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Guest Opinion: I’m Steve Novick and I endorse Andrea Valderrama for Portland City Council

Posted by on April 27th, 2018 at 9:17 am

Former Commissioner Steve Novick at a 2016 event and Andrea Valderrama at a candidate forum earlier this month.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Steve Novick was a Portland City Commissioner from 2013 to 2017.

After having the pleasure of having her serve on my staff for nearly four years as city commissioner, today I’m writing to the readers of BikePortland.org to explain my support and endorsement for Andrea Valderrama for the Portland City Council race. Quite simply, my experience of working with her has left me convinced she is the candidate you should vote for if you’re interested in improvements to the safety and livability of our streets, our region’s ongoing housing crisis, and how these issues relate to climate change, public health and equity.

This is a candidate who has spent time in the trenches, can speak the alphabet soup of acronyms and jargon, and fundamentally understands the imperative to reconfigure our streets for better outcomes.

As you may recall, I spent three-and-a-half years as Transportation Commissioner, and was proud of my pro-bike record. I think Andrea’s skillset and background uniquely match up with the requirements of the job, not to mention the specific challenges Portland faces – and that for bike advocates, as well as other champions of truth and justice, she is the best choice.

As I wrote in Willamette Week last year, Portland’s unique Commission form of government creates some perverse incentives for politicians and bureaus that stymie genuinely thoughtful attempts to improve the provision of municipal services. I suspect many of you reading this blog are somewhat familiar with the learning process I underwent as PBOT and I fought for more funding to address thirty years of deferred road maintenance, greater investment in safe routes to schools, and investments in sidewalks in East Portland. As my “liaison to East Portland,” Andrea played a key role in ensuring that I heard from the right people and pushed the East Portland priorities that citizen activists had been working on for years.

I’m proud of our accomplishments (launching Biketown, passing the gas tax and a Vision Zero resolution among them). But traffic fatalities continue to rise, congestion’s getting worse, and we still have plenty of potholes to fill.

On a five-person city council, where each Commissioner is directly accountable to specific public, private and nonprofit sector constituents related to their bureau, the art of “getting to three” can be difficult, particularly if your initiative entails upending the status quo and moving more power to historically disenfranchised groups like tenants, working class folks, and/or east Portlanders. There is always a strong constituency for the status quo, but I believe the Commission form of government makes that worse: Commissioners primarily concerned about “their” bureaus aren’t willing to take risks on behalf of “someone else’s bureau.”

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My experience colors my understanding of the sort of competent, policy-wonk, justice-minded, results-driven leadership that is necessary to be successful. It’s easy enough to serve up platitudes and bromides about the extent to which a candidate would be a “champion” for housing affordability, a ‘transportation system that serves everyone,’ police accountability, equality and justice. But it takes wisdom, guts and an understanding of nuance to win those three votes – let alone build a strong, broad coalition for anything that needs to go to the voters.

Time and again she has proven herself more than capable, and wise beyond her years at navigating bureaucracies, community advocates, and policy wonkery.

Fortunately, anyone that’s worked with her can tell you: Andrea has the wisdom, has the guts, and understands the nuances. If you read her responses to the questions posed at last month’s transportation forum, it’s evident this is a candidate who has spent time in the trenches of these conversations, can speak the alphabet soup of acronyms and jargon among the best of them, and fundamentally understands not only the imperative to reconfigure our streets for better outcomes, but also the ways and means do so.

Andrea worked with me to craft the deal we made with TriMet to improve sidewalks and crosswalks on or adjacent to 122nd Avenue, and TriMet agreed to improve service on that route. This sort of governing work is unsexy, arduous, and rarely appreciated. We had to engage and negotiate with a separate governmental entity, listen empathetically and respectfully to diverse community voices, work with PBOT’s bean counters anxious about which projects we’d choose to fund with new revenue, and deliberately prioritize valuable time and political capital for justice-minded, cost-efficient outcomes. Her collaborative work with the East Portland Action Plan, TriMet, and PBOT helped ensure that the city would fund the necessary infrastructure so that East Portland would finally move toward a frequent-service north/south bus line for the first time in decades.

I also relied on Andrea in the Foster Streetscape project [which will start construction this summer]. Although I always thought it was a good project, I delayed it when I realized our community outreach had not been extensive enough to reach historically underrepresented communities. Andrea worked with PBOT not only to expand our outreach and engagement on that project, but to revamp PBOT’s approach to outreach and community engagement in general. The Foster Road project is going ahead, improving traffic safety and neighborhood livability, with broad community buy-in.

