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Blumenauer hears from Portland faithful at local fundraising event

Posted by on August 5th, 2009 at 11:41 am

Blumenauer fundraiser ride-shindig-20

Trek Bicycles CEO John Burke shakes
hands with Earl Blumenauer during a
fundraiser last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer was the guest of honor at a fundraising event held in North Portland last night. Bike industry and advocacy bigwigs from across the country joined a host of local bike luminaries to thank the Congressman for his dedication to bike issues on Capitol Hill.

The event began with a four-mile bike ride from the headquarters of Cycle Oregon on N. Flint. The ride went down to the Esplanade via the Rose Quarter and stopped at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge for a few remarks by Blumenauer before heading back up Williams.

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Blumenauer spoke at west
end of Hawthorne Bridge.
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Tim Blumenthal of Bikes Belong and Blumenauer
staffer Meeky Blizzard.

Joining in on the ride were several heavy-hitters in the U.S. bicycle industry who flew into town just to show their support for Blumenauer. Coming from Madison, Wisconsin were Trek Bicycle Corporation CEO John Burke and President of Saris Cycling Group, Chris Fortune. Gary Sjoquist, the advocacy director for Quality Bicycle Products made the trip to Portland from Minneapolis and Tim Blumenthal, executive director of Boulder, Colorado-based Bikes Belong was also in attendance.

“Talk is cheap, you’ve got to write checks.”
— Chris Fortune, President of Saris Cycle Group

Speaking to the group near the Hawthorne Bridge, with evening bike commuters streaming by, Blumenauer said, “This is really what it’s all about.” As he pointed to the Eastbank Esplanade, Blumenauer — who was Portland transportation commissioner during the 1990s — said he was able to get the popular path built because the City “Cashed in a freeway.”

“The Mt. Hood Freeway was supposed to bring the magic of an urban freeway [sarcasm] through our Southeast Portland neighborhoods… but the people said, ‘no thanks!'”.

He also spoke about the removal of the Harbor Drive Freeway and said that for a total of about $30 million dollars Portland was able create a carfree, riverfront loop that is a “365 day a year urban experience.” “It’s hard to think of money better spent.”

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Back at Cycle Oregon headquarters, about 50 people (from local bike non-profits, local industry, bik eplanners, bureaucrats, etc…) mingled over finger foods and cold Oregon microbrews (from Deschutes Brewery if you’re curious). Bikes Belong’s Tim Blumenthal took the opportunity to thank Blumenauer for his work and reminded attendees that passion alone isn’t enough to push the bike movement forward.

“I know a lot of people in the room are passionate about this issue. Passion is great. But passion is not enough. We also need the proof and I look to Earl for that. He helps us make the case for bikes on Capitol Hill.”

Burke’s remarks were short. He thanked Blumenauer for his work and commented on how far the U.S. bike movement has come since Blumenauer first brought his bike to Washington D.C.; “Now we’ve got a lot of fish jumping into the boat.”

Before opening things up for a Q & A, Blumenauer took the floor. He said that being able to represent Oregon and Portland on Capitol Hill is “a gift”, but then added that, “it can be a little weird politically.” He spoke of the contentious and divisive tone in Washington these days. He said there are “real problems” but there are also “bright spots where people are coming together.” One of those, of course, is bicycling.

Blumenauer said that a majority of House Members are now part of the Congressional Bike Caucus and that the bike continues to offer him “bike-partisan” opportunities with other lawmakers. “I’m trying to bend the curve politically, and I thank you for your help with our efforts.”

During the Q & A session, Blumenauer addressed several issues. About the transportation bill, he said, “Oberstar [Congressman Jim Oberstar, who’s pushing for a new bill, while the Administration wants to extend the current one] wants it done by September 30th. That’s theoretically possible, but it’s not going to happen.”

Blumenauer fundraiser ride-shindig-24

Bike makers big and small. Trek’s
John Burke with local custom bike
builder Natalie Ramsland.

Blumenauer also spoke about how to pay for transportation. He pointed out that the gas tax is “in a death spiral” and that due to inflation and it not being increased since 1993, the average driver is paying 50% of what they paid for the roads 10 years ago. Blumenauer’s solution? Get rid of the gas tax.

With more fuel efficient and electric-based cars coming onto the market, Blumenauer said he’d like to see a tax based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Blumenauer has helped get a pilot VMT tax program started in Oregon that includes a sensor in a vehicle that can tell how many miles have been driven. The program would not only be a more effective way to collect road taxes, but Blumenauer said that it forces people to think more about how many miles they drive. People currently in the pilot project, he said, have decreased their VMT by nine-percent.

Blumenauer has legislation in the works to extend Oregon’s VMT tax system to all states.

