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Category: The Race for Mayor 2012

Charlie Hales will be Portland’s next mayor

Charlie Hales will be Portland’s next mayor

Charlie Hales

Your next mayor.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)


Charlie Hales has easily won the race for Portland mayor. Last time I checked, he had 67% of the votes, compared to 33% for Jefferson Smith.

In his acceptance speech tonight, Hales said he’d, “Refocus on basic services” and that his administration, “would not rest until there’s a quality school in every neighborhood and a police bureau that reflects our values.”

On KGW-TV after Hales’ speech, Commissioner Nick Fish elaborated on what Hales means when he says, “refocus on basic services.” “There’s a perception,” Fish said, “that council has been going in too many directions” and that it has “not had a clear focus.” “We’re not going to be as ambitious. These are tough times, and people expect us to tighten our belts.”

Sunday Parkways North Portland 2012-6

charlie hales bike sticker

Hales had support from many local transportation advocates — including former PBOT bike coordinator and Alta Planning President Mia Birk — yet he didn’t win the endorsement of the Bike Walk Vote PAC. Hales laid out an active transportation platform back in September after holding a roundtable on the topic; but I didn’t find it very exciting.

Hales also came under fire here on BikePortland for trumpeting an article from The Oregonian that was clearly biased against bicycles and that I felt was misleading and inaccurate. Despite widespread condemnation of the article, Hales featured it front and center on his website. He initially defended his use of the article, but ultimately removed all references to it from his website.

Hales was a Portland City Commissioner beginning in 1992, but left mid-way through his third term to take a position with a consulting firm that promoted streetcars in cities throughout the country.

Hales rides a bike regularly and he’s clearly sensitive to bike access issues. He also has a solid transportation track record. However, so far he has been short on specifics when it comes to if/how he’ll change the existing status quo.

I’ll share more thoughts in the coming days and weeks; but at this point I’m just looking forward to turning over a new leaf at City Hall.

For more on Hales, read my interview with him from back in December.

P.S. Obama won!!

Charlie Hales will be Portland’s next mayor

Charlie Hales will be Portland’s next mayor

Charlie Hales

Your next mayor.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)


Charlie Hales has easily won the race for Portland mayor. Last time I checked, he had 67% of the votes, compared to 33% for Jefferson Smith.

In his acceptance speech tonight, Hales said he’d, “Refocus on basic services” and that his administration, “would not rest until there’s a quality school in every neighborhood and a police bureau that reflects our values.”

On KGW-TV after Hales’ speech, Commissioner Nick Fish elaborated on what Hales means when he says, “refocus on basic services.” “There’s a perception,” Fish said, “that council has been going in too many directions” and that it has “not had a clear focus.” “We’re not going to be as ambitious. These are tough times, and people expect us to tighten our belts.”

Sunday Parkways North Portland 2012-6

charlie hales bike sticker

Hales had support from many local transportation advocates — including former PBOT bike coordinator and Alta Planning President Mia Birk — yet he didn’t win the endorsement of the Bike Walk Vote PAC. Hales laid out an active transportation platform back in September after holding a roundtable on the topic; but I didn’t find it very exciting.

Hales also came under fire here on BikePortland for trumpeting an article from The Oregonian that was clearly biased against bicycles and that I felt was misleading and inaccurate. Despite widespread condemnation of the article, Hales featured it front and center on his website. He initially defended his use of the article, but ultimately removed all references to it from his website.

Hales was a Portland City Commissioner beginning in 1992, but left mid-way through his third term to take a position with a consulting firm that promoted streetcars in cities throughout the country.

Hales rides a bike regularly and he’s clearly sensitive to bike access issues. He also has a solid transportation track record. However, so far he has been short on specifics when it comes to if/how he’ll change the existing status quo.

I’ll share more thoughts in the coming days and weeks; but at this point I’m just looking forward to turning over a new leaf at City Hall.

For more on Hales, read my interview with him from back in December.

P.S. Obama won!!

New documentary shows mayoral candidate Hales as Critical Mass supporter

New documentary shows mayoral candidate Hales as Critical Mass supporter

Hales being interviewed in 2010 for
a documentary about Critical Mass.

