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Regional mayors look to neuter Metro’s Regional Active Transportation Plan

Posted by on August 14th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Will it be rendered powerless?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Mayors from 22 of the 25 cities represented by Metro are pushing to make the Regional Active Transportation Plan (ATP) relatively powerless. The plan has been in the making for over two years, and Metro has been showing off the 70-page review draft via public open houses since May.

Lake McTighe, the Metro project manager in charge of the ATP, had planned to have a resolution pass by Metro Council by next month that would have moved the plan to its next step toward implementation. However, a power struggle between Metro and regional mayors became evident last month as they feared the plan would give Metro too much power and would force their hand in implementing new bicycle pathways, walking facilities, and other active transportation projects.

Unlike Portland’s Bicycle Master Plan, which lacks the policy or funding authority it needs to actually build the projects listed in its pages, Metro’s Regional ATP was developed with the intent to have it officially integrated into the all-powerful Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Projects in the RTP are essentially in a guaranteed pipeline for federal funding as it becomes available. Putting the ATP projects into the RTP would be nothing less than a major milestone for our region’s commitment to active transportation. According to McTighe, the purpose of the ATP is to “help deliver the desired outcomes and vision adopted in the RTP to increase biking and walking, create a safer and more reliable transportation system.”

In other words, the ATP would be a blueprint for cities around the region to create a transportation system that actually lives up to the RTP’s mode share, environmental, and other goals.

But now, the plan is facing a critical juncture as regional mayors have joined members of Metro’s influential Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) in raising concerns about the plan.

The effort to neuter the ATP started in July, as JPACT members began to weigh in on the draft Policy Recommendations and Actions (PDF). At the August 1st JPACT meeting, JPACT Chair Carlotta Collette circulated a document that included edits to the language. According to a source, the JPACT members who were most uncomfortable with ATP’s policy recommendations were Lake Oswego City Councilor Donna Jordan, Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers, Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas, and Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle.

Their key concern was that the initial language would force cities to implement active transportation projects they didn’t want. JPACT member and the Cornelius Mayor Jeff Dalin stated at the August 1st JPACT meeting that he “still had a lot of concerns” about the ATP. Dalin said he wanted the recommendations and actions in the draft ATP to be “guidelines” instead of “mandates”.

Here’s just one example of how the language was changed:

Metro’s original version:

Prioritize projects for addressing pedestrian and bicycle safety on a regular basis…

After feedback from JPACT members:

Work with partners to emphasize the need for safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities on routes with heavy motorized vehicle traffic by prioritizing projects that address pedestrian and bicycle safety on a regular basis…

And here’s a screenshot from the actual document:

Dalin and others know that if the projects and policies in the ATP are folded into the RTP, cities would lose their power to delay or stop the projects. “Funding scares some of the people I’ve spoke with,” Dalin said at the August 1st JPACT meeting, “If we implement these as requirements, there would be a substantial share of the funding. Make it a recommendation, not a requirement… I think a lot of these decisions are local decisions.”

When Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers spoke about the edits at JPACT earlier this month, he said, “The new language makes it very clear that this is a recommendation… It gets us to a yes vote… It has calmed the troops a bunch.”

Apparently not enough.

Now it turns out that simply diluting the power of the Regional ATP by weakening its language wasn’t enough. Yesterday, Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden sent a letter to Metro President Tom Hughes that was co-signed by 21 other regional mayors. The only mayors that didn’t sign the letter were Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle, Johnson City Mayor Kay Mordock, and West Linn Mayor John Kovash.

The letter laid out a set of concerns including a direct request to “leave matters of implementation to local decision makers,” and “Neither the ATP nor its policies, goals, or guidelines should be tied to federal funding.”

The letter also took a pre-emptive swipe at “road diets”. Under the heading, “Impact on Freight,” Ogden cited a recent poll of Washington County residents that found 72% of respondents disagreed that the county should add narrow roads to add sidewalks and bike lanes.

Ogden called for the resolution to be amended in the following specific ways:

  • Delete references to incorporation of the ATP or elements thereof into the RTP
  • Limit the “acknowledgement” [resolution] of the ATP only as a “concept plan,” as further outreach with the public is needed before a decision can be made as to whether to incorporate the ATP into the RTP.

