BikePortland

Great news: The Portland Business Alliance has picked a new president and CEO


Andrew Hoan.
(Photo: Portland Business Alliance)

The Portland Business Alliance (PBA) will have a new leader by this summer. Andrew Hoan has been hired to take over the reins from current PBA President Sandra McDonough, who has held the position for 14 years.

Hoan is currently head of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in New York City. He’s set to take over for McDonough in Portland effective June 18th

The departure of McDonough and the hiring of someone with a clean slate is big news for transportation reformers and safe streets advocates. The PBA under McDonough has long been a thorn in the side of progress for active transportation. Much of their influence takes place behind closed doors and never becomes public, but when they have taken stands, they have not been supportive of significant cycling-related projects.

In 2010 McDonough could only offer limited support for the Bicycle Master Plan. In a letter of feedback to PBOT, she shared concerns that the city’s Green Transportation Hierarchy prioritzed biking and walking infrastructure over cars and trucks. She also called out, “bicyclists who do not know — or choose not to obey — traffic rules,” and strongly advocated for taxing bicycle users in order to, “share some of the burden of paying for the infrastructure they use.”

Two years later, the PBA effectively killed a major bikeway upgrade on SW 12th Avenue by rallying business owners to protest the PBOT project before it ever really got off the ground.

And who can forget McDonough’s strong opposition to the Better Naito project? She was behind an attempt to organize opposition to the wildly successful reconfiguration of Naito Parkway. She penned a letter to PBOT Commissioner Saltzman saying, “We do not support its implementation generally and this summer in particular,” and that it was an example of, “projects that seem designed to inhibit mobility for the vast majority of system users.” Unfortunately for McDonough her anti-Better Naito campaign backfired miserably. It ended up spurring even more support for the project.

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McDonough’s opposition to Better Naito was even at odds with the Board Chair of her own organization. We pointed that out in May 2017 and posited that the competing stances were symbolic of changes not only at the PBA but of Portland in general.

There’s good reason to believe that will change under Hoan, a Wisconsin native who will move here with his wife Karina Hoan and their young son.

“I look forward to working closely with the talented staff at the Alliance, our members and our external stakeholders,” Hoan said in an official statement. “To ensure that the quality of life that is so highly valued across this diverse area is supported and preserved as Portland and Oregon continue to prosper.”

And he’s got a Masters in Urban Planning from NYU to back that up.

I reached out to sources in Brooklyn who’ve worked with Hoan and they say he “gets it.” One person who’s known him for several years told us he, “Understands getting people to bike and walk and the role they play in development… He understands intuitively the connection between transportation and land-use.” The source said Hoan and his Chamber of Commerce didn’t take a leading role in safe streets or transit advocacy because he had to toe a centrist line while balancing many interests. “I thought he missed some opportunities,” the acquaintance shared with me. “But he’s the type of guy that — in a place like Portland — might be willing to move a little bit more if he’s pushed.” And he added (take note local activists): “I don’t think any of the advocates here ever called him out on anything; but he’s one of those guys that, if he has political cover, he’ll move. But he won’t go out on a ledge… The best way to describe it is he understands the connections, but he needs to be pushed a bit.”

And for what it’s worth, Hoan lives in downtown Brooklyn. “He lives in a transit-oriented development… a real urbanist lifestyle… And I’m not even sure he owns a car,” our source shared. “He’s got the city in his heart.”

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

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