Charlie Hales, the leading candidate for Portland mayor, rode undercover on Critical Mass during his previous tenure as a city council member. People who were on the 2001 ride say his presence — and his testimony about it that ran counter to the version being told by the Portland Police Bureau — had a major impact on how participants were treated. The story of Hales’ involvement with the ride is part of a forthcoming documentary called Aftermass by local filmmaker Joe Biel.

Hales served as Transportation Commissioner during his stint on Portland City Council from 1993 to 2002.

Biel released an unfinished clip today that features an interview with Hales from August 2010 (when Hales was already considering a mayoral run) where he speaks about his decision to join the Critical Mass ride. “I wanted to see how people were being treated,” he said.

Here’s more from the interview:

“I had heard the concerns from the community about how the Police Bureau was comporting themselves… and I agreed where they [Critical Mass participants] were going from a political and policy standpoint, so there are times when it’s just better to show up and be there and change the dynamic with your presence; and I thought, I can do that. Because, if a sitting city commissioner was sitting on a bike seat, going down the street and the Police Bureau knew that, they would, perhaps act differently.”

And they did.

At the time, the Police Bureau was still locked into a cat-and-mouse, ‘we must stop the anarchists!’ mentality when it came to dealing the ride. Also speaking in the clip is veteran bike activist (now lawyer) Mark Ginsberg. Ginsberg said at the ride Hales attended undercover, the police officers were “really aggressive.” When those officers reported back to city council that the riders were unruly, Ginsberg says Hales was there to disagree. “Charlie said ‘No, that’s not how it’s happening on the street.’… He said, ‘I was there’ and that wasn’t his experience.”

Ginsberg went on to say that Hales’ attendance, and his willingness to stand up to the police, helped spur a conversation at city council to revise the PPB’s enforcement strategy.

Another activist who rode in many Critical Mass rides at the time, Fred Nemo, said Hales’ involvement had an immediate impact: “When Charlie Hales came in, our escorts became bicycle cops instead of motorcycle cops and they spoke to us courteously and had fun on the rides. When Charlie Hales went out, it returned to apartheid.”

Later in the interview, Hales elaborated on his position about Critical Mass:

“What I was concerned about was the fact that the police thought this was even a big deal at all. I thought, hey, these are just some people riding bikes. If somebody gets hurt, they’ll call 911; but why don’t we just leave these folks alone? And I thought that would have been a better strategy on their part.”

Watch the video below:

This clip shows a side of Hales that we haven’t seen on the campaign trail. On the contrary, Hales has seemed less the activist than his competitor, Jefferson Smith. I’ve criticized Hales for what I’ve sees as his attempts to perpetuate to the false narrative that “bike projects” are unfairly siphoning all of PBOT’s funding and that Portland needs a “roads first” approach (which I see as code for ‘stop wasting money and time on bikes’). It’s great to see him in this light, as someone who is not afraid to lead based on what they truly believe in — not what they think will get them the most votes. It makes me wonder thought, why hasn’t Hales mentioned his Critical Mass involvement in stump speeches? It certainly seems like something he should be proud of.

Smith, Hales asked about bicycling goals at City Club debate

Smith, Hales asked about bicycling goals at City Club debate

Hales and Smith at City Club today.
(Image: Screen grab from live stream)

Mayoral candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales shared their visions at a City Club debate at the Governor Hotel in Portland today. The debate was moderated by Tracy Barry of KGW-TV. Transportation came up several times during the debate, and one of Barry’s questions asked specifically about our bicycling goals.

Here’s the question she posed:

The current City Council has committed Portland to pursuing policies that will lead to 25% of all the trips within the city to be made by bicycles and 25% by public transportation by 2030. Is this a realistic goal? And what will you do in the next four years to advance it; especially in light of tight budgets that have curtailed mass transit and may actually pit bicyclists against motorists in the quest for infrastructure improvements?

Here’s how Smith answered:

“I hope it’s realistic. If we’re going to grow at 5,000 to 6,000 people a year, we just don’t have room for 5,000 to 6,000 cars a year, so we’ve got to figure out ways for people to move around the city that include cars, but aren’t limited to it.

