Bike Happy Hour: Candidates, questions, and characters

Council candidate Sarah Silkie hears an answer to her question from BHH regular Melissa Kostelecky. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

If you missed Bike Happy Hour last week, you missed hearing from three more Portland City Council candidates. That brings the count of candidates we’ve heard from this election cycle up to 11.

Last Wednesday candidates Deian Salazar (D1-E), Jesse Cornett (D3-SE) and Sarah Silkie (D4-W) hopped on the mic. We got to know a little about each of them and heard what makes them tick.

At just 23 years old, I was really impressed with Salazar. In true Bike Happy Hour form, he made an effort to meet every single person in the room. His remarks focused on how he wants to get homeless Portlanders into job training programs to, “get the skill sets and they need in order to stay out of poverty, and to have a decent living wage.” Asked how he moves around the East Portland district, Salazar replied, “I’m not rich enough to be able to afford a car. So I often walk and take the bus. I’ve been considering getting back into cycling… what I really want to do is build a lot of new bike infrastructure, because I think we should not be requiring cars for everyone to be able to move around the city.”

Cornett described himself as being an advocate for the vast majority of his career. He shared tales of shadowing U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and said the “proudest moment” of his work so far was being a legislative lobbyist for an effort that resulted in 55,000 Oregon migrant farm workers getting health care coverage. Cornett is currently the policy advocate for Oregon Recovers, a nonprofit that advocates and provides services for people suffering from addiction. When it comes to transportation habits, Cornett has a bike but rides it infrequently and mostly gets around by car or his own two feet.

Silkie is an engineer who “protects our drinking water” in her job at the Portland Water Bureau. She grew up in Portland and is a newcomer to politics. “If you had told me five years ago that I would be running for city council getting involved in politics, I would have laughed in your face. But times have changed. I have changed.” She said she used to ride bikes a lot, but injuries have forced her off the saddle. Her husband is a daily e-bike rider. Asked why she decided to run, Silkie said, “We’re at a crossroads. The last five years have felt like something out of a science fiction movie… I’m going to be 50 next year and I should really think about how I can make a difference in the world.”

My favorite part of the night was when Silkie asked the crowd for feedback on bike lane design: Do folks like parking-protected lanes or more traditional, door-zone lanes next to drivers? She heard a bunch of great insights and different opinions from a wide range of bicycle riders — from a mom who rides with kids, from an older former racer. (And in a good sign of what type of person Silkie is, she emailed after happy hour to get a copy of the audio recording I made of the answers.)

It was such a cool moment because my first interaction with Silkie was an email where she asked me that same question and I replied: Why don’t you come to Bike Happy Hour and ask the community yourself?

Come out and meet Roo tonight!

That’s just one of the many reason we do happy hour! It’s a place to educate yourself and learn from other folks in the community, and for the community to educate guests what it’s like to ride bikes in this city. Sharing perspectives is a powerful thing. The more different ones we hear — especially face-to-face — the more empathetic and understanding we become.

At tonight’s event (BHH #43) there will certainly be more interesting perspectives to hear from. I don’t expect any candidates, but you never know who will show up. I’ve got several folks on deck who could be there at any time, including Congressional candidate and current State Rep Maxine Dexter and Council D4 candidate Bob Weinstein.

Our special guest tonight will be Roo Albisurez, the founder of Warpaint, community manager for NW Trail Alliance, and an advocate who has built a platform for Black, indigenous and people of color who love the outdoors.

Next week (BHH #44, 2/7) I’ve got a commitment from D2 (N/NE) candidate Mariah Hudson. And it will also be Legal Night, so get your questions ready for special guest and local lawyer Chris Thomas from the venerable firm Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost.

See you tonight. Same time (3:00-6:00 pm), same place (Ankeny Tap, 2724 SE Ankeny).

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.

Thanks for reading.

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Melissa K
Melissa K
5 months ago

I appreciated Sarah Silkie’s curiosity and request for input on how to make biking safer. (Also, sorry to Sarah if it looks like I’m laying into her here… I was not, that’s just the RBF-form my face seems to take when I’m talking!) A lot of politicians present themselves as having all the answers, but in reality, a city council member needs to be a jack of all trades–who as the saying goes is a master of none (or at least, not all of them). Good leadership means curiosity, being open to learning, and striking a good balance between hearing community asks and heeding the advice of experts, especially when the latter two conflict.

I was also impressed with Deian Salazar’s approach to speaking with each person individually and his grasp of the issues. He seemed passionate about fighting homelessness and poverty, and he appeared to understand how those tie into transportation, urban form and livability.