Cronyism reigns at Portland's City Hall. Government gives $$ to bike lobbyists who turn around and lobby the government for more money. And we pay for with our water bills or "green streets" $$. Really. In any other city this is a scandal. In Portland ineptitude and profligacy are de rigueur.
The lobbyists came away with quite a payday recently when they talked the city into going forward with $1.5 billion in bike paths. That represents 20% of the current ~$5.6 billion in transportation infrastructure. That works out to $93 million per paid employee by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance if you're keeping book.
I sure wish car and truck owners had our own lobbyists because we could sure use improved roads. Our only advocates, AAA, give us info on gas prices and places to go on vacation. Oy.
All we're looking for is a bit of sanity. There's little chance of that because as Mayor Sam Adams pointed out a couple of weeks ago when the council unanimously passed the $1.5 billion bike plan, the first down payment for the plan will come from our water bills. That's right, our water bills. As we pointed out at the time, Sam said that he'd "kick start" the bike plan from the Big Pipe project "communications" budget.
As the Portland Tribune reported recently (here), our water bills are on a glide path to DOUBLE in the next few years due to EPA fines. Instead of bringing down the costs for the overly burdened taxpayers, Sam has doubled down on our future liabilities and has purchased new infrastructure without taking care of the old.What recession? What 11% unemployment rate?
Since 1991, average residential sewer bills have increased from $11.40 per month to about $50 a month. Approximately half that growth has gone to pay for the $1.4 billion-plus project to keep sewage out of the Willamette River and Columbia Slough — a project deemed necessary to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.Now, water bills are projected to increase as the city complies with a new a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule. Among other things, the rule requires the Portland Water Bureau to either cover the open reservoirs in Mount Tabor and Washington parks or treat all of the water coming out of them to eliminate contaminants
Since he made that announcement in council chambers Sam has walked it back slightly after all the criticism. He now wants to use $20,000,000.00 from the "Green Streets" program. Oh, that's sooo much better. It's a misappropriation of funds. Period.
How did the bicycling community get so powerful that's able to convince politicos to throw Joe taxpayer under the $100,000,000/mile light rail train and give over their hard earned money to the bicyclists in a disproportionate way?
According to Willamette Week in a story published a couple of weeks ago,
Anchored by 5,000 dues-paying members (current fee: $40) and contracts with the City of Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation, the BTA built a solid financial foundation. Although BTA is a statewide organization, about 80 percent of its membership lives in Portland
And where do they get this influence? We find out in WW:
BTA’s political influence is evident in ways large and small. In 2007, the Legislature approved a “Share the Road” Oregon license plate, which yields BTA more than $40,000 a year.
Unlike most small nonprofits, the BTA employs a full-time lobbyist.
A FULL TIME LOBBYIST? C'mon, $40 bucks a year isn't going to buy a guy with this much juice at the legislature? There must be something more. And there is. In addition to the private folks giving the fruits of their own labors to help the bicycle there are plenty of GOVERNMENTS giving OUR money away to them.
Portland office of TransportationNo, I do not stutter. We pay the government to pay the bicycle lobby to lobby for more bicycles and paths to ride on.
Oregon Department of Transportation
The City of Ashland
Albany Public schools
And how do they get such influence? The Willamette Week tells us a few of the players:
Last year, in his first year as mayor, Adams hired Catherine Ciarlo, a former BTA executive director, to be his transportation adviser. Adams’ chief of staff, Tom Miller, is a keen cyclist and former BTA board member.Business taxes have gone up 300% in the last few years. Garbage bills are going up and garbage pick up is going down to accommodate Dan Saltzman's dearest wish to compost our leftover food. The cost of the city's payroll computer is out of control, going from $15 million to now $65 million, even though the city calls it a "success". The Portland Tribune reports today that water and sewer rates will DOUBLE in the next couple of years. You'd think that with all this gouging of the taxpayers Adams would use that "kick start" money to REDUCE OUR TAXES and FEES.
At Metro, in addition to Burkholder, Councilor Robert Liberty is an avid cyclist, and communications director Jim Middaugh is a BTA board member. Clackamas County Chairwoman Lynn Peterson and Washington County Commissioner and chairman candidate Dick Schouten are both dedicated riders and BTA members.
In 2009, Bricker’s successor, Karl Rohde, took an ambitious legislative agenda to Salem. Rohde, a former two-term Lake Oswego city councilor, pushed bills that would increase state funding for bicycling and increase penalties for motorists who collide with cyclists.
The thought never occurred to him apparently. It should.