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Union group, PBOT maintenance workers to speak out on budget cuts - Updated

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 16th, 2011 at 9:14 am

Maintenance workers say potholes will
get worse, and people on bikes will
pay the price.
(Photo: Heather Andews)

With massive cuts coming from the Bureau of Transportation, there's one group that is ready to stand up and defend their piece of the pie: maintenance workers. And people who bike should support them, says organizer Erica Askin.

According to a statement released by Laborer's Local 483, PBOT maintenance workers and their community supporters will pack into City Hall this morning to "demonstrate opposition to the proposed $16.2 million in cuts to the Bureau’s ongoing budget."

Askin, who plans to represent the workers with testimony at the City Council meeting this morning, met with PBOT staff yesterday. According to a union spokesperson, Askin brought up two key reasons for protecting the maintenance budget: emergency vehicle access and "cyclists depend on the roads too."

Here's more on that issue from Megan Hise, a communications a support staffer for Laborer's Local 483:

"We typically talk about freight, transit, and cars when we talk about road maintenance, but cyclists use the neighborhood streets, bridges, and arterials (streets like Lombard and MLK) as well. I’m a cyclist and transit rider, and I hate cycling on unimproved or deteriorating road surfaces. With a contracted maintenance budget, the backlog in paving will only get worse. Another issue that converges with this is our changing climate. Freezing temperatures will increase the incidence of potholes. Our city should be investing more in preparation for adverse weather events and increased incidence of potholes, but instead it is proposing draconian cuts."

The workers will also ask Mayor Sam Adams to declare a fiscal emergency in order to "help the impacted workers and to protect the city’s infrastructural assets."

There will also be a strong connection between the union's concerns and the 99%. "The union has also invited allies of the Occupy Portland movement to stand with these workers in sending a message to the mayor that this is an economic emergency for the 99%," reads a statement.

Depending on how the pie gets cut up and sliced, the historic level of cuts being eyed by PBOT will hit every part of the Bureau. The question is, which parts will bear most of the brunt and which parts should be more protected than others?

Laborer's Local 483 says any further cutting of the maintenance budget will not only make road surfaces worse, but deferring maintenance will end up costing the city more in the long run.

Union reps aren't waiting around for the budget process to start to make their voices heard — will bike advocates be next to step up and make their case?


UPDATE: Listen to this audio clip from City Council today. It features a PBOT maintenance staffer who rides his bike to work explaining why people who bike should support the maintenance budget:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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Comments
  • 9watts November 16, 2011 at 9:18 am

    studded tires?

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    • Smitty November 16, 2011 at 9:49 am

      Had a studded-tire clad mini-van clickety-clack by me on Bybee in Sellwood yesterday... no ice in sight.

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      • GlowBoy November 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm

        Well, it's not like you're going to swap the studded tires on and off depending on the conditions. Perhaps the driver actually goes to the mountains? It is entirely possible that van has already been driven on ice this year. Or maybe the driver is just being prepared ... with the snow level projected to drop this weekend, there are about to be hours-long waits for service at Les Schwab.

        Don't get me wrong; I'm all for a huge tax on studded tires (and fuel) as advocated below by Chris I.

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      • dwainedibbly November 16, 2011 at 6:20 pm

        Same here, in down town, yesterday morning. I can't wait for the vote on the studded tire ban.

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    • Chris I November 16, 2011 at 9:59 am

      ODOT needs to instate a studded tire tax soon. It is unfair that studded tire users can pass the increased maintenance costs onto their fellow tax payers. We could also use a healthy gas tax increase to fill the budget holes.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

  • jeff November 16, 2011 at 9:59 am

    $16.2M is a drop in the bucket.

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  • John S November 16, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I am riding tubeless with larger tires. Bring on the Potholes!

    Buses do a lot of damage also, unfortunately. I love PDX's Bus system. Someone really needs to investigate buses that are easier on the roads. (lighter weight, bigger or more tires, etc.. ) For the long run (10-20 years) as buses are replaced. Maybe PBOT should sponser someone at tri-met to do this investigation. I bet the Rtn on investment would large !

