A look back at the transportation legacy of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly

Posted by on December 4th, 2020 at 11:42 am

Eudaly at the launch of Adaptive Biketown event in 2017.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is on the agenda of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) Tuesday night. It will be the final time the BAC hears from the commissioner-in-charge of the transportation bureau and an opportunity for her to cement a legacy. When it comes to cycling, many of us will likely recall a tenure that delivered a lot of promise and solid progress on key issues, but missed out on cycling-specific opportunities.

Here’s a look back at Eudaly’s time as transportation commissioner.

Despite being seated as commissioner in January 2017, Eudaly wasn’t given the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) portfolio by Mayor Ted Wheeler until August 2018. That gave a political newcomer just over two years to steer the PBOT ship, a rather large vessel with over 1,000 employees and an annual budget of $570 million. PBOT is one of the most difficult agencies to oversee not just because of its size, but because how we get around intersects with so many other controversial and emotionally fraught issues such as racism, policing, income/geographic equity, and an entrenched resistance to change the driving-centric status quo. Eudaly also took the helm of PBOT at a time when the transportation issue carried much less political heft than in past eras.

Given this context, Eudaly handled the assignment well. She (and her Chief of Staff Marshall Runkel and Policy Director Jamey Duhamel) plunged into the topic head-first by participating in the widely-respected Portland Traffic and Transportation class at Portland State University. Eudaly also proved early on that just because she didn’t have a deep transportation policy background, she would not be afraid to go up against those who did.

When challenged by a BikePortland reader about her commitment to the issue, she came right into our comments section to defend herself. And months before her runoff election with former U.S. Senate candidate and commissioner Steve Novick, Eudaly successfully pressured him on the issue of making adaptive bikes available as part of Portland’s Biketown bike share system.

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Eudaly on SE 122nd Avenue at her first press conference as PBOT commissioner in September 2018.

Once armed with the confidence and knowledge about how transportation works, Eudaly spoke clearly to Portlanders about the harmful impacts single-occupancy vehicle abuse has on our system and the urgent need to reduce it. In contrast to a transportation agency too often saddled by fear of hurting drivers’ feelings, Eudaly’s candor was important and refreshing. In a May 2019 I shared, “If PBOT is ever going to start riding faster, they need someone like Commissioner Eudaly out front to provide a draft.”

Eudaly was unafraid to oppose the I-5 Rose Quarter project, even though PBOT had spent years cozying up to the Oregon Department of Transportation as a close partner. Eudaly’s concerns about the project grew over time and ultimately led her to take the historic, unprecedented step of withdrawing PBOT’s federal partnership back in October.

That opposition to the Rose Quarter project will outlive Eudaly’s tenure at City Hall. So too will her work on the Rose Lane Project, an effort launched last year to speed up buses with dedicated lanes and other methods.

Eudaly’s bus policies were centered on lowering greenhouse gas emissions and raising the quality of transit service for Black, indigenous, and people of color. Climate change was an obvious way to frame transit upgrades; but Eudaly and her team (led by Policy Director Jamey Duhamel) gave race-specific outcomes a surprisingly powerful role in shaping the policy. That move, based on a burgeoning mobility/transportation justice movement, would prove prescient and appropriate as it came months before local protests erupted after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.

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From PBOT’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

Climate change and racial equity are pillars of the Rose Lane Project, and they’ve now become enshrined as official PBOT policy more broadly. The agency’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan includes two questions PBOT is “always asking”: “Will it advance equity and address structural racism?” and “Will it reduce carbon emissions?”. Those questions became more than empty rhetoric when staff used them to decide against bike lanes on Hawthorne Blvd in a preliminary analysis released in September 2020.

With racial equity and climate change now ahead of Vision Zero as PBOT’s top priority, the Rose Lane Project off-and-running, and buoyed by a rally for the 2030 Bike Plan, Eudaly’s office was ready to focus on cycling in early February this year. The plan was to have a “Council Bike Moment” this past spring at City Hall with Eudaly and her policy staff arm-in-arm with PBOT’s top brass. The agenda included the release of three documents that could help spur the cycling renaissance Portland so desperately needs: a report on the Bicycle Plan for 2030, a report on Portland’s neighborhood greenway network (released last month), and the release of a protected bikeway design guide (which was released in draft form in 2018 but has since vanished).

