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BTA responds to referral effort: "This is a defining moment"

Posted by on January 31st, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Oregon Bicycle Summit
BTA Director Scott Bricker.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) says they are “shocked and stunned” by the news that a group will attempt to refer the Safe, Sound, and Green Streets funding proposal to the ballot.

Executive Director Scott Bricker says they have strongly supported the proposal — which includes over $25 million in bike safety improvements — from the outset and that the threat of it being stopped by “petroleum companies” is being taken very seriously and that the BTA will commit considerable resources to making sure the referral effort is stopped.

“We are shocked and stunned. We’re ready to make this a flagship effort,” he said in an interview today, “To me, this is a defining moment for our community…it’s not the sole issue we will work on in the coming weeks, but it’s one of those things we simply have to win.”

“This is a defining moment…we simply have to win.”
–Scott Bricker, Executive Director of the BTA

Bricker added that, “If a group of petroleum companies thinks they can come in and push around communities that are trying to make their streets safer, that would be a disturbing trend. We have to let them know that Portlanders care about safe streets and that we’re willing to stand up for them.”

Bricker, with support of the BTA’s 5,000 members across the state (most of them in Portland) says they will commit as many resources as they can to this issue. He said in the coming days they will look to spearhead a “community effort to stop the petitioners” that will include representatives from a broad range of interests.

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Comments
  • Mmann January 31, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    If you are reading this and have not yet joined the BTA. Stop and do it. It\’s important.

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  • Sandra January 31, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I don\’t think it\’s a great move on the part of the BTA to prevent people from having a chance to vote on this. Why don\’t we just convince people to vote the right way when they have the opportunity to do so?

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  • Jim January 31, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    You make a good point Sandra, limiting people\’s choice doesn\’t sit right with me either. However, a vote on this issue with the petroleum industry on one side and the peddle pushers on the other is not giving people a \”chance\” to vote on anything. After the PR contraption is fired up, Portland voters will be convinced that this tax will draw blood from their first born child. That is the way industry likes it and individual choice has little to do with it.

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  • Bjorn January 31, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Having a vote on this means delayed implementation and thousands of dollars in election expense, there are good reasons why the council decided to do this without refering it to the voters. I don\’t know how much the BTA can really do to prevent the signature gathering from being successful. They really don\’t need that many signatures, but we should all work to try to talk people out of signing because a referal is costly in many ways.

    Bjorn

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  • LEE HOFFMAN January 31, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    My take on this is a little different.First you here nothing from these lobbies until they feel threated in some way.then they lawyer up and spend mega money to control their fears.Voting has meant little in this nation since the Bush era was shoved down our collective throats.organize all you care to.protest and crash city hall.Money talks and we will all be walking ONE LESS CAR!!!!

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  • jeff January 31, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Sandra, jeez, should we vote on everything then?

    I seem to recall this idea of voting for representatives, whom we empower with the ability to make these decissions. If we don\’t like it, then we elect someone else.

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  • Jessica Roberts January 31, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Oh, man, everybody has worked so hard for this…I\’m really dismayed to see that good resources (time and money) will now have to be diverted to this effort.

    One of the basic functions leaders are supposed to exercise is to assess our resources and our needs. Our streets are crumbling, and our traffic calming and safe streets efforts have repeatedly been cut, because the feds and the state refuse to do what is necessary to bring revenues in line with needs. Our gas tax has not gone up since 1993, yet our costs are the same or greater…And Portland leaders have repeatedly thrown their hands up and pointed at the state. Sam has worked so hard to make this a truly inclusive process, and I hate to see Big Oil Money spend a bazillion dollars to shout him down when he\’s done his homework.

    I will do my part to help with this effort.

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  • Mark January 31, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I\’ve never understood why all Portland households and businesses will be stuck with this bill–regardless of how much one uses the roads?

    I\’m not a hard-core cyclist, but strongly support improved bikeways and pedestrian facilities. I also drive and see our roads deteriorating.

