Checking in on the race for Metro president

Metro President hopeful Bob Stacey-1
Bob Stacey
Rex Burkholder
(Photos © J. Maus)

There’s just over a month before voters decide on a new president of Metro, our region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. There are three solid candidates for the position: Tom Hughes, Bob Stacey, and Rex Burkholder.

Among people in the community that care about bicycling, the choice between the two Portland frontrunners — Stacey and Burkholder — is a tough one.

Burkholder is one of the founders of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and one of this city’s most respected and active bike advocates — not to mention he’s put thousands of miles riding on Portland’s streets. However, his support for the Columbia River Crossing project has diminished his profile with some people that are passionate about biking and the environment who feel that a major change of direction in the mega-project is necessary.

Stacey on the other hand has been an unwavering and vociferous critic of the CRC project. This difference of opinion about the CRC has made it a key issue in this race.

Joe Rowe

North Portland resident Joe Rowe, a frequent face at grassroots bike events around town, is supporting Bob Stacey specifically because of his opposition to the CRC. Rowe has organized a fundraising event for Stacey that will be held at Roots Brewing this Monday from 5:30 to 7:30.

In response to a recent post about a Burkholder fundraising event, Michael Wolfe — an urban planning graduate student at Portland State University and long-distance biking enthusiast — wrote in a comment on BikePortland: “I don’t know why anyone who is actually serious about cycling for transportation and remotely paying attention would vote for, let alone provide monetary support for Burkholder, given his unabashed support for the CRC.”

Another commenter wrote that, while he’ll “forever appreciate all that Rex has done for cycling in Portland,” but he won’t vote for Burkholder because, “I think he’s actually imbibed the proverbial kool-aid [on the CRC project].”

On the other hand, Burkholder has retained support of some major names in Portland bike advocacy. A look at campaign contributions shows significant donations to Burkholder’s campaign from such local biking stalwarts as Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves, CEO of Alta Planning Mia Birk, bike lawyer Ray Thomas, and others.

Along with Birk, the director of the Institute for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation at PSU Lynn Weigand, the board chair of the BTA Mary Roberts and others will host a fundraiser for Burkholder at Alta Planning headquarters in Southeast Portland next week.

As the race enters the home stretch, Burkholder is making a strong push to burnish his biking credentials. His campaign has planned a “Ride With Rex” event for Sunday April 18th and today they debuted web video of Burkholder riding his bike through town as he reflects on life and bike issues (watch it below).

Will Burkholder be able to shore up his base of bike-riding voters? Even those who are not satisfied with his position on the CRC? Will Stacey woo enough of the bike vote to give Burkholder a run for his money?

The three candidates will face off today at noon during a debate at the City Club of Portland. I’ll post a link to the video and/or audio once it’s available.

Stay tuned for more coverage on this race (I sat down with Bob Stacey recently and hope to share parts of our conversation next week). In the meantime, I’d like to hear what BikePortland readers feel about this race: Who will get your vote?

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