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Mayor Potter responds to BTA action alert

Posted by on February 6th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Adams (L) and Potter at this
morning’s City Council meeting.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Mayor Potter has issued a statement in response to the BTA’s action alert that explains his current stance on the Safe, Sound and Green Streets proposal.

According to Mayor Potter’s public advocate Jeremy Van Keuren, their office has received 186 222 emails from concerned cyclists since late last night.

Here is Potter’s response:

“I, too, support Safe, Sound and Green Streets. The proposal will permit the City to address critical transportation infrastructure needs, reduce our unacceptable maintenance backlog and ensure greater safety for all who share our roads. I’ve told Sam I respect the hard work and extensive public involvement he and the Office of Transportation have put into this important issue.

Safe, Sound and Green Streets first came to City Council on January 9 as a single ordinance, which I supported. After opposition to it surfaced, a decision was made to divide the ordinance into three ordinances, in effect making it difficult, if not impossible, for any citizen opposed to the proposal to effectively exercise their right to refer it to a citywide vote.

At that time, I told Sam I could never support any change that would hurt community participation. Since then, the need for Safe, Sound and Green Streets has been lost in a debate about personalities and election-year politics. Worse, that debate fuels the momentum needed to drive a referendum that could eliminate this much needed fee completely.

On Tuesday, I asked Sam to place Safe, Sound and Green Streets on the May ballot, which may be done at the City Council’s initiative. I believe doing so will end the arguments about politics and refocus the debate on streets. Given the extensive community outreach and education that Sam has said is already completed – including 20 public meetings – there would be no need to wait until a November election. Delaying until November might also inadvertently jeopardize other local initiatives already planned for that ballot.

I know that some folks will say that any referendum must be the work of “Big Oil” or some other vested interest. Frankly, I’ve never met anyone from Big Oil, or ever talked to any lobbyist about this issue. Other than Sam, who negotiated a compromise over his proposal with representatives from the Oregon Petroleum Association and others, I don’t know anyone on Council who has.

There is still time to place Safe, Sound and Green Streets as a single ordinance on the May ballot. I hope you will join me in urging the Council to do so.”

I have two immediate thoughts about this.

First, I don’t quite understand Potter’s “I’ve never met anyone from Big Oil” comment. The concern is that these folks are unknowns and will only show themselves as financiers for the street fee opposition. They’re not hanging around City Hall and I haven’t heard anyone accuse Potter (or anyone else) of being coddled by them yet.

Also, the last sentence of Potter’s statement confirms that the next big decision in this matter is whether the vote happens in May or November. Adams has already drawn a line in the sand by saying this morning that “anyone who is for a May vote, is simply against safe streets in Portland.”

Get ready for a showdown.

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  • bahueh February 6, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    who\’s this Potter guy? I forgot Portland even had a mayor…

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  • Jeremy Van Keuren February 6, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Actually, the number was 222 emails from the BTA action alert. I gave you the wrong number. My bad.

    Jeremy Van Keuren
    Public Advocate
    Office of Mayor Potter

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  • a.O February 6, 2008 at 4:19 pm


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  • Cøyøte February 6, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Splitting it into three parts was a stunt. I\’m Not really a huge Potter guy, but he has a point. If it was mine to choose, I would leave it in one ordinance and plan on surviving the recall effort in May. I figure it is tougher to recall something that has not had a chance to work, than it is passing something that may not work.

    Sam\’s efforts here are admirable. Romain has likely burned a lot of political capital that a lobbyist needs to work. Let the process unfold Sam.

    It would be super to publish the names of the businesses that are buying Romanin\’s time. That way we could let those owners know what they we, their customers, think about Mr. Romain and his tactics.

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  • Bjorn February 6, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Only 186 contacts, that is disappointing. We get that many comments on some bikeportland stories. If you havn\’t had a chance yet please call/email the mayor to let him know that you don\’t agree with his decision to support big oil lobbyist Paul Romain rather than the safe streets initiative. Make sure that he knows that it is an either or, he can\’t support refering this to voters without also supporting Romaine\’s objectives.

