“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.
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 email@example.com.
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?