Following our story last week, more information has been revealed about mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith’s driving record. His poor record, first brought to light months ago, was made public in greater detail by The Oregonian last week. Given that the way people operate their vehicles is an important transportation safety issue, I posted a story about this after reading about it in The Oregonian. The comment thread is full of a diverse range of reactions, and folks seem evenly split as to whether or not Smith’s driving record matters.
Today, Jefferson Smith shared a more extensive and detailed account of his driving record with The Portland Mercury (as well as sharing a Q & A about it in the comments). Now we know his record includes a whopping seven speeding tickets between 1994 and 2009:
6/27/1994 – Speeding – 95 in 55
4/2/1995 – Speeding – 69 in 45
5/17/1995 – Speeding – 80 in 65
10/22/1995 – Speeding – 80 in 55
7/20/2002 – Speeding – 52 in 35
1/28/2003 – Speeding – 75 in 50
1/11/2009 – Speeding – 40 in 25
Not only are some of those well over the speed limit, they are only some of the many violations he’s received while behind the wheel (there’s also a “Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle”).
Christopher Heaps, a former Portland resident who now lives in Bend (you might remember him as the lawyer who filed a citizen citation and won), shared via Twitter today that he feels, “95mph in a 55 zone isn’t just “embarrassing,” it’s criminally negligent, IMHO. Smith is unfit to drive.”
Not surprisingly, these revelations have sent some minor shockwaves through the local transportation advocacy world. Supporters of Smith are defending his record as something that is a minor personality flaw that happened mostly in the past; while others are saying the lack of responsibility and multiple suspension are very troubling.
Jessica Roberts, a carfree mom, former staffer of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and current consultant at Alta Planning + Design, said via Twitter this morning that, “That kind of driver behavior is what could well kill me, my child, my loved ones, my friends. Public enemy #1.” Roberts also said that Smith’s driving record is enough to keep her from voting from him.
Other commenters say Smith’s accomplishments and public policy record far outweigh his bad driving past, and that the campaign should be about track records on important civic issues, not personal driving records.
But (especially) for people who ride bikes, a record of dangerous driving isn’t just personal, it can lead to injury or death of a vulnerable road user. It also shows a general lack of respect and seriousness for the consequences of dangerous driving.
This issue also makes for awkward politics for the folks behind Bike Walk Vote, the local political action committee that endorsed Smith. One of the lead volunteers for Bike Walk Vote, environmental advocate and political consultant Evan Manvel, also happens to be the former executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, where he rallied against dangerous drivers and speeding.
Manvel pointed out today that Charlie Hales, Smith’s competition in the mayor’s race, also has a record of driving tickets (The Oregonian reported that Hales has two since 2007; one for speeding and one for failing to obey a traffic control device). Via Twitter this morning, Manvel said, “We’re not voting on the 1994-2004 Jeff[erson], but the 2012 one.” He also tweeted that, “I think Jeff’s grown and gotten more serious over time. I’m not defending either’s driving record.”
But Hales’ record is nowhere near as bad as Smith’s. Smith has said he’s embarrassed by his driving history and that he’s gotten much better in recent years. But after today’s big reveal in the Mercury, that might not be enough for many people. For more on this issue, read the story in the Mercury and read Smith’s comment where he shares an extensive Q & A on the issue.
UPDATE 2:30 pm: Bike Walk Vote has released a statement:
“… Jefferson has matured since his earlier days. The evidence shows his driving behavior has improved…Since 2005, both mayoral candidates have been ticketed twice for moving violations: once for speeding and once failing to obey traffic control devices. Smith also has a paperwork violation… We are not hiring either candidate to be our driver…”
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I’d like to know the circumstances and location of the 2009 citation in a 25mph zone . . .
40 in a 25 is so commonplace that the likelihood of their being any particular or ‘mitigating’ circumstances is low.
“far outweigh his bad driving past”
Correction, his last ticket was in the (recent) past. He could still be regularly driving like this in the present, but just not getting caught.
So, horrible driving record and multiple driver license suspension, multiple suspensions by the Oregon State Bar, recent suspension from a recreational soccer league and recent physical violence against an opponent in a pickup basketball game. This person does not belong running a city.
Any write in candidates worthy of a vote?
“recent suspension from a recreational soccer league and recent physical violence against an opponent in a pickup basketball game. ” Whoa, those two are news to me. Got a link?
Clearly the way a person makes important decisions that affect other people has bearing on their role as the mayor.
Yikes. It is old-fashioned to expect squeaky-clean candidates?
But overall, I’m not too perturbed. I hope no one ever judges me for what I was doing 1994/95. Not a big fan of the most recent one though, that one would have actually been a danger to me (versus the driving way fast on the made to be fast highway).
I am pretty sure I will write in eileen brady, I don’t like anyone left in the race at this point!
There would have been more dirt had she stayed in. Sadly, no one survives the stepped-up scrutiny these days.
consistently ticketed for 15mph-40mph over the posted speed limit & failure to yield to an emergency vehicle? sounds like an over blown sense of entitlement. oh wait… in portland it’s safety third right?
It is really just too bad these are the two options we are given……
I do think that our culture is way too forgiving of dangerous driving behavior, with tragic results, but it seems unreasonable to make one guy take the fall for it all of a sudden. We should focus on fixing the system and electing the people who will make that happen.
I like Smith the candidate.
I dislike this kind of driving and the disregard for others it suggests.
