Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Interview: PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty on the Hawthorne decision, traffic enforcement, and a whole lot more

Posted by on February 19th, 2021 at 11:38 am

(Photo: City of Portand)

I spoke to Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty on the phone last Friday. We covered a lot of ground. The interview below has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.

You have experience as an activist, community organizer, and politician. What will you take from those experiences that can be helpful in leading the transportation bureau?

“Oh absolutely no question about that. It’s actually even how I move policy conversations: You will never see me move big policy conversations without having a lot of detailed conversations with those most impacted. Whether that’s activists or business or nonprofits — there’s always a constituency behind me. Because it’s not about me, it’s about the people that I represent that I make sure are in the conversations and help them to develop better policy.”

Advertisement

“We should not be expanding a freeway, we should be putting congestion pricing in place now.”

Your predecessor very intentionally took Portland out of a partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the I-5 Rose Quarter project. Do you plan to re-engage ODOT on that project?

“I want to work back to the table, but I’m not coming back without some concessions from ODOT like A) if I’m at the table, they’re actually going to listen to my input and it’s going to inform the decisions they’re making. I’m not going to be there as a rubber-stamp. I’ve also reached out to the Albina Vision and they have some very specific policy recommendations around the highway caps they want developed. ODOT is saying, ‘Oh, well, that will increase the price significantly.’ I don’t believe that at all. And in fact, ODOT has the same responsibility that the City of Portland has, which is to undo previous racist policies that had a detrimental impact on communities of color.”

So if I’m hearing you right, you’ll continue to hitch PBOT’s position to Albina Vision Trust, but unlike your predecessor you will return to the table?

“What I want to do is be in a position to actually influence ODOT, so ODOT doesn’t believe that they’re the only decision maker at the table. That doesn’t mean I’m in lockstep with Albina Vision or anybody else at this moment. But what I know is if you’re not at the table, you’re for lunch.”

What about the actual freeway expansion plans: Should we expand the I-5 freeway through the Rose Quarter or not?

“We should not be expanding a freeway, we should be putting congestion pricing in place now. And any maintenance that we need to do to correct interchanges, we should talk about how we do that. If we put congestion pricing in place now, it gives us the ability to actually A) reduce vehicle miles traveled and B) actually create resources to invest in the things we want. My fear about tolls is it’ll be used for for freeway activity, whether it’s maintenance or construction. And and as the commissioner in charge of PBOT, I can’t move PBOT into the future if we are dependent on gas tax revenue and parking fees. (Note: The Commissioner might have been speaking about the I-5 Bridge Replacement Program in this answer, which is a separate project.)

But what will you do when ODOT just says, “Yes we are working on congestion pricing and it’s years down the line” and in the meantime they move forward on the project? Do you just walk away at that point?

“My best superpower is as that I’m an organizer, right. And so my voice will be a loud voice or ensuring that we are investing in the things that lead us into our future, and reduce vehicle miles traveled and air pollution and all the other climate mitigation strategies that are in our Climate Action Plan.”

Advertisement

Let’s shift gears: What’s your view of the current council? Do you see any opportunity to collaborate with other commissioners like Rubio who has the Parks bureau and Mapps who has environmental services and water?

“I think maybe that was a missed opportunity.”
— on the Hawthorne decision

“So let me say that we have a totally different city council than we had just five years ago. A super-majority of the city council is made up of grassroots community members. And the majority of us actually are deeply embedded in community. We are not career politicians, we don’t have the historic, ‘We’ve always done it this way,’ style. And all of us are in regular communication. [Because of the pandemic] I think we have this once in a generational opportunity for us to think broadly, and I have to say I am so I’m really thrilled with my new colleagues. I know we won’t always be in lockstep in agreement, but I am so thrilled that they come to this job from a very grassroots approach. There’s only one exception, and that’s the Mayor. And let me say, when Mayor Wheeler gave me PBOT, he told me to be bold and be visionary. And so I’m going to hold him to those words.”

You’ve made it clear that one of your top priorities are carfree districts. Can you flesh out your carfree vision a bit more?

