Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s chief of staff has been hired by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. Brendan Finn, who’s worked with Saltzman since 1999, will be Brown’s new transportation policy advisor.
According to a statement released a few minutes ago, Finn, “Will be responsible for policy regarding transportation infrastructure across Oregon, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the implementation of the transportation funding package passed in 2017.” That’s a pretty darn big portfolio. ODOT is a massive agency with about 4,500 employees and an annual budget of nearly $4 billion. The transportation package passed last session includes funding for $5.3 billion in projects and programs.
For the legions of safe streets advocates chomping at the bit for change at ODOT, this is interesting news.
Finn bikes daily to his job at City Hall and holds a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Portland State University. Finn isn’t widely known among BikePortland readers and doesn’t grace these pages very often because Commissioner Saltzman has never played a major role in transportation policy. Saltzman is best known to bike advocates for his unexpected gambit in 2010 to raise $1 million a year from utility fees to help pay for projects in the 2030 Bike Master Plan.
When Saltzman made a surprise visit to the Portland Bureau of Transportation Bicycle Advisory Committee to pitch the idea, he had the “avid cyclist” Finn by his side to give it more credibility.
In 2008 Finn made his own run for a seat on City Council and we cited it as a sign that City Hall was becoming even more bike friendly.
Last year Saltzman was handed the transportation bureau by Mayor Ted Wheeler, giving Finn another opportunity to leave his stamp on the issue. So far Saltzman has been supportive of PBOT initiatives like Vision Zero and Better Naito, but we never did see Finn go out of his way (publicly, at least) to flex his urban planning, bike-loving muscles.
In January we talked to Finn about the absymal state of bike parking in front of City Hall (he doesn’t use it himself because he got a bike stolen from there in 2001). He said, “I think it’s really important for us to have good bike parking because we want people to get here by all forms of transportation — especially active ones like cycling.” (Finn also said he’d look into the issue, but so far no changes have been made.)
Given the sorry state of affairs at ODOT right now, and with Governor Brown’s complete lack of attention to anything other than freight and freeways, having Finn inside the office can only make things better. Stay tuned.
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