– Slideshow below/Gallery –
(Photos © J. Maus)
About 500 people turned out in their bike-chic best last night for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s 15th annual fundraising gala, the Alice Awards.
In marvelous outfits (see them in the slideshow below), bike lovers from around the state rubbed shoulders with fellow activists, politicians, bureaucrats, and industry luminaries. The mood was celebratory and optimistic and the energy was directed at one purpose: to raise money for the BTA. After signing in and perusing a number of raffle options and other items up for purchase, attendees gathered outside the venue under warm clear skies to watch a performance by The Sprockettes.
The street performance helped draw a clear contrast between this year’s Alice event and the sterile environment of the Oregon Convention Center where it had been held for the last several years.
Back inside, with a backdrop of palettes stacked end on end, Mayor Sam Adams took the stage. He used his brief address to try and rile up advocates. “We’ll have to do much more than we’ve done to date… What got us to the dance, won’t keep us dancing.” Adams urged the crowd to not only support the BTA with their dollars, but he made it clear that he needs more support from the community to keep pushing bikes forward. “Our success,” he said, “has not come without pushback.”
Adams, who is still feeling the heat in the media for his $20 million Bike Plan “kickstart” idea, said that money is a “tiny amount” in the grand scheme of the City’s $2.4 billion annual budget. But, he said, it remains controversial to many Portlanders.
“Your city council continues to this day to get tons and tons of feedback on bioswales and how they can be two-fers and three-fers and how they can slow traffic and make it safer pedestrians… We’ve gotten a lot of feedback, and 97% of it – and that’s just my guess-timate, has been negative.”
Adams was carefully pointing out (so as not to dim the crowd’s mood) that he feels the bike advocacy community has not had his back on that plan and he’ll need more vocal support going forward.
“We must use the accolades that we get as inspiration to do more and the new leadership of this organization combined with the existing advocacy can take us there. City government, we cannot do it on our own, but together, we will reach our goal of 25% of all trips in this city by bike.”
Following Adams’ speech, the BTA announced the winners of the 2010 Alice Awards. And the winners were: Susan Remmers, Al Densmore, and Susan Kubota. Catherine Ciarlo was awarded the Bud Clark Lifetime Achievement Award.
Remmers got her Alice for her work as leader of the Community Cycling Center (she has since moved on from that position and now works as a part-time consultant for the BTA). While at the CCC, Remmers focused the organization, culled programs that didn’t fit her vision, and tightened up every aspect of how the beloved non-profit operates — from what’s sold in the retail shop to how employees are compensated. The result is an efficient and focused CCC that’s doing groundbreaking work and is living up to its vast potential.
Al Densmore is a former state representative from Medford whose leadership helped make the Bear Creek Greenway a reality. The greenway currently spans 17 miles from Ashland to Central Point. Densmore, also a former mayor of Medford, shared the stage with this wife and fellow southern Oregon bike advocates.
Susan Kubota won her Alice Award because she turned the tragic loss of her niece, Tracey Sparling, into an opportunity for activism. After Sparling was run over and killed by a right-turning cement truck back in Octobert 2007, Kubota sprung onto the scene and demanded that the City of Portland do more for bike safety. They did. Last night, with Tracey’s mom Sophie standing by her side unable to hold back tears, Kubota told the crowd, “Whenever you’re in a green bike box, think of Tracey.”
That poignant moment was followed by another memorable moment — a rousing standing ovation for former Portland Mayor Bud Clark (1985-1992). Credited with sparking the bike movement in Portland by riding his bike to work every day, Clark is also the namesake of the BTA’s Lifetime Achievement Award which was given this year to Catherine Ciarlo.
Ciarlo led the BTA from 1998 – 2005, a time of tremendous growth for the organization. Ciarlo now works in Mayor Adams’ office as his Transportation Policy Director. During her speech, she shared the challenges of serving a city full of diverse opinions and noted that Former Mayor Bud Clark is the “perfect symbol of what we’re all trying to achieve as Portlanders.”
