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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.”

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 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. Thank you — Jonathan

50 Comments
  • JeffS August 9, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Better yet, sign the petition to recall her.

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    • Paul August 9, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Are we likely to get anyone better?

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      • Big Knobbies August 9, 2017 at 11:37 pm

        Could not do worse.

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        • Chris I August 10, 2017 at 7:28 am

          hy·per·bo·le
          hīˈpərbəlē/
          noun
          noun: hyperbole; plural noun: hyperboles

          exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

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      • Jeff August 10, 2017 at 6:52 am

        Correct answer is no.

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    • Matt Pennington August 10, 2017 at 10:32 am

      No.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 9, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    I wonder if Brown’s move is similar to the mistake that former Mayor Tom Potter made back in 2007? Remember when he cut $200,000 in funding for Bike Master Plan update process? I think he and his staff had no idea that people actually cared a lot about that (seemingly wonky and boring) process.

    After a huge and heartfelt outpouring of calls and emails from the community Potter eventually reversed course and re-instated the funding.

    Brown’s veto threat here makes so little sense (political games with Devlin is most plausible at this point) that I almost wonder if she’s miscalculated just how important this project is to a lot of people.

    Hopefully. And hopefully this ends the same way as it did back in 2007.

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  • K'Tesh August 9, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    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

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    • K'Tesh August 9, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      I should have added… I’m a disabled veteran.

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  • rick August 9, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    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 !

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  • rick August 9, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    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.

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  • David Hampsten August 9, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    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.

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    • rick August 9, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      If so, then the local and state govt officials really dropped the ball.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 9, 2017 at 8:46 pm

      there’s also reporting that the other 3 line-item vetoes were done as direct political payback to get at Rep. Sal Esquivel. But this project has no clear rationale (at least that’s been reported).

      And what of the dozens of other projects in the bill that were “inserted in the last minute”? Why did those escape her wrath? something doesn’t smell right here. I hope people contact Gov. Brown and let her know how they feel. This isn’t cool.

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      • wsbob August 9, 2017 at 10:27 pm

        “…And what of the dozens of other projects in the bill that were “inserted in the last minute”?…” maus/bikeportland

        Dozens? Name them. Name one, and the point in the bills development that they were inserted into the bill. And whether they were introduced into the bill with enough time remaining for committee members and legislators to give the projects the study and consideration Brown say they should be given.

        David Hampsten…I’m seeing a similar thing from Brown’s statement, it seems you have: That the governor has serious concerns about the procedure by which some of the projects were inserted into the transportation package, rather than the merits of those projects.

        Maybe the timing of the insertion of these projects into this bill, was the deal breaker for the the gov. This probably could have been a slam-dunk, just another project item inserted into the bill early on in its development, allowing enough time for the legislators to browse over and decide whether the amount it increased the cost of the transportation package, was merited.

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      • Mike Reams August 10, 2017 at 7:11 am

        If it’s the case that she is vetoing bills for political payback rather than because she believes it’s in the best interest of the people of Oregon then, she should be removed from office. That’s just childish.

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      • Matt Pennington August 10, 2017 at 9:41 am

        What were the dozens of other projects? If it really is an objection to a failure of process I have a hard time faulting her logic. I can understand the frustration in failing to move forward a project that you want to go forward. But are you sure you aren’t using hyperbole here?

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 10, 2017 at 9:59 am

          Matt and wsbob. here are just a few in the bill:

          Vietnam Wall Replica project in Medford ……………….. $250,000
          Cities of Turner, Aumsville and Salem flood mitigation . . . . . . . $40,000
          $180,000 for distribution for county fairs.
          $650,000 for the Western Oregon Stream Restoration Program.
          $425,000 for sage grouse conservation activities.
          $260,000 for potato research at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
          $500,000 for the operations of the Renewable Energy Center.
          $5,145,277 for security enhancements for the Oregon State Capitol.
          $570,000 for the Molluscan Broodstock Program at the Hatfield Marine Science Center
          $1,200,000 for a grant to Eastern Oregon University for the information technology equipment facility project.
          $3,450,979, for improving access to the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center.
          $2,000,000 for a grant for the Crescent Sanitary District Sewer System.
          $1,000,000 for construction or repair of the Oregon Military Museum.
          Mid-Columbia Health Foundation for hospital modernization and expansion project… $
          City of John Day for fiber project .. $200,000
          City of John Day for 9-1-1 systems……$1,836,000
          Greater Portland YWCA for the Family Preservation Project….. $420,000
          World of Speed… $50,000

          and on and on and on.