Then the pandemic hit.

Biking’s big day at City Hall was called off and rescheduled for late October.

As the new Council Bike Moment date approached, Duhamel told the PBOT Bike Advisory Committee it wasn’t ready and needed to be delayed again until spring 2021. Eudaly’s office and PBOT staff wanted the presentation at council to demonstrate work they’d done on racial equity and cycling; but they felt not enough progress had been made. “We made the decision to take the time that is needed, rather than invite BIPOC cyclists to a preset table and risk tokenizing their participation, something that feels more like a show,” Duhamel explained. (I’ll share more on this in a separate post.)

Race has played a huge role in Eudaly’s short political life — especially as it relates to transportation: She faced the complexities and opportunities of race in the Council Bike Moment example above; she oversaw PBOT as it embarked on being an antiracist organization; she made race a central pillar of the Rose Lane Project; racial equity concerns loomed over her delayed decision to create “open streets” when the pandemic hit; it influenced plans for a “Black Lives Matter” street mural; and her striking evolution on the role of police officers in traffic enforcement has everything to do with her own racial reckoning.

Eudaly’s candid, courageous, clear, and policy-driven style through these daunting last two years earned her considerable support in local transportation and cycling advocacy spheres. In the end however, she didn’t do enough to win re-election.

Much like the era Eudaly governed through was complicated, so too remains her legacy. The decision to visit the bike committee Tuesday night shows Eudaly is proud of it. She should be, even though the people around the table never got the big moment they hoped for.

You can attend Tuesday night’s BAC meeting via Zoom. It starts at 6:00. Details here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Hello, Kittyrenter who parks in your parking spaceJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)DYanon Recent comment authors
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Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Editor

Thank you for the article, Jonathan.

Eudaly had some strengths that made her a good fit with PBOT. She’s charismatic, she didn’t shy away from controversy and she sincerely wanted to improve the system. I thought she had the strength and toughness to make big changes. So it was frustrating for me to see her squander her political capital on creating the neighborhood association soap opera. That was a newbie mistake that probably cost her her seat, an unforced error.

I supported Mapps because he said my magic words, “evidence-based policy,” and because he’s got the intellectual chops to follow-through on that. He also understands that getting things done does not have to involve turning people into adversaries.

zuckerdog
Guest
zuckerdog

She also ticked off a lot of landlords with deep pockets.
So I would say that her two biggest political calculus challenges included the NA debacle AND rolling out (a second wave) of rental regulations.

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

She must be appeasing homeless services social enterprises then who have come into a great fortune recently with the newly passed metro homelessness services tax then.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Ha, those are some awfully rosy glasses to remember her time through. I just remember her complete lack of interest in PBOT or cycling. She only embraced cycling when she needed to pander to cycling advocates for votes when it became clear she was going to have a tough re-election run.

Getting around by any mode of transportation be it SOV, bike, transit, or walking, is worse today than it was when she took over. I guess that is technically a legacy.

An ineffective PBOT head going to an ineffective bike advisory committee to try and reshape her terrible legacy is probably peak Portland though.

mran1984
Guest

She does not ride a bike. She believes that parking tickets do not apply to every vehicle. She has no issue screwing over homeowners in regards to sidewalk repair, but illegally parked RV’s litter the city. Yeah, she has zero vision. Oh, would someone please remove those “local” traffic only signs. There are so few “locals” they have zero meaning. Hopefully Hardesty is next.

X
Guest
X

I think the sidewalk repair policy predated Eudaly.

