The following is a personal reflection from BTA’s Executive Director, Rob Sadowsky. The BTA does not endorse candidates nor do we imply partisan support with these comments.
We have a biking mayor in Charlie Hales. He’s someone who gets what we do, understands and shares BTA’s vision. Yet, he has many challenges ahead including a budget crunch that we do not want to have slaughter our programs at PBOT. We anticipate that he will have a very open door with the BTA as he has shown throughout his campaign and that access will help ensure that our priorities are heard.
There is still much uncertainty after the Mayoral election. There will be a new commissioner in charge of PBOT. As the priorities of the department are being developed and the new commissioner is put into place, we are optimistic to see executive leadership that shares our vision of Portland that focuses on people first transportation options. We look forward to conversations with our new mayor about how the BTA, PBOT and the Mayor’s Office can continue to make Portland the best American city for biking and what needs to happen to take us to the next level.
Clackamas County took a step toward fiscal conservatism that may have repercussions for years to come. It looks as though the new make up of the Board of Commissioners will resist spending on transportation programs that will reduce one’s dependence on a personal automobile such as transit and trail projects. We will work to identify what projects are feasible in the political climate and look to make the case that bicycle infrastructure is a great investment. Meanwhile, we’ll also watch dog the projects they do put forth to make sure the Bike Bill is adhered to.
Across the River:
Vancouver did not support funding for light rail. While it is hard to cheer this decision, it does put a damper on the Columbia River Crossing, a project that we believe is seriously flawed in scale and costs.
State of Oregon:
In a self-centered cheer, hats off to Rep. Val Hoyle from Eugene who was elected as an incumbent (she was originally appointed so this was her first election). She was also elected to the BTA board and is a rising star in the Democratic leadership. We look forward to having her advice and guidance in Salem.
The fact that the Democrats control both the House and the Senate is also interesting. This means that it may be easier to move our legislative priorities forward in the House. The numbers are tight, so it is important to build support with Republicans as well.
With Barack Obama re-elected, the transportation policies that have emerged should remain strong. However, we will have a new Secretary of the USDOT. Ray LaHood has been the best bicycling Secretary by far. When I first talked with LaHood after his election, he made it clear to me that the priorities came from the Whitehouse. We will all wait anxiously for the announcement of a new Secretary. Will they be a bold visionary or a political appointment? Will they have strong management skills and run a good tight department or will they sit quietly?
Peter DeFazio said last night in his speech that his top priority was a great transportation policy. His re-election means that Oregon will continue to have senior leadership on the House Transportation Committee, giving BTA an inside door to discussions and policy framework.
There was no significant leadership change in the House or Senate that moves the needle. Reps. Mica and Cantor were re-elected and will continue their leadership on the House Republican Committee. What does it mean for us? We, as a national bike movement, need to work hard to build a movement across the aisles and gain trust in more conservative districts, highlighting the great work that we do.
Some additional insight:
People of color represent a greater and great part of the election puzzle. White voters went for Romney. If we are going to build a bike movement, just like the Republican Party we need to make the case to people of color that bicycling works for communities. I’m excited for that challenge.
The fact that three bond initiatives won in Portland last night gives me hope that we can start to build momentum and strong partnerships for a 2016 Transportation Bond. That is not a strategic BTA decision, just a personal opinion that the time might be ripe for such a campaign.