What a difference four years makes.
One thing that became clear at last night’s mayoral debate: For the first time in my memory (which is admittedly not very long), all the top candidates are firmly on the left of the political spectrum. At each of the mayoral races I’ve covered in the past decade there was always a right-leaning candidate who made veiled overtures to business interests and the status quo — especially when it came to transportation and environmental issues. Even our current mayor Charlie Hales was elected after a campaign where he ran as an anti-Sam Adams who would return Portland “back to basics” (wink wink).
The three candidates at last night’s debate: Sarah Iannarone, Ted Wheeler, and Jules Bailey, are having none of that. Each one of them are proposing policies that would upend business as usual and would put Portland back at the forefront of truly progressive cities.
“We can’t expect the people who benefit from the status quo to get us out of it. We don’t need more environmental policy manufactured by political elites.”
— Sarah Iannarone
The event last night aimed to help Portland “regain its green edge” and was hosted by a slew of environmentally-conscious nonprofits (including the Bicycle Transportation Alliance). Unlike the raucous debate on Monday night that featured eight candidates, the stage at Benson High last night was much more calm and orderly — at least most of the time. Organizers limited the field to only candidates that had raised at least $10,000. That fact didn’t sit will with a number of local groups who had circulated a petition prior to the event. Then, at the outset of the event last night a woman stormed the stage in protest and temporarily halted the proceedings. She demanded that all voices be heard. A shoving match with debate moderator Steve Law (a reporter for the Portland Tribune) ensued and the woman eventually walked off the stage. (For what it’s worth the crowd did not appreciate her tactics.)
From the start of the opening statements, each candidate talked tough about how they’ll fight for the environment. And we were pleasantly suprised that cycling and transportation were discussed throughout the night.
Bailey started things off by listing the awards he’s received from environmental groups during his time as a state legislator. “Climate change is the greatest threat facing our species,” he said. Wheeler touted his record, saying, “You don’t have to wonder if I’ll lead on the environment because I’ve been doing it for a long time.” Both candidates know that Iannarone lacks their political experience; but she was ready for that. Right from the start Iannarone played the part of the outsider who could bring new voices to the table. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” she said, citing a quote from writer and feminist Audre Lorde. “We can’t expect the people who benefit from the status quo to get us out of it,” she said. “We don’t need more environmental policy manufactured by political elites.”
Iannarone also made equity part of nearly every answer last night. While Wheeler and Bailey would rattle off concrete policy ideas, she would steer the focus back to how those policies would impact people east of 82nd and other underserved communities. But one of the best moments of the night in that respect belonged to Bailey. He skillfully brought up the Vanport Floods to make a point about future climate change-fueled disasters, saying, “We’ve seen what happens in Portland when disaster meets inequities.”
When asked about “compact growth” and how to increase our housing options but keep them affordable, the candidates all made strong points. Bailey said he wants “financial empowerment programs” so more people can own their homes and new zoning laws that will encourage triplexes and duplexes (the “missing middle“). Iannarone said, “We need to adopt the village model,” and encouraged putting more ADUs and tiny houses on a single property. Wheeler answered, “The way we plan isn’t working well. People are moving further east to chase an affordable house.” Then he repeated a line from Monday, “We support the downtown streetcars, why aren’t we supporting transit options in east Portland to the same degree?”
With recent revelations about toxic air in southeast Portland making national news, the candidates were asked how they’d address the issue. All three of them said they’d support a new regional air quality regulatory agency (although Wheeler sounded the most passionate and commited to making it happen). Bailey went one step further and said he’d work for new clean diesel standards and would require major construction projects to use only clean diesel equipment.
“Number one, I will support more bicycle greenways because they are the most cost-effective way to solve multiple problems.”
— Ted Wheeler
And then we got our transportation question. Prefaced by David Bragdon’s scathing criticisms about Oregon, and saying “traffic and air pollution have become intolerable,” a panelist asked for the candidates best ideas on “sustainable transportation.” The one thing all three mentioned was more separated bikeways.
Wheeler surprised everyone (I think) when he shared his top priority. “Number one, I will support more bicycle greenways because they are the most cost-effective way to solve multiple problems. They give us more green space and create safer, more connected communities,” he said. But Wheeler wasn’t done. “And number two,” he continued, “I will look at separating bike lanes.”
