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Election thoughts: Hales, Fritz, bad news for the CRC, and more

Posted by on November 7th, 2012 at 9:39 am

Active Transportation Debate at PSU-5
Charlie Hales is promising to “minimize
the drama and maximize the results.”
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

After last night, Portland’s City Council has two fresh faces and the White House retains a familiar one. Both our mayoral race and the race for President were never really in doubt as Charlie Hales easily beat Jefferson Smith and Barack Obama handily rolled to victory over Mitt Romney. But there were other results of major consequence in our city, region and our state.

At the top of the ticket, the night belonged to President Obama. He delivered a stirring acceptance speech that many said was one of his best ever (several of my friends on Twitter admitted to tearing up). The big line from his speech that stood out from me is when he warned of the, “destructive power of a warming planet.”

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
— President Barack Obama

It’s obviously unclear what Obama’s re-election means for bicycling in America. In 2008, when he campaigned here, he noted Portland’s bike lanes and said the nation should copy our example; but his administration ended up passing a transportation bill many in the bike world find abhorrent. The bright spot of Obama’s first term has been his US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood has said he’s set to retire and there’s been some chatter on Twitter this morning (most notably from League of American Bicyclists Director Andy Clarke) urging him to stay. If LaHood does go, some folks would love to see NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan as a possible replacement. Sadik-Khan’s current boss, Michael Bloomberg is nearing the end of his term, so Sadik-Khan will be looking for a new gig soon.

Hales taking the mayor’s race wasn’t a big surprise. Smith was never able to get out in front if the overwhelming negatives that his campaign ran into. In his acceptance speech, Hales promised he’d “refocus on basic services” and that he’d “minimize the drama and maximize the results.” These words are clearly intended to draw a contrast to the governing style of current mayor Sam Adams.

With Hales, we’ve got someone who clearly understands how bicycling should fit into the transportation system (one of his biggest supporters is Mia Birk); but big questions remain about whether or not he’ll be able to move the needle of the narrative. Bicycling has weathered the perfect storm of negative momentum since Adams’ big scandal when he took office in 2008. Will Hales be able to turn things around? So far, his campaign hasn’t provided any reasons for optimism in my opinion. If you are happy with the status quo and incremental change, Hales will certainly pilot us toward that; but if true transportation reform is your hope (as it is mine), it remains to be seen if Hales can deliver.

There’s also the question of what Hales will do with the various bureaus. He got into a bit of hot water during the campaign by hinting that he’d fire current PBOT Director (and former Adams Chief of Staff) Tom Miller if he won. Hales later tried to soften his stance on Miller; but he does say he’ll take all bureaus under his wing for the first three months to make an assessment. Whether Miller stays on or not, it’s not likely that the mayor will continue to have PBOT in his portfolio. Adams loved transportation as an issue and had it as a commissioner; but historically it’s considered to be too big and controversial for the mayor to handle.

Rob Sadowsky, the Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance says Hales is “someone who gets what we do.” “We have a biking mayor in Charlie Hales.. He understands and shares BTA’s vision,” Sadowsky shared with me this morning.

Joining Hales on Council will be another new face, Steve Novick. Novick, who took over Randy Leonard’s seat uncontested, is still somewhat of a mystery to me; but he was endorsed by the Bike Walk Vote PAC and I expect he’ll understand bicycling.

Amanda Fritz-1.jpg
Fritz in 2008.

Amanda Fritz was a big winner last night, fending off a challenge by state legislator Mary Nolan. Fritz has shown that she’s an independent, steady voter who sweats the details. She isn’t likely to launch big initiatives herself, and she has said some suspect things about bicycling; but as a leader who is all about common sense and fiscal responsibility, it seems she’ll be supportive of bicycling.

Down in Eugene, U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio once again put down a challenge by pesky Tea Party Republican Art Robinson.

