(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
After a thorough evaluation process that included in-person interviews, a questionnaire and ride-along with all three major candidates, political action committee Bike Walk Vote has announced their endorsement of Jefferson Smith for Portland mayor.
Bike Walk Vote co-chair Evan Manvel said today in a phone interview that Smith’s “Commitment, record, and leadership on equity as well as his focus on not spending all of our money on new infrastructure and highways,” are key things that stood out for them. Manvel also cited Smith’s work to “engage the whole city and work with non-traditional power brokers” as traits that were important to their choice.
“We encourage Portlanders who care about biking, walking, and transit to support Jefferson Smith, who has great vision and a commitment to a city that works for everyone,” added co-chair Peter Welte in a press release.
The group’s policy co-chair Heidi Guenin (who works with Upstream Public Health), said Smith’s focus on “funding equity for historically underserved neighborhoods,” reflects the type of vision the group shares.
Smith is also the only candidate who has taken a skeptical stance on the controversial Columbia River Crossing highway expansion project. (Read more about Smith’s stance on that project and other issues in our interview.)
Manvel said given the strength of the candidates it was difficult to choose between Smith and Charlie Hales (a former City of Portland Transportation Commissioner who oversaw our first bike lane and helped set streetcar in motion). In their press release, Bike Walk Vote gave a “special acknowledgement” to Hales, whom they said, “made a commendably strong impression.”
However, in the end, Hales’ stance on the CRC hurt him. “Hales has been sort of in the middle on the CRC,” said Manvel, “While Jeff has continued to ask tough questions.” (It’s worth noting that Manvel is an outspoken critic of the CRC project and has reported about it extensively for the Blue Oregon blog.)
As for Eileen Brady, Manvel said, “We think she’s got a positive outlook as far as walking and biking go… But her reluctance to increase investment in local transportation was at odds with what we were hoping for and her general support for the CRC was also a disappointment.” Brady’s stance on funding (she was the only candidate that did not propose a new funding stream for transportation at a recent debate, saying PBOT should instead look for internal efficiencies), the group said in a statement, is “putting her at odds with Portland’s vision for a healthy, sustainable city.”
To make their decision, Bike Walk Vote conducted face-to-face interviews, compared responses to a questionnaire, evaluated their performances at the active transportation debate earlier this month at PSU, and did a “rolling interview” where members joined each candidate for a bike commute.
Bike Walk Vote’s December 4th kickoff party drew over 100 people and was co-emceed by U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Multnomah County Commission Chair Jeff Cogen. With their endorsement decision made, the group now plans to mobilize the community in support of Smith.
Back in January, Smith also earned the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).