“I think it’s a responsibility for Metro to do as much as it can to bring in federal dollars rather than continuing to go back to voters for another ballot measure.”
This is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2022 election. See more stories here.
Terri Preeg Riggsby has worn many hats in Portland government and advocacy circles as a nonprofit leader, advisory committee member, and auditor. Now she wants to represent District 6 on Metro Council. The seat is currently occupied by Duncan Hwang, who was appointed to the seat by council members back in January to fill the vacancy left by the early retirement of Bob Stacey.
In addition to his duties at Metro, Hwang is leader of the nonprofit Asian Pacific Network of Oregon (APANO). In that role he’s been a stalwart advocate for transportation reform, especially in pushing for safety on east Portland arterials and as a member of a coalition that opposes freeway expansion.
Hwang has earned endorsements from Willamette Week, Portland Mercury, and The Street Trust. Preeg Riggsby has been endorsed by The Oregonian.
I recently chatted with Preeg Riggsby and you can read an edited version of our conversation below…
What has been your past and present relationship to transportation and to mobility in general?
“I moved here 25 years ago, I’m originally from Arlington, Virginia, which is the Washington DC area. I used Metro [subway] all the time, public transportation was my thing. When I moved here, I worked in Wilsonville [suburb southwest of Portland] for a while so I would use a car to get there, but appreciated that when I was home I could walk to parks, to the store, around my neighborhood. And then when I was going to Portland State University and working in Portland, I took TriMet. It wasn’t as convenient as Metro was in DC, there’s a lot of progress that needs to be made in our public transportation system here. It wasn’t super convenient, wasn’t as frequent as I would have liked, or as reliable, but I took the bus.
And then three years ago I had a spinal cord injury, and couldn’t walk for a year and had surgery. I can walk now, but I use a mobility device. And TriMet just isn’t really a very good option for me anymore. I have to walk almost half-a-mile, and stand and wait. And so now I use a car more often than I would like. And that’s definitely a motivating factor for me to get to become part of the efforts to improve transportation.”
Can you can you tell me a little bit more about your disability and what your experience has been using your mobility device on transit? (She uses a walker or a cane.)
“It’s hard. Just be blunt. It’s difficult. Getting to the bus stop, waiting for a bus, getting onto the bus. And there’s a bit of an awkwardness around seating. Where do I sit? Is there a seat available for me? I can stand, but it’s hard on a bus when it’s moving back-and-forth. My back is okay, my right leg just doesn’t work right anymore.”
Our region needs tens of thousands of new homes, inside the growth boundary, stat. Where should we build them?
“Once the housing bond measure was passed this is the first time Metro is making decisions about where millions of housing dollars should go. Metro has this unique ability and also responsibility at this point, to be very careful in their decision-making around where we’re investing in new housing. We need to invest in housing that is close to job centers and basic services. We need to be making decisions where people can access their jobs and services without having to get in a car. I really think that we need to be investing in areas that have existing infrastructure. And I think it’s necessary that we invest in improvements for our local arterials and in additional public transportation so that we can get cars off the roads. It’s better for everyone.”
Are you comfortable with like Metro being the government agency that that makes decisions on where new housing should go?
“Well, that’s an interesting question.”
I asked because I saw you express in an endorsement interview a concern about “mission creep” on this issue as it relates to Metro. Did I hear that right?
“The truth around the housing issue is that it was the other jurisdictions that came to Metro and asked them to do this. And so Metro stepped up and they are doing it. I think that they probably are an appropriate agency to be doing it now. And I don’t know if that should have a sunset on it. The truth is, is that they are doing it now, so I do think that there is a bit of mission creep, but their colleagues asked them to do it, they are doing it. So now that they are doing it, let’s make sure that they’re doing it well.”
You’ve said you knew Metro’s T2020 (transportation funding measure) would fail. Why did you think that? What would you have done differently?
“Yes I think it was a matter of timing. And I really think that it should have been put off [until later].”
Did you like the mix of projects on the funding list?