“Here’s what I know: Downtown has a enormous amount of empty storefront spaces. And as I continue to have conversations with both the Portland Business Alliance and other business groups, I’m reminding them that that overpriced office space that has been vacant since the pandemic began, those businesses are going to do a cost analysis and realize they don’t need as much office space as they did in the past. I think how workers work will be a lot different as we emerge from the pandemic. Will people need some space? Yes. But we have a lot of space downtown that we can actually have a year-round flea market or farmers market and making those spaces more accessible for small, minority and women-owned businesses.

As one example, what would it take to have a international district downtown? We have Chinatown. But we could actually create other international districts that would have food and music and give people gathering spots, that would be a different location without the fear of automobiles running you over. I don’t know yet which streets would be carfree. As you know, that’s going to take a lot of thought and a lot of collaborative work. But I’m just trying to put a big picture vision out there. And I want to say not just downtown, right? We have business districts all over the city of Portland. And if we’re going to come back from this pandemic, we have to make sure that downtown is accessible for the diversity of community that we have. It certainly was not that way prior to the pandemic. And in fact, we had some cultural norms that really didn’t like having Black people downtown. We had these secret rules that would over-police Black people where there was a hip-hop club coming to town. So we have to really make sure that we’re creating a space that is accessible and available for all of our diverse communities.”

Do you see these as a temporary thing like a farmers market or something more substantial?

“I see it as substantial and permanent. I mean, right now we’re working on some very specific projects downtown: We’re working to reopen O’Bryant square, we’re looking at creating a ‘Culinary Corridor’. And PBOT has been really creative when it comes to how we supported local restaurants to be able to use the public right-of-way and create areas where outside dining was possible. So what we’ve learned some things in the pandemic, that we should expand upon and move to other parts of the city.”

You made a recent statement on “vehicular violence”. Those are strong words and I wonder what spurred that for you?

“We’ve had we’ve had a real spike in automobile violence of late. As someone who lives in East Portland, I actually live in one of the best areas in Gateway, I can walk everywhere to get my needs met. But I’ve gotta’ tell you, every time I walk at night, in the wintertime, I take my life into my hands. And to actually see someone get into an automobile and intentionally try to mow down as many people as possible; there was no other term to describe what people experienced with that driver. And police have said, so far, there were no drugs in his system. There was no alcohol. There’s no claim of mental defect and there was no claim of political motivation. Why would somebody do that? I mean, so to me, that was what brought the term to my mind.”

So what do we do about this spike in automobile violence?

“Well, I am someone who was vehemently opposed to red light cameras, just the technology around our cameras and giving people tickets, because what we know is that it is normally implemented in a way that actually causes Black, indigenous and other people of color more harm, right Because they’re more targeted for police action. And in fact, there’ve been raised in many incidents of Black and indigenous and other people of color dying because of a traffic stop. So I was very concerned about that. But here’s the reality: The reality is that with Vision Zero, we have to include new crossings, we have to improve lighting, and we have to slow vehicles down. And if we don’t get vehicles to slow down, we will continue to have these deaths at the hands of vehicles. What I know is that at the end of the day, vehicles have a much higher responsibility. Because if you hit a person, the harm that you’re going to do, could lead to death. So we clearly need more aggressive tools to ensure that we’re slowing down automobiles as they drive through very dense urban communities.”

I hear you, but the man behind the Buckman rampage had a bunch of speeding tickets already. He wouldn’t have cared about a camera, he didn’t care about any rules, or any safe crossings or any street lights. Do you think it’s time to take more aggressive action to fortify our streets and do more traffic calming to prevent these kind of behaviors?

“Well, actually, we can only do what we have the budget to do. And as you know, PBOT’s budget has been significantly impacted by Covid. And so we have to prioritize. Most of the streets in my neighborhood aren’t event paved.”

Advertisement

I hear you. But right now in a PBOT maintenance yard I bet we have dozens of concrete barriers and it wouldn’t cost much to drag them onto a street to create a traffic calming feature, like a chicane, on a street like Stark would it?

“We cannot tell people we want them out of their cars if we don’t have a good public transit system that is accessible for the people who need it most.”

“Let me just say I’m open to new ideas about how we resolve some of these really critical issues that we have. I’m not bought into any one way of doing it. But I also have to be mindful that, you know, we have the resources that we have, and we’re going to have a lot less resources next year, and a whole lot less than a year after, before we start seeing an economic recovery. So unlike the federal government, we have to actually operate within our budget. Can we look at our strategic plan and find some things we need to move up because we have this opportunity to start building towards our future, rather than continuing to invest in things that we’re trying to move away from? Yes, absolutely. And we will have the opportunity to do that. But I cannot commit today. Whether that strategy is better than another strategy, I’m going to be looking at any and all opportunities to create safer streets for all modes of transit.”

