Bob Stacey died Thursday evening, September 8th. He was 72 years old.
Stacey was a former Metro Councilor who spent nearly 50 years fighting to preserve Oregon’s land use policies from the type of suburban sprawl that consumed most other regions in America.
Never one to seek the spotlight, Stacey worked the inside game as well as anyone. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t love showing up at events around town. In 2012 he came up to one of our Wonk Night events at our former office downtown. In 2016 he introduced former New York City DOT leader and current urbanism rockstar Janette Sadik-Khan when she visited Portland. “It’s not a secret we may have lost our edge. So we need to learn everything we can about our peers,” he told the crowd.
Beneath his affable demeanor, Stacey was a brilliant advocate who wasn’t afraid of a fight. He was one of the loudest voices against the Columbia River Crossing project (now called the I-5 Bridge Replacement Program). I happened to take video of his sharp critique of “the really big, fat bridge” at a 2013 event:
And he just kept on fighting, even after he stepped down from his Metro Council post last October due to the onset of a non-cancerous brain tumor.
As I worked on a story back in February about the broken-down elevators on the railroad overcrossing that bore his name in southeast Portland, I was very surprised he wanted to talk with me about it. To Stacey, the story wasn’t just about elevators not working. “It speaks to the imbalance between the amount of resources that get scraped together to build new stuff without having a clear commitment to how we maintain it in the future,” he said. “And I think that falls heaviest on forms of transportation viewed as less important than cars.”
It spoke volumes to me that this person — who once fought the infamous Rajneeshee cult, was Portland’s planning director, had served stints as a chief of staff on Capitol Hill, and almost became Metro Council president — cared so much about what many people thought was a relatively inconsequential issue.
Yes, Stacey was, “The most important person most people have never heard of,” according to a statement from Congressman Earl Blumenauer Thursday night; but in the past year some people tried to change that. Stacey was given the Bud Clark Lifetime Achievement Award by The Street Trust in October 2021 and the City of Portland changed the name of the Gideon Overcrossing to the Bob Stacey Overcrossing last April.
The video below is from the 2021 Alice Awards where The Street Trust Executive Director Sarah Iannarone spoke about his accomplishments and work:
I doubt these accolades meant as much to him as knowing that he helped inspire a generation to follow his lead and stand up for Oregon’s land use and transportation values.
Thank you Bob. May you rest in peace.