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Mayor Wheeler gives transportation bureau oversight to Saltzman

Posted by on January 3rd, 2017 at 11:30 am

Bike Share passage press conference-5.jpg

Commissioner Saltzman at a press conference for Portland Bike Share in September 2015.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman has been given a new assignment by Mayor Ted Wheeler: the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Wheeler announced the bureau assignments via executive order this morning.

Saltzman has had his council seat since 1999 — the longest of any other member — and this is his first time having control of PBOT. The bureau was previously led by Steve Novick, who lost his re-election bid to Chloe Eudaly in November. In Portland’s form of government, each commissioner (and the Mayor) are given oversight of city bureaus. They then advocate for policies and funding plans that are advantageous to their bureaus.

Also as commissioner of PBOT Saltzman will represent the City of Portland on Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, a body made up of elected officials that sets transportation policy and priorities for the entire region.

With PBOT in his portfolio, Saltzman can now guide one of the city’s largest bureaus and one that has a vast impact on people’s everyday lives. It’s unclear where exactly Saltzman stands on major transportation policies since he hasn’t played a pivotal role on the topic for many years.

A quick look at the BikePortland archives however does give us some clues.

From a cycling and transportation reform perspective, the most interesting thing about this assignment has nothing to do with Saltzman. The commissioner lives in the Hillsdale neighborhood of southwest Portland and has driven his car into work for many years (his office didn’t comment when we asked for specifics in 2014). However, his long-time chief of staff, Brendan Finn, is a daily bike rider. When Finn ran for a council set in 2008 we shared some of his bike-friendly bona fides. (We most recently saw Finn on a bike at a ride hosted by Mayor Hales to drum up support for a reconfiguration of Naito Parkway.)

Saltzman popped up on BikePortland again in 2008 when he opposed Adams and other members of Council on a proposal to support a plan for the controversial Columbia River Crossing highway widening mega-project.

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Saltzman in 2010 (with Finn at his side) making a pitch about bike plan funding to the Bicycle Advisory Committee.

The biggest bike-related headlines Saltzman has made in the past decade or so was when he made a surprising pitch for bike infrastructure funding in 2010. Just before council was set to vote on an unfunded Portland Bike Plan for 2030, Saltzman walked into the monthly meeting of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (with Finn at his side) and laid out a proposal that would raise up to $1 million per year for projects listed in the plan. The proposal had support from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, but it caught other council members off-guard (and the BAC itself, which ultimately opposed it) and ultimately failed.

In 2012 Saltzman infamously opposed city funding for Sunday Parkways. He argued (over the objections of the mayor and other council members) that the popular open street event is not an essential, core function of PBOT. “It’s a great event and I love it,” he said, “But it’s not as essential to me as bike safety improvements or paving roads… The point is, we need more and safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists and a dollar spent there is more important to me that Sunday Parkways.”

Last month in a conversation at council about PBOT’s Vision Zero Action Plan, Saltzman said he believes we need more — and stronger — enforcement of traffic laws. “I believe in hardcore enforcement,” he said, before voting yes on the action plan, “We’ve become complacement and we are desensitized to the fact that people have 34 prior violations yet we still support people’s right to drive because they ‘have to get to work’… We can’t afford to do that… I think we need strong enforcement and more overtime patrols.”

Saltzman takes over a transportation bureau that is on a growth curve thanks to the gas tax increase passed by voters in May. The Fix Our Streets program is expected to raise $64 million for infrastructure projects over the next four years.

The new bureau assignments where part of a shake-up by Mayor Wheeler. He took the Office of Neighborhood Involvement away from Commissioner Amanda Fritz and gave it to Chloe Eudaly. Eudaly has also been given the Bureau of Development Services. Wheeler says he’ll re-assess bureau assignments and consider changes in the spring. Read more on the bureau assignments in the Willamette Week and read Wheeler’s executive order here (via Oregon Public Broadcasting).

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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dan
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dan

This is great journalism, Jonathan – kudos!

Maxadders
Guest
Maxadders

He had a point about Sunday Parkways. It’s primarily a recreational event for kids and families. It pains me to see so many resources poured into a few hours a year when that money would be better spent making streets safer for everyone, permanently.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

But people need to get out first and realize it can be fun before they’ll do it otherwise.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Max,
from the 2014 report (page 20), the city spent about $163k on the 5 events, or only 37% of the total cost.
$163k doesn’t buy much toward other safety projects.

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/507236

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

But after five years that’s over $800k, which might add a few traffic diverters. Alternatively, that $163k could buy almost two full-time traffic cops. Now that would make a definite difference on the ground.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Sunday parkways would cost less if we didn’t go to such effort to making driving easy through, and especially across the route. $0.25/capita well spent, but we’re paying for the drivers, not kids riding bikes.

Critical mass rides are free. How many do we want per week?

JeffS(egundo)
Guest
JeffS(egundo)

So Sunday Parkways leverages 63% of the cost of the events from sponsors. What other PBoT production can claim that?

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

I think that may have increased over the last 2 years. There have been fewer police used for the event.

rick
Guest
rick

Dan lives near a SW trail near Terwilliger Parkway close to A-Boy Hardware.

