PBOT director responds to record fatalities, budget woes, trust issues in radio interview

PBOT Director Millicent Williams outside City Hall in August 2023. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is facing three of its most daunting challenges ever, and they’re all happening at the same time: the bureau’s budget is structurally unsound and they face major cuts and layoffs if nothing changes; their reputation (and resulting staff morale) is in the toilet as distrust of government continues to grow and PBOT has alienated many of its allies due to various avoidable controversies, and; PBOT faces hard questions about the record number of people who continue to be killed on our roads year after year — despite a much-ballyhooed commitment to Vision Zero.

So when the current PBOT Director Millicent Williams gets interviewed on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud show, we should all pay attention.

Williams joined venerable host Dave Miller on Monday’s program and he asked her questions about all three of the aforementioned challenges. You can listen to the entire interview on OPB’s website, or check my edited version of the main takeaways:

Dave Miller, OPB:

Last year, the highest number in three decades despite so much focus on safety on Vision Zero. How do you explain this?

Millicent Williams, PBOT:

It’s a really hard question to answer. There are any number of factors… The increase is not unique to Portland. I attribute it to a number of things… Some of the width of the roadways are also challenges. And and we focus on education and ensuring that people understand what their responsibilities are as they’re traversing the city… We have to make sure that we’re enforcing, we have to make sure that we’re causing people to slow down, we have to ensure that we’re considering some of the other societal challenges that we have right now… It’s a staggering number, but one that we can trace back to certain things: distraction, intoxication, or otherwise impaired — all those things are our factors.

Dave Miller:

Traffic deaths dropped something like 10% last year, while they went up in Portland. Do you think something is different in Portland?

Millicent Williams:

The way that the city is designed is different. The way that the population has grown is different… As we see the population continue to grow and shift the way that people are using the roadways is shifting. We anticipate that we’ll continue to need to address those challenges in really systematic ways… The numbers do reflect a difference in the ways that cities are built and designed. We have a really intricate network of streets and sidewalks and roadways that sometimes lend themselves to people showing up in ways that are less than helpful… We’re really working to make sure that we’re educating users of all modes in ways that help us to bring those numbers down, but I do think a lot has to do with the way that the city is populated, the way the city is designed, and the size of the city.

Dave Miller:

What are you doing to focus on particularly vulnerable populations?

Millicent Williams:

We use an equity matrix to help to inform where we make investments and build projects, because we recognize that every community needs to be served and served well… As it relates to those who are unhoused, I think the challenge we have as a city, and as a county, and as a country, is to make sure we’re treating people with dignity, and helping them to find options that move them away from the roadway… I don’t want to suggest that I’m blaming anyone for their condition or their situation; but what we can do is work hand-in-hand with community members to make sure that we are providing them with safe passage, that they have wide enough sidewalks, that they are able to go to places that are safe and clean and protected from potential vehicular traffic that would potentially be a fatal crash for them.

Dave Miller:

Your bureau did a number of surveys of Portland residents and PBOT employees and different constituent groups this year… What’s your top priority?

Millicent Williams:

My top priority is making sure that as the leader for the Bureau of Transportation, we’re serving all communities well. I do think it is important for us to be able to, quote unquote get “back to basics” — make sure that the city is clean, that is well maintained, that we are promoting livability and the ways that we’re promoting and delivering our work… We receive significant funding from outside of the city — federal funding, state funding and other funding to do that innovative work — but it’s important to me that that innovative work have has as its foundation, safe passable roads, clean bike lanes, connected sidewalks, crossings that are connected from one side to the other, that there are signals in place, there’s lighting in place. Those are things that are important to me. I’ve been saying here lately: “We’ve got to get things done, we’ve got to get them done right, and we’ve got to get them done well.”… Maintenance is safety, maintenance is asset management, maintenance is livability… And so we have to focus on all of those things… So that we can do some of that more futuristic thinking about how we can transform our city for what’s coming ahead.

