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Trying to understand the Mayor’s decision

Posted by on April 24th, 2007 at 5:08 pm

I’m still trying to get my head around today’s news that Mayor Potter’s latest budget proposal does not include funding for the Bicycle Master Plan Update process.

I understand that transportation budgets are tight these days. According to PDOT, gas tax revenue has dwindled in recent years from $8 million per year to just $1.5 million per year.

I also realize that in any budget process, tough decisions must be made and it all comes down to priorities.

The Mayor’s Office says their decision to not fund the Bicycle Master Plan is a result of their focus on maintaining existing infrastructure and increasing safety.

In some ways, the Bicycle Master Plan is existing infrastructure that needs to be maintained, and it is key to increasing the safety of Portlanders.

Think of the current plan (which was adopted in 1995) as a road filled with potholes. It is woefully outdated and nearly useless to planners.

I also can’t imagine how a project that is already chugging along on all cylinders can be, in the words of Portland Mercury writer Scott Moore, “de-funded.”

So what would happen without any more funding?

The current Bicycle Master Plan Update process, which you’ve been reading about on this site for weeks, would essentially grind to a halt. City bike coordinator Roger Geller, who currently has staff support both within PDOT and in the form of outside consultants, would suddenly be stranded on an island, faced with mountains of work to do and no time or resources to do it.

How much do other cities spend to create Bicycle Master Plans?

With no additional funding, our Bike Master Plan will only have been funded to the tune of $50,000 (the sum allocated in last year’s budget). According to one insider, a good Master Plan can cost anywhere from $300,000 (for Boise, Idaho) to $800,000 (for San Francisco, California).

The message is clear. With no more funding, we will be much further from making Portland a truly safe place for human powered transportation.

So what happens now?

After speaking with the Mayor’s Office, I really don’t think the Mayor will change his proposal. Our main hope is to convince one of the other Commissioners to propose an amendment and then make sure they vote it in when the budget goes before City Council.

I simply cannot fathom our City not funding this process. It would be an embarrassment to our community and would end up costing us much more in the long run.

Let’s hope common sense prevails and that our city leaders come to see the value in maintaining the Bicycle Master Plan, a key piece of Portland’s transportation infrastructure.

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  • Dat April 24, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    I dont get why the mayor is willing to cut $100,000 dollars the bike master plan and then be willing to fund 2 peak oil postions at a cost of $150,000 this makes no sense at all.

    SPEC_39 Peak Oil Initiative – $150,000 GF One-time/2 Part-time positions
    This package would provide funding for two half-time limited term positions and $50,000 for
    materials & services to develop a work plan for PDOT to address recommendations made by the
    Peak Oil Task Force

    http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=153800

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  • Todd April 24, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Perhaps this is an opening gambit by Mayor Potter to challenge Councilman Adams as a runup to the next mayorial election …or as a political payback (slap) for not supporting the revision to Portland’s government.

    Potter might see that bicycling is now ‘Sams’ issue (along with Randy) since he has not done too much with it since getting elected.

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  • shortsightedvisionPDX April 24, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Please do not throw in the towel on this one yet. A flood of emails, phone calls, or even better a series of creative bike events around City Hall could easily result in the three votes required to fund the Master Plan.

    This lack of funding is totally inconsistent with the principles of the Mayor’s VisionPDX effort — A world-class process requires a world-class process and a reasonable budget. I would bet that the Mayor is not interested in sending a sign that funding his sometimes vague VisionPDX process is stealing funding that could be used to create a Bike Master Plan that can unite neighbors and ensure that Portland remains the best City for bicycling.

    I am throwing out a challenge to all of you creative bicycle organizers — can we start a pedalpalooze type series of events around City Hall to get our three votes… Please don’t give up. Imagine next summer when we roll-out the new Master Plan describing how a grassroots series of positive/fun events resulted in funding for the Bike Master Plan…

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  • Todd April 24, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Stepping back from the planning process…can Portland produce a ‘Platium Level’ bike plan for the budget provided? Perhaps with this set back more resources can be developed.

    Just look at all the positive press and exposure Portland gets for being so bike friendly. Portland will never again be a car friendly city (leave that up to Atlanta, Houston, Dubai, etc.)…but it can strive to be among the best in the world by economically focusing on bikes, pedestrians and transit modes and invest accordingly.

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  • Joe April 24, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Well.. we know who to vote for in the next election.. that’s for sure. and I’ll sure as hell do my part to make sure Potter’s not sitting in his seat when it’s over.

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  • Flower Power April 24, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    I think shortsightedvisionPDX is onto something really important!

    We only need 3 votes. We have Adams. Seems like Sten and Leonard would be the next most likely to come on board. Letters and phone calls to those offices would be really important. (Adams, Sten, Leonard).

    We’re less likely to get Saltzman as he’s been asking some fairly negative questions about bike stuff lately, but it can’t hurt to ask for support from him. While we’re at it, the mayor’s office needs hundreds of calls and emails to get this to register as the big mistake it is.

    I also like shortsightedvisionPDX’s idea about a Pedalpalooza styled event. I wonder if a peace offering of flowers with an Earl bicycle pin stuck to each given out at City Hall to anyone entering the building would make a positive statement about our city’s love for bikes? It would also get flowers and bike pins all over City Hall. That would make a statement.

    I know a lot of voices in the conversation on here lately have wanted to throw barbs at things. But, I have to say that you only need to attract 3 bees and you’ll get more of them with honey than with vinegar. If you throw barbs, I’d expect them to be used to show why the funding is not being supported.

    shortsightedvisionPDX seemed to mean that a world class bike plan needs a world class process. If the Mayor won’t fund the processes that lead to inclusive and effective processes, how can he say with a straight face that he’s governing with the goal of getting people involved in decision making?

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis April 24, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    We really need to make sure the Commissioners hear about this. I also think we need to organize a ride to express our support for funding the planning process.

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  • peder horner April 24, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    I’d love to go on a ride to support this.

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  • beth h April 24, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    So… for the politically uninformed, where to go and what to do — specifically — to contact The Right people about this? What to say? How best to say it?
    Some of us out there are not at all politically experienced and could use some guidance here.

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  • Burr April 24, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    I’ll expand on what I said in the other thread: I think this is all political. Maybe payback for Sam voting against Potter so many times, or for Bud Clark opposing Charter Reform.

    My prediction: there will be compromises on the budget and funding for the bike master plan will be restored. But not without public support.

    Also, he’s a former police chief and probably supports the cops in the recent stings, and is tired of hearing complaints.

    Just vote NO on Charter Reform, we don’t want to be giving this guy any more power than necessary.

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  • brad April 24, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Between this and all of the selective traffic enforcement lately, I find it hard to believe that most of you still think that this city is “bike friendly”…seems they think it’s been a little too friendly, huh?

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  • Becky April 24, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    beth h, a good place to start for contact info is the BTA site. http://www.bta4bikes.org. Look for and click the Action Alert heading in the lower right area.

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  • Aaron April 24, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Here’s my letter to the Mayor. Keep in mind that the Mayor (ironically enough) will likely attend the grand opening of the 3 Bridges Project on May 19th. We should be there en masse.
    http://www.portlandonline.com/parks/index.cfm?c=eddae#schedule

    Mayor Potter;
    I am completely aghast that you have decided not to fund the ongoing Bicycle Master Plan. Improving bicycle transportation is a critical element in Portland. Bicycle commuters both increase the safety of the transportation network through the lower speed of travel, and reduce congestion through the small size of the bicycle. The Portland Business Alliance and the Freight Industry have both clearly stated a need to address both of these issues. I encourage you to re-examine your decision and support low-impact transportation.
    Sincerely;
    Aaron

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  • Dan Kaufman April 24, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Mayor Potter must be reading Dale Crapagie’s worst seller, “How to Lose Friends and Influence”.

    I agree with Burr. I’ll be voting no on charter reform.

    Here is a picture from happier times with Mayor Potter:
    http://www.bikeroute.com/NationalMayorsRide2005/Portland/PortlandMain.jpg

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  • Michelle April 25, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Interesting suggestion that we go on a bike ride to show our support for the Bicycle Master Plan update – how about the monthly Bicycle Master Plan update ride this coming Tuesday? That would sure be appropriate!!!!

    It meets at 5:15 at Terry Schrunk Plaza (SW 3rd and Madison). I’ll be there!

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  • Paul Hanrahan April 25, 2007 at 3:54 am

    How in the world can gas tax revenues be down when 1) gas costs more than ever and 2) more people move into the srea than move out (therefore, more gas is being concumed)?
    This ‘lack of money’ thing needs to be explained more.
    Thanks.