Download Ogden’s letter and his proposed resolution here (PDF).

BTA Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky says his organization supports the ATP’s adoption into the RTP. “Our Executive Director, Rob Sadowsky served on the stakeholder committee that helped write the plan and we look forward working on many of its proposals,” he shared today. And via email, Sadowsky seemed to already be looking past the ATP, “While we think regional planning can be an important tool, the reality is that we need to build local support for each specific project. Our work is set out in our Blueprint and we will continue to build support for our priorities. We will work to get the ATP passed but won’t let failure to do so get in the way of advocacy work.”

The outcome of this squabble is very likely to be a major delay in the ATP moving forward. Whether or not it becomes completely powerless — and yet another planning document that sits on a shelf and lacks the political teeth to move the needle away from business as usual and toward a region where bicycle travel is possible for more people — remains to be seen.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Adam August 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Would this be the same group of regional mayors that went on the Policymaker’s Gorge Ride and couldn’t say enough nice things about bike tourism and the positive effects bikes have on their communities?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm


      Troutdale mayor Doug Daoust — who rode on that ride and was featured in my recap of it — is indeed one of the co-signers of the letter.

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      • Chris I August 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

        And Troutdale is the most dangerous section of a Portland-Gorge ride now. Good work, Troutdale.

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    • wsbob August 16, 2013 at 9:27 am

      Remarks in Ogden’s letter, which 21 of 25 regional mayors signed onto, about the active transportation plan and the regional transportation plan, are consistent with the positive response expressed by mayors participating in the Gorge ride.


      As expressed in that letter, there seems to be genuine interest on the mayors’ part, in furthering active transportation development in their communities. Interest that for all intent and purposes, accordingly represents the interests of residents of their communities.

      In the letter, it appears the mayors propose changes to the plans’ language…changes that effectively leave open, residents choice to build recommended active transportation infrastructure they feel will be positive advances for their communities.

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  • Noah Brimhall August 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    What can people who don’t want the ATP to be neutered do to voice their concerns? Write the Metro council? Their mayor?

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    • Marne Duke August 15, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Letters of support for the ATP can be sent to Metro Council and your local mayor.

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  • Psyfalcon August 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    How much can Portland narrow the roads at the city line?

    If the other towns don’t want to encourage active transportation can we please discourage them from driving into town?

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  • howard draper August 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    “emphasize the need” seems like a subjective loophole, an action that no one can later quantify.

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  • Chris Anderson August 14, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Would be nice to set the funding levels regionally but allow cities to opt out. So that money Cornelius doesn’t want to spend can get spent on active transportation in the forward looking places.

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  • spare_wheel August 14, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Colette Carlota is up for re-election in 2014. I am more than willing to donate to any credible candidate who opposes her. Filings are due in September and I will be following these very closely.

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    • Jim Labbe August 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      Her name is Carlotta Colette. What’s your gripe? In my experience Carlotta has shown smart, forward-thinking leadership in representing a district where that can make you a target of some nasty incivility. In other words, she has cares and has courage.

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      • spare_wheel August 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm

        Opposing active transport is neither smart nor forward thinking. I am quite upset about the nimbyism coming from the metro periphery and Carlotta Colette just painted a bulls eye on her posterior by taking this position. SW portland and northern clackamas county are fairly progressive. I am willing to bet that someone credible will step up to challenge of giving Carlotta the boot.

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        • Mara Gross August 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

          What position are you referring to? She is a Metro Councilor, not a mayor, and she didn’t sign the letter. In fact, she posted on her Facebook page yesterday that: “Here at Metro we are trying to make it easier to get around on foot, on a bike, in a wheelchair or by bus. We got pushback from some of the mayors in our region. Here’s what they wrote to us [linking to this Bike Portland story]. We already responded to most of their concerns.”

          Someone asked above who to contact to voice your concerns. A major priority, especially if you live in one of the cities whose mayor signed the letter, is to contact your mayor. Contacting your Metro councilor would be valuable as well.

