Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 27th, 2009 at 4:23 pm
“Our hope is to find funding to backfill the Safe Routes program…but we can’t guarantee that.”
— Catherine Ciarlo, transportation policy advisor for Mayor Adams
Mayor Adams made his first State of the City address at the City Club in downtown Portland today.
According to a report just published by the Portland Tribune, he apologized for the distraction of the Beau Breedlove situation and he outlined his efforts to make Portland a sustainability leader. The Trib writes that Adams was “warmly received” and that he received a partial standing ovation and hearty applause from the crowd (more coverage of the event here).
“Guy with soul patch: …are you still committed to funding Safe, Sound and Green Streets and other bike programs?
Mayor Sam Adams: Yes! … The city will backfill some of the cuts, like Safer Routes to School… Biking is the most affordable form of transportation so now is the time to be investing in bike funding.”
I was surprised to read that for two reasons. For one, there isn’t much money to “backfill” anything in the budget right now, and secondly, when I met with PBOT director Sue Keil and her finance director John Rist this week they said they, “don’t expect the Mayor’s budget to be different” than their own.
I ran all this by Adams’ transportation policy advisor Catherine Ciarlo on the phone today and she had a different story to tell. Ciarlo says the Mayor’s budget — which will come out in May — will indeed be different than the one put forward by PBOT.
Ciarlo also said that the mayor “remains fully committed to funding the cycletrack” (which according to Sue Keil had never been un-funded to begin with) and to funding the 15 miles of bike boulevards that are in his 100 day plan.
As for restoring the big chunk of “one-time” money from the General Fund that is not going toward the Transportation Options division at PBOT (which houses the popular and successful Safe Routes to Schools program), Ciarlo made no promises.
“Our hope is to find funding to backfill the Safe Routes program…but we can’t guarantee that.” Ciarlo said their office is also hoping to find a dedicated source of bike funding, but that too is not guaranteed.
The reason for no guarantee? “It is an incredibly difficult funding environment,” she said.
Given this difficult environment and the fact that the mayor’s budget is expected to be more bike-friendly than PBOT’s, Ciarlo said they’ll need a lot of support once it goes before council. Ciarlo explained that they’ll be looking to the “bicycling community” to help make compelling arguments about the need to invest in our bikeways: “We are committed to funding bikes….we believe it serves the entire city and that it gets so much bang for the buck…but we’re going to need the bicycling community to help us make that case.”
When I asked Ciarlo what she thought of PBOT’s budget (which, until yesterday, had little no money for bike-specific programs or projects), she said “the budget is an iterative process,” and that “PBOT put together a draft that reflects pressing concerns they see. Now we’re at the step of the process where the mayor weighs in.”
Unlike Keil and PBOT, the mayor’s budget must reflect not just an internal prioritization process, but the will of the people. “We’ve heard from many stakeholders throughout the community and we need to take that into account as we put together the mayor’s budget… we have very public pressures that these needs [bike programs] need to be met and we don’t think that [PBOT’s] draft budget meets those needs.”