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Potter wants street fee on May ballot; BTA plans response

Posted by on February 5th, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Community Budget Hearing

Mayor Tom Potter (in center)
(BikePortland.org File Photo)

In a not too surprising move, Mayor Potter has issued a memo (read it below) to his fellow Commissioners saying that he favors putting the “Safe, Sound, and Green Streets” funding plan back into a single ordinance (it’s currently split into three) and placing it on the ballot this May.

Potter’s carefully crafted statement seems intent on placing himself well above the fray that has played out between Commissioner Adams and lobbyist Paul Romain in recent weeks.

Here’s a snip from the memo:

“…it is equally clear to me that the ordinances have now become a debate about personalities and process and, as a result, we risk losing this opportunity to make our city better if we don’t re-engage the community in the real issues.

…I believe we must place a single measure on the May ballot.”

Potter goes on to say that his idea would remove “any argument that the Council has not allowed citizens to be heard directly on this issue.” He also thinks his idea would help avoid any referral or repeal effort and a resulting campaign that would “drown out rational discussion of the issue.”

“Our understanding and concern is that the mayor is not committed to this funding proposal.”
–BTA’s Karl Rohde

The statement is not too surprising to City Hall insiders that expect Potter to eventually align himself with Commissioner Adams’ primary challenger for mayor, Sho Dozono.

Dozono, who lists Potter’s wife Karen as a campaign supporter, is already on record saying Adams’ plan is the result of “backroom dealings.” Potter has not been so blunt, but he did allude to a similar idea when he told the Portland Tribune a few weeks ago that Adams’ actions on the plan, “might give an impression to the public that we are trying to make the referral process more difficult and manipulate the outcome.”

Kyle Chisek, a policy assistant on Potter’s staff, says “The Mayor’s letter speaks for itself. This is the route he’s willing to support.”

At the City Council meeting this Wednesday, the Commissioners are expected to pass the three-part ordinance. Given that he doesn’t have the requisite votes from his Council colleagues, Potter’s idea is not likely to become a reality.

But that hasn’t stopped the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) from taking his statement seriously.

BTA Public Affairs Director Karl Rohde told me they plan to issue an immediate action alert to their 3,000+ Portland-area members. Rohde says they’ll launch the email and phone call blitz in advance of Council’s Wednesday meeting because, “Our understanding and concern is that the mayor is not committed to this funding proposal and we want our members to let him know they would appreciate his strong support for it.”

I am awaiting comment from Adams office.

Here is Potter’s memo (click for larger version):

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you.

  • DJ Hurricane February 5, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    …and we all know how big a supporter of Mayor Potter is of biking in Portland.

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  • Dag February 5, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Jonathan, When someone does something we don\’t like, you should use a file photo without a cyclist in the background. 😉

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  • tonyt February 5, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Interesting that Potter is concerned about \”Council\’s perceived unwillingness to allow voters to have their say . . . \” and \”manipulating the outcome.\”

    Not too long ago, as I\’m sure many of you remember, Potter thought that it was just fine to cut the community out of any discussion regarding renaming Interstate.

    But I guess that\’s okay when it\’s your own pet project.

    Given Potter\’s disintegrating community support, any endorsement he gives might be the kiss of death.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    If you haven\’t already, now\’s a good time to send a polite but firm email to the Mayor.

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  • BURR February 5, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Potter didn\’t ask for our input when he cut funds for the Bicycle Master Plan, either.

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  • joe adamski February 5, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Potter is a lame duck. Trying to make nice to the petro-boyz is wasted effort.

    Adams made a deal( lowering fee rate for gas stations/convenience stores) and after it was announced, had the deal pulled out from under his feet. The whole effort took place to make Adams look the fool. Council should be circling the wagons, all of them. And acting in concert. They should not be divided up into camps,trying to appease the opposition,or look good for the Daily O. Politicians come and go, Business is forever. For once in 30 years, someone has had the testicular fortitude to address the street maintainance problem . But Plaid Pantry and your local Exxon dealer dont want to pay their fair share. They want YOU to pay their fair share. So they will send their lobbyists to kill any opposition,or delay it till everyone loses interest.

    My thoughts would be a boycott of 7-11/Plaid, and all Kagro ( Korean Grocers Assoc.) stores. Not just by the bike community, but by drivers too. They too are losing in the deal.