“I think the project mix was fine. I advocated [for the measure] really intensely because, working on the Southwest Corridor [light rail project], we really need transportation improvements. We would have been able to bring in additional federal dollars, and other auxiliary investments… additional housing, additional commercial spaces, affordable commercial spaces, for example. I was advocating really hard for it to pass, but in MPAC [Metro Policy Advisory Committee] meetings with colleagues I could tell on a regional level, this just did not have the political will. And they still pushed forward and failed. And the problem is, once it fails with the vote on the ballot, it’s hard to rebuild that trust and regain momentum.
So I hope that we can have another successful transportation ballot measure at some point in the future. And before that, I hope Metro can help repair some of the lack of trust that the voters have for Metro. There are a lot of federal dollars available right now. And I think it’s a responsibility for Metro to do as much as it can to bring in federal dollars rather than continuing to go back to voters for another ballot measure.”
A lot of people — even progressive transportation advocates — didn’t like the SW Corridor and I think a lot of folks voted against the measure because of that project. I know you are a big advocate of it, so if another bond measure comes up, would you support leaving SWC off the funding list?
“Yes. I think bus rapid transit is a better idea than light rail. It’s less expensive, it’s doesn’t disrupt the neighborhoods as much. And it can still be very, very effective. I would use the bus, but it just doesn’t come often enough.”
If you were on Metro Council how supportive of the status quo would you be of freeway expansion megaprojects? How would you handle these type of projects?
“Just this week, Metro voted in favor of tolling a portion of I-205. And my opponent voted in favor of that. As an MPAC member a couple of weeks ago, I was one of the first to say I am not in favor of it. So that is a difference between the two of us. And the reason I said no to tolls is that, they are just one tool of several in a congestion pricing program that needs to be implemented region-wide. And so the idea to move forward to approve tolling on a small section of a highway that will disproportionately impact some community members in Clackamas County, and there’s not adequate planning for diversion, I think that was the wrong decision, because Metro will be in 2023, renewing its Regional Transportation Plan and I think that it needs to take a holistic view of our regional transportation system.
There’s a reason why we look at the whole region. It’s a network of highways and local arterials that all work together. And so it’s out of order to have a plan in place, and then go off and make an amendment that is not taking the whole system into consideration. So I’m not opposed to tolling. I think it is a tool in the toolbox, it’s just not the only one.
I’m also not in favor of some of the highway expansion projects that are being proposed. I mean, there’s so much data that shows that if you expand highways, more cars use them, it’s not a way to reduce congestion. It’s a way to get more cars on the road and on the highways. So we really need to be investing in smart land-use planning, so people don’t need to use our cars as much.”
Do you agree with ODOT’s policy of using tolling to pay for more capacity and freeway infrastructure?
“That’s a really good question. There are some very specific projects that I think would make sense. For example, if there is a bridge that is no longer safe, I think using toll funding to help help pay for a replacement is appropriate. But to add more lanes to a highway? I don’t think that that’s a good choice, regardless of the funding mechanism.”
Do you do you think we should ever support a project that adds another lane to a freeway?
“I’m trying to think about all the various freeways and where that extra lane would go, that would actually be necessary based on the data. And right now, sitting here on April 29, 2022 I don’t know that there is data that supports adding another lane to any of our regional highways.”
What’s your position on the I-5 Rose Quarter project?
“Some of the arguments in favor of the project continue to not adequately engage the communities that are right around there. I think for any of these transportation projects, especially when they’re right in the inner-core of our city, we need to talk to the communities most impacted within the watershed of the project. I fear that the neighborhood’s don’t really want it. So then we have like the government coming in and they’re not really doing what the community wants.”
Do you think it’s a fair compromise to allow ODOT to add several lanes to I-5 in the central core of Portland, for a project, that’s also going to make changes to the surface streets and also cover the freeway and potentially spur new development?
“I’m really not okay with adding lanes to highways, and we need to be making improvements on arterials. I don’t know if a cap over the highway is necessarily something that the community wants or needs. And local development is really critical for local job and boosting the local economy. However, if the new development is only million-dollar condos that could cause more harm to the neighborhood… they were already harmed initially, when their neighborhoods were bisected. So I know that there’s a lot of talk about the value of this cap. And frankly, I don’t have enough data to say if I would support a cap or not.”