Given how we know people will use cars as weapons, is there anything from your work on gun violence that you think is applicable to this issue?

“Well, let me just say that violence is absolutely on the rise across the board. And what we’re seeing all over the country is an increase in all kinds of violence… We’ve seen this huge rise in gun violence which is why I’m really committed to talking about community safety holistically, and not from any one perspective… Police don’t make our communities safe, but they are one piece of having a safe community, right? Portland Street Response will be another response to creating community safety. We have to work collaboratively across bureaus.”

So on the car violence/gun violence analogy, you’re saying you see this as more of a social problem and that the car in this situation is just another weapon someone can use if they’re having mental challenges?

“Right. It’s just one of the tools to violently engage with other community members.”

And so you’re saying let’s focus on the upstream causes that lead to someone using their car as a tool like this?

“Yes, especially when we know there weren’t any mitigating factors. I mean, there’s no excuse for what he did. But the fact that there were no mitigating factors. We can’t just say, ‘Well he was drunk and he didn’t know what he was doing.’ This guy wanted to hurt people and kill people and he was successful.That’s violence. He just used a vehicle instead of a gun.”

If we think of what happened on 1/25 as violence, which I think most Portlanders would agree that it is violence, do you think that should increase our urgency to fortify our streets against that sort of violence, in the same way we take measures to improve responses to things like domestic violence or gun violence? Should a recognition that cars are being used for violence change the level of urgency from our transportation bureau?

“Well, we should be responsive to the immediate needs, as well as planning or the vision of where we’re moving. And where PBOT has the authority to make changes. I mean, as you know, sometimes transportation projects are on a list forever before they ever move with a sense of urgency. My work with the East Portland Action Plan made it really clear that without that community pressure, the City of Portland would never have prioritized those investments. So you know, government does what government does. They develop plans, they work on those plans. And government isn’t as nimble as the community. Just like the changes we made in the last budget. Those changes were made because tens of thousands of people took to the streets, right? I got 78,000 emails demanding changes and even the little changes that we were able to accomplish would not have happened without that pressure. That’s always my message: Advocates are supposed to do what they do, to advocate for the vision they want to see their governments adopt. Me on the inside, I am one voice. I’m sharing with my colleagues what my visions are; but there’s no question to me that the sense of urgency comes from the community, demanding that we do better.

But again, I have to do it within a budget I have. And I have to make sure that in that budget, I am actually prioritizing the highest need areas. So again, I haven’t actually done my really deep dive into PBOT’s budget requests. And I’m really trying to understand all these big projects that have been on the table for a while, I want to make sure that when I start talking about a policy we have moving forward, that I will move that policy forward based on my conversations with a whole host of stakeholders who are impacted by it. To me, transportation justice means we’ll build a transportation system based on the people who have the least options.

Switching back to more local issues. Many of our readers are concerned about changes at the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division and what it means for enforcement. Can you speak to that?

“Recently, the police have been doing this very destructive narrative around doing away with the Traffic Division, and putting those officers on patrol. I want to be clear that any police officer has the ability to write a ticket for traffic infractions. It is not a specialized expertise. They are all qualified to hold people accountable for illegally using our streets. I am so frustrated with this narrative around, ‘We just don’t have any officers.’ So the narrative is, ‘Just give us more money and more people, and we’ll be fine.’ I just I want to make sure your readers understand: We have not impacted traffic enforcement at all. Because any patrol officer can write a ticket otherwise, why are they a patrol officer?”

Other cities have taken steps to decrease the use of armed police officers in transportation-related functions like enforcement, crash investigations, and so on. Former Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said she had begun talks about doing that in Portland. Can you share details on where those conversations are at the moment?

“Well, the first thing we have to do is change the law in Salem. State law requires a law enforcement person to view [automated camera] tickets before they are sent to people. We have to change that before we can then start talking about where’s the most appropriate bureau to process tickets. And to give out of tickets, frankly, because in some cities you have non-sworn people who actually give out tickets, a job that doesn’t necessarily need somebody that’s weaponized. So yes, I am very interested in that conversation. And and having legislative conversations around changing the state law.”

