1:14 pm: Barbur has released a statement. Read it at the end of this post.
Scott Barbur, a lawyer running for Milwaukie (Oregon) city council, is facing serious questions from voters about a Facebook post and comments that surfaced last week. The post makes light of a horrific collision in Mexico in 2008 that killed one person and injured 10 others.
On July 20th, 2010, Barbur posted a photograph of the collision on his personal Facebook page. That post was discovered a few months ago by Mandy Zelinka, the editor and founder of the Milwaukie Rules! website. Zelinka then posted a screenshot of Barbur’s 2010 post on the Milwaukie Rules! Facebook page last week.
“All I know is that this is the image that pops into my head every time I have to listen to bicyclists or deal with them on the road.”
— Scott Barbur, Facebook comment
Barbur posted a viral photograph of a pack of bicycle riders flying into the air at the moment when a drunk driver plowed into them head-on. The words, “My Way: Get the fuck out of it,” had been added to the border of the image and Barbur’s comment alongside it read, “This picture is just way too awesome!”
After friends pointed out to Barbur via comments that the fatal collision was not a laughing matter, Barbur made two responses: “Well now I can’t find this picture funny anymore. Thanks for bringing me down… Way to inject some real life into it…” and, “I don’t know if I had malicious intent. All I know is that this is the image that pops into my head every time I have to listen to bicyclists or deal with them on the road. Take from it what you will.”
Here are screenshots of the entire comment section from the 2010 post:
Many commenters on the Milwaukie Rules! Facebook post have expressed disgust and outrage at Barbur’s comments. A few people have asked him to respond to the post via the Scott Barbur For Milwaukie Facebook page, but their comments have been deleted. Barbur has since removed the post from his Facebook page and made his personal account viewable to friends only. He has not responded to our repeated requests for comment.
Zelinka, a daily bike commuter who founded Milwaukie Rules! three years ago as a way to highlight her love of the city and boost community pride, told me via telephone this morning that she’s stayed out of politics up until now. (However, it should be noted that she refers to herself as “The First Lady of Milwaukie” and is currently dating Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson. She also ran for Milwaukie City Council (then dropped out of the race) in 2012.)
“I’m not one to sling mud,” Zelinka said about her decision to post Barbur’s comments, “But I felt like that was a big showcase of his character… And that’s not where Milwaukie is headed.”
Matt Menely, a Milwaukie business owner and volunteer with Bike Milwaukie, emailed us to share his opinion about Barbur’s comments:
“His comments are pretty immature, and disappointing to say the least. People online are trying to make this a “cars vs. bikes” conversation, but it’s not. This is really about people, and how people talk about other groups of people and treat each other. If Scott Barbur made insensitive comments about women, someone’s sexual orientation or race, the vast majority of people would be asking him to drop out of the City Council race. The only way this town is going to grow and become a more liveable place is if people start talking respectfully with each other, and actually begin listening to each other. Once that happens we can work together.”
In an ironic twist related to traffic safety, Barbur Blvd — one of the most dangerous streets in the region — was named after Barbur’s great-great grandfather Asbury Barbur, who was the City of Portland commissioner of public works in the early 1900s.
We’ll update this post when/if we hear back from Barbur or his campaign staff.
UPDATE, 10/1 at 1:14 pm: Barbur just emailed us with the following statement:
“The post in question was made four years ago to friends on my private personal Facebook page. It was made in an effort to rile up some of my friends at the time and the intent of my subsequent comments was to continue to try to get a rise out of them. The post was stupid childish banter on my part and that is all. It does not represent my attitude toward cyclists and I would obviously never promote people crashing into cyclists. I will take full accountability for my comments as they were insensitive and I am sorry that they were offensive and in bad taste.
It is unfortunate that Ms. Zelinka, who I have never previously had any issues with and considered a friend and community partner, has scoured my private personal Facebook page in an effort to run a negative campaign against me. My service record to this community has been nothing but positive, including my service to the cycling community. As a planning commissioner I have advocated for road safety and for the inclusion of cycling projects within Milwaukie’s Tacoma Station Area Plan and the Transportation System Plan. Most recently, I was one of a group of volunteers who opened the Milwaukie Museum for a private tour for Bike Milwaukie’s ride in August. Win or lose this election I will continue my efforts to serve all members of this great community.