    Yes to None-studded tires. If not for Oregon Maybe at least for Portland !

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  • K'Tesh November 16, 2011 at 10:14 am

    How about just repaving the bike lanes only? We do the least damage, we should have the best lanes... Imagine only having to pave 5-6 feet instead of the whole width of the road. Now that would be a savings!

    (kidding of course, we need safe streets for all)

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • dwainedibbly November 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      That's not a terrible idea, as it would produce some grade separation. Juts be careful entering & leaving the bike lane.

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  • q`Tzal November 16, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Looks like it's time to commute on a Moonlander.

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  • Oliver November 16, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I see no mention in the article to what Ms Rise referred to as "a contracted maintenance budget"

    I'm going to make some assumptions here, and that is that in this case contracted means contracted out to private firms.

    Not only does this mean shoddy, lowest-cost highest return* (*to the contractor) work. It means the ruination of more family wage jobs that support the Portland economy in favor of enriching a single individual /group of shareholders for a modest savings.

    I would rather pay an extra 10-15% to keep 50 maintenance workers on a family wage than make one person a millionaire on the backs of 50 workers making subsistence wages.

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    • Sigma November 16, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Contracted = smaller. Accent on second syllable.

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      • JAT in Seattle November 16, 2011 at 11:14 am

        Hilarious example of how we see the world through our own filters.

        Not that I feel Oliver is wrong at all about the effects of privatizing governmental functions to the self-proclaimed job creators of private enterprise, but we all tend to get on our own high horses and are ready to go off - and we all have our occasional Emily Litella moments...

        Never mind.

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  • A.K. November 16, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Care is especially needed right now as well, with all the leaves that have fallen in the past two weeks now covering the streets. You can't be sure what is being covered up by leaves: grates, pot holes, sticks, rocks, etc.

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  • Stretchy November 16, 2011 at 10:49 am

    That ~$1million in police overtime charges and park cleanup money would probably come in handy right about now.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • 9watts November 16, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Interesting. I hadn't known a figure for those costs. Just found this "Police estimated that they spent $450,000 over the weekend on officer overtime, bringing total police overtime for Occupy Portland to $766,000."
      http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9R18RBO1.htm

      One would like to know how that figure breaks down. Seems nuts to me that you could blow through that much money on overtime. I mean how many hours is that?!

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Mike Fish November 16, 2011 at 11:23 am

        It's not the protesters fault they paid to bring in police from Salem.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 16, 2011 at 11:31 am

          Thanks for bringing that up Mike. I think it's interesting how quick people are to blame the movement on police overtime expenses when it's the Mayor and police who decided what level of staffing and readiness to come at the camps with in the first place.

          Isn't it possible that the police could have called for a less robust show of force and therefore not spent as much money on staff? After all, the occupiers are obviously very peaceful.

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          • wsbob November 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm

            "...After all, the occupiers are obviously very peaceful."

            When push comes to shove, that's somewhat debatable.

            They, and I don't mean just the people that actually were living in the parks in association with OP, but also the 5000 people milling around out in the streets, were likely inclined to be more peaceful in the face of overwhelming numbers of law enforcement present.

            "...I think it's interesting how quick people are to blame the movement on police overtime expenses when it's the Mayor and police who decided what level of staffing and readiness to come at the camps with in the first place. ..." maus/bikeportland

            OP is responsible for the $450,000 having to be spent on police overtime just for the weekend. If OP had shown indication that it was going to have its stuff packed up and out of the parks and the streets by 12:01 Sunday, and had actually done that, the need would not have existed for the mayor and the PD to decide to call in that big of a law enforcement OP eviction crowd management detail.

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          • jeff November 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm

            peaceful, yes, law abiding, no.
            their rights end where the rest of ours begin.

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          • 9watts November 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

            wsbob,
            you're such a law and order guy :-)

            I've heard that some people believe riot gear induces peacefulness, but I have not experienced that myself. Perhaps you forget that the protesters are there because they believe the world could or deserves to be a better place for everyone. This is a matter of conscience. Deadlines and turtle costumes aren't so important when looked at from that vantage point.