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          • spare_wheel August 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

            Let me quote:

            At the August 1st JPACT meeting, JPACT Chair Carlotta Collette circulated a document that included edits to the language.

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        • nuovorecord August 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm

          Wow. Ready, fire, aim. You should get a lot more smart about whom you’re idly commenting. Counselor Collette is the Chair of JPACT and one of many voices at the table, not the sole decision maker. She’s been a solid supporter of Active Transportation initiatives in the region.

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        • Jim Labbe August 16, 2013 at 9:50 am

          Spare Wheel. I agree that opposing a strong ATP is neither smart or forward-thinking but I think you are jumping to conclusions. The passage in this article above says that “Chair Carlotta Collette circulated” a document that included edits to the ATP. It is not entirely clear from the article whether these were her edits or this was merely a function of facilitator roll to share staff response to the Mayor’s letter. If they were her edits I’d like to know more information before I made her the target. It could be she was heading off worse changes. So I would stay focus on the issues at hand and not jumped to conclusions about Carlotta’s agency in neutering the ATP. I would be surprised if Carlotta would be responsible for this and I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt until I know more.

          The real focus should be on the Mayors who are trying to weaken a ATP. Local governments should be every bit as accountable to spending active transportation investments as they are to traditional automobile-related investments.


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  • Alain August 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Is the Fed monies in these projects free money, or matching? If matching, what is typically the local match?

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  • Tony August 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Et tu Maywood Park!?? For real?

    The mayors who have not signed represent 1/2 the population of the metro. Maywood Park… for shame.

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  • Timo Forsberg August 15, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Broaden your understanding of the Regional Active Transportation Plan at the PBOT Bicycle Brown Bag, Thursday, August 15 from noon to one at City Hall.

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  • wsbob August 15, 2013 at 3:04 am

    “…Their key concern was that the initial language would force cities to implement active transportation projects they didn’t want. …” maus/bikeportland

    Maybe I’m the only person having posted a comment to this story so far, that hasn’t yet read, browsed, or knows what the Regional Active Transportation Plan would effectively oblige associated cities to build if the plan’s language was not altered to have project objectives be guidelines rather than mandates.

    Included in this story, or posted in the comments, some short, concise summaries of specific projects in the plan, could be helpful towards understanding whether mayors’ concerns are reasonable, or whether they’re simply attempting to evade taking responsible action…the latter which seems to be the opinion of some people commenting here.

    Ogden’s letter, which a number of mayors signed onto and sent to Metro President Hughes, seems articulate, well thought out, fair.

    If bikeportland’s publisher editor is looking to encourage thoughtful discussion, I think the use, in this bikeportland story’s headline, and in the in the story itself, of the sexually related term, ‘neuter’, was a poor choice, . Words like ‘constrain’, ‘constrain obligations’, or ‘guidelines rather than mandates’ would have done better to describe the mayors’ thoughts expressed in Ogden’s letter.

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    • Andrew Seger August 15, 2013 at 6:11 am

      I think the point is there is no Regional Active Transportation Plan. Instead there’s a federally mandated Regional Transportation Plan (http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=137).

      If you look at the mobility corridors: http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=35555

      You’ll see that each of the main transportation corridors are divided out into different transportation options: freeway, highway, high capacity transit, freight rail, and regional trail. I think the concern of the suburban mayors is they’d be mandated to bring all of their mobility corridors up to equal standing between modes. Given that the roads for cars are already there it would mean a chunk of money being mandated for bikes or walking.

      For example in the Portland-Tualitan mobility corridor on page 15 (pdf: http://library.oregonmetro.gov/files/Mobility_Atlas_Corridor_2.pdf)
      You can see what metro thinks are the gaps in the bike network and their conclusion, “There are many gaps in the planned network that limit mobility by bicycle.”

      Some of the streets ID’d as missing bike infrastructure: Highway 43/SW Riverside, SW Garmin, parts of Boones Ferry and Terwillegar near Lake Oswego. Heaven forbid that Lake Oswego or Tualitan were forced to spend money making their main streets accessible to all!