I also… hope we won’t frame the debate as we have too often as bicycles vs. cars. The way I look at the future tea leaves, I see an aging community, I see retirees. We have more baby-boomers retiring that are not using primarily even cars or bikes. We need an age-friendly transportation system that works whether you’re 8 or 80.

Some ways we can do that: First, we need to plan our city for fewer* short trips (*pretty sure he misspoke and meant more short trips); second, we need look at a broad-based transportation [funding] package; third, we’ve got to be cost-conscious with streetcars, CRC’s [Columbia River Crossing project], etc..”

And here’s Hales’ response:

“Of course it’s not realistic. It’s ambitious, and it’s wonderful. And that’s why we are Portland and we are that national model.

When I left office there were 4,000 bike commuters a day coming to downtown Portland, now there are 16,000. That’s not realistic, so we need to keep being unrealistic in that way.

Now, we need to be good stewards of the transportation system that we have and put more money into basic maintenance, pave the streets, and show people that we are managing their money well, and that we’re not spending it all on bike lanes; but we need to keep building that city of the future even when we pave the cracks in the city that we have.”

Both of the candidates’ answers riffed off themes they’ve repeated throughout their campaigns. Unfortunately, neither candidate really addressed the question of how they’d advance the bicycling goal. I look forward to asking them myself, but I would have loved for them to share that with the broader audience that was watching this debate.

I think it’s also worth noting, that given all the issue the moderator could have asked about, she felt the Bike Plan for 2030 and how we’ll achieve our bicycling goals was worthy of time. That’s a good sign.

You can listen to full audio of the debate at PDXCityClub.org.

Smith, Hales asked about bicycling goals at City Club debate

Smith, Hales asked about bicycling goals at City Club debate

Hales and Smith at City Club today.
(Image: Screen grab from live stream)

Mayoral candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales shared their visions at a City Club debate at the Governor Hotel in Portland today. The debate was moderated by Tracy Barry of KGW-TV. Transportation came up several times during the debate, and one of Barry’s questions asked specifically about our bicycling goals.

Here’s the question she posed:

The current City Council has committed Portland to pursuing policies that will lead to 25% of all the trips within the city to be made by bicycles and 25% by public transportation by 2030. Is this a realistic goal? And what will you do in the next four years to advance it; especially in light of tight budgets that have curtailed mass transit and may actually pit bicyclists against motorists in the quest for infrastructure improvements?

Here’s how Smith answered:

“I hope it’s realistic. If we’re going to grow at 5,000 to 6,000 people a year, we just don’t have room for 5,000 to 6,000 cars a year, so we’ve got to figure out ways for people to move around the city that include cars, but aren’t limited to it.

I also… hope we won’t frame the debate as we have too often as bicycles vs. cars. The way I look at the future tea leaves, I see an aging community, I see retirees. We have more baby-boomers retiring that are not using primarily even cars or bikes. We need an age-friendly transportation system that works whether you’re 8 or 80.

Some ways we can do that: First, we need to plan our city for fewer* short trips (*pretty sure he misspoke and meant more short trips); second, we need look at a broad-based transportation [funding] package; third, we’ve got to be cost-conscious with streetcars, CRC’s [Columbia River Crossing project], etc..”

And here’s Hales’ response:

“Of course it’s not realistic. It’s ambitious, and it’s wonderful. And that’s why we are Portland and we are that national model.

When I left office there were 4,000 bike commuters a day coming to downtown Portland, now there are 16,000. That’s not realistic, so we need to keep being unrealistic in that way.

Now, we need to be good stewards of the transportation system that we have and put more money into basic maintenance, pave the streets, and show people that we are managing their money well, and that we’re not spending it all on bike lanes; but we need to keep building that city of the future even when we pave the cracks in the city that we have.”

Both of the candidates’ answers riffed off themes they’ve repeated throughout their campaigns. Unfortunately, neither candidate really addressed the question of how they’d advance the bicycling goal. I look forward to asking them myself, but I would have loved for them to share that with the broader audience that was watching this debate.

