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Saltzman’s bike plan amendment: Thoughts and reactions

Posted by on February 10th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

“We’re certainly looking at it and we’re looking at some other options too.”
— Catherine Ciarlo, Transportation Policy Advisor for Mayor Adams

As City Council gets set to pass the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 tomorrow, there will be a buzz in the air about whether or not Commissioner Saltzman’s bike plan funding proposal will pass along with it.

Saltzman’s proposal, which he pitched in person to the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee on Tuesday night, seeks to raise money for projects in the bike plan by tapping into revenue that comes to PBOT from the City’s Utility License Fee.

Despite the fact that the Mayor and all the other Commissioners are supportive of the bike plan and biking in general, it has not been as popular of an idea as Saltzman might have hoped. The proposal got little more than an eye-roll from PBOT staffers working on the plan and sources tell me that the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee will not write a letter in support of it as was first thought (UPDATE – Read my follow up story on the BAC’s letter).

When asked whether or not he’d support the Saltzman amendment, Commissioner Randy Leonard shared these thoughts with me via email today:

“I may have considered the amendment if Commissioner Saltzman had briefed Mayor Adams and the rest of the council before he made his proposed amendment but given he chose not to do so, I believe we need to better understand the implications of what Commissioner Saltzman proposed.”

Late last night, Commissioner Amanda Fritz replied to me via email about the proposal. She said it’s, “not fully defined yet, that I’ve heard,” and therefore, “I can’t say whether I support something when it’s not clear what’s being proposed.” Saltzman’s proposal seemed perfectly clear when he presented it at the Bike Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday night. Does Fritz’s response mean he’s altered it since then? Or is this just her way of avoided a direct answer to the question?

Catherine Ciarlo, Mayor Sam Adams’ Transportation Policy Advisor, stopped far short of saying the Mayor would support it:

“We’re certainly looking at it and we’re looking at some other options too… the Mayor is concerned about the uncertainty of that as a funding source… A [funding] dedication from the ULF is not a certain thing.”

When pressed for an up or down vote of support for Saltzman’s amendment, Ciarlo repeated, “We’re looking at other options.” That response leads me to believe Mayor Adams might have a funding proposal of his own to offer up tomorrow.

In a way, Saltzman’s amendment gives Adams an open door to propose a funding idea of his own. If Adams can get his colleagues to support it (instead of Saltzman’s), he’d not only win back control of the plan he’s been steering to this climax for years, he’d also not have to preside over the adoption of a largely unfunded plan — and he’d get big cheers for helping to “Build It” now rather than later.

On Tuesday, PBOT’s Bike Plan Project Manager Ellen Vanderslice released a memo in response to Saltzman’s proposal (along with responses to feedback they heard at last week’s hearing). In that memo, she wrote that Saltzman’s proposal, “… should be evaluated – along with other potential financing ideas – and then presented to Council as part of a complete set of financing recommendations.” That sounds like a nice way of saying “Thanks for the idea Commissioner Saltzman, but now’s not the right time.”

At this point, the only major support I’ve heard for the Saltzman amendment comes from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Their Advocay Manager, Michelle Poyourow, told me this morning that, “Yes we most certainly do support Saltzman’s amendment… We support it because it would be a strong though financially modest gesture from Council showing how serious they are about the goals of the plan.”

Despite support from the BTA, it seems like Saltzman’s amendment is on life support and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mayor Adams puts forward one of his own tomorrow. And, given what I know about Mayor Adams, unlike Saltzman, when he announces his proposal, he’ll have the votes all lined up beforehand.

Stay tuned for more coverage. The bike plan is set for a vote in City Council tomorrow at 3:00pm.

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

  • t.a. barnhart February 10, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    it should be considered, but Randy was on the right track: it looks like a political gimmick, first & foremost.

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  • are February 10, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    i was sitting in the room when the BAC approved sending a letter of support. did they reconvene a quorum in the meantime? and what persuaded them to back off?

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  • Joe Rowe February 10, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Could be that Saltzman knew his plan had no support, but wanted to get some fans in the cycling community. If the Saltzman funding plan is more soild, I’m glad it is being put out there, no matter the motive, no matter pass or fail.

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  • Peter W February 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    This whole thing has been like a To-Be-Continued on your favorite TV show, and these updates are like the previews building up excitement for the next episode.

    I can’t wait to see what happens!

    (And either it passes, or it passes with funding… seems like a win or win scenario.)

