Portland’s Bike Walk Vote political action committee hosted a party last night in southeast Portland to introduce the community to the candidates they’ve endorsed. A huge crowd packed into Crank bike shop where candidates had tables set up to entice volunteers, pizza was consumed, and the conversations flowed as freely as the beer.
“The next time The Oregonian runs a misleading headline saying that it’s because of bike lanes that people aren’t having their streets paved, I want all of you to march down Broadway and occupy The Oregonian!”
— Steve Novick, City Council candidate
Following their mayoral endorsement of Jefferson Smith last month, Bike Walk Vote unveiled several new endorsements yesterday including: Dick Schouten for Washington County Commissioner; Steve Novick and Mary Nolan for Portland City Council; and Sam Chase, Craig Dirksen, and Bob Stacey for Metro Council. Each one (except for Dirksen, who was a no-show) addressed the crowd with a short speech.
Dick Schouten, the incumbent who says he’s “relatively confident” he will win his race, told the crowd, “We can’t really have a great Portland bike scene without Clackamas and Washington County being full participants.” Schouten has been working to make suburban Washington County less auto-centric for decades. He said his colleagues on the Commission are more open to cycling than they ever have been. That being said, he’s realistic about the work that remains.
“This is a marathon. I have a high threshold for pain,” said Schouten wearing a knit blue sweater made for him by his late stepmother, “I’m willing to hang in there for a long time and I’ll wear them out.”
Steve Novick was up next. He fired up the crowd by yelling, “The next time The Oregonian runs a misleading headline saying that it’s because of bike lanes that people aren’t having their streets paved, I want all of you to march down Broadway and occupy The Oregonian!”
On a more serious note, Novick explained how his top priority of lowering health care costs relates to active transportation.
“True economic development will mean making Portland the #1 city in the county in controlling heath care costs… That will give us a huge competitive advantage. That’s one reason I’m committed to your cause.”
Novick also said he wants to do an event where 1,000 people to bikes ride around with shirts that say, “I’m reducing your health care premiums” on the back.
In what will likely be a close race for Portland City Council Position #1, Mary Nolan used her speech to go right at incumbent Amanda Fritz:
“I’m running against an incumbent who doesn’t seem to get a blended, comprehensive, neighborhood friendly, public-health friendly transportation policy. She raises questions about whether we should be investing in bikes and I think there’s a really sharp contrast about how she approaches the issues we all care about and the way I approach it.”
This was the first time I’ve heard Nolan speak. She had energy, candor, and confidence. She seems like the real deal when it comes to sticking up for active transportation. (Stay tuned for more coverage of this race.)
The climax of the night was a speech by Jefferson Smith. The mayoral race is looking to be a close and grueling contest and Smith has ground to make up on both Eileen Brady and Charlie Hales.
Bike Walk Vote is the epitome of grassroots political action, and Smith, who founded the non-profit Bus Project to get young people engaged in politics, felt right at home. He gave a fiery speech that really fired everyone up.
In response to his sense that many people feel that biking and walking are just for “Hawthorne hipsters,” Smith proposed a different frame on the argument:
“There’s another case we need to make… What if we decided we wanted a senior friendly transportation system? What if we laid that out as a primary objective for the city? What would a senior-friendly transportation system look like?… We need to build a senior friendly transportation system and we are going to win that argument.”
He then explained why he decided to oppose the Columbia River Crossing project even though he knew it would cost him politically:
“… Early in this campaign, we were all clamoring for labor support. When we were asked about the Columbia River Crossing, one candidate said, ‘Let’s build this bridge you guys!’ The other candidate said, ‘I promise to get it started the first year of my administration,’ and I said, how are you going to pay for it? And are you sure it’s the most important transportation priority we are going to apply ourselves to in a lifetime. I knew that by saying that I was costing myself meaningful support from labor allies, from business allies, from newspapers whose support I’ve had in the past — but I knew I wasn’t sure I could vote for myself.”
Then, in his concluding stanza, Smith had the crowd hanging on every word:
“But here’s the good news. Historically in this city, the way people win elections is by being the candidate who is most connected to the values of this city. The way people have won elections in Portland, Oregon is by being the best champion for the public interest.
And what needs to happen over next 41 days is we need to apply public interest power. We need to demonstrate that even in the absence of publicly-financed elections, even in the most expensive city elections in the history of this town — that in one city in this country at least, the people rule. And that we rule in the direction of the public interest! And we will not work to bend facts in the direction of politics or power, we will bend power in the direction of the facts.”
Watch for Bike Walk Vote volunteers to hit the streets in the coming weeks and stay tuned to BikePortland for more coverage of the candidates and the races.