Also down in Eugene, local bike advocates are celebrating the passage of a street repair tax. The Register-Guard reports that the $43 million bond measure will finance 76 street repair projects and “several bicycle and pedestrian improvements” between 2014 and 2018. I wish Portland was bold enough to have put a similar measure on our ballot. It’s really unfortunate that we’ve been too shy and too bogged down in silly “cars vs. bikes” debates to ask citizens to pony up for transportation.

In Wilsonville, at least one citizen activist is very pleased with how their election went. Patrick Croasdaile (who has written several articles for BikePortland) called the re-election of Mayor Tim Knapp and two new, bike-friendly city councilors a “watershed” moment for the city and said the “Active transportation influence is retained and strengthened in Wilsonville.”

The big news in the Oregon legislature last night was that the House is no longer deadlocked at a 30-30 Democrat-Republican split. Thanks to several victories, Democrats now enjoy a 34-26 advantage in the House. They’ve also maintained a majority in the Senate. That should bode well for transportation reform at the state level.

“The fact that the Democrats control both the House and the Senate… means that it may be easier to move our legislative priorities forward in the House,” says Sadowsky.

Up in Clark County, Washington, the big storyline emerging after last night is that the defeat of Proposition 1 — a tiny tax increase sought by C-Tran to subsidize ongoing operational costs of light rail into Clark County via the new I-5 bridge — was rejected by voters. Prop 1 was seen by many in Southwest Washington as a referendum on the Columbia River Crossing project and it’s failure is very bad news for that project.

According to economist Joe Cortright, without Prop 1, federal funding for the CRC is now in serious jeapordy because the feds have said they won’t fund any transit projects without assured local funding for operations. And, given that light rail has been pegged as a must-have from the Oregon-side of the CRC project, we now stand at an impasse that might be insurmountable.

“CRC doesn’t have a plan “B”,” Cortright shared with me before the election last night, “This election has been on the critical path for the CRC for the past several years. If they lose on Proposition 1, they have to come up with a new source of operating money – and get voter approval for that new plan.”

Washington did however, pass marijuana legalization and marriage equality laws. That led one source to quip last night, “Oregonians may want to move to Washington State to take advantage of the legal marijuana and the marriage equality. But they won’t be able to get there on C-Tran.”

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  • Chris November 7, 2012 at 9:51 am

    One thing you can say for Charlie Hales that contrasts him with Smith and Adams: He’s not a liar. So that’s a start.

    And here in Bend we (seem to have) voted to fill in the gaps of our river trail system, connecting it through town and to the fantastic national forest trails beyond. That improvement also comes with an ice skating rink and a white water kayak park. Unfortunately, we still have a Rep in Congress who thinks global warming is a hoax, so Bend’s not perfect after all…

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    • Bjorn November 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

      I wouldn’t say that, he broke a major campaign promise towards the end when he was able to line up some big money donors knowing that his opponent was unlikely have done so. Would he have won without taking that cash, probably, but that like his decision to record an off the record discussion by his opponent, edit it to be more politically damaging, and then release it made me realize that Hales while he may make a decent mayor is a politician at heart and a very shady guy who you can’t really trust to do what he says he will.

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    • Schrauf November 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      NOT a lier? Is that a typo? There are so many examples of him lying. Among others listed here, he voted in Oregon for years while claiming Washington residency for tax purposes. TOTAL lier.

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  • Andrew K November 7, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Start writing letters to Hales now folks.

    Let him know that the bike community is a group he needs to respect and fear (<– just a little bit). Setting that tone early and often is going to be very important.

    Hales is not stupid, and I do believe he wants what is best for Portland despite his flaws. However, like any elected official he is going to move in the direction of those who speak loudest. When our biggest newspaper, the Oregonian, has an obvious anti-bike agenda we need to make sure we are heard above the devisive nose they generate.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

      I would just add that referring to yourself as a “member of the bike community” is a big mistake. I think that self-marginalizes bicycling in a way that’s not necessary. We are Portlanders! We believe that roads should be as accessible and safe when we choose to bike as when we choose to walk, take transit, or drive.

