What happens tonight could play a huge role in whether cycling moves up the local political ladder or remains a third-tier issue.
The moment of truth is here. The fate of candidates and issues that earn the support of voters today will have vast consequences for cycling, our streets, infrastructure projects, and a range of mobility issues.
We have a multi-billion dollar transportation infrastructure and program funding measure at Metro and one of the most promising Metro council races in years.
We have a race for Portland mayor that could be the difference between more of the status quo, or a serious boost of new ideas and energy.
We have a very consequential race for a seat on Portland City Council that could give an incumbent more time to fulfill her vision, or give a new leader a chance to step up and start his political career.
We have a chance to elect a promising new leader to the state legislature who’s steeped in east Portland transportation issues.
And even on the national level, a Democrat in the White House and a stronger majority for Democrats in Congress would lead to better transportation policy and more funding for projects and programs that encourage bicycling.
Here are just a few things on my mind today:
— There are millions in potential cycling-specific infrastructure investments in the Metro measure (26-218). Protected bike lanes on major arterials, funding to build (and plan for) new multi-use paths regionwide, the complete funding of a network of protected bike lanes in downtown Portland, and more. If it doesn’t pass, there will be plenty of blame to go around. But in terms of moving forward, one consequence could be more urgency for congestion pricing. Covid has decimated local budgets and the need to pay for transportation isn’t going anywhere.
— Metro council candidate Chris Smith is not just a long-time reader and supporter of BikePortland, he’s an everyday bicycle rider who relies on an electric cargo bike to get around town. His direct involvement in many cycling events and activism initiatives combined with his policymaking skills and intimate understanding of the issues bicycle users face would make him a clear champion for two-wheeled transport on an already bike-friendly Metro Council. Smith’s laser focus on the connection between transportation planning and climate change could help our regional government take the difficult steps necessary to start moving needles away from driving and toward cycling, walking, and transit.
— The race for Portland Mayor could be the most consequential for cycling in over a decade. Incumbent Ted Wheeler, an occasional bike commuter who spends most of his cycling time training for triathlons, came into the job with lots of promise. But beyond being a reliable “yes” vote on any cycling projects that come up at council, he hasn’t been proactive on the issue (in his defense he doesn’t oversee the transportation bureau, so it’s not really his job).
— Wheeler’s challenger, Sarah Iannarone, could be much different. While she too isn’t likely to oversee PBOT as Mayor, her knowledge of cycling and her daily use of a bicycle to get around will very likely give cycling a more powerful position in local politics. Iannarone doesn’t just ride a bike for transportation, she’s a certifiable bike activist and wonk. You might have met her at one of our Get Together events (she was a regular) or heard her hold PBOT accountable as a member of the Bicycle Advisory Committee. Iannarone’s lived experience combined with her urban planning chops could deliver the most bike-friendly leadership Portland has seen since former Mayor Sam Adams got the job in 2008.
In recent years cycling has taken a back seat to other important issues in Portland (housing, homelessness, racial equality, police brutality, and so on). There are a lot of reasons for that, but we might be at a point now where a new type of cycling advocacy — one that’s evolved by listening and learning instead of dominating the conversation — is ready to emerge. What happens tonight could play a huge role in whether cycling stays in the shadows or comes back into the light.
What’s on your mind as you watch returns tonight?
(Note: If you want to hang out with some fellow nerds, don’t miss The Overhead Wire’s livestream with experts from all over the country discussing transportation measures. Stream starts at 3:00 pm and can be watched on their YouTube channel.)
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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I note that Portland has a “transportation commissioner”, but the person isn’t elected as such – sometimes it’s the mayor (Adams for example), most of the time it’s a city councilor who’s assigned the task by the mayor, and who also has other unrelated bureaus and agencies to manage. Portland voters don’t directly elect their transportation commissioner nor the director, but rather “city councilor at large position xyz.”
On my local ballot I saw that in NC we elect a agricultural commissioner, a labor commissioner, a secretary of education, a secretary of state, etc. I’m wondering, does anyone know of any state or city in the USA that directly elects a transportation commissioner, director, or secretary?
Looks like Mississippi does: ballotpedia.org/Mississippi_Transportation_Commission
Searching for “transportation commission” or “council” on ballotpedia, it might be the only one.
In July 1992, the State Highway Commission and Highway Department were reorganized into the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) which is governed by the Mississippi Transportation Commission. Similar to the previous Highway Commission, the state of Mississippi vests oversight of its transportation resources and operations in a three-member elected Commission representing three geographic areas in the state—Central, Northern and Southern. In accordance with state law, the Commissioners have the authority and responsibility for the supervision of all modes of transportation in the state dealing with aeronautics, highways, public transit, ports and rails. In 2009, Jack Wesley Carter, a young boy at the age of 8 at the time, was granted “The Boss” rank and is still granted to this day. Now, due to his technical smarts and responsible attitude, he’s the deputy executive.