You’ve you’ve worked watershed quality issues as executive director of the Tryon Creek Watershed Council. What’s your opinion about increasing access for off-road cycling?
“I don’t think that this is necessarily an either-or proposition. I think that we can plan in a way that protects some of our more delicate natural resources but also adds more trail capacity. When Metro went to the voters, they specifically included bike and hiking trails, and access for people to be able to get out into nature, right? If if the only way to experience nature requires a one-hour drive, then that’s a giant equity problem right there. And it’s putting more cars on the road because you have to drive.
I do think that, you know, there are some super delicate habitats, like Tryon Creek State Natural Area, for example.”
Would you be open to adding bike trails at Tryon Creek?
“I don’t know where they would go. There’s sort of a safety concern. You don’t want to have pedestrians necessarily where there’s also, you know, cyclists at top speeds. I don’t know if Tryon would be the right place.”
So you think they can coexist, but you don’t think Tryon is necessarily the right spot? What if Metro owned Forest Park? Would that be a good spot for it?
“I don’t have a map in front of me for Forest Park, but I think that there would be opportunities for that. I think it could be possible, it would be a good idea. You know, the one way that we build a value and the ethos of protecting our natural areas is by getting people out into the natural areas and experiencing them. And if you don’t, if you don’t have a way to get into them, and to experience them, then why you’re not necessarily gonna grow up caring about it.”
Why do you think bicycling rates in Portland have been flat and actually gone down in recent years?
“I think safety is a big concern. And I think that even though we have this urban growth boundary, we’re not necessarily building the housing where the job centers are, so it’s difficult to bike to work if it’s many, many miles away. And I think there’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing here because safety has decreased in part because we have an increase in cars and there’s more congestion on the roads, so it’s not as safe for cyclists. So how do we get those people out of the cars and onto bicycles? There are some innovative ideas being done in other cities that we… I think there’s a bit of a hubris around local policymakers, like, ‘Oh, Portland is a really bike friendly city!’ Well, it was at one point, but you can’t just rely on that. We need to continue to evolve.”
Many of our readers are familiar with your competition Duncan Hwang because of his transportation advocacy work with Asian Pacific Network of Oregon and coverage on this site over the years. Why should people give you a chance?
“I’ve lived here for 25 years and have been deeply engaged with the community for that entire time. Like I said, earlier, I’ve worked all over the region, from Lents with small business owners, to bringing affordable housing and pedestrian bicycle and transportation improvements in various parts of Multnomah County and Washington County. And I have a long history of getting work done on the ground. And that includes working across the private, nonprofit and public sectors. And I know what it takes to get the work done. And that’s what I’ve been doing for over two decades. So I’m really excited to apply my experience as a performance auditor and my leadership and innovative thinking as a an environmental leader, and also my lived experience as both a parent and someone with a disability.”
If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at email@example.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.
I’m voting for Terri. Read this about her opponent before voting. https://www.wweek.com/news/2022/05/04/two-metro-councilors-employers-get-money-from-metro-a-candidate-cries-foul/
YES, YES, and YES. So many of our issues that appear to be transportation issues are actually landuse issues caused by lack of walkability and single-family home sprawl. Addressing just transportation issues without also addressing this is like trying to heal a a torn ligament by just keeping it in a brace without going in for surgery.
Terry, if you believe this, you aren’t talking to the right people. If you would like to talk to the right people or learn how… [checks map] most of the United States figured out how to do this decades ago, I would be happy to help you.
Wow, that was disrespectful. Tryon is a delicate wetland, and Riggsby is experienced with Soil and Water Conservation. She seems like a reasonable person, why start off what could be the beginning of a long friendship by being demeaning?
I don’t think Cyclekrieg was demeaning. FWIW. they’re just saying perhaps Preeg Riggsby could use more perspectives on this issue. I agree that her answer on this topic showed a lack of understanding. There’s no reason to assume that off-road cycling and hiking are incompatible.
You have never been to Tryon Creek obviously.
