Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 5th, 2008 at 11:18 am
With 70% of the vote, Amanda Fritz, a neighborhood activist and Registered Nurse, has been elected to Portland City Council.
Ms. Fritz, who lost a bid for Commissioner in 2006, won a decisive victory over Charles Lewis and she is the first non-incumbent to win a council seat using Portland’s public campaign funding system.
Fritz seems likely to be a very capable and effective commissioner. She’s very detail-oriented, has a lot of experience on local issues, and she listens and actively tries to engage all perspectives.
I sat down with her back in May and she said one the most important ways she can help improve cycling in Portland is by helping bridge an anti-bike divide that sometimes bubbles up in our city.
Fritz admitted she’s not a cyclist, but said that’s what can make her effective;
“We have to recognize lots of different perspectives. I can help different people listen to each other and feel like they know there were heard. I’m not a biker and thats why I can be heard.”
With a plan to be engaged and accountable to the community like no other commissioner, Fritz promised me that, if elected, she would coordinate a series of community discussions about key issues — with the bike/car divide being one of them.
That’s a perspective perfectly aligned with Fritz’s main mantra throughout her campaign; that she stands for “all 95 neighborhoods” in Portland (even those where bikes aren’t a major part of the daily traffic mix).
With a history of being outspoken both in the many City Council meetings she’s attended and on her blog, I hope Fritz doesn’t stop sharing her strong opinions about issues.
In February of 2007, when the Oregonian published an editorial calling a bill that would have banned cell phones while driving “frivolous” and “trendy”, Fritz called them “ridiculous”. On her blog, she wrote (emphasis hers):
“Hang up and drive. The body of research on increased risk of accidents while talking on cell-phones is clear. The Oregonian’s editorial asserting it doesn’t really matter, denying the problem like a child whining “everyone’s doing it”, provides further evidence of the need for legislation. I believe Oregon should ban the use of both hand-held and speaker cell-phones while driving.”
I didn’t agree with Fritz’s thoughts about the plan to re-use the Sauvie Island Bridge as a bike/ped only crossing of I-405 in Northwest Portland (she opposed it on grounds that there were other, more deserving projects the money could be spent on), but I admired that she took time to weigh the issue and that she shared her thoughts openly and responded to comments about it on her blog.
(Photo: Robert Wilson)
During a debate with Charles Lewis back in September, Fritz said she would have voted “no” on the controversial Columbia River Crossing project. That stance would have made her the only commissioner to vote against the project. According to a report on the debate from the Portland Mercury, Charles Lewis asked her to explain her CRC vote:
“I would have voted no, because I think there needs to be more discussion,” about the bridge plan and how it fits into the surrounding neighborhoods and how we’re going to pay for it. “We need to make sure that the six pages of conditions [imposed by the city council] are met… there’s a lot more work to do.”
(Lewis, on the other hand, said he would have voted in favor of the CRC. The Mercury reported that he said, “it’s a bottleneck that “has stifled our economy” and that he doesn’t want to “turn down” $4.2 billion of “investment in our community.”)
As for bicycling, Fritz may not be joining mayor-elect SamAdams, Commissioner Randy Leonard, or Commissioner Nick Fish for a bike ride any time soon, but it’s definitely on her radar.
Fritz didn’t get the endorsement of Bike. Walk. Vote. (she was up against some very bike-friendly candidates in the primary), but she says she’s experienced what a bike-friendly city feels like and she “knows it can be done” in Portland.
Writing on her blog back in December 2007, Fritz recalled her experience living in Cambridge, England.
“Car drivers and bicycle riders watched out for and respected each other. We shared the roads. Car and truck drivers recognized that without bicycle commuters, there would be much more congestion. Bicycle riders obeyed traffic signs and wore reflective clothing…I’ve seen good bicycle and pedestrian facilities, experienced living in a city valuing and providing them. I know it can be done.”
She wrote that, “we are far from that scenario in Portland today” and that on the campaign trail many of her neighbors in Southwest Portland said safe bikeways and sidewalks are their most pressing concern. “A Big Picture goal of addressing global warming,” she wrote, “lacks meaning if kids can’t walk to school, and folks can’t bike to the local store.”
Fritz might not know what it’s like to bike on the streets of Portland on a daily basis. She doesn’t worry about getting a photo-op with her bike and doesn’t pretend to be “one of us”. But maybe Fritz is a new kind of bike-friendly leader in Portland; one that transcends the “bike issue” and understands that we’re in a post “bike-community” era.
Portlanders who care about biking are an increasingly large and diverse part of our population. I think it’s much more important that we have a commissioner who will listen and consider what we as Portlanders, not as “cyclists”, want.
Welcome to City Council Ms. Fritz. I look forward to working with you in the months and years to come.
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As for Charles Lewis, it’s tough (especially as a publicly financed candidate) to get the level of name recognition needed to win your first election. I hope we see him run again and I wouldn’t be surprised if he snagged a seat next time.
– Learn more about Amanda Fritz on her Issues page.