jo ann hardesty

Carfree streets, EVs for all, smarter funding: Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty shares her ‘smart transit’ vision

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on January 22nd, 2021 at 10:46 am

Hardesty envisions more scenes like this downtown, where people have more space on the streets.

“I believe life will be radically different post-Covid and our planning should reflect our new reality.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, city commissioner

At a city council work session Thursday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the four other commissioners had an informal and wide-ranging discussion about how to respond to the multiple crises facing our city. During the meeting, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty described how she wants to use her leadership of the transportation bureau to kickstart the local economy and face the climate crisis. Hardesty called it a vision for “smart transit”.

The work session was led by Dr. Markisha Smith from the Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights. Each commissioner was asked to share their opinion about the most urgent issues council should focus on in the next 12-18 months.

The first thing Hardesty mentioned was her vision for more carfree streets we reported on earlier this month. Hardesty elaborated on that idea (first shared her policy director Derek Bradley at a Bicycle Advisory Committee January 12th), but she didn’t stop there.

About one hour and 15 minutes into the two-hour session (you can watch it here), Hardesty laid out four transportation-related goals.

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She tied a vision for carfree streets downtown to the climate crisis, economic rebirth and changing behaviors related to the Covid pandemic:

Jo Ann Hardesty
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“When I think about smart transit I think about, as we are attempting to reach our climate goals, are there opportunities to support small restaurants across the city by closing off some streets to auto traffic? Is it possible when we are in rebuild mode coming out of Covid, to really think about what would a carfree downtown look like? I say this because I think that there is this misperception that one day we’re going to go back to business as usual and that Covid will be behind us, and we’re going to flip the switch and life will be as it was prior to Covid. I think that there’s a lot of people that believe that and I am not one of them. I believe life will be radically different post-Covid, and our planning should reflect our new reality… Is there an opportunity to create international districts in different parts of the city that people can access for food and goods and services that are not tied to people getting into automobiles?”

Hardesty then mentioned her desire to boost electric vehicle access:

“I also want to think about how we create opportunities for electric vehicle infrastructure in different parts of the city so that we can ensure that BIPOC community members have access to both building it and actually being able to take advantage of using it.”

Her next two goals were related to funding. The first was about federal funds:

“I want to make sure we are identifying federal resources that traditionally have been all about freeway expansions. I’m looking for federal resources to support a climate resilient transportation department that is really focused on green issues as compared to freeway expansions like we’re so accustomed to.”

The second was the concern that PBOT’s budget is closely tied to driving and there’s still no substitute to gas taxes and parking-related revenues — both of which were trending down before the pandemic hit:

“[I am interested in] trying to identify new funding opportunities to create a smart transit system for PBOT that is not dependent on people driving automobiles, and not dependent on people parking at parking garages [PBOT owns and operates several of them downtown]. We are facing a $40 million budget deficit because normal funding mechanisms have been impacted by A) Covid and B) should be impacted by our climate justice and resiliency goals.”

The facilitator then asked other commissioners to respond.

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Commissioner Mingus Mapps said, “I generally support this vision. I think it’s innovative and I’m happy to work with a lot of these things.”

Commissioner Carmen Rubio said, “I also support it. It’s in line with a lot of our goals, particularly around equity.”

Commissioner Dan Ryan was much less enthusiastic: “It felt very connected to the climate crisis, even though it was stated as transportation. But that’s what I kept hearing. It’s not in my top three or four, but I respect what I just heard.”

Mayor Wheeler responded with, “I appreciated it. It sounded more like the answer to a broader question. It sounded tactical. I think it is in alignment with our stated goals around climate action and transportation equity. But I would see that as one of multiple strategies that are fulfilling the larger objective.” Then he added, “I want to say this: I actually love innovative and visionary thinking and I appreciate that. It’s a good vision.”

