Sunday vigil set to honor and remember Steve Fritz

Posted by on September 25th, 2014 at 9:41 am

CRC Rally-104

Commissioner Amanda Fritz at an
anti-Columbia River Crossing
rally in 2009.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

All of Portland is hurting for Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s family this week.

Carpooling to his job in Salem, Steve Fritz was killed in a traffic collision Wednesday after a northbound pickup crossed the freeway barrier and collided with Fritz’s Nissan. The husband of the city council member died at the scene.

A vigil for Steve Fritz is planned this Sunday, Sept. 28, at 5 p.m. in Terry Schrunk Plaza, across the street from City Hall at 1221 SW 4th Avenue.

“We will have an open mic and will be collecting letters to be given to the family at a better time,” wrote Cameron Whitten, a local human rghts activist who got to know Fritz during Occupy Portland’s 2011 encampment and his subsequent hunger strike outside City Hall for housing justice, in an email. Whitten, who later supported Fritz’s reelection campaign, is among the organizers of Sunday’s event.

For her part, Commissioner Fritz wrote on Wednesday that her family would be suggesting charitable donations in lieu of flowers or cards:

Oregonian reporter Joseph Rose has a good report about the cable barriers, absent from this stretch of Interstate 5 but gradually being installed around the state, that might have prevented this collision. We wrote last month about the success of those cable barriers in Minnesota, installed as part of that state’s “Toward Zero Deaths” campaign to prevent traffic fatalities.

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The Fritzes met 37 years ago — Steve was 17, Amanda 19 — while they were working at a Salvation Army children’s camp in New Jersey. As I first read on the Portland Mercury Wednesday, Amanda described her husband on her campaign’s site as “my soul-mate and the love-of-my-life.”

The Mercury was also among the outlets that shared the words of Steve and Amanda’s son Maxwell, who wrote this about his father on his successful college admission essay to Princeton University:

My father drives a car painted in zebra stripes. The inside is crammed full of stuffed animals, seat covers, and air fresheners devoted to his favorite animal. He even has the zebra edition of Zoobooks magazine prominently displayed in the back window. On weekends, he frequents a counterculture group that plays croquet using bowling balls hit with sledgehammers, has “nuclear family picnics” on the lawns of power plants, and launches pumpkins out of cannons. He also wakes up early every weekday, straightens his tie, and happily drives in that twelve year old Nissan Sentra to his work as a psychiatrist at the Oregon State Hospital.

He has a simplicity in the logic behind his decisions that makes many of the worries in my life seem silly. He painted his car because he was bored with it. He set up a stand along a marathon route offering runners free doughnuts and beer because he thought it would be entertaining. He constantly teaches me that even in the real world, being content is not contingent on adhering to the expectations of others.

I often wonder what my life will be like decades from now, but if it is anything like my father’s, I will know I did well. I expect many of the details will be different. I do not plan to become a doctor, turn vegetables into projectiles, or remodel my automobile into a work of art. However, if I follow his lead, I will be able to open my eyes on a Monday morning and smile about both the weekend in the past and the week ahead in the future.

Our hearts are with the Fritz family here at BikePortland, as in so many other Portland homes and workplaces.

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9watts
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9watts

That’s a very nice piece by his son. Thanks for finding that and reproducing it here.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

He sounds like the kind of person we need more of in this world, not fewer. I’m saddened to hear about this.

VTRC
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VTRC

My memory could be playing tricks on me, but years ago I would commute down to Salem, and most days I’d see the Zentra. It was nice knowing there was a fellow commuter who was a safe driver out there, one with a great sense of humor. My condolences to friends and family.

Chris I
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Chris I

My wife and I went to high school with their kids; and I remember seeing the Zentra around town. Very sad. And yes, cable barriers would have prevented this head-on crash. More things that ODOT needs to focus on, rather than capacity expansion projects.

jeg
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jeg

I am very sad about this.

Mike
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Mike

This may sound like I am heartless but if there was a commuter line between Salem and Portland we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It is well past the time to build it. We have the rail lines and the demand in both directions. It would not take that much effort to build the system with a few major stops between the cities. I hate it every time I have to drive up to Portland, which isn’t that often. I’d go crazy if it were a daily commute. I don’t even mind driving in Portland, though I’d rather not once I got there.

It is beyond stupid that there are so many cars driving in both directions that are solo passenger vehicles. If I want to try one of the few other options, I am either looking at leaving Salem way too early to take a slow Amtrak train or take a bus that gets stuck in the same traffic as everyone else. And when driving a car, people on both ends have to figure out where to park it.

If you Portlanders, and Kitzhaber-the Governor of Portland, wanted to do something that would benefit everyone, you would look up from your little world and help demand that this Commuter line be built. If we can find the money to build a new interchange for Woodburn and the money to study the CRC, then we can find the money for this commuter line. And don’t bring up the line the State is working on improving that is part of the passenger rail up to Seattle. That should be a separate High speed system that should be run through southwestern Oregon. That system should not be part of a commuter line.

9watts
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9watts

“if there was a commuter line between Salem and Portland we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Um, I take public transit from Portland to Salem regularly. Trimet + Cherriots. The Trimet 96 meets up (sort of) in Wilsonville with the Cherriots 1X. It’s ridiculously cheap. If you’re not into that you can always take the Amtrak (train or bus). Costs a lot more but is a bit faster. There are also many, many vanpools. Those services are all well-used (well, except that Trimet+Cherriots part: That seems to serve mostly folks going half the distance).