Dave Miller:

What do you see as a long-term solution [to the budget problems]?

Millicent Williams:

… If we do our jobs, well, we do put ourselves out of business. If we create the opportunity for people to use different options to get around town, we do kind of make the gas tax null and void. So we do have to look at alternatives to ensuring that we’re funding the bureau and we’ve had a series of conversations internal to the bureau with city partners about what we might do differently… parking management, we’re going to be looking at VMT, vehicle miles traveled, as an option for funding and how we attach fees to that, there is a utility licensing fee that was established 35 years ago. Right now the transportation bureau is not receiving any of that funding. However, if we have the opportunity to begin to recoup some of the funding — the percentage of that funding that has been reallocated to other interests in the city — we would be able to fill at least some of those gaps…

Dave Miller:

Soon after you became the head of PBOT, the bureau got a lot of flack for an effort to revert a section of protected bike lane on Broadway… There were a lot of bad feelings from from cyclists and other members of the community at the time. What are you doing to build back trust?

Millicent Williams:

That was a challenging moment for me personally, and for the bureau. I recognize that it did cause harm. One of the things that I’m doing is connecting directly with the folks who are most affected, continuing to have the conversations and continuing to show up and be in the spaces that are important. I don’t fear having conversations. I don’t fear conflict and I recognize that we won’t always agree on things. But the way that we get to resolution is through coming together, and so that’s what I’m committed to doing. That’s what the bureau is committed to doing.

And I know I have plenty of work to do to continue to restore the faith and trust. But that’s what I’m here to do.

What are your takeaways from this?

To me, it was notable she mentioned a possible VMT tax. The idea of charging Portland road users by the mile was one of the considerations in PBOT’s 2021 Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility report, but I don’t think we’ve heard it offered as an actual possibility in this type of higher-level context. Is PBOT actually working on it? I also love that she mentioned the ULF revenue that other bureaus have stolen away from PBOT over the years. It’s long overdue for some of those funds to come back to transportation.

I also think her explanation of a “back to basics” mindset is noteworthy. That’s a sensitive topic, because in the past I think most folks have seen maintenance spending and new project spending as a binary, zero-sum conversation. As in, we either take care of roads, or we improve the network. It’s clear Williams is putting herself squarely behind taking care of the roads first, so it remains to be seen how she’ll balance the necessity for doing “innovative work” (which in my opinion could be a euphemism for big bike and bus projects) at the same time.

And finally, her response to what is causing all the deaths was interesting to me. I felt like most of her answer was blaming users of the road, and didn’t make any suggestion that how the roads are designed could play a factor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I think given the terrible conduct of more people these days we do need to shift the narrative toward personal responsibility a bit more, but to reverse bad trends Williams must confront the fact that some of PBOT’s decisions play a role in creating the dysfunctional traffic culture she points her finger at.

— Listen to the full interview here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. 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 maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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JR
JR
3 months ago

I listened to this show when it aired and wasn’t very impressed with the response about why Portland is bucking the trends of declining traffic fatalities elsewhere in the state. I think the factors I was expecting to hear about is the lack of sustained traffic enforcement, displacement of low-income and transit-dependent populations further out where streets are more dangerous, and abundance of homeless camped near major (and often dangerous) roadways. I think she just blanked, but she should’ve been prepared for that obvious question.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
3 months ago
Reply to  JR

Maybe other cities have better people working there.

Jared
Jared
3 months ago

I don’t think I’ve ever seen police enforce speed limits in Portland. They could easily catch drivers going 50% above the speed limit on Burnside. Or catch any big rig driver on our freeways. If a goal is to get drivers to slow down, may I suggest starting there.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Jared

A single motorcycle cop patrols SW Multnomah Blvd on certain days and pulls cars over. No one has any idea who he is and where he came from or why this particular street is prioritized when apparently no others are. It’s just the strangest thing, like Portland city gov’t in general.

Dusty
Dusty
3 months ago
Reply to  Jared

There’s multiple millions in our metro area; police won’t ever be terribly effective at stopping the speeding of such a large population.