    And Potter really really needs to play tough with Romain and all. I know he can if he wants to.

    pardon my rant.

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  • Angry Man February 5, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Sho Dozono is a flat out disingenuous liar.

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  • Michelle February 5, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    If you want to email the mayor you can write to him at \”mayorpotter@ci.portland.or.us\”, or you can use this form, or you can call 503-823-4127 and leave a message on his \”personal comment line.\”

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  • Matthew February 5, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    The title of this piece should be \”Potter wants Safe Sound and Green on May ballot; BTA plans response\”

    That is what the mayor called it…

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  • wsbob February 5, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Potter\’s concession to pressure from Paul Romain and the OTA/OPA coalition is pathetic. Potter is not a strong man. That became clear after his walkout on city council during the Interstate renaming controversy. No wonder he wanted a \’strong mayor\’ government structure to prop him up.

    In general, I approve the idea of submitting spending measures to the electorate for approval, except when the major function of doing so is to create an opportunity for business to sabotage efforts to keep streets paved. As I understand it, this funding plan has been widely discussed and approved in community meetings throughout the city.

    Why are small businesses sweating this? Whatever costs this plan represents to businesses will be transferred to their customers in turn. It\’s not as if people are going to stop shopping at gas stations and convenience stores because cigarettes and beer go up in price a little bit to cover the cost of the tax.

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  • anon February 5, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    #9 Matthew,

    I totally agree. We should not allow Potter to reframe this as a fee, it is a proposal for Safe, Sound, and Green Streets.

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  • Aaron February 5, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    I\’ve already written Tom an email. Join me! 🙂

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  • Martha R February 5, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    So Commissionner Adams and his staff spent months holding public open houses, meeting with stakeholders, and gaining public comment on this street funding project. Throughout that process, he and his staff used the input they received to edit the plan in order to ensure that there was widespread acceptance of the plan. Now Potter has the audacity to suggest that the public hasn\’t had a chance to comment??? You bet I\’m going to write him a letter!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 5, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    \”The title of this piece should be \”Potter wants Safe Sound and Green on May ballot; BTA plans response\”

    Folks, I hear your concerns over how I refer to the Safe and Sound proposal.

    In my reporting, I\’ve decided to err on the side of a more objective, descriptive, and most importantly, more widely known and used term… Street Fee.

    Please understand that \”Safe, Sound, and Green\” is Adams\’ name for it…so that\’s more like a marketing brand name.

    also, I check other reporters in town to see what they\’re writing and I listen to what folks on the inside are calling it.

    even folks that are working on the proposal have referred to it as a \”street fee\”.

    Believe me, I am the first one to attribute power and importance to word choice.. but I think in this case \”Street fee\” seems like a harmless term.

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  • a.O February 5, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    All terms have connotations, and Adams\’ term is no more or less a brand name than \”street fee.\” The connotation of \”street fee\” is, \”you have to pay to use the street.\” and the connotation of \”Safe, Sound, and Green\” is that you have to pay to make the streets safer for others.\” In my opinion, the latter is a more accurate connotation. You seem to be justifying using the former term on the basis that others are doing so, but it\’s the fact that you\’re not like the other media outlets that makes you so great. Because this is fundamentally about increasing safety, how about using a compromise term like \”safety fee?\”

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  • Peter W February 5, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I kind of agree with a.O: the most accurate term to use would be \”street safety and maintenance fee\”; although it would be a bit longer, it accurately describes what it is, without appearing biased by using a \’marketing\’ term.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 5, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    \”how about using a compromise term like \”safety fee?\”

    because \”safety fee\” means nothing to someone coming into the story from out of the contextual sphere that people like you and I are in.

    \”street fee\” is much more descriptive… it essentially reads as a fee for the street, which this is.

    as for Peter W\’s suggestions of \”street safety and maintenance fee\”. I like that too… but it is simply too long and would never work in a headline.

    there are a lot of things to consider when writing headlines and trying to communicate concepts like this to a lay audience.

    I remain open to and I appreciate your feedback on this.

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  • Maureen February 5, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    The total irony is that I supported Tom Potter because he ran on making public processes matter. Here\’s the biggest public process I\’ve ever seen and he\’s not supporting the results. He\’s one of the ugliest politicians I\’ve ever seen. I feel like a fool for voting for him and an even bigger fool for encouraging my friends to. And look where its landed him. He has nothing to show for his term in office. If he thinks he\’s opened up access to city hall, this political move shows how little he thinks public input should effect solutions. When you\’re a monumental failure like Tom Potter, the best you can do is drag others down with you.