      I hope the metro councilors remember that the three mayors who didn’t sign really are half the population in Metro’s jurisdiction.

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      • wsbob August 15, 2013 at 10:20 am

        More should be asked of the mayors about what projects, or what about the projects in the proposed plan, they would have objections to being mandated rather than recommended to build. By the way, it was four mayors that did not sign the letter, rather than three. That eighty percent of the mayors felt sufficiently concerned about the potential nature of obligation that would occur from the wording of the plan, absent the changes to it they propose, suggests a closer look at what their objections are, is in order.

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  • dwainedibbly August 15, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Not surprising, really, and exactly why Mrs Dibbly & I decided from the outset that we were going to live within the Portland city limits when we moved here.

    I have to wonder how much of this is a backlash against Metro rather than a backlash against bikes.

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  • pliny August 15, 2013 at 7:34 am

    My heart truly bleeds for these mayors who fear they might have to spend funds on road improvements to help move people to and through their cities.

    As a Portlander, I can’t imagine what it’d be like. It’d almost be like having to rebuild a bridge to accommodate traffic from an outlying suburb with city money, instead of getting the suburbs to chuck in.

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  • Joseph Readdy August 15, 2013 at 8:49 am

    It’s a pity that the understanding that relatively modest investments in active transportation provide large economic return to their communities hasn’t’ been shared with these mayors and their staff.
    I worked on Meto’s RTP and served on the Portland Pulse Access and Mobility committee. I appreciate the need to facilitate freight mobility; but to do so at the expense of pedestrian and bicycle mobility means the unintended promotion of the automobile and the prioritization of mobility over place. That diminishes the economic resilience of the local community.
    We make tremendous investments in our streets, that investment should always prioritize place over “flow.” In addition to more robust local economic development, you will also be providing better, safer access for those who are too young or too old or are otherwise unable to drive.

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  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth-PBOT August 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

    You can learn more about the propsed Regional Active Transportation Plan at today’s Bicycle Brown Bag at City Hall, noon- 1:00 p.m.

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  • Garlynn August 15, 2013 at 9:49 am

    These mayors are definitely short-sighted. The continued economic health and well-being of the Portland suburbs depends on them being able to attract the next generation to live within their borders; and the next generation overwhelmingly supports having active transportation choices and living in complete communities. To the extent that these mayors prevent Metro from funding and implementing the regional active transportation plan within their borders, they will be shutting themselves off from appealing to this demand, and condemning themselves to eventual future economic decline as their current car-addicted baby boomer populations slowly fade into retirement….

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  • Spiffy August 15, 2013 at 9:55 am

    “However, a power struggle between Metro and regional mayors became evident last month as they feared the plan would give Metro too much power and would force their hand in implementing new bicycle pathways, walking facilities, and other active transportation projects.”

    yes, we want to force you off your ass… we want to cripple the single occupancy vehicle market with public mass transit…

    “Their key concern was that the initial language would force cities to implement active transportation projects they didn’t want.”

    it’s not about what you want, it’s about what the future of the city needs…

    “The letter also took a pre-emptive swipe at “road diets”. Under the heading, “Impact on Freight,” ”

    why is it so hard for people to figure out that less cars on the road means more room for freight trucks… these plans benefit the future freight industry…

    I’m tired of politicians always looking out for themselves now instead of making a difference for the future… nobody will remember the guy that kept the status quo, they’ll remember the brave pioneer who brought change…

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    • 9watts August 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

      “why is it so hard for people to figure out that less cars on the road means more room for freight trucks… these plans benefit the future freight industry…”

      probably because the mayors who signed this letter, for the most part, drive, and their peers also drive. None of them, I’d venture, have hauled building materials home by bike, or know folks who have given up/don’t own a car, or have had occasion to take biking seriously as a way of getting around. They may still think of bicycling the way Travel Oregon’s recent survey did, as discretionary, something you do on your days off.

      I stand by my comments on that survey.
      The survey writers fail to appreciate that bicycling might be ‘how we get around’ rather than something I engage in for it’s own sake. It matters I think since we’re still struggling to come to terms with the fact that bicycling is transportation, and that spending money to improve or fix infrastructure that doesn’t work for people riding bikes isn’t (primarily) to make things easier for tourists.