Have you taken concrete steps to change the enforcement camera law to remove the sworn officer requirement?

(Commissioner Hardesty said she needed to check on this information. I heard from her office after the interview that the City of Portland’s legislative team is pursuing an amendment to House Bill 2530 that would allow for non-sworn personnel to review and issue citations through fixed photo radar. The bill as currently written would only repeal a sunset on the use of the cameras in Portland.)

And what about the cameras themselves? We’ve heard about a procurement delay preventing any new ones from being used. Is that still there? And are you taking steps to get these cameras out sooner?

“The answer is yes. We have a backlog at our procurement office and now there’s no director. Procurement has been a problem for 32 years. I’ve been advocating on procurement reform, as long as I’ve been advocating on police reform. Every program that we have at the City of Portland that is supposed to benefit minority and women owned firms, the primary beneficiaries of white men, the second, primary beneficiaries are white women. And people of color are getting almost nothing.”

Are you saying the delays in procurement are related to delays around evaluations of minority-owned business contracts?

“No. I think it’s just the way we process contracts. It’s amazing to me how long it takes to actually process something…. I just think it’s fear of being innovative. Honestly, when I first got to the city, what I saw was that the city operates from a position of fear, and it’s really hard to be creative when you’re operating from a position of fear.”

Funny you say that because I’ve been saying the same thing about PBOT for many years!

“Oh really?”

Yes. Fear often paralyzes PBOT from moving things forward — especially when the topic of race is in the equation. There are so many policymakers and advocates who just can’t talk about race in a way that gets them over their paralysis around it. So they end up either doing the wrong things or saying the wrong things or doing nothing at all.

“Oh yes, no doubt about that! But let’s talk about Hawthorne…”

Given that we started the project with a blank slate, what would have been your ideal vision for Hawthorne?

“To widen the street so that a variety of transportation options would be available for people. (Note: PBOT made it clear from the start widening the street was never an option due to the project scope.) Hawthorne is one of the smallest streets that we have in the city of Portland. And today you take your life in your hands with any mode of transportation. I have been one of those people, sitting on a bus for a half-hour crawling up Hawthorne. I’ve been one of those people trying desperately to cross the street on Hawthorne during a busy time of day. But it’s also a street where there’s a lot of foot traffic. And I know that a biking community would love to see a bike lane. If there was a way to do that and make sure that people with disabilities would be able to safely cross, that cars and public transit would be able to safely cross, if we were actually redesigning Hawthorne, those would be my priorities. But remember, this is not a redesign. This is a maintenance project — specifically to ensure that pedestrian safety is increased.”

Do you think pedestrian safety and the presence of a bike lane are mutually exclusive?

“I don’t think they would be mutually exclusive at all. No. But again, if I had the opportunity to redesign, bike lanes would be an automatic part of a massive redesign. But this is a maintenance project to ensure that pedestrians are able to use Hawthorne safely and that we move traffic through Hawthorne without having one of our major public transit lines stuck on on Hawthorne forever. A lot of people from East Portland are going through Hawthorne to do their day-to-day business. And it is a nightmare when you are a bus rider and you crawl along. Look what we did downtown with the Rose Lane. Overnight, the difference between how people could move was pretty incredible.”

How do you feel about the fact that the lanes now are wider? From nine to 11 and 12 feet, which could make people actually drive faster?

“The speed on Hawthorne is supposed to be 30 mph. Right now I am not concerned that people are going to automatically speed up because again, I mean, we still have the same number of lanes, the only difference is that we actually have a turn lane, which will allow for traffic to move much more freely. And we have, of course, bike lanes on two major streets very close by. (Note: She’s referring to shared streets with speed bumps and other traffic calming treatments.) And again, if you drive a car, you would say, there’s almost never any parking on Hawthorne, right? If you ride a bike, you would say, it’s really not easy to bike on Hawthorne. Right? Because of the backlog of vehicles that take up Hawthorne. So, again, there’s positives and negatives of the options that were considered. But at the end of the day, I come down on the side of the majority of people who agreed with the options that we’re moving forward. So they are the people who are most impacted by the changes that are happening.

Again, the goal is not to increase the speed of traffic, this is a really kind of a dense neighborhood. And again, if we had the opportunity to be redesigning we may have made different decisions. My decision is really based on the detailed work that PBOT did in reaching out to the Hawthorne community and overwhelmingly the Hawthorne communities said they did not want to bike lanes on Hawthorne.”