Andrea’s leadership, thoughtfulness and project management skills are easily recognized by any set of community advocates that have had the pleasure of working with her. She’s been a dedicated voice for change at the David Douglas School District, where she serves as a Board Member. Among other achievements, she got a unanimous vote for expanded birth control services. She’s likewise received accolades from her work in the Mayor’s office on the Sanctuary City resolution. Time and again she has proven herself more than capable, and wise beyond her years at navigating bureaucracies, community advocates, and policy wonkery.

When I asked Andrea recently about her vision for bicycling, she immediately said that she would like to find a way to extend Safe Routes to School bicycle education programs to adults. She said that to many low-income people, buying and servicing a bike seems like one more expense that they can’t afford. It isn’t obvious to many people that if you bike more, you save money by avoiding the cost of gas and wear-and-tear on a car, or even TriMet tickets. That’s not a comment that I’d heard before, from any politician, and it reflects Andrea’s unique background and perspective.

A city commissioner by herself can’t promise to immediately implement a permanent Better Naito, all of PBOT’s proposed Enhanced Transit Corridors, fight ODOT’s senseless freeway expansion, or raise taxes on the wealthy to fund Youthpass. That level of Sim City-esque dictatorship is simply not within the job description (again, the whole thing about Getting to Three Votes, for starters). But a city commissioner can govern in such a manner that the advocates, rabblerousers, and community members desperately clamoring for full fledged solutions to our housing, transportation, and police accountability woes can be confident that the Commissioner doesn’t just agree with their principles but has a chance of implementing them in practice. I’m confident Andrea will deliver.

— Steve Novick


Publisher’s note:

Valderrama is running for City Council position number three. Learn more about all the candidates here. For more coverage don’t miss our recap of the recent candidate forum on transportation. For another look at this race, read the Willamette Week’s endorsement of Valderrama’s competitor Jo Ann Hardesty.

If anyone else has endorsements they’d like to publish, drop a line and we’ll consider it.

– Jonathan Maus

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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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Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I have to say I wish that this race was using Instant Runoff Voting because I feel like there is a candidate I really like, a candidate I feel pretty good about, and a couple candidates I really don’t like. I’d prefer a system where we ranked them instead of just having to pick one and only one which might result in my two favored candidates splitting the vote and someone that many people don’t want at all slipping in.

me
Guest

I want to see JoAnn Hardesty win, or I want to see a runoff between JoAnn and Andrea. I of course want to see Smith lose.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Her positions show that she is the most well rounded candidate for this position. We have enough “out there” folks on the city council already. I’m voting for her. Hardesty appears to be clueless about transportation. Smith is a train wreck based on her abuse of her staff. The rest of the bunch are nut jobs.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Is this an endorsement from contrite progressive Steve Novick or a regression to Commissioner Steve Novice?

SD
Subscriber

I’ve been super impressed with everything I’ve heard from Valderrama and it appears that the positions she is taking are what she genuinely believes rather than pandering for votes.
I’m also to the point that I feel like “strategic” voting instead of voting for the candidates and policies that I think are best is a bad approach for local elections in the long term because it diminishes support for good ideas in return for immediate gains that often don’t pan out.

Phil Richman
Subscriber

I wish we could have both Valderrama and Hardesty. I hope both will recognize each other as allies post-election regardless of the outcome.

John Mulvey
Guest
John Mulvey

Novick: ‘Commissioners primarily concerned about “their” bureaus aren’t willing to take risks on behalf of “someone else’s bureau.”’

Someone tell me why Commissioners who are only concerned about “their district” instead of “someone else’s district” would be better?

Steve Novick
Guest
Steve Novick

Soren, I went to progressives with the ability to help fund a campaign for a progressive fee for transportation – unions, progressive individuals – and none were interested in funding a campaign. PBA was prepared to spend a bunch to beat it.The polling wasn’t good enough to run a campaign that would be outspent 100 to 1. By contrast I got a surcharge passed on corporations that pay their CEOs more than 100 times what they pay their typical worker because I knew it was popular enough to survive any ballot challenge. That was the only progressive change to portland’s tax system in decades. By contrast I was the only local politician to publicly oppose the regressive arts tax. The idea that I was weak on progressive taxation is absurd.

