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Cornett not the only Council candidate with bike cred

Posted by on January 6th, 2010 at 11:13 am

Last week I shared a story about Jesse Cornett, the former PSU staffer who’s making a run to fill Dan Saltzman’s seat on Portland City Council. I met Cornett on an organized bike ride (a common place to meet council candidates these days), but I also heard through the grapevine that he was highly savvy and sympathetic to the idea of using bicycles as transportation.

But what I didn’t mention was that Cornett’s main opponent in the race, Mary Volm, also has some major bike-oriented credentials. The main thing we’ve heard so far about Volm is that she was behind the failed attempt to recall Portland’s bike-loving Mayor Sam Adams. But what some may not realize is that Volm had a 20-year career with the City of Portland and was one of the key figures promoting bicycles during Portland’s biking golden age of the early-mid 1990s.

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As a spokesperson for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), Volm helped create and carry out a huge bike event called BikeFest, an annual event that began in 1993. BikeFest — which was spawned by an idea from then Transportation Commissioner Earl Blumenauer to commemorate new bike lanes on the Burnside Bridge — closed the bridge down and drew 10,000 people to revel in over 70 vendor booths, prizes, live music, and more. In a story about the event published in The Oregonian on September 27th, 1996, Volm said:

“We need people to use bikes to go for milk or visit friends,” Volm said. “It helps bring neighbors together, and it’s good for local businesses. Every bike mile is a mile less of pollution. And riding is great for you…

For 50 years the city has put billions into the infrastructure for cars, if we are going to absorb the 500,000 to 725,000 people expected in the next 20 years, we have to look beyond the cars.”

We understand that whoever wins this election will not take over the all-important Bureau of Transportation, but having bike-savvy City Commissioners — no matter what bureaus they oversee — is very important. And if Volm still has this perspective about transportation, well, that’s something about Mary we can bet behind.

We’ll have more on Volm, Cornett and the other three contenders in this race in the coming weeks.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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BURR
Guest
BURR

AS the spokesperson for PDOT during the 2004 snowstorm, Mary Volm was the apologist for the city when it came to explaining to cyclists why it took weeks and weeks to clean up all the gravel in the bike lanes.

She’s just a PR flac, and not a bicyclist.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Sam Adams has been one of the big proponents of actually spending money on bike infrastructure, the bike boulevard on Spokane being only the most recent example. That Volm would lobby for his dismissal tells me she’s one of those opportunist who claim to be pro-bike when it suits her (anybody remember Tom Potter).

I absolutely refuse to fall for such tactics, I hope other folks here see through her as well.

Andrew (#1)
Guest
Andrew (#1)

Anyone who has jumped on the Recall Adams bandwagon, and has thus broken bread with some nasty bedfellows, will never get my vote. Cornett looks much more authentic anyways.

Allison
Guest
Allison

Ditto, Andrew – the bed fellows alone…

There’s something to be said about being pro-bike before it was cool, but I have a lot more faith in Cornett’s bike credentials.

Far be it from me to draw conclusions too early – so we can wait a bit and see if either candidate shows clear, concrete support for specific initiatives, but my money is on Cornett for the bike community.

BURR
Guest
BURR

If you were in Portland doing bike advocacy of any type back in the 90’s, Mary Volm would not be someone whose name you would recognize as one of the movers or shakers on the bike scene; she’s basically counting on all the newbies on the PDX bike scene to take her at her word on her supposed pivotal role.

Do your research, Jonathan, politicians are full of BS!

Michael M.
Guest

I’m glad BikePortland will be looking at all (or as many as you can) of the contenders in the coming weeks, as you’ve done in the past. It’s really great to have a variety of different sources with different (sometimes overlapping, sometimes complimentary, sometimes unrelated) priorities and perspectives to peruse and consider when deciding whom to vote for and/or support in local government.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

Thanks Randy,

as you know.. i have a very short history in this town and I appreciate your perspective and feedback.

I don’t know much about Volm, nor am I trying to make it seem like i do. I was merely wanting to share that she said some pretty cool things about bikes way back in the day. Obviously i know that these are just words. stay tuned for more reporting on her. thanks.

Brock
Guest
Brock

I agree with hearing a lot of information on all the candidates BEFORE deciding who will best represent issues important to us.