    Paul Romaine doesn\’t want this on the
    ballot because he thinks it is a good idea, or because he hopes that the voters will support the work that has been done, he wants it there because he thinks that once it is on the ballot his clients can buy the election and destroy the plan. Romaine\’s funding comes from out of state corporations that do not like the plan Portland came up with as a community and everything they do is done specifically to destroy that plan. Let Potter know we want our safe streets plan and we want it now not in November.

    Finally remind the mayor that if he actually believes in public process he is being very hypocritical. How can we expect Portland to be able to pull off this kind of planning process where we finish with wide buyoff from a variety of stakeholders in the future if people stop participating. We can\’t because the process doesn\’t work when people don\’t buy in and participate, and stop participating is exactly what people will do when they see good government blown up by special interests. Potter\’s decision isn\’t just a loss for this particular plan it is a loss for livability in this city that will be felt for years.


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  • dayaram February 6, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    IT ain\’t a fee it\’s a tax lets vote on it!
    IT ain\’t a fee it\’s a tax lets vote on it!
    IT ain\’t a fee it\’s a tax lets vote on it!
    IT ain\’t a fee it\’s a tax lets vote on it

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  • Adam February 6, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Does anyone know right off hand when in May the vote will be if SSGS hits the ballot then? I turn 18 then and would like very much to have a say in the outcome, but that depends when this all happens.

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  • Matthew February 6, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I was at the Cesar Chavez meeting… A lot of what he is saying here is the complete opposite of what he said there. Odd? Not at all, that was his project, he wanted to see it passed. This isn\’t his project, this one was well done and done by someone else, and he is jealous and therefor wants to make it fail.

    I\’d vote against him, but he isn\’t running so he is kind of irrelevant.

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  • Michelle February 6, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    I get tired of elected officials punting things to the ballot, especially taxes. Anti-tax political campaign money generally beats pro-tax campaign money. We all know that, we don\’t need to test it again and mistake it for \”the will of the people.\”

    I elect people to take the time to figure out how things need to work in the government and then take action to make it better. I don\’t want them referring things to me. If I don\’t like they way they run the government, I\’ll vote against them next time.

    And as it is, service cuts seem to get passed legislatively by representatives at all levels of government, but service increases (i.e. tax increases) are some how always supposed to be referred to voters! That\’s pretty inconsistent governance. Do we want representation, or not?

    I want representation.

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  • wsbob February 6, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I\’m afraid Potter\’s statement may consciously intend to confuse people about its exact meaning. Maybe Potter hasn\’t met Paul Romain, or has, but doesn\’t consider him to be \”Big Oil\”, given that Romain\’s working relationship with big oil follows the technique of keeping the operative far enough away from the source to allow maximum denial.

    Potter expresses such great concern about the principle of citizen right to referral, while being seemingly oblivious to a very visible special interest coalition and its single-minded efforts to cancel the initiative, by.

    Hypothetically speaking, what will happen if the initiative is somehow defeated through a vote of the people? Work to repair and improve streets will be delayed even further. Will we be able to rely upon Paul Romain and the coalition member to work as hard on coming up on an alternative to this funding initiative? If they already have one, why are they waiting to share it with the public?

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  • littlevoice February 6, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    This shows Potter\’s ineffectiveness at being mayor. The guy spends three years undertaking a visioning process to determine the kind of things the Portlanders really want. Then, when the first proposal comes along to get there, and one which he apparently really supports, he still sends it out to a vote. I\’m just curious what we need a mayor for if he\’s not going to actually produce anything.

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  • vanessa February 6, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    What about the phone call count? I called and left a message on their response line. Is that included in their email totals…how many people called in?

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  • tonyt February 6, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Whether he\’s met \”Big Oil\” or talked to any lobbyists is irrelevant to whether they were at work here.

    We all watched it happen. We see who was doing this. We\’re not stupid Mayor Potter.

    Agree totally with Michelle. At the end of the day we\’ve hired these folks to do the deal and get stuff done.

    Sorry if your Interstate debacle has made you gun-shy Mr. Mayor.

    I think Potter pretty much embodies \”lame duck.\”

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  • Elliot February 6, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Jeremy Van Keuren, can you remind us how many emails or calls the Mayor received in opposition to Safe, Sound and Green Streets?