I think it’s also worth noting, that given all the issue the moderator could have asked about, she felt the Bike Plan for 2030 and how we’ll achieve our bicycling goals was worthy of time. That’s a good sign.

You can listen to full audio of the debate at PDXCityClub.org.

The mayoral candidates weigh in on transportation funding

The mayoral candidates weigh in on transportation funding

“The Bureau of Transportation has been facing budget challenges for several years; how will you as mayor create a sustainable source of revenue or otherwise ensure that the bureau has the resources it needs over the long haul?”
—Question for mayoral candidates at recent Women’s Transportation Seminar luncheon

With the election just over a month away, it’s time to get serious about deciding who will be our next mayor. A Survey USA poll released by KATU News last week showed that 34 percent say they’ll vote for Charlie Hales, 29 percent are going for Jefferson Smith, and a whopping 37 percent are undecided.

That’s a lot of undecideds.

On September 11th, Hales and Smith were guests at the monthly luncheon of the Portland chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, a group that promotes the advancement of women in the transportation industry. It wasn’t a back-and-forth debate, but the candidates got into some good detail on important policy issues. I wasn’t there, but I’ve obtained an audio recording of the event and want to share some of their answers with you.

One of the questions they were asked was about transportation funding. The question is below and it’s followed by a transcript of each candidate’s answer (which are pretty much verbatim, give or take a word or two):

“The Bureau of Transportation has been facing budget challenges for several years; how will you as mayor create a sustainable source of revenue or otherwise ensure that the bureau has the resources it needs over the long haul?”

Here’s Jefferson Smith’s answer:

Jefferson Smith-3

Jefferson Smith

“Everyone I’ve talked to who understands transportation knows we don’t have sufficient gas tax revenues to keep pace with current and anticipated transportation needs. That’s true of developers, of shippers, truckers, pedestrian advocates, and bicycle advocates. So, I think what we need is a coalition of folks, of maybe not so odd and maybe sometimes odd bedfellows, and then we have to figure out what we want to do. I do think there’s an opportunity with front page stories about how we’ve had to reduce maintenance, to have that conversation with the city and say, ‘Yeah, we have a lot of unimproved roads and we have to pay for that somehow — and by the way, it’s not bike lanes’ fault!

And I alone can say I did not hop onto The Oregonian’s basic frame of re-posting their article; which essentially said the reason we have so many potholes is because of bike lanes. What I know is that our entire bike network cost about $60 million and that’s a little over 1/3 of just planning, lobbying and consulting on the Columbia River Crossing project…

Now what kind of money might we look at? I think we [Charlie and I] agree on some little things — like an airport surcharge and then give free access to TriMet, using parking facilities with more variable prices so we’re using our resources a little more smartly — to things that are a little bigger like a utility fee. The good news politically, about a utility fee, is that everyone would pay for it and we could make the case that it would include bicyclists. Of course, a lot of the people that ride bicycles, I think 90% of them also pay car fees.

Ultimately what it will require is will. And there have been proposals for transportation funding in the past and they have been set aside. The next transportation commissioner, with the support of the next mayor — and I will probably will not be the next transportation commissioner even if I am elected mayor — will need the will and to build the political coalition necessary to pass whatever it is. And I bet the frame will be around basics and not merely about green streets, even if some of what we define as basics has significant overlap.”


And here’s how Charlie Hales answered:

Charlie Hales

Charlie Hales

“Let me tell you the sequence of how I’ll approach this set of questions. Because how you lead matters and this sequence will make sense to those of you that have worked on these kind of budget issues before. First, if I’m your mayor, I will assign all of the bureaus to myself for the first three months; something that Mayor Katz did effectively and it’s an effective antidote to the tendency of the commissioner form of government in Portland to drift into being five little mayors with their own agendas.

During that period, we will do really serious, heads-up strategic planning; not just among ourselves but with our partners at TriMet and Metro and Multnomah County, because so much that this city does is intertwined with what those other agencies do with their services. And we will prepare our budget at the city as a board of directors with all of us taking responsibility for the whole enterprise. It won’t be just the transportation commissioner’s problem that there’s not enough money to maintain the streets and build out the bikeway network. Then I’ll assign the bureaus to each of us to carry out that shared agenda.

