Jonathan Wants Mayor-Elect Charlie Hayes To Refute “KATU Spin”


Nothing is clearer to me this evening than that monies of all sorts for transportation are going to be “tight” going forward. As we near an agreement (assuming that both parties are up for some modicum of compromise) on how to address the Fiscal Cliff Threat there are going to be tradeoffs accepted. Taxation will go up on the wealthy and cuts to services enjoyed by the middle class can be expected. They are already alerting us to cuts to health care services of some kind.

Transportation is one of those areas where motor vehicles are the “elephant” in the room. Nothing happens in these United States without motorized transport. That would include airplanes, trains, trucks and buses. Cars are numerous indeed and altogether these make up such a large portion of the tax paying base that nothing and I mean nothing from the bicycle world will ever be able to stack up high enough to gain that kind of clout. We cyclists are proponents of a second class mode of transportation.

You can think about how African-Americans felt before the Civil Rights movement when Jim Crow laws and segregation ruled the land. We paid taxes just like everyone else but were relegated to inferior schools, given used text books that the kids in white schools no longer used and even had to settle for old gym equipment. That is the role cyclists are now going to have to plan at least in the near term. Get used to it.

Jonathan writes:

Hales told BikePortland he wants, “More bike projects, more sidewalks, more connections for things that aren’t automobiles.” (Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Mayor-elect Charlie Hales needs to publicly refute a story by KATU-TV that grossly misrepresents his views on transportation policy. Hales has been aware of the misrepresentation for at least two days now, and yet he has not made any public statements to clarify and correct the record.

On Monday night, KATU broadcast (and then later published on their website) a story saying, “Hales plans to shift focus of city transportation budget.” The story went on to report that Hales would not make bikes a priority and that he, “wants 60 miles of streets paved and others repaired before there are any more bike projects.”

However, Hales’ own comments — made to me on two separate occasions and to KATU for their story — said nothing like that at all.

After detailing my opinion on the KATU story yesterday, I have since spoken again with Mayor-elect Hales.

While Hales responded to my initial request for comment about the KATU story, his answer — while I felt it was enough to illustrate the misrepresentation — did not directly address what I feel is the key question here: Does Hales feel that KATU misrepresented his views? If not, why is he telling me the complete opposite? And if so, does he plan to publicly refute the story and clarify his stance?

I asked that question of Hales again on the phone yesterday. Again he didn’t directly answer, saying he needed to re-read the KATU story.

He did, however, share additional clarifying remarks about his stance. And it turns out what he actually believes is nearly the complete, polar opposite of what KATU reported:

“I am not planning in a change in philosophy at the City of Portland. I am planning on being a relentless prioritizer, because that’s what the budget requires… And we’ve got to prioritize maintenance first and remedial construction of infrastructure that should have been there all along. And then, as we add things, we will continue being a progressive city that’s building a multimodal transportation network. That means more bike projects, more sidewalks, more connections for things that aren’t automobiles. I don’t regard where I’m heading with this as any kind of change in direction…”

Given the vast distance between what KATU chose to report and what Hales told me he actually believes, I feel the mayor-elect has an obligation to set the record straight. But he hasn’t yet. Why not?

“There was one point in the campaign where I thought a media outlet was factually wrong and I found out the price you pay for that. So I’m a little gun-shy.”
— Mayor-elect Hales

Is he trying to play both sides in this heated discussion? Is he happy to have KATU bend his views to sound more auto-centric — and less bike-friendly — than he actually is (many KATU commenters are gleefully supportive of Hales)?

Or, is Hales simply afraid of calling KATU out for their inaccurate and biased reporting?

We have been functioning like the Tea Party for the past decade. We got ourselves friended by well-meaning Congress members who given the good times being experienced fought for monies for our pet projects. But like the Tea Party we are going to have to learn to “compromise”. The times are far too tough to do otherwise.

Urban Cyclists are not very high on the socio-economic ladder. They dress “funny” and use body tattoos and piercings that frankly are off-putting to the buttoned-down types in Washington and State Capitals. Our behavior has been alternately arrogant and scofflaw. Now the chickens have come home to roost. We relished our “bad boy” image and our Critical Mass Rides as if there were no consequences to “bad boy behavior”. Well there is now a “teachable moment” occurring which will help us “grow up” quickly.

All over the country there will be smaller metropolitan areas which will not have a chance to win as great a share of the transportation pie as might be the case in larger cities. And even in those larger cities ever dollar will have to be justified. Tax payers are going to have to consider whether their governmental worker pensions are to be funded at the same rates as before. School districts here in Illinois are succumbing left and right to teacher strikes as everyone prepares for the tougher times ahead.

Pretty green bike lanes are doomed. Get used to it. Enjoy the ones you have and take care of them. Clean up you act on the forums you visit and show the “outside world” a more clean-cut profile going forward. You are like a fellow with a very bad reputation facing a juried trial and your attorney is suggesting that you get a haircut, shave off your goatee and cover up your tattoos and for goodness sakes, remove the nose ring. It’s your decision. But if you value those pretty lanes you will have to compromise.

The mayor of Portland is going to have to walk a very fine line regardless of what he really feels. The national election has taught us that the country is so evenly divided that getting a majority on any issue will take political skill the likes of which have not been exercised in more than a couple of decades.

Buckle up boys and girls, the ride is about to get rough!