Pascual Perrin
Guest
Pascual Perrin

I think that is true. As much as it’s a hassle to take care of one’s sidewalk it is the responsibility of the property owner here in Portland (surprised me when I moved here). Sidewalks in disrepair really are a danger for some of our senior citizens and those with balance issues when they are out and about. It does seem unfair when PPOT allows abandoned cars and illegally parked RVs to be everywhere and yet demands that homeowners repair their sidewalks. But that’s the way it is in Portland for law abiding citizens. You are held to a higher standard. :(. Anyway think of your grandma when you pay big bucks to repair your sidewalk. You can take solace in the fact that PBOT has apparently suspended any new sidewalk inspections due to COVID. So be careful all you pedestrians!

Jason
Guest
Jason

Citation needed.

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

Depends what you mean by “locals” I guess?

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

Local business activity liberating palladium from local Prii, freeing bicycles tied up to trees by felling tree.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

They hit 4 hybrids on my block this week. The one Prius that had a protective plate got to keep their Cat, but got keyed instead…

These people are sick.

Pascual Perrin
Guest
Pascual Perrin

Yep, and Eudaly and Hardesty want to cut even more of the police budget and divert it to their pet projects. I’m sick of the bike theft, rampant vandalism, the car theft, the abandoned stripped cars, the trashed RV’s parked everywhere.
Sorry but Good Riddance Chloe! Adiós, Sayonara, Adieu.

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

They of course don’t do anything about places that buy stolen property. One example. The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative which gladly buys stolen metal beverage containers regardless of where they came from.

Phil M
Guest
Phil M

The signs are pointless. It’s public right of way whether I live in that particular neighborhood or not. And I agree with you Hardesty too. She’s a blowhard and hypocrite.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

I agree with Phil, the signs are inadequate and should be replaced with diverters that prevent cars from going around.

Phil M
Guest
Phil M

No that’s not at all what I said but thanks for twisting my words.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I think you’re missing the point here. You are the reason why we need diverters. You only have yourself to blame.

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

There are more important things to be dealt with, such as making sure our sidewalks comply with national standards. “Lane, 541 U.S. at 532. Even facially neutral government actions that apply equally to disabled and nondisabled persons may violate Title II if the public entity has failed to make reasonable accommodations to avoid unduly burdening disabled persons.”
Sidewalk frequently unusable due to illegal camps. Hopefully the city loses an ADA lawsuit over transient encampments. Pedestrians are regularly forced into roadside due to tents and trash blocking path. Imagine how safe it is to divert power chair riding senior citizen alongside cars because tents.

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

About parking tickets… or when they’re for promoting the interest of extremely wealthy and politically connected construction industry. Contractors are allowed to reserve spaces on our streets only for purposes essential to construction. Like trucks carrying heavy items. Cars are specifically prohibited. You will regularly see this being violated. Superintended and project managers using these to create free parking for themselves. It is never proactively enforced and very sparingly and leniently enforced when reported.

Case in point. Some monied construction company closed a lane illegally to their benefit and caused a significant traffic disruption. They only got away with a $500 fine and “getting talked to” while they probably saved five figures by breaking the law. https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/2017/08/portland_fines_two_constructio.html

joan
Subscriber

Thanks, Jonathan. I think this is a fair and good reflection of the good work Eudaly did. I’m disappointed we won’t have her continuing this work.

renter who parks in your parking space
Guest
renter who parks in your parking space

43% of voters supported Comm. Chloe Eudaly but yours is the only mildly supportive comment here. The Bike Portland comments section has become an angry echo chamber.

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello, Kitty

An alternate explanation might be that Eudaly was not a particularly strong bike advocate, so her supporters may underrepresented in the readership of this site who may have preferred to vote for someone who identified as a cyclist.

Pascual Perrin
Guest
Pascual Perrin

Any positive achievements by Eudaly were FAR out shadowed by her arrogance and divisive nature. She is/was Trump “on the left”. I breathe easier knowing she has been voted out of office.

X
Guest
X

DT is an amoral, lying, entitled real estate developer who tested out of military service, stiffed working people who did his plumbing…and is rich because his father broke tax laws to give him a lot of money. You can’t get all the major disgusting facts about * in a sentence, a paragraph or a software licensing agreement. TLDR.

