Counting votes at Metro: Will the region invest in walking and biking near schools?

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Biking to school in North Portland.
(All photos by Jonathan Maus unless otherwise noted)

With Portland’s locally funded Safe Routes to School program seeming to pay clear dividends — biking, walking and rolling to primary school became more popular than driving in 2010 and have kept rising — the case for bringing the idea to other cities may seem strong.

But the For Every Kid Coalition that’s been lobbying the regional government Metro to put $15 million into a regional Safe Routes to Schools program is competing for cash with two major forces: public transit and private freight. As Metro continues to accept public comments on the subject, we wanted to share what its councilors are thinking.

So we called all of them.

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As a big election year looms, Bike Walk Vote PAC is looking for new leaders

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Bike Walk Vote candidate party-11

Future Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick speaks at a 2012 event for Bike Walk Vote-endorsed candidates.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

In 2016, Portlanders will vote on a local gas tax, a new mayor, a transportation commissioner, a regional council and a governor.

If you make between approximately $7,000 and $100,000 a year, you’ve probably got $50 in free money from the State of Oregon to spend in 2015 on a candidate or political committee of your choice.

That’s the fact of Oregon’s unusual but underused political tax credit system.

But for people who believe that Oregon should be reducing its dependence on cars, the odd complication is that no political committee active on those issues seems to be asking for that money — even as Portland heads into an election year that will shape transportation issues for years to come.

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Oregonians reject two politicians after bike-unfriendly statements

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“This picture is just way too awesome!” former
Milwaukie city council candidate Scott Barbur wrote on
Facebook in 2010.

Though many issues other than bikes were at play in two races decided last night, both will be familiar to many BikePortland readers.

In one of the races, donations from BikePortland readers seem to have been a meaningful factor in the outcome.

In Milwaukie, Portland’s neighbor to the south, voters overwhelmingly nixed Scott Barbur’s city council candidacy. Barbur, who took 47 percent of the vote in his previous 2012 run, was thumped with just 36 percent this time.

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Democratic Senate victories set the stage for a 2015 transportation bill

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A day in Salem-6

In the balance.

This post has been updated after the release of results.

The key question in the Oregon legislature tonight wasn’t whether the most powerful woman in the state Senate would be reelected. Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) was — she wasn’t even opposed by a Republican.

The question was whether Johnson would still wake up tomorrow as the most powerful woman in the Senate.

It’s looking as though she won’t.

Johnson’s power has come from her brains (they’re sharp) and from the fact that she’s the body’s most conservative Democrat by a country mile. The Columbia County legislator has been the swing vote on many issues, transportation and otherwise, for years.

But with Democrats victorious in at least two of six potentially close Senate races, it looks as if they’ll have at least 17 votes to Republicans’ 13 — enough to proceed with or without Johnson’s approval. This could make the difference on transportation-related issues like a gas tax hike (which we’re told is likely to be a major focus of the 2015 legislature) and inclusionary zoning (which would let cities build income diversity requirements into their zoning code).

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Election roundup: Mixed results for the region’s transportation issues

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In Washington County, bike skeptic Bob Terry defeated
light-rail advocate Elizabeth Furse.
(Photos from campaign websites)

The cultural divide between Portland’s increasingly low-car-friendly inner suburban voters and its more auto-oriented exurban voters was visible in many of last night’s elections.

In Milwaukie, an inner Southeast suburb that a few years ago was locked in a battle over light rail, about 54 percent of voters turned down a chance for a protest vote. They also helped send their relatively liberal former mayor, who pushed light rail through, back to a seat on the conservative Clackamas County Commission.

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Washington County commissioner says adjacent landowners should help pay for sidewalks, bikeways

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Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski.

In a ringing reminder that the ballots arriving May 2 in Washington County will offer residents a choice between two very different futures, a county commissioner is calling for what sounds like a big change in the way street infill projects are paid for.

District 2 incumbent Greg Malinowski, who represents northwest Beaverton and the nearby unincorporated areas, suggested in an Oregonian op-ed Monday that the county should be able to bill property owners for at least some of the cost of “sidewalks and bikeways” along their property.

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Washington County election hinges on land use and transportation issues

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Washington County Chair Andy Duyck and
challenger Allen Amabisca.
(Photos from campaign websites)

Two months from today, voters in Oregon’s second-largest county will decide who will have their fingers on the region’s biggest sprawl button.

Though Washington County, which sits on the western third of the Portland metro area, isn’t facing the rocketing housing demand it once was, its political conversation continues to be dominated by issues of land use, real estate development and transportation — and its five-member board is essentially split 3-2 in favor of expanding urban growth boundaries.

