After posting my first Salem report, BTA bike lobbyist Scott Bricker and I set off for two more meetings.
The first was with Representative Jeff Barker, a Democrat who represents Beaverton and Aloha. This meeting (as usual) would only last about 15 minutes and with three full bills to cover, Scott didn’t want to overwhelm Rep. Barker with information.
Since Rep. Barker is the Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Scott’s strategy was to discuss just one concept; the BTA’s vulnerable roadway user idea (which isn’t an official bill yet, but once it is it will likely go through that the Judiciary Committee). This is the bill that seeks to create a new crime for motorists that kill or severely injure a “vulnerable roadway user”.
Rep. Barker appreciated Scott’s approach to this bill because it seeks an emphasis on rehabilitation and diversion for offenders, rather than long prison terms. Barker is a retired cop, so he understands the high cost of locking people up.
Our next and final meeting was with Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappose). Sen. Johnson — who chairs the Transportation and Economic Development Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee — is the type of legislator I really love; a tough, straight shooter, with an open mind and a heart underneath a no-nonsense exterior.
Given Sen. Johnson’s place on the Ways and Means Committee (which deals with taxes and funding), Scott’s plan for this meeting was to talk in general about funding for alternative transportation modes and bicycle facilities.
Sen. Johnson implored us to not simply ask for money for bikes, but to have specific projects in mind, and hopefully “good projects” with demonstrated public support and “bang for the buck.”
While not a cyclist herself, Sen. Johnson is very excited about the burgeoning bicycle tourism efforts going on around the state. She spoke glowingly about a multi-use trail in Astoria that has helped re-vitalize their downtown and has become a cherished part of the community.
Sen. Johnson — who is Chair of the Brand Oregon board — is very keen on helping fund projects that have a strong tourism and/or economic development component.
Sen. Johnson also reminded us that as bicyclists we “have some fence-mending” to do and that she feels there are many legislators who have a bad image of cyclists. She specifically mentioned the “militancy” around Critical Mass as being something that only makes it more difficult for cyclists in Salem.
The topic of the negative impacts of Critical Mass is fodder for a separate post, but her comments and tone around this issue really put into perspective how much work the cycling community has to do to counter existing negative stereotypes.
It was very refreshing and interesting to hear Sen. Johnson’s perspective on bicycle advocacy and Scott and I both appreciated her honest and sage advice.
I learned a lot in just one day in Salem and I’m thinking of joining Scott on a monthly basis to follow the progress of bike bills and further my experience down there. I’ll end my report here for now, and keep further reflections on my trip for future posts.
Thanks again Scott for being such a great chaperone.
Note: If you have any general or specific questions about how things work in Salem, feel free to leave a comment and either myself or Scott Bricker will do our best to answer them.