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Baffled by veto threat, legislators and advocates lobby Governor Brown for reversal

Posted by on August 9th, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Don’t do it Governor!

A threat by Governor Kate Brown to veto a highly anticipated project in southwest Portland has been met with shock and bewilderment by advocates and legislators. Now with little time to spare before Brown acts on her stated intentions, an effort has begun to persuade her to change her mind.

Neighborhood advocates have been urging the City of Portland to make Southwest Capitol Highway safer 26 years. The City of Portland has raised about $10 million for a project that would finally build sidewalks, bikeways and make other updates to the street between Multnomah Village and Taylors Ferry Road. Thanks to the passage of House Bill 5006 last month, everyone expected an additional $2 million for a final, key segment of the project. Governor Brown’s inexplicable veto threat puts that funding in jeopardy.

Asked for comment this afternoon, Brown’s Communications Director Chris Pair offered no additional rationale for the threat beyond what was shared in a statement yesterday — that they felt the project should go through more vetting and evaluation and that it should have been included in the larger transportation package.

But that explanation doesn’t sit well with Senator Ginny Burdick, whose district is directly adjacent to the project.

“I was very upset when I learned of the line-item veto,” Burdick shared on the phone today. “Senator [Richard] Devlin worked very hard to get that funding and the project absolutely needs to be done. It’s a hazard for everyone concerned — particularly bicyclists and pedestrians.”

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Burdick said she and fellow legislators including Senator Devlin and House Rep Jennifer Williamson have all been in contact with the Governor’s office. “We’re all urging her to change her mind.”

“The project absolutely needs to be done. It’s a hazard for everyone concerned — particularly bicyclists and pedestrians.”
— Ginny Burdick, Oregon Senator

Asked why the project wasn’t put into the $5.3 billion transportation package, Burdick said they feared it would have gotten lost in the shuffle, put further down the priority list and possibly delayed. “Senator Devlin worked really hard to get it through the process and this is very disappointing.” As for the Governor’s claim that the project needs to be vetted. “Of course it had been vetted,” Burdick said, “It was vetted thoroughly through the Ways and Means process. I don’t buy that idea that it’s not been adequately vetted.”

Advocates who have pushed for this project for decades echo Burdick’s perspective.

Southwest Portland neighborhood activist Marianne Fitzgerald told me today she first wrote a letter to the City of Portland supporting updates to Capitol Highway in 1991. “We have lobbied every elected official and staff for improvements since then,” she added.

Here’s an outline of the history of this project (created by PBOT):

“Vetoing an appropriation of $2 million when the local government is putting up $8 million sends the wrong message.”
— Steve Novick, former City of Portland Commissioner

Jules Bailey, a former Oregon House Representative who lives near Capitol Highway and said he was so happy to hear it got funded that he hugged his wife, said he’s shocked Governor Brown seems to be playing politics with such an important safety project. “This lack of process argument [from Governor Brown’s office] is really confounding to me and frankly if there are political or process reasons it might be vetoed, that’s putting the life and safety of families in the area versus some sort of backroom Salem power game… It sends a signal to people that safety for their familes comes second to backroom deals.”

Another southwest Portland resident and former elected official that has raised eyebrows at Governor Brown’s veto threat is Steve Novick. Novick, who successfully paised a gas tax increase as transportation commissioner and supported over $3 million of that money to fund the Capitol Highway project, reached out to BikePortland today to share his take on the situation. “I told the legislators I was counting on them for the last $2 million as I was putting the gas tax proposal together,” he wrote. “The state should provide incentives for local governments to do the hard work of raising their own money. Vetoing an appropriation of $2 million when the local government is putting up $8 million sends the wrong message.”

Is there a chance Brown could reverse course? Bailey said anything’s possible with enough pressure from the community and legislators.

Brown is required by law to provide notice five business days in advance of a veto. That means we have until Tuesday August 15th to convince her that she shouldn’t do it.

You can contact the Governor’s office via this online form or by calling (503) 378-4582.

UPDATE, Thursday (8/10) at 3:30 pm: Senator Richard Devlin, who represents this district and is considered the primary champion of the project, just told me in a phone call he plans to hand-deliver a letter to Governor Brown on Friday. He said he can’t think of any rational basis for the veto threat. More from our conversation coming in a separate post.

— 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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JeffS
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JeffS

Better yet, sign the petition to recall her.

K'Tesh
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K'Tesh

Governor Brown,

Do the right thing and fund the Southwest Capitol Highway safety improvements. The safety of Oregonians, abled, and disabled alike, is at stake. This should be your first priority. Don’t forget that.

