Despite Chamber’s claims, SW 4th Avenue project will go on

Left: Andrew Hoan (Photo: Portland Metro Chamber) Right: Mingus Mapps (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

City Commissioner Mingus Mapps is once again making headlines alongside business interests who don’t like a major bike project and seek to leverage their influence with his office. And once again the public is left wondering who’s telling the truth.

Last week BikePortland broke the news about a letter to Mapps from president of Portland Metro Chamber (formerly Portland Business Alliance) Andrew Hoan. Hoan said the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s SW 4th Avenue Improvements project should be cancelled because he believes it is, “unnecessary, wasteful, and disruptive.”

The $23 million project’s main focus is a physically-protected bikeway on 4th Avenue between I-405 and W Burnside. It has been years in the making and is considered a key part of PBOT’s Central City in Motion plan. It seemed odd to me from the get-go that someone as experienced as Hoan would demand such a drastic move from PBOT at such a late hour (the project had already begun). The Chamber has opposed the project in the past, but has made no coordinated, public effort to stop it until now.

Another odd thing was how quickly Mapps’ office issued a response to the Chamber. Just six hours after our story, Mapps sent a letter back to Hoan that flatly rejected his requests, defended PBOT’s record, and extolled the virtues of the project.

But one week later, according to a story by Willamette Week published Wednesday May 15th, Hoan emailed City Council to say Mapps was hiding something. From that story:

“… the Chamber wrote in an email to all of City Council that Mapps had, in fact, told them verbally that he would be scaling back the 4th Avenue bike lane project. According to the Chamber, Mapps told them that before he sent a May 7 letter that made no mention of a scaled-back project.

‘Our main purpose of writing today is to thank Commissioner Mapps for his commitment to reducing the scope of this project,’ Metro Chamber president and CEO Andrew Hoan wrote in a Tuesday email. ‘This wasn’t communicated in this letter, but we greatly appreciate that he personally communicated to the Chamber that only the broadly supported parts of the 4th avenue project will move forward under his watch.'”

This email from Hoan suggests that Mapps is talking out of both sides of his mouth, telling the Chamber he’d cut certain parts of the project while telling the public it would move forward as planned.

This episode echoes the problems Mapps created for himself in the Broadway Bike Lane Scandal last fall where he was caught between his own public statements and meetings and conversations he (and/or his office) had with downtown business owners.

Asked about Hoan’s claims that Mapps promised something to the Chamber, the commissioner’s policy advisor Jackson Pahl told BikePortland via email yesterday, “Commissioner Mapps stands by the letter that he wrote.”

And at the PBOT Bureau Budget Advisory Committee (BBAC) held at the Portland Building last night, committee member David Stein asked PBOT Government Affairs Manager (and BBAC staff liaison) Matt Grumm about the project.

“I’d like to just understand what if anything is happening,” Stein asked.

“We’re doing the project as you know it and as the contractor knows it and everything else, so that’s what we’re doing,” Grumm replied.

“OK, so no changes?”

“No,” Grumm added.

So, we can rest assured that the project is going forward in its entirety, without any “scaling back” as Hoan suggested; but we can’t be sure that both of these men are telling the full truth.

Note: BikePortland connected with a Portland Metro Chamber spokesperson yesterday but they have so far been unable to answer my questions.

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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dw
dw
26 days ago

I will once again ask; how do I find out who are members of the Metro Chamber? I want to vote with my dollars and avoid doing business with them.

Watts
Watts
26 days ago
Reply to  dw

You could go to their website and look under “Member Directory” under the “Membership” header on the home page.

To save you the trouble, here’s the direct link:

https://community.portlandmetrochamber.com/membership-directory

Alan Love
Alan Love
26 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Ironically that page has a header picture with a person riding a bike. Bikewashing…

Michael
Michael
26 days ago
Reply to  dw

PMC’s own website is your greatest ally: https://community.portlandmetrochamber.com/membership-directory

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
26 days ago
Reply to  dw

It’s a big coalition. I mean what are you going to do?
1) Burn all your Nike and Adidas apparel
2) Send angry letters to the Boy and Girl
Scouts and the Boys & Girls Club
3) Never go to OMSI, Oregon Historical Society, Hoyt Arboretum or the Portland Art Museum.
(They’re all members)
Personally I’m not into the whole cancel culture thing.

dw
dw
26 days ago
Reply to  Angus Peters

No, I am not trying to “cancel” anyone. I am exercising my right as a consumer in a free(ish) market to (attempt) to support businesses whose values align with my own. Others are free to do the same.

I will probably still go to places like the Oregon Symphony, but will exercise some judgement in where I decide to eat and shop based on whether or not establishments are part of the PBA/PMC or not.

I am especially disappointed to see Dot’s cafe listed. Jonathan interviewed the owner a couple years ago and he seemed to be very pro-bike and walkability. I had been going out of my way to get there once a month or so, but I guess I can go elsewhere now.