      The more politicians stop seeing bicycling as a “special interest” or a defined “community”, the better (in my opinion).

      If we don’t put ourselves in a convenient little box — which can be blamed for things, stereotyped, unfairly labeled, and so on — neither can politicians (or the media for that matter).

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      • Randall S. November 7, 2012 at 10:12 am

        Agreed. How many motorists call themselves “members of the car community?”

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        • Sunny November 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

          Probably none, but a lot consider themselves the bicycle hating community.

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      • Andrew K November 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

        On principle I agree with you completely, and your suggestion is appreciated. Just be careful not to get bogged down in semantics instead of focusing on the message.

        Believe it or not, but there are times in the world of politics when self-marginalizeing (sp?) is a good thing. Not all the time mind you, and it certainly needs to be purposeful, but it can be.

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      • q`Tzal November 7, 2012 at 10:52 am

        Here, you I’ll get us started:

        “I’m a tax paying, middle class citizen living and employed in Portland. I want to travel safely by bicycle to and from home, my employer and retail businesses in frequent on a daily basis.
        For a miniscule investment in safety a silent majority of everyday citizens (voters) will bicycle more often keeping more of our hard earned money in our local economy and local tax base.
        It might be better for the environment,
        It might be better for public health:
        be greedy and do for local tax revenue.”

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        • Matt November 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

          I tweaked it a little bit and just emailed him this:

          I’m a tax paying, middle class citizen living and employed in Portland. I want to travel safely by bicycle to and from home, my employer and retail businesses conveniently and safely on a daily basis. For a miniscule investment in safety a silent majority of everyday citizens (voters) will bicycle more often keeping more of our hard-earned money in our local economy and local tax base. It’s better for the environment. It’s better for public health. It’s better for local tax revenue.

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          • q`Tzal November 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm

            Mine was a first draft and needed tweaking.
            Like the equation for the optimal reply to “do I look fat in this?” it requires input variables not available until real time execution.

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      • Spiffy November 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

        I’m a Portlander AND a member of the bicycle community, the working community, the food eating community, the sleeping community, and the Foster-Powell community…

        we’re all members of THE community… call it whatever you want when it’s convenient…

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      • matt picio November 7, 2012 at 11:02 am

        Mistake or not, a lot of people self-identify as part of the “bike community”. I’m not going to stop calling myself part of that just because others fear it’s self-marginalizing. Identity is a big part of who we are, and it puts us out in the public sphere are keeps us noticed. It was that sense of community that got me involved in SHIFT, in BonB, and spurred me to co-found Cycle Wild. It was an influence in the formation of Umbrella (and ultimately an impetus to define Umbrella as “more than just bikes”)

        The fact that you are able to say “I think it’s a big mistake” and that I can say “I don’t care, I’m going to do it anyway” is the core aspect of what makes our country great. (and I think the fact we can both do that and still share a beer together is a big part of what makes our community – however we define that within or without our subdivisions – as great as it is)

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  • Krelimo November 7, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Chris
    One thing you can say for Charlie Hales that contrasts him with Smith and Adams: He’s not a liar. So that’s a start.

    Shooorely you must be joking. This is the guy that stumped for HDR while on the council and then quit early to take a job with them. “Trustworthiness” is not a trait I imagine anyone would ascribe to him.

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    • jimbobpdx November 7, 2012 at 10:15 am

      This needs clarifying – please take a minute explain what you mean by “. . . stumping for HDR while on the Council.”

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    • Chris November 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Don’t see how that makes him a liar.

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  • Chris I November 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

    “I wish Portland was bold enough to have put a similar measure on our ballot. It’s really unfortunate that we’ve been too shy and too bogged down in silly “cars vs. bikes” debates to ask citizens to pony up for transportation.”