SD
SD
3 months ago

“We do need to shift the narrative toward personal responsibility a bit more.”

I would love to see people drive responsibly, and the things that drivers say out loud suggests that the concept of responsible driving is being lost or perhaps was always lacking.

However, the NYT article that is linked, and experience with dangerous drivers leads me to see dangerous drivers as addicts. It would be easy for me to insist that they stop looking at their cell phones or acting out their rage and impatience cold turkey, but I doubt this will be helpful. We don’t need a “say no to dangerous driving campaign.” Just like when Wheeler suggests that leaving 5 minutes earlier to be on time will fix things or Mapps proclaims that culture should change nothing happens.

There has to be guardrails. Dangerous driving has to become cripplingly expensive. Access to dangerous driving has to be cut off. The five lane arterial that feeds an addict a 60mph dopamine rush needs to be destroyed and replaced with a narrow single lane road that is restraining and calming like a weighted blanket. These are the things that PBOT can do.

Just like how this comment section now deletes a paragraph when I misspell a word, my spelling has become much better.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  SD

It deletes a paragraph? Huh. Not me, I sometimes fix obvious spelling typos, but don’t delete anything without a ***Moderator:**** mark. But who knows what the software does?

SD
SD
3 months ago

It is not something on the moderator side. It was happening as I was typing the comment. I can control Z to recover what I was writing. Weirdly, it is not doing it right now, but it has happened before.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

I would love to see people drive responsibly, and the things that drivers say out loud suggests that the concept of responsible driving is being lost or perhaps was always lacking. However, the NYT article that is linked, and experience with dangerous drivers leads me to see dangerous drivers as addicts. It would be easy for me to insist that they stop looking at their cell phones or acting out their rage and impatience cold turkey, but I doubt this will be helpful.

There was a sting-study in Salem Oregon done about 30 years ago, before cell phones became popular, in which UPRR ran an train engine up and down the tracks that go through their downtown area – there are streets on both sides and crossing gates at every single cross street – and on the engine there was a police officer as well. The objective was not to arrest bad motorists or even to warn them, but to identify what kind of morons would drive around closed crossing gates even with the police so obviously watching. With numerous police on hand to pull motorists over, those who drove around the crossings were checked against past arrest records, and nearly all of the motorist caught did in fact have past records of violations – they were in fact serial driving addicts – and most had additional known mental health, addiction, and/or behavioral issues.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

In other words, bad driving is habitual.

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago

Completely unqualified, and it shows.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

I’m sorry but she sounds barely competent in this interview. Is she really the best leader we could find for PBOT?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Once upon a time… I was a “community representative” at a PBOT interview panel for the top 6 bureau director candidates, the one where Leah Treat was ultimately hired. In our interview panel were various other city big cheeses – someone from PBA, the (at the time) current interim director, others, plus a past bureau director by the name of Vic Rhodes. He had a lot of experience. He basically told each candidate that the purpose of the PBOT bureau director was not to run the bureau or even to manage employees, but to act as the “head cheerleader” for the organization, to lobby City Council for more funding, set up the city to better receive federal grants, and so on. If you are competent on outside Public Relations, then you are more or less qualified to be the PBOT director. From the process, I learned that engineers need not apply for the job – they are hopelessly terrible at PR.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

A PBOT employee once said that the real decision makers and power within PBOT lies with the various engineers not the director. They decide how the streets look. Possibly one reason why it seems no 2 streets are setup the same way with bike lanes, bump outs, etc. Anyway, sounds like they were telling me the truth.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

You are correct, as far as I know, the PBOT engineers actually hold the purse strings, and the division managers tend to be engineers at PBOT, but the person at the top is rarely an engineer nor do they need to be.

qqq
qqq
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I believe there’s quite a bit of truth in that, and also for all kinds of organizations beyond City bureaus. Engineers/technical people often aren’t the types that do well in charge of organizations, and not being a technical expert doesn’t mean someone can’t be a good leader.