    Over the last several months, it\’s seemed to me that the mayor has become increasingly spiteful and decided that if his policies don\’t win support, he\’s going to throw a wrench into the works of everyone else\’s. This is the mayor who as a candidate just a few years ago campaigned for the support of the bicycle community and later attended Critical Mass. Mr. Potter, if you\’re no longer able to do anything beneficial for your constituents, then at least get out of the way of those who are willing to do so.

    I look forward to voting in support of both Safe Streets and a new, truly bike-friendly mayor in November.

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  • Jon February 6, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I agree with Michelle. If it were up to voters we would eliminate taxes and increase services. Unfortunately this isn\’t realistic. The vast majority of voters don\’t have the time, energy, and/or ability to weigh the evidence and make sound judgements regarding the needs of local transportation infrastructure.
    If they want to defer all funding issues to the voters, lets start with their salaries.

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  • dat February 6, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Tom Potters wife is a volunteer for sho\’s campaign.


    who do you think pulls weight.


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  • Tony February 6, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    First of all deferring tax issues to the voters is far from new. It is what it is.

    Second of all, I have been a little surprised with some of the comments during the street fee debate made about \”the voters\” – a group of which we should all be proud to be a part.

    Portland voters have not been afraid of taxing themselves for a wide variety of projects.

    For instance in the November 2006, Multnomah County Measure 26-81, Metro Measure 26-80, and Portland School District Measure 26-84 were ALL approved. Three taxes, one ballot. Total estimated cost per homeowner for this combination? About $27 per month.

    More significantly, the temporary Multnomah County personal income tax was created through voter approval of Ballot Measure 26-48 in May 2003. This was a 1.25 percent tax on personal income. 58 percent of voters approved that tax increase. I imagine the Portland support was equal to or greater than that.

    The County income tax raised nearly as much money in three years as is envisioned for 15 years of a street fee.

    Bottom-line, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Portland voters know that and have been willing to pay the bill.

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  • J.M. February 6, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Dear Mayor Potter,

    Please shave your beard and get back to work. The camping trip is over.

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  • bicycledave February 6, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Good catch Dat. Doesn\’t Sho have some connection with Paul Romain and his band of merry oil men?

    This is just a ploy by Potter to help get his buddy Sho elected Mayor. It\’s also a great way for Sho to do some campaign finance voodoo. Here\’s how it works:

    Big Oil (or little oil whatever you want to call it) pumps millions into a campaign against safe, sound and green streets. All that money and misinformation brings lots of voters to the polls who hate the new fees and subsequently vote against Sam.

    I\’m hoping it\’s doomed to failure. And I\’m with you Tony Portland voters are smart and will do the right thing.

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  • DaveA February 7, 2008 at 6:51 am

    I\’m disappointed with Mayor Potter in jumping on the \’refer it to the voters\’ band wagon. It\’s really sad. Voters elected him and the commissioners to make the hard decisions. I agree with the comments I heard Randy Leonard make regarding this.

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  • Steve Brown February 7, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Coyote #4 has a good point. Put the heat on Romain and his group. Make them spend time and money to defend themselves, taking resources away from their effort to defeat this item in the general election. Attack, Attack, Attack!

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  • BS February 7, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Just curious, you got proof that big oil \”pumps millions into a campaign against safe, sound and green streets\”?

    Forgive me but I\’m kind of a stickler for truth, on all sides. I don\’t doubt that an oil PAC is providing money against SSGS, but millions! Show us how those millions are being pumped in.

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  • KT February 7, 2008 at 10:26 am

    I\’m disappointed in Sam\’s \”either you\’re with me or you\’re my enemy\” statement in regards to \”anyone who is for a May vote, is simply against safe streets in Portland.\”

    That\’s bunk. He\’s probably alienating the very people he needs with that statement: the people who will vote for safe streets in Portland!

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  • antonio gramsci February 7, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    I feel kind of divided about this whole thing. Basically this water surcharge is a regressive tax, but the people challenging it are doing so NOT because it\’s regressive, but because they object to Sam\’s very modest efforts to make it LESS regressive than they would like!

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