I don’t know if I would agree with that. I heard and saw from a lot of people that said they did want the bike lanes. What do you say to all those people — the dozens of business owners, all the young people who ride bikes in that neighborhood, and the nearly 2,500 people who signed a petition saying they want bike lanes on Hawthorne?

“When you actually communicate directly with the residents who are also impacted, they overwhelmingly chose an option. I think that’s a good option to go with.”

(*Note: According to PBOT’s survey data, 51% of people who live adjacent to Hawthorne Blvd chose the no bike lane design. 27% preferred bike lanes. Business owners were closely split with 41% opposing bike lanes and 38% in favor of them. Of all survey respondents, 45% chose the option PBOT went with (no bike lanes) and 43% chose a bike lane option as their second favorite choice.)

So if there was a situation where a majority of people said they wanted bike lanes, would you be willing to reassess the decision?

“I think we’ve done the due diligence necessary for me to be comfortable that this is the right decision for the limited resources we have at this time. If pedestrians are able to move more freely, and there’s better lighting, if there’s better crosswalks, people are going to be safer on Hawthorne, no matter what form of transit they use. And I think that’s the goal that we all have. And with the resources we had to do a maintenance project, I think this is the best we could do at this time. It doesn’t mean that, you know, one day down the road, when there’s other dollars to do a redesign, that [bike lanes] won’t be reconsidered. But this are all about safety improvements.”

I keep hearing your concern for safety. The bike lane options would have reduced the amount of lanes for driving from four to two, and it seems to me the fewer lanes for driving would equal a safer street.

“I don’t know that that would have actually made air quality better. I don’t know that that would have moved public transit any faster. In fact, all the data that I’ve seen showed that it would slow down response times from first responders and add something like seven or eight additional minutes, if we had put bike lanes on Hawthorne.”

Part of my concern is there’s been a lack of transparency from PBOT in terms of what these delay numbers are. The initial transit delay estimate at Cesar Chavez of 8-16 minutes had an outsized influence on the project and PBOT acknowledged their initial recommendation of no bike lanes was based on incomplete modeling. Then when they came back five months later with a new analysis, but they still haven’t released the transit delay numbers. That makes it impossible to have a full debate about the trade-offs.

“So let me just say this about the future: The Hawthorne project is done as far as I’m concerned. And based on everything that I’ve heard — I’ve heard from advocates, and I’ve heard from PBOT and I’ve read the surveys — based on all the information I have, I think that PBOT made the best decision they could with the limited resources they have.

But that’s Hawthorne right? Let’s talk about how I make decisions.

I make decisions by actually having real conversations with people on all sides of the issue… As I told people when I was running, I will always have community meetings, I will always come and talk to those most impacted and the advocates around it and the businesses that support or oppose it. I love having those kind of hard conversations. We’re not going to always agree. But what I promise activists and advocates when I was running is that they will always have an audience who will always debate what options we have. And once I come to a decision, I will be straightforward about what the decision is. And so that’s how I make decisions. That’s how I develop public policy. And I think based on the work that the Bureau has done, I am comfortable that the right decision was made there.”

What about bicycle access on main commercial streets in general. Do you think that’s something that we should strive for, as a city, to have bike lanes on streets like Alberta, Mississippi, Belmont?

“We should make sure that all communities, especially those that have been left out of a lot of public policy decisionmaking have options that include bikes, scooters, public transit. You know the best thing we could possibly do is make more investments in our public transit system using clean energy technology. I ordered the first electric fire truck for Portland Fire Bureau. I know that PBOT actually drives some of the dirtiest vehicles that we have. I’m talking to them about bio-diesel fuel.”

Given that you care about air quality and more affordable transportation options, do you think it’s a worthwhile aspiration to not have people being able to drive cars and park them for free on these really important main streets, which would free up space for healthier vehicle use like scooters, Biketown or bicycles?

“I mean, that’s why we’re looking at places all over the city to make carfree, so that community members have gathering spots where they can bike, they can scooter, they can do whatever it is they want to do within those areas. That’s where we’re moving towards, we’re moving towards less vehicle miles traveled.”

