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Mayor publishes statement on bikes and the budget

Posted by on March 4th, 2009 at 10:48 am

“I believe in bicycling. Investing in bicycle projects in Portland makes the city a safer, greener, healthier place.”
— Mayor Sam Adams

In a statement just published on his website, Mayor Sam Adams has responded to concerns from Portlanders about the Bureau of Transportation’s requested budget for 2009-2010. As we’ve reported, PBOT’s budget puts a high priority on arterial paving and is slim on bike project funding. It also includes a budget revision that would scale back funding at the Transportation Options division and the Safe Routes to Schools program would take 40% hit.

Adams has just posted a statement about this on his website. Here’s the full text:

“In the past week, we have been contacted by dozens of constituents urging me and the Portland City Council to protect funding for bicycle projects in the 2009-10 city budget.

I believe in bicycling. Investing in bicycle projects in Portland makes the city a safer, greener, healthier place. And I want to reiterate my commitment to find funding for bicycling in what is shaping up to be a very difficult budget environment.

Story continues below


Earlier this month, the Portland Bureau of Transportation submitted a draft budget for consideration by the City Council. As part of the annual budgeting process, I will evaluate this draft carefully and release my Mayor’s Proposed Budget in late April. In May, that budget will go before the rest of Council for changes or approval.

My “First 100 Days Plan” identifies bicycle boulevards and a new, demonstration Cycletrack as key deliverables for 2009, along with four on-street bike parking corrals. I remain firmly committed to delivering these projects.


Adams and his transportation
policy team (Ciarlo is at right) will
have to work hard to make
their budget bike-friendly.
(Photo © J. Maus)

In previous years, Safer Routes to School funding was increased regularly through one-time funding. Little or none of this type of funding is available this year. I am working with the Bureau of Transportation is working to keep the Safer Routes to School reductions as low as possible, and to identify an ongoing revenue source for bicycling projects in general – but this is no easy task in our dire financial situation [Read our story: Adams’ office: No guarantees on Safe Routes program money.]

Our city faces difficult budget decisions this spring. Revenues are down across the board – and the situation is even more acute in the Bureau of Transportation. Nevertheless, working with the Bureau of Transportation, I have identified potential sources of funding for the bicycling priorities set out in the 100 Days list. You can expect to see this funding included in the Mayor’s budget as well.

As the budget process unfolds, it will be important for Council to hear from citizens about your needs and priorities. I encourage you to share your thoughts with myself and with other members of City Council.

To participate in the budgeting process, please send your written testimony to the council clerk for the bureau presentation to City Council on March 16, 2009, at 2:00 p.m. Testimony should be emailed to Laurel Butman at

Also, consider contacting the other members of City Council and voicing your concerns about the budget.

Finally, watch for budget updates on the city’s website. Final budget decisions will be made in May, and there will be opportunities for citizens to testify at City Council in support of your priorities.

Thank you for your input and participation. The city budget process is truly a collaboration between citizens and city leadership.”

As I’ve mentioned before, this all sets up an interesting showdown. At his City Club address last week, Adams promised someone in the audience he would find the money to restore funding to the Safe Routes program (a promise the BTA immediately jumped on). But now it’s clear that it will be very difficult to find that money and both Adams and his Transportation Director Catherine Ciarlo are making no official guarantees.

In addition, there is an expectation from PBOT director Sue Keil and PBOT finance director John Rish that Adams’ budget will mimic theirs.

When I met with Keil and Rist last week to discuss the budget, I asked, “Do you think Adams’ budget will be different from yours?”. Without hesitation, Keil said,

“I don’t expect the Mayor’s budget to be different. He said he’d use the BAC’s recommendation [the Budget Advisory Committee, which Keil used to prioritize her funding decisions — more on the BAC later] and he and his staff have been supportive of our budget.”

In addition, I have heard from many sources that Ms. Keil has a much different set of priorities for transportation spending in general than Adams and his staff. At the February meeting of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee, Keil actually said, “I don’t have a vision for cycling in Portland.”

Adams and his staff (which includes the very bike-centric mind of his Chief of Staff Tom Miller and former BTA Executive Director Ciarlo) clearly do have a vision for bikes in Portland.

The question is, how hard will Adams push for that vision to become reality and will he be able to muster the political and public support to see it through?

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Jessica Roberts March 4, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Um…so did that just say anything? Because I don’t have the impression that it did.

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    Hollie Teal March 4, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Jonathan, I know you sometimes balk at referring to the bike advocacy your site promotes as the “cycling community”, but I think it’s useful in this context. Acting as that community, it’s our job to muster the public support for bike funding because we ARE the public. We can act together to register our priorities and effect change.

    The latter part of Adams’s message asks that the public participate in the budget process and gives clear instructions for how to do so: let’s take advantage of that.

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    Allison March 4, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I think the best thing we can do is keep biking and keep encouraging our loved ones to bike. The more of us there are the more of a constituency we are.

    We are taxpayers. We are commuters. We’re here.

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    Jim Lee March 4, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Sam sure talks and poses extremely well!

    Has anyone ever seen him actually ride a bike?