    Regarding the use of property taxes to fund street repair: we do enough of that already. Every low-car or car-free household that pays property taxes to repair streets is being cheated. All street repairs should come from fuel or mileage taxes or parking fees on cars and trucks. They damage the streets; bicycles and pedestrians do not. And this city undercharges for street parking, which should be more than obvious in the areas where it is almost impossible to find street parking.

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    • JRB November 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      I disagree. Roads and motorized transportation are a public good. Not everybody can ride a bike nor can all the goods and services we require be provided by bike. I agree that we can and should greatly reduce our reliance on fossil fueled transportation but we all benefit from it, just as folks benefit from a well educated populace even when they don’t have kids in schools themselves.

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      • 9watts November 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm

        “Roads and motorized transportation are a public good. Not everybody can ride a bike nor can all the goods and services we require be provided by bike.”

        Not so fast.
        Increasingly the motorized part of that statement is becoming a public liability rather than a public good. We may not realize the full extent of this yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not so. The difference I’d highlight is between the present moment, when what you say may be true by default, and the near future, when lots can and I think will change.

        Portland a hundred years ago got along without fossil fuels, and it will so again. The sooner we take steps in that direction the better for all of us.

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        • JRB November 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm

          The Portland area also did not support nearly as many people one hundred years ago or in the same manner. I’m in favor of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and while the pace could certainly be stepped up, its not a transition that could be done overnight without causing massive upheaval and possibly the death of many people. Essentials like food and medicine for us urban dwellers is currently moved by fossil fuels. For that we need motor vehicles and roads. I think it is oversimplistic to say I don’t drive a car so I shouldn’t have to pay anything to maintain our road system. To repeat my analogy from above, my kids finished their public school educations years ago, but I am happy to pay to continue to pay to support schools, including voting to raise my property taxes in the recent election, because I know that me, my family, and the community I care about benefit from educating people, regardless of whose kids they are.

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          • Keith November 8, 2012 at 6:19 am

            I don’t drive a car, but I pay to maintain a road system through retailer-imposed surcharges built into the cost of my purchases.

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            • JRB November 8, 2012 at 7:55 am

              What about for the rapid and easy movement of things that you don’t pay for, but use or may use anyway, fire trucks, ambulance, police, utlity vehicles etc? I think its too simplistic to think the only benefit you get from roads is access to the things you buy. If you want to truly claim that you get no benefit from motorized vehicles, you have to think beyond the things you buy. And wouldn’t you have to pay more for the things you buy if all the costs for road maintenance were borne by motorized users?

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      • El Biciclero November 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm

        “…nor can all the goods and services we require be provided by bike.”

        Right, but we pay for the cost of shipping goods–including the weight-mile taxes charged to OTR shippers–when we buy goods that used motorized transport and roads to get to us. The thing exclusive users of private motorized vehicles need to understand–much like your education analogy–is that providing greater and safer access to alternative modes makes those modes more attractive for other people to use, thereby freeing up additional private motoring space on the road.

        What we should do is lower the gas tax but charge a weight-mile tax on top of it.

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        • JRB November 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm

          I’m all for finding fairer means of funding maintenance of our roads, I just disagree with the original poster’s assertion that people who don’t own a motor vehicle should not have to contribute.

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          • El Biciclero November 8, 2012 at 9:39 am

            Fair enough. I think I let my mind wander a step further to recall the often-repeated refrain of many–that cyclists should actually pay extra to have safer access to roads.

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      • Chris I November 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

        I agree that there are benefits to motorized transportation, but the question is whether it is worthy of a government subsidy. Have you been to western Europe? Society functions just fine even with large motorist taxes. Goods and people still move freely. Why do we need to subsidize it here?