Then it was Bailey’s turn and he too put bikes front and center. “We have a system that was built for cars that bikes have been shoe-horned into… We need separate lanes for bikes.”
And once again Iannarone took the opportunity to speak up for east Portland. “If you live east of 82nd Avenue you’re two-and-a-half times more likely to die from a car than if you are west of it. It’s an auto nightmare out there,” she said.
The next question about creating more park space also led to two candidates mentioning bikes.
Wheeler said he’d expand access to parks by building more “bicycle greenways” which leads us to think he’s a bit confused. Wheeler got educated about neighborhood greenways (the City of Portland’s phrase for bicycle boulevards 2.0) during a meeting he convened back in September. At that meeting we pointed out to him the “pocket park” PBOT built on the Holman Neighborhood Greenway (at NE 13th). While small parks can certainly be an element of a neighborhood greenway, they’re really just streets where biking and walking have priority — they are not linear parks. This mistake is understandable, but Wheeler also didn’t know about Sunday Parkways before that September meeting and, as you’ll read below, he also thought Portland had zero miles of protected bikeways. When we pointed this out on Twitter last night, Wheeler responded by tweeting, “I hope we can both continue learning about this great city each and every day.”
These are relatively minor things, but taken together they give some voters pause. It shows he doesn’t know Portland as well as he should and it validates Bailey’s attempts to paint him as someone who sees the Mayor’s office as a mere stepping stone to grander political ambitions.
“I believe we can achieve a carfree central city. It might not be popular or get me elected mayor, but I believe in it.”
— Sarah Iannarone
Many of the same voters sensitive to Wheeler’s cycling oversights were apoplectic when Bailey, then a state legislator, voted in support of the Columbia River Crossing in 2013. The CRC was such a vast political issue that it continues to play a role in this race (as evidenced by a big story in the Willamette Week on Tuesday). Last night Bailey was asked a direct question: “Why should people support you if you supported the CRC?” The crowd broke out in applause before he even answered.
Bailey’s response was to recite the same points he made three years ago: That he was critical of the project early on and that he voted “yes” because he helped add elements to the project that he felt made it easier to swallow. The fact he was asked that question last night shows people didn’t accept his rationale back then. It remains to be seen if giving the same answer last night will change any minds this time around. Bailey was also asked whether he’d oppose projects like the $26 million parking garage that’s coming to the Lloyd District. He dodged the question; but it’s possible he simply wasn’t aware of it.
In a round of quick “lightning” questions at the end of the debate, the candidates once again had a chance to talk about bikes. They were asked if they’d support doubling the number of protected bike lanes in Portland. Iannarone said she’d like to see not double, but exponential growth in protected bike lanes. Wheeler jokingly answered that since we have zero now he wouldn’t support doubling the amount. And Bailey scored a point on Wheeler by saying, “Well, I bike on one on my commute to work, so I say yes to doubling them.” And then Bailey added, “I want to take a comprehensive look and find a number [of protected bike lanes] that works for everyone.”
In their closing statements Iannarone made perhaps the most bold — and politically candid — statements of the race so far. “I believe we can achieve a carfree central city,” she said. “It might not be popular or get me elected mayor, but I believe in it.”
Read more of our 2016 Mayoral Election coverage.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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“I believe we can achieve a carfree central city,” she said. “It might not be popular or get me elected mayor, but I believe in it.”
We don’t even need it to be totally carfree. Implementing a congestion charge for anyone entering the inner freeway loop in an SOV would have much of the same benefits, and bring a consistent revenue stream for sustainable transportation. We can even describe it as a “freight improvement” for all those trucks stuck in congestion.
Congestion pricing is now being elevated to policy in the Comprehensive Plan.
How does one implement a congestion charge – cameras photographing every license at every entry point? How many streets and off-ramps is that? What does that cost to implement?
Sounds like a control freak’s daydream, and privacy advocate’s nightmare, and this isn’t the UK.
It would be simpler and cheaper to just close some streets to cars, repurposing them to some combination of transit/ped/bike.