But as Nick says, do we risk projecting our frustrations with bad driving onto Smith, or this election? It might be symbolically satisfying to crucify him for his driving record, but in the larger scheme of things electing Smith to the Mayor’s office is hardly an endorsement of bad driving. We already have that.
Maybe Smith could redeem himself (whether he is elected to this job or keeps the one he’s been elected to) by making safe driving a top priority: getting one’s license more difficult, stiffer penalties, etc.?
In a more perfect Portland, Smith would have lost his license long ago, and would have had to bike or take transit, preventing him from acquiring more citations. This is a problem with the system. People like Smith are going to break the rules, so we need to prevent them from driving, once they prove that they cannot do so safely.
“…lost his license long ago, and would have had to bike or take transit”
I’m always a bit uncomfortable when people frame biking as punishment for losing your license. We unwittingly reify the notion that the real and proper and grown up way to get around is in a car. Biking (or riding the bus) is not punishment for losing your license. Everyone wins.
110% agree. Really hard to speed while riding a bike. Not to mention, don’t need to worry about suspensions or insurance!
Yes, exactly. It’s not like voting AGAINST him is going to fix speeding, or make other people realize they shouldn’t do it.
Nobody’s “taking a fall.” He would simply be “not becoming mayor.” If you’re against dangerous driving, then why reward a documented, repeat-offending, dangerous driver by making him mayor?
And, if you want to focus on “fixing the system and electing the people who will make that happen,” I guess I have to ask what about this guy would even remotely suggest he’s that person. Objective stuff — not things that came out of his own mouth on the campaign trail. Here you have a rare collection of objective facts: a verifiable rap sheet with the police. Quite a long one at that. The picture painted is of an arrogant, hapless, bumbling, out-of-control, dangerously inept and childish idiot who thinks he’s above the law, does not learn, and isn’t even CREATIVE enough to come up with some other idea for getting things done, besides cars, even though he lives in Portland, Oregon. And that’s without mentioning the blatant and repeated endangerment of human beings. If this guy were a Republican you would all be yelling “Lynch the pig!”
I’m not reading his confessions or his Q&As… he’s the very embodiment of the worst kind of irresponsible, negligent, entitled, spoiled-rotten American who is going to KILL ME someday, so he deserves the full wrath of the electorate — if they had any clarity of principle whatsoever.
My original offer still stands: He can redeem himself by adopting a car-free lifestyle while in Portland, and hiring a driver to/from Salem. And if he lives in a hotel in Salem and bikes there too, I’ll proclaim his awesomeness far and wide.
Its important to remember, the tickets only come when he was caught.
One gets caught speeding, what 2% of the time? Thats a whole lot of law breaking.
As much as his record is atrocious, this statement can be extended to literally anybody. Better to simply take his infractions as they are and not make assumptions off of them, IMO.
I disagree. This cannot be applied to “literally anybody.” And one assumption we can make is that he has a serious driving problem that could put people in danger. This is a dangerous driving record!
The statement was “One gets caught speeding, what 2% of the time?” Assuming this is from a study somewhere, it doesn’t say anything about any particular individual, just about drivers in general. All we can base our opinions off of is what we know, which is that Jefferson Smith has been caught speeding (by a lot) seven times.
I may have to re-think my support.
I am unfortunately finding myself in the same place. The weight of all of the signs that Jefferson can’t manage his own business is adding up to grave doubts for me. Charlie’s performance is little better, though. Hopefully this election will involve some discussion of issues actually pertinent to the city…
Underlying ethos and lack of awareness is kind of disturbing. Would love some new choices for Mayor.
I would be hesitant to evaluate Smith based on his driving habits 15-20 years ago at age 21-22.
And I suspect you will find many drivers who have driven 40 in a 25 zone. That’s why there are speed bumps.
This ought to be a concern. But there are a lot bigger fish to fry in terms of who is the next mayor than their respective driving records.
I’m sorry, but these weren’t 15-20 years ago. They were 2-8 years ago:
1/4/2004 to 4/6/2004 – Suspension – Failure to attend hearing
3/24/2004 – Driving while suspended
4/6/2004 – License reinstated
4/8/2004 – Improper right turn
6/29/2004 – Suspension – Driver suspended for 30 days (vacated)
7/9/2004 – Suspension – Driver suspended for 30 days based on receiving 4 or more driver improvement violations within the 24 month period preceding the date of record review under the driver improvement program (reinstated 6/20/2006)
7/15/2004 – Suspension – Driver suspended for 30 days based on receiving 4 or more driver improvement violations within the 24 month period preceding the date of record review under the driver improvement program (reinstated 6/20/2006)
9/1/2004 – Suspension – Failure to appear in hearing
9/7/2004 – Suspension – Failure to appear in hearing
6/20/2006 – License reinstated
1/11/2009 – Speeding – 40 in 25
3/31/2009 – Failure to obey traffic control device
1/12/2010 – Improper display of validating stickers & failure to carry proof of insurance
5/14/2010 to 1/20/2011 – Suspension – Failure to pay fine
Those are **5** suspensions/suspension-related citations within a single year!
The sad part is how this reflects on his responsibility of keeping his affairs in order, not even his driving ability/skills or safety. How can you run a city if you can’t even remember to attend traffic court? He’s lucky he didn’t end up in jail instead of a fine.