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    Zaphod March 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Many/most of us care deeply about these issues but have little time that can be dedicated to showing up at rallies or spent writing letters, etc. But what most of us *can* do is be counted in petitions etc. If 5000 people sign a BTA petition for funding of projects x & y, would that not hold similar weight to a number of independent letters?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 4, 2009 at 11:35 am

    “Has anyone ever seen him actually ride a bike?”

    i’ve seen him ride at several events… but most people realize he is not a daily bike commuter/rider.

    “If 5000 people sign a BTA petition for funding of projects x & y, would that not hold similar weight to a number of independent letters?”

    Zaphod… the petition would have to exist first. perhaps you should direct that comment to the BTA? Or, you could always start the petition yourself if you care enough about it.

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    mabsf March 4, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I do believe in petitions and taking influence on how the budget is spend – after all it is our money…
    …but we might also consider some fundraising for Safe Routes, just as a back up.
    I know that might be counter-productive, but it is one way to funnel your money exactly where you want it!

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    Matthew Denton March 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    “Has anyone ever seen him actually ride a bike?”

    I was going to a Citywide Land Use* meeting in December, (it was 7pm, so it was dark. It was also about 40 degrees and misting,) and I was locking up my bicycle and Sam pulled up on his bicycle, (in a suit,) and locked up next to me.

    *Which isn’t a hotbed of bicycle activism, but it really should be.

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    Tony Fuentes March 4, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I have been reading the series of posts on this issue (PBOT’s budget versus the vision for cycling in Portland and where does the Mayor stand on this, etc.) and I have to say that I am a little perplexed.

    One of the consistent messages I have been seeing has been that the PBOT budget proposal as it relates to bikes may diverse from the Mayor’s vision.

    Moreover, the core question raised has been “will Sam change it” or – in the case of this specific post – ” how hard will Adams push for (his) vision (for bike infrastructure) to become reality and will he be able to muster the political and public support to see it through?”

    Ultimately, I don’t get this question of “political will” and here’s why…

    Under our commission form of government the Mayor and Commissioners serve as administrators of the City bureaus. Thus, in this case, transportation answers first and foremost to Adams.

    So sure I get the “process” part of the issue – PBOT will draft something for Sam to review, and in this case BAC has a role, etc. However shouldn’t the overall vision and political priorities for PBOT be set by the Mayor, not the Bureau director?

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    kgb March 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Under the circumstances (the climate he created) Sam will do what he can. The pressure needs to be applied to the other council members.

    I would like to see Kiel replaced solely on that one comment. For someone in her position that is ridiculous. does she have a vision for pedestrians? Does she have a vision at all? why is she in a leadership position?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 4, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Tony Fuentes wrote:

    “I am a little perplexed.”

    I think you are confused because you see this process as a science when it is more of an art.

    Commissioner system and bureau leadership aside, there are always political realities that play a part in these things.

    I agree with you that the “vision” and “priorities” should be set by the mayor… but it seems clear in this instance that this is not what has happened.

    if Adams and Keil were on the same page, do you think PBOT’s budget (which Keil drafted) would have been so lacking in bike project and program funding (of course, there is now some bike funding that was put in by Keil, but not until after the BTA issued an action alert — or at least that appears to be why she changed tact).

    In the end… we’ll see.

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    Scott March 4, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    I would imagine one could get quite a large number of petition signers by setting up camp at Clinton and 21st. Or over by the Hawthorne Bridge.

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    Richard March 4, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I’m as eager as anyone to see new lanes painted and a separated cycletrack downtown. But if the problem is with money, and if what we’re after is more recognition and a policy of fair use of the road, then wouldn’t a potentially cheaper solution be to put up signs in key locations notifying car drivers of our law allowing the lane to cyclists, like those in San Francisco?

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    Laura March 4, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I heard Sue Keil speak shortly after she was appointed by Potter. She is not a transportation planner, engineer, or other form of transportation geek. She is purely an administrator, and was put in charge of PBOT to clean up management and financial issues. While she doesn’t have a vision for bikes, I doubt she has a “vision” for motor vehicles, either. I suspect her only “vision” is for what she believes is a lean, mean agency.

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    joe March 4, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    yuck. this whole thing is so disappointing and it has not even happened yet.

    when do the 100 days end? april 10th? seems like he won’t deliver anything by then.

    maybe one of our younger comrades would not mind doing some “lobbying” on our behalf?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 4, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    “when do the 100 days end? april 10th?”

    the 100 days are business days.. which puts it into May. can someone check a calendar and email me the exact date?


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    peejay March 4, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    My over/under for first substantial bike infrastructure project is June. That said, I’ll take the over. I want my vote back!

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    Lazy Spinner March 4, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Hollie – I can appreciate your optimism and even respect your affection for the mayor but those words are very empty.

    Ask yourself one question: What does the Portland Development Commission want? That’s who is calling the shots until Adams resigns, is recalled, or loses in four years.

    Are they friendlier to bikes, pedestrians, or cars? More importantly, do their constituents want safer streets for bikes or easier access and parking for car driving consumers?

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