Jeff Bernards, the chief petitioner behind an effort to preserve Oregon roads by banning studded tires, says the Oregon Supreme Court has finally issued him a Ballot Title. According to Bernards, that crucial step in the process to put the ban to voters in 2012 means he can print up official signature sheets. Now he and his team of supporters will need to get 80,000 signatures — the final step to get the ban on the ballot.
It took seven months for the Ballot Title to be finalized. That’s thanks to what Bernards calls “delay tactics” by a PR firm and a legal team hired by Les Schwab Tire Centers to squelch his efforts. In a post on the BlueOregon blog last week, Bernards wrote:
“There is a strong lobbying effort in Salem by the Les Schwab Tire Company. The company seems to have strong interest in maintaining the studded tire market without fees or restrictions.”
Studded tires cause an estimated $40 million in damage to Oregon roads each year. The Oregon Department of Transportation says they spend about $11 million annually to fix the damage, which leaves a gaping hole in the state’s already backlogged road maintenance budget.
And, like I shared last year, the more ODOT spends to repair roads, the less they have to make roads better for bicycling.
But the issue isn’t about bicycling at all for Bernards (even though he’s a familiar face at local bike events and he won an Alice Award in 2006 for his work in starting a community-based free bike light and helmet program). Bernards sees this as an issue of fairness and he thinks Oregon could spend its limited resources in much more productive ways:
“Studded tires are only used by 16% of drives yet cost all Oregonians hundreds of millions of dollars in road repair expense… I own a small landscaping service, and I have no interest in the tire market. I’m just concerned that common sense is being trumped by a company’s financial interest in my state. I hope with all my heart that some day Oregon will follow the path of common sense and ban studded tires. We need teachers’ not studded tires.”
Bernards told me today that the signature sheets will be ready to go in two weeks. A group called Democracy Resources will handle the bulk of the signature gathering; but the initial effort will be done by volunteers.
Bernards and his supporters will need to collect 80,000 signatures to get on the 2012 ballot. The effort is expected to cost a total of $370,000. Bernards is now asking the community to step up and support this effort by making a donation.
Learn more at PreservingOregonRoads.org.
— Read past coverage of this story in the BikePortland archives.