    That said, everyday non-Portland commuters, truckers and visitors drive Portland\’s roads and (Multnomah county) bridges. How the hell does a fee tacked onto my water bill equate to my impact on driving and degrading the road infrastructure. How about a local gas tax in Portland or some other way to tie road impact and use with fees from primary users—DRIVERS?

    I personally like Sam Adams and his mayoral bid, but this road tax that isn\’t tied to impact is bullshit. I think it\’s just an easier way to collect money because a gas tax or \”impact\” fee probably is a harder sell. More fair, but harder for a politician to sell.

    Before you all light your flamethrowers, let me be clear that I TOTALLY oppose the Oregon Taxpayers Association (OTA) effort. I also strongly support more funding for bikeways and improved safety.

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  • John January 31, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Given the animosity of lots of people toward cyclists, I\’d urge people to support the Safe and Sound Streets (and oppose the referral) not exclusively or specifically as bicyclists, but instead as homeowners, employees, taxpayers, parents, small business owners, etc.
    As I talk about the Safe and Sound Streets program, I\’ll be stressing unmet maintenance needs, safety improvements for pedestrians, etc. Unless I\’m talking to a committed cyclist, I don\’t even expect to mention \”bicycle boulevards.\” Just my $0.02.

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  • Another biker January 31, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    > Sandra, jeez, should we vote on everything then?

    Well, \”jeez\”, of course not. Because you want ask rhetorical questions to somebody regarding representative democracy doesn\’t mean people can\’t use their head when looking at the measure. The revenue link is broken. The City Of Portland Office Of Transportation web site _in general_ is broken. And the \”watchdog\” site, though sponsored by an organization with which I have no faith in whatsoever quotes numbers that would give me pause as a citizen.

    There is not nearly enough information available in its current manifestation for anyone out of the loop to \”blindly trust\” a decision here, in my opinion.

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  • Tall Mike January 31, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    It is time to get the word out. If we can educate enough people, maybe those who are trying to stop the effort will not be able to get the required signatures within the 30-day window. We should all learn from Sam\’s struggle right now – never make a deal with the Big-Oil Lobbyists and expect them to hold up their end.

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  • kg January 31, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    How about refering an initiative to voters to increase the gas tax, state wide. If people don\’t want to pay for their roads then let them deteriorate, I\’ll just ride my mountain bike.

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  • BikingViking January 31, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    I agree with Mark (#8). A gas tax makes a lot more sense. How would you feel if you owned no car and had little impact on the roads, but were getting the same tax rate as the family of six with five SUV\’s down the street.

    That being said, we need these fixes, and if it comes to a vote I\’ll support the new tax.

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  • sh January 31, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I too have wondered why this proposed fee is not tied directly to drivers, rather than households and businesses.

    I\’m also curious about Tony\’s question from the prior story; were any of the NECN\’s concerns and requests adopted? The 3 NECN-suggested changes by to the program were, in my opinion, all very important ones.

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  • mmann January 31, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I think a vote may be inevitable unless a deal can be worked out. My point about joining the BTA is that it takes organization and money to simply inform voters these days. Unfortunate but true. And the BTA is positioned to help campaign against those who will claim the tax is wrong. Money talks. The sad thing to me is that Don McIntire (like his anti-tax cohort Bill Sizemore) has learned to use the system with the goal of bleeding organizations he opposes by forcing them to spend enormous amounts of money to counter his proposals.

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  • wsbob January 31, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Our street and road system is antiquated, and it\’s falling apart. The state gas tax is not sufficient to provide for necessary repairs and improvements to the street and road infrastructure.

    Whether individual residents and business owners drive motor vehicles or not, the majority of them probably want and need a well designed and maintained street near their property. That has to be paid for somehow.

    If this current proposal is thought by the Oregon Taxpayers Association (OTA)and its sizable coalition (go to the \”Who\’s behind the street fee opposition article\”)to be unacceptable, let them offer a workable, reasonable proposal of their own, that everyone might consider.