There is paved bike trail adjacent to the highway for a bit.
Having bicycles in the park itself is a terrible idea.
You can walk or hike sometimes you know , not everywhere is suitable for cycling.
I’ve been to Tryon plenty of times. I don’t know if bike trails would be a good idea there or not… but that’s beside the point! The point of the question was to try and pin her down on where she thinks off road biking would be appropriate.
She was asked specifically about Tryon creek. You are in the word business.
What part of that don’t you understand, it was not a general off road bike question.
I was trying to point out how a lot of leaders and elected officials will say they support something in general, but when you ask them for specifics, the answer is different. In this case, I knew she was familiar and close to Tryon, so since she was so supportive of off-road bike trails, I thought it would be interesting to see if she’d be cool with more bike access in Tryon. I think her answer showed a certain type of NIMBYism. That is, she likes the idea of off-road bike access in urban areas, but not in the one park she is personally most attached to. To be clear, there’s a ton of space at Tryon where we bike access could be expanded. There are many ways to mix biking and hiking successfully and there is zero proof about the ecological concerns in most contexts.
The problem is that in Portland our leaders seem to believe that *nowhere* is suitable to off-road cycling (of the singletrack variety).
Yeah. Southern Forest Park is too crowded for bikes to ride on trails. Northern Forest Park is a uncrowded, pristine wilderness, and therefore it’s bad for for the environment for people to ride bikes on trails there.
Very convenient, right? Between these two reasons, every forested place one might want to ride a bike in this region is either too crowded (and therefore unsafe for bikes) or too empty (and therefore deserving of Federal Wilderness level protection).
They’ll let us ride in a tiny plot of land in between two freeways and a bunch of homeless camps*, but other than that, we just really get screwed out of access again and again.
*Not to discount the value of Gateway Green- it’s a great park. But a lot of environmental leaders just go nuclear at the idea of someone riding a bicycle on a trail in an actual forest, not an urban park, and that’s amazing to me.
To be clear, I wasn’t trying to be dismissive of her or soil/water conservation. (I do civil/environmental engineering/SWPPP design, BTW.) But no offense to Ms. Preeg Riggsby, there is a lot “bubble” in Portland when it comes to urban mountain biking access. Its as if someone marked all the maps with ‘Here be Dragons’ for any space outside of Portland and all ideas from beyond are somehow nonexistent. Look, other cities have figured out how to have hikers and bikers on the same trail without issues. Why keep pretending its so hard to do?
As to Tyron Creek SNA specifically, it allows horses on some trails. Horses have been shown to have about 4x to 10x the on trail impacts of mountain bikes. If there is a concern about trails, impacts and the result of having mountain biking on trails, great, let’s have that discussion. But saying “its too delicate for mountain biking” while allowing a 1/2 ton invasive species animal with soil impacts equal to a modern ATV on said trails is kind of nonsensical.
This idea that hiking and mountain biking and/or mountain biking and natural resource protection are at odds with each other is a belief that some in Portland have fostered, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Does it take some planning ahead and some careful work? Absolutely. If you (or others) want to know how other places do that, lets review those places and policies that could be adopted by Portland. But just assuming its not possible isn’t helpful to anyone, especially when those people are seeking election to a post where they would have control on what goes where and how it goes there.
Is she supportive of horse trails in Tryon? I didn’t see that in the interview.
If it’s “bad for the environment” to allow equestrians on trails, and “bad for the environment” is one’s justification for keeping bikes off of trails, what is the justification for allowing equestrians to continue, while denying bike riders access?
If environmental impact were the sole factor determining in land-use policy, equestrians should be banned, right? The fact that equestrians are still welcome reveals a possibility that status quo bias and out-group bias are the actual determining factors, not environmental impact.
Actually it’s even worse than that: in fact, equestrians had a new trail purpose-built for their use in 2015! Keep in mind, this is years after Forest Park was closed to new singletrack, and during the exact same year bike were banned from trails in Riverview! According to her bio, Ms. Riggsby was the Chair of the Tryon Creek Watershed Council for 12 years, and that’s during this time frame, right?