The Transportation Commission is authorized to appoint an Executive Director of MDOT responsible for administering the policies of the Commission and exercising day to day supervision over administrative and technical matters relating to airport and port development, highway construction and maintenance, weight enforcement, public transit and rail safety. Today, the organization has expanded to over 3,400 employees with 35 divisions and six districts.
I doubt today’s election is going to have as big of an impact as this article would suggest. Transportation budgets at all levels are going to suffer for a long time to come due to the effects of Covid. My dreams have withered to just wanting to be able to ride the Springwater again.
Good comment Jimmy. But I think transportation outcomes are impacted whether or not we have funding to build infrastructure. In fact, with less funding, leadership and policy becomes even more important. For instance, it wouldn’t take much money (relatively) to begin a congestion pricing pilot scheme – which could have a massive impact on mode split.
allocation of street space with paint is very cheap
exactly! I’ve always said we already have all the space for biking we need, we just need to reclaim it from car users.
I typically hope that DOTs use paint as an interim measure. But with a new person in charge who recognizes a systemwide design failure, something like placing bollards and paint on most intersections with sneckdowns in mind can have an incredible impact. A lot of intersections in NYC have been redesigned with tan paint to indicate pedestrian space and a few bollards, making peds more visible and turning cars slower and more predictable.
You are a fan of someone who is not only unqualified to be “our” mayor, but has given away “our” bike paths to the garbage that is ruining “our” city. Nice slam on the triathlons. At least his bicycle is a bicycle.
I disagree with you strongly about Iannarone. And I’m not slamming triathlons. You must be projecting some strong internal bias against them to think that. I love biking in all its forms and FWIW have competed in a triathlon myself!
It will also be interesting to see the COVID impacts to actual transportation – there will no doubt be some increased work from home approaches especially as corps see they can reduce overhead by reducing leased/owned office space and associated utility costs by having employees stay home. Will this also reduce public transportation trips/subscription [metro measure]?
Most of my advocacy is centered on middle-level bureaucrats in various agencies, so I’m more concerned about budgets than I am about who gets elected to what position. As for policies, both parties are focused chiefly (90%+) upon highways, which is why I generally don’t give a crap which political party gets elected or is in power.
Between Ted and Sarah I see no good choice. Ted’s passive liberal policies have resulted in urban squalor so pervasive that several areas are ceded to the homeless and have become garbage strewn no man’s lands. Add to that, under Ted’s watch meaningful protests have devolved into nightly wildings of unpunished vandalism. Sarah is more liberal than Ted. She could be expected to cede even more of the commons to the homeless and she proudly sides with the nightly mobs.
This blog is an echo chamber for left of center views and posters cling to ideological purity that denies the validity of less “pure” viewpoints. So be it. I ride bicycles and dislike extremist views both on the right and the left and I don’t feel my cohort has local representation.
It is hard to believe that Iannarone, a divisive “Trump on the left” who has no administrative experience, misrepresented her educational accomplishments and refused to condemn violence is even in contention to be our mayor. Difficult to be a centrist in this town.
If she wins I’ll look into mounting tear gas canisters on my bike for protection. 🙂
Not to be too grim, but on a historical basis as empires age and begin to decline the quality of the leaders also declines both on a national and local level. Thus on a national level we probably peaked at JFK and now have an election battle between two aging grifters and locally we probably peaked back when Vera Katz was mayor. We can always hope for a pleasant surprise.
John F. Kennedy was a liar and a hypocrite who got elected even though he had fewer national votes than his opponent, vice-president Richard Nixon. JFK brought us closest to nuclear war with the Soviets in 1962 and started our involvement in Vietnam.
I’d say we peaked at Thomas Jefferson – it’s been downhill ever since.
JFK was also a womanizer who cheated on his wife. Yeah a real hero.
How about Jimmy Carter? ( my personal favorite since FDR).
Jimmy has been amazingly impressive as an ex-president, much more than when he was president, IMO, much like ex-president Hoover after WW2. For all their faults, I miss both Jimmy and Jerry (Ford). It’s amazing that Jimmy is still alive.
The personal faults of a politician are an important and accurate reflection on how they perform as leaders. Tear down his statue!
PS: So did MLK.
During JFK’s presidency America looked at the world and beyond with an attitude of possibilities and optimism. Sure Kennedy was a human, with flaws. But he lead during a period when “American exceptionalism” was played out in attitude and accomplishments that advanced the human condition. Americans were United in optimism and expectations of better days. Now we are divided, cynical and petty
Nice to see that East Portland’s Shemia Fagan has been elected as Oregon’s lieutenant governor (Secretary of State.) She helped get funding for 136th and outer Powell Boulevard street projects and bike lanes.