Vera got stuff done: Lessons in leadership for a changing Portland

Posted on December 19th, 2017 at 7:54 am.

1972 campaign flyer for State Representative District 8, Vera Katz’s first elected position.
(Portland State University Library Special Collections)

Sarah Iannarone is the associate director of First Stop Portland and a former candidate for Portland Mayor. She lives in east Portland.

Former Portland Mayor Vera Katz died last week at age 84. Three time Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives who went on to serve three terms as Portland Mayor, Katz’s reach was extensive. Part legacy leaver, part urban legend, Katz’s persona looms as large in Portland’s civic imagination as her accomplishments.

As someone born the year Katz was first elected and somewhat removed from state and local politics during her tenure, I’m not suited to eulogize her. Rather, I offer a few lessons gleaned from her leadership and thoughts how we might apply them today.

When I arrived in Portland in 1998 — one of those twenty-somethings allegedly looking to retire — Katz was just beginning her second term as Portland mayor. I’d rented a one-bedroom basement apartment in the Historic Alphabet District for $500 (remember those?) and my living room windows looked directly onto the front stoop of Katz’s 1890 Victorian. At the crack of dawn on workdays (which included many Saturdays and even some Sundays), her distinctive voice would ring across the yard with a warm greeting to her driver followed by a quickly barked roadmap of the morning’s activities. She wouldn’t get home until usually well after dark. I didn’t know then why my neighbor with the New York accent had no time for small talk on that stoop; I knew only that she seemed important and powerful, a bit of workaholic even, and that she never drove herself anywhere.
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Opinion: Willamette’s new bike lanes are already outdated

Posted on December 8th, 2017 at 11:08 am.

Despite the fact that Portland has fallen way off the pace when it comes to building physically protected bike lanes, we continue to build “new” bikeways with nothing more than paint and hope.

That’s why I’m so ambivalent about the new striping on North Willamette Blvd.
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Opinion: I am deeply concerned about dangerous commercial trucks on Portland’s streets

Posted on September 5th, 2017 at 11:23 am.

Brett, Mark, Tamar, Kathryn, Tracey and Alan.

What do Tracey Sparling, Brett Jarolimek, Alan Marsan, Kathryn Rickson, Mark Angeles and Tamar Monhait have in common? All were killed in collisions with commercial trucks on Portland’s streets.

As a mother, daily bicycle commuter and lawyer for two of these families, this deeply concerns me.
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Mailbag: People have lots to say about maintaining status quo on the St. Johns Bridge

Posted on November 4th, 2016 at 12:51 pm.

“I understand you’re upset, but don’t make my long commute worse by backing up traffic… You don’t have the right to impede my way home on a public street. Try standing on the sidewalk with signs regarding your concerns.”
— Email to BikePortland about last night’s protest ride on the St. Johns Bridge.

It happens every time there’s a high profile fatality involving a bicycle in Portland: People who never read BikePortland see me talking on the news or read my quotes in articles and they can’t resist giving me a piece of their mind. They will sometimes leave voicemails on our tipline; but they usually email.

The recent fatal collision on the St. Johns Bridge has spurred a lot of local media coverage and as a result my inbox was full of several such emails. It’s one thing when people spout of hate-filled screeds in The Oregonian/OregonLive comments section (a vile place); but it’s much different when they take the time to share their opinion with the local bike blog.

I want to share a few of these emails with you because I feel it’s important that we have a clear understanding where people are coming from when it comes to transportation culture in Portland. Keep in mind, the views expressed from the people below are relatively reasonable compared to anonymous online comments. Also keep in mind that these are the same people who are very likely to take the time to write their elected leaders when a bike-related infrastructure investment or policy is being debated.
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Hey Portland, it’s not just “bicyclists” who want safer streets

Posted on October 5th, 2016 at 11:44 am.

notbicyclists1-kidssign

The kids who showed up for a safe streets vigil in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood last week are not “bicyclists”.
(Photo: Katy Asher)

Everybody wants safer streets — but you wouldn’t know that by reading local headlines or watching local news. That’s because the media often frames street safety issues as being something that only “the bicyclists” want.

That framing leads to more clicks and comments, but it’s not true. And it creates a road block to Portland’s progress.
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Yearning for change after a painful week

Posted on July 8th, 2016 at 12:16 pm.

No week passes without violence somewhere. And as we’ve watched the horrific deaths this week in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas ricochet around our country, it’s been impossible to ignore the ways violence shapes and constrains human lives — for some of us far more than for others.

Jonathan, heading back from a family vacation today, wrote me this morning to suggest that even for a site that’s proudly obsessed with bicycling, it’s worth acknowledging the number and depth of the other problems in the country and the world. And it’s worth considering what actions each of us can take to help solve them.

We don’t have answers. But we’ll see you, as usual, on Monday.

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Opinion: A permanent “Better Naito” deserves better than this

Posted on May 13th, 2016 at 12:06 pm.

Better Naito kickoff-12.jpg

For better or worse.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales wants to go out with a bang. And in the process he just might blow up his chance to make “Better Naito” permanent.

As we gleefully reported on May 2nd, Hales’ last budget proposal included $1.46 million to redesign Naito Parkway to include a protected bikeway. It’s an idea he’s been talking about for nearly two years now and it makes a lot of sense from a transportation planning perspective. That’s why it’s a shame it might go down with a sinking ship.

Naito should be a marquee street in Portland but it’s held back because it’s dominated by auto traffic. Creating more space on the street to bike and walk would enliven Naito-facing hotels and restaurants and improve safety for everyone who uses it. A report published after “Better Naito” last year showed that auto travel times were not significantly impacted by the new lane configuration, biking went up 56 percent, and the majority of public feedback was “overwhelmingly positive.”

Better Naito was such a success that the City decided to bring it back for three months this summer. Unfortunately Hales’ proposal to make it permanent might be dead within a week.
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Our opinion: Vote ‘yes’ on the gas tax

Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 12:33 pm.

Sidewalk to nowhere-2

(Photos by Jonathan Maus and Michael Andersen for BikePortland)

Three years ago, before launching his long, awkward crusade to raise money for Portland streets, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick made a really good point.

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Hi fair-weather riders! I’m glad you’re here

Posted on April 1st, 2016 at 12:27 pm.

bike traffic in portland-5

It happens every year. As the sun finally peeks out and the streets dry up, the roads in Portland bloom with bike riders like the cherry blossoms in Waterfront Park. Isn’t it beautiful?!

Unfortunately not everyone thinks so.
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My opinion: Once again, propaganda is poisoning Portland’s off-road cycling debate

Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 11:49 am.

River View Protest Ride-13

That’s no father and son on a bike ride. They’re
part of a vast “MTB industrial complex” that’s
merely a front for “their powerful corporate sponsors.”
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

You can tell when we’re on the cusp of possible progress for off-road cycling in Portland because the misinformation campaign by someone dedicated to stopping it has begun. Hopefully, our policymakers and elected leaders won’t listen this time.

With a city council meeting this Thursday to adopt management plan for the River View Natural Area, a guest opinion article published by The Oregonian is full of scare tactics and farcical conspiracy theories.

The essay was written by John Miller, a man who lives near River View, and it follows a long and sad line of similar attempts from activists and sympathetic media in the past. The headline, “Don’t let mountain bikers overwhelm natural areas,” sounds like it could be the start of an important discussion about the need to balance trail use with conservation goals. Unfortunately, Miller is more interested in hurting that discussion than moving it forward.[Read more…]