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Did the Mayor make an innocent mistake?

Posted by on April 25th, 2007 at 4:36 pm

To Portland’s bike insiders, savvy advocates, BTA members, and regular readers of this site, the Bicycle Master Plan Update process is nothing new. We’ve been getting excited about it for months. There have been brown bag discussions, monthly rides, steering committee meetings, a lot of coverage on this site, and so on.

But the same might not be true of the Mayor’s office.

I think there’s a real possibility that the Bike Master Plan is not as well known in his office as we might assume. In fact, I doubt many people in City Hall (outside of Commissioner Adams’ office) knew much about it before the barrage of calls and emails in the last few days.

Perhaps the Mayor’s decision to cut funding for this process was merely an oversight? I know it might be a blow to our ego that our Master Plan Update wasn’t a budget shoe-in, but hear me out.

Even though we’ve been discussing it for a while now, the effort is in its early stages. There have been no briefings on it in City Council, there was not a strong voice for bicycling on the Community Budget Advisory Board (in fact, in a recent exercise, they chose to not prioritize the Master Plan Update expenditure), and the official Open Houses don’t start until June.

In addition, funds for the Bike Master Plan Update ($100,000) were only a minuscule portion of a much larger Safe Streets Initiative, which included 30 different requests for a total of $10.8 million in expenditures.

This funding request was also just one of hundreds that poured into the Mayor’s office from City Bureaus and non-profit groups when news was made of $32 million ($19 million from PDOT) in one-time funds being available.

According to one City staffer, this flood of requests was likely “overwhelming” for the Mayor’s budget team and it was definitely possible that $100,000 for the Bike Master Plan could have been overlooked.

I’ve also heard from various sources that the Mayor, as late as just a few weeks ago, had very limited knowledge of what exactly the Bicycle Master Plan Update was all about. This may be why one person told me this morning that Mayor Potter’s office was “caught off-guard” by the torrent of emails and phone calls this issue has generated.

My hunch is that the Mayor’s office just assumed the Bike Master Plan was simply another wonky planning exercise, and that they severely underestimated the support for the plan in the community and the high level of knowledge many people (outside of PDOT cubicles) have for it.

Maybe sometimes we get so wrapped up in our bike world we just assume everyone else “gets it”, but perhaps in the future we’ll do a better job making sure.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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BURR
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BURR

Perhaps this is just a blessing in disguise, as the squeaky wheel often gets greased.

freddy
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freddy

Jonathan, if you’re right, the Mayor has a great chance to prove it by admitting he made a mistake and re-funding the Bicycle Master Plan process.

So far I haven’t heard that he has any plans to do so, so I’m not planning to let him off the hook.

But if he does “see the light,” I’ll be the first to say thank you.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
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Attornatus_Oregonensis

Ditto freddy.

joeb
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joeb

Excellent job covering this. Six updates since 2:00 yesterday afternoon. This quote from Congressman Blumenauer says a lot:
‘…Our celebration of cycling also should include reflecting on the effects of integrating bicycling into the fabric of our community. There is nothing that is a better expression of a livable community… We are celebrating Bicycle Month and its importance to the country not a moment too soon. Cycling is important for the health of our citizens. It is playing a larger role for the health of our economy and our environment and literally the health of our communities and our planet. We are recognizing not just a Bicycle Month but the role in cycling in making a livable community, making all our families safer, healthier, and more economically secure.’ http://blumenauer.house.gov/issues/FloorSpeechSummary.aspx?NewsID=1454&IssueID=15

PoPo
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PoPo

Thank you, Jonathan, for encouraging us to keep an open mind to various possibilities, and to remind us about the broader perspective, and the fact that government positions and offices are run by us, not them. Our neighbors, perhaps our friends. All of us, government employees or not, are subject to the various limitations of being human–such as not being perfect. Most of us are good, most of us do our best. Most of us have had to make difficult decisions that not everyone will like.

No matter how obvious we wish it were, goverment is not simple. Every decision, particularly when deciding the distribution of limited resources, is complicated. And as you’ve noted above, keeping abrest of all the various interests can be overwhelming. I’ve never been mayor, or a city council person, and therefore have no true idea of their job and what they wrestle with every day. All I can do is let them know what I wish they would do (as I will do in this case) and hope that our combination of voices will sway them more than the all the other voices of our community, many of whom don’t bike and aren’t as passionate about it as are we.

Todd
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Todd

Perhaps the Mayors office would have not missed it (if this is the case) if the planning budgetr were $1 million. Perhaps we are asking for too little. 😉

Matt Picio
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Thanks, Jonathan – your coverage has been awesome!

I haven’t received any response to my email from the mayor’s office, but I forwarded it to the city councilors, and got a reply from Randy Leonard, who said “Thanks, Matt. I will do what I can to get the Bike Master Plan funding back in the budget.”

So, regardless of why the omission happened, it looks like we’ve prompted some kind of response. I will definitely be at the Master Plan Ride on Tuesday, and I hope there is a really big turnout.

Martha S.
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Martha S.

I do rather hope you’re right on this one Jonathan; it’s much easier to get someone to reconsidder something they never really gave much considderation in the first place.

MikeOnBike
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MikeOnBike

In Boise, ID the Master Bike Plan is alive and well. The responsibility for the plan lies with Ada County Highway District and they have allocated $250,000 for Alta Planning and Design to complete the study by early 2008.

http://www.achd.ada.id.us/Departments/PP/RoadwaysBikeways.aspx

Good luck with your effort to get back on the mayor’s budget.

Love BikePortland, wish we had something like this in Boise.

Shamus
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Shamus

Let’s hope it was an oversight, though if “the Mayor’s office just assumed the Bike Master Plan was simply another wonky planning exercise” you’d think he’s jump all over it, as fond as he is of wonky planning exercises – see his pet project “visionPDX”, which along with the Central Portland plan get over $2 mil in his proposed budget. Yep, that’s right – bike master plan = $0, visionPDX gets $2 freakin million. How’s that for a wonky planning exercise?