first hand, from me, what happened that night, how I learned from that, how the process went, what type of experience that was and, you know, how that’s impacted me as a person. And, you know, contributed to my drive as a public servant.


Is there a date planned for this event?


No, we’re still trying to figure out a room, but it’s probably going to be within a week after the story, so, not this week, but uh, next week sometime.


Was there a plea arrangement that was eventually reached in the case?


Um, they offered pleas but I took it to court, and uh, the result was, I mean, everything was dropped; I was convicted of resisting arrest and that’s it, so…


There were a lot of other charges initially; can you comment at all on how the incident came to pass, what the harassment charge was?


The jury found—I mean, the D.A. dropped most of those charges, and the jury found me not guilty of all the rest, with the exception of resisting arrest. I mean, I can’t interpret the law, but that’s the way—


Given that this took place at the Dixie Tavern, involved intoxication, and given some of your campaign literature that alluded to parties and—


Oh yeah, that. (Laughs.)


When you’re looking at charges like harassment at an establishment like that, people’s imaginations could run wild. Can you comment on that?


Oh, I think the charge of harassment was specifically to do with the bouncers and the peace officers. All of those charges were related to peace officers; no members of the public.


See, I think this is the kind of stuff that’s good to clear up. This is the kind of stuff you want people to know, I think.


Oh yeah, there was absolutely nothing to do with the public, the incident occurred between myself and a bouncer and myself and a police officer. So that’s where all the charges originated.

And again, I’m really looking forward to the chance to explain this to people because, again, like you said, some of our campaign materials alludes to, uh, social events that cater to college students. That being said, I’m a college student, I enjoy some of those same activities, uh, you know I’ve learned a lot about how to enjoy some of those, especially last summer. Um. And, you know, what’s an appropriate way to enjoy those kinds of events. That type of social engagement. But yeah, those were, all those charges were against, basically the state and the police officers. It was basically between myself and a member of the police force, which again, makes it no more or less acceptable.

So, uh, the meeting starts in about five minutes; if you want me to call you tonight and you have other questions, I can totally do that.


Sure, that would be great. It’d be good to get a little more perspective on some of this stuff.


Yeah, if you want, I mean, I have a whole binder, I mean I have a list of 35 witnesses that wrote character references for me, some of them professors here at school. Some advisors that wrote, basically character references that wrote, you know, whatever. So I have a whole binder of stuff, if you’re interested in looking at it; otherwise, I’d really like the chance to personally address the students, and maybe, I mean, it’s up to you, but maybe the story might, I don’t know, it’s up to you, but I’m really looking forward to the chance to personally address a lot of these issues.


Yeah, the story will definitely run Friday.


That’s cool. I’ll just write, like an opinion piece and just say, “Hey, we’re doing it, you know, at this time.” Just so there’s some follow up, and maybe you can write a follow up on it as well.


Yeah, well, you’re definitely welcome to write a letter to the editor.


And I’d like to think, you know, the press as well as the public made those decisions based on my experience and my ability as a student leader, and not about, you know, an event that happened last summer. For better or worse, it has come to help shape me, and is now part of my history and, and is now part of my public record. I’d like to think that the student body voted based on my merits and my ability to lead the student body and not on some event that happened, you know, last summer.

But definitely, like you said, they have the right to know and I’m going to be completely transparent about it, and I’d love the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with students, so they hear about it from me directly.


Has the administration been supportive throughout this? Do they know?


I’ve actually told them about this, yeah. Oh yeah, I’ve told them about it and they said, basically, “Look, you know, you’re in a public place and the press is the press and it’s going to come out. You’re a public figure now and you kind of have to deal with it. There’s nothing on our end that says you can’t be a good, you know, there’s nothing in the guidelines, so…” I’ve really got to get into this meeting now, but I’ll call you tonight.



Adam Rahmlow interview, part II: Telephone

Tuesday, May 17, 7:28 p.m.


Vanguard: How did the incident begin? Why were the police called, how did things develop?


Rahmlow: If you have a really good lawyer, you can work the system and get out of things okay. The police weren’t called, they were waiting outside of the Dixie Tavern. They saw a bouncer pushing me out, and me sort of struggling with the bouncer. It was just a bunch of confusion.

Just across the street from the Dixie Tavern they have an outpost; there were a bunch of cops standing outside, across the street.


What led to the bouncer pushing out into the street?