I can’t find a single editorial or article or public comment on whether or not she agreed with the State Park’s decision to build a new trail for horses. But considering the impact of horses on the trail, I’m curious to know if she thinks the new trail construction, as well as continued horse use, was wise or not.
I know that different agencies and different land managers have different projects and different values. But it’s galling that bike riders were locked out of Riverview, in the name of fish conservation, in the same year that Tryon added miles of brand-new horse trails.
This City has a truly illogical relationship to bikes and their riders: endless marketing of our bikey awesomeness, but a deep reserve of animus as soon as we ask to ride on dirt instead of pavement. That’s environmentally perverse.
Thank you for taking the time to write this response Cyclekrieg. I’d love to participate in this discussion, but I woke up to broken internet connection to my computer, I think it is a cable, so no quick fix. So here’s a bit from my phone.
I thought the interview was excellent, both Jonathan’s questions and Riggsby’s responses. What stood out to me was her systems/network point of view regarding transportation, it informed all of her opinions on the various issues Jonathan brought up. For me, it was a breath of fresh air to hear from someone looking at the Portland region as a whole, connected network.
Her responses were the strongest expression of the connection between density, public transportation, and the environment that I’ve heard—and also with the “chicken and egg” challenge of achieving density w/o public transportation coverage or depth in place.
Regarding bike paths, I think she is being pushed into a extreme position here in the comments that has moved away from what she actually said in the interview. She seemed open to off-road paths in Forest Park, but hesitant to add them to a sensitive riparian environment—that seems like a moderate and reasonable response in a general candidate interview.
Good points, all around. Indeed it would make less sense to build bike trails in a sensitive riparian area. However, land management agencies have built many trails for hikers in just those areas, and environmentalists have made no concerted effort to remove them. Furthermore, when cyclists have suggest increasing access in less water-logged locations, they have been rebuffed for other reasons.
Hypocrisies like this abound, when it comes to bicycle access.
People seek out trails to view wildlife (who doesn’t love to see owls at Tryon?). Local trail guides and hiking websites regularly encourage hiking certain trails for their wildlife viewing. But the presence of wildlife is regularly cited as a reason to deny cyclists access, even though hikers also impact wildlife.
When cyclists built trails on their own time in Northern Forest Park, the condemnation was swift. Everyone remember the “rogue trail?” Meanwhile, environmentalists probably don’t even realize when they’re hiking on the hiker-built social trails in Forest Park. The many off-trail hikers and unofficial trail maintenance parties that work on the trails in the Gorge create no uproar, no call to ban irresponsible hikers from the National Forest.
Local environmentalists claimed that Northern Forest Park is too uncrowded (riding a bike on a trail would be bad for the sensitive environment), and Southern Forest Park is too crowded (it would be unsafe to share trails). With logic like that, there’s not a single wooded park that should be acceptable for riding a bike!
When the motivated reasoning becomes that obvious, “scientific” arguments start to ring hollow, and it becomes clear that the motivation is simply personal animus. Many hikers don’t like to share trails, and don’t think someone should be allowed to ride a bike on a trail, ever.
I’ve been reading about this controversy for so long, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m jaded. It’s one thing for bike access advocates to occasionally lose a campaign. It’s another thing entirely when new parks are created multiple times, with the publicly-expressed intention of increasing public access to wild places, only to see access be denied after a quiet, behind-the-scenes bureaucratic decision (Riverview and Metro’s Burlington Property are the latest).
I’d like to take Ms. Riggsby’s statements more seriously, but it’s demoralizing to have politicians tell us “access is on the way” so many times, only to snatch it away at last moment. I now have no trust.
Personally, I think Tryon would probably not be a great location for a network of purpose-built bike trails. But since the obvious places (Forest Park is huge, Riverview already had trails, Burlington is less crowded, etc,) have already been denied to us, I do not care. If the answer is “somewhere else,” then please pony up that place, already!
For that matter, it doesn’t even have to be a full-on bike park or trail network. Would it make sense to only have hiking in a single park in this metro area? If not, why so for cycling? Why not just have a mile or two of trails in each park? Maybe a person could ride to work on a wooded, dirt path. Forest Park has room for many miles, but maybe there’s a half mile trail in Gabriel Park, or Creston Park.
