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In unanimous letter, Metro council says they agree with coalition on regional spending priorities

Posted by on March 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

(Photo: Metro)

Whatever transportation funding package emerges for the Portland region, it’ll include a lot more than three freeway expansion projects and one transit project. Why? Because all seven members of Metro Council — including president Tom Hughes, just said so.

In a letter released yesterday (PDF), Metro offered a resounding endorsement of the views expressed by nine regional advocacy groups. Those groups, part of a nascent and broad-based transportation reform coalition, shared a letter with Metro (and TriMet and Metro’s powerful JPACT committee) about major concerns with the direction of a regional funding proposal. In that letter, the leaders of AARP Oregon, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Oregon Walks, the Welcome Home Coalition, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and others — said they would not support a funding package unless it prioritizes equity and affordable housing while making active transportation investments commensurate with freeway capacity investments

Here’s the text of Metro’s letter:

Dear Community Leaders:

Thank you for your March 15 letter to TriMet, JPACT and the Metro Council. You have laid out a clear vision for transportation and housing investments that can improve the lives and livelihoods of our region’s residents. You have also underscored the fact that achieving broad- based voter support for significant transportation investment requires hearing and responding to community expressions of need and priority.

You’ve called for a plan that not only includes big road and transit projects but also transportation safety, active transportation and safe routes to schools, expanded transit service affordable to low income households, affordable housing in areas well served by transportation choices, and equitable outcomes in all our transportation work. And you are appropriately insisting that the communities you represent, and the regional community as a whole, should be heard in the process of building an investment plan and electoral strategy.

As you point out, that’s the successful strategy used by community leaders in the Puget Sound region, Los Angeles County, the San Francisco Bay area and Atlanta to win transportation and housing measures last November that will help finance over $180 billion in improvements to those communities.

We share your views and are eager to expand the regional conversation about how we build an investment strategy that better meets the needs of our region’s people. Thanks again for encouraging me and other elected representatives to listen to more voices, consider more needs and build a stronger, broader coalition of support.

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This is a subtle but powerful letter by Metro. I often say electeds get to choose who they assign power to — regardless of that group or individual’s actual power (for instance, the City of Portland can give one loud business owner veto power over a project simply by choosing to give that business power even if they don’t have it/deserve it). This is a case where Metro has just given this coalition much more power. Note how they refer to the coalition members not as “advocates” but as “community leaders.” Metro also cleverly repeats the main points of the coalition’s letter in a way that essentially makes them their own. Phrases like, “you have laid out a clear vision,” “you have underscored,” “you are appropriately insisting,” “as point out,” and “we share your views,” are very strong praise that adds considerable heft to the coalition’s views.

The Street Trust’s Policy Director Gerik Kransky, reached by phone this morning, said he was, “Frankly, a little surprised to see all seven members unanimously sign the letter.”

“We’re thrilled to have regional elected leaders stepping forward as partners,” he said. “They heard us loud and clear and they agree with our approach.”

Kransky said the coalition’s letter “took the conversation public,” allowing stakeholders to respond outside of any legally binding process. Hopefully that frees up other elected leaders copied on the letter to share responses of their own. Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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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9wattsXMark smithEl BicicleroK Taylor Recent comment authors
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El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

Wow. …Good “wow”—I can’t wait to see what this materializes into.

Maybe we’ve hit upon a good strategy with having several reasonably diverse advocacy organizations present a united front; thanks to all of them for the work put into this.

rick
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rick

Forget any freeway expansion except for caps over freeways and freeway removals.

Hello, Kitty
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Hello, Kitty

Great!

Greg Spencer
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This is great news. But like Rick, I’d favor a harder line that excludes freeway widening altogether. The roads element will only undermine steps to promote sustainable alternatives. I was really inspired by the example of the Seattle referendum presented at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit. It succeeded where previous campaigns failed because of its pure, unapologetic transit focus. The drastic recent changes in PDX call for a drastic change of approach.

Sigma
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Sigma

Wait, I thought the Portland Planning Commission voted to keep the I-5 project in the Comprehensive Plan because it needed to be consistent with the Regional Transportation Plan, which includes the project. Metro Council approves the Regional Transportation Plan, so haven’t they already endorsed that project?

Dave
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Dave

When thinking about expanding freeways, think of what neighbornood you want to see plowed under to do the expanding–freeways take a lot of room. Our region is short enough on housing for it to be good to do anything that cuts into it.

9watts
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I’m not sure why everyone is patting themselves on the back.

I read the letter above and it begins:
“You’ve called for a plan that not only includes big road and transit projects”

The words I saw were NOT and ONLY. Looks to me like big road projects are still the first loading order. Clever.

Speaking of highways, why on god’s earth don’t we have an HOV lane all the way through the metro area, EW and NS ????

Matheas Michaels
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Matheas Michaels

Induced demand is like global warming – it doesn’t go away because you pretend it doesn’t exist.

Mark smith
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Mark smith

Oh, I like the idea of getting rid of i5. No more need for a mega bridge and think of the super high priced towers that can be sold on the new east waterfront to finance the removal.