Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Priorities and promises: How will bikes fare in the Mayor’s budget?

Posted by on April 29th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Platinum Press Conference-14.jpg

Will he deliver a Platinum budget?
(Photos © J. Maus)

Right now in City Hall, Mayor Adams and his staff are getting set to release their transportation budget.

When the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) released their budget back in February, it was embarrassingly bad for bikes. There was no dedicated revenue for bike projects, one-time funding for the Transportation Options Division (which funds Safe Routes to Schools among other things) was reduced 40%, and there was no guarantee to fund new bike boulevards (eventually, PBOT Director Sue Keil found $178,000 for the boulevards).

Story continues below


How did this happen? Aren’t we “America’s #1 Cycling City?”

PBOT Director Sue Keil says she crafted the budget directly from priorities that were set by two things: an internal PBOT ranking and recommendations by the Transportation Budget Advisory Committee. The BAC was 13-member group that met eight times since July 2008.

The BAC — which included former BTA Government Affairs Director Karl Rohde (who was unfortunately unable to make some of the meetings due to his lobbying commitments in Salem) — endorsed PBOT’s budget and decided the top priority should be “street preservation” (i.e. paving arterial streets). The result of that is $5 million in PBOT’s budget for paving major streets (which streets will be paved is unknown by PBOT at this point).

Keil showed me a list of 66 transportation priorities and pointed out that the first bike-related project/program didn’t come in until 28th position. It was as if this list proved her point that bikes just weren’t a priority for the city this time around.

With disappointment from PBOT, thoughts now turn to the Mayor’s budget. Keil told me during our meeting that she didn’t expect the Mayor’s budget would be much different.

That puts Adams in a tough position. If his budget places as low of a priority on bikes as PBOT’s, he’ll be under fire from many who voted for him based on their hope that he would create a more bike-friendly — and less car-centric — city.

On the campaign trail, Adams repeatedly stated that funding for bikes, currently at a paltry 0.7% of PBOT’s capital budget, “should match utilitization” (which would be more like 5-8% depending on who you ask). He also told the Willamette Week in December 2007 that he would “triple bike funding” if elected.

When I asked Adams’ Transportation Policy Director Catherine Ciarlo about his statements to the Willamette Week, she was a bit less bold, saying only that, “He’d like to see us move in that direction”.

Of course, Adams’ bold statements about bike funding were made before the financial meltdown and before the Beau Breedlove incident dramatically altered his political trajectory.

I think it’s safe to say the Mayor’s budget won’t triple bike funding, but it will almost certainly be more bike-friendly than PBOT’s. At least I hope it is.

Stay tuned…

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • peejay April 29, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Hey, who here still believes in Sam Adams?




    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • P Finn April 29, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I think you want a question mark at the end of that title…or reword…thanks!

    total dick,

    Umm, thanks, Patrick. Punctuation added. — Elly

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jonno April 29, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Heh. Given Sam’s arc so far, I fully expect a hearty stab in the back when it comes to bike funding.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • DJ Hurricane April 29, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Scam Adams, Mayor of Vancouver, Washington.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR April 29, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    If I had to vote for repaving the streets we have or building new cycle tracks anywhere in town, I’d vote for repaving the existing streets.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • steve April 29, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I agree Burr.

    Even so, Sam is poopy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • brian April 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    bikes will never prevail as transportation. Let us hit the trails.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • She April 29, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Biking prevails as transportation in my household. Two of four of us bike to our daily acitivies, one drives an electric car, and one walks to a school bus stop.

    We will not give up on bikes prevailing as transportation!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michelle (BTA) April 29, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    The Budget will be released on Friday. I suggest everyone hold their negative comments until then.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michelle (BTA) April 29, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Because you might end up regretting that they weren’t positive comments.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Zaphod April 29, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    This budget, if not decidedly focused on livability, will be the proverbial last straw in my mind for Sam. I’ve really stood by him so far and will continue to do so if the budget reflects strong support for cycling infrastructure.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • steve April 29, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Michelle, I suggest you clean the messes up in your own home before chastising us.

    You and Scott are busy enough doing nothing, try not to stress out about our ‘negative’ comments. Or was your gameplan to blame future shortcomings on our criticisms?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • David April 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    #12 is spot on.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Donna April 29, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    If the City of Portland can afford socialized professional sports teams, why can they not afford to fully fund the construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure? Surely getting around in a city should have priority over taxpayer-funded soccer stadiums.

    I can’t help but question the motivations of any elected official who would place taxpayer funding of private professional sports teams over the funding of streets and roads. It’s disgusting.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • NoPoJoe April 29, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    seems that since Adams got elected and has 3 1/2 years to go, political survival trumps everything else. I don’t know how much support Adams needs to go the full term,but I suspect Adams feels our support is either not that important, or is deeper than it probably is.
    Hence, we will get circuses,not bread. While the economy tanks and realistic, low cost transportation is ever more important to its citizens, we will get more of the same things that dig us in deeper. More cars/pollution. Columbia RIver Crossing,A new ballpark,an old ballpark reconfigured into a soccerfield for a business ventures success.

    We used to feel pretty smug about other cities ‘political machine’. I fear Portland is headed back to its bad old days.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • old&slow April 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Adams will give a lot of lip service to transportation funding, the BTA will gush, it will make a lot of people here happy and then he will go back to funding soccer stadiums, baseball stadiums, (not that there is anything wrong with that) the CRC, etc. We will still be riding over potholes but at least we will get mayor league soccer, the BTA will still get their dues for accomplishing nothing, and Sam will still claim he is a bike commuter.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • toddistic April 29, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    im down for a new stadium if we get an indoor velodrome 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan Liu April 30, 2009 at 7:03 am

    If I can go off the deep end for a little bit and engage in some self-indulgent prattling…

    Every elected official and public servant as he or she moves up in rank and responsibility, especially one with as high a public profile as Sam Adams has, discovers that the number of people they must serve and satisfy increases dramatically. As a result, the need to make compromises increases, as do how much those compromises suck for everyone. For example: as boneheaded as the CRC expansion may be, the fact is that a lot of people who live and/or work in Portland, and convincing Clark County & Vancouver that the added cost of facilities for people on bikes, people on foot, and light rail might mean giving them 12 lanes for cars (10 lane+bike+max+toll, anyone? [crickets] Anyone?). Maintaining the ability to compromise and work with others over and over again is in the very definition of political clout. Dogmatic inflexibility, however (e.g., I will only support Sam if he gets cycling infrastructure funding nowthisyear), can really run Sam, Portland, and the interests of people riding bikes into the ground. (My favorite example of this inflexibility at “work”: the GOP.)

    Given the huge stresses on local govt. budgets all over the country, it should be no surprise that PBOT would hunker down and dedicate itself to maintenance. This is an annual budget, and this year’s budget environment blows. No one could have expected city revenues to tank as much as they have, and planning for this kind of economic event is tough, if not outright impossible. We can, however, plan for a better future. Hyperventilation is less useful than convincing city leaders that we might accept this year’s transportation budget as a trade: that this year’s concessions to paving must mean next year’s concessions to bike boulevards. The budget is short-term, but the conversation about the budget must lay out a plan for the future. Toddistic’s thinking, works better, and is just more appealing to anyone with electoral responsibilities.

    It is our job as citizens to keep up the pressure, keep informed, and reevaluate during every election. (And it’s usually a binary choice: Would Sho have gotten it? Would Sho have gotten it done either?) Is this year’s budget the last straw, or could Sam redeem himself? If Sam feels he can never redeem himself to us, the cycling community, then he will never try — and that will be to *our* detriment, not his.

    I don’t like the overwhelming negativity on this comment thread: Portland is now, and has been an overhwhelmingly pleasant city, and many of the folks at the City, county, Metro, and yes, the BTA and BikePortland, who are responsible for making it such are still here, and in it for the long haul. We’ve arrived here not through name calling and dogmatic inflexibility, but our willingness to make Portland the best place for the most people.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Suzanne April 30, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Scam Adams, Mayor of Vancouver, Washington.

    Second that. How long till recall time? 30 days or so?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Donna April 30, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Dan, this is part of a much larger national issue. We have politicians all over the country bailing out large companies whose leaders made some very poor business decisions over the last 10 years. Those bailouts then got spent on large bonuses for a favored few in those companies – often on the very people who made those poor business decisions in the first place. When the average person sees that and then is told that a great many things that have a greater effect on the common good must be cut or eliminated, they get angry and bitter. I don’t think that is an unreasonable reaction.

    In local governemnt, when the average person is told that it is more important to subsidize a very wealthy family so that they can mitigate future losses on a private foray into professional sports teams, it is also not unreasonable for them to become angry and bitter. When you couple that (and all the other issues)with all the fraud and lies that are being perpetuated on a national level, you’ve created a perfect storm of voter/taxpayer anger and backlash.

    Frankly, I would much rather have my government fear me as a taxpayer who also votes than the other way around. Even if it’s not polite.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mike April 30, 2009 at 10:33 am

    NoPo Joe and all-

    Adams does NOT necessarily have another 3.5 years to go.

    He has failed us already; he has lied to everyone, he has abused his power and position.

    If you are ok with professional soccer instead of maintained infrastructure, then do nothing.

    If you are ok with huge bridges that cost billions of dollars, then stay silent.

    If these things do bother you, then help recall Adams and send a message. Let all current and future politicians know that Portland has standards, and we expect them to be lived up to. No more broken promises, no more lies, and most importantly, get our priorities straight!

    ** For what it’s worth, I love track and really do want an new velodrome, but not at the expense of other programs.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • steve April 30, 2009 at 12:12 pm


    Many of us do not need 20 year olds explaining complex issues to us. We have been around long enough to figure them out for ourselves, thank you! Best of luck in learning how the world actually works.

    Sounds like you will need it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • metal cowboy April 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I won’t be holding my breath on the triple funding promise. Instead., we’ll be meeting at my house 2820 N Willamette Blvd this monday May 3rd? @ 7pm. To choose specific times, dates and locations for the I-5/CRC Commuter Awareness Campaign – We’re planning to demonstrate with banners and signs during morning and afternoon commutes throughout the months of May/June. We’ll also use this meeting to plan additional citizen actions to stop the 12 lane option for this megabridge. Hope to see you there.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • christopher lee April 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    people, please stop mentioning beau breedlove. it was a huge mistake and it’s over. the only reason it’s altered his political trajectory is because people can’t ignore for five seconds and let him do his job, every thing is done with the preface of “sam adams did this thing and it was bad.”
    you sound like a bunch of republicans!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • steve April 30, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Amy Ruiz for mayor!

    Go CRC!

    Build us another Tram, Adams!

    Sell your soul to powerful business alliances instead of representing the voters, Adams!

    Lie to voters to get elected, Adams!

    Broken campaign promises, Adams!

    Destroy another (gay) mayoral candidates reputation with lies, Adams!

    That make you feel better chris?

    If he had only decided to make out with an underage boy in the bathroom, I would have gotten over it quickly after laughing about his stupidity for a few days.

    All that other crap, not so much.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mike April 30, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Who mentioned Beau besides Christopher?

    Stop focusing on his sexual preferences Christopher, that is not an issue and (as long as it is legal and ethical) none of your business.

    Recommended Thumb up 0