The Illinois Tollway managed to install transponder-based tolling and license plate readers on four tollways state-wide, and it works fine there. Luckily we have natural barriers to downtown that funnel all traffic into just a handful of points. Just put the readers on every bridge over the Willamette and Columbia and, the off-ramps of the highways downtown, as well as Burnside and 26.
Cornell? Germantown? Hwy 30? Barbur? Macadam? Boones Ferry?
Picking the location of the gates to only capture those actually entering the city, and all of them, is not as easy as you think.
RFID tags would be less conspicuous. BC uses them for bridges.
Is there a toll road in Oregon, and are they even allowed?
The list I provided was not exhaustive, obviously. A good place to start would be the highways and bridges, and tolling could be expanded as needed. Also, why don’t we want to capture trips going through the center city and not only into it? We don’t want people using downtown as a corridor. Need to get around Portland, then use I-205.
Not sure about the legality of toll roads in Oregon; that would be worth looking into.
Apropos, this article: http://cityobservatory.org/cbo-on-highway-finance-the-price-is-wrong/
It’s weird how the reaction to “we need to do X” or “person Y did this” or “we have problem Z” is “that won’t work”. Which is a passive way of saying “I don’t believe this is a problem”, right?
A congestion charge in Portland would be great. Bridges seem like a nice place to start. In the meantime, road diets (we haven’t heard about those in a while) and cycle tracks are incremental steps in the right direction. Oh, and electing for green power instead of supporting Boardman 🙂
Not a bad alternative, if when we say “close a street to cars” we mean really and truly preventing cars from entering those streets at all.
And if we’re allowing buses, that seems to mean some kind of transponder system on each and every one that lowers retractable bollards only for buses and emergency vehicles. Not the privacy problem you mention, but not cheap, either.
“Sounds like a control freak’s daydream, and privacy advocate’s nightmare, and this isn’t the UK.”
Spoken like a true resident of rural Clark County. I’m sure state Sen. Ann Rivers (R-18th District) would agree with you.
In case you aren’t aware, people actually live downtown and might want a car when traveling long distances, particularly outside of the city. All of these cars are housed in off-street lots, where people have to pay to park unlike the rest of the city. If you want to talk about being a “control freak”, which streets will you close off, and how will you ensure that people can still access their garages on these carfree streets?
Read a lot into a simple statement of fact.
I’m not the first to suggest closing some streets, and as others have said, you can always leave the downtown blocks with parking garages open for that block.
How you came to associate me with Rivers is curious as well. One might could say you’re casting aspersions.
patronizing as well. Most in this echo chamber can confirm my support of roads for all users, most of the time.
get a grip.
I presume most of us don’t know how it functions in the UK. Would you provide some general overview of what steps it took to implement in the UK and how feasible this sort of policy could be? (thanks)
“I believe we can achieve a carfree central city,” Sarah Iannarone
I have to wonder to what area of Portland, Iannarone refers, in saying ‘central city’, and what she may mean by ‘car free’ within that area.
She didn’t say ‘…a car free Downtown’. or ‘…car free close in neighborhoods.’. I’d like to know in greater detail from ideas she may have about this, whether it’s a single car free street somewhere within Downtown, or one or more of the city’s close in neighborhoods she’s thinking about…or a larger area of one or more of those neighborhoods.
In Portland the “Central City” is usually defined as including the east side of the river to 12th, Powell, Broadway and Interstate, everything on the west side inside the 405 loop, plus the South Waterfront and Goose Hollow.
Michael…thanks..the info you supplied, corresponds with what I generally might regard as Portland’s ‘central city’.
As I wrote earlier, what area of the city it is that Iannarone regards as the central city, and to what degree or form she believes the area can become ‘car free’, is something I would think people may like to know more about.
Portland’s ‘central city’ is a big area, and a very busy, high activity area. It’s difficult to imagine that Iannarone seriously would consider that the entire area could become entirely ‘car free’. This suggests that maybe she has in mind some other scaled down ideas for ‘car free’ areas, such as one or more blocks of certain streets within the ‘central city’. Answers relative to questions like this, is kind of what I had in mind in writing my earlier comment.
“I believe we can achieve a carfree central city,” she said. “It might not be popular or get me elected mayor, but I believe in it.”