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  • Jeff February 5, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    This is “special interest” politics, all you see is the bikey things you’ll get. You don’t see the impact on homeowners & small business. This fee won’t affect my business but I use the roads for my business, that’s not fair. I feel I should pay to use the roads, especially for commercial purposes. If I was self-interested I would support this fee structure, but I don’t. A gas tax is the most efficient user fee. Legislators treat the auto as an untouchable; it’s time the car paid its way. This is a duct tape solution, not a permanent fix. The corner store that I’m able to walk or bike to will have to raise prices to pay for an individuals choice to drive, that makes no sense to me. Whether it’s the oil company or the bike community, “special interest” groups need to look at how their wants list affects others and the process that is implemented is fair to everyone. This fee is totally unfair to small business & homeowners.
    I went to several of the community meetings, I made several suggestions to Sam Adams for ways to save some money on roads, like banning studded tires. He told me he didn’t want to hear about it, that he needed this money and that’s all that mattered. I also suggested that having neighbors rake their own leaves could save some money, symbolic as it seems, it shows some concern for us taxpayers.
    The day I spoke against the Convention Center Hotel, Sam showed up and said the city could kick in $10 million. That’s almost half the money the bike community needs. When I review city responsibilities, fire, police, water, roads, I don’t see hotel on that list. Government needs to prioritize. Taxing housing & businesses to subsidize driving is wrong. If I had to choose, I want to keep my housing costs down, and make alternative transportation more attractive by taxing gasoline. If the state raised the gas tax, 1% of spending goes to bike infrastructure.
    Please, I ask you to look at this proposal a little deeper than your own self-interest.

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  • JAMAL February 5, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Good for the Mayor. We need to vote on this. I was with Sam at first, but he\’s really taken this way too far and he\’s going to kill any chance we have at getting this money if he keeps screwing around. Just send it to the ballot and keep the outreach going. I know we\’ll win big that way.

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  • Steph February 5, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Jamal has a very good point and I\’ve really been bothered lately by Sam Adams\’ behavior. He\’s looking like a really shady character. It\’s one thing now when we like this proposal, but what if we didn\’t like it and he was pulling the same manuevers to keep it away from voters? Let\’s think beyond our own self interests here.

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  • Moo February 6, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Potter is just piling onto his legacy…Yeah, he has duped alot of people into thinking he supports bike commuting, public access and process, open forums and now we see it\’s all about big money. He\’s wasting no time in grinding his own ax on this one. Oh, and his unfortunate wife\’s name is Karin- not Kristin…sorry J.M. – and you too Karin );

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  • Take Action February 6, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Call Potter! 503.823.4127

    Action Alert at http://www.bta4bikes.org/

    This is the morning to call before it is voted on.

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  • wendy February 6, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Jeff – you made a statement that Sam wasn\’t interested in studded tire fixes. I strongly disagree, the City supported a statewide ban on studded tires or a significant fee on studded tires for over a decade. My memory is that Sam has consistently stated that he wants a studded tire fix. Unfortunately, there is not a reasonable and legal way to address this issue at the City level.

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  • Maureen February 6, 2008 at 9:05 am

    The reason we like it is because it was shaped by the community. It puts into action a lot of our long held goals like safe, maintained streets, sidewalks, safe routes for kids to get to school, biking, environmental protection, etc. There has never been as much public involvement in putting a plan together like there was for this one. We\’re letting the oil companies, 7-11, etc use their huge dollars and p/r skills shape the way we and the rest of the city view Sam. He\’s getting a seriously bad wrap because of these sideways statements the likes of Paul Romain is making.

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  • Jeff February 6, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Wendy, At one of the community meetings I brought up the studded tire issue, he took a quick poll and nearly 100% of the people wanted them banned. If the state can regulate tail pipe emmissions against the Feds standards, the city has the right to regulate how the roads we pay for are being used. I asked Sam to make a pulbic statement: \”The City of Portland asks it\’s citizens to forgo using studded tires\” He rebuffed my idea, I thought it was a public input forum?

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  • steve February 6, 2008 at 9:36 am

    7-11 does not sell gasoline.

    Some members of the community are not happy about this fee for numerous reasons. Hell, some members of our cycling community are not happy with this fee. Including those of us who actually participated in the supposed community process.