SafeStreetsPlease
Guest
SafeStreetsPlease

Hardesty’s victim blaming against pedestrians at the last debate was a HUGE red flag for me, so I’m going with Andrea Valderrama. I like Hardesty on other issues, but she is out of touch on transportation when it concerns vulnerable road users. She also said tickets are too punitive. In my view, they’re clearly not punitive enough. If we treated texting and driving like a DUI, since it’s as dangerous as drinking and driving, maybe people would think twice. Hardesty wants more of a slap on the wrist. I find that logic dangerous.

Steve Novick
Guest
Steve Novick

The gas tax passed 52-48 which is not “handily.” We started at 55%. Pollsters he erLky tell you never to go out with a tax that doesn’t start at 60%. We had to run a perfect campaign to win. That’s why Sam Adams didn’t even try.

Noel Mickelberry
Guest
Noel Mickelberry

If you’d like to support Andrea’s campaign, I’m hosting a canvassing event this Saturday from 1pm-4pm! Bring your enthusiasm from the BikePortland comments out to voters in the Rose City Park neighborhood! I agree with the sentiment that the best thing we can do to ensure that a candidate like Valderrama or Hardesty (both awesome) gets into office, is to get people out voting – so I hope everyone who supports either of them puts in some door knocking miles in the next couple weeks!!

https://www.facebook.com/events/367138450454186/?ti=as

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

In the Willamette Week’s endorsement of Jo Ann Hardesty, the publication specifically called out “bikes” as something only white politicians (and presumably constituents) care about and should be something Hardesty should avoid.

http://www.wweek.com/news/2018/04/25/jo-ann-hardesty-says-shes-the-angry-black-woman-portland-city-council-needs-we-agree/

“In America’s whitest big city, where leaders pay lip service to equity and then drift back to bikes and bioswales, Hardesty works from a position of sustained outrage—and appropriately so.”

I was supremely disheartened to see that tired and outdated stereotype pushed by the WWeek staff, though I am not surprised. I tried to comment that bikes are PART of equity… but that’s not a sexy hot take, I suppose. Just more sad evidence of a lack of progressive thinking by so many in this once-great town.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Are people sure that Hardesty will be good on transportation policy? She looks kind of car-oriented to me. As someone whose highest local policy priority is getting cars off the street, I’m pretty afraid of her getting elected. Valderrama seems like maybe a better choice.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Am I the only one insulted by a failed politician’s political endorsement here? I am no journalism ethics expert, but it seems to me like it should be a paid (to Mr. Maus) advertisement, and represented as such. Otherwise, it just compromises a bike blog.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Has Andrea Valderrama had a career outside of goverment? Is her work experience solely or primarily as a city hall staffer? I can’t find a bio for her.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

soren
Wheeler (Valderrama’s current boss).Recommended 8

This bothers me. Regardless of Valderrama’s qualities, electing the Mayor’s employee to council feels like small town-style nepotism and I worry about fostering an inbred sort of council. I’m not saying she would be the Mayor’s mini-me but that concern would always be there.

I’m not a knee-jerk vote for “the outsider” but I’d like to see people from outside of government get into goverment, and people in government go out and mix it up on the outside.

Dave
Guest
Dave

We don’t live in Portland but if we did, I’d be a white MAMIL for Joann Hardesty. She gets too. much stuff right for me to think otherwise.

Jim Le
Guest
Jim Le

This is a superb thread on candidates for a very important election!

There are many points of view well and honestly expressed.

My guess is that the overriding concern of most voters is “tarps and tents on the sidewalks,” but most of the candidates seem not to understand that.

As the only other commenter here other than SN to have stood for office I too have endured WW’s interview sessions. Yes, WW’s folk are biased and emotive. No matter what a candidate says, if those folk do not like you they will ignore your well-thought positions, trivialize a minor remark, and float that out to the public.

Beth Slovic is the worst; read her current political piece in the April issue of Portland Monthly. Beth once was a fine journalist; now she just unloads piles of chips from her shoulders.

The most interesting facet of WW’s endorsement was citing Hardesty’s “anger.” As a baptized and confirmed Christian I hold ANGER to be one of the seven deadly sins, third from the bottom on Dante’s Mount of Purgatory. A sign of the times: deadly sinfulness is highest qualification for public office!