David Feldman
Guest
David Feldman

I don’t live in Portland, but if Saltzman was vested with this responsibility in my city I’d want to know how he travels and how much he uses each mode. Does he walk, use TriMet, or ride a bike EVER? Or is he an SOV guy exclusively?

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

I’d want him to travel in the most expeditious manner possible to do his job most efficiently. If he’s cycling 7 hours a day to do one hour of work, he’s not going to be effective.

Adam
Subscriber

I’m glad Saltzman got PBOT over Nick “people gotta get from A to B” Fish. Where does Saltzman stand on parking policy? Also, Fritz losing ONI is great news. Maybe this will mean less NIMBY influence, as Fritz is by far the biggest proponent of the neighborhood association model.

maccoinnich
Guest

Saltzman was the only Commissioner to vote against the parking minimums added in 2013 (http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2013/04/porland_city_council_approves.html). Last year he voted against adding in minimums in Northwest, and then voted for the de facto repeal of the 2013 minimums.

maccoinnich
Guest

Saltzman has been very effective at getting new resources for the Housing Bureau, and for advancing its agenda in Salem. If Ted Wheeler keeps the Housing Bureau for the next four years he will be cutting the ribbons on a lot units that were funded while Saltzman ran the bureau.

With a possible statewide transportation package this year and/or a metro area bond measure in 2018 he could be very good for advancing PBOT’s interests.

Michael Andersen (Contributor)
Editor

Saltzman is going to be cutting the ribbon on a bunch of Adams/Novick stuff, too, notably downtown protected bike lanes that’ll be a live and visible issue around the time of his 2018 reelection campaign.

I’d expect Saltzman’s most serious challenge to come from the left, but then I’m sure Eudaly got a lot of votes from people who saw Novick as too far left on transportation and assumed (wrongly IMO) that Eudaly wouldn’t be. For a second-tier issue in a race that most people don’t know much about, the actual positions of one’s challenger may not be as important as not pissing people off.

Unfortunately, achieving long-term harmony on transportation is going to require pissing people off in the short term.

Other bits of bike infrastructure to wonder if Saltzman will be willing to piss some people off in order to get:
– SW Barbur bike lanes … both short-term in the wooded section and long-term alongside the hypothetical MAX line all the way to Tigard.
– NE 7th/9th neighborhood greenway, funded by the gas tax … 7th would be much better IMO but would require major diversion and therefore Oregonian headlines
– actually connecting the soon-to-be bike-friendly Gateway district to other stuff: westward over and under I-205, plus eastward along Halsey
– finally building the damn East Portland neighborhood greenways

Even if he keeps Treat or someone similarly progressive in place, getting those things right will require political action that only elected officials can deliver.

soren
Guest
soren

“7th would be much better IMO but would require major diversion and therefore Oregonian headlines”

I was pleasantly surprised by the media coverage of the Clinton diverters. I hope that we have turned over a new leaf when it comes to manufactured bikelash coverage.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Other than the fact that he is a car addict, and these days it’s hard to find an elected official who isn’t, there seems to be a lot to like about Saltzman. Too bad this assignment doesn’t allow him any influence on traffic law enforcement.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

addict?

Since many people here also say “cars are weapons” should we also not call him an attempted murderer?

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

A dear neighbor who happens to be a nurse gave me his definition of addiction: a habit that is either unhealthy for the individual or for society. Routine use of a car for intra-city transportation fits that bill, imo. Therefore, I use the term addict for those who engage in that activity.

Is there a problem with this as a working definition, or is the problem that the term addict has negative connotations that those who routinely drive don’t want to face up to?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Cutting corners on taxes is an addiction; staying up too late is an addiction; reading Donald Trump’s tweets is an addiction…

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

“should we also not call him an attempted murderer?”

No. As with any weapon, it’s all in how it’s wielded.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

Wheeler might be the ideal choice to have PBOT, but he already has multiple bureaus. Fish would be the same as Saltzman. Giving PBOT to Fritz/Eudaly…..*shudder*.

Michael Andersen (Contributor)
Editor

I don’t personally agree with either of them on everything, but I’d argue there are a lot more differences between Fritz and Eudaly than a slash can capture!

What’s shudder-worthy about Eudaly on transportation?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Her comments here on the Biketown/mobility bikes issue indicated that she lacks a basic understanding of transportation systems. Combined with her lack of experience and we would have had a completely ineffective department at best.

Michael Andersen (Contributor)
Editor

Yeah, I wasn’t clear what her vision was for disability-proof bike sharing, either. But it’s not as if expecting a publicly funded transit system to meet the spirit of ADA, just on principle, is completely unreasonable. And if I had devoted a lot of my life to helping my son get around despite a disability, as she has, then I bet I’d be devoting a lot of energy toward championing ADA in every possible context.

Anyway, I didn’t really understand bike sharing when I first started learning about it. Did you?

I’m not here to stump for Eudaly or anything, I just think she could turn out to be one of biking advocates’ best allies on the council if she and bike advocates can understand and respect each others’ agenda and values.