Newly hired BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky got his first opportunity to make a formal speech in front of Oregon’s advocacy elite. He played it pretty safe, urging the crowd to open their wallets and stressing the importance of a strong, well-funded BTA. He emphasized his experience on the national level by recounting a one-on-one meeting he got with U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.
In his most memorable line, Sadowsky referred to the low-hanging fruit being fully picked in Portland, saying it was time to “Get out the ladder and start reaching higher.”
Following the awards and speeches, the auctioneers got down to business. The final numbers are still being tallied, but the BTA will likely raise well over $100,000. With Sadowsky offering the hope of strong new leadership for an organization sorely in need of it, Portland — and the BTA — might be able to finally get off the tarmac and truly “Lift Off” in the months and years to come.
For more of the fantastic fashion and faces in the crowd at Alice, watch the slideshow below:
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Mayor Adams is playing the bike community for fools, and his speech at Alice this year and last shows the BTA is drinking his cool aid.
Sam is giving us $20 million from sewer money in exchange for a $5 billion CRC bridge.
Cyclists would not need to barter one for the other if we had a PAC.
State Senator Chip Shield would be called to the carpet by a bike PAC. He would suddenly get 1000 angry phone calls telling him why his support of the CRC is wrong.
Promised bike projects get written out of the Salem budget? BINGO… 1000 informed cyclist call Salem and they get written back in the next day.
@ Joe Rowe: Consider paying attention. The reason why the 12-lane traffic engineers’ dream has not been greenlighted is because of Sam Adams pushing back, with support from David Bragdon. Maybe BikePortland should do an update on the status of the CRC.
Curb extensions and bioswales aren’t bike infrastructure, I don’t care how you dress them up. Sam was stupid to link the two and the public knows it. Greenwashing at its best….
“Curb extensions and bioswales aren’t bike infrastructure”
The same thing could be said about speed bumps or channelizers.
“The street performance helped draw a clear contrast between this year’s Alice event and the sterile environment of the Oregon Convention Center where it had been held for the last several years.”
“The final numbers are still being tallied, but the BTA will likely raise well over $100,000.”
Some questions come to mind with these two statements.
First, When admission for this event stands at $100.00 a plate, effectively shutting out the majority of folks who ride bikes for transportation in this town, it feels odd to me to include a performance by a group with such a D-I-Y, grassroots sensibility as the Sprockettes (of whom I’m a big fan, BTW). Were they brought in to somehow help DE-“sterilize” the event, to lend an air of punk legitimacy to the suits in attendance and give the event some “street cred”? Am I the only one who finds this juxtaposition — and the move to a gritter, more industrial venue — just a little strange? What IS the message being sent?
Secondly, it would be very interesting and instructive to look at the $100,000 raised by the event and compare it to the combined annual salaries of BTA staffers. I think this information would allow bike advocates of every stripe to get a better perspective on the work of the BTA, and where and how such fundraising actually supports it.
Meanwhile, I appreciate Bikeportland’s coverage of such events, and look forward to coverage of the “Too Po’ Fo’ Alice” gathering soon.
anonymous (#5) – I’m not sure the BTA was trying to send any message here. While I don’t agree with their pricing of Alice (I’m fine with a high-priced dinner/auction/fundraiser, just not with tying the community awards to an event that isn’t inclusive of the community), I understand the BTA’s desire to shift to a lower-cost venue so that more of the funds can be used to support the BTA’s mission rather than to pay the Convention Center and its designated vendors.
Not sure how the salaries of the staffers is relevant – other than the Executive Director, no staffer makes over $50k a year (the 990 lists all staffers over $50k) and I highly doubt most of them make more than half that. We can debate whether that level of transparency is desired, but considering how upset people get over matters of money, I’m not sure how divulging salaries under $50k would be beneficial.
“Too Po'” was good – we had about 10% of the attendance of “Alice”, but everyone had a good time – total event cost was $45 (entirely paid by me), and more than half of that was for the award plaques.