            Protesters shut down the WTO in Seattle, and you can be sure there was lots of police overtime involved. If our system weren't so screwed up, more of us might throw our towel in with the everyone-must-be-in-bed-with-the-lights-out-by-midnight perspective you are bringing to this issue.

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          • wsbob November 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

            "...Perhaps you forget that the protesters are there because they believe the world could or deserves to be a better place for everyone. ..." 9watts November 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

            I haven't forgot this, and it's that positive emotion and action resulting from it that are among things I admired about OP's 5 weeks in Chapman-Lownsdale.

            Something to keep in mind though, is that not all of the people drawn to social-economic-political demonstrations like OP are necessarily there to achieve those admirably idealistic goals by peaceful means.

            9watts, your summary of why I've been presenting a view of OP's failure to own up to its responsibilities in association with its use of Portland residents parks is astonishingly absent of thought. This eviction wasn't a simple law and order issue, as in: 'The parks must be cleared by 12:01 Sunday'.

            It was many things, but obviously one of them involved a social-economic responsibility on the part of people directly involved with and occupying the parks to get their stuff out in advance of the eviction deadline, so that the city would not have to mount the kind of massive, expensive enforcement detail it did.

            I would like to think that somebody involved with OP's organization and coordinating would have anticipated or have been briefed on the preparations the city was going to have to take if the parks weren't cleared well before the deadline. Apparently that didn't happen. As a result, Portland resident taxpayers have this additional $450,000 expense to pony up.

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          • 9watts November 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm

            wsbob,
            so you would mope about police overtime in the wake of the Seattle/WTO protests? How about Bimingham, AL's cops and all the overtime they racked up dealing with freedom riders? Did Cairo police overtime in February bother you as well?

            The expenditure for ~8,400 hours of overtime for a single weekend and two small inner city squares is nuts, a complete overreaction. Fingering Occupation Portland as responsible for that waste of taxpayer money as you seem intent on makes no sense to me in this context.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Jeffrey Bernards November 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm

            They confiscated rocks and bricks before the "move", they had the right to feel safe, if it takes more police for all of them to feel safe, so be it.

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          • wsbob November 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm

            "...The expenditure for ~8,400 hours of overtime for a single weekend and two small inner city squares is nuts, a complete overreaction. ..." 9watts

            Are you saying this while making an effort to see the OP eviction situation from the standpoint of the mayor, police chief and other people of the major U.S. city that Portland is?

            Especially after the fact, certainly some people are going to feel the city over-reacted. Leading up to the final days and weeks though, what kind of situation might city hall may have considered it was looking at?

            I don't appreciate your insulting efforts to dismiss constructive criticism of OP's actions and their effect on the city's budget as 'moping'. I'm writing about things OP's coordinators, organizers and participants in the GA should have anticipated and prepared for themselves, which could have possibly avoided the debacle resulting from OP's eviction.

            At this point equating the justification of expenses resulting from OP's presence in the parks and its eviction to that for demonstrations demanding racial equality in the deep south or religious equality in Egypt, is a stretch. This isn't the first time that analogy has been raised. What I've been reading and hearing, is that supporting the struggle to further the latter two types of equality is considered far more worthy than the target of Occupy's efforts are.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Alan 1.0 November 16, 2011 at 11:33 am

          Well, it is if you think they should just eat cake.

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          • 9watts November 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

            Huh? Mixing our metaphors are we?

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  • Alan 1.0 November 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

    9watts
    Huh? Mixing our metaphors are we?

    No. Think about it. Hint: I'm not dissing Occupy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • 9watts November 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      Alan,
      I think I may have misunderstood your point. Part of the trouble (I have) is with these nested reply comments and the frequent shuffling that fails to keep them in the order (I think) the posters intended. I so miss the old numbered system but fear we won't get it back.