That’s my point. Right now the city is deciding to use their space for parking and driving, instead of other things that are actually way more aligned with our planning goals that all place a priority on biking over driving. I think that’s part of the issue with the Hawthorne decision is that we had an opportunity to set a different narrative — maybe not make a different decision — but at least set a different narrative around these commercial streets and who can access them. Because right now, if I want to go get an ice cream cone or buy something with my kid on my bicycle, we don’t feel welcome on those fun streets like Alberta, 23rd, Mississippi, Hawthorne. As a bicycle rider, the city of Portland’s basically saying sorry, you can’t ride here safely.

“I mean, we did that. Decades ago right? We created streets like Martin Luther King Jr., where as soon as we put up the (center) median we killed all the businesses on that street that were primarily Black-owned. Because people wanted to use Martin Luther King Jr. as a freeway to get to and from Vancouver. So I’ve been here 32 years, and I’ve seen how we invest in some communities at the expense of others. And in fact, I don’t even recognize most of northeast. I mean, for some people, it looks really great. For some people, it is not accessible the way we’ve redesigned it and set it up.”

Right. And those places like Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and other commercial streets remain so auto-centric. They’re scary and loud and they stink from emissions in the air and people get killed and hurt and intimidated on them. Yet I don’t see any tangible actions from PBOT, especially given the Hawthorne decision, that they’re willing to change that dynamic. Did you know that 25 years ago PBOT looked at the same section of Hawthorne to try to make it safer? And in 2021, 25 years later, they came up with basically the same decision they did in 1997.

“Interesting.”

That gives me some serious pause. Are we doing enough to actually live up to our words and values? I understand the complexity. I get it. I know PBOT is good at their job, and they do great analyses. But I just wonder if you feel any of that same concern around incrementalism that I do. Are we really a progressive city? Are we willing to do the hard work of actually changing some of these dynamics? On Hawthorne we had five lanes for driving: four regular lanes and a parking lane. And PBOT looked at that, had a blank slate to work with, did a year of analysis, and basically put back five lanes for driving. That, to me, is a red flag that we’re not actually changing the dynamic in a significant way and we’re not living up to our values.

“Let me just say that may not have been then, but we certainly are now. We have an opportunity as we start working our way out of this pandemic, to really start working towards the kind of city we want to build. And yeah, so you know, I think maybe that was a missed opportunity, I don’t know. But again, I can only base it on… I was not the commissioner in charge when this process started. And so I can only base my decision based on the information that I have. And I’ve heard from a lot of folks, and not just from PBOT. I’ve heard from advocates, on both sides, people who say what we decided is just horrible and others who say, ‘I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you, for listening to the residents and the community!’. I had no lack of input from a whole host of interests.

But again, you know I’m at the end of this project. I came in at the end, and projects I will lead, I will lead in a way that I told you about earlier, the way I do business. I think people are rightfully concerned because we have not yet been able to articulate where we’re headed coming out of this pandemic… and I see the multitude of crises we had last year as a wonderful opportunity for us to reimagine where we’re headed… If there’s an opportunity to actually change course and do things in a way that will benefit us for generations to come — and I love stealing the Native American saying about what we do today is for seven generations into the future — because that’s what we should be building for right? And we won’t get it all done in this first year. We certainly won’t do it in two, and probably not even in ten. But we’re starting to put the pieces in place today. And actually creating that shared vision of where we’re moving, then we’ll be measuring everything through that transportation justice planning work. And transportation justice for who? For the people with the least choices and options.”

Commissioner Hardesty on a custom-painted Biketown to honor veterans.
(Photo: Biketown/City of Portland)

What do you want your imprint to have been in terms of changing the course of PBOT?

“For one I want to make sure we are achieving our goal around Vision Zero and eliminating fatalities around traffic violence. Two: I want us to be either a fully free public transit system or on our way to be a free public transit system… So you know, for me, that’s a minimum, we cannot tell people that we want them out of their cars if we don’t have a good public transit system that is accessible for the people who need it most.”

I appreciate that you talk about transic access so much; but I hope you can also remember that when you talk about infrastructure, we need a continuous network for people to ride bicycles too. If we don’t, people won’t ride bikes.

“Well absolutely. We have to make it safe. So people can use a variety mode of transportation. And let me just say, I’m a member of Biketown now!”

That’s great. You looked great in that photo a few years ago.