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          • rick August 10, 2017 at 10:21 am

            $5,145,277 for security enhancements for the Oregon State Capitol

            So this was approved? I wonder if it includes more secured bicycle parking..

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          • rick August 10, 2017 at 10:24 am

            World of Speed… $50,000

            Wait, do you mean the car museum in Wilsonville? THe one where police often show up on the weekends to patrol people driving cars very fast? They actually spend time there at the cars and coffee event.

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            • Nohaven August 10, 2017 at 10:13 pm

              World of speed is financially backed by one of the richest people in Oregon. How is that a wise use of taxpayer money??????

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          • Matt Pennington August 10, 2017 at 10:31 am

            Can you point to the legislative text that outlines these projects I can’t find them on the legislative tracker and where it says the money from this bill would fund these. Thank you.

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          • wsbob August 11, 2017 at 8:19 am

            Maus…you posted a list of items you’re saying have been included in the transportation package bill. Now please continue to explain when they were inserted into the transportation package bill relative to the handful of bills Gov Brown has picked out for veto.

            “…HOUSE BILL 5006
            HB 5006 determines amounts authorized for issuance of general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, certificates of participation and other financing agreements for the 2017-2019 biennium. Governor Brown will veto appropriations outlined in Section 83 for the SW Capitol Highway road project in Portland.

            “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.” …” http://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=2204

            Brown is saying, it seems, that unlike all the other projects in the package, these four items weren’t inserted into the package in a manner that allowed them to be evaluated in careful, bipartisan negotiation. This is central to her explanation for dropping them from the package.

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 11, 2017 at 8:31 am

              Hi wsbob,

              I don’t know anything about the three other projects she is vetoing… but there has been reporting that they are tied to a legislator she has a beef with.

              And as for your last question about the project having time to be evaluated in a bipartisan way… That is a completely inappropriate and incorrect calculation by the governor. As stated in the post, the SW Capitol Hwy project has undergone more evaluation and vetting than any other transpo project this session. And beyond its long history of planning, the project was passed by an overwhelming majority and it had to survive the Ways and Means Committee – which is known as a bipartisan committee that looks closely at all expenditures before voting to suppor them.

              Someone gave the Governor bad advice on this one. I think once she realizes the oversight, she’ll renounce her veto plans. fingers crossed.

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              • wsbob August 12, 2017 at 11:17 pm

                “…As stated in the post, the SW Capitol Hwy project has undergone more evaluation and vetting than any other transpo project this session. …” maus/bikeportland

                Before the legislature as a project included in the transportation budget package? She’s quoted in the oregon.gov posting, as saying:

                “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.”

                It shouldn’t be too complicated to find out when this project was included in the package. Since she’s contemplating vetoing this project based on her feeling the project didn’t receive from the legislature, the bipartisan consideration,etc, it should, it figures she must have some idea of when the project was included in the package, where the legislative body would have had opportunity to consider it as part of the transportation package budget.

                People may have worked on the project for some time before it was introduced into the bill. From the story and some people’s comments, it does sound like this did happened. What I read from her quote, is that Gov Brown isn’t taking issue with this, but is taking issue with the project not having been included in the package with the amount of advance timing she believes is necessary for the legislature to do its thing with it.

                At least, that’s what I think she’s saying, but from a one sentence quote from her on why she’s planning to veto the project, I can’t be sure. I’d ask her, if I thought I could get a response.

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    • Chris August 9, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      So the bill that made Oregon the first state to tax bicycles is now the reason for stopping a bike lane and sidewalk project? The bill that keeps on giving. I am very disappointed in the governor.

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      • rick August 10, 2017 at 7:08 am

        and a stormwater project with improved TriMet access

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    • canuck August 10, 2017 at 8:41 am

      It was a deal made to get a Republican to vote for the package. Without that vote the entire package was going to fail. This type of pork is how politics works.

      Governor Brown would be wise to rethink the veto, considering how many bills will require a minimum of Republican backing to pass the current state house/senate. Who will want to negotiate with the Democrats if deals made will be tossed.

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      • wsbob August 11, 2017 at 8:26 am

        “It was a deal made to get a Republican to vote for the package. Without that vote the entire package was going to fail. …” canuck

        Just a theory, no facts, relative to Brown’s plan to veto the four projects? It’s a theory that sounds though, like something that might have factored into the Gov Brown’s decision to veto. Might have. A bit more explanation from the Gov might help clear things up.

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        • canuck August 14, 2017 at 7:25 am

          My bad got the deal a bit mixed up. The vote was for the health plan, but the projects were part of that deal.