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      • Alan 1.0 November 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm

        And I was too cryptic (again). I meant to suggest that those calling for Occupiers to pay for Portland's decision to call in more police are analogous to the mythical princess suggesting that her peasants weren't going hungry. Ted explained it better over in the N17 thread.

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      • Alan 1.0 November 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm

        PS, 9watts, you explained a similar idea very well in this post about substituting support for the homeless for the police costs.

        (I'm OK with the comment threading--including jumps to new threads when indentation runs out and there are still things to be said--but I do wish I could edit my posts.)

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks for those points about reasons for the police presence/overtime expenses wsbob. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about all this so I love reading other perspectives.

    My main point is that no one is questioning the size and expense of the police resources spent on the incident (and still ongoing). Is it really necessary to police everything as if you expect violence and a riot? Or are the police sparing no expense because it's nice to give officers the overtime they likely want and it also gives them the power of the media/public narrative (to blame OPDX for the expense)?

    I am really just trying to figure all this out. Thanks everyone for making this forum welcome to all perspectives and for helping others better understand the issues.

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  • GlowBoy November 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I was told about a decade ago by someone high up in Portland's transportation system that the city was about to drastically cut back on its slurry-seal program (which greatly improves pavement lifespan), and that we would eventually see a resulting big increase in potholes. And now more big cuts? Yikes.

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  • wsbob November 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    "...My main point is that no one is questioning the size and expense of the police resources spent on the incident (and still ongoing). ..." maus/bikeportland

    Until today, not in comments to bikeportland stories. People have been and are of course questioning that huge amount of cash dropped on OP.

    Adams was quoted in an Oregonian story, his remarks suggesting he was bewildered by the amount of money and what the city is going to have to figure out to do to pay for it. That suggests to me that his decision to approve plans to bring in that amount of law enforcement, wasn't some casually made excuse to give cops overtime or to shift blame to OP for its negative impacts on the park and the city.

    I think we might all benefit from hearing more from City Hall about how the decision to bring in that large amount of enforcement detail was arrived at. One thing's for certain though, big crowds can get easily get out of hand. Think about the Pioneer Square Christmas Tree fiasco some years back on New Years Eve. New Years Eve is supposed to just be a fun, upbeat, non-political non-religious get together, but that night turned out to be kind of a disaster.

    Contrast that night with OP's eviction, which held the potential for a highly combustible social political confrontation that the mayor and his staff couldn't be sure of the outcome beforehand, one way or another. What types of people was the eviction going to prompt to violent action? Adams and Reece and their staffs couldn't know for sure, so they had to develop and decide upon some strategic plans to prepare for their best guess of what could happen, worst case.

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  • PorterStout November 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Not all the protesters have been peaceful, like the guy who threw the Molotov Cocktail. $450K might be cheap compared to a situation that had otherwise escalated out of hand. Thankfully we aren't discussing the reverse situation, as in they should have put more people on this!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Alan 1.0 November 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      Good point. Had that mental case, who was wandering around Portland with or without Occupy, had been handled the way some others have been, PPD could have cost the city considerably more.

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    • 9watts November 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      There are about 57 ways to imagine handling (having handled) this situation in the parks. Eviction/waste of taxpayer money is not the only one--does this need saying?
      Why not (hypothetical and now obsolete suggestion) dispatch one policeman to keep tabs down there, or better yet, work with the folks at Occupy Portland to help them keep things in line with the folks who were causing trouble. If we can pony up half a million bucks just like that with no questions asked, we also could have come up with 1 or 2% of that amount to help those who were trying to keep order in the parks.
      The ostensible reason(s) given for eviction could have been handled in a far more cooperative and less expensive fashion, were it not for the fact that it seems our (and SF and NY and OAK) city leaders were looking for a pretext to make this eyesore go away.

      To me this chapter/eviction/waste of taxpayer money underscores the initial grievance of the 99% that keeping order for the holiday shoppers, or just keeping order--even if the 'disorder' consists of citizens exercising their rights to free speech and dissent--is the top priority.

