Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 11th, 2017 at 5:18 pm
Former Portland Mayor Vera Katz has died at age 84. She was a three-term mayor who led our city from 1993 to 2005.
As reported by The Willamette Week, she was Portland’s “last successful mayor.”
“Some naysayers scorned the idea that anyone would want to ride next to the freeway. Vera Katz didn’t even ride a bike and we know she didn’t drive. But she had transportation vision!”
— Sarah Bott, communications director for Vera Katz from 2001-2004
I moved to Portland in 2004 and didn’t get involved much in local politics until 2005, so I just missed her tenure. But I know based on what she left behind that she was a very consequential person. And I know exactly what the Willamette Week means based on the one-term mayors we’ve had since. (And she was also our last non-male mayor, so maybe there’s a lesson there?)
When I heard the news this morning, the first thing I thought of was the Esplanade; I mean the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. From its floating path on the Willamette to its grandiose ramps up to Peace Park, the Esplanade still stands out in Portland because its uncompromising quality and vision puts bicycling and walking at the top of the pedestal. Katz wasn’t a transportation expert, but she knew right from wrong. As shared by Portland State University Library today, even as a political newbie in 1972 she new that better public transit and “an end to freeways built through our residential neighborhoods” were things were fighting for. And as our friend Michael Andersen shared today, as an Oregon State Representative in 1979 she knew when the legislature voted to earmark gas tax revenue solely for maintenance and expansion of highways it was, “A triumph of concrete over the needs of humanity.”
The Esplanade is an inspiring embodiment of her values.
Vera’s Esplanade is arguably the most important bicycling connection in Portland. Its construction and completion happened under her watch. And since 2006 a lifelike statue of Vera Katz on the path near the Hawthorne Bridge has sat and watched thousands of people walk and bike by. That statue has been the meeting spot for countless bike rides and events. I looked through my archives for photos and asked readers to share theirs. Here’s what we’ve found so far…
If you have a bike-related photo of the Vera Katz statue, please send it in and we’ll add it to this post.
Rest in peace, Mayor Katz.
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.