It’s not like we’re asking for the world.
Lisa, as you are the SW Correspondent, you have to be well aware that ‘local concern’ trumps the ability to do a thing many times in Portland and the Riverview saga is an excellent example of that. Is Tyron Creek the best place for trails? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact is, every place mentioned as potential location to allow mountain biking access has people in Portland claiming (much as Ms. Preeg Riggsby does above) that its not possible to go there for “reasons”. However, if you look at those reasons, they don’t hold much water because other locations have not only worked around those “reasons”, they have shown those “reasons” are a load of crap.
Both you and Ms. Preeg Riggsby make a basic assumption that has become almost a meme in Portland: that trails allowing mountain biking are somehow different than other trails. But, did you know that in 2007 all the major trail building guidelines (USFS, MN DNR & American Trails) unified the trail design rules around a single standard, one built on top of a mountain biking standard, namely IMBA 2004? What that means is that if a city builds trails to any of these standards, they are (whether or not they know it) building mountain biking trails. Did you know that in 2009 the EPA determined certain types of mountain biking were passive use, just like hiking?
Again, other cities realize this and have methods to allow fair and equitable access to trails by mountain bikers.
Its not an “extreme position” to point out that trails are built to a standard that includes a specific passive-use group and leaders (current or prospective) in Portland’s land management agencies then deny access to that group based on a set beliefs that others have demonstratively proven to be incorrect in… [checks map again] …yep, hundreds of other cities in the United States. This is the best illustration I can think of and admittedly its not great, but makes the point without getting into the nitty-gritty of lands management: Portland in respect to mountain bike access is like building an a chain of Italian restaurants and then denying entry to Italian persons because the owners believe all Italians eat babies.
Then in an interview, a prospective owner of said restaurants is asked about maybe allowing one restaurant to admit Italians and her answer is, “Well, it would be hard to do so given the fact they eat babies on the regular. Maybe at the place across town, they can eat babies over there.” Does that help explain why her comments might be so infuriating? Or how her comments reflect a sort of soft bigotry, largely fueled by a denial of reality, that is prevalent in Portland? Its not the saying there might be a better place in town, its saying there might be a better place because of a series of untruths the prospective owner believes in.
Your right, there is a lot to like here. But in one section, wow, is it problematic.
If anyone on this wants really good examples of how other places do trails in a city, get yourself out to any of the following: Knoxville Urban Wilderness (Knoxville, TN), James River Park (Richmond, VA) or Duluth Forest Preserve (Duluth, MN). For small properties, look at Swan Creek Park (Tacoma, WA) or the dozens of parks around Minneapolis/St. Paul (MN).
Hi Cyclekrieg, again, thank you for taking the time to write that informative comment. I’m still w/o a keyboard connected to internet, so I’m limited in how much I can write.
But let me start off by saying that I know nothing about this topic and that you seem like an expert, so thank you for sharing.
I do know a little bit about storm water, just because I’ve been covering it with the Cap Hwy project, and with other land use issues. Storm water management triggers a whole set of federal environmental regulations beyond what is required in dryer locations. Look up e-zones (environmental zones) and how much power the government has over what a private landowner can do with their property if it has a spring, seep or other natural water feature. You can’t touch the land within a regulated number of feet around it.
SW Portland is silly with ezones. They are all over the place. Now, look at a topo map of SW Portland. Pretty low elevation around Tryon, huh—all that water’s gotta go somewhere. That’s all I’m going to say without being able to check things on a computer.
The interview wasn’t specifically about building off road bike facilities, and I thought her answer was fine in this general context.
I’ve been involved off and on w various lobbying efforts in different cities for about 35 years, a lot of them successful. It’s not easy, and it sounds like the off-road bike community needs to organize, and pick it’s battles wisely. Tryon is probably not a wise battle.
If I were lobbying for better urban off-road trails, I would have sent her an email thanking her for being open to a trail in Forest Park, and offering to take one of her aides on a ride-along. You know who is really good at this? Don Baack at SW Trails.