Agreed. Getting elected is the first step, though. Spending your political capital reshaping the city in your first term, without regard to getting re-elected, seems like a better strategy.
Wheeler’s misunderstanding of what a “Neighborhood Greenway” is primarily a failure on PBOT’s end. For one, don’t call a bike route a “Greenway”. It doesn’t describe it’s primary use very well. Most people when they hear “Greenway” understandably think of a grassy park with some walking or cycling paths though it. Waterfront Park, for example.
Second, a “Greenway” should be a linear park, and PBOT continues to advertise them as such. (Sunday Parkways everyday!) However, they do not function remotely like a park. They still function primarily as a travel corridor. Parks don’t allow people to drive on them. That would be like turning Laurelwood Park into a giant parking lot and asking kids to play on it, while putting up maybe a couple barricades and signs asking drivers to “be nice” and “kids playing basketball may use full lane”.
Plus, what “park” has half of it’s space dedicated to free car storage, anyway?
You confuse the ideal future with the present.
“The goal is not always meant to be reached, but to serve as a mark for our aim.” – Joseph Joubert, essayist
Sure, I am well aware of the role of a “vision” in regards to planning. You have to start from an ideal and work your way towards that ideal. However, I’d argue that we are not doing nearly enough to work toward our goals and in some cases, actively working against them.
I’d agree with ‘not doing enough’.
For the record, I think PBOT is doing a good job given the circumstances. However, by not doing enough we can also be actively working against something. I’ll use the example of Clinton whereas PBOT was unwilling to add diversion at 26th – even though it is badly needed there – because they prioritized maintaining car access to the businesses at that corner. Nothing purposefully malicious, but still against our goals for greenways and low-car neighborhoods.
Again, confusing the ideal future with the present. PBOT has not yet proposed diversion, but has also not ruled it out. Phase two will focus on the middle tough nut of SE Clinton, 21st to 28th.
I must have been mistaken then. Last I heard, diversion was not being considered for 28th. Thanks for the clarification!
I hope there IS a Phase two. Phase one definitely has improved conditions. Please take that to mean there will be no going back(wards), and keep working to crack that tough nut. We’re not at 8 – 80 yet, let alone 6 – 86.
My sister, a real estate broker living east of 122nd and not at all involved in bikes, had a listing on one of the greenways. She called me to ask what to call it in touting it to her prospective buyers. I said, “Well, they’re officially called Neighborhood Greenways” and she said, “Yeah, I’m just gonna say Bike Boulevard.”
Because Bike Boulevard is by far the more rational name for them and “greenways” is trying too hard.
There were a couple reasons for the name change at the city level. First, the BB label is all about bikes, the other includes other uses that aren’t bikes like walking, skateboarding, etc. Second, PBOT used the NG name to brand a bike boulevard 2.0 — stop signs flipped, diverters, crosswalks, ADA ramps, lower speed limits.
“Bikeway” is the national term. Yeah, I know, Bikeway means something else to Portland bikers, but that’s the national term.
I don’t see any failures on PBOT’s part here. Neighborhood Greenways are jargon at the Portland Transportation 101 level. The Neighborhood Greenways label has caught on nationally and other cities like Seattle are building on the momentum.
Huh. Still called Bike Boulevards here in the Twin Cities. And we actually use the term “Bike Boulevard” on signs and pavement markings, so non-transpo geeks know what they are. I always thought “greenways” was a ridiculous euphemism, and I’m not a fan of euphemisms.
I’ll have to check them out sometime. How do they compare to Portland’s? As I mentioned in a comment above, there were strategic reasons why the name was changed.
Maybe if Iannarone pays her 4 years of back taxes she owes we can pay for a few more bike lanes….
Is it that you’ve never made a mistake, that you think people that make mistakes should not run for office, or that people that run for office should be somehow more perfect than the rest of us (examples would be helpful).
Not at all, she admitted she did not pay her taxes, so pay up….
You really think we should elect a mayor who has not paid federal taxes for 4 years?
That is a “mistake”?
It’s not so good when we can use the Oregonian to refute your statements.
the O says it is only state taxes, about $2k in taxes and $2k in penalties, plus some fees, and for 2010-2013, which means the mistake was figured out and corrected. Do you have a business, or know the complexities of such taxes?