SaferStreetsPlease
Guest
SaferStreetsPlease

Eudaly has biked in Amsterdam and was car free before taking care of a son with a disability. I think people will be surprised on where she stands with active transportation.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I have hope that Eudaly will be an improvement over Novick, but those who think she’s the next messiah will be disappointed.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

What Chris I said.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

I think Eudaly would have been a risky pick given her lack of experience and thin transportation agenda, but at the upper end of believability, she could have been awesome. Like the vast majority of Portlanders, and unlike the vast majority of Council, she lives on the eastside, and not the inner eastside at that (Montavilla if I’m not mistaken). She has lived experience that how some people get around is different from (and more difficult than, and less societally supported than) how others get around. Under the right circumstances, that experience could be productively applied to government policy regarding people who bike, walk, take transit, etc.

maccoinnich
Guest

I believe she lives in Woodlawn, though is planning to move.

mh
Guest
mh

What made me shudder was her response to a question at one of the debates about parking. She supports requiring developers to provide parking for more then the market demands because she needs it for her son. Wait – you’re going to require of everyone something that increases housing costs and limits building opportunities because YOU want/need it? Didn’t seem very broad-minded or public spirited to me. What big picture are you looking at?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

She is too singularly focused. Good leaders weigh many contributing factors and make reasonable decisions. Parking minimums are bad for so many reasons, and ADA requirements can still be met without requiring parking minimums.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Development costs do not drive rents higher. Providing support for disabled people in the built environment does not drive rents higher.

lop
Guest
lop

Which debate was that?

http://bikeportland.org/2016/07/05/city-weighs-parking-rule-for-nw-that-could-block-a-fifth-of-new-homes-186851

“””I respect the work of the NW Parking SAC, as an almost 20-year former resident of NW Portland I know what a headache parking has become in the area, but I don’t support their proposal of a blanket minimum parking standard for all new multi-dwelling developments of more than 30 units. Knowing that these spaces are likely to be underutilized in many developments and that we must start decreasing our reliance on the personal automobile, I believe we can and must come up with a more nuanced approach, especially in a neighborhood that is so central, dense, and transit-friendly (many NW residents live within 10 blocks of the street car, Max, AND a bus line).”””

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Maybe Saltzman can get busy on his first day sweeping up all the gravel in all the bike lanes around the city. Apparently, they laid it down for a few hours of effectiveness during the snow storm last month, and then it quickly takes up thick residence in the bike lanes where it remains forever until the city picks it up. I do not think the city should use gravel this way unless they have a written action plan and schedule for removing it.

X
Guest
X

Ha! and ha. I for one was happy to see a little gravel at certain times and places, and also pretty OK with paying OT to the public servants laying it out there. Crisis over, back to normal programming, it’s going to take a little while to pick it up. Good opportunity for some–gravel grinding? It’s a thing, right? Is this town not full of cyclo-cross racers, MTBers, fatbikers? Where is the gratitude?

Michael Andersen (Contributor)
Editor

I’d say the next big question is whether Saltzman will ask (or expect) Director Treat to make way for a new appointee.

maccoinnich
Guest

Do you have reason to believe he will? At least from the outside, Treat seems like a smart and capable director.

ecotoper
Guest
ecotoper

Saltzman really needs to clear the air around the recent PBOT hiring of Millicent Williams (West?) … if it turns out that Treat and Williams were buddies in DC several years ago, AND that Maurice Henderson is in fact in a relationship with Williams, Treat needs to go, and so should Henderson … Williams bore the burden of being a convicted felon when she won a big job in PBOT, over 39 other applicants … Treat and Henderson hired Williams, but was it a case of cronyism ? … this story is not going to go away any time soon …

soren
Guest
soren

and i just wasted 30 seconds on the internet.

“felon”

a non-profit tax issue for which the court found no evidence of personal benefit and gave her probation.

PS: portland has an official “ban the box” policy so your comment is not even wrong.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Ban the box doesn’t mean don’t ask; it just means don’t ask as part of the initial screen.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

I’ve met Maurice Henderson several times and it is my understanding he is dating a doctor.

Adam
Subscriber

I fully support keeping Director Treat in her current position. I think she’s done a great job.

Michael Andersen (Contributor)
Editor

No, I don’t have any reason to think Treat would be asked to go — the biggest indication that she might be was in this Oregonian reporting and that’s apparently been proven erroneous, since Wheeler didn’t take transportation. (Also worth noting that Wheeler said in his mid-election interview with BP that the O overinterpreted his comments.)

Adams and Hales/Novick installed their own transpo commissioners, but Adams was criticized for the political appointment of Tom Miller. I could be wrong but I think Hales made the decision to dismiss Miller (and subsequently hire Treat) more in response to Adams/Miller rather than in order to create a new tradition of rapid turnover.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

IMO, and as a community member of the panel that interviewed her and recommended her being hired, I do not believe that she’ll be “asked to resign” (fired) by anyone. I think there is a far greater danger she might quit in the next year or two to take a better job elsewhere, in a community where she’ll have more funding and power to make decisions than in Portland, and less frustration with the local form of government.