But it also means leaders who aren’t technical experts should stay out of the way of those who are, which is something I’m not sure Williams understands yet.

Serenity
Serenity
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Yes, well…once upon a time you lived in Portland.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Serenity

I really like David’s posts, a lot of them have deep historical understanding of Portland policy. Sometimes he strikes an off-note, but overall he is an asset to the comments sections.

qqq
qqq
3 months ago

Once I was at a historical board hearing where Oregon City was ordering someone to remove a chain link fence they’d installed without realizing the historical rules prohibited materials not used during the era the neighborhood was built. It was unfortunate because they’d asked if they needed a permit for it, and were told no, but didn’t realize it was in an historic district, so didn’t mention that to the permit people.

Then someone from the audience popped up and said, “Excuse me, but I just wrote my PhD dissertation on Use of Chain Link Fencing in Early 20th Century America. Chain link fencing had been in common use for decades before this neighborhood was built, so that code restriction wouldn’t apply”. When they recovered from shock, the board agreed and dropped the case, and the owner couldn’t believe their luck.

That’s what having David here with his knowledge of Portland transportation over the years is like. It’s totally lucky to have him commenting here.

Caleb
Caleb
3 months ago
Reply to  Serenity

Your comment is odd to me. Were you trying to say anything about the content of David’s post?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Caleb

No, I get what Serenity and others are saying, I’ve been out of town for 8 years now and to a certain extent they are right, I’m a bit out of touch on current conditions in Portland and some of the leadership within the city, much more familiar now with the corrupt East Coast in general and bucolic North Carolina in particular.

I sympathize with Portland wanting a PBOT director who is as perfect as Jesus Christ (or failing that, Barack Obama), but the reality is that most city transportation directors have lots of failings, that no one is ever perfect, and so you get various choices of imperfection. Millicent Williams is really no worse or incompetent on these issues than most of her colleagues in many other cities – yes, there are better, sometimes much better – but I’ve seen far worse too, even at PBOT.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

My takeaway also. Just a boat load of bureauocratic jargon

bjorn
bjorn
3 months ago

Based on her response to the first question it doesn’t appear she understands what Vision Zero is, which I would submit is part of why Portland has been so unsuccessful at implementing it… Vision zero isn’t going to be achieved by focusing on driver education and police enforcement, and it almost seems like she is suggesting that if roads were wider things would be better, because it is easy to narrow an existing road so I have to assume she means the problem is a lack of width.

HJ
HJ
3 months ago

She sounds clueless about the true reasons for the safety problems and how to fix them.
Education is not the answer. There isn’t a person out there unaware that distracted driving, dui, and speeding kill. Yet every driver does at least one of those.
Enforcement and infrastructure that make these behaviors impossible are the answer. The temper tantrum the cops have been throwing refusing to enforce traffic laws are a HUGE part of the problem. Everyone knows there is no enforcement and they behave exactly as one would expect in such a situation, poorly.
Make it hurt, and I mean really seriously hurt, to drive irresponsibly, and you’ll see the problem fix itself.

9watts
9watts
3 months ago

Reading just your summarized notes is very discouraging to me. It reminds me of the interview Dave Miller did with Chris Strickland(?) some years back. Lots of empty words strung together that superficially sound like sentences but at the end you ask yourself did he/she actually say anything? Did I learn anything? Or was that just a word salad? Where is the soul, the passion? What makes her excited? Why should we be excited to have her leading this bureau? I don’t think those are unreasonable questions.

dw
dw
3 months ago
Reply to  9watts

Her responses are like a slightly more eloquent version of what Mapps said when Jonathan interviewed him. It’s politician speak. She knows that her job ultimately depends on the approval of the Portland Metro Chamber and other business organizations. Admitting that structural factors are causing the deaths on our streets signals to car-exclusivist business owners (the most sacred, protected class in our society) that PBOT is coming for their multi lane roads and excessive parking.