The event will probably be held again next year, but given that this is primarily a pro-bike community event and not an anti-BTA event, the name will be the “Ben T. Spokes Bicycle Community Awards Potluck”
The awards given out Saturday night were:
“You Roll” award for having done the most to promote biking in Portland – Elly Blue, People’s Department of Transportation
“Smokin’ Hot” award for looking the best on a bicycle – Esther Harlow and Chris “Fool” McCraw (“looking the best” was undefined and completely subjective to the voter)
“Oh Yeah!” award for making biking the most fun – Carye Bye (leader of Bunnies on a Bike, the Small Museums Tour rides and numerous other rides themed around fun things)
Thanks everyone who came out to the potluck!
I read the Oregonian for the first time in a couple weeks, and was surprised to see that the $20M bioswales issue was still getting play on the commentary page. Who knew this would be such a quagmire?
I suppose it’s fair for Sam to remind us to write letters to the editor, but the bike community in no way deserves the blame for way PR on the issue has gone. Mixing money from different pots is always going to attract attention, and Adams’ office clearly didn’t polish their message enough before announcing the plan. Furthermore, they announced it by surprise without first gathering advance support from Council members or advocates. The move has hurt public support for bike facilities, because the lack of preparation has lead to a misperception about how the money will be spent.
I’ve seen numerous news reports about “sewer money for bike lanes” that are misleading if not plain wrong. Sam should have expected this, and been prepared to fire back. It’s also understandable that the bike community hasn’t been overexcited about this one. It wasn’t on our wish list, and we were just as surprised as everyone else when it was announced.
I think $20M for bioswales is a fine project, but doesn’t deserve to be the centerpiece of the 2030 bike plan. It should just be leverage against a real $5-10M “kickstart” of dedicated bike funding.
Let’s put city bike funding in perspective. The BTA’s 2008 Annual Report shows about $1.4 million in annual revenue… if we add that to the CCC and other bike non-profits in town, are we spending more on grassroots funded outreach and advocacy we can get the City to spend at PBOT? Come on Sam, step your game up.
Dan (#2) – Joe Rowe is one of the primary “anti-CRC” advocates in town, marshalling opposition from a lot of different parties in town to fight the 12-lane bridge. I guarantee you he’s paying attention. Sam Adams’ opposition to the bridge has been late, half-hearted, and consistently leaving himself a ready avenue to flip his position at will in order to please his constituency. When there is some consistency in tone from his office on the CRC stance, then perhaps the general public will start to take his pronouncements seriously.
re comments 3 and 4, the same could be said about bike lanes and green boxes.
Wow. Lots of things to respond to…
#5 – I hear you about the Sprockettes and I agree about the juxtaposition. It’s clear the BTA has heard the grumblings from the community about being out of touch with the grassroots. A change of venue for Alice and the Sprockettes were obviously part of countering that perception and I agree with you that they are just gestures. It might seem a bit forced, but at least they’re trying.
As for the price of the event. That’s an interesting debate, but it’s a fundraiser after all. the goal (for better/worse) isn’t to serve the entire community, it’s to cater to those people who are most well-positioned to spend a lot of money to support the BTA. Instead of criticizing the Alice Awards, I’d say a smarter thing would be to encourage BTA to hold a big, separate, community event in addition to it.
Matt, thanks for the update on Too Po Fo Alice Potluck… was really wishing I could have been at both places.
Any criticism of Mayor Adams should not be made without understanding the politics. I don’t excuse him for not being more forceful in opposition earlier, but the reality is there was NO SIGNIFICANT ACTION against the project by advocates like the BTA, CLF, etc… Without constituents rising up against the project it made it much more difficult for Adams — or any high-level politician — to come out against that thing. If the BTA/CLF would have come out against it sooner, like they should have, it would have given Adams and others a bit more room to be opposed it themselves.
So you want the BTA to be a forceful presence but you don’t want them to raise the funds necessary to be a forceful presence?
I was impressed by the support displayed and by the quality of Saturday’s fundraiser. Very well organized with lots of volunteer help and a ton of donated goods and services from local businesses. Several individuals I spoke to showed their support by giving volunteer time instead of cash. The whole classist argument is garbage and it undermines the goals for regional cycling improvements that a lot of people hold no matter their income level. I think the alternate awards thing is great but why hold it the same night and advertise it as an anti BTA event? There is room for more than one bike advocacy group in town and good luck raising it to the level of impact the BTA has had. (that’s not sarcasm)
If every person who attended either event wrote a letter to City Council, their neighborhood association and the Governor to express their desires for safe streets (or whatever your priorities), maybe $100 a plate fundraisers would not be necessary.
