Posted by Michael Andersen (Contributor) on September 19th, 2013 at 8:52 am
standing, was a key figure in drawing up plans like
the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor project.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
A pair of key job openings, one very large and one quite small, could help the Portland Bureau of Transportation pivot into an agency that, at every level, prioritizes the movement of people instead of the movement of cars.
Or the other way around.
The big position is the city’s transportation planning manager, a role recently vacated by Paul Smith. As head of the team that sets big priorities for the city’s streets and then convenes stakeholders to work out specific plans to change them, the new planning manager will set an important tone for the office.
New PBOT Director Leah Treat said in an interview with BikePortland last week that upon joining the department, she personally rewrote the hiring description to fit her goal of finding “an unconventional person” for the role.
“I want somebody with creativity and imagination. I want somebody who wants to bring innovation.”
— Leah Treat, PBOT Director
“This is not just a veteran planner,” Treat said. “I want somebody with creativity and imagination. I want somebody who wants to bring innovation. … One of the things that we’re going to need is to realign ourselves in environmental justice issues, equity issues. But I’m also interested, in many of the plans that we launch, involving a livability perspective and involving art.”
I asked Treat for a small example of what she meant by innovation. Though she noted that this might not be possible, she raised the example of a crosswalk signal that could be activated by giving a device a high five rather than just pushing a button.
“I see examples from cities all over the world that are doing really cool things with their infrastructure,” Treat said.
The work will take “a real dynamo,” Treat said, with “strong leadership skills for the internal team” as well as “serious strong emotional intelligence” to work with partner governments.
The work pays $90,000 to $121,500 in salary per year. Applications are due Monday.
“We think this is one of the best planning jobs available in the United States right now,” PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said.
The second job open at PBOT is down the hierarchy, and it’s the sort of thing you’ll often hear people claim governments don’t need: a professional communications and social media assistant who’ll earn $22.39 to $34.49 per hour “to inform, educate and engage the public, primarily through online and social media platforms (website content, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube with additional possibilities through Pinterest, Scribd and other platforms) but also with traditional communication methods.”
This one is a newly created position, described as “temporary” and maybe also part-time. But the way ideas are communicated matters a lot, so you’ll never hear BikePortland downplay the importance of government employees who are good at explaining the government’s work to the public.
It’d be ridiculous for a private company with PBOT’s $340 million annual budget to scrimp on communications staff — let alone a company that had to report to 594,000 shareholders and to more than a million daily customers. And if that company were a public agency, underinvesting in communication wouldn’t just be dumb; it’d be unjust.
Let’s hope the people who land in both these positions help Portlanders talk clearly and honestly with each other about what we really want.