Tour de Lab September 1st

Karl Rohde no longer on BTA staff

Posted by on April 3rd, 2009 at 8:19 pm

National Bike Summit - Day three-7

Karl Rohde at the National Bike
Summit back in March.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Karl Rohde is no longer on the staff of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). Rohde was the BTA’s Government Relations and Public Affairs Director.

Late this afternoon I received several phone calls and emails about the news after Rohde sent out an email to colleagues announcing his departure. I was later able to confirm it with Rohde himself.

Story continues below

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The news comes as a major shock to many, not just because of how abruptly it has happened, but because Rohde was a key member of the BTA staff whose work in Salem was at a crucial juncture.

I had been working with Rohde as late as yesterday on stories about the BTA’s 2009 legislative agenda. But today, a call to Rohde’s phone extension at the BTA forwarded me to an administrative assistant and there’s no sign of him on the staff listing on the BTA’s website.

A day in Salem-2

Rohde, on the steps of the
state capitol earlier this month.

Rohde was the organization’s sole lobbyist in Salem, a role he took over from their former lobbyist Scott Bricker (who is now their executive director). Many of the BTA’s bills are currently embroiled in the legislative process. Rohde has been on the front lines of the BTA’s efforts to pass the Idaho Stop Law and he has been a fixture in Salem this session trying to push the BTA’s agenda with state legislators.

With Rohde now out of the picture, it is likely that Bricker will assume his former role. He’ll get a chance to to jump right in on Monday when the House Transportation Committee takes up a bill that would create a new funding source for non-motorized transportation projects.

It remains to be seen how Rohde’s departure will impact the BTA and its legislative agenda, but given the extreme amount of work Rohde has done thus far, it will be tough for the BTA to fill the hole.

As for details about what led to Rohde’s abrupt departure, no communication has been made public by the BTA and Rohde would not share any more details about the situation other than to say, “I am no longer an employee of the BTA.”

Rohde — a former Lake Oswego city councilor — was hired in August of 2007, just a few weeks after Scott Bricker was named the BTA’s interim leader following the departure of former executive director Evan Manvel.

We’ll have more on this story next week.


UPDATE:
– Oregonian blogger Joseph Rose is reporting that anonymous sources say Rohde was fired due to a difference of opinion about his lobbying style and conflicts with at least one other BTA employee. I have heard this as well but was waiting to hear more from executive director Scott Bricker and others before reporting on it.

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18 Comments
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    nuovorecord April 3, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Ouch. Wonder what happened there? Doesn’t sound like it was Karl’s decision, though…

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    metal cowboy April 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    WTF?

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    Jebus April 3, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    That sounds like it was quick and in a hurry. There was no mention or even any sign of any discord within the ranks of the BTA from where I am sitting. Am I wrong?

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    Bob April 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Karl always has impressed me with his intelligence, eloquence, and passion. I’m sorry to see him go. Hopefully Scott Bricker or someone else can continue to roam the halls in Salem. We need a strong voice there.

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    Jim Lee April 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Scott demoted?

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    steve April 4, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Bricker needs to go. The ineptitude of the BTA is no longer funny, it is sad.

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    Paul Manson April 4, 2009 at 4:48 pm
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    old&slow April 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    From the Oregonian article it sounds like we are our own worst enemy. The bike registration issue was never serious and should have not gotten any response. The Oregonian does its part in ginning this stuff up and then cyclists don’t react real well. The B.T.A. though should pursue more worthwhile things than the Idaho stop law as it would probably not go very far either. It should spend it resources and energy just promoting bike infrastructure and skip these other issues.

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    are April 4, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    and of course some of us disagree, thinking that “infrastructure” is usually counterproductive and that getting rid of the mandatory sidepath law, 814.420, which requires me to use unsafe “infrastructure,” should be a priority. the Idaho stop may not be the highest possible priority, but at least it is on the same page.

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    Jim Lee April 5, 2009 at 9:15 am

    For once the O is more accurate and thorough than Bike Portland and the Merc.

    Long ago I did a bit of lobbying in Salem. Rhode is right: being nasty to legislators never works.

    Color me non-confrontational.

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    toddistic April 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

    are @ 9. I agree, BTA will never see my dollars until they prove they are worth something. They should be lobbying for a vehicular homicide law which 95% of the country (oregon excluded) has. I’m all for Idaho stop laws but a vehicular homicide law should be THE priority.

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    are April 5, 2009 at 11:21 am

    well, Jim 10, let’s give Jonathan a chance to post whatever he is working on now before we judge whether the Oregonian story is more thorough or accurate. possibly he will have better sources and/or sources who do not insist on anonymity.

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    EC April 5, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Just like any other organization or company, the BTA is not immune to philosophical differences or personality conflicts. I don’t think we need to make more hay out if this than is necessary. It’s just very unfortunate timing while in the middle of the current legislative session. The BTA does good things for our community statewide and we need to continue to support and work with them, and voice our disagreements when we do disagree with their position on certain issues. After reading the Oregonian article, I would have to agree that confrontation is not the best approach in these times where our collective image is not the greatest. We need to fight emotional issues, with reason, rationality, and facts. Unfortunately and unfairly, the burden of proof is on us as cyclists to demonstrate on a daily basis we are responsible users of the roads.

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    Machu Picchu April 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I don’t know, but . . . it seems like, once again, someone does well then gets promoted to an executive position, so you have your talent at the top criticizing the new worker bee. If you know what needs to be done and how to do it, then it’s not a “demotion” as suggested above, it’s time to get off your cushy ass and do the job right yourself. We’re in a tight spot, all of us, and there are too many chiefs and not enough grunts. My thought is get rid of the chiefs, but if the grunt’s gotta go then the chief better be ready to pick up the slack in spades.

    Selah.

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    Bjorn April 5, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    #11 you should check out the BTA legislative agenda which does include vehicular homicide legislation: http://www.bta4bikes.org/at_work/2009LegislativeAgenda.php

    As a member of the legislative committee and someone who has worked with Karl over the last year a large amount of time has been spent crafting a good bill and working to get it implemented. The BTA is working on more than one bill in Salem, but it would be hard to argue that any of the bills has gotten more attention internally than VH.

    http://bikeportland.org/2008/10/01/btas-2009-legislative-plans-take-shape/

    Bjorn

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 5, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    RE: Vehicular Homocide bill.

    The BTA’s bill got a hearing on Friday in Salem in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Tim O’Donnell’s widow Mary was there to testify and Scott Bricker represented the BTA. Bricker has already assumed the lobbying reins. He will also be represeting the BTA on Monday afternoon when their “Non-motorized transportation funding” bill goes in front of the House Transpo. Committee.

    We’ll have more coverage of the Karl/Scott situation and both of those hearings soon.

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    ME 2 April 6, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Well Jim you are correct that being nasty never works with legislators, neither does being a shrinking violet. You can be vigorous in defending your position and courteous at the same time.

    Rhode’s downfall to me seemed to be that he was willing to take what was ever offered to him, rather than make it clear that some things are off the table. A great example was his willingness to move forward with a tax on bikes to pay for BTA’s programs. I’m sure that move didn’t have a great impact on maintaining members or attracting new ones.

    The right move when pressed to generate revenues through bikers would have been to point out that the benefits of encouraging bikes and bike infrastructure far outweigh the costs.

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    steve April 7, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Rohde was one of the bright spots at the BTA. We should all be dismayed at his loss. How anyone is able to work with Bricker and Poyourow is beyond me. Personality conflicts.. What a joke!

    I am surprised he was able to last this long.

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