Then, in transportation in particular, we need to both build the public’s confidence that we are taking care of the assets that we have, and communicate what we’re doing better. Because I can tell you from campaigning in the last year there are a lot of citizens out there who rightly or wrongly believe… wrongly actually [crowd laughs]… believe that the city is spending all of their money on bike lanes and that’s why the streets are going to hell. And we need to both make a larger commitment to maintenance itself and communicate what we’re doing to people first and clearly.

Regardless of how I assign the transportation bureau; again as your mayor, I know that will be my responsibility. You need to use the bully pulpit of mayor to advance that shared agenda.

Now, once we reach that point — clarity in our own budget, hopefully a better understanding in the community about how much money we have and what we’re doing with it — we’re going to need new resources. One is a street utility fee, another is a local gas tax focused on street repair and construction. Now we all know the gas tax is a dinosaur but it might work a little longer to catch us up and help us build out the 60 miles of un-built streets. At the regional or state level I would love to see us move to a VMT charge [vehicle miles traveled, read more about that here]. And of course as a regionalist, I’ll support a regional approach wherever possible — but we do have 60 miles of un-built streets, we’re not keeping up with our maintenance obligation, and we have a capital plan that needs a lot of help. So I believe and I expect that no matter what we do regionally we’ll still have to be willing to stick out our necks locally. And I will.”

——

What stands out to me about these answers is that it doesn’t seem as though Smith or Hales will keep the transportation bureau if they are elected. That’s actually very common. Mayor Sam Adams took on the bureau because he had it as a commissioner and he loves the job; but most local pundits agree that it’s simply too big (and thankless, and often controversial) for the Mayor to do. I’m looking forward to not having a mayor lead PBOT because I think it makes transportation even more politicized and potentially controversial. (This of course begs a discussion of which commissioner should oversee PBOT. I’ll save that for a separate post.)

Also noteworthy is how both candidates support a street utility fee. If they do take up that initiative, they’ll have a lot of groundwork already laid for them. Before he became mayor, Sam Adams attempted to implement a “street fee” via the “Safe Sound & Green Streets” effort he pushed through City Council in 2008. Adams’ effort ultimately unraveled and didn’t come to pass; but I’m sure the next mayor will dust off that effort and give it another go ’round.

What do you think? Did these answers help clarify your choice for mayor?

— For more coverage of the mayoral race, browse the BikePortland archives.

The mayoral candidates weigh in on transportation funding

The mayoral candidates weigh in on transportation funding

“The Bureau of Transportation has been facing budget challenges for several years; how will you as mayor create a sustainable source of revenue or otherwise ensure that the bureau has the resources it needs over the long haul?”
—Question for mayoral candidates at recent Women’s Transportation Seminar luncheon

With the election just over a month away, it’s time to get serious about deciding who will be our next mayor. A Survey USA poll released by KATU News last week showed that 34 percent say they’ll vote for Charlie Hales, 29 percent are going for Jefferson Smith, and a whopping 37 percent are undecided.

That’s a lot of undecideds.

On September 11th, Hales and Smith were guests at the monthly luncheon of the Portland chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, a group that promotes the advancement of women in the transportation industry. It wasn’t a back-and-forth debate, but the candidates got into some good detail on important policy issues. I wasn’t there, but I’ve obtained an audio recording of the event and want to share some of their answers with you.

One of the questions they were asked was about transportation funding. The question is below and it’s followed by a transcript of each candidate’s answer (which are pretty much verbatim, give or take a word or two):

“The Bureau of Transportation has been facing budget challenges for several years; how will you as mayor create a sustainable source of revenue or otherwise ensure that the bureau has the resources it needs over the long haul?”

Here’s Jefferson Smith’s answer:

Jefferson Smith-3

Jefferson Smith

“Everyone I’ve talked to who understands transportation knows we don’t have sufficient gas tax revenues to keep pace with current and anticipated transportation needs. That’s true of developers, of shippers, truckers, pedestrian advocates, and bicycle advocates. So, I think what we need is a coalition of folks, of maybe not so odd and maybe sometimes odd bedfellows, and then we have to figure out what we want to do. I do think there’s an opportunity with front page stories about how we’ve had to reduce maintenance, to have that conversation with the city and say, ‘Yeah, we have a lot of unimproved roads and we have to pay for that somehow — and by the way, it’s not bike lanes’ fault!