Keep in mind, there actually are other issues besides bikes and biking. While that is an important issue for many of us (all of us on this site), things like lying to get and then keep your job matter just a little bit more than being Pro Bike, IMO. Adams should go because of those reasons not stay because he is Pro Bike. It is a bigger job than that.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Brock #8: Adams has done more for the city in the year he’s been in office than Potter did during his entire term. I don’t know what it is you have against him, as far as I’m concerned he’s off to a great start.

Brock
Guest
Brock

Cyclist-
What I have against him is pretty simple. If you have to lie–for any reason–to get into and then to stay in office you should not be in office. Your rationale is that if someone is competent then who cares if they are dishonest. I have higher standards than that. I expect competence and honesty.

I was a strong supporter of Adams until I found out he lied. I have had enough of dishonest politicians. Even dishonest competent politicians.

Sage
Guest
Sage

Volm has ridden STP.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I remember Volm from her camera appearances on behalf of ODOT; even if the info the job required her to deliver wasn’t always something people would be delighted to hear, she made it easy to understand.

Volm’s online personal info sheet(link in above article) is brief, but has some interesting bits:

“… I remember, in the interview, I was asked how I felt about working with rockheads. Yet, these experienced and skilled engineers taught me the value of efficient, cost-effective, and long-lasting engineering solutions. …”

I just excerpted the juicy part with the ‘rockheads’ bit. The entire paragraph it came from was good.

Adams? What a character. He certainly demonstrated what an idiot he can be. With those bad experiences past, he now seems to have recaptured some of his former enthusiasm and focus on getting worthwhile things done.

It appears he’s put an end to letting his personal eccentricities become big public, distracting scenes. The recall effort probably helped to further impress on him the importance of upholding basic ethics and decorum important to a mayor of Portland. As long as he’s prepared to do his job…let him do it.

ftp
Guest
ftp

Let’s see if we follow this. A ho-hum statement made by a flack 13 years ago is newsworthy because said flack is now running as a non-viable city council candidate out of bitterness because she was laid off from the city.

Meanwhile city council on the very same day considers the most expansive bicycle parking requirement in its history (see RICAP 5) and receives neither an upfront mention nor coverage of the actual discussion.

Not the greatest day of coverage for Bike Portland. Fortunately there is tomorrow. Keep up the (almost always) good work.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Jonathan:

Frequently when someone raises a valid piece of criticism, you being your response by saying, “I was merely wanting to” or “I was just trying to.” Such a thought should be your cue to stop, consider the criticism, and think about what you can do to address it.

In this particular case, I think the critique is warranted. The intention of your post was to share that someone running for a city council seat said something positive about bikes a few years ago. Is that in itself worthy of sharing? Wouldn’t be more appropriate to do a more in-depth look at the candidate and her positions?

This is an important point to consider because bicycling has become popular enough here that the astute politicians are all going to give lip service to the power of the pedal(s). That’s why I brought up Tom Potter… the image of him on a recumbent prior to the election is still burned into my mind, though I don’t think we saw him on a two wheels any time after that.

It’s nice that she said something nice about bikes in 1997, but what has she been up to for the last 10 years?

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

Hi ftp,

thanks for the feedback.

just FYI, I’ve covered those bike parking regs very closely going as far back as June of last year. In case you missed the stories:

Bike parking gets a boost from Planning Commission

Follow-up: Bike parking code increase still under consideration

[UPDATED] Planning Commission OKs major increase to bike parking requirement

Proposed code changes would strengthen bike parking rules

I didn’t cover them at Council today because I figured it was a foregone conclusion they would pass and i’d cover them so closely already.

i appreciate your feedback though and on second thought I probably could have done another front pager about it and double checked how things went at Council. I happened to be busy with a few other stories and meetings today though. Glad to hear you almost always like the site! cheers.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

cyclist,

not every single story that is published here is going to be an in-depth report. On occasion I will publish things that I simply feel like others might like to know and/or see/read.

Does this article mean that I will not do anything else about Ms. Volm? no! Obviously I agree with you that it’d be fantastic to do more reporting on her and I plan to do that in the coming days/weeks.

And just so you know, I do take criticism seriously and it does inform my future actions and decisions.