Thanks for responding to the general discussion. I agree that we should protect the ecological values and ecosystem services of our forested parks, however, there’s much evidence that trail access decisions have been based less on scientific logic, and more on social preferences.
I also think you’re right that an organized and collaborative approach is the best approach. However, that’s been tried, over and over.
As to stormwater management and e-zones:
Given the fact that super-ecologically-sensitive Tryon Park added miles of brand new, purpose-built equestrian trails in 2015 (while City officials were banning bikes from Riverview), and the fact that equestrian use has higher impact than bicycle use, it does not seem like Ms. Preeg Riggsby’s objection is rooted in environmental concern. Instead, it reminds me of other similar objections rooted in status quo bias and out-group bias.
Of course, I can’t say what’s in her heart! But an objection based on stormwater management is mighty weak, given that equestrian use creates higher impact, and has even expanded in the last decade.
As to the organization and battle-picking of the off-road bike community:
Northwest Trail Alliance was formed over 30 years ago, and has thousands of members. NWTA probably has more members than similar organizations like Mazamas and Trail Keepers of Oregon.
The NWTA has worked with the City of Portland, Oregon State Parks, the BLM, and the Forest Service to open a number of trail systems in the region. Only in working with the City and Metro have the NWTA run into sudden, last-minute, ill-explained roadblocks.
It’s not even fair to call it “picking battles,” because, even in Portland, the relationship with City agencies has been quite friendly: NWTA is currently formally recognized by Portland Parks and Recreation as the steward of PP&R’s soft-surface cycling trails. NWTA members sat on advisory and planning boards for various projects such as Powell Butte, Forest Park, and Riverview.
However, after lots of collaborative work is done, after the public comment is over, after City staffers and Commissioners have expressed support and enthusiasm for equitable trail access, the City always finds a way to renege. Sometimes it’s obvious who has killed it- Amanda Fritz seems to have killed equitable access at Riverview. Other times, it’s like there’s a back-room network of opponents who have outsized say in the issue.
It’s like we all work together to bake a cake, but someone steals it from inside the oven.
Every. Single. Time.*
*Unless it’s an urban park between two interstate highways and a homeless camp, on the site of an abandoned jail.
Thank you Charley for all that background and history. I’m sympathetic. I don’t think our local or national governments are working as they should, there are a lot of frustrated activists/advocates out there.
Locally, would charter reform help with some of this? You’d be less subject to the prejudices of a changing cast of individual commissioners in charge of the various bureaus. Regarding back room deals, I hear you, and I think that’s characteristic of land use in general, at least in SW where transportation facilities required by code are often not possible and therefore go into a backroom “alternative review” from which they emerge decided.
And yes, I agree, there is too often a huge disconnect between ideals espoused by electeds, staff, and plans, and what actually does or doesn’t get built.
Thank you for taking the time to write this all up.
You are welcome, Lisa! It’s great to have something like an actual conversation about the issue.
As to charter reform, I am strongly in favor. I must admit I am not knowledgeable enough about the practical workings of City politics to have an opinion about how the incentive structures would shift (aside from geographic concerns having greater impact). Given the multiple crises we face, and the unique form of government, I think shifting to a more normal form is warranted. And the ranked choice voting is awesome!
Quote: ““I think it’s a responsibility for Metro to do as much as it can to bring in federal dollars rather than continuing to go back to voters for another ballot measure.””
I think it’s a responsibility for Metro to do what they can with the dollars they have, and stop going to voters or the federal government for more money. Maybe they are unaware that every dollar comes from tax payers. We have a state legislature, and local and county governments – we do not need “Metro” for anything.
I think this is an excellent sentiment, and the strongest reason for erring on the side of equity and access, when it comes to recreational land use issues:
On the other hand, talk is cheap, and fending off “neighborhood activists” in Northwest and Southwest Portland is time consuming and expensive. I expect such incentives will lead her to vocally champion equity and access, but quietly decide, “oops, that’s too bad, there isn’t any public land suitable for multi-use trails.”