With just over one week left before ballots are due, here are my thoughts on the race to fill Seat #2 on Portland’s City Council.
The Council seat formerly held by Commissioner Erik Sten will likely be won by either Jim Middaugh or Nick Fish — two highly qualified candidates who would both make excellent commissioners. (I know there are three other candidates in this race, but these are the only two who made an effort to share their views with BikePortland readers.)
Both candidates have picked up endorsements from respected groups and media outlets all over town, Middaugh got nods from Bike.Walk.Vote, the Portland Mercury, and others, while Fish has been endorsed by the Portland Tribune and The Oregonian just to name a few.
Which candidate will do the best job in continuing to create a city where more people bike more often more safely? I’ll let you decide. If you want more information before making your decision, read more of my thoughts below…
Jim Middaugh – JimForPortland.com
As an ardent environmental activist and a daily bike commuter for the past 10 years, Middaugh clearly “gets” how important biking — and the issues surrounding it — are to Portland. When I profiled him in January I openly wondered if he was “a great hope for bikes”.
In that interview, Middaugh said he deserved your vote because he has a first-person perspective on biking:
“I ride every day and I’ve ridden all over the streets of Portland for over 10 years. I think that creates a basic empathy that just wouldn’t be there in people that don’t do it every day. I’ve pulled up to bloodied bodies from crashes, I’ve been doored…Others may be sympathetic to bike issues, but it’s just not the same unless you’re out there, riding every day.”
In addition to being a daily biker, Middaugh has impressive and diverse environmental credentials — from his work on the Endangered Species Act to his vocal opposition to the Columbia River Crossing Project (which he likened to “a snake swallowing an elephant”).
The appeal with Middaugh is that you don’t often find a candidate with such a solid mix of bike/environmental/urban planning credentials. And yes, he’s also got a lot of big ideas about how Portland can keep pushing toward a more bike-friendly future.
On the issue of transportation, Middaugh claims on his website that, “The bicycle remains one of humanity’s greatest inventions, and must be among our solutions to traffic congestion and climate change.” He says he’ll fight to improve bike safety, be vigilant to make sure land-use and growth decisions are integrated with bike plans, and that he’ll even “support the creation of more trails for mountain bikers.”
Also, when I spoke with him back in January, he told me he wanted Portland to start doing more “bike only days” on selected routes throughout the city.
I have no doubt that Middaugh would use his Council seat to help make biking better in Portland. His enthusiasm and understanding of bikes as transportation could push us well beyond Platinum.
Nick Fish – NickFish2008.com
Also vying for Sten’s vacated Council is lawyer and civic leader Nick Fish. Fish nearly won a race for Commissioner in 2004. He won the primary, but then lost in a runoff to a guy named Sam Adams (now running for Mayor).
I met Fish back in February and when I asked him about that race he said, “There should have been a coin flip on that one.”
Fish is a qualified candidate who has worked on a myriad of important social causes since moving to Portland in 1996. Most notably, he has been active in the arts community as Vice Chair of the Oregon Cultural Trust and was part of a coalition that created the New Columbia housing project.
He moved to Portland with his family (two kids) so his wife (Patty) could take a teaching position at Portland State University. Fish has become involved with PSU himself and is now on the Dean’s Advisory Council.
During our conversation a few months ago, Fish said his wife was “an avid cyclist”. As if to gain some legitimacy in my eyes, he told me she has done the Seattle-to-Portland ride, and often rides around their neighborhood with their four-year old son in tow.
Fish said he’s personally, “not much of a biker” but that he’s seen a transformation in his wife since she began riding. When I asked why he himself doesn’t usually take two wheels he said he uses the MAX (train) and walks a lot.
As a member of City Council, Fish told me he’d fight for more bike boulevards, that “creating safer routes is critical” and said that “I applaud Sam’s [Commissioner Sam Adams] response to the fatalities back in October.”
During our meeting, I brought up the police and enforcement issues (our meeting happened prior to several new, and positive steps taken by the Portland Police Bureau regarding bike-related enforcement policies). Part of the problem, I said, was a budgetary crisis that is making it difficult for the PPB to hire enough officers. Fish said his relationship with Robert King, the head of Portland’s police officer’s union, is something that he could offer in helping both sides come to the table and work out issues.
Even though he doesn’t ride, Fish said he can still understand bike issues. He likened the situation to his involvement with the arts community. “I’m not an artist — but I don’t have to pick up a paintbrush to be a strong advocate for the arts,” he said, “and therefore I don’t have to be an avid cyclist to understand the issues involved.”
Two candidates. Both would be sensitive to bike-related issues and both have the leadership and professional skills to be solid commissioners.
What are your thoughts? Who did you vote for? Do you agree with Fish that he can be a strong advocate for biking, without actually ever riding around the city himself?