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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stalking the Safe Sound and Green Streets Executive Committee

Posted by Amy J. Ruiz on Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 3:13 PM

I'm hunkered down at the Mercury's city hall bureau (AKA a wooden bench next to a power outlet in the hallway), waiting for Commissioner Sam Adams' Safe Sound and Green Streets Executive Committee to finish up their 3 pm meeting. On the agenda? Well, technically I have no idea. It's a closed meeting, and they didn't put out an agenda (hell, I've had a hard time getting the list of people on the executive committee).

"I feel so bad!" Adams said, as he closed the door to the Rose Room, and spotted me on the bench. He should.

I do have some sense of what's being discussed behind that door. After temporarily pulling the plug on the $463.7 million SS&G proposal--that happened in February, following pressure and hardball political tactics from the likes of oil lobbyists and Mayor Tom Potter--Adams' office put out a poll this month asking residents something. Perhaps whether they'd support the full $463.7 million package if it were on the November ballot, or if they'd only support a streamlined proposal. Maybe Adams asked if people would support the proposal if it meant everyone gets a pony.

No idea again, because the poll and the results have been top secret until now--Adams is presenting the results to his executive committee, and you can bet I'm going to pounce on them (and perhaps dig around in the Rose Room's recycling bins) once they get out.

He may follow up that presentation with his idea for a strategy going forward, and ask for the committee's feedback. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, in other transportation funding news....

I biked all the way out to Fubonn this morning, to catch Adams and Governor Ted Kulongoski discussing the "need for [a] strategic statewide transportation plan." The duo, plus state senator Rick Metsger--head of the senate transportation committee--had two points to make, and Adams helpfully clarified after the press conference.

First, Portland and Oregon's city and state transportation departments, respectively, are now, more than ever, in partnership on projects like making safety fixes to busy state corridors like 82nd. Second, they need a pile of money to make those fixes, and there isn't enough money to go around (cough*COLUMBIA RIVER CROSSING*cough).

Overall, though, the trio said things like "transportation is an economic driver," "we're working in real partnership," and "this is the perfect storm opportunity" to fund projects all over the state," "but we need resources to make it happen."

Listen to the press conference here.

Then we inexplicably toured Fubonn with Michael Liu, whose family opened the complex, and owners of every little shop in there excitedly posed for photos with the gov. and mayor-elect. (Not so much with Metsger. But that gave him a chance to slip into a jewelry shop to see if they could tighten a screw on his sunglasses.)

As they toured and posed, I asked questions, and didn't get much for answers. How much money do we need to do things like patch up 82nd? A lot, conceded Adams, but he didn't know how much. Where's it going to come from? All kinds of places, said Metsger, like maybe a gas tax or increased license and registration fees. Can he find enough money for needs all over the state? Unlikely, says Metsger. So how will we prioritize things like the CRC and 82nd, I asked Kulongoski? Both are important! The legislature will have a lot to discuss. Will he provide leadership by naming his priorities? Sure, in his forthcoming transportation budget.

So much information, I don't even know what to do.

I tried to corner Kulongoski on the CRC, specifically. Between me and the O's Dylan Rivera, we squeezed out a monologue on how green he wants the bridge to be, and how he wants it to be a "national demonstration project." Does green mean a reduction in vehicle miles traveled, I asked Kulongoski? He ignored me and kept talking about solar panels on the bridge. Rivera asked the same question in a slightly different way, and Kulongoski sort of said he supported reducing auto use--he didn't specify that the CRC needs to reduce vehicle miles traveled, which is a specific and technical demand that the Portland City Council and the Metro Council have made. Then he started talking about reduced congestion and electric cars being the future. Perhaps he hasn't read his own global warming commission's report, which says "reducing [vehicle miles traveled] is simply the single most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

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