Here is the list of Smith’s moving violations since 2005:
2009 – Speeding – 40 in 25
2009 – Failure to obey traffic control device
And Hales’ violations in the same time period:
2007 – Speeding – 43 in a 35
2011 – Failure to obey traffic control device
As much as people should pay their fines and display their stickers, I don’t see those as safety issues (which are most important to me).
This is really about whether Smith honors the rule of law, not whether he can drive like an expert NASCAR driver. Failing to appear in court has nothing to do with Smith’s driving. It’s about Smith taking personal responsibility. I agree we don’t an expert driver in the mayor’s office. We need someone that can take personal responsibility with respect to the laws that govern our city and its residents.
Wow. Jefferson, you need to give up your driving privilege to get my vote now. You’re not somebody I want driving in my neighborhood…it really is too bad this did not come to light earlier.
I am definitely worried by Jefferson’s issues here – particularly the repeated, flagrant speeding. But not so much the personal disorganization. Sam Adams got foreclosed on for his house, am I right? And in my opinion, he’s been a pretty good mayor (especially the past year and a half since he’s partially recovered from his self-inflicted Beau Breedlove scandal). I know that Sam Adams’ performance is itself very controversial, but how someone acts in their personal life and how they perform as mayor can be very different things.
To give another example, Joe Biden hasn’t accumulated a ton of money and has had some financial problems in the past (I think….). Has that made him a worse steward of our nation’s budget? Not in any way *I*’ve noticed.
Yeah I bet someone who has 7 speeding tickets is great at the Floor it… break for the speed bump… floor it… break for the speed bump game, i see so may drivers around portland playing.
I’ll still vote for him over Hales, but only if he gets a tri-met pass and wears it around his neck so he always has it.
I wish this info would have surfaced a lot earlier than this. I’m really surprised that -nobody- ran a basic background check on this guy. Aren’t speeding tickets part of publicly available information that we can look up on anyone’s record?
Someone who is THIS BAD at driving should in no way be a spokesperson for transportation safety and alternative transpo efforts! This guy is a joke. Anyone who still thinks he is a worthwhile candidate is kidding themselves.
If you can’t follow what you preach…
I have only had 2 moving violations in my life, one of them was ON a bicycle.
80+ mph is criminal.
I don’t know – I’m personally pretty torn on this.
On one hand I agree, it looks like Smith was very reckless behind the will and he is incredibly lucky he never killed anyone or caused major injuries to a pedestrian or a cyclist.
On the other hand he was much younger. I can perhaps be more forgiving because when I was between the age of 20 and 25 I did many similar things. I was a horrible driver. My friends and I used to race up and down city streets (I didn’t live in Portland back then) or up and down coastal highways at 90+ miles an hour all the time. I was a terrible driver and I got more than a few tickets. Who I was back then is not who I am now and I fully admit my behavior at the time was stupid.
So the question becomes has he changed? Does he realize the accidents he could have caused? If so, then maybe he is the perfect person to be mayor. I am a better driver now because I was a stupid driver back then. That doesn’t wipe out my bad behavior in the past, nor would it wipe out Smith’s, but when I vote I am voting for who a person is now, not who they were.
On the one hand, I’m thrilled that traffic safety records could become an issue in an electoral race – it would be a sign of people taking traffic safety seriously. It’s a very serious issue that I’ve devoted years to my life to.
On the other hand, I’m loathe to condemn people for their mistakes in their past if they’ve actually changed (most of Smith’s awful record was from 1994 to 2004).
I want to judge candidates on who they are currently.
And since 2005, both Smith and Hales apparently have two moving violations. Smith also has a paperwork violation.
I’m curious about the circumstances behind those recent violations of both the candidates.
Failure to obey a traffic control device (a violation which Smith got in 2009 and Hales in 2011) can mean very different things. And where and when was Hales’ 2007 speeding ticket (43 in a 35)? Was it on one of our high-crash corridors? And Smith’s 2009 ticket?
And are the differences in those violations so great to overcome policy differences like their differences on the CRC highway mega-project, equity, or adequate transportation funding?
“…And where and when was Hales’ 2007 speeding ticket (43 in a 35)? Was it on one of our high-crash corridors? And Smith’s 2009 ticket? …” Evan Manvel
Rule of thumb about speeding that I grew up with was anything 3-5mph over posted was justification for a ticket (I’ve read conflicting versions of the grounds by which citations for speeding violations are actually written.). By that guide, Hales at 8mph over was certainly due a citation. I wouldn’t quibble that this degree was less offensive than Smith’s 15mph over, but it was comparatively moderate.
Either way, if a person injures or kills someone due to speeding, little details like a smaller degree of over-speeding become rather insignificant; they’ve hurt someone and they’re guilty. Have to review the law’s text to be sure about exactly what it says, but probably criminally guilty.
And since Smith’s driving record since ’94 has been publicly posted…sure…let’s see Hales from that date forward, as well. Just how strong an indicator of such things as temperament and judgment a persons’ driving record and behavior behind the wheel of a car might be, is debatable, but it’s probably a safe bet that it’s at least somewhat of an indicator.
EVERYBODY does 43 in a 35. That doesn’t make it right, but, you know, people in glass houses and all that.
False. I do not do 43 in a 35. No one in my immediate circle does 43 in a 35, at least not while I’ve been in the car with them.
Same here. I think that’s the problem. Some people think nothing of speeding, Jefferson Smith included.
Showing a consistent disregard for the law is unacceptable. I’d be willing to forgive if it looked like Smith was learning from youthful mistakes. This does not seem to be the case.
As others have voiced, I like Smiths as a candidate and have reservations for his personal driving record. Who else would I vote for out those still running? Not C Hayes and certainly not E Brady who is endorsed by the PBA -any candidate who is endorsed by the Portland Business Alliance is a candidate with the kiss of death in my book given the PBA’s campaign against the homeless and halting cycle-specific developments in the downtown. Smiths’ policies are the best out of the three for me. I just hope he works on issues in his personal, driving record.
I have to agree with Shirtsoff.
Charley Hales lied about helping the teachers unions through their contract. He wasn’t even in office, because he quit office mid term (Like Sarah Palin) to take on a high paying lobby job.
I also want to hear folks discuss Charley Hales filing WA state taxes. You can’t run for office unless you live in OR AND pay taxes here. Chris Dudley tried the same scam.
I don’t want to vote for Smith’s driving record, but at least Smith is against the CRC. And I love the work that the Oregon Bus Project has done.
What I find disturbing about this is that he’s using the word “embarrassing” – that’s a word I would use to describe behavior that is stupid but essentially harmless to other people, like many things many of us have done in our foolish youth. But driving almost twice the speed limit in a residential zone isn’t essentially harmless. I would at least like to hear him extrapolate his personal experience into a lesson about traffic safety, and guidance for future transportation policy and practices. I want to hear him acknowledge that his “embarrassing” behavior demonstrates an urgent need to change the environment so that the many people who are inclined to drive like Jefferson Smith can’t do so much damage.
Smith’s driving record is atrocious. He’s exhibited blatant disregard for speed limits endangering others. Probably drove without required insurance. Can’t keep up with his bar association dues or his automobile or driver’s license paperwork. Resorts to physical violence in frustration at a friendly sports event. Lies about his driving record.
I don’t understand how people on this site can give him a pass on so many transgressions. I thought that Hales’ residence in Washington while voting in Oregon was bad, but Smith’s character, lack of organizational attention, dangerous driving, and lying is too much. Unlike some, I don’t see these as thing in his distant past.
Gosh that critcism of Eileen Brady’s commercials showing her driving around town in a single occupant vehicle seems trivial, if not petty, at this point.
and BikePortland was the most critical of her
Mr. Jefferson Smith receives my official endorsement as a NASCAR driver. He can do it!
ima votin’ for Sammy Hagar, not only is he brutally honest, but his style of dress and hairspray technique are irreproachable, witness exhibit A:
I rest my case.
By the way, in case anyone is reading this far – I hope nobody thought I was calling Jefferson Smith “Public Enemy #1.” I just meant that behavior like that – a reckless disregard for human life while behind the wheel of a car – is Public Enemy #1.
95 in a 55 is epic. Where did he manage that? Late night between Salem and PDX, that is becoming hard to do with the traffic levels at all hours these days! Eastern Oregon maybe, that one wicked long straight out between clackamas and Detroit? I suggest Mr. Smith buy a miata or an E30, a helmet and get to PIR for some track days. I’m not great at being near the speed limit, but seriously control it on the street and open it up at the track.
I’m not entirely sure Jefferson Smith could fit in a Miata.
Slovic’s article was based on a review of Smith’s driving record that she was allowed to access with his permission. The list of violations that is cited here and was reviewed by Bike Vote Walk before reconfirming their endorsement is from the full details released by Smith as well as the follow up questions he willing provided to the Mercury.
Smith’s driving history is lousy but he has not bent the truth on what it is, instead he has been the source for the full story – blemishes and all. As for character, I believe that Smith’s contrition and embarrassment about his driving history is authentic.
This blog is focused on biking and transportation issues, as such there is a clear myopia in reporting on matters that may or may not be a “character issue”.
For instance there has been no reporting on this blog related to Smith’s past challenges with keeping his paperwork current with the Oregon Bar Association and filing other paperwork on time. Arguably, there is evidence in Smith’s driving record that keeping paperwork current was an issue he had. Also this blog did not report on the issues with Mr. Smith’s poor sportsmanship.
On the other hand…
There has been no reporting on this blog regarding Hales taking a job with HDR while he was a elected city commissioner after HDR secured city contracts related to the street car that Hales help bring to fruition. There is clearly an appearance of conflict of interest here.
There has been no reporting on this blog regarding the involvement of Mr. Hale’s firm, HDR, on behalf of the Port of Portland in support of the Port’s proposed development on West Hayden Island. That decision which may fall to the newly elected Council is the potential conversion of a wildlife area to industrial use. Again, there is a potential conflict of interest for this candidate for Mayor.
There has been no reporting on this blog regarding the concerns about Mr. Hales residency and voting record.
There has been no reporting on this blog regarding the reported plagiarism by Hales in a letter to the editor:
There has been no reporting on this blog regarding the bad faith negotiations on campaign finance undertaken by the Hales campaign:
There has been no reporting on this blog regarding Mr. Hales’ false statements about saving Portland Schools:
Whether or not you “score” these types and how you view them will be up to the individual – are recent transgressions more compelling than older ones? Are issues related directly to electoral politics and while in elected office more important? and so on…
Personally, the appearance of conflict of interest by Hales’ decision to leave mid-term and take a job promoting street cars for HDR is the one that causes me the most heartburn. Why? Because it directly relates to conduct while in office and what is at hand is electing a Mayor of our fair city.
That said, any concerns I may have about Mr. Hales’ character is not what has influenced me to support Mr. Smith.
I value Mr. Smith’s clear and consistent positions on the issues that matter most to me as well as his consistency in elected office on these same issues – local economic development, the CRC, and supporting our youth.
As for continuing to support Smith in light of his driving record, well, my Mom was a lousy driver. She often scared the hell out of me behind the wheel. But she is also one of the most kind and compassionate people I have even known. Looking at Smith’s past driving record, there is a lot prior to 2005 that makes me wince, but I still believe that he truly cared about the safety and well-being of others back then and even more so now.
What he said. I am still voting for Jeff.
I don’t feel like either of these guys have earned my vote. They both seem like political hacks who care less about the city than their bumbling, play-it-safe campaigns.
I agree that both candidates have tough work ahead to earn our full trust.
But I strongly disagree that neither candidate cares.
As a Lents resident and social worker who travels extensively throughout East Portland as part of my job, I hope you’ll read the article below for a typical example of why my community favors Smith. The guy stands up for my neighbors and clients even (and especially) when it’s not polite to point out inequity.
Thanks for all of that Tony.
Jonathan, can you follow up on Tony’s comments?
What exactly would you like a follow up on. I have no plans to cover aspects of this mayoral race that I feel don’t relate to bicycling and/or active transportation.
To be clear, I didn’t post that comment with the expectation that Jon would follow-up.
I talked to a few friends of Charlie before he decided to run. They tipped me off that he was considering a mayoral bid. They also explained that he left office for HDR because he was obligated by the terms of his divorce to put his three sons through college. His salary as commissioner was not sufficient to do that. Then he got re-married and moved in with his new wife in Washington (who I met recently and is quite charming). I met Charlie only a handful of times and while it’s mostly his actions of a decade ago that charmed me, I believe he has a vision for the city that isn’t as easily influenced by jibber-jabbering as the last two mayors have been. And the idea of a leader who makes intentional choices and isn’t so pushed around by the Police Union, Oregonian, or PBA is pretty appealing. And let’s remember that he has stood up to the police union historically.
And so while the behavior of quitting mid-term and then running for mayor looks bad, knowing the context for his behavior it did not concern me.
I’m not sure why he didn’t simply say all of this to stop the press from sensationalizing this behavior to appear inethical. I may never understand politics.
For what is it worth, the city council members get paid well above the median income in this town now ($103.5 thousand per year) and did so in 2002 ($85 thousand per year).
Why hasn’t the story via the grapevine regarding why Hales quit and went to HDR been aired by the Hales campaign? Because they are smart enough to realize that it pushes way beyond the borders of credibility.
It doesn’t negate the appearance of conflict of interest, it enforces it.
Divorces do not happen overnight and arguably, the story you lay out could imply that Hales set up a gig at HDR to address the personal financial challenges stemming from his divorce.
See what I did there?
That’s the thing. Character issues cut both ways.
So with all due respect, I would encourage you to review your comments on this thread and on the other Smith driving thread.
I would argue that if you are going to take Smith to task for his past digressions, wax poetic on how people “fall for his schtick”, and accuse this blog of bias despite the fact that none of Hales’ “character” issues reported widely elsewhere have been reported here…
You shouldn’t dismiss the appearance of conflict of interest by Hales while he was an elected official simply because he “charmed” you in the past and because of some story you heard third hand.
At the end of the day, I have no opinion or knowledge of Mr. Hales’ divorce and choices in his personal life leading up to it or following it. And I’m not trying to imply anything about it here.
However, I can guarantee you there is nothing in his divorce decree that said, “quit your high paying Council job and take a higher paying job with the engineering firm that got the street car contract.”
You fit in great company with someone like Jefferson Smith. Congrats.
Not sure on how to take that.
It’s worth buying you a beer or coffee to me to find out.
Let me know if you are game.
Can’t drink beer or coffee but would accept a 32 oz iced tea. Let’s just hope Smith doesn’t try to punch you (or the city) in the groin in the meantime. I get back to town on Sept 16.
Click my name and email me via the shop when you get back.
he’s 3 years younger than I am and did all the same stupid things I did before I became wise to transportation issues… the difference being that I didn’t get caught and then run for mayor…
people change… and sometimes for the better… I’m still giving him a chance…
Bike Walk Vote is now as far as I am concerned a joke. Biking and Walking will never be seen as anything more then a second rate mode of transportation if we allow advocates groups to back candidates that can’t follow the rules that we say are so important to our safety.
The value of having an active transportation focused mayor?
It’s the difference between bike lanes being removed from the Sellwood Bridge project or ensuring cyclists are given equal value during the planning process. It’s the difference between Wheeler being closed so no one is killed at a dangerous intersection and business outcry preventing basic measures for ensured safety are taken.
Jefferson believes in active and public transportation as the legitimate future of commuting in this city and is dedicated to carrying out that vision.
BWV did not excuse his behavior, and they never will, because it is inexcusable. Instead they avoided a knee jerk reaction and decided to look into the facts, past and present, and make an informed decision and statement.
Both candidates have shown reckless driving as a part of their past, but only one of them has truly shown his commitment to the bike community.
Well done, Bike Walk Vote.
So Bike Walk Vote can’t endorse either mayoral candidate? Because both have recent violations of important traffic laws (Hales more recently than Smith).
And instead we should throw up our hands and duck out on the election and let the $4,000,000,000+ CRC mega-highway project be built?
So we can send a message?
As Jonathan notes in his updated thread, Local PAC Bike, Walk, Vote has issued its statement on Mr. Smith’s driving record in light of their support for his candidacy:
I’d like the take of the community here on this statement. Just curious.
1 speeding ticket and 1 minor traffic violation in the past 8 years.
given the number of miles he drove as a legislator this makes him a better than average motorist.
i live on a street where the posted speed limit is 25mph and drivers do 35-40mph on a consistent basis. to compound the problem there is no sidewalk for the majoriy of the street in the 25 block section where the higher speeds occur. i don’t give this behavior a pass & neither should anyone even remotely concerned with having safe streets to walk or ride a bike.
i agree that its terrible that jefferson is a motorist who speeds and endangers peds and cyclists. its also terrible that just about every other motorist in portland does the same.
bravo to beth slovic (employee of a paper owned by one of the richest families on the planet) for her successful agit prop campaign!
“…given the number of miles he drove as a legislator this makes him a better than average motorist.” spare_wheel
That’s interesting. I would have thought the average motorist, depending on what the definition of ‘average motorist’ being used might be, probably doesn’t have any citations over the last 8 years or longer.
nhtsa surveys suggest that the average motorist has 2-3 traffic violations over a 5 year period. given that mr. smith drives an enormous number of miles each year i think any reasonable person would agree that smith’s driving record is exemplary.
“nhtsa surveys suggest that the average motorist has 2-3 traffic violations over a 5 year period. …” spare_wheel
Thanks for the statistic. That’s a lot more violations than I would have expected for the average motorist. Citations for violations is what I’m assuming the statistic refers to. I’m skeptical that it’s an accurate reflection of the number of citations the average motorist receives. Very skeptical.
As for Jefferson Smith’s driving record being ‘exemplary’…that’s just laughable. I looked up the word to make sure I knew what it meant: from WordWeb: ‘Worthy of imitation’. No way is Smith’s driving record worthy of imitation. It’s not excellent, either.
I have no idea how many miles per year Smith drives. More than 15 thousand, 20 thousand, 30 thousand? I’ll guess though, there’s a good chance many drivers out there, both C and A class, put as many miles on the road as he does, and more, without violations or citations. Those are the type of people on the road whose record is worthy of imitating.
i tried to post the link to the survey by its in “moderation”. its a self-reported number but i doubt respondents have a reason to inflate their citations.
PS: and as for “exemplary” i suspect you would give “a modest proposal” a serious response.
I’m very confused by Evan’s statement that somehow we shouldn’t look at Smith’s record prior to 2005, and the implication that Smith is now a ‘changed man’.
Smith founded the Bus Project in 2001. This period that goes from 1995-2004, which Evan characterizes as some other phase in his life, is also the period where Smith built his reputation.
What do we count or not count in this timeframe? I’d like Evan to give us more support for his assertion that we need to discount the bad but keep the good from this period of time.
Varner – I never made that assertion.
What I’m asserting is Jefferson’s recent driving record is much better than his record in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Oregon law (ORS 802.220 (a)(b)(c)) requires records of infractions, crashes, suspensions, etc. be kept for three years. That’s what our elected officials have determined to be the significant time frame to evaluate someone’s current driving ability.
I think that looking back to 2005 – far more than Oregon law requires – gives us a decent view of someone’s recent driving pattern. And over that time it’s roughly similar to Hales’ record.
Smith’s legacy of leadership is much bigger than just The Bus Project. I worked with him in the legislature for years.
Good to know we’re getting an unbiased opinion from you.
I didn’t think the BikePortland commenting community could get more shallow, but I was wrong. Would you vote for Smith if he had killed, maimed, or injured someone while collecting any of these violations? Really, 95 in a 55? 75 in a 50? If he weren’t a mayoral candidate, he’d be excoriated. But he opposes the CRC so I guess everything is all right.
The driving record just adds to his already large resume of oddities. The guy’s an unorganized eccentric. That’s not a crime, but it doesn’t make him qualified to be the mayor of Portland either.
When he was giving interviews to the Oregonian and the Mercury, here’s something I might like to have read from Smith: Him taking advantage of the opportunity raised by media and public attention to his long term bad driving record, to offer some of his insight into why people have bad driving habits…and what he, if he were elected mayor of Portland, would work to do in the way of policy creation that would address the problem of bad drivers and the deterioration of safety on the road they’re responsible for.
Road travel safety is a serious matter in any city or town…not just in Portland. Bad road user habits on the part of people behind the wheel…and on the part of people riding bikes in traffic as well, are serious contributors to danger on the road.
Quite a number of people commenting to bikeportland stories frequently mention insufficient driver education, examination and competency testing as being a likely cause of bad driving habits that reduce the safety of road travel. Improvements that might be made to existing driver education, examination and competency testing requirements, is something Smith could have talked about.
Mr. Smith has serious psychological issues and has had for a long time. He is out of control and likes to take his problems out on other people, whether on the field of play or on the road. Do we really need a person than prone to violence in public office?
If HAL9000’s list of infractions is true, what’s even more troubling than the speeding tickets and improper turns, etc. is his repeated failure to attend hearings and the fact that he was able to get his license reinstated multiple times (i’m not blaming him for that, but rather DMV). But the point is this: he should not be driving a car again.
His other behavior (sports incidents, etc.) suggests he’s a bit of a bully; and somewhat reckless (suspensions from the bar). Not exactly the kind of mayor i’d like to see running things.
I’m not thrilled by Charlie, either, for many of the reasons others have pointed out. I think we need a third candidate (not Brady).
We should have someone that people are excited about, not the least bad candidate.
So, the combo of being suspended from TWO rec leagues for violence, having his license to practice law suspended THREE times and having his drivers license suspended FIVE times isn’t enough to keep a large number of you from voting for the guy? The guy got a ticket for not getting out of the way of an emergency vehicle, for Christ sakes!
Overlook one indiscretion? Sure. Two? Well… But three? If so, you’re a sucker.
How a city as politically-active as Portland can’t produce one decent canidate is a complete mystery.
What is the story to the rec leagues? I’ve seen it mentioned 2-3 times here, but have never heard about this.
Within the last few years, Smith has been suspended for season from two separate rec leagues, once for trying to punch a guy in the genitals:
The claim this guy is somehow reformed is nothing more than politicking. Maybe in 10 years Smith will be grown up enough to run a city like Portlad, but that day isn’t now.
What evidence shows his driving behavior has improved?
The lack a ticket means nothing with the lack of enforcement we have. Can either candiate honestly say their driving behavior has changed or are they just getting lucky and not getting caught?
Regarding Mr. Vilhauer’s comment on no sidewalks, Jefferson Smith was recorded on OPB radio a few weeks ago (to a citizen at a street fair who asked about sidewalks): “Sidewalks? Who needs sidewalks! I don’t have one on my street!”
Well it is true that sidewalks are themselves one of a long list of infrastructures that are derivative of the dominance of automobiles. Too bad Smith didn’t say that he hoped to make sidewalks obsolete by looking past the automobile to a future where everyone could again walk in the streets.
It would be awesome to see Smith or Hales to commit to automated speed limit enforcement (cameras). Speeding is at epidemic levels and continues to result in routine death and injury. Automating enforcement seems like an opportunity to reduce the cases of speeding, save lives and raise revenue.
His record shows a chronic disregard for the law, much like the DB that owns Ski Bowl. If he agrees to give up his driver’s license and agrees to bike/use public transportation I will vote for him. Otherwise, he’s not getting my vote. I try not to reward bad behavior.
The stuff in his 20’s is irrelevant… he got caught, many of us did not. That was ages ago, more recently what troubles me is that he probably drove on a suspended license….and do not tell me he “does not remember,” who would not remember that? Thay can send you to jail for that and politicians should not be exempt from laws that others have to follow.
He also should not be punished for a DMV and state traffic court system that does not take people’s licenses away which they should do frequently for dangerous infractions, but do not.
I would write in Sam Adams if he could win, but Smith is better than Hales. I talked to Hales and he just screamed “I will say whatever needed to get elected”…..almost like a liberal Romney.
As for your take on Jefe, I think it’s a little more complicated:
First, it wasn’t just in his twenties. Second, although, as you point out, he should not be punished for a lax system that doesn’t take away one’s license, shouldn’t we require that our leaders exercise leadership, humility, and enough self-awareness to know they shouldn’t repeatedly take advantage of that same lax system? Driving on a suspended license is illegal, after all. Again, we are not talking about one or two infractions, but rather consistent abuse of and disregard for the law. Two days after his license was reinstated he was cited for another traffic violation. Third, while the Bus project certainly has done some good things to get out the vote and get progressive candidates elected, the accounts I’ve heard is that it was pretty chaotically run organization. Given that, I don’t believe he can manage something so complex as the administration of the city. Fourth, public office requires that you play well with others. I can’t imagine Jefferson working collaboratively with the city commissioners and department heads.
Mayors have staff for organization. Mayors need vision, to be able to motivate and have a goal in mind. To be able to know when to delegate is more important than being able to organize oneself. Sam Adam’s personal finances and driving record are a mess also but he has done a great job at managing our budget in difficult times while making almost visionary progress on some issues for little investment.
Smith seems to have more of a vision and to be able to see multiple sides. He may be more of a loose cannon than Hales and I have not physically talked to Smith, but Hales’ campaign rings hollow. His explanations for his “tax evasion” make no sense. When he talked to us I could see that his responses to questions became more tailored and liberal as he could tell where my political leanings were. I e-mailed him (or his campaign staff) a specific question requiring a specific answer and I received a campaign slogan with no information as a response….he did not want to be put “no record” as having an actual opinion. I like his idea of a sales tax, but I do not know how a mayor can affect that since it would have to be done at a state level….plus, what we need is a statewide CARBON consumption tax and not a general sales tax. We told Hales that we would have to “think about” putting signs up in our yard and he did it anyway. He just reeks of political opportunism. A simple example is that “rails to trails” path he keeps touting as his favorite future MUP to Astoria. The Oregonian looked into it…..the “unused track” is currently being used daily and the railroad says “no way, we are using the tracks!!” and Hales’ response…He laughed and said “I still think it will work” and ignored the evidence…and keeps talking about it like it is empty publicly owned ROW.
He is also of the last generation. This is a young city, we need a younger mayor. The east side needs more investment and Smith knows this. He is obviously not perfect and needs to slow down when he is late to work, but that is not going to effect my vote.
I’d like to see Smith offer something significant to demonstrate he’s truly reformed himself and is willing to be held accountable.
Maybe this is a silly concept, but to throw out one idea: have him take a public pledge to donate a year’s worth of his income (as verified by his income tax filing) to a traffic safety oriented charity if he gets caught going more than 5 miles over the speed limit while in office. Is this outrageous? I think avoiding it should be pretty easy if it’s truly a priority for someone.