“I did look good. But you know, I actually paid my own hard-earned money to get a Biketown membership. And I’m actually planning to buy an electric tricycle. Because honestly I am very uncomfortable trying to maneuver the city’s heavy electric bikes.”

Keep us posted on that tricycle Commissioner Hardesty. We all look forward to seeing you out on the streets. Thanks for taking time to talk with us.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

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

116
Leave a Reply

avatar
14 Comment threads
102 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
37 Comment authors
CalebMichael AnderseneawristeJeffJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Don Courtney
Guest
Don Courtney

This is good work Jonathan.

Ovid Boyd
Guest
Ovid Boyd

Question: Has anyone indicated they will compete for Hardesty’s seat or is anyone considering it?

After seeing her talk about transportation when she was running a few years ago, I got the impression she had a very car centric view of our streets. Now seeing the first decision out of PBOT under her watch–widened car lanes, car parking spots instead of even basic biking facilities–combined with stuff beforehand–like being the only city council member opposed to Vision Zero and safe streets–I would definitely be up for supporting any less car centric opponent and would love to know if anyone has been considering running…

maccoinnich
Subscriber

This is a frustrating interview to read. Something I’ve repeatedly heard from PBOT staff is that they feel like they don’t have the leadership at City Hall to do bold things. And here we have a new Commissioner-in-Charge says that she wants to “bold and be visionary” and that they Mayor is behind her. But when it comes to Hawthorne, PBOT was clearly afraid of doing to the bold thing, and structured the whole public engagement process to make anything other than the option that they ultimately chose look bad. In an entire year of public engagement, why was there never a conversation about what it would really take to make Hawthorne work in a way that’s consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, which says to prioritize walking, cycling and transit over single occupancy vehicles?

rabs
Guest
rabs

Lincoln Street and Salmon Street say hello

Nadia Maxim
Guest
Nadia Maxim

Wow, that is an embarrassing interview.

Hardesty thinks we can recover our downtown economy with a farmer’s market and a swap meet or two. LOL. I’m sure people will be rushing from all over the US to “Plywood Portland” stepping over tents, garbage and excrement to go buy $8 organic eggs and replica Bernie Sanders mittens.

Come on JoAnn. ***Portion of comment deleted by moderator***

J_R
Guest
J_R

It appears Hardesty is still not ready to endorse any meaningful increase in enforcement. She’s still reluctant to use cameras because there have been negative impacts on non-privileged people. She appears to support camera enforcement based on non-sworn personnel reviewing camera images, but even that’s not clear. As for her assertion that any patrol officer can cite for traffic offenses, that’s no help at all. I’ve seen blatant violations of traffic laws performed in front of numerous officers with NO action.

The interview does not encourage me to think we will have any improvement in the dismal safety performance of Portland’s transportation network.

Phil M
Guest
Phil M

Nothing will ever get accomplished with Hardesty stonewalling everything in the name of racial equality. She needs to resign. Nobody wins here.

207bikes
Guest
207bikes

If she hasn’t done her “really deep dive into PBOT’s budget requests,” what exactly has she been doing? Obtaining that purview seems like the top priority in running a bureau. This response, like many above, reads like more deflection, laissez faire fallacies and empty platitudes from city hall.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

“…But here’s the reality: The reality is that with Vision Zero, we have to include new crossings, we have to improve lighting, and we have to slow vehicles down. And if we don’t get vehicles to slow down, we will continue to have these deaths at the hands of vehicles. What I know is that at the end of the day, vehicles have a much higher responsibility. Because if you hit a person, the harm that you’re going to do, could lead to death. So we clearly need more aggressive tools to ensure that we’re slowing down automobiles as they drive through very dense urban communities.”

It’s those darn irresponsible vehicles and their hands. IMO, we ought to lock up all vehicles in prison and throw away the key.

JR
Guest
JR

I like to bike through this city and I generally find it easy to get to places on Hawthorne from where I live a couple miles away. I’m not sure biking ON Hawthorne is the biggest issue we face now. I agree with the commissioner on bold visions for car-free areas and transit priority. These are policy winners in my book. I know this is a pretty bike-saturated culture I’m commenting in, but take it as a perspective from someone who uses transit and walks much more than biking.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

I-5 question. Isn’t any decision on widening I-5 part of the desire to speed up truck travel on I-5? I mean, much of the discussion about the Interstate Bridge is the need to get freight up and down the West Coast. Do the Feds have any say in the Rose Quarter discussion?

