Rick Browning, the veteran architect and urban planner that was hired back in May to lead a high-profile bike project, is no longer working for the City of Portland.
“I was told by PBOT management I made certain unspecified staff members ‘uncomfortable’ and that I didn’t fit in. I did not quit. I was fired and given one day to leave.”
— Rick Browning
Word that he was leaving his position leaked out of the bureau of transportation on Tuesday. The City hasn’t released a statement yet, but we confirmed our initial tip and can say with certainty that Browning is no longer employed by the City of Portland.
Browning lasted just over eight months in his position. With an annual salary of $80-90,000, he was hired as a Capital Project Manager. According to the job description, his initial focus was supposed to be on PBOT’s “Central City Multi-Modal Safety project”. That project is meant to improve biking and walking access downtown and establish a network of protected lanes. However, despite winning a $6 million federal grant three years ago the project has yet to break ground. PBOT’s latest promise is that the public process won’t start until this summer.
While waiting for that project to materialize, PBOT had Browning working on other things. He was listed as the manager of a project on West Burnside we wrote about just last week and a line in the Mayor’s current budget has Browning as the manager of a $4.5 million paving project on East Burnside.
Based on an interview Browning gave us when he was hired, it’s clear he was looking forward to working on the downtown bikeway project. He said his goal was to make downtown a nice place to ride for people currently too afraid to give it a try (an urgent need with bikeshare coming soon). Browning said he was inspired by Janette Sadik-Khan, the former director of New York City’s transportation department. After hearing her speak in Seattle, Browning said her work was “transformative.” “If we can do that here, I think that’d be fantastic.”
The city won’t comment on personnel matters, so it’s unclear why Browning is suddenly gone before the project he was hired to do ever even got started.
UPDATE, 2/12 at 8:23 am: Browning says he was fired. Here’s what he told us via email last night:
“I was told by PBOT management I made certain unspecified staff members “uncomfortable” and that I didn’t fit in. I did not quit. I was fired and given one day to leave.
Disappointed. But wish PBOT and the project well.”
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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