KATU-TV (Portland’s ABC affiliate) and Willamette Week hosted a televised mayoral debate on Sunday night. It was a very good debate with questions taken from live audience members, online fans, and seasoned political reporters from both outlets. Then this happened…
You would think all three candidates could easily spot the false dichotomy in this question and use their answer to diffuse this divisive idea that is preventing our city from moving forward like it should. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened.
Jefferson Smith was the first to answer and this question. And he nailed it. “I would say I think it’s a false choice that has been locking up our transportation politics for a while. Let me offer a different thought.” Smith then went into an explanation of the funding crisis and his idea for building a “senior-friendly” transportation system (that he first elaborated on at the Bike Walk Vote event last month).
But strangely, even with Smith paving the way before them, neither Charlie Hales or Eileen Brady dispelled the inherent problem with the question. To their credit though, they didn’t take the bait completely.
Here’s how Hales tackled it: “Under my leadership, the next city council will focus on basic services. And this is one of them.” (Whenever I hear it put that way, I feel like the person is inferring that bike lanes are not “basic services.”) Hales then went into how during his previous stint as City Commissioner he had half the budget of today’s council and yet, “repaved five times as many miles of streets.” Thankfully, Hales saved his answer when he said, “But as we do that [pave a lot of streets], we make the system better for everyone; for bicyclists, for drivers, for people that want to get safely across the street.”
Brady was up next. She repeated what she told me during our interview, that, “We need a balanced transportation system.” She also repeated what I feel is not exactly a true statement. “It is inconceivable to me,” she said, “that our transportation bureau has just announced that we’re not going to pave and repave many of the major arterials for the next five years.” PBOT’s budget zeroed out only one type of paving project (where they completely rebuild a road); but they are still funding paving to the tune of around $10 million this coming year and they’ll repave about 15-20 miles of roads. Brady also shared her idea to create a “sustainable maintenance fund” within PBOT which, she says, would make the “balanced” transportation system she envisions possible. “I’m a bike rider, I’m also a car driver, I also love light rail,” she said.
Watch the question and their answers below…
I know many of you are still undecided when it comes to picking a mayor. Did this KATU clip help you make a decision?