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Let me say first, I like Hardesty. We don’t always agree on the actions she takes, but she isn’t afraid and doesn’t owe some fatcat anything. That said, first the city council needs to promote getting out of this forced lockdown mentality. The economy is literally roaring except for a few sectors. It’s the public sector (aka schools/Government) that have been busy dragging down the economy.

Also, why in the world does a whole building need to be “commercial” or “residential” or a whole floor for that matter? It’s time to think different. There is/will be a lot of empty commercial space. Make it eligible for residential. Then some will say “oh, but it needs” (insert some code in here)….well let’s see, so people can be in the space but not sleep in the space? Well, that’s stupid. Fix that. Get people out of their hiding mentality. Start now. Or yeah, you will be broke and it’s YOUR fault. There is plenty of housing, it just doesn’t say “ridge cliff luxury apartments” on the front. Start incentivizing hotels to house people. There are lots of empty hotel rooms.

Nobody is coming to save you and shower you with dollars for years to come because Oregon decided to overdo it. The real problem here is lockdown Kate. The economy is doing great, the stock market is flying, people are making lot’s of money around the country…except for a few small pockets in Oregon. Why is that? Well…politicians and lockdown (build a bigger I5) Kate.

This lockdown has not been a burden on white tech workers but a massive blow to people of color in the hospitality industry, school support staff…just to name a few. Yeah, Black lives matter to the uber left in Oregon…but only if it means bringing my doordash…but you know..that pesky education thing…that pesky education thing… oh maybe part time school? That’s fine for the upper crust, one parent stays home..but in a working class home that means one parent loses income. But hey, the teachers get paid 100%….

The city council could be a united front to explain bluntly that people of color and poor people are largely hurting because the rich and the white decided to hide indoors. And now…suddenly there is no money to do anything…. But will they? Probably not…life behind a zoom screen in amazing…getting paid and all that…

In one sentence she says we need to look at doing a new bridge or messing around with I5, but in another she says there is no money for putting down Jersey barriers. See how that works? People will keep dying and only things that matters to the uber/white left will get fixed and the pandemic (at least in Oregon) will go on for years? How’s that vaccine coming? Oh, 3rd worst? Well, talk about that to. Stop worrying about potholes, that will get done to some degree.

Hardesty, Speak. And don’t stop speaking and don’t stop pushing this failed governor/government of Oregon when they ignore everyone but the white upper class. Let’s see if the government/tech class really thinks all lives matter. We can measure that by when small business is really allowed to go back to serving their customers for real.

Oh..what’s that? Sports opened up before restaurants could? Thanks lockdown Kate. Maybe the next governor of Oregon, Hardesty, can stop that nonsense.

Jim Jeffers
Guest
Jim Jeffers

We live on 25th and Yamhill and signed the petition for better Hawthorne. I feel we are nearby residents who could have answered PBOTs survey but must have missed the opportunity to contribute. I can say this though — every other day or so we are crossing Hawthorne at some point and all too often it ends up being near the Grand Central on 23rd. I am just extremely grateful there will be pedestrian friendly crosswalks there in addition a reduction of 4 to 2 lanes of active traffic. It is a scary place to cross and many many people are crossing there all the time! This will be a welcome improvement but it’s a missed opportunity for our neighborhood and community.

Mike Owens
Guest
Mike Owens

Great job Jonathan. I like the commish a lot. But she doesn’t get it. I think you do, and your questions and discussion show that.

Look, we have 9 years to cut our emissions in half. We can’t have spotty car free areas. We can’t have each neighborhood bitch for years and redo studies. The time for studies is now past. We have examples. Real cities, in real places with real people that demonstrate the success or failure of transportation solutions. Community activism needs to take a back seat to collectivity, and put NIMBY in the trash heap.

Our problems are made up. We can take on a 10 year massive infrastructure plan and fund it with municipal green bonds. This street by street debating needs to be over. First principles go first: does this plan meet our 10 year emissions goals: yes or no. All other concerns are lower in priority. Voting and equity and economics are lower in priority (not unimportant, lesser in priority)

Grab the best from the best cities, bring them here and spend a year putting together the plan, funding. That is what a PBOT commissioner must do in 2021.