[Note: I reported this news yesterday as an update to a previous story. This post is being done to clarify the latest development.]
“I am pleased to inform you that…we will be able to continue staffing the Bicycle/Pedestrian CAC in the near term.”
— Jane McFarland, Senior Transportation Planner for Multnomah County
After they initially planned to suspend their Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee due to declining transportation revenues, Multnomah County has now announced that the committee will not be suspended and that it will continue to meet.
Senior Transportation Planner Jane McFarland sent out an email to committee members Wednesday stating that, “through a partnership with the Office of Citizen Involvement, we will be able to continue staffing the Bicycle/Pedestrian CAC in the near term.”
On Saturday, April 4th, McFarland surprised members of the committee when she announced via email that the committee would be suspended “until further notification.” Her reasoning for the move was because they didn’t have a staffer to sit in on the all-volunteer, citizen group.
When I (thanks to tips from readers) pointed out to a county spokesperson that County Code mandates that the committee be staffed, they admitted the procedural error and then planned to put a resolution in front of the County Board asking for a temporary suspension of the group.
In the meantime, concern was spreading from the community and others that the committee should not be suspended. County Commissioner Jeff Cogen was a bit peeved that he first heard of the plan on BikePortland and he left a comment saying that he would “fight any effort” to suspend the committee. He wrote,
“There is no reason for us to cut back on the citizen involvement that has led us to make such good decisions as the long overdue Bike-Ped improvements to the Morrison bridge.”
County Chair Ted Wheeler also chimed in with a comment. He wrote that, “There is no support among Board members to suspend the work of this committee, and we will find a way to staff its efforts going forward.”
Once it became clear to staffers that there idea was running into trouble, they pulled back their plans to ask the County Board to temporarily suspend the committee.
On Wednesday evening, McFarland sent out another email message saying that the committee would continue to meet. In that email, she wrote:
“I am pleased to inform you that through a partnership with the Office of Citizen Involvement, we will be able to continue staffing the Bicycle/Pedestrian CAC in the near term. Between now and September, we are able to provide staff support for three meetings…”
If you’re wondering why so many people were concerned about the future of the committee, check out this list of recent issues they’ve weighed in on (list was supplied to me by committee member Andrew Holtz):
- helping convince Tri-Met to redesign, rather than close stairs from the Morrison Bridge to 1st Ave.
- thinking through the tricky westbound connections from the widened Morrison Bridge bike/ped path that is finally starting construction (it’s not perfect, but as good as possible)
- showing TriMet how the initial designs for bicycle access to I-205 MAX stations would create problems for cyclists and conflicts with pedestrians and vehicles (the designs were improved)
- helping shape the proposed new Sellwood Bridge to protect the interests of cyclists and walkers
- setting capital improvement priorities, including boosting the importance of connectivity in deciding which projects move forward first
- working with the county attorney and sheriffs on cyclist/vehicle conflicts on Sauvie Island
The next thing to watch is how the County’s and the State’s budgets come out. Right now, Multnomah County has no bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and they say that position might not return if there’s not enough money in the budget.