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      • wsbob November 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

        "...Why not (hypothetical and now obsolete suggestion) dispatch one policeman to keep tabs down there, or better yet, work with the folks at Occupy Portland to help them keep things in line with the folks who were causing trouble. ..." 9watts

        In the event you don't already know from having actually been at OP, or from reading the news, in the weeks and days leading up to the eviction, the city did have small numbers of police in the parks occupied by OP throughout the hours of the day.

        As I understand, OP in fact, had its own OP participant security detail that worked with the PPD to help keep the occupying demonstration free of overwhelming problems. That relatively modest number of police and security apparently wasn't enough to forestall the issues that caused OP to be evicted with the level of enforcement the mayor and the PD felt was necessary to wind up the occupation by avoiding all violence if possible.

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  • Jeffrey Bernards November 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Just for everyone's information, Studded tires take an asphalt road that should last 12-15 years and cut it's life to 7. Cement roads should last 35-40 years, with studded tire use 15 years. State wide they only repair $11 million a year worth of damage. They estimate that it's $50 million in damage, they're backlogging $39 million a year. State wide it adds up to over $1 billion in backlogged road repair just from studded tires. The alternative studdless tires outperform studded tires and cause no damage. It's time technology tires are use on Oregon's valuable infrastructure. Please help and donate to http://www.preservingoregonroads.com
    Jeff Bernards
    chief petitioner

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Duncan November 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I hear that the Syrians are following Portlands lead and sending demonsrators there a bill for bullets.

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  • resopmok November 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    on the bright side, portland doesn't see the freeze/thaw cycles like in other parts of the country that really contribute to the rapid deterioration of road surfaces. that doesn't mean we won't see potholes, just not as many as quickly from a new road as we might otherwise.

    i also have to question the city's motivation on cutting maintenance instead of new projects for this simple reason: it is cheaper to maintain the roads we have than to build new ones. yes, new facilities are nice, but most existing ones are really quite usable and supportable, especially if these less cars-in-the-future projections turn out to be true. yes i know capital projects are budgeted in a different manner and paid for from a different pocket, but that doesn't mean it's time to think about such things logically.

    years of economic boom and prosperity have taught us to just throw away things that are old because they are old. we need to change this mentality if we are to survive tougher times and buy things which are quality, serviceable and reliable. let's take care of our roads.

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  • Straybike November 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Gas tax revenue shortfalls are responsible per local news. I was under the impression the gas tax was for highway repair. How do we fix this problem as we turn more to alternatives that lead us away from fossil fuels? We want bikeways, safer streets, and community acceptance. We need ideas if we wish to avoid a bicycle license or tire tax to be on the next ballot.

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    • 9watts November 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      straybike,

      I think the answer is to up the gas tax by however much it takes. Those who burn the gas are the culprits when it comes to wear and tear on the roads. Steep fees proportionate to the estimated damage associated with studded tires might also go some distance toward realigning the source of the deterioration with the solution to it.

      Better yet, plan for the disappearance in our lifetimes of both cars and studded tires, when we realize that the oil and the effects of its combustion are no longer something we can or want to afford--when we also won't necessarily be able to count on asphalt and the trucks to haul it being readily available either--and see where it takes us.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Stripes November 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I've been trying to do my bit to up the City's transportation revenue. Every single time I see a car blocking a sidewalk, like THIS - http://www.cityofdenton.com/Modules/ShowImage.aspx?imageid=1779 - I call the City's Parking Enforcement hotline, to get them ticketed! The number is 503-823-5195 - so put it in your phone.

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  • Mike November 17, 2011 at 6:43 am

    I've always wondered why people here bitch about money spent on roads. Where do you think you ride? Do you like pot holes? So the next time a conversation about road improvements come up, stop with the bike lane B.S. Would you rather ride on smooth roads or have some half ass bike lane?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • DK November 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    The police kept the protesters off the steel bridge this morning so they couldn't occupy it. Instead, the police occupied it.

    The police herded the Occupy crowd onto the sidewalks as they made their way through town and focused on keeping them off the streets. Meanwhile, the police were in the streets and had them closed to traffic.

    Interesting power play on the part of the city.

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