    The OTA\’s coalition is notable for high profile, hysteria feeding personalities amongst its ranks: Lars Larson, Victoria Taft, and Jim Karlock. All of these people thrive on controversy and make their money by stirring up people\’s emotions at the expense of arriving at workable, reasonable solutions to needs that the Safe, Sound, and Green Funding Proposal addresses. By association, their membership in the OTA coalition makes that organization\’s credibility dubious at best.

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  • alice b January 31, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    The new fee is tied to trips — it calculates rates based on the estimated number of trips generated by the type of property use. It also provides green discounts that provide an incentive for smart transportation choices –examples include a 10% business discount for companies that offer a $30/monthly benefit for walking, biking or transit, a 20% business discount for companies that offer a $60/monthly benefit for walking, biking, or transit, and residents with no vehicle registered at their property would get a 20% discount.

    For the first time, businesses that are generate the most traffic will be charged higher rates for their benefits from the transportation system — unlike the gas tax the street utility fee will result in roughly 50% of the revenue being generated by businesses and 50% by residential properties.

    please, please, please don\’t let your perception of the perfect be the enemy of the the good (100+ miles of world class bicycle boulevards.)

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  • rixtir January 31, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Not to mention that Paul Romain got the compromise that he represented as necessary for heading off a referral, and then announced a referral effort anyway.

    There\’s a word for the kind of person Paul Romain is.

    That word is not \”honest.\”

    The same cast of characters is always bleating about Portland being \”anti-business.\” The truth is, that gang is \”anti-Portland,\” and it\’s high time we run these relics from the petroleum age out of town, permanently, starting with doing whatever it takes to derail their referral effort.

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  • jeff s January 31, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    It\’s interesting that most all of those in the street fee proposal opposition probably believe the canard that bicyclists don\’t pay their way under the current system, which relies on gas taxes & vehicle registration fees.

    To Mike (#8) & kg (#12)& sh (#14), who wonder why we\’re not taxing gas consumption, I\’d say: yes, a gas tax is in many ways a much more reasonable approach to paying for the transportation system, but the state legislature hasn\’t been willing to deal with it: no increase since the early 90\’s — and no, the tax you pay is NOT tied to the price of gasoline, but to the gallon amount you purchase. The City initially proposed a small local gas tax (we have none currently) but withdrew it when state legislators promised them they\’d deal with it on a state level next session… we\’ll see about that.

    So, I\’m willing to ante up $4 per month just to get blowhards like Lars Larson to shut up about cyclists not paying their way. The fact that this street fee will actually buy some seriously good improvements for cyclists & pedestrians, as well as some general traffic safety improvements, is just gravy…

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  • Opus the Poet January 31, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    I can see the reason everybody gets taxed the same, it\’s as plain as the nose on your face: When someone starts complaining about cyclists getting a free ride on the roads, you can point to this fee and say car drivers are being subsidised by cyclists and pedestrians (just like they always have, but separating the costs of streets out into a separate cost, and labeling it as such makes it easier to point out to the gas-heads).

    Opus

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  • Zaphod January 31, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Just renewed my lapsed membership with the BTA. What a great organization!

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  • Mark January 31, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I am so jazzed to hear that the BTA is rolling up their sleeves to take on big oil and the unethical actions of lobbyists like Paul Romain and Mark Nelson.

    Please keep us posted on what we can do to help. I am ready to volunteer a couple hours a week to make sure we hit this one out of the park…

    My vision of Portland has family friendly bike route in every neighborhood and safe routes in every school. This will be a reality in less than ten years if we are successful with funding the Safe Sound and Green Streets effort.

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  • DaveA January 31, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Oregon\’s gas tak is apparently .14 less than Washington\’s. The idea of implementing a city gas tax to help pay for the improvements was dropped to allow the next lesgislature to pass a gas tax increase. The good lawyer said in front of the city commission that he would not oppose a gas tax in crease of .14/gallon.
    In the meantime, maybe we should pick a date and everyone who normally rides a bike to work, or shopping, should take part in a car critical mass. All we would have to do is drive across the bridges a few extra times in the commute hours and that should slow traffic down quite a bit for a day\’s commute….