      I don’t think my non-urban friends who think biking is discretionary and we can’t afford to/shouldn’t spend a dime on it in these tough economic times are going to take bicycling more seriously, recognize it as legitimate if we keep framing it this way.

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  • wsbob August 15, 2013 at 11:18 am

    “…The letter also took a pre-emptive swipe at “road diets”. Under the heading, “Impact on Freight,” Ogden cited a recent poll of Washington County residents that found 72% of respondents disagreed that the county should add narrow roads to add sidewalks and bike lanes. …” maus/bikeportland

    In reading the letter, the reference to road diets is certainly no “…swipe…”, or necessarily a criticism of that type of road use planning, but more accurately appears to be a legitimate expressed concern in response to a finding in the Washington County survey conducted by DHM Research, that a substantial majority of residents in that county aren’t presently supportive of narrowing roads to provide sidewalks and bike lanes.

    As with any survey, reliability of this survey’s results and how well they correlate to actual public sentiment, is open to debate. It would seem though, that the mayors having signed onto the letter, are doing the responsible thing by simply having mentioned the survey’s results in reference to road narrowing for sidewalks and bike lanes.

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    • Ranger August 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      This stat is from a poorly worded survey question and as a result, does not necessarily mean Washington County residents oppose road diets. In a road diet, the auto travel lanes are narrowed, not the whole road as the question implies…

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  • paikikala August 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    “local control’ issues abound – safety be damned.

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  • Rex Bruce Burkholder August 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    The true intent of those who propose “weasel” words like “should,” “encourage,” “seek to” etc is to avoid providing bike facilities required by state law.

    ORS § 366.514¹
    “Use of highway fund for footpaths and bicycle trails
    (1) Out of the funds received by the Department of Transportation or by any county or city from the State Highway Fund reasonable amounts shall be expended as necessary to provide footpaths and bicycle trails, including curb cuts or ramps as part of the project. Footpaths and bicycle trails, including curb cuts or ramps as part of the project, shall be provided wherever a highway, road or street is being constructed, reconstructed or relocated.”

    Note use of the word “shall.” No weasel word here. Since Metro seems to be easily cowed by the minority nowadays, and we have mayors who think its okay to flout the law, its time for a lawsuit.


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    • Jim Labbe August 16, 2013 at 10:00 am

      It’s like they pulled the language directly from Title 13!

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  • gutterbunnybikes August 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I bet a few big companies (especially the likes of Nike, Columbia, and Intel) could put a little pressure on some of these folks. Nike and Columbia of course has a vested interest in supporting anything sports. The new tech blood that Intel wants to attract also seem to appreciate bicycling and walking as well.

    And of course these are only a couple big industries that might be interested in one part of town. I’m sure a there are others in other parts of town too. Like the real estate company that owns the Clackamas Town Center etc…)

    The voices of the businesses would have more sway with the list signers than a bunch of ticked off Freds and Wonks (myself included, of course).

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    • Oregon Mamacita August 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Explain how/why Nike could “put pressure” on Gresham? Do you like the idea of big companies having this kind of influence? Would you like
      McDonalds to put pressure on North Plains? How about Goldman Sachs putting pressure on Beaverton? BTW- the Silicon Forest is in the suburbs and it is car-oriented with some nice recreational bike paths. Don’t take a real estate company’s studies too seriously.

      But gosh, you do trust your corporations over other town’s elected officials. Democracy bad- corporations wise.

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  • Hillsons August 16, 2013 at 10:10 am

    These nearsighted mayors are digging their own graves.

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  • Oregon Mamacita August 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    The snobby remarks on this blog are one reason why people don’t want to
    work with Rex B. et al. Yeah, only one side to the story. I am sure many people near me in outer SE would love to join Gresham or Milwaukie just to get away from the posters on this blog. Y’all cannot put up a candidate that can win in the next election- IMHO. You’re just too ideological and snobby to connect with anyone who doesn’t have bamboo floors and a 2500 cargo bike.

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