J.R. (#11) – The classist argument is not garbage. I can’t speak for anonymous (#5),but in my case my beef isn’t with charging $100 for a fundraiser while providing no means for members or the public at-large to volunteer for the event in return for a discounted entry, or holding another event which is affordable for the public at-large. The reason why it’s classist is because in the early days, it allowed local luminaries like Rex Burkholder, Mia Birk, Jay Graves, etc. to interact with a lot of people in the membership who might never encounter or talk to them – it was a structured interaction that allowed networking across income, class, and demographic lines. That doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s destroying opportunities to find solutions to problems in the bike community by removing those networking opportunities.
And if you believe that “Too Po” was anti-BTA, you haven’t been paying attention. Yes, the initial graphic in the bikeportland story gave that impression, but that graphic was removed, the focus of the event was directed to be pro-community, and I’ve posted numerous times to the Facebook group, the Shift list, and bikeportland comments that the event is geared to those who couldn’t attend due to money, or wouldn’t attend due to personal reasons. Why the same night? Because the people involved wanted a pro-bike event that honored local bike people, and couldn’t or wouldn’t pay $100 for it. How is that anti-BTA?
Dissent, disagreement, and conflict are not inherently bad, and can create a stronger BTA, a stronger bike community, and a stronger Portland. The “alternate event” was never malicious nor mean-spirited, and a search of this site’s archives will prove that. This community will not be served by everyone lock-stepping in the same direction. That’s reacting out of fear: fear that we’ll lose what we have, fear that we won’t get what we want, or fear that someone (who?) will make us stop riding our bikes.
I prefer to call things like I see them – give credit and kudos when someone does something right, or good, or that I approve of, and call them out when I disagree with their views, their opinions, or their policies. That’s what I personally am doing in regards to the BTA. And yes, I am a BTA member, and when I can I donate money to them. But I’m doing them a severe disservice if I don’t tell them when I disagree, and I’m failing myself and the community as well. I choose not to do that, and I hope that those who disagree with my views, opinions and policies have the respect and courage to do the same.
BTW, speaking of kudos – the BTA outlined their 2011 lobbying focus at the Oregon Bike Summit. Thanks Doug and Susan for delivering that, and soliciting comments – keep up the good work. Rob Sadowski seems to really have it together and I look forward to seeing what he’ll do with the BTA in cooperation with the BTA’s board – and kudos to the board for snagging one of the midwest’s big bike luminaries.
one small quibble w/ comment 12. this year there was in fact an opportunity for volunteers to attend at a discount of one hundred percent, that is, free. this is how i and quite a number of others were able to attend. an opportunity to talk at some length with rob sadowsky, eileen trudeau, etc., and enjoy the proceedings from an okay table with decent food and unlimited alcohol (if that is what you are into). it is true that i was not able to participate meaningfully in bidding several thousand dollars each for this or that auction item, but hey, it’s a fundraiser.
I just want to point out that I think you are (not purposely) mis-representing J.R.’s comment. I don’t read his comment as saying we should be lock-step in agreement with the BTA… it seems like he’s pointing out the classist issue specifically.
are (#14) – Excellent! Then “Too Po” served its intended purpose. At the time the potluck was announced, I was told by BTA staff that no such discount would be present this year. I’m happy to hear that the BTA reconsidered that policy and hope they continue offering a discount to the volunteers in the future.
Jonathan (#15) – the latter part of the comment (anything past the 2nd para) isn’t directed towards J.R. – I should have made that explicit.
In any case, any future potlucks will be the “Ben T. Spokes” awards, and probably will not be on the same night as Alice in the future. That’s pretty much the only other thing I can do to show that the event is not intended as “anti-BTA”.