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  • Lynne January 31, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    just because someone is not driving a vehicle on a street does not mean that others are not driving ON THEIR BEHALF. Public safety, deliveries (how DO those groceries get to the store), school buses… the list goes on. We need encourage folks to move past the self-centeredness exhibited by this referral.

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  • wsbob January 31, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    \”Not to mention that Paul Romain got the compromise that he represented as necessary for heading off a referral, and then announced a referral effort anyway.\” Rixter

    The compromise Rixter refers to: \”The compromise entails creating a new classification for convenience and small grocery stores—think Qwik-E-Mart—which will be billed at a lower rate.\” From the WW article, \’Adams Cuts Deal With Gas Stations On Street Tax\’\”

    Then in a following WW article, \’Romain: Street Tax Foes Will Seek Referral After All\’, Romain explains his groups decision to initiate a referral after all. Following successful negotiations with the Portland Department of Transportation (PDOT) and Adams to get a compromise Romain and his group seemingly could live with, Adams decides not to proceed with his plan to split the proposal into three parts,(a defensive strategy raised to counter referral efforts). Gee this gets complicated.

    So now, Romain and his group are once again going to refer. Simply, Romain negotiated in bad faith with PDOT and Adams. He makes this statement in the later WW article:

    \”We said we would not refer the \’measures,\’\” he points out. \”We intentionally said \’measures\’ plural because of all the games Sam played when he split the resolution into three pieces.\” Paul Romain in WW article

    Games? It\’s not a game when, in the midst of efforts to craft an ordinance of critical importance to the health of the city, a city commissioner playing a key role in the effort has to arbitrarily raise a shield against a hostile element that does not have the best interests of the city at heart.

    In the statement above, Romain misrepresents his and his groups intentions. If not a flat out liar, with funny wording such as he used in that statement, that\’s about as close to being a flat liar as you can get without officially being one.

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  • Todd B January 31, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Hmmm….DaveA….rent 200 Zipcars or borrow a friend\’s car for a Friday PM bridge car clot critical mass…nice.

    Bridge lock across the Williamette beats getting in trouble bicycling in a CM.

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  • Beefa January 31, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I blame it all on the fixed gear hipster messengers.

    F@@@in lown brow creatins!!

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  • John February 1, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Just for comparison, consider the price of a first class stamp with the Oregon tax on a gallon of gas. In 1972, first class postage was 8 cents and Oregon\’s gas tax was 7 cents per gallon. By 1993, first class postage was 29 cents and gas tax was 24 cents. Since 1993, first class postage has increased four times (by 12 cents) to 41 cents, but gas tax remains unchanged!

    Mail delivery and transportation may not be a perfect comparison, but both require lots of personnel, equipment, and suffer increased costs from supplies. It\’s no wonder with the lack of any cost adjustments that the entire transportation system is going to heck.

    I stood up at one of Sam Adam\’s open houses and told him I\’d support a gas tax increase of ANY amount for the reasons many of you have articulated. I still think a much higher gas tax is the best thing we can do to solve our energy dependence problem, but in the mean time, I\’ll support the household and business fee.

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  • Resident February 1, 2008 at 10:10 am

    So change the gas tax then! How is inflating the already exorbanate amount of $ we pay for sewers even remotely related to improving roads? This needs to be voted on and not shoved down anyones throat. Just like the County Sherrifs office, the City of Portland needs a serious look at over their books to prioritize what they do with the $ they already collect. Cyclists appear to be a Special Interest Group on this issue and its never good to let ANY interest group create legislation without the vote of everyone…

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  • wsbob February 1, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Our country\’s market supply economic system guarantees money value will not be stable, and consequently, that meeting expenses will not be possible when budgets aren\’t adjusted for inflation that is part of this system.

    How are cyclists a special interest group in this proposal? The percentage of money allocated from this proposal budget that is applied to bike infrastructure is a minuscule part of the overall budget: three percent. There is complete information available on the Safe, Sound and Green Streets Proposal, the budget, where the money is going…link included in lead article at the top of this page.