Comparing all that to Ms. Eudaly is wannabe trash talk. Put down the koolaid.

Carter
Guest
Carter

Everything you said is true but my friends and I often compared her to Trump because she was an unsuccessful businessperson with no governmental experience who campaigned (and won) on a populist message.

Pascual Perrin
Guest
Pascual Perrin

Yep, she’s a populist ideologue just like the orange haired guy. Both Eudaly and Trump have been very successful in creating division amongst their constituents.

X
Guest
X

Eudaly’s business paid storefront rent, supplied something that people wanted, supported her and her son, paid at least some employees, and did not harm other people or profit from their loss. She started it with her own resources and helped support a community of local artists, writers, and publishers. I rate that a success.

Eudaly’s line score– Bankruptcies: 0. Defrauded suppliers: 0. Legal judgements: 0. Constitutional amendments upheld: 1.

As the owner of a small business for 20 years, I would deal with Eudaly in a heartbeat. Trump? I would not ____ on him if he was on ____ (that’s a purely hypothetical country expression referencing _inaction_ but the sentiment is heartfelt).

Carter
Guest
Carter

How many times does a business need to crowdsource funding to survive before you stop considering it a success?

But, I mean, c’mon. Of course the scale of the two are incomparable.

X
Guest
X

You mean like, from Deutschebank?

Eudaly’s financial supporters aren’t likely to be calling in their chips the way our zombie leader’s have, or will be. He’s flailing like a carp because the White House is his last refuge from all the stuff that’s coming due.

Is large scale meant to be a good thing here? If * had a finger in more pies would the world be a nicer place? What specific thing lacks the name, that would be better for it?

X
Guest
X

My apologies to all carp everywhere.

Carter
Guest
Carter

Ah, you got me. When I said she was an unsuccessful business person who ran a populist campaign, I was clearly saying that, like DT, she is a bottomless pit of corruption where morals go to die (and whatever else it is you think the comparison implied). They’re pretty much the same person. Yes, that is exactly what I was meant. I don’t know how you managed to read between the lines so well.

You win this round of debate, X, but next time… *shakes fist furiously at the sky*

X
Guest
X

It’s completely possible that * has destroyed more capital than he has created.

Jamie Myers
Guest
Jamie Myers

You also know that Eudaly didn’t pay workers at her store and didn’t pay taxes, gave no bid contract to friend, cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars by firing two people to put her people in, checked her facebook and belittled people, and also had zero competency and also went bankrupt. Not to mention her renter’s rights policies directly benefited her.

Sorry, but the Trump of the left, in terms of character and achievement is not that far off. If by chance Eudaly was President, she would have done very similar things. Character matters.

carrythebanner
Guest

I’m glad that she/PBOT finally came around on the Rose Quarter project, but I think she’s getting a little more retroactive credit for opposing it than is quite due. At an ODOT hearing in March 2019 she all but told opponents to just take their lumps and give up. The community has very much taken the lead on opposing this project, and I wish that she (and the rest of Council) would’ve taken a stronger stance much sooner. The material facts about the project haven’t changed in the last couple years, only the politics.

Her work on tenant rights will probably be the centerpiece of her legacy, which is nothing to sneeze at. And you can quibble over how much of the Rose Lane project is attributable to her directly, but it was under her tenure and some good progress either way.

Her coalition with Hardesty was definitely an asset and I’ll be sad to see that go. Eudaly really did score an “own goal” with the neighborhood association thing; I think she could have been more effective in a second term, but so it goes.

X
Guest
X

Could it be that Chloe Eudaly was a little too willing to tell the truth to be a “successful” politician? As in, once ODOT gets the bit in their teeth you just have to ride it out? Lying is a handy skill for public office. If Mike Pence could tell a smooth lie Trump might have squeaked through.

A material fact about the Rose Quarter Freeway Widening project is that the budget has doubled. In ODOT land $800,000,000 = $.9 Billion and when they cop to that, before the building starts, just round up.