    Handpicking stakeholders who share your interests and then having them sign off on a mostly predetermined plan, after enduring a few months of meaningless public bitch-fests, does not make this a \”community policy\”.

    If it did, you would not have such a diverse group of people against it. Heck even on this site there are community and cycling activists complaining about the process, as well as the outcome.

    And yet there are so many of you screeching support for a fee structure you do not understand, have not yet read, and of course do not appear to intend to.

    How sad.

    Bleeting the same sound bite arguments over and over is just making you all look as silly as the car/oil whackos.

    Please, try thinking for yourselves! I would suggest actually reading the bill and finding all the waste and lies buried in it, but you can\’t!

    It has been removed from the sites it was on. Not that any of you would bother to read the actual costs!

    The fact remains that a gas tax would save us 10\’s of millions of dollars. It would also place the burden where it belongs, on drivers.

    This fee is regressive and poor policy. If we want real change, we are going to have to take on the auto/oil industry and create a meaningful gas tax. Enough of these sneaky, counterproductive fixes.

    Why should small businesses and home owners subsidize the wasteful choices of their neighbors?

    Raise the gas tax now!

    Oh yeah, anyone but Sam for mayor, please!

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  • Vance February 6, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Commissioner Adams\’ 26, I mean, 21, I mean 20, community meetings were never intended to produce anything. These meetings were nothing more than a smoke screen. How could they\’ve been anything else? At best, these meetings are open to a few hundred people. How is that democratic, or even practical?

    So Adams had a bunch of community meetings, big deal. City Council meetings are a great tool when deciding between purple, and red colored bricks in a sidewalk. City Council meetings apparently placate 20-something children recently relocated from California. But they are most certainly not a good way to produce policy as sweeping as something like penning a new city code.

    If these ordinances remain split, then Adams is guilty of subverting the system. Whose your man now? If the entire policy can find its way onto a ballot, Oregon voters will annihilate this, \’Go-green-or-suffer-and-die-a-slow-death\’, policy without missing a beat.

    This so-called, \”Cycling Community\”, just can\’t seem to get their heads around the fact that motorists do not want cyclists on the road. It would seem that the public, at large, aren\’t as grateful for you-all\’s decreased carbon foot-print as once thought, eh? Motorists are expecting their elected officials to put helmets on us, require us to carry special licensing, register our bicycles and put plates on them; and also to carry liability insurance. You know, punishment. Instead they see a guy, that they already don\’t like, playing as though he\’s all, \’bike\’, and faking advocacy for cyclists.

    At this point I would make some observations about specifics in Commissioner Adams\’ proposal, but wouldn\’t ya know? He pulled the posting off of his blog. I\’ve spent days trying to find the election law that would be violated by leaving the proposal posted to no avail. My guess, the ever articulate Terry Parker got to Adams finally. Or at least that is the delusion I\’m constructing.

    I\’ve ridden around this city for years without a problem. Since the, \”Cycling Community\”, started helping, I\’ve had beer bottles thrown at me, honking and yelling, cars swerving at me. Thanks a bunch folks. A bit of advice for future reference. When you move to a new community, show some manners, and tread lightly. There were people here before you.


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  • Maureen February 6, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Your right. The oil companies definitely have our best interests at heart. We are way better off with do-nothing politicians like Potter and Dozono than Adams who actually gets things done. Potter and Dozono as so warm and fuzzy. Have you noticed that Dozono hasn\’t talked about actual positions on anything. His campaign is all empty rhetoric like Potter\’s was when he ran.

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  • Vance February 6, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Alright Maureen #28, just what, exactly, has Adams done? Name one thing. Just one. Potter is a joke, who is in disagreement? Dozono doesn\’t have a snowball\’s chance either. Who cares? This doesn\’t make Adams a defacto good-choice. He\’s just as bad as the rest, and the so-called, \’cycling community\’, buys into it hook, line, and sinker.

    This proposal, and the way it has been deployed, is quite possibly responsible for ostracizing Eric Sten. You know, the one guy with an actual track record at city hall. Adams has used his position as a City Commissioner for nothing more than a platform from which to launch his bid for political stardom. In doing so, he has never been properly attentive to his position as Transportation Commissioner. The result is a proposal that panders to special interest, and is causing chaos before it is even penned into law.

    Name one thing Adams has done. Just one.

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