– 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: