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My opinion: KATU is misrepresenting Hales’ transportation plans

Posted by on November 13th, 2012 at 12:43 am

Expect fewer protected bike lanes from
Charlie Hales says KATU’s Bob Heye.
(Screen grab – Watch video below)

KATU News ran a segment on their newscast and website tonight that made shocking pronouncements about how mayor-elect Charlie Hales’ transportation plans would impact bicycling.

“Charlie Hales said he plans to shift the focus of Portland’s transportation budget from bike projects to road repairs,” reads a caption to a video of the segment (watch it below).

“One big change Portlanders can expect,” continues the story, “Bike projects will take a back seat to road repairs in Hales’ administration. Hales said bike projects are important, but the city has ignored road maintenance for too long.”

KATU News anchor Steve Dunn, in an introduction to the piece, said, “Our top story… A big gripe from people all over the past few years was City Hall putting bike projects over major street repairs…” “But in Hales’ acceptance speech he made it clear he… expects to get back to basics,” continued co-anchor Debra Knapp.

And the reporter on the story, Bob Heye, said, “Hales wants Portland’s 60 miles of unpaved streets covered as soon as possible and other streets repaired before there are any more bike projects.” Then, while standing next to a bike box for added effect, Heye then added, “Sam Adams made bicycles a priority — including these famous green bike boxes, and now these beige bike buffer lanes [on NE Multnomah] — With Charlie Hales as mayor, there’s probably going to be less of this.”

“We will continue to support all modes, including bikes, in our capital improvement program.”
— Mayor-elect Charlie Hales, in response to the KATU story

Not surprisingly, many people were shocked at this story. I was flabbergasted. I could not figure out why Hales would make such a poor communications and policy blunder before even taking office. And why, of all things, would he target “bike projects”? As the story sunk in, I struggled to figure out how to give Hales the benefit of the doubt on this one (which is something I always try to do, but in this case, if KATU was right, his position would have been indefensible).

Then, as I looked more closely at KATU’s story, it appeared that what they were reporting was not backed up by Hales’ actual comments. I began to wonder if KATU misrepresented his statements to make them seem more anti-bike than they actually were. (After all, this is the station that brought us the extremely misleading and divisive “Bike Paths to Nowhere” story.)

After hearing from both Hales and KATU, I think my hunch was right.

See for yourself: Compare the KATU story copy above with the quotes from Hales that were used in the story (in video and in print):

“We do still want to keep building choices for people to move around the city, but job one has to be maintaining the streets that we have better than we have been doing.”

“We have a lot of potholes, a lot of streets with cracks that need repair, so my transportation budget will prioritize that basic maintenance first before we do anything else.”

KATU also tried to make it appear like Hales would take a more auto-centric — and less active transportation-centric — position on the Columbia River Crossing project. “Where Adams wanted a new bridge across the Columbia to favor alternative transportation, Charlie Hales plans to steer the City’s priorities more toward interstate commerce.”

But strangely, their own reporting seems to contradict that. Here’s what Hales said immediately after the reporter’s lead-in above:

“From the beginning, this has been understood as a project where we improve transportation for all modes… for transit, for pedestrians, for bikes and for cars — so it really needs to meet all three of those requirements. It needs to be a better bridge for all purposes, or it’s not worth building.”

And here’s the full segment from the newscast:

To me, none of what Hales says constitutes a “big change” from Adams. Nor do his quotes lead me to believe that, “Bike projects will take a back seat to road repairs,” in his administration.

Saying that road repairs and maintenance will be prioritized above all else, is much different than saying “bike projects will take a back seat.” And it certainly shouldn’t lead one to think that there will be fewer bike boxes or protected bike lanes installed. That’s quite a stretch. Hales also never singles out “bike projects” the way KATU clearly — and repeatedly — did.

I emailed Hales to ask if KATU represented his comments accurately.

Hales is too smart to publicly question or contradict KATU’s reporting. He shared with me that he told KATU the same thing he’s been saying during his entire campaign, that “maintaining the streets we have on a regular cycle… is Job 1 and Management 101,” and that, “Making that a priority is in the interest of all modes.”

“We will continue to support all modes, including bikes, in our capital improvement program,” Hales added in his email (which was CC’d to his campaign staff and a few other advisors.

The mayor-elect also expressed concern that folks were getting worked up over the story. “I hope you can help keep people from hyperventilating about this discussion,” he continued, “and let them know that when I say ‘back to basics’, that means back to prudent maintenance of what we own, not ‘back to cars-only’.”

I also contacted KATU to make sure I wasn’t missing any source quotes from Hales that might not have appeared in their piece. A KATU rep replied by reading back one of the same Hales quotes that appears in their online story. He was unable to share any other source material. When I said their the story seemed to single out “bike projects” in a way that wasn’t reflected in Hales’ actual statements, the KATU rep acknowledged that, “he may not be singling out bike projects, but that everything would be put on hold.” I repeated my concerns with the story and the KATU rep said he’d take another look at the interviews and source comments and get back to me.

It’s strange: KATU seems to be reporting a story that simply doesn’t exist.

This type of misleading and inaccurate story poisons the local narrative around transportation and it fans the “bikes vs cars” flames. (Just read the comments on their story. It’s like throwing red meat to sharks.)

And while I have said for months that I feel Hales’ comments about “back to basics” and “roads first” are easily misunderstood (especially in the context of a discussion about bicycles), I never expected a major media outlet to misinterpret them this blatantly. With a new mayor, I had hoped we could turn over a new leaf and put these fabricated bike controversies behind us. So much for that.

UPDATE, 9:26 am on 11/13: While Hales clarified to me that he still intends to fund bike projects and that “back to basics” doesn’t mean “back to cars-only,” he did not directly refute the KATU story as a misrepresentation of his views. This morning I have contacted him again, asking him to answer, yes or no, whether or not he feels KATU misrepresented him. I’ll update the story when I hear back.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Hart Noecker
Guest

Following the money on Hales leads back to Mark Wiener, coal trains/barges, and the supporters of the Columbia River Crossing. I fear Portland has made a potentially unfixable mistake in electing Charlie Hales.

Sean G
Guest

I wish I could be shocked that the media blatantly lying to push a political/corporate agenda and there’s nobody to really care about it other than a small minority. As a matter of fact, those of us who call them on it are seen as the ones outside mainstream.

browse
Guest
browse

JM, thanks very much for following up on this so aggressively. I went to bed pissed off at Hales. Now I know to direct my ire towards KATU. Much appreciated.

Jess L
Guest

Just as concerning in my view is the focus on paving Portland’s unpaved streets. While the news article proclaimed that it is going to be “back to basics” for transportation under Charlie Hales, it should be noted it was safety that was of primary concern for transportation under Sam Adams. Paving unpaved streets is pretty much a red herring in all of this considering the decrepit condition of some of our major arterials and neighborhood connector streets, many without complete sidewalks, inadequate lane widths, shoulder/bike lane markings, etc, especially on the east side. Some streets I’m thinking of include SE Ellis from 84th to 92nd, SE 104th from Harold to Powell, SE 112th from Foster to Holgate, SE 136th from Powell to Foster, and the list goes on. I sincerely do hope the new mayor takes a rational approach based on the needs assessments we already have, rather than pander to what appears to be an easy target; paving residential streets that many residents voted leave unpaved when given the option.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Another example of why KATU and most other stations do not offer News, but primarily Propaganda and Advertising. Can we say “propaganda reporter” rather than news reporter when referring to such?

What is sad is that too many people do not know the difference, and accept the propaganda blindly.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Hey–fixing potholes IS a cycling enhancement project.

(moderately) Faux Porteur
Guest
(moderately) Faux Porteur

“prudent maintenance of what we own, not ‘back to cars-only’.”

Interesting.

Do we already own this crazy mega-bridge? I’d much rather prudently maintain the current I-5 bridge.

See, people in cars already have safe/efficient/convenient ways to get from point A to point B in this city and beyond, so yes, they only need prudent maintenance. On the other hand, the growing number of people that depend on bicycles and transit in this town need NEW infrastructure.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Hales is too smart to publicly question or contradict KATU’s reporting”

and so the purpose of their story is achieved…. How unhelpful. They knew he wouldn’t come out swinging for bike infrastructure to set the record straight, so the die is cast.

Andrew K
Guest
Andrew K

I have a number of thoughts on this…

1) Thank you Jonathan for staying on this and bringing it to our attention. I don’t get TV at home so I had no idea this story even aired.

2) Looks to me like KATU is doing the old, “poke the hornets nest with a stick” routine trying once again to follow the narrative of pitting one group against another as if we only have one of two choices. We can either support cars or we can support bikes but we can’t do both. We all know that is false, but for some people it’s hard to wrap their brain around it.

3) I dont’ think Hales is wrong to state that he will put effort into paving some streets and doing some basic maintance. In some parts of town it is needed and I think that is good for everyone. There is one street I can think of that I ride on regularly where I often don’t use a hand single because it is so rough I’m afraid I’ll fall riding one handed. That is bad.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I don’t like bikes or vehicles. Neither watch out for pedestrians or people in mobility devices, walkers or parents with strollers. Cyclists and vehicular traffic think they *OWN* the roads. Well, sorry, but there is this law “Yield right of way to pedestrians”. Drivers and cyclists like to *BLOCK* the crosswalks so that pedestrians, wheelchairs, scooters and strollers have to wait until the cyclists or vehicles have gone on their merry way. I say unfair. When I have a *WALK* signal, it is *MY* turn to cross the street, yet, I have to wait for cyclist and drivers to get out of the crosswalk. Stay BEHIND the WHITE LINES!!! Allow those of us who are not cyclists or vehicles the same courtesy we allow you. Freedom to cross *SAFELY*!!!

Tom
Guest
Tom

I saw this “live” and thought that Hales was shooting himself in the foot even before entering office.

Just prior to that story, KATU’s big news focus was “which color Care Bear went which name” ?? ie: yellow CB=Sunny Bear green=Share Bear ..WTF ? I noted to the better half that they are no longer news people, just entertainers/sellers. That was their big question of the day…XXX color = what name ?….win a tour of the studio, if you are first correct caller.

Hope that Hales does come back and clarify….I have some hope for him.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Wait what, the news media provides corporate propaganda focused on incredibly biased “reporting?” You don’t say!

Personally, I find the cheerleading somewhat amusing.

JRB
Guest
JRB

What I find most disturbing is the way KATU stated as fact that bike infrastructure comes at the expense of road maintenance. Their entire story is based on a false premise that is easily disproven if a reporter did the research or wanted to know the truth.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Here’s an interesting tidbit that Charlie Hales gave to portlandarchitecture.com Brian Libby in an interview back in April:

“BL: You mentioned the Columbia River Crossing. What’s your take on that controversial project?

CL: I was on an interview show, Think Out Loud, back in February. My timing turned out either prophetic or lucky. I said there are three projects that will be downsized, dead or under construction by the time a new mayor takes office: the Oregon Sustainability Center, the streetcar to Lake Oswego, and the Columbia River Crossing. Since I said that, the Oregon Sustainability Center and the streetcar have both cratered. It’s clear the region is going to need to modify its plan for the CRC. I believe there’s a doable version of that project that we can move forward on and actually move to construction, one that conforms with our values and that we could pay for. That’s obviously not the version of the project that’s on the table now. It’s unbuildable and we don’t have any money to build it.”

oliver
Guest
oliver

KATU is fabricating a certain set of expectations. If the viewers buy it, then they have created 4 years of stories of how the mayor elect is ‘failing to deliver’ on his ‘promises’

Marc
Guest
Marc

Local media tripping over themselves to see who can throw some red meat out to the masses and hit the outgoing mayor one last time over his “liberal” agenda.

Dan V
Guest
Dan V

I’m all for some street maintenance myself and, what with the huge piles of leaves blocking some bike lanes (but the yards are SPOTLESS!), I can’t use many of the bike infrastructure anyway. We have a huge number of “bike lanes”, they are called roads.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

KATU: The Oregonian of the Airwaves.

If this gives the Clackistanis and their Portland-residing ilk something that they want to hear and takes some of their focus away from any plans for bicycling infrastructure, then it’s ok by me. Hopefully it’s misdirection (by whom? Dunno.) “Look over there, we’re paving streets”, while continuing with cycling infrastructure projects.

OTOH, perhaps Portland did make a huge mistake in electing Hales. I wrote in Sam.

Erik Griswold
Guest
Erik Griswold

Follow the Money too on Fisher Communications, the Seattle-based owner of KATU. They were the same ones involved in this:

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19960530&slug=2332020

(Which was encouraged by management until it just got to be too much for Nice Seattle)

Jonathan Radmacher
Guest
Jonathan Radmacher

At one of the very early mayoral debates, at Portland State’s Lincoln Hall, both Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith said that their transportation policy would be “ABC — Anything But Cars.” Hmmm.

Jonathan Radmacher
Guest
Jonathan Radmacher
Mike C.
Guest
Mike C.

There’s some spin by KATU to emphasize the de-prioritization of bike projects. Which to me just means Charlie isn’t going to be as progressive with bike projects as Sam was. i wouldn’t expect anyone to be.

Basic road maintenance is an essential service any City provides and it does benefit all modes of transport. The key statement that I think needs clarification and verification is the one by the KATU reporter about the “60 miles of unpaved roads being covered before the city takes on any bike projects.” That seems incongruous with Charlie’s statement about “maintaining the streets we have” because that connotes new street pavement projects and not “basic maintenance of existing roads. “

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

I’m not convinced Hales can be counted on to follow through on any particular leaning that he has represented during the course of the campaign, including his acceptance speech and beyond. I think he’s been deliberately vague. Reposting my remarks from Jonathan’s story on Sept 11.


Bike lanes are needed so that we can provide efficient and inexpensive transportation choices, but not at the expense of other basic city services that need attention as well. You can count on me to bring that focus back to our city.

– Charlie Hales, answers KATU questionnaire in March


My agenda as Mayor will be to focus the City on delivering core services … [By] cutting funding for programs that don’t deliver core basic services to all Portlanders … we will be able to make headway in repairing one of the City’s most valuable assets – our roads and sidewalks.

– Charlie Hales, May primary Voter Guide, response to question about the PBOT budget and a backlog of road repairs

Mike C.
Guest
Mike C.

Swatts – I have to disagree. Sure motorists may be more affected than other group and they are more vociferous about pot holes. But if you’ve ever run into a pot hole on a bike a night you’d understand the benefit. The statement doesn’t automatically imply that all users benefit equally just that everyone does benefit in some way. Let’s not forget that buses and emergency vehicles also benefit.

Mike C.
Guest
Mike C.

And if basic road maintenance does include sidewalks than it does benefit pedestrians as well. The only real fact regarding pot holes and other damage to roadways is that they are mostly caused by large, heavy vehicles and weather.

Motorists can make the same statement about bicycling projects being a subsidy to bicyclists.

Halley @ BIKELEPTIC
Guest

The thing is that here in Portland, bike infrastructure – multimodal infrastructure are intricately entwined with road maintenance. As a cyclist, I don’t like to use unimproved roads just as much as a car user likes to drive on pot holes or a walker or wheel chair user likes to traverse cracked and broken cement – as well as bus facilities such as curb cuts, etc.

You can’t improve a road without thinking about what kind of users are going to be access it. If you just improve a road by slathering on concrete or asphalt or whatever, then you are going to have a clusterf*ck five years down the road when all the roads in town are exactly like Sandy Blvd, Foster or MLK and none of them are accessible to anyone – more collisions and less traffic calming features.

By incorporating multi-modal features into your urban planning – because come on! We’re not the 1950s!! We are establishing the future success of our city by making it adaptable for our changing and growing population so that we aren’t forced to go back 5 to 10 years from now and completely re-do the mistakes of our “let’s go back to basics Hale.” There’s a reason why people go to school for a long time for civil engineering and urban planning. It’s freaking complicated. If you have to plan for change and growth and development. You have to look at 30 years from now. Not 4 years from now.

o/o
Guest
o/o

Hales is not like some evil mayor in Toronto, Canada…

Brad
Guest
Brad

Why would KATU do such an unsubstantiated hit piece, ohhhhh…it’s November. Sweeps month! More eyeballs = Charge higher ad rates. Makes sense now.

Rol
Guest
Rol

KATU is the worst. And I’m not saying that in the hyperbolic sense meaning they’re really bad; I’m saying they’re literally worse than every other local newscast.

007
Guest
007

“To me, none of what Hales says constitutes a ‘big change’ from Adams. Nor do his quotes lead me to believe that, ‘Bike projects will take a back seat to road repairs,’ in his administration.”
I think that IS what Hales is saying. He can’t have it both ways. But I can’t believe anything he says because he’s such an opportunist. His pandering to bicycle haters with his patching potholes gimmick just turned me off totally.
Still, I agree with Oliver above, “KATU is fabricating a certain set of expectations. If the viewers buy it, then they have created 4 years of stories of how the mayor elect is ‘failing to deliver’ on his ‘promises’.”

Pete
Guest
Pete

I’ve never seen a television news broadcast that was not interrupted by frequent commercials for cars and auto insurance. In the evening they are typically watched by people who just got out of their cars. Coincidence?

VTRC
Guest
VTRC

I’ve been following the story and your twitter feed pretty closely, and I guess I’m having trouble seeing the big deal.

PBOT did the paving it could and some bike projects, and the Oregonian managed to spin it as Bike Projects were the only thing being funded. Hales says that they’re going to do the paving they can and some bike projects and KATU spins it as only roads will be getting paved.

While both misrepresent the situation, it’s the O’s slant that no “major paving” will happen for streets because of bikes that really exacerbate the bikes vs car problem. I think that the use of terms “maintenance,” “major paving,” and “repaving.” allow the misinformation to flow as steadily as it does and more outreach on PBOT’s part would go a long way to explaining what choices they’re making and what work is happening.

Joe
Guest
Joe

hey studded tires really mess the streets up. bikes have less of an impact

Charlie Sponsel
Guest