Chris I
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Chris I

Look at the schedule for Amtrak Cascades and you will see that there are two southbound morning options, and one northbound. Both have return options after the work day is over.
http://www.amtrakcascades.com/Schedules.htm

Amtrak offers discounted tickets for the Portland/Salem route, and many people do take advantage of it, as it goes downtown to downtown in about 1 hour. Unfortunately, the rail route heads pretty far east (Oregon City) before making it into Portland. If the state invested money in the Oregon Electric line between Tualatin and Eugene, you could run additional trains between Portland and Salem with about a 45 minute travel time, and even expand WES service from Beaverton to Salem to provide options for those on the west side.

I’m not sure what you are referring to when you mention a rail improvement through Soutwestern Oregon. That part of the state does not have the density to even support basic passenger rail service.

Mike
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Mike

Chris,
Where are these discounted tickets? I can’t find them on their website. All I saw was $16.00 each way and only a few were on a train. The rest were on a bus. So I could spend $32.00 to take a slow train or a slow bus.

When I wrote about the train through southwestern Oregon, I was referring solely to the interstate line. Someone in Medford has to take a bus to Klamath Falls then wait hours for a train to come only to head north before heading over to Eugene before continuing north. Or they could just drive the 4 hours to Portland. Instead of trying to make the Eugene to Portland a long distance and commuter line, make it a high speed line and have a real commuter rail line.

9watts
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9watts

I don’t really get the entitled bit; the notion that a bus that takes an hour (from Portland to Salem), and for which you can get a discounted bundle of tickets for $10 per ride (from memory, see link below), is somehow not good enough. We can and perhaps all should dream of what we’d prefer, but in this case I don’t see the big shortfall you do.
http://www.amtrak.com/multi-ride-tickets

And high speed rail is a Faustian bargain. Once you have it, the incentives to live close to your work all but evaporate, with all the attendant ills that brings with it.

Mike
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Mike

9watts,
I don’t get where you got an “entitled” bit from my comment. I merely think that if Oregon likes to think it’s so advanced and cutting edge then maybe we should have a transportation system that isn’t third world.
You wrote how it takes an hour to go from Portland to Salem. That’s ok but what about heading in the opposite direction. It can take well over an hour and heading back south in the afternoon can take a couple of hours. The fact that there are so many people in there cars alone is a big problem. But that doesn’t absolve the State and local governments for the lack of providing a better transportation system and for allowing car dependent development.

I’m not sure where you came up with the idea that medium distance high speed rail creates the incentive to live far away from work. I’m talking about passenger rail separate from commuter rail. You might as well say that airplanes create the incentive to live far from work.

9watts
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9watts

” I merely think that if Oregon likes to think it’s so advanced and cutting edge then maybe we should have a transportation system that isn’t third world.”

A world class public transit system with better integrated passenger rail would be great. We do have a mismatch between our image and the reality when it comes to intercity rail. I grew up in Germany and they’ve got it. No argument from me.
My point though was that our system, as cobbled together and imperfect as it is, works o.k. However, many people don’t use it, exhibit an attitude that perhaps I mistakenly attributed to you, that suggests they need/deserve something better before they’ll deign to use it, before they’ll eschew their car. There’s an analogy for me to biking. I can’t bike here until there’s proper infrastructure. But since we spend all our money on servicing debt and bombing other countries there’s rarely much left over to do the sensible things. Waiting for the perfect system doesn’t help us in the short run, doesn’t register as latent demand with Trimet or Amtrak or Cherriots that might signal to them a reason to add more buses or trains to the current schedules of the systems we already have.

“You wrote how it takes an hour to go from Portland to Salem. That’s ok but what about heading in the opposite direction. It can take well over an hour and heading back south in the afternoon can take a couple of hours.”

I didn’t mean to suggest that there was only one direction that took an hour. In my experience the services are fairly symmetrical. But I don’t generally have the expectation that things will go fast. Not having a car for most of the past twenty years has dishabituated me from expecting/feeling entitled to things happening quickly.

“The fact that there are so many people in there cars alone is a big problem. But that doesn’t absolve the State and local governments for the lack of providing a better transportation system and for allowing car dependent development.”

I agree. But we do have an additional problem I alluded to above. Most of my friends can’t be bothered to take the systems that are now in place; they just drive instead. With that sort of attitude I don’t blame the state authorities (as much) who may interpret the demand for something better as limited. And of course failing to tax gasoline as other countries do isn’t helping either.

“I’m not sure where you came up with the idea that medium distance high speed rail creates the incentive to live far away from work. I’m talking about passenger rail separate from commuter rail. You might as well say that airplanes create the incentive to live far from work.”

I realize this concept may sound foreign, but it is no less true. My friend Wolfgang Sachs refers to the ICE (Intercity Express/high speed) train system as the Streetcar of Central Europe. Opening the Chunnel between the UK and France, with high speed service between Paris and London changed everything for those who could afford to commute that distance that formerly wouldn’t have occurred to them, or required flying. It made it *even more convenient*. As for airplanes, many people do fly for work all the time.

John Liu
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John Liu

Just tragic. Mr. Fritz sounds like an uncommon man with a spirit that will be deeply missed.

Pete
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Pete

So few comments for such a tragic loss. My condolences Amanda to you and your family. I can’t even begin to understand the pain you must be feeling. I can only hope it gets better with each passing day to celebrate such a unique individual’s life.

So...
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So...