And I alone can say I did not hop onto The Oregonian’s basic frame of re-posting their article; which essentially said the reason we have so many potholes is because of bike lanes. What I know is that our entire bike network cost about $60 million and that’s a little over 1/3 of just planning, lobbying and consulting on the Columbia River Crossing project…

Now what kind of money might we look at? I think we [Charlie and I] agree on some little things — like an airport surcharge and then give free access to TriMet, using parking facilities with more variable prices so we’re using our resources a little more smartly — to things that are a little bigger like a utility fee. The good news politically, about a utility fee, is that everyone would pay for it and we could make the case that it would include bicyclists. Of course, a lot of the people that ride bicycles, I think 90% of them also pay car fees.

Ultimately what it will require is will. And there have been proposals for transportation funding in the past and they have been set aside. The next transportation commissioner, with the support of the next mayor — and I will probably will not be the next transportation commissioner even if I am elected mayor — will need the will and to build the political coalition necessary to pass whatever it is. And I bet the frame will be around basics and not merely about green streets, even if some of what we define as basics has significant overlap.”


And here’s how Charlie Hales answered:

Charlie Hales

Charlie Hales

“Let me tell you the sequence of how I’ll approach this set of questions. Because how you lead matters and this sequence will make sense to those of you that have worked on these kind of budget issues before. First, if I’m your mayor, I will assign all of the bureaus to myself for the first three months; something that Mayor Katz did effectively and it’s an effective antidote to the tendency of the commissioner form of government in Portland to drift into being five little mayors with their own agendas.

During that period, we will do really serious, heads-up strategic planning; not just among ourselves but with our partners at TriMet and Metro and Multnomah County, because so much that this city does is intertwined with what those other agencies do with their services. And we will prepare our budget at the city as a board of directors with all of us taking responsibility for the whole enterprise. It won’t be just the transportation commissioner’s problem that there’s not enough money to maintain the streets and build out the bikeway network. Then I’ll assign the bureaus to each of us to carry out that shared agenda.

Then, in transportation in particular, we need to both build the public’s confidence that we are taking care of the assets that we have, and communicate what we’re doing better. Because I can tell you from campaigning in the last year there are a lot of citizens out there who rightly or wrongly believe… wrongly actually [crowd laughs]… believe that the city is spending all of their money on bike lanes and that’s why the streets are going to hell. And we need to both make a larger commitment to maintenance itself and communicate what we’re doing to people first and clearly.

Regardless of how I assign the transportation bureau; again as your mayor, I know that will be my responsibility. You need to use the bully pulpit of mayor to advance that shared agenda.

Now, once we reach that point — clarity in our own budget, hopefully a better understanding in the community about how much money we have and what we’re doing with it — we’re going to need new resources. One is a street utility fee, another is a local gas tax focused on street repair and construction. Now we all know the gas tax is a dinosaur but it might work a little longer to catch us up and help us build out the 60 miles of un-built streets. At the regional or state level I would love to see us move to a VMT charge [vehicle miles traveled, read more about that here]. And of course as a regionalist, I’ll support a regional approach wherever possible — but we do have 60 miles of un-built streets, we’re not keeping up with our maintenance obligation, and we have a capital plan that needs a lot of help. So I believe and I expect that no matter what we do regionally we’ll still have to be willing to stick out our necks locally. And I will.”

——

What stands out to me about these answers is that it doesn’t seem as though Smith or Hales will keep the transportation bureau if they are elected. That’s actually very common. Mayor Sam Adams took on the bureau because he had it as a commissioner and he loves the job; but most local pundits agree that it’s simply too big (and thankless, and often controversial) for the Mayor to do. I’m looking forward to not having a mayor lead PBOT because I think it makes transportation even more politicized and potentially controversial. (This of course begs a discussion of which commissioner should oversee PBOT. I’ll save that for a separate post.)