The standard of ethical perfection is such a handy eraser to use on the politicians we don’t like for other reasons. I’m always amazed at how variably the standard can be applied.
Like, some people successfully impeached Bill Clinton for sexual peccadilloes but didn’t care at all about the paid professional “male escort” given press credentials and open access to the Bush White House Press Corps.
If Sarah’s taxes are more or less current and within the law, despite past tax problems still on record…well, that makes her pretty much like me, and I’m okay with that.
related: I miss Sam Adams.
What a change from 4 years ago when candidates were afraid to utter the words “bike”.
Yeah. It’s crazy. I moved away and check up on this site periodically. It’s shocking how different the climate in Portland is compared to just a year ago.
Looks like Portland has the makings of an interesting mayoral race, and even though I live in Oregon City I realize the impact Portland politics have on the whole region.
I would like to take exception to one issue in the tone of the coverage. Consistantly I see “right leaning” and “business friendly” used as synonyms, and generally as an undesirable trait. Business interests need to be balanced with human and environmental interests, but we do need business. No business means no jobs, no advertisers on this site, no one manufacturing, shipping or selling bike parts and all the other goods we depend on.
Jonathan, this is your blog, you get to set the tone, I just want to offer the perspective of a (very left leaning) business owner.
Thanks for keeping us informed!
I see “business interests” as a different thing from “businesses” or “business owners” but I think “the business lobby” would be even more clear. There is a definite status-quo-friendly point-of-view espoused by the large, organized business groups in this city and state (Portland Business Alliance, Associated Oregon Industries, Oregon Business Association, etc.) that does not reflect the diversity of opinions among business owners.
An example of “business-friendly” policies: Most cities in the USA require a certain minimum parking availability for any business or residence, especially between the building and the street, car-centric Greensboro included. Portland is a rare example of a city with no such requirement. It is rare even for Oregon.
“left wing” isn’t synonymous with “no advertising, no jobs, no businesses”.
Thanks Bike Concierge. It was not intentional and I regret if that’s how it came out…I actually think about this type of stuff as I’m wriring. But I also appreciate you sharing your concern with me and I will make sure to be even more careful about this type of thing in the future.
What does she mean when she says Central City? This:
Good luck with that.
I imagine she means the general purple region on that map.
Wow, this is an amazing turnaround. Maybe Portland can blow out of its bike-stagnation, past its longstanding plateau. Maybe I had to leave Portland to make it happen?
Anyway, I’ll keep the pressure up on our leaders here in Minneapolis to keep up with / stay ahead of (depending on how you measure) Portland. Too bad St. Paul is stuck in the mud worse than ever.
If Jules didn’t know about the PDC garage, it’s willful ignorance. I have asked his twitter account to comment on my story (and the bikeportland ones) multiple times. I’ve also asked Wheeler and Iannarone and Schor. On;y Schor has responded.
Amazing that a $26M budget item gets unnoticed by people who are supposed to inspire confidence in the voters.
Next up: High-Rise pollution pricing ~ the build phase, that produces large amounts of air pollution…
Please…please..Portland. Start taxing cars and trucks for the scourge they are.
“…But Wheeler wasn’t done. “And number two,” he continued, “I will look at separating bike lanes.”
Then it was Bailey’s turn and he too put bikes front and center. “We have a system that was built for cars that bikes have been shoe-horned into… We need separate lanes for bikes.” …” bikeportland
There are people interested in biking as practical transportation and a means of transport, who have varying degrees of familiarity with what’s meant by the phrase, ‘protected bike lanes’. The phrase seems to have to come to refer to different types of bike infrastructure used on the street to support use of bikes for practical travel by a wide range of riding styles.
In their comments, Wheeler and Bailey mention separating bike lanes, and separate lanes for bikes. I’d like to hear more of what they mean by their use of those words. Do they mean something significantly more than paint striped bike lanes? Or, something more than the very modestly physically separated bike lanes that use a low, curb or slightly elevated area of the road for separation?
Would either of the two be so bold as to propose road diets on some of Portland’s within the central city, in order to acquire road space to create a continuous, substantially separated protected bike lanes that would connect at least, the city’s centrally located neighborhoods?
I’m curious if any of the candidates are biking to these debates.