I asked Blumenauer about Cash for Clunkers. How can the Obama administration and other lawmakers justify support of that program with their stated commitment to lowering VMT and creating more livable communities? Read his response here (a separate post I published after this one).

Before I left, I chatted a bit with Chris Fortune from Saris. Fortune is a big player on the national advocacy front. He said supporting politicians that do good things for bicycling is imperative in moving the issue forward. “Talk is cheap. You’ve got to write checks,” he said.

— Browse more photos from this event in the photo gallery.

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  • Avatar
    RyNO Dan August 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    (sorry, couldn’t wait)
    The US government is directly subsidizing the purchase of new motor vehicles. That is so wrong I don’t even know where to start. “Cash for clunkers” is nothing but a euphemism for giving away money to motor vehicle purchasers. Yet another american car subsidy. Happy cycling !

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    anonymous August 5, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Someone should ask John Burke why his bike company is located in a place that requires most employees to drive a car at least an hour every day for their commute to work at Trek. Does he feel good about this? Is it part of the solution?

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    Memo August 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I am confused, the article states that Rep. Blumenauer spoke on the West end of the Hawthorne while the caption says he spoke on the East end.

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    Brad August 5, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Trek should be commended for not abandoning the town of Waterloo, WI. Sure, they could move to Madison, Milwaukee, or somewhere else (how about Taiwan!) but they chose to stay.

    Who’s fault is it for the long car commute? The employee who chooses to live in Madison or Milwaukee or the employer with jobs in Waterloo? Oh, that’s right! The one offering the jobs is always the bad guy.

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    steve August 5, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I guess that would be because his father started the company there decades ago. In a barn.

    Makes sense to stay anonymous.

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    anonymous August 5, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Brad…have you ever actually been to Waterloo? Would you live there?

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    Dave August 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Let me “devils’ advocate” for cash-for-clunkers. If we replace any number of SUV’s, pickups, and vans with more reasonably sized vehicles, we will likely be downsizing the egos and thus improving the behavior of the drivers.
    I believe it’s likely that the driver of a Ford Focus is a better sharer of road space than the driver of a Ford Explorer.

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    Brad August 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Yes, I have. Probably not. Likely would look for a place in Madison as it offers far more amenities.

    But that is a personal choice I make and the car commute is something that I would have to live with as a result. It certainly would not be John Burke’s fault that I chose to live in Madison knowing full well that my job is in Waterloo.

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    twistyaction August 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Sounds like a cool event for a good cause. I’m proud of Earl Blumenauer and that our city was an exemplary host location.

    What kind of beers were at the event?

    How much did it cost to attend this fundraiser?

    So did the ride part go through the media frenzy/crime scene? What were the reactions of some of the luminaries in attendance to the volume of bike traffic and the ridiculous parking jobs of the news vans?

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    Mark Allyn August 5, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    How did anyone know about this event? I don’t remember any announcement on this site at all.

    Perhaps my light could have enlightened it?


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    3-speeder August 5, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    People in small towns need jobs too.

    Trek is to be commended to staying in a small town like Waterloo and helping support its local economy.

    I recently moved away from Portland and now live in a small town (8500 people) in Northern Wisconsin (Ashland). There are very few manufacturing job opportunities here – having a company like Trek would make an enormous difference in the local economy.

    I happen to be heading down to the Madison/Milwaukee area for a couple of weeks soon. I’ll check out Waterloo while I’m down there (although the bike I’m looking to buy while I’m on my trip isn’t a Trek).

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    Borgbike August 6, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Trek should make the Trek Portland in Portland. 😉

    Sounds like a good ride. Maybe one I would take friends on if I wanted to give them a quick appreciation of getting around by bike in Portland.

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    anonymous August 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    This isn’t about blaming anyone, including Burke. I’m simply saying that Trek hopping on the advocacy bandwagon with campaigns like “Go By Bike” and bikes as “Global Cooling” can’t be taken seriously (in my opinion) when their own employees rarely can or do follow it.

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    RWL1776 August 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

    “Before opening things up for a Q & A, Blumenauer took the floor. He said that being able to represent Oregon and Portland on Capitol Hill is “a gift”, but then added that, “it can be a little weird politically.” He spoke of the contentious and divisive tone in Washington these days. He said there are “real problems” but there are also “bright spots where people are coming together.” One of those, of course, is bicycling.”……….

    UNLESS you are a mountainbiker, who used to ride the 110 miles of singletrack HIS Wilderness Proposal CLOSED to bicycles forever. Trails HE is quoted as saying “these trails are some of the best singletrack in the universe”. Well, thanks to HIM and the other OR Congressmen and Senators who folded to pressure and bold faced misleading falsehoods presented as facts from OregonWild, we can no longer ride on 56% of the trails we USED to ride for over 2 decades.

    Thanks Earl! I’ll remember that next time you run for elected office.

    Signed, your former IMBA Rep.

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