Fred
Guest
Fred

I’ve not read the 37 posts here already, but here’s my take on Eudaly:

– Sure, she was good at social media, which earns her JM’s plaudits. But social media posts don’t really accomplish anything.
– Her opposition to the I-5 widening project did not make – and will not make – any difference in the long run. ODOT will have their wider highway.
– She lectured cyclists who were concerned about homeless camps that blocked cycling paths and homeless people who threatened cyclists.

These are not accomplishments. Can anyone point to any significant cycling improvements?

Eudaly should be the *last* amateur PBOT leader. We need to END the commissioner-style of city gov’t and adopt a grown-up gov’t structure, like every other major city in the US.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Euduly is like the mirror image of trump wrapped in tie dye and prius faux leather…

She did a few good things and blew up the rest. Too bad, she looked like a up and comer and instead…well…one hit wonder.

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

I’m very pleased to see Eudaly go. See how you feel about the impact Civic Life’s graffiti nuisance abatement program is producing. They have I think 1 1/2 FTE in some decorative administrative roles. Even before BLM matters protests, absolutely nothing was getting done about all those blighted buildings bombed with graffiti all over. The graffiti code is supposed to get those dealt with. Absolutely nothing gets done abotu it like many of things people complain about things that fall under PBOT responsibility.

Civic Life and PBOT are both Eudaly’s bureaus.

Jamie Myers
Guest
Jamie Myers

Wow, is this written by Eudaly’s PR manager or somebody who is supposed to be somewhat impartial?

Look – she said all the keywords that gets the most progressive part of this city giddy.But she was insanely divisive, her policies were zero sum and hurt way more people than they helped, she oversimplifies everything – simple solutions for complex problems, esp when they are so designed to hurt the other side DO NOT WORK! She also was incredibly power hungry, gave jobs to her friends with no bids or high salaries.

She made pretty much everything bad – under her watch, more people died in traffic (but she took no responsibility in multiple interactions I have seen), created an “us vs them” mentality which made riding bicycles riskier, her policies increased greenhouse emissions because she removed lanes from the most congested streets and put bicycle lanes at places nobody used them (esp. on deep East side). She hates cars, but also doesn’t give people a chance. A lot of poor people have to go long distances from outside the city to inside, but there are no options for most of them. Why do you think that despite worse traffic, more people are driving? Bicycle ridership percetange went down under her watch.

It is really sad to see that radical parts of political spectrum are no different from each other. Just like trump supporters can never acknowledge how horrible and incompetent he was, Eudaly supporters do the same.

Eudaly have harmed bicycle movement a lot with her horribly simplified, absolutely partisan zero sum policies. it is very hard to lose as an incumbent, but she managed to do that at a time when we had huge Blue turn out.

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

Do you expect someone who couldn’t finish HS to be able to deal with these complicated things? Mapps is far, far more qualified than Eudaly.

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello, Kitty

I have very little good to say about Eudaly, but she is not unintelligent.

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

Bike chop shops, stolen property crime and vagrancy at 3737 N Emerson at Swan Island boat ramp and the vacant lot on north side of Powell in between SE 21st and 22nd are in code violations. BDS is the jurisdictional bureau with authority on property code violations. I just realized it’s led by Rebecca Esau, chosen by EUDALY and Eudaly oversaw BDS until quite recently. The things that go on at these properties would easily become the subject of liens and search warrants if it was happening at a business or a home in Beaverton. City owned property gets a pass for hosting crime under Eudaly’s regime.

PBOT, BDS and Civic Life all have poor history of violation enforcement. They’re also lead by Eudaly or having been very recently touched by Eudaly and directed by someone chosen by her.

DY
Guest
DY

Johnathan, I read the article and have digested the comments and your replies/ defenses. I really do believe you are personally biased by even publishing such a piece. It comes off defending her inactions and an endorsement of a future political career. It is my opinion and view that she was incapable of navigating the political landscape and was easily swayed in either direction without having a grasp on the issues and was unable explain her stance effectively on any issue. These are not skills of a promising elected official. She lost. Get over it. Cover her rise from perceived adversity should she choose to run, but don’t attempt to defend this article as news, which it is not.