Thanks for the feedback.

Lance P.
Guest
Lance P.

This is nothing but “Bike Washing”. She is as pro cycling as Shmo. I mean Sho. Does this mean the first Pres. Bush is pro bike? He does ride a bike and therefore he must make good transportation decisions. Wait… let me think this over.

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

I have to say that Brock #10 is spot on.

Whether or not you think that Adams has accomplished a lot as Mayor – personally, I don’t – you have to admit that his ethics (burying other people to cover up his own mistakes and deceit) are in the crapper.

I just hope that he isn’t arrogant enough to run for re-election, unless his opponent is Randy Leonard.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

You critics of Volm’s suitability for a seat on city council have yet to cite a single item of substance supporting that criticism…not a single item.

Beating up on someone because they had to bear the burden of “…explaining to cyclists why it took weeks and weeks to clean up all the gravel in the bike lanes.” ? Surely, if she really is not suitable, there must be far stronger reasons than that. If you folks have anything at all in that respect…anything…lets hear them.

I thought Adam’s behavior leading up to the election (and shortly thereafter) was simply offensive. There really was little excuse for the terrible personal behavior and political chicanery he descended to during that time. People aren’t perfect though. Some consideration has to be given those that show inclination to correct their behavior where they’ve gone wrong.

Adams seems to be doing this, yet it seems there are still people that would prefer to see him pilloried…on public display forever more for the things he did back then. Well…go ahead…just remember your thoughts regarding Adams if you should ever find yourself having made a publicly visible, ethical, social or morally questionable mistake.

Corey Burger
Guest

I have no idea about her politics, being a Canadian, but her logo needs work. She uses the same font, which is good, but then fails on the alignment and font size. So close, yet so far.

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

wsbob #19,

Regarding Adams, this is only speculation but I would bet that if he hadn’t gotten caught, he would never have confessed to his mistakes. That doesn’t “show inclination to correct (his) behavior”. That shows that he was forced into correcting his behavior and I think there is a huge difference between the two. I for one can’t trust him.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Nick…getting off topic I suppose… . Adams had a choice: Quit the mayor job and do something else, or change conduct and stay. He chose to change and stay.

You can’t trust him? There’s good reason to be watching his every move. I’ve no doubt that, in part because of the unseemly things he did, many, many people are doing just that.

rev
Guest

Back to Volm, Im stoked to have her run. I had met her a few times over the past year and she struck me as someone who is passionate about transportation issues and wise about our cities past.

Sam Adams (who seems to be doing a better job now than the previous 12 months) only stepped back from the current CRC debacle after a year of grassroots organizing brought light to the issue.

Volm knows how the city works and instead of using connections to raise big $$ she is going the Voter Owned Election route. That means that instead of being in the pocket of powerful elites who want to build unnecessary bridges and stadiums she will be beholden to people.

Sounds like a step towards a more perfect democracy to me.

The League of Women Voters has a nice page talking about VOE:
http://www.lwvpdx.org/issues-and-advocacy/campaign-finance-reform

ms
Guest
ms

Considering her 20 years experience in communications, I would think Volm’s bio would have been better edited. Is “urbanally” a real word (dictionary.com doesn’t think it is)? Her son was raised in a “single home” or a single-parent home? I know it sounds nit-picky, but her website bio doesn’t make a great first impression with so many errors.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

ms…I’ve never heard that word used before, even in casual conversation. Did you leave her a message? It doesn’t sound right. I wonder if Volm actually put the bio together herself.

Maybe whoever wrote it meant to use the word ‘urbanely’ instead. Whoever wrote it, Volm should have proofread it herself before putting it online.

While just now visiting the site to check out the word you found to be odd, I looked at her ‘issues and policies’ page. I’d say it was vague on specifics, but content under the top items heading ‘FOCUS ON THE DELIVERY OF MUNICIPAL SERVICES’ was intriguing. It should be interesting to hear her expand on that.

Matthew Denton
Guest
Matthew Denton

So I was in Grate Computers in St Johns on Saturday, and the owner said that Volm had been by earlier that day advocating for a bicycle tax to fix the streets…

She doesn’t sound like someone with bike cred, she sounds like Terry Parker.