On the other hand, she can’t say “PPB should do their jobs” because that’s not her lane, and she’d have tons of Reed College students shouting her down calling her a bootlicker.

So it’s all about “education” and “personal responsibility” and maintaining the status quo.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  dw

Comment of the week! (but won’t be picked b/c it’s controversial – or controversial in the wrong way).

9watts
9watts
3 months ago
Reply to  9watts
Montavillain
Montavillain
3 months ago

Ah yes, more “Portland is different” speak. I guess you could say it is, we have an abysmal public safety culture with an upward fatality trend.

Portland used to be different, sure, in 1980, 1990, 2000,2010. You could argue for the right reasons: affordable, safe, artsy, relaxed ( well at least in the 90-2010 era)…. The writing on the wall seems pretty clear that even local leadership are similarly stuck with a nostalgic 2000/2010 view of Portland and perhaps society. My blunt point is, 15 years ago Portland was a different place, as was the world. I for one voted differently then than I would now, and in general, the consensus I get from talking to friends/neighbors/etc is that they in a similar boat….

The voting base already seems to be signaling a shift that the “different” that it wants is responsible, fiscally minded leadership and actual progress towards creating a safe, functional, and equitable city. Leadership should listen, or be prepared to be (re)moved out of the way.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Montavillain

Yes, “Keep Portland Weird” was a fine mantra back when “weird” meant artsy, offbeat, and interesting. Now “weird” has become synonymous with dirty, dangerous, and out of control.

People in Vancouver were onto something when they printed the “Keep Vancouver normal” bumper stickers. I think I speak for many Portlanders when I say we are exhausted by weird and just want some normal again.

Steven
Steven
3 months ago

Hoboken, NJ has famously achieved zero traffic deaths for several years running. To my knowledge they didn’t do it by shaming individual drivers or preaching about “personal responsibility”.

Mark Remy
Mark Remy
3 months ago

“We’ve got to get things done, we’ve got to get them done right, and we’ve got to get them done well.”

Great! Except that I look around and I see next to nothing actually getting done at all, much less getting done “right” or “well.”

Hollow rhetoric like this only adds to the public’s cynicism and hopelessness.

To borrow some advice given to writers: Don’t tell us, Ms. Williams—show us.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark Remy

Amen, Mark. I LOLed at her comment about getting “back to basics” and sweeping the bike lanes.

Okay, then – sweep the damn lanes. I’ll believe it when I see it.

curly
curly
3 months ago

Sorry, it’s the same rhetoric east Portland has been hearing for decades. No trust out here. More of the same promises from one director to the next. It’s the same scripted remarks which seem a stable of PBOT.
Please note director Williams, “actions speak louder than words”. When action does happen it’s been slow in coming, resulting in scaled down projects and insufficient outreach with the communities served. Still waiting for a director who serves citizens of the city of Portland equally.

As for VMT tax, east Portlanders have been contributing to PBOT, via the gas tax PBOT hopes to renew, not knowing if an equitable amount of that funding will be spent in east Portland. Now PBOT wants to tax us again though we still don’t have alternatives for active transportation (sidewalks, crossings) that exists in much of the city. It seems PBOT continues to use east (west) Portlanders to subsidize projects in the inner city. Equitable? Show me the numbers.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  curly

Sorry if I don’t know much about conditions in East Portland since I’ve cycled there only a few times and felt discomfited by unhinged people – mostly drivers but also some campers – screaming at me.

Just know that SW Portland doesn’t get much from PBOT, either. I’d say the inner Eastside gets the most, plus JM’s neighborhood (half-kidding there, maybe).

Disgruntled Commuter
Disgruntled Commuter
3 months ago

We know that traffic keeps getting worse as the city and its roadways and highways were not designed for this level. But PBOT sometimes makes it worse, such as when they turn 4-lane roads with a center section into 2-lane roads with a center section to add a massive bike lane on both sides. Two examples: Glisan and 122nd Avenue (East Side). Where traffic used to flow at normal speed now slows dramatically since it gets heavily congested.