He asked me to leave. I had a cousin in from the Peace Corps, he was in town for the first time in two years. Two of my buddies from the Army Ranger program were also there; they were just getting ready to ship out to Afghanistan. It was kind of a celebratory atmosphere. My roommate fell down, which I’m pretty sure is why the bouncers asked me to leave. I was the common contact between everyone.

Right before I got to the doors I told the bouncers I wanted to real-quick talk to my friends; the bouncer then grabbed me and I got kind of defensive. That’s when the cops responded, and from what they were seeing, I don’t blame them for how they reacted. I definitely reacted very poorly. I acknowledge that.


How much had you had to drink by this point?


The night started off with happy hour at 6 [p.m.], with my aunt and my cousin. We’d been out since 6, and the incident occurred at 10 or 11. I’d had five or six drinks, so I was a little buzzed, but it was also a loud and confusing atmosphere.


Do you think the students of PSU deserve to know about all of this?


I think students have a right to know, absolutely. But for me, I want to do this also for transparency. Pearce and I ran on transparency, Pearce knows about this and Katie and lots of other people at ASPSU know about this.

Everyone has something that sets them back at some point, and I think owning up to the fact that it happened, and look, it was a position I never should have gotten myself into. I want to send a message that it’s not going to slow me down. It’s in no way defining. I want to let people know that they shouldn’t let these things slow them down. I think it’s important to own up to it.


If you agree that students have a right to know about this, why didn’t you tell them before the election? Why not give them the opportunity to make a more informed decision?

Well, I’m not going to go ahead and advertise the darkest chapter of my history. I’m not going to go out and advertise the one thing that doesn’t define me. I’m not…I don’t have a personal relationship with the voters. I’d like to build one, and I think it would have been counterproductive. I think it would be an unfair and biased opinion and a false impression.


Do you think you would have won the election if voters had known?


I can’t tell. That’s impossible to answer. The election period, especially campaigning, is too short. Regardless of the information out there, you don’t get a good balanced picture of who the candidates are. If the election period was a month or two months long, that may have been different.

My opponents definitely knew.


How do you know that your opponents knew?


Let’s just say that I heard things, whispers, rumors. They definitely knew.


Your campaign literature stated that you organized a rooftop party during Viking Days. You’ve also talked about facilitating a campus-wide party this year, and developing a committee to organize parties. Don’t you think this can be problematic considering that your arrest involved drinking to excess?


Part of my reason for doing this is that I have a pretty severe distaste for nightlife in the city, any city. If it wasn’t for my friends, I wouldn’t have been out there. I haven’t been out since. For a lot of college students I don’t think there is a healthy safe alternative. I think the school environment is a safe environment to help connect in a healthy way. In my mind, the rooftop party is, ideally, a safe place for students to get together and enjoy some of the great aspects of 21st century culture. Would you rather have your kids lie to you and go out drinking and driving, or turn a blind eye once in a while, as a parent? I think it’s better to encourage honesty, and the reality is that this is college. We don’t have a Greek life here. To be quite frank, parties are the best way to connect students. From my perspective, it also offers a really good alternative to going to the clubs.


The Spectator recently asked you for some concrete examples of how you’ll advocate for students at PSU, and you didn’t really give any. The answer that you gave was very general. If you want students to judge you based on your actions and your record, rather than just your mistakes, what should they base that on? What would you point to that’s concrete?


I’ve sponsored every piece of Senate legislation to come through the Senate this year. I sponsored every single resolution that came through the Senate floor. Last year I organized the rooftop house party. I zero’d out the campus line item. I’ve been a more productive member of ASPSU than any other member.

My highest hope as a public servant is that people judge me on what I do, in office. How I follow through with our campaign promises. Fighting tuition, which is going going to have to come in the form of popular demonstrations.

It’s not a one-man job; it would be misleading to say that I can stop tuition increases. We have to have a united student community, united student groups and even a united student press. We’re up against the state legislature and the rest of the university. I’m going to strive to create a stronger student body, a stronger student government and a stronger PSU community. I want to leave a lasting impression on PSU. I’ve got a great team. I think we attract some good quality people, quality leaders. We’re going to do the best job we can and leave ASPSU and the university ten times better than when we found it. It’s going to take participation. If we can’t mobilize the university, there’s little we can do behind closed doors with the president of the university to say, “Hey, let’s lower tuition,” without a few thousand students behind me.

I’ll do the best job anybody could, and I promise to be open to criticism; you have to be. That’s just healthy.