Also noteworthy is how both candidates support a street utility fee. If they do take up that initiative, they’ll have a lot of groundwork already laid for them. Before he became mayor, Sam Adams attempted to implement a “street fee” via the “Safe Sound & Green Streets” effort he pushed through City Council in 2008. Adams’ effort ultimately unraveled and didn’t come to pass; but I’m sure the next mayor will dust off that effort and give it another go ’round.

What do you think? Did these answers help clarify your choice for mayor?

— For more coverage of the mayoral race, browse the BikePortland archives.

Business coalition asks candidates about transportation

Business coalition asks candidates about transportation

Amanda Fritz-1.jpg
Active Transportation Debate at PSU-6Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith ride-12

Top: Fritz (L), Nolan. Bottom: Hales (L), Smith.

The Value of Jobs“, a coalition of Portland-area business groups that includes the Portland Business Alliance, has published its http://www.valueofjobs.com/candidate_ques/index.html for the City Council race between incumbent Amanda Fritz and her challenger Mary Nolan; and the mayoral race between Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith.

The one question (of 15) that dealt with transportation policy, and how the candidate’s answered it, is worth noting.*

Here’s the question:

As the city’s population grows at the same time our ability to expand our existing transportation infrastructure remains limited, how will you balance the need to accommodate more trips by alternative modes of transportation while preserving access for freight and automobile mobility? Please give specific examples.

Read More Read More

Business coalition asks candidates about transportation

Business coalition asks candidates about transportation

Amanda Fritz-1.jpg
Active Transportation Debate at PSU-6Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith ride-12

Top: Fritz (L), Nolan. Bottom: Hales (L), Smith.

The Value of Jobs“, a coalition of Portland-area business groups that includes the Portland Business Alliance, has published its http://www.valueofjobs.com/candidate_ques/index.html for the City Council race between incumbent Amanda Fritz and her challenger Mary Nolan; and the mayoral race between Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith.

The one question (of 15) that dealt with transportation policy, and how the candidate’s answered it, is worth noting.*

Here’s the question:

As the city’s population grows at the same time our ability to expand our existing transportation infrastructure remains limited, how will you balance the need to accommodate more trips by alternative modes of transportation while preserving access for freight and automobile mobility? Please give specific examples.

Read More Read More

My opinion on Charlie Hales’ ‘approach to active transportation’

My opinion on Charlie Hales’ ‘approach to active transportation’

charlie hales bike sticker

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last month, a who’s-who from local active transportation planning and advocacy circles gathered around a table at the Charlie Hales for Mayor campaign headquarters on the central eastside. Hales called the meeting to have a “lively discussion” about walking, bicycling and transit. He asked questions. He took notes. Last night, Hales turned some of what he heard during that discussion into a blog post on the topic titled, Active Transportation for Portland today and tomorrow .

In the blog post, Hales wrote that we need to “further our progression” with active transportation because Portland’s progress so far has, “helped our economy, health, fitness, air, congestion and worldwide reputation.”

With less than two months before election day, the blog post gives voters a window into how Hales — a former City of Portland Commissioner of Transportation who many credit with kickstarting our now legendary bike network — would handle the bureau if he were elected. Below I’ll share excerpts from his post and offer my opinion on what it might mean.

Here’s how Hales frames his approach:

“In recent months, community, business, transportation leaders and Portlanders from across the city have told me that they do not feel safe walking and bicycling, that transit needs and opportunities have not been completely met, and that those that drive – for freight delivery or access to jobs and services – are concerned that they might hurt someone. It’s important that we find solutions that maintain traffic flow for drivers and businesses while making our roads safe for those on foot, bike and public transit.”

“Maintain traffic flow for drivers” is going to be a hard promise to keep in a compact city that must absorb millions of new residents in the coming decade. Also, as we’ve seen with many recent projects, maintaining existing auto “traffic flow” is often directly counter to “making our roads safe” for people not in cars. It’s also unfortunate that he tied “those that drive” with “freight delivery” and “access to jobs and services” when all of those things apply equally to people who bike.