Thanks all for coming to “Too Po”, and thanks to everyone who donated money to a bike non-profit this weekend, regardless of which one you chose.
I didn’t attend this year’s Alice Awards, but from the photos, the new venue looked awesome! The convention center is a pretty awful, soulless venue.
As for the Sprockettes, bear in mind, I’m sure a lot of the attendees to Alice are from the whole of Oregon, & not just from Portland. This may have been their only chance to see a mini-bike dance troupe! Don’t deny them such fun!
@ Adam (# 17):
I’m all for fun, but in this case, context is significant. I agree with Jonathan that if street cred was the goal, the change of venue and other trappings of “D-I-Y grit” are empty gestures from an organization that has yet to show a new sense of focus and direction. Sorry, but I’m no longer a believer in the BTA and they won’t get another dime from me.
Street cred? You guys are projecting. The Alice is a fundraiser for the BTA: like all fundraisers of this nature, the organization strives to provide a good time for attendees. Ambiance plays a large role in creating the tone of an event. The BTA took their party out of the sterile convention center and set up shop in a more interesting environment in order to create a different (and better) vibe for their key fundraiser.
Most would congratulate them on this move. But here they’re lambasted for some fictional grasp at “street cred.”
Do you really the Bison Building has “DIY street cred”? It’s a rental space, people. There are events there all the time. I don’t think the BTA was trying to pull the wool over your eyes around some highly improbable desire for “street cred.” Sheesh. Most people who attended appreciated this change in venue, and along with the first sighting of the new Ex. Director (for many) the tone of the event signaled the reinvigoration of the organization.
The BTA won’t get another dime from you anonymous? I’ll give them two dimes in your honor.
Street Cred out.
just want to point out that i don’t read the comments above as “lambasting” the BTA. We are simply discussing the venue and the BTA’s decisions around this event and their tone in general.
looking fwd to their reinvigoration.
Thanks for the comment.
Ah, perhaps “lambasting” was too strong a word.
However, the scrutiny, or “simple discussion of the venue,” seemed to be rather obviously looking for something – anything! – to criticize.
Specifically, I think the speculation that the BTA moved the Alice Awards from the convention center and brought in the Sprockettes “to lend an air of punk legitimacy” is absurd to the point of laughter. Why would a bike advocacy organization working toward national benchmarks be searching for any sort “punk legitimacy”?
Seriously, I understand that thrashing the BTA has become a sporting event on BP, and for the most part I’m able to ignore this element, but when I read a statement as ridiculous as the one above and then see others treat it as if it’s a legitimate meme to be explored, it really feels like more than a bit much.
thanks for explaining your opinions.
just to answer your question about why the BTA would be searching for street cred.. much of the energy and activism around biking in Portland comes from the grassroots, a.k.a. the street. It’s also obvious that the BTA has lost their connection to the grassroots in many ways, yet they are smart enough to know that they need it to “work toward national benchmarks” and fulfill the potential we have here in Portland (and that they’re uniquely positioned to help us reach). therefore, I think it’s reasonable for people to analyze the BTA’s decisions around Alice in that context.
I disagree with your characterization that “thrashing the BTA has become a sporting event on BP” but I understand your point of view given that you are so closely tied with that organization and hearing anything that’s not praise or positive about them can be difficult.
and yes, there is criticism of the BTA going on here and I think that’s a great thing. The reason Portland is stalling is in my opinion largely because there has not been enough criticism in this town from people within the bike scene. We’ve been too busy congratulating ourselves and living in a bubble.
part of the “reinvigoration” needed at the BTA is being less defensive and scared of what others think and being more willing to both ask for and accept criticism from the community.
hopefully that makes some sense.
I think that while “Anon’s” comments come across as vaguely snarky, he speaks to the frustration that many longtime supporters of the BTA have felt during the turmoil of the last year and a half or so.
The BTA does important work, make no mistake about it. But their message — and some would say their entire mission — has certainly been diluted in the wake of so many personnel changes in so short a time, and also by a lack of clarity about the direction they are headed in.
I look forward to hearing more from the new Executive Director soon, and to seeing more definitive action from the a reconstituted BTA.