With new leadership in City Hall and multiple crises facing Portland, now is a great time for a new transportation vision and more urgency on the topic in general — something Portland hasn’t for years. Hardesty seems to understand the opportunity and appears to be unafraid to try and meet it. As she laid out her idea to use streets as gathering places in a way that would help our economy rebound in a Covid-safe way, Hardesty said, “That’s one of the exciting things about having transportation at this moment.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Commissioner Hardesty wants more carfree streets in downtown Portland

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on January 12th, 2021 at 7:42 pm

SW Harvey Milk at 13th back in July.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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Jo Ann Hardesty is Portland’s new transportation commissioner

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on December 28th, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty at a protest in downtown Portland on July 17th, 2020.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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Hardesty questions council’s commitment to racial justice after police budget cut plan falls 3-2

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on November 5th, 2020 at 4:37 pm

Police ready to escort a bike ride in August 2006.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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Protests and election loom over today’s police budget vote

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on November 5th, 2020 at 11:50 am

Screengrab from video by Sergio Olmos shows officers shoving protestors to the ground last night.
(Source: @MrOlmos on Twitter)

With all the political drama of the past week, our local debate over a proposal to cut $18 million from the Portland Police Bureau seems like it happened ages ago. But it’s only been one week since Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty called her council colleagues “cowardly” for not voting on her proposal.

The vote is scheduled to happen when council meets again today (11/5) at 2:00 pm.

While the faces on city council haven’t changed, Tuesday’s election is still likely to influence the vote. Hardesty endorsed her ally on the proposal, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly — who lost her race by a large margin. Following Tuesday’s vote, and after she hung-up on the council meeting in disgust before it was officially adjourned, Hardesty endorsed the challenger to current Mayor Ted Wheeler — but he won his race by a comfortable margin (although he failed to win a majority of votes thanks to a large number of write-in votes). [Read more…]

Police chief, union leader warn budget cuts would end Traffic Division

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on October 30th, 2020 at 1:00 pm

Traffic Division headquarters in St. Johns.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The head of the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Police Association union have sent out dire warnings about impacts to law enforcement capabilities if a proposal (PDF) for $18 million in budget cuts are passed by council next week. Chief Chuck Lovell and PPA President Daryl Turner have many concerns about the cuts including what they say would lead to the end of the Traffic Division — the unit that issues about 90% of all traffic tickets, responds to transportation-related concerns and investigates serious injury and fatal crashes.

As we shared yesterday, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly have laid out the cuts as part of their ongoing efforts to rein in a “bloated” budget and “rethink” policing — which they feel isn’t in line with Portland values and has become overly-aggressive and militarized.[Read more…]

A ‘cowardly move’: Vote on $18 million in police cuts delayed until after election

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on October 29th, 2020 at 3:12 pm

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty at a rally in downtown Portland on July 17th, 2020.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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Interview with Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty: Vision Zero, enforcement, distracted walkers, and more

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on July 11th, 2019 at 8:31 am

Commissioner Hardesty at city council yesterday.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty made headlines last month when she said distracted walkers are a “huge issue” and voted “no” on what was expected to be a non-controversial update to Portland’s Vision Zero program. Her vote and comments raised the ire of the commissioner in charge of that program, Chloe Eudaly.

Eudaly called Hardesty’s views, “Virtually unfounded” and said Hardesty must not have been briefed on the topic properly.

Nearly three weeks after that exchange, I spoke with Hardesty and asked about her views on Vision Zero, traffic enforcement, distracted walkers, and more.

Commissioner Hardesty wanted to set things straight from the outset. “I share the values of making our streets safe for everyone,” she said. “If I left you with the impression that that was not my goal I don’t want you to have that impression.”
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PBOT gets council support for Vision Zero, except from Commissioner Hardesty

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on June 21st, 2019 at 8:46 am

Cover of PBOT’s Vision Zero 2-Year Update.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is making steady progress on their march toward safer streets. They’ve queued up an impressive slate of capital projects, worked the legislature to gain authority for speed limits and enforcement cameras, and have passed important plans with the policy backbone that enables them to do things like remove auto parking from corners (a.k.a. “intersection daylighting”), install crossing treatments in more places, and so on.

Last week PBOT brought their annual Vision Zero 2-Year Update (PDF) to city council. They don’t have to get council’s official blessing for reports like this, but PBOT often takes this step to burnish council relationships, lay political groundwork for funding requests, and get explicit support for what might be controversial Vision Zero-related moves down the road.

Things like this usually get unanimous support because PBOT doesn’t bring half-baked ideas to council and they brief each commissioner beforehand to make sure they are up-to-speed with the issues and information. So it was a big surprise when Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty voted no.[Read more…]

During Vision Zero presentation, Commissioner Hardesty says distracted walkers are ‘huge issue’

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on June 20th, 2019 at 12:02 pm

In the past five years, people walking have accounted for nearly 40% of Portland’s traffic fatalities.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty wants the transportation bureau to do more about distracted walking.
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