I drive Glisan frequently so with that example, you could easily have added a bike lane to one side and probably could still fit the middle lane easily. There isn’t a lot of bike traffic to justify those hugely wide bike lanes on both sides of the street.

9watts
9watts
3 months ago

That is called a road diet, if I am not mistaken, Happened on Division East of 60th a while back: four car lanes reduced to three car lanes + two bike lanes. My experience of and understanding behind this switch is that travel times are not actually increased much (far less than armchair comments assume) because turning traffic is taken out of the travel lanes.

Toadslick
3 months ago

“But PBOT sometimes makes it worse, such as when they turn 4-lane roads with a center section into 2-lane roads with a center section to add a massive bike lane on both sides.”

The only people this is “worse” for are the ones that selfishly want to speed their cars through areas whether other folks are trying to live. For people that want to walk or bike, this is a massive quality-of-life improvement. When Foster was four lanes it was stressful and often scary to cross, especially for families that just wanted to frequent their local businesses.

You’re really telling on yourself by describing extremely mediocre bike lanes as “huge.” Maybe you’d be a little less disgruntled if you got out of your car more often.

maxD
maxD
3 months ago

Where traffic used to flow at normal speed 

The normal speed and volume and driving pattern was killing people!

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

I always laugh when someone who clearly has never ridden a bike in Portland comes to this space to lament the loss of road space that drivers once took for granted, as their own, forever and ever shall be, amen.

The other morning I was cycling south on SW Capitol Hwy when a car shot out of a side street ahead of me and turned right. The driver gunned the engine and slid the back end of the car around on the wet pavement and then recovered to head south. He (I’m sure it was a he) then gunned the engine again and sped away – only to catch up to and have to follow a subcompact car that was obeying the speed limit.

That’s b/c SW Capitol was put on a road diet a few years ago, thereby ensuring that many more drivers would HAVE to obey the speed limit.

Road diets are not for disgruntled commuters; they are for saving lives.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

Where traffic used to flow at normal speed now slows dramatically since it gets heavily congested.

Some people regard this as an improvement in itself, especially if they themselves don’t use those streets.

It’s likely that safety has improved at the expense of the time-cost of moving around by car or by bus. I’ll leave it to others to decide how those things should be balanced on streets like 122nd that I rarely use in any capacity.

I would be interested in hearing more about the experiences of people who actually use streets like Glisan and 122nd regularly, whether they travel by car, bus, bike, foot, or rollerblade.

SD
SD
3 months ago

When drivers complain about loss of speed or loss of time, they typically do not know or actually care about objectively measurable extra seconds and minutes that they spend in a vehicle. What drivers really care about is how time feels when they are driving. Time feels frustratingly slow when sitting in a car in traffic that is not moving.

The experience of time is very different on a bicycle.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Time slows even further when you are waiting for a scheduled service like the bus, train, or airline, and it’s late – and they don’t tell you why it’s late.

PBOT time is even more interesting: “Immediately” means anytime between next year and two elections from now; “Soon” means it’s in the TSP but the funding has been delayed, or there is federal funding but no local match yet, maybe in ten years; “It’s Planned” means it’s in the TSP but no one knows where the funding is coming from nor does anyone in authority care – some time after 10 years from now and never – is never soon enough?

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Well said, David. Thank you.

Margo J.
Margo J.
3 months ago

I’m not pleased with the performance of Williams. The good thing is that there is an election coming soon. Instead of just complaining on Bike Portland I can vote. Mapps (who hired Williams) won’t be getting my support.

Dusty
Dusty
3 months ago
Reply to  Margo J.

Mapps has got to go.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
3 months ago

‘venerable’… I had to look up your description of Dave Miller… ‘accorded a great deal of respect due to age’. Miller is a weak interviewer, when it comes to politicians and bureaucrats. This interview was a classic example: he asked decent questions, got total non-answers, and then moved on to the next question. He has virtually no ‘follow up’ skills. This has been his modus operandi for well over a decade. He does have great skills when it comes to human interest stories, but when it comes to hard journalism, he is a waste of space.