Three of those seats, though, are up for grabs, and a trio of candidates — two challengers, one incumbent — are hoping to tip the county’s balance against suburban expansion. Candidates in two of those races faced off at an event covered by the Oregonian Wednesday night.

County Chair Andy Duyck said that the central question of the campaign is whether the county has enough room in its urban areas to continue developing single-family homes.

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County chair candidates Kafoury and Francesconi talk transportation at debate

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Kafoury, left, is a five-year county commissioner.
Francesconi, right, is a former city commissioner.
(Photo by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Transportation is rarely the biggest issue for Multnomah County chairs, but that didn’t stop candidates Deborah Kafoury and Jim Francesconi from gamely finding some modest differences at a debate on the subject Tuesday.

Though neither politician has been known as particularly passionate on transportation issues, both contenders for the county’s top elected position endorsed the concept of a “multimodal” county and shared a few ideas for making it better.

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In Washington state, two election results worth watching

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Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, pictured here last year,
went down hard in Tuesday’s elections.
(Photo: Seattle DOT)

In Portland, voters mostly take odd-numbered years off. But two races to Portland’s north ended last night in interesting ways, for better or worse.

In Seattle, the deeply bike-friendly incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn lost in a 56-43 rout. And closer to home in Vancouver, Wash, the bike-and-transit-friendly but also Columbia River Crossing-supporting incumbent Mayor Tim Leavitt is headed to a second term.

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Politics and pedaling at ‘Bike Town Hall’ and ‘Beers and Bikes’ events

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A pair of bike advocates are hosting
a fundraiser for Metro Councilor
Sam Chase, shown here in
Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Two upcoming events are perfect examples of how bicycling plays an important role in local, regional, and statewide politics.

Tonight at Lucky Lab in northwest Portland (1945 NW Quimby), a pair of bike advocates are hosting a fundraiser for Metro Councilor Sam Chase, who won the race for Rex Burkholder’s old Council seat back in May 2012. Chase was part of a delegation from Portland that recently traveled to the Netherlands on a bicycle study tour sponsored by Bikes Belong/Green Lane Project. This event is being hosted by Gerik Kranksy and Jenn Dice, both of whom joined Chase on that trip (disclaimer: I was there too). While Kransky and Dice are both high-profile professional bike advocates (with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Bikes Belong respectively), they are hosting this event as private citizens and not representing their employers.

Councilor Chase has returned from the Netherlands with a new understanding for how valuable bicycling can be for our city and communities and he’s poised to be a great future leader on the issue. Tonight’s event is being billed as an informal chance to meet Chase and share your perspectives on bicycling. “Sam wants to learn more about what changes would make Portland an even better place to ride a bike,” reads the flyer, “Great guy, pro bike, let’s get together to celebrate and support Sam.”

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Gala event, concert will toast Blumenauer’s 40 year career

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Blumenauer in D.C. in March.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland native Earl Blumenauer has served in elected office in Oregon since 1972 when he won a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives at the age of 24. He’s been in politics ever since. On June 14th, Blumenauer’s supporters will throw him a big party to commemorate his 40 years in office.

The event, dubbed “40 Years of Leadership,” will take place at Memorial Coliseum and will include performances by Pink Martini and Storm Large.

During his four decades of leadership, Blumenauer has presided over much of the bicycle and transportation legacy that our region is so well known for. From his position as head of the City of Portland Department of Public Works (what we now call the Bureau of Transportation) from 1987 to 1996, Blumenauer (with Mia Birk as his right-hand woman) oversaw an explosion in bikeway miles. From his office in Washington D.C., where he’s served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996, Blumenauer is without a doubt the most influential and well-known champion for bicycling on Capitol Hill.

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Election night a big one for Bike Walk Vote PAC

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Bike Walk Vote candidate party-13

Bike Walk Vote excited an
active (transportation) base of
Portland voters.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Tuesday night’s elections were full of good news for Portland’s re-energized Bike Walk Vote political action committee.

After being founded in 2004, then lying dormant for several years following the 2008 elections, Bike Walk Vote came roaring back last winter. Boasting some seriously smart and plugged-in new leaders (Evan Manvel, Peter Welte, Mike O’ Leary just to name a few), they threw a highly successful launch party in December. When the likes of U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer and a packed crowd showed up, it was a clear sign that Portland’s huge population of low-car advocates were just waiting to organize and make their voices heard.

With the votes counted from the May 15th primary, candidates supported by Bike Walk Vote did extremely well. In fact, five of the seven candidates they endorsed won outright and the remaining two — Jefferson Smith for mayor and Mary Nolan for City Council — finished very close seconds and will sail into runoffs in November.

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