Respectfully
James C. Parsons

rick
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rick

Governor Brown, please support safety, public transit, and small business! There are precious few safe roads and trails on the westside of Portland that stretch north to south. This is not a freeway pet project !

rick
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rick

Outside of ratrace car traffic hours, I actually enjoy riding westbound and downhill on SW Taylor’s Ferry Road from nearby 48th. The Capitol Highway project would allow me to more safely enjoy a change of pace.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

She did provide a reason for her threatened veto, which seemed to relate to process rather than substance:

“I’m proud of the multi-billion-dollar transportation package we passed this session and the thousands of jobs it will create,” Governor Brown said. “The SW Capitol Highway project is not included in the package that was negotiated in a bipartisan and careful manner. It should receive the same vetting process as other transportation projects and be evaluated on its own merits in future legislative sessions.”

Governor Brown will also veto appropriations outlined in Section 4 for the Holly Theater, Harry and David Ballpark, and Bradshaw Drop Irrigation project in Medford.

“The cornerstone of all negotiations whether they occur in a public or private arena, is the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” Governor Brown said. “I believe that each of these projects should be considered during the 2018 session to be evaluated on their merits.”

I’m guessing each of these projects was perceived by your governor as being inserted at the last minute, rather than going through the usual ODOT processes.

SD
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SD

Why is Portland frequently shafted by the “progressives” that they elect? I am really asking. This is not the sausage that we voted for.

EH
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EH

Just sent this via the feedback form:

I urge you to *NOT* veto HB 5006’s funding for the SW Capitol Highway project. This project has been overdue for decades – as Capitol Highway, like much of outer SW Portland, has no sidewalks, and Capitol also has no shoulder. It is one of the few North/South routes between Hillsdale/Multnomah Village and points further South (such as Portland Community College,) and is completely unsafe for pedestrians or bicyclists. The next-closest alternative, SW 45th Avenue, is likewise unsafe.

This funding was a bipartisan effort, and is the final bit of funding (the city of Portland is contributing the lion’s share) needed to have this project go forward. Vetoing this would be a slap in the face of Southwest Portlanders, demonstrating a complete lack of interest in their well being.

Keith
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Keith

Jonathan – thanks for providing the link to Gov. Brown’s comment page. I encourage all interested folks to urge her to reconsider.

Big Knobbies
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Big Knobbies

Political posturing. She’s threatened the veto, so when the citizens squeal she can decide to approve of the project, and thus appear responsive to citizens. She’s got reelection coming up and she’s not done much that’s noteworthy – wants to get a list of “accomplishments” for the future campaign.

peejay
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peejay

I left a comment on the governor’s site. It took five minutes. We can all take five minutes, can’t we?

Roger Averbeck
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Roger Averbeck

Just sent in my comments via the Gov’s online form:

Dear Governor Brown,

I am writing in opposition to your planned line item veto of the Capitol Highway project within HB 5006.

The $2 million funding for Capitol Highway is needed to provide critical safety improvements in the segment of Capitol Hwy between Taylor’s Ferry Road, crossing Barbur Blvd and I – 5 to Huber St, within the complicated set of intersections known as the West Portland Crossroads. The crossroads are the connection for SW Portland residents to many local businesses; the Barbur Transit Center; Multnomah Village Business District; Markham Elementary School, Jackson Middle School; and PCC Sylvania. The Capitol Hwy fund will leverage ODOT’s $3 million ARTS (All Roads Transportation Safety) project in the crossroads, which is in preliminary design phases.

SW Portland Community members have supported safety improvements in the West Portland Crossroads for many years. Much study and vetting of the Crossroads has already occurred. The Crossroads were studied by PBOT’s 2012 Barbur High Crash Corridor Plan; Portland’s 2013 Barbur Concept Plan; ODOT’s 2015 Barbur Road Safety Audit; Portland’s 2016 Transportation System Plan update, Portland’s 2016 Vision Zero Safety Plan; and Metro’s ongoing SW Corridor Light Rail Plan. Clearly this congested set of intersections and I – 5 freeway ramps needs safety improvements that cannot wait until the SW Corridor LRT is built in 2025.

Please do not veto the Capitol Highway project in HB 2006. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Roger Averbeck

Brett
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Brett

It is politics like this that crush the spirits of engaged community minded progressives and leave us ripe for the election of monsters like Trump and Knute Buhler

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Not that anyone cares what I think, but personally I believe that Capital Highway will “get properly evaluated” to the satisfaction of your governor in the near future and be included in the next round of funding (and yes there will be more rounds of funding, it never ends.) In fact, I suspect the funding will arrive at about the same that PBOT agrees to do construction, which will be as late as they can possibly get away with.