SD
SD
26 days ago
Reply to  dw

It would probably be more effective to inform the “members” about all of the shady things the PBA has done over the last 10-15 years and inform them that they are listed as members on the website. Chances are most will not know that the chamber is frequently sabotaging Portland’s interests, is not politically neutral, and the business owners may not realize that they are members.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
26 days ago
Reply to  SD

SD, There’s an application & annual membership dues starting at $100/year. I’m not sure how nonprofits and businesses owners wouldn’t realize that they are members. I gather that they find there is value in membership or they wouldn’t sign up.
https://community.portlandmetrochamber.com/join

SD
SD
26 days ago
Reply to  Angus Peters

Call them and find out. Previously, the membership list of the PBA was not accurate. Many of those businesses may find something valuable initially and not be aware that the PBA is hiding behind small business credibility to carry out Melvin Mark’s petty anti-bike lane crusade.

dw
dw
26 days ago
Reply to  SD

Plenty of small business owners are wildly anti-bike lane. Isn’t there a guy in SF on a hunger strike because of a bike lane in front of his restaurant?

Marty Ponnech
Marty Ponnech
25 days ago
Reply to  dw

Here’s a local example. Was the owner of the Russian Market “anti-bike” or was he concerned a street re-design would imperil the ability of his business to survive? Those are 2 very different things. It’s tough to strive to keep a small business afloat in an industry dominated by large corporations and being in a community that has recently not been a good locale for local businesses to thrive (break ins, vandalism). We need to work with small businesses so their needs are met. This doesn’t mean we need to keep high speed roads with lots of parking but it does mean we need to reduce and mitigate impacts of transportation changes for our small businesses.
https://eastpdxnews.com/general-news-features/businesspeople-neighbors-protest-division-street-medians/

dw
dw
25 days ago
Reply to  Marty Ponnech

Many words have been written about the Division median; the context that seems to be missing is the global pandemic and record inflation that was happening while the project was being built. I just can’t imagine a world where “loyal customers” stop going somewhere because they had to go an extra 2 blocks to make a u-turn.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
25 days ago
Reply to  dw

If you read that article provided above you would see the business drop off occurred after the medians were installed which was long after the pandemic effects had subsided. Many people definitely will not go to a business if access is difficult (yes even 2 blocks and a u-turn can be viewed as difficult access by some). You can criticize customers for that but if you’re a business owner it may mean paying the bills or not.

SD
SD
25 days ago
Reply to  dw

The anti-bike lane businesses get a lot of attention, but many don’t care either way or want safe bike routes for their employees to get to work and the traffic calming effect near their business. Some are enlightened enough to have read the studies that show bike lanes enhance many businesses. The PBA, for the most part, doesn’t advertise its anti-bike lane tactics, but instead tries to pressure city hall using its direct line to commissioners. I imagine if I was starting a business, there may be some incentives to join the PBA and I may not be aware of all the dirty things the PBA has done and it’s corrupt influence over city hall. Some businesses are aware of this and have joined “Business for a Better Portland” instead, but my guess is that a bunch aren’t thinking about it.

Micah
Micah
26 days ago

Can the peanut gallery help me out here and decode what the right wing jargon “broadly supported parts of the 4th avenue project” in Hoan’s email means? Just repaving? Thanks.

Watts
Watts
26 days ago
Reply to  Micah

Why do you consider “broadly supported” to be right wing jargon?

Micah
Micah
26 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I consider it to be right wing because it conflates the preferences of the author or PMC with a vague but attractive concept of community consensus. In doing so, the phrase implies popular support for business preferred city policy without actually addressing the breadth of support, and those preferences are on the political right (e.g. opposed to using taxes for communal purposes).

Watts
Watts
25 days ago
Reply to  Micah

It sounds like your criticism is mostly about what is “broadly supported” rather than the concept itself. Claiming support for your view sounds like something both the left and the right (and centrists, too) routinely do.

Do bike lanes through downtown Portland really have broad public support, or does the PMC have a point?

By the way, I do not see bike issues as being inherently left or right, and the biking community is better of keeping it that way.

Micah
Micah
25 days ago
Reply to  Watts

My comment was not a criticism, it was a (sincere) request for speculation on the particular desires of PMC — which parts of the plan are they trying to get Mapps to ‘scale back’ and which parts are they not opposing? I cede that all types of political actors routinely use euphemism to make their positions seem popular. I did not expect calling PMC’s use of right wing jargon what is was would be controversial. I was hinting at the reason I did not know what was meant by ‘broadly supported parts’: I’m not part of that community and don’t speak their language.

BTW: Being pro-bike is a left wing stance, and, no, PMC does not have a point.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
26 days ago

PMC doesn’t “owe” anything to the community. Mapps does.

