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ODOT employee taken off Vision Zero Task Force following Twitter rant

Posted by on October 4th, 2019 at 9:29 am

Tiana Tozer at a PBOT Vision Zero event on September 26th.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A series of tweets last week by a State of Oregon employee has led to her removal from a City of Portland task force.

Following her participation in a Portland Bureau of Transportation Vision Zero event on September 26th, ODOT Region 1 Transportation Safety Coordinator Tiana Tozer turned to Twitter to respond to critics. Many people felt her responses — which included statements like, “Well listen up Stoopid… No matter how much we engineer our streets, some idiot, like you, will still find a way die on them” — were inappropriate, especially for a State of Oregon employee.

“Her replies are exceedingly unprofessional and bordering on offensive and harassing,” one person wrote in an email to ODOT that called for her to be fired. Another person wrote to PBOT Commissioner Eudaly that, “Tozer’s opinions about safety (or the lack thereof) and her vicious attacks on anyone who dares disagree with her are the opposite of what we expect from someone involved with Vision Zero.”

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Commissioner Eudaly agreed. Yesterday her office announced that Tozer would be removed from the Vision Zero Task Force effective immediately (Tozer served on the task force as a representative of ODOT). Emails sent yesterday by Eudaly’s staff in response to complaints stated: “PBOT has been in conversations with ODOT about this issue, and we understand that there will be a new person representing the agency on the Vision Zero Task Force starting in October.”

A current member of the task force who asked to remain anonymous, told us this morning that, “I think Tiana’s posts were concerning and damaging, and I think it was right for the City to review her participation on the VZ task force.”

Jillian Detweiler, executive director of The Street Trust and task force member said she thinks hearing different perspectives about traffic safety issues is important. “However,” she added in a phone call this morning, “I will say those tweets were reprehensible and I think that’s probably the right call for ODOT to remove her.”

ODOT Assistant Communications Manager Katherine Benenati responded to our request for comment this morning by saying, “While we are aware of the concerns raised by members of the public, we cannot comment on personnel matters other than to say the employee remains on active duty status.” A different ODOT employee responded to a reader’s concern via the ASK ODOT hotline by saying, “Please be assured that ODOT is aware of and is investigating the complaint.”

Tozer was hired by ODOT in October 2018 and joined the Vision Zero Task Force in February of this year. In addition to her job at ODOT, Tozer is a speaker and consultant who advocates for people with disabilities. According to her website, she became a traffic safety advocate after suffering serious leg injuries when she was hit by a drunk driver at the age of 20.

CORRECTION: This story originally stated that Tozer had been on the VZ Task Force since February 2017 and that she’d only attended one meeting since then. That was wrong. Tozer was hired by ODOT in October 2018 and was put on the task force in February of this year. She’s attended every meeting since then. I regret the error and any confusion it caused. – Jonathan

— 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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

29 Comments
  • Avatar
    John Lascurettes October 4, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Attended 10% of meetings in a year = not up to the job (in addition to all the other reasons her tweets revealed).

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    • TonyT
      TonyT October 4, 2019 at 10:03 am

      I’d be curious what the attendance rates are for the other ODOT representatives. Bet it isn’t good.

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    2012 October 4, 2019 at 9:45 am

    “Tozer has been on the Vision Zero Task Force since February 2017. According to meeting minutes she’s attended only one out of 10 meetings since then.”

    Given what a major contributor to local traffic violence ODOT facilities are, her absences alone should have gotten her kicked off the Task Force a long time ago.

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    Bjorn October 4, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Her attendance reminds me of some of the people who were on the off road cycling committee. If you are only there to monkey wrench the final product there is no need to show up much until the end.

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    mh October 4, 2019 at 10:19 am

    I fear her replacement will have the same attitude and fixed opinions, but be more cautious about expressing them.

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    J_R October 4, 2019 at 10:21 am

    I wonder how Ms. Tozer can to be a “speaker, author, and consultant” (see her website) in addition to an ODOT employee. Hopefully it’s been thoroughly vetted by her managers and HR at ODOT and has been determined to be on the up-and-up.

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    Phil Richman October 4, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Jonathan, I too serve on the VZ Task Force (BAC Delegate) and only question the supposed 10 meetings since February 2017. I know I have missed a small number of them, but it has been my experience that the Task Force started out with great fanfare, but has since dwindled intentionally by PBOT. Meetings were initially expected to be quarterly, but have been cut back to bi-annually. Perhaps Jillian can provide her perspective too. I am hopeful that PBOT doesn’t really need much citizen advice on Vision Zero. They already know where people are getting killed and more importantly have the tools to remedy. What they don’t have is the “political will.” We need to elect leaders who enable the political will for Vision Zero to thrive.

    That all being stated, I was in a meeting with Ms. Tozer at least once where I felt very uncomfortable with her remarks. Regardless of the need or use of the Task Force for PBOT I hope ODOT can appoint a more appropriate representative.

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    cmh89 October 4, 2019 at 11:10 am

    While ODOT can’t and shouldn’t fire her for her views expressed as a private citizen, I think it’s alarming that she somehow got hired as Safety Coordinator. Did she not have an interview? The options here are that she either lied about her views on traffic safety, ODOT didn’t ask her about her views on traffic safety, or they asked and she answered and they thought her answers about “personal responsibility” were what they were looking for. Its a sad state that the best possible option is the one where she lied, but I doubt thats what happened.

    This feels like she said the part she’s not supposed to say out loud, out loud.

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      Dan A October 4, 2019 at 11:24 am

      ODOT’s views on traffic safety seem to be 1) scare the crap out of VRUs until everyone is in a car 2) rake in the money on highway projects.