          “The Medford Republican, who announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection, said House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, struck a deal under which Esquivel would vote for the health tax plan, House Bill 2391, in exchange for lawmakers providing money for three projects in his district.”

          http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/08/kate_brown_signals_she_will_ve.html

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          • wsbob August 14, 2017 at 12:01 pm

            canuck…fairly good article, thanks for posting the link. Sounds to me as though Rep Esquivel is grasping at straws to presume gov Brown deciding to veto the three projects in his district(inserted into the transportation budget bill.), is retribution for him joining with a couple other lawmakers to try put a bunch of the health care bill before the voters in a referendum.

            This business of arm twisting, expectation of favors, indulging in feeling personally offended and in having hurt feelings, gets a little ridiculous. I think many people of the voting public would prefer the lawmakers to stop fooling around with the silly kids’ stuff, and get serious about more effectively and sincerely making efforts to meet the needs of the public they serve.

            I’m sure the projects in Esquivel’s district in southern Oregon, Medford, the theater restoration, the ballpark, and the irrigation project, all are probably projects worthy of public funding…as is the Capitol Hwy project in Portland (which I know personally from having ridden and driven it, is a mess long in need of clearing up.). From the point of view of the public…I’m seeing them feel increasingly stressed about major budgets like the transportation budget, and health care, continue to grow and grow and grow to alarming amounts.

            All these little favor projects the lawmakers want to tuck into the big budget bills, contribute to those bills’ increasing size. That’s something the governor has got to be concerned about. Brown, near as I can tell from the brief statement, isn’t knocking the four projects she reportedly is planning to veto from the transportation budget. Sounds more to me that what she really hopes the legislators will do, is have these little projects be introduced to the legislature in a manner that will allow that body to consider those projects on their own merit, with a greater degree of independence than may be possible when the projects are obliged to be included in a big budget bill in exchange for votes from certain lawmakers.

            A certain amount of the favor exchange process is acceptable, but someone has got to draw the line somewhere. I think the public is tired of this horsin’ around some of the lawmakers engage in. The Capitol Hwy project, at least is a transportation type project. So, that could give Brown some wiggle room to go ahead and reconsider her intent to veto it. If…though it reportedly had extensive committee and subcommittee consideration…it wasn’t slipped into the overall transportation funding budget at the very last moment so that the other legislators would have had to give the bill a ‘go’, without giving much consideration at all to the The Capitol Hwy project.

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  • SD August 9, 2017 at 9:05 pm

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

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    • rick August 9, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      Not sure. I just know it is time to place a fee on metal studded car tires and get some legit leadership in this state.

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    • Jeff August 10, 2017 at 6:57 am

      It all looks so simple from the comments section.

      Even the best sausage contains some gristle.

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      • SD August 10, 2017 at 8:58 am

        Also easy to be overly dismissive in the comments section. But, since you seem to have very special insights, how much gristle was in the transportation package and how is this veto justified?

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      • Matt Pennington August 10, 2017 at 10:32 am

        If the comments section attempted to pass any form of legislation the capitol and half the state would probably be on fire and the every government worker would probably be on strike.

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        • SD August 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

          Instead of pointing out the obvious, internet comments are not how we make and pass legislation, why don’t you make a case for the veto?

          Elected officials and their staff often bemoan how hard it is negotiate, compromise and make hard principled decisions. Many professionals have to do the same and have done much better to establish ethical and professional standards. They also don’t justify their failures by saying their jobs are too hard.

          The obvious, often overlooked, problem is that many of our state legislators are not capable of making complex policy decisions and do not seek out adequate expertise to help them make these decisions.

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  • EH August 9, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    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.

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  • Keith August 9, 2017 at 10:11 pm

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

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  • Big Knobbies August 9, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    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.

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    • Chris I August 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      There is no logic in this line of reasoning.

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  • peejay August 10, 2017 at 9:25 am

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

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    • rick August 10, 2017 at 10:53 am

      yes, but only if people care. the only locally-owned grocery store in this far side of SW is right by Barbur at Taylor’s Ferry, Barbur World Woods.

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  • Roger Averbeck August 10, 2017 at 11:25 am

    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

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    • rick August 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Was it also in the Tryon Stephens Plan ?

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  • Brett August 10, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    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

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    • rick August 10, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      Either way, somebody dropped the ball on this state funding.

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  • Dan Meek August 10, 2017 at 6:28 pm
    • Dan Meek August 12, 2017 at 11:34 pm

      We have over 250 signatures now. Need more, asap!

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  • David Hampsten August 10, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    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.

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