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    • q`Tzal November 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      () Eliminate the idea of a “general fund”.
      () Isolate each individual revenue stream and mandate that funding for revenue using programs come, as much as possible, from user fees or related taxes. Gas taxes, registration, licensing for road costs; property taxes for direct community services like EMS and schools. Treat as separate and distinct accounts.
      () When funding for a program must come from outside or unrelated sources record which of your accounts it came from and note the volatility and reliability of funding stream. If both accounts are controlled be the same authorities then the account losing money needs to have a duplicate entry showing this new liability and how long it will last.
      () Put the whole thing in spreadsheets that become part of a wikipedia style Web Page run by the governing body.
      () Call it “Open Oregon” or something equally clever.

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      • matt November 8, 2012 at 11:15 pm

        What a very Republican idea. Seriously, bike infrastructure would have never been built in the first place if this wacky model had been in place.

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        • q`Tzal November 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm

          I can see where you are confused.
          I didn’t say to eliminate bike funding
          I’m proposing that funding streams should be distinct and easy defined.
          Further that each permanent program is assigned a permanent funding stream. If really don’t care where it comes from, just that it is possible for an average citizen without a CPA and a law degree to be able to figure out what goes where.

          For me it goes back to the “should bikes pay road taxes” debate. It is near impossible to nail down an accurate funding profile for roads in any area because rather than use existing revenue sources too often we see uneducated law makers just adding another layer of Byzantine tax law. Rather than increasing existing taxes create new ones; instead of reducing taxes we create loopholes and exemptions.

          Each layer adds to the complexity, chance for errors and the guarantee that someone with cheat the system.

          Open sourcing our tax code is a start but the code and active budget should not be so monstrous, nebulous and labyrinthine that a normal person can’t figure it out. Think: before we elect someone to handle our money they were just a normal person that didn’t understand it either.

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  • matt picio November 7, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Amanda Fritz will need to work hard to gain my support. I voted for Nolan. I had high hopes for Fritz – the “high” is no longer there, but “hope” is. I appreciate the fact that she’s an independent person. I REALLY appreciate the fact that she is quick to put the brakes on any program that seems to be rolling through on automatic, and that she speaks her mind and asks tough questions. The downside, however, is that putting on the brakes can sometimes be obstructionist, and she’s made a number of decisions in the past couple years that don’t endear her to me from a cycling perspective. I think there’s great potential there, but it wasn’t enough to convince me in time for this election cycle. I honestly hope she proves me wrong, and convinces me that my lack of faith was unjustified.

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  • GlowBoy November 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Charlie Hales lied to the state of Oregon about where he lived. Voter registration fraud is a big enough lie that I refused to vote for him.

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  • Andrew K November 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I see the pointless bickering starting already.

    Folks, it DOES NOT MATTER if Hales lied or not during the campaign. It doesn’t matter if Hales lived in Washington to dodge Oregon taxes. Arguing about it now is completely and utterly silly.

    I’ll admit, I did not vote for Hales. However, he is here and he was elected by the people of Portland. Period. End of story. We need to move forward and work with him, not re-hash the past. If Hales fails at his job as mayor we all lose whether you voted for him or not. You might get your own private little vindication, but the community will not benefit from that.

    When Hales is up for re-election feel free to bring all of these issues back up again. Until then, let’s work together and get things done.

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  • Hugh Johnson November 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Oh please…now Obama is so concerned about “global warming”? It never even came up during the campaign or debates. Let’s not turn Obama into some eco-warrior…he’ll bend over for a buck just like any other politician and you know it Maus.

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  • Lazy Spinner November 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Pointless bickering and 9watts regurgitating James Kunstler – the quintessential BP thread!

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  • jim November 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    By the time Obama fishes his next term everybody will be riding bicycles, old beater ones. We won’t be able to afford to drive our cars or perhaps to even heat our homes with the direction he is going with oil prices.

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    • Chris I November 8, 2012 at 7:55 am

      “He” is not going anywhere with oil prices. Drilling has increased during the last four years, but prices have not gone down. Haven’t figured it out yet, have you? Oil is a global commodity. We don’t have enough capacity to significantly affect the global prices.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves

      YOU have the power to lower your energy costs, by reducing consumption. Prices will not be going down. We could elect Rex Tillerson president, and prices would still go up due to stagnant production and increased Asian demand. Open your eyes.