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      John Lascurettes October 4, 2019 at 12:14 pm

      It’s a committee not a salaried position. She definitely should have been dismissed. She wasn’t doing the work and clearly neither understood what or how VZ works.

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        cmh89 October 4, 2019 at 12:18 pm

        I was referring to her employment as a Safety Coordinator for ODOT. She should definitely be removed from the Vision Zero task force. To be fair to her, her viewpoints seem to be in line with how “Vision Zero” is being implemented. PBOT management are masterminds behind “cheering for traffic”, which is in actuality far worse than her comments.

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      Chris I October 4, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      I mean, she’s clearly passionate about safety. She just has very wrong opinions about what it will take to fix the problems we face. From her history, it sounds like these were born out of a traumatic experience. Probably not the level-head you want on a VZ panel.

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        Kristi Finney-dunn October 5, 2019 at 9:19 pm

        I was on the panel after a traumatic experience (death of my son) and feel I was pretty level- headed (although even one of the people I respected most told me I was wrong about wanting more enforcement). But I also think there is a HUGE difference between a person who survived and thrived and a person who lost a loved one who never had a chance.

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    JJJ October 4, 2019 at 11:16 am

    “hearing different perspectives about traffic safety issues is important.”

    No, not really. There’s no point in inviting a climate change denier to a work-group on climate change mitigation.

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      Dan A October 4, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      The point is to dismantle the organization from the inside. Just look at Trump’s cabinet!

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    Craig Giffen October 4, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Wait, you mean they actually “enforced” and “took immediate action” on something? I expected them to just print out some tri-fold pamphlets and signs asking employees to not engage in this sort of Twitter behavior.

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  • The eBike Store
    The eBike Store October 4, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    One of the difficulties in this era is that we can hit ‘send’ or ‘submit’ and reach a broad audience, even when being just out of surgery and doped up. Tina had just come out of her 36th surgery when she posted that.

    I deeply desire both safe streets and a civil society.

    Additionally, I know that when I am frustrated or angry with myself I tend to easily become frustrated with those around me, most of my frustration really has nothing to do with them… It is just how I am seeing the world at the moment.

    If I had gone through 36 surgeries for the same issue, I might feel like nothing is ever going to change and become depressed, angry – who knows how I might express these emotions. Having experienced deep depression, I have and still might might post something antithetical to my most deeply held values. Please extend the same grace that I would hope you might extend to me to Tina as well. We are a community.

    Note: my comments are from a community member point of view and not her employer.

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    • Avatar
      Fred October 4, 2019 at 1:50 pm

      That’s a nice thought – thank you. But she still has no business making decisions about the safety and well-being of her fellow citizens – not in a VZ task force and not at ODOT.

      It’s akin to what my relatives from the Midwest say about Trump: “He’s a crazy old man and he’s Trump being Trump.” Okay – fine. Then he should be in a care home where he can be cared for, not threatening the well-being of everyone on the planet.

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    pdx2wheeler October 4, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Someone with Zero Vision is on the Vision Zero Task Force, and we wonder it’s failing…

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    Jim Lee October 4, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    I nominate Tina Turner!

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    The Dude October 4, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    I hate to say this, but I think the time has come: Tozer clearly is not very bright, not just in her obviously uninformed and wrong-headed opinions about something where she allegedly has some subject matter expertise, but also in her understanding of what decorum is required of a professional working for a public body.

    Unfortunately, this kind of willful or negligent cognitive intransigence (trying to avoid being blocked for a personal insult), abject negativity, and bullying has become an epidemic in America. The government and the rest of society is filled with people like Tozer, though they are definitely a minority in this part of the world. People like her do not belong in positions of public trust, or any positions of prominence in our society.

    I’m very glad she was relieved of duty and ever-appreciative of Jonathan’s role in bringing this sort of thing to the public’s attention.

    I’ve been reading about ODOT and PBOT and task forces and plans and city politics and right-wing bicyclist-haters from rural Oregon for over a decade on this website (and others). But nothing really seems to change. People are still afraid t ride their bikes on the road for fear of being run down by victim-blamers like Tozer. People are still dying on our roads. And the active transportation share of commuters is no longer growing in this city.

    So what does this task force matter anyway? Does it matter whether it’s filled with people like Tozer or people like Jonathan?

    It seems to me that people who want change, who want the roads to be open to all without undue fear of death, will eventually give up on the PBOT task forces and the other bureaucratic nonsense and start trying to do something else. Because what’s happening now isn’t changing anything. The Tozers of the world, and those who sit on their organs of public pacification, are leading us nowhere.

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      Toby Keith October 4, 2019 at 8:14 pm

      Sounds a lot like Chloe Eudaly.

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        The Dude October 6, 2019 at 6:51 am

        Try thinking outside the box a little further.

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          Toby Keith October 7, 2019 at 6:59 pm

          Not necessary with our one dimensional city leadership.

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            The dude October 8, 2019 at 8:39 am

            Sure. And it will all be under water in 50 years anyway, right?

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    Suburban October 4, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Can anyone name an official “task force”( must include these words) that is measurably successful?

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    Jim Lee October 4, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    “Task Force” is a military term, principally naval, for a collection of assets, say ships, organized to achieve a specific limited goal. A “fleet” is a large permanent general organization.

    In WWII there were many successful task forces.

    Jonathon published a photograph of many people sitting around a large arrangement of tables that allegedly was of the VZ “Task force.” He claimed they were “Vision Zero experts,” but offered no support for the assertion.

    When I worked in research and development for the Navy we had a saying: “Do not start vast projects with fractionally vast ideas.”

    Go figure.

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      The Dude October 6, 2019 at 6:50 am

      Face it, Walter, it doesn’t have anything to do with Vietnam.

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