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  • Mike February 1, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I agree that it seems like a good idea to link this with use, but don\’t forget that we do use these roads for other things than just our personal transportation. They need to be suitable for transportation of food and goods, they need to be suitable for emergency vehicles to travel over in case we get hit on our bikes. Roads are not only for personal transport. We should support all infrastructure, schools, roads everything. Once they deteriorate they have to be replaced, at a higher cost than what maintenance costs. Saying, I shouldn\’t have to pay because I don\’t use it is a dangerous/very republican-fiscal consv view to take. In many ways that is the reason why we are in this mess with a lack of bike funding, why should drivers have to pay for bike lanes?

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  • joeb February 1, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Funny thing, I hate paying my Comcast and T-Mobile bill. I feel robbed! But I actually feel ok paying water and sewer bills because I am paying for valuable infrastructure that is built and maintained locally and is vital to our local economy. Add safe, sound and green initiatives and just might be giddy about paying my sewer bill.

    In one corner, we have local airwaves dominated by Larson and Taft, big money and slick lobbyists. In the other corner we have City Counsel, grass roots non profits and volunteers (aka special interest groups). I know the majority of the general public didn’t make it to the town hall meetings to get information about Safe, Sound and Green initiatives. The majority will hear about a recession inducing street fee added to their sewer bill from the opposition. So it sounds like grass roots volunteers need a consistent and coordinated effort to circulate Safe, Sound and Green facts. (you know I just joined BTA last night. About freaking time!)

    I understand that the East-West traffic light hanging on the wire at 82nd (the most dangerous street in Portland) and Burnside has been there since the 1950s (unconfirmed). That is the intersection where the bike lane peters out and cars can\’t turn left unless they line up in the middle of the intersection and wait for the light to turn red again so they can get through oncoming traffic(confirmed). I wonder how many of the neighbors would appreciate a $4/month fix.

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  • Aaron February 1, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    DaveA
    That\’s actually a great idea (I\’m normally not one to encourage driving). If the folks who have both options choose to drive and put a big sign in the back window saying, \”Big oil is trying to eliminate Safe Green Streets. You wouldn\’t be in traffic if I was on a bus.\”
    Something to that effect. (we DO have the ability to get a HUGE media presence)
    Also metal cowboy and Kyr are talking about bike-blended smoothies at a 7-11 (which opposes the plan).
    Jonathan-you were instrumental in turning around Mayor Potter, I have faith that you\’ll be similarly successful in helping eliminate this threat.
    Yeah for this community

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  • Tricia February 1, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Mmann, Zaphod, Mark,

    Thanks for your support of the BTA! I really appreciate your contribution (word & monetary both.)

    Everyone,

    Thanks for staying engaged and really thinking about this issue!

    Tricia

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  • zilfondel February 2, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Its war…

    choose your sides, people. The petroleum, gas and auto industry is going to externalize the costs of driving, and refuses to actually take responsibility of the damage they do to our communities… and this is only about road maintenance.

    I predict billion-dollar TV commercial campaigns showing close-ups of poor families being forced to starve to death because they can\’t afford the new tax from the evil bureaucrats.

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  • Tony February 3, 2008 at 7:49 am

    To sh @ 14,

    The changes requested by NECN did not make it fully into the legislation adopted by Council on 1/31. When I posted my original comment on Wednesday the ordinances weren\’t available on-line.

    You can now find the details by going to the Auditor\’s office on-line and searching for the specific Ordinance numbers:

    http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/

    ORDINANCE No. 181581 covers the oversight committee and ORDINANCE No. 181578 covers the street fee itself.

    I would still like to see NECN\’s concerns fully addressed but it may have to wait until the political fighting on this finally dies down.

    For those who are interested, the details on what NECN is requesting may be found in comment # 26 to this post:

    http://bikeportland.org/2008/01/30/council-passes-landmark-funding-proposal-romain-will-refer/

    Thanks,

    Tony

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