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  • GlowBoy November 8, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Andrew, I have the same response as on the other thread to your attempt to stifle complaints about the election results and “move forward” without discussion. It’s DAY ONE after the election. There’s nothing wrong with having this conversation. Especially after this particular election, when a lot of things went wrong that didn’t need to, a little after action review – talking about what went wrong, and how it could be avoided in the future – is not only reasonable, but IMO essential.

    There’s certainly nothing “pointless” to me in discussing the particularly shitty choices we had this year; those who do find it pointless can choose not to participate, rather than try to shut it down.

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    • Andrew K November 8, 2012 at 7:13 am

      What I see in the discussions above is not reflection nor is it even review, it’s re-hashing the same arguments and finger pointing that went on during the election. “Charlie Hales lied!” with a response of “No he didn’t!!” with a response of “Yes he did!!!!”

      I for one don’t learn anything from that. Like I said before, I didn’t vote for Hales but I don’t need to bring up my reasons for not doing so. Whatever the outcome of that circular argument is Hales is still the mayor. That isn’t going to change.

      So here we are the day AFTER the day after the election. Can we get to work now?

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  • Dave November 8, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Over here in Clark County, voters elected the two most ignorant, backward, and in one case blatantly biased against mass transit mf’s possible to county comissioner seats. David Madore’s whole campaign was based in an opposition to the CRC and/or any enhancements to non-single-occupant-car transportation spending. Tom Mielke has a long history of destructive, stupid, anti-human positions on many issues, transportation included.

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  • Dave November 8, 2012 at 7:43 am

    May I add, in Portland you should consider yourselves fortunate to have had the choices between Smith and Hales, and between Amanda Fritz and Mary Nolan.

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  • Pot Hole November 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Held me nose and voted for the Eugene measure. Bikes/peds are about 15% of mode here, but got only about 5% of the measure revenue. Big box/sprawl lobbyists blocked earlier efforts to make the tax based on actual road impacts (e.g., per parking space, weight mile, here’s some background http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2008/10/16/news1.html). Still this year’s measure appears to be an improvement over an earlier bond where bike/ped got only 1 percent of revenue and money couldn’t be spent on new paths. City staff also did work in some additional bike projects into the old measure by re-striping lanes after paving. Eugene cyclists could get a lot more if they got independent of public works and organized.

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  • Rebecca November 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    One of the major reasons why I voted for Amanda Fritz and contributed to her campaign is her thoughtfulness and integrity around the NE-SE 50s bikeway project. I was very impressed by how much she listened to proponents and opponents of the various traffic diverters. She also came out to the neighborhoods the night before the City Council vote and drove on the PBOT-proposed bikeway streets as well as on the streets that were proposed as alternate bike routes by the anti-diverter group just to see the difference. She really did her homework before voting (for the bikeway and the testing of the diverters) and that made a real difference for me.

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  • Curt Dewees November 14, 2012 at 9:32 am

    People don’t have to identify as a “member of the car-driving community” because that’s the dominant culture. Just like Caucasians don’t have to self-identify as “a member of the White community” and straight people have no need to self-identify as “a member of the straight community.” That all goes without saying; that’s the norm. It’s the minorities, the ones without the same rights, the ones who are NOT treated fairly and equally, that can gain some power and strength and encouragement by self-identifying as part of a larger community.

    To self-identify as a member of the bike community is to say proudly to the dominant car culture, “You may perceive me as a just a lowly bike rider, as a second-class road user, as someone who is weak and powerless. But I’m not the only one. There are a bunch of us! And we demand that you treat us fairly, that you share the road with us, and that you NOT put our lives in danger. We are citizens, too, and we should have the same rights to the road as you do!”

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