I’m still willing to vote for him, but I can’t help but feel hypocritcal for doing so. He’s toeing the line with my vote as far as I’m concerned, and I do think he owes something to traffic safety advocates who are still willing to support him.
Varner – To be clear, what I’m asserting is Jefferson’s recent driving record is significantly better than his record in the 1990s and early 2000s.
I want to vote based on who the candidates are today, rather than who they were in the past (for example, we’re not voting on Hales in his past incarnations as a Republican or developers’ lobbyist, we’re voting on today’s Hales).
Oregon law (ORS 802.220 (a)(b)(c)) requires records of infractions, crashes, suspensions, etc. be kept for three years. That’s what our elected officials have determined to be the significant time frame to evaluate someone’s current driving ability.
I think that looking back to 2005 gives us a decent view of someone’s recent driving pattern. And over that time Smith’s driving record is roughly similar to Hales’ driving record.
Jefferson’s legacy of leadership is much bigger than just The Bus Project. I worked with him in the legislature for years, and he won awards for his work. I think he’s grown into a thoughtful, dedicated, wise person who will speak truth to power and admit his flaws – even when those truths are uncomfortable – and would be a solid mayor.
My two cents. Voters should gather all the information they want and consider it all.
Wiser? Come on now. He had recent physical altercations in sports that could have lead to assault charges. It’s his respect for the law, which cyclists depend on for their safety. He should’ve be more forthcoming about his driving record since he had a campaign aide retrieve them back in August 2011. I like Smith’s politics but this is not something to brush off as just past indiscretions.
These are only the tickets he actually got nailed with, How many times did they stop him and let him go with no ticket?
1994 is the year before my son was born- he is now 17. I think that a certain statute of limitations is in order. I am now 44 and look back on some of the things I did in my own youth in horror. Perhaps limiting the discussion to violations within the last decade are in order.
On a side note I would hate to see his car insurance bill.
On the previous thread, I was one of the first commenters and said that I wasn’t worried about driving without proof of insurance or current plate tags, but might be worried about moving violations.
It got a lot of “likes.”
Now, as the details emerge, I’d like to go on the record saying I’m still not particularly concerned about it. I do see it as part of a pattern of being disorganized and reckless, though. The pattern is something of concern, but any of the tickets over 8 years ago are not a concern.
He was 22 years old or younger for all but 3 of those. And the later ones are not as reckless as the earlier ones. Face it, folks, there’s tons of people that drive crazy fast on Oregon’s roads. Its an enforcement problem and a culture problem. I own a radar gun, I’ve clocked folks driving 50 mph on MLK past the police station near Killingsworth. Sure its lousy behavior and really dangerous, but if the police aren’t going to enforce it, it’s not something that can really be held against a 22 yr old guy.
And, I ride on Vancouver, Williams and MLK a lot. If the CRC gets built at 10 lanes wide, there will be an onslaught of new car traffic on those streets. I’m MUCH more worried about getting run over by a one of the 10,000 additional drivers on N/NE surface streets that would come as a result of building a 10 lane bridge to Vancouver than I am about the personal driving histories of anyone who will be participating in that decision.
“…He was 22 years old or younger for all but 3 of those. And the later ones are not as reckless as the earlier ones. Face it, folks, there’s tons of people that drive crazy fast on Oregon’s roads. Its an enforcement problem and a culture problem. …” Ted Buehler
That’s right. Tons? I don’t know. Too many people speeding and driving crazy fast? For sure.
It’s Jefferson Smith’s conspicuously bad long term driving history that raises questions about what perception he would have as to the need to work to correct that type of abusive driving, and what specifically it might be anticipated he would do about it, if he were elected mayor of Portland.
Or, as some people commenting to this thread seem to want to do, will he, because of his own inclination to drive too fast, more or less rationalize this type of road abuse as something that nothing can really be done about, that the people of Portland, as residents and road users, vulnerable and otherwise should simply resign themselves to.
What about the combo of his driving record, suspensions to practice law and getting into fights at rec leagues bother you at all, or is everything ok as long as he doesn’t support CRC?
Good article Jonathan, and great comments from all sides. Thanks Ted and Jessica and others.
I’ll never vote for anyone if they remain neutral about the CRC project or support it.
As much as Smith’s driving record makes me sick, I’ve often voted and volunteered for people with some horrible flaws. I’ll continue to volunteer for Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith’s speeding could have potentially killed. The CRC will definitely kill people and reduce long term jobs when compared with the many alternatives that are being excluded from public dialog.
I’d love to be able to vote for a mayoral candidate who can handle his mud. Seems to be getting tougher to do, even at the local level.
This does not bode well for the future of my confidence in our electoral system.
When I’m on my bike, drivers like Jefferson are my biggest fear. He is the reason we need better bike infrastructure, safety corridors, green ways, etc. If he does become mayor, my only hope is the job will keep him too busy to ever drive.
Q: From 1996-2002 you also show no tickets. Why not?
A: I was at law school until 1999 and lived away some during the time after. During this time I don’t believe I had any moving violations in other states.
Just… B.S.! He doesn’t believe he has any moving violations in other states because no journalist has dug them up yet. This guy expects us to believe he went six years without a ticket when he couldn’t go a single year in the surrounding time?
How is 95 in a 55 not cited as reckless endangerment?
Well, you need someone to endanger for one. If he did it on an empty concrete enclosed highway…
95 is a big shocking number but I’m much more interested in that 40 in a 25.