Anon
Anon
26 days ago
Reply to  Steven Smith

Given their outsized influence on elected reps and policy, I’d say they owe us transparency.

qqq
qqq
26 days ago
Reply to  Steven Smith

From their website ( https://portlandmetrochamber.com/ ):

With 2,100+ organizational members, the Portland Metro Chamber is the leading voice for businesses in the region, advocating to improve commerce, community development, and regional economic prosperity.

If they’re claiming that level of importance in the community, saying they owe the community a clarification seems reasonable to me.

SD
SD
26 days ago
Reply to  qqq

There is also that part where Tax payers are paying part of Hoan’s and other PBA executive’s salaries.

“The PBA manages Clean & Safe’s contract with the city of Portland, and tax records show all Clean & Safe staff members are employees of the PBA. The Clean & Safe contract subsidizes up to 50% of PBA executives’ salaries, including 45% of PBA President and CEO Andrew Hoan’s $317,360 annual salary, according to public records.”

Vans
Vans
26 days ago

Therein lies the rub, Hoan and PMC don’t think they owe us anything and think they should be able to dictate policy without coming under any scrutiny, especially from the public.

Bjorn
Bjorn
26 days ago

Doing the corruption out in the open without trying to hide it is an interesting strategy…but if I was making backroom deals with a city councilor I’d probably write fewer letters about them.

John V
John V
26 days ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Mapps apparently understood that, if he did indeed make any promises. No paper trail. On the other hand, if Hoan et. al. are just making up unsubstantiated lies to stir shit and maybe try to pressure Mapps in some way, this is an interesting approach. The way that letter was worded was incredibly passive aggressive. “Thanks for saying that thing you definitely said but didn’t write down! We appreciate it! Wink!”.
The whole thing really makes me even more distrustful of Mapps, which may be the point. But also I have no reason to believe what Hoan is saying. I don’t know.

Chris I
Chris I
24 days ago
Reply to  John V

I think he’s pissed that Mapps changed his mind on this one and is trying to stir up a controversy. He’s acting like a child.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
26 days ago

Seems like either: both parties are inept at communications and politics, or the chamber really doesn’t like Mapps and is doing their best to smile while biting. Could be both.

This public disclosure is confusing. It’s hard to understand what the chamber is trying to accomplish through 12th hour machinations and their semi-public/semi-private communications with Council and what Mapps is trying to accomplish through supposed deals with the chamber.

What this highlights is that both the wealthy business interests and the commissioner in charge of PBOT don’t have the interests of Portland at heart. Understandable, if regrettable myopic on the part of the chamber. Tragic on the part of the commissioner, while he and his director tear down the fabric of what is really a pretty great public agency–warts and imperfections considered. (why the director? see Broadway, 72nd and other close escapes) How many times can you shoot yourself in the foot?

Watts
Watts
26 days ago
Reply to  Steven Smith

What this highlights is that both the wealthy business interests and the commissioner in charge of PBOT don’t have the interests of Portland at heart.

Do you mean Mapps and the Chamber are trying to damage the city? Or do you mean that they don’t agree with you about what would be best for Portland?

I see no evidence of the first, and nothing nefarious about the second.

Steven Smith
Steven Smith
26 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Not damage, but by focusing solely on their personal interests–making more money and staying in office, respectively–they do nothing to advance the city’s global interests.

The chamber doesn’t understand / believe that a destination-based downtown that prioritizes biking and walking will benefit the bottom lines of both the large property owners as well as the smaller commercial businesses.

Mapps, who theoretically is charged with implementing city policies couldn’t seem to care less about them. Instead, he’s working to appease deep-pocketed, influential people for his personal gain.

Watts
Watts
25 days ago
Reply to  Steven Smith

I don’t personally know how this bike project would impact businesses, but I do know that no one is better positioned to know, or has a higher stake in that question, than the businesses themselves, many of whom have chosen the PMC to represent them.

I see nothing inherently wrong with a politician behaving in a way they think will make reelection more likely, or a business association lobbying for policies they think would be beneficial to their members. That’s just what they do.

Accountability for Mapps will come soon enough (and I doubt he’ll be our next mayor). If the PMC does wrong by its members, they’ll quit, or perhaps even start a competing business association. In fact, I think such an organization already exists. I wonder what they make of this project.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
26 days ago

“This email from Hoan suggests that Mapps is talking out of both sides of his mouth…”

I think most people that pay attention to Portland politics would agree with this. If Mapps were smart he would pull out of the mayoral race and go for city council. In my opinion right now he’s gonna be a distant 3rd place mayoral finisher but I bet he could snag a City Council spot.

SD
SD
26 days ago

The chamber uses the “good name” of the business community to further the agenda of a small subset of individuals.

Watts
Watts
25 days ago
Reply to  SD

Members who feel their good name has become besmirched can always stop paying their dues.