Hales then goes on to say he will work to make our transportation system, “safe and convenient for all users.” Again, this feels like nothing but safe politics to me. I don’t think we’ll ever make the imperative changes to our existing, car-centric transportation system unless we begin an honest and respectful conversation about our need to make driving single-occupancy cars less convenient.

On a more personal note, Hales makes a pledge to “engage in safe behavior”:

“When I drive, I will drive the speed limit; behave cautiously around our most vulnerable users; and stop for people trying to cross our streets on foot. When bicycling, I will stop for red lights, yield to pedestrians, use our network of bikeways, and smile and wave at motorists who behave courteously toward me. I will also ask all city employees to make a similar commitment. In short, under my leadership, Portland will not tolerate a single avoidable fatality, but rather we will work diligently to prevent crashes, reduce their severity and increase physical activity.”

“When bicycling, I will stop for red lights, yield to pedestrians, use our network of bikeways, and smile and wave at motorists who behave courteously toward me.”

I found the “use our network of bikeways” comment interesting. It’s the latest sign that in Portland, as our network of neighborhood greenways gains attention, it will be considered bad form for people on bicycles to use commercial main streets and arterials when a low-stress bike street is nearby.

Also of note is that Hales said by investing in “bicycle and pedestrian safety… Our arterials will work better for all users.” That seems to me like someone who will continue to encourage people to not ride on major roads — like Sandy, Division, Hawthorne, and so on — as one solution to “maintain traffic flow for drivers and businesses.”

“As your Mayor, I will insist on the safest transportation policies, street designs and programs,” Hales added. Now that’s a statement I can’t wait to hold him too if he’s elected!

On the topic of funding, Hales said “we can’t afford not to complete our streets and bikeways.” To pay for these projects, Hales said he’d explore “new and flexible standards and funding opportunities.” That’s pretty vague; but I look forward to hearing more about it.

Hales’ post also mentioned his support of equity, completing our big “off-road trail network” projects, and continued support of Safe Routes to Schools, Sunday Parkways, and so on.

Charlie Hales at Sunday Parkways

The final paragraph contained the most specific policy pledge of all. Hales said he plans to “explore options with the Oregon DMV to revise our education standards to make our roads safer.” He also mentioned something that he brought up at the roundtable last month — that he feels Portland’s “innovative” infrastructure like bike boxes and bike-only traffic signals are confusing to visitors. To combat that confusion, he said he likes the idea of rental car companies passing out an informational brochure to their customers.

It’s good to see a mayoral candidate take time to address active transportation. But overall, especially given Hales’ hands-on experience leading the transportation bureau back in the 1990s, I wasn’t impressed by this blog post. To me, it seemed to lack specifics and it’s clearly an attempt to appeal to everyone while not taking any risks to change the existing status quo. I remain very skeptical that we can continue to “maintain traffic flow for drivers” while still building a system that will feel safe enough to bicycle on for the “interested but concerned”.

Also of note is that Hales — who is tied so closely to streetcar and light rail that he’s been given the nickname “Choo Choo Charlie” — left out rail transit except for a few passing mentions. This could be because he feels it doesn’t play as large of a role in active transpotation as biking and walking do (I agree with that), or it could be because he knows streetcar tracks are a hot-button issue for many bicycle advocates.

At the roundtable discussion, Hales asked us what we thought about “how we’re doing with the streetcar and bicycling issue.” I didn’t hold back at all and expressed my grave concerns about how the new streetcar line has made bicycling worse in Portland and that streetcar planners must have a financial and legal obligation to improve bicycling in future projects. Another independent bicycle advocate at the event backed up my concerns, saying she feels the new eastside streetcar will have a negative impact on bicycling. It will be interesting to see how Hales integrates his deep support for rail with his promises to improve bicycling.

As for reaction to Hales’ blog post, BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky tweeted that he was glad to see Hales “come out and strongly support our key issues including vision zero.” Mia Birk, the former City of Portland bike coordinator who worked under Hales, who organized the active transportation roundtable, and who is an active supporter of his campaign, tweeted, “Wow! One awesome statement on active transportation.”

What do you think?

— To learn more about Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith, mark your calendar for the Portland Mercury’s Mayoral Inquisition event on Tuesday September 18th (I’ll be one of several inquisitors).