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  • observer February 10, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    As Jonathan implied in his previous post, and judging from the dodgy responses from PBOT and Catherine Ciarlo in this post, there is at least as much political maneuvering going on by Sam Adams, as there is from Saltzman; welcome to Portland City Council Land!

    The good thing is that in this case it’s all gravy for us cyclists and the BTA is smart to support Saltzman’s proposal, for whatever it’s worth.

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  • Red Five February 11, 2010 at 5:54 am

    That whole city council is corrupt and needs to go. Rarely do they ever act on anything but their own special interests.

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  • karl February 11, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Now is the time to get dedicated funding for the 2030 Bike Plan, or it will be put on a shelf. I am glad that Saltzman is thinking of other ways to Build It than from just the general budget, which changes from year to year

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  • Jesse Cornett February 11, 2010 at 7:07 am

    It’s too bad that after nearly 12 years as a City Commissioner, Saltzman still doesn’t know how City Hall works well enough to accomplish something.

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  • are February 11, 2010 at 8:34 am

    i gather, jesse, that you do not support saltzman in the current campaign?

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  • cyclist February 11, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Jesse Cornett:

    What’s your plan for funding construction of projects in the 2030 bike plan? If you’re going to be throwing bombs here you should at least tell us what you’d do differently. Otherwise you’re just Amanda Fritz in glasses. A single sentence smearing your opponent without anything constructive is IMO not good for your campaign.

    Whatever his motivation, Saltzman has changed the conversation from merely identifying future construction projects to funding them. If Sam Adams comes up with his own funding plan for the 2030 projects, that doesn’t mean Saltzman loses, it means that Saltzman’s gambit worked. Anything that gets us closer to a new bike boulevard, new cycletrack, or completion of the greenway trail is a good thing.

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  • Hen Morgan February 11, 2010 at 9:05 am

    According to my sources, Jonathan has it (mostly) right: the City’s Bike Committee is offering cool support but is really calling for a more focused effort to secure long-term funding for the plan….

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  • Jesse Cornett February 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

    It’s not that he has a plan versus I don’t. He cooked up a plan and threw it against the wall to see if it would stick, catching his colleagues off guard. That’s not how you accomplish something on City Council, that’s how you get a headline that makes it seem like you actually did something. If after 12 years, he thinks that approach is a good one for actually enacting public policy, he doesn’t deserve yet another term.

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  • are February 11, 2010 at 9:25 am

    re comment 11. while i think it may not have been a good idea for the BAC to latch onto saltzman’s proposal the instant it was presented, at least this occurred at a regular meeting with a quorum present. the committee approved sending a letter to the council supporting the proposal. whatever backtracking or regrouping is going on now is going on behind closed doors, not at a regular meeting, and with who knows what notice or quorum.

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  • H Pendleton February 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

    #2/#13. I’ve talked with some of the BAC folks. Their letter (Jonathan – do you have it? Can you post it?) apparently doesn’t entirely backtrack, but strives for the long-view.

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  • Amos February 11, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I’m with Jesse on this one, it’s not an effective approach.

    That being said, “Otherwise you’re just Amanda Fritz in glasses…” wins comment quote of the day in my book. 🙂

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  • cyclist February 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Jesse Cornett:

    I’m going to reiterate my question to you in the hopes that you actually answer it this time. You’ve made it clear that you disagree with Saltzman’s approach, how would you fund the construction of items in the 2030 Bike Master Plan? I’d like you to be as specific as possible about the sources of revenue you would use, i.e. general fund, new taxes fees, bike registration tax, etc.

    If you’re going to run on a pro-bike platform then you absolutely should have thought about this, right?

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  • […] that I’ve heard from Commissioner Randy Leonard that he won’t vote for the proposal, it seems as though Saltzman no longer has support from the […]

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  • spare_wheel February 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Much of the criticism here seems to be more about the “politics” rather than the substance of the proposal. It all seems kind of petty…especially in the context of earlier chummy interviews with Volm and Cornett.

    PS: I did not vote for Saltzman and will almost certainly vote for Cornett.

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  • Hen Morgan February 11, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    The long view is key here, so spare_wheel is right: the politics are petty. With the Bike Committee trying to get above the fray, the focus becomes on long-term funding, not short-term political gain for one commissioner.

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  • […] Dan Saltzman, who created quite a dust storm with a funding proposal last week, decided to heed advice from the City’s Bicycle Advisory […]

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  • […] more praise on the mayor. “I think his idea is ingenious,” Leonard said. (Yesterday, reported a comment from Leonard which suggested he questioned Saltzman’s motives for the […]

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