9watts
9watts
3 months ago

I think that may be a bit harsh. If you listen to the Kris Strickler interview linked above I think you might agree that he did follow up. Not as much as some more dogged interviewers—I mean this is OPB after all—but also not exactly milquetoast either. I haven’t listened to the Williams interview just reads Jonathan’s excerpts, and that didn’t exactly inspire me to listen to the whole thing. Maybe Dave Miller has learned that it is pointless to be more aggressive? That there’s nothing there?

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
3 months ago
Reply to  9watts

A bit harsh maybe, but after most of his interviews with public officials, I realize that I don’t know any more than I did before it. Of course, most of the fault is with the interviewee. Bureaucrats and politicians are infamous for giving meaningless, boiler-plate answers to tough questions. It makes me wonder why Dave Miller bothers with these interviews. I suggest that OPB reporters be assigned each of these topics and report on the show. For instance, a reporter could ‘field’ each of Dave’s questions, research them, and report back. For instance, a reporter could look in the Broadway bike-lane fiasco, report on the history, PBOT’s installation, the back-lash, etc etc. It would have been much more informative than asking Williams. That said, it would probably require 10+ hours of reporter time, and salary, to adequately research the topics. That is probably the reason that OPB does not take this approach, it would be much more costly than just plunking a talking head down in front of a microphone.

9watts
9watts
3 months ago

Fair enough.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
3 months ago

I assume the reason that they don’t give specifics is that every specific answer will offend some part of the viewing/voting populous and their ultimate goal is to get re-elected or keep their jobs? I just realized that you get some specifics out of politicians, when you so publicly offend them with your views, that they actually bring you up in pressers haha

dw
dw
3 months ago

On a related note, I would really like to have a sit-down with Williams and try to get beyond the typical talking points.

I would love to hear you do an interview with her. I think that your polite, but direct and rational interviewing style could get some really good answers.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
3 months ago

This seems to reflect her general lack of understanding that other communities/cities/jurisdictions are doing things to make everyone safer, and she should be leading to do that here. Things like DAYLIGHT the damn intersections. And address the impact of larger vehicles as more likely to severely injure or kill (she herself drives an SUV, so not a lot of hope of her working on that). We don’t need smooth talk. We need action.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Director Williams drives an SUV? That tells me all I need to know.

9watts
9watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Super discouraging. And I bet she makes many times more $$ than I ever will in my lifetime. Taxpayer $$, folks.

Wakeup Sunshine
Wakeup Sunshine
3 months ago

Portlanders are notoriously lacking in situational awareness. No arbitrary speed limit is going to solve that.

ActualPractical
ActualPractical
3 months ago

Portland is gradually becoming a great and dense city, but our streets often belong in a suburban hellscape rather than an environment with plenty of pedestrians, cyclists, and small local shops. PBOT could fix much of it on the cheap, but they don’t or won’t.

I’m sure everyone has their nearby “hated road” where the problem hits you in the face any time you go near it.

Mine is NE Broadway. I avoid walking it by habit. During Christmas I had family in town and was reminded how many awesome shops and restaurants are there. The type of place I’d dream to walk regularly and hang out.

But then the dream is interrupted by 3 one-way lanes of 50mph plus, few crossings, sliverwidth sidewalks, and fast cars turning without looking.

P.S. urbanism and walking is my sole religion, so if I’m scared of a street it’s saying something

disgruntled
disgruntled
3 months ago

…but our streets often belong in a suburban hellscape rather than an environment with plenty of pedestrians, cyclists, and small local shops.

P.S. urbanism and walking is my sole religion

The twee sidewalk ballet for the “inners” but harsh repression and corporate rule for the belters.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  disgruntled

Glad to see you’re back, I was worried about you.