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  • Vladislav Davidzon April 25, 2007 at 6:34 am

    Perhaps it is time for a cyclist to run for mayor. There are lots of qualified, smart people who are far more fit for the office of Mayor than Tom Potter.

    What we need isn’t more ‘master plans’ but a mayor who will take on real issues, head-on, without playing politics. This mayor has proven himself not only incompetent, but outright hostile towards sustainable development.

    We need a mayor who will actually… do something. Banning cars off 1/5th of Portland’s streets would be a good start. Putting up speeding cameras all over town and funneling revenue into development of alternative transit would be a good start. Getting the cops to like, erm, deal with real crime would be a good start.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis April 25, 2007 at 7:37 am

    A few things:

    1. Michelle (#15) suggests using the regular Bicycle Master Plan update rides to express our views. Great idea. Please go there and say you think the plan revision should be funded.

    2. I would also like someone who does not have to bill 2100 hours this year to organize a separate ride to show the importance of funding the Plan. But there’s a lot of things I’d like. I’d probably even go!

    3. Email the Commissioners! These are the people making the decision.

    4. Yesterday, Matt Picio wrote an awesome letter to the Mayor on this. I tried to find his contact info on his blog so I could ask permission to use it. But perhaps someone could contact him (or he will read this), and be gracious enough to give others permission to use the basic form of the letter so everybody doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel (not that you can’t express yourself individually if you want). I’ve pasted it below. Please don’t use it though unless he gives permission:

    “Mayor Potter,

    My understanding from postings made on bikeportland.org and the BTA’s website is that your office is going to cut funding for the Platinum Bike Master Plan Update. I believe this is a grave mistake, and strongly urge you to restore the $150,000 in funding required to complete the plan.

    Portland is known for being the best cycling city in the United States and in North America. This is no accident. In the past 15 years, your predecessors have funded a number of programs which have greatly enhanced usage of bicycles and the liveability of this city. The investment has been a wise one indeed – even though bicycle funding represents only 1% of Portland’s transportation budget, it services somewhere between 5% and 7% of all transportation trips. Bicycle commuters fight congestion by keeping thousands of vehicles off our already-crowded streets. I myself commute by bike 3-5 days per week, a 12-mile commute utilizing bike lanes, bike boulevards and the Springwater Trail. The fantastic infrastructure that has been built to-date has made this much easier than it would be otherwise. With the accomplishments the city has made, it would be easy to rest on our metaphorical laurels. I think that would be a mistake.

    The region, and the city, are growing. Metro projects we will add another million people in the next 25 years. That means a lot more traffic, and handling that traffic means money. Cutting funding for the bike plan saves us $150,000 now, but how much will it cost us in the long run? Your own transportation department’s survey shows that 60% of the people out there would consider commuting by bike if it were perceived to be safer. If Portland spends the money now to figure out how to make cycling in the city safer, friendlier, and more effective (the goals of the bike plan), then we can motivate a number of those people to commute by bike. If even 1/4 of those who say they’d like to bike actually start doing it, we’ll free up a lot of road capacity, allowing more growth without having to build new roads. Building new roads is expensive, and with Measure 37, making zoning changes and condemning land has gotten potentially a lot more expensive. We need alternatives. Portland is known for alternatives. Your office has the opportunity to provide leadership towards funding those alternatives and making them happen. We’ve seen the future of cars – it’s called Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta. Despite miles of roads, traffic conditions in these cities are still horrendous. While we have nowhere near that kind of density, we are a growing metropolitan area, and as the hub of that area, Portland will see many of the same effects.

    We need bold plans and bold goals to provide alternatives and solutions that make the best use of limited funds. The Platinum Bike Master Plan Update is one of those bold plans. I strongly urge you to restore funding to this program.

    Thank you for your time,

    Matthew P. Picio”

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  • Brad April 25, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Sigh…

    Gotta’ love Portland. They can’t fund a small ticket, big impact item like the BMP but they have wasted untold sums of money studying, debating, and creating task forces to oppose the war in Iraq, resolve to force people to use biodiesel, peak oil resolutions, trams for wealthy surgeons, and gifts to developers that ironically make the city a more expensive, less inviting place for working folks to live.

    By all means, lobby Adams, Sten, and Leonard to neuter Mayor Potter politically.

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  • Matt Picio April 25, 2007 at 8:11 am

    A_O and others – feel free to use the basic format, or to quote it to whomever and wherever you like. You have my formal, written permission.

    For those who wish to contact me outside this forum, my email address is matt “dot” picio “at” and my email service is Gmail, so you can figure out the back end part. :-)

    Paul (#16) – AFAIK, revenues have *not* decreased yet. A state task force is investigating an alternate tax, because the state believes that increased fuel efficiency will cause gas tax revenue to decrease by 2014.

    I think any decrease is going to be offset by the number of people moving into the state, unless Peak Oil really does take hold and interstate mobility is restricted. In which case we have a whole ‘nother set of issues.

    If that happens, I’m making a permanent move to knobby tires, ’cause road repaving will be one item the state (and cities) will likely try to skimp on, at least in the valleys.

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  • Michael April 25, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Wow… What a kick in the butt…

    Write write write!

    Here’s who:
    mayorpotter@ci.portland.or.us
    jvankeuren@ci.portland.or.us (Mayor’s public advocate)
    erik@ci.portland.or.us
    commissionersam@ci.portland.or.us
    dsaltzman@ci.portland.or.us

    Vote vote vote!

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  • Kirsty April 25, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Regarding people’s talk of organising a ride of support for the Bicycle Master Plan, I say this is totally awesome.

    But don’t forget – there already exists one!!

    It’s called the Office of Transportation’s Bicycle Master Plan monthly rides. They happen once a month, & their aim is to gain input from riders about how well the existing bikeway network system does (or doesn’t) work for you?, & how can the network be improved (aka what would it take to get more people riding?)

    Feel free to mark this in yr calendars –

    May’s Bicycle Master Plan Ride
    Tuesday the 1st of May (May Day)
    Meet at 5:15, ride leaves at 5:30
    Meet at Terry Schrunk Plaza Park
    (SW 3rd & Main)
    The ride will be touring North Portland.

    Roger Geller’s aim is to get 1000 bicyclists on these rides, and have a little bit of Amsterdam in Portland for a few hours.

    If there was ever a time to come on on a ride & show your support for the BMP, this May 1st event would be it. See you there!

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  • Dabby April 25, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Vladislav,

    We had a bike riding mayor already..

    His name was Bud Clark.

    I wish he was mayor today…… My first “exposure” to him was a t shirt my Uncle wore in the 70′s…….

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  • Nancy April 25, 2007 at 9:06 am

    James Pitkin of the WW posted an article April 25, 2007 that states:
    “On the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge at City Hall, Mayor Tom Potter belted Broadway tunes and did head spins last week. Well, not quite. But the typically stolid mayor actually cracked a smile as he announced a $75 million surplus over the next five years—a windfall from the booming local economy.” (http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3324/8873/ for full article)

    So, is the budget cut for the Bike Master Plan just posturing On Potter’s part?

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  • West Cougar April 25, 2007 at 10:17 am

    This de-funding is 100% a slap at Adams. But hey, we the citizens can slap back by writing the Mayor that you will be voting against the change in the city charter.

    If the Mayor wants to play hardball, hardball it is!

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  • Donald April 25, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Dabby, that’s funny. My first look at Bud’s backside was on the wall in the basement of my uncle’s house circa late 70s

    In North Platte freaking Nebraska of all places.

    I certainly hope that statue is surviving the bus mall renovation.

    Whoop whoop!!

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  • Garlynn April 25, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Below is what I wrote to the mayor.

    Also, Michael (#21) above posted a list of contact emails for this issue, but left out the other Commissioner who is a likely vote for this issue, Randy Leonard:

    rleonard@ci.portland.or.us

    I strongly agree with the strategy of contacting the entire Council about this issue. It will require a full-court press.

    And if $150,000 for the plan this year isn’t enough, there’s always next year’s budget. But I believe that that money needs to be spent this year to keep the ball rolling, so as not to lose momentum.

    “Dear Mayor Potter,

    For a mayor that hasn’t really accomplished anything yet in office, you don’t want to be known more for what you have *prevented* from being accomplished than for anything else.

    In that vein, I urge you to support the $150,000 in funding to make sure the Platinum Bike Master Plan Update can be completed. With cities like Chicago, Seattle, and New York setting aggressive goals to improve bicycling, Portland can’t be using a 12-year-old master plan to compete. We’ve learned a lot since the plan was written in 1995, and we need to collect those lessons into a plan to make Portland a Platinum-level bike city, and to address key city goals around child and adult health, global warming, and affordable transportation choices.”

    cheers,
    ~Garlynn

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