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Monday, January 3, 2011

Robert Liberty Resigning from Metro Council

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Mon, Jan 3, 2011 at 11:26 AM

Metro councilor Rex Burkholder just sent out this surprising tweet:

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Robert Liberty: Demure, bearded
  • Metro
  • Robert Liberty: Demure, bearded
Robert Liberty has been a strong, critical voice against the current Columbia River Crossing project and this fall hosted a forum about alternative designs for the $4 billion bridge to Vancouver. His resignation means Metro is losing a major advocate for smart growth and sustainable design.

Liberty was supposed to announce his resignation at noon today, but now the news is out: He's becoming the executive director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon. Liberty writes in a statement, "I worked hard to reform transportation decision-making, from the project level to the regional system level. My views did not always prevail, but I believe I have raised awareness. Perhaps in some modest ways, I prepared the ground for the reforms that I am confident we will have to make in a world of financial and environmental limits."

In this case, the Metro Council will need to appoint a replacement to Liberty. According to Metro's rules, that person will need to have lived in Liberty's district (which is district six, covering much of SE and SW Portland) for at least a year before taking office. Recent Metro President candidate Bob Stacey, who lost to Tom Hughes this November in a tight race, would be the obvious person to appoint—he and Stacey share similar politics, especially their ideas about growth and the Columbia River Crossing—but we'll have to see how it shakes out.

UPDATE 11:50 AM—Just talked to Bob Stacey and he confirms he will be seeking the seat. Stacey says he has already called and talked with President-elect Tom Hughes about possibly appointing him to the open seat and is currently phonecalling other Metro councilors to discuss the appointment.

Stacey says he found out about Liberty's resignation last night when he saw Liberty packing up his car for a trip to Eugene (the two are next-door neighbors) and stopped to chat.

The possibility of the new Metro president appointing his former opponent to the council would be funny... but such a classic Portland politics move, right? So would working with his former opponent Tom Hughes be too awkward to succeed? "It really is true that he's a very likable guy. It's probably an exaggeration to say that our positions converged during the election," says Stacey, of Hughes. "But one thing I take away is that he's a decent guy to work with, or run against at least."

UPDATE 12:45 PM— Hughes, in his characteristically affable way, says he "certainly wouldn't have any objection" to Stacey replacing Robert Liberty, but that he has to wait to see who else throws their hat in the ring before knowing who he would vote to appoint. As for Liberty's resignation, Hughes says, "I was absolutely stunned, it came completely unexpected to me."

Liberty's full statement is below the cut! It's nice and diplomatic, but it doesn't say much.

Full statement:

Dear Friends

I am pleased to announce my selection as the first Executive Director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon. As described in the attached media advisory, this is an exciting new position and new program that will allow me to continue my 30-year effort to build livable, sustainable and equitable communities.

I am planning to serve my last day as a member of the Metro Council on January 15. The Council will select the person to fill out the last two years of my term as the representative of residents in Metro Council District 6.

I appreciate the support and interest you have taken in my work at Metro over the last six years. I believe I have provided new ideas and leadership on a range of issues on behalf of all of you.

I contributed to shifting the regional emphasis from urban development on productive farmland, forestland and natural areas around our urban growth boundary, to reinvesting in neighborhoods we already have. I have worked with architects, neighborhood leaders and developers to explore new ways of providing for the region’s growth that enriches, rather than diminishes, existing neighborhoods

I made it a point to speak up on issues relating to the economic opportunities and quality of life of minorities and families of modest means and of the areas of our region that are struggling. I added these perspectives into aspects of the Natural Areas Bond Measure, into transportation planning decisions and most recently in planning for greater housing choice in new and existing communities.

I worked hard to reform transportation decision-making, from the project level to the regional system level. My views did not always prevail, but I believe I have raised awareness. Perhaps in some modest ways, I prepared the ground for the reforms that I am confident we will have to make in a world of financial and environmental limits.

More recently, I enjoyed working with leaders in the business community and nonprofit organizations on the effort to create a regional consensus around the highest priority investments we should be making in the region. If done well, this can be an important effort to improve the region’s economic health and increase economic opportunities for working class people while maintaining our high standards for protecting the environment and promoting innovations in urban development.

In more modest ways, I contributed to Metro’s efforts to update the Oregon Zoo’s facilities and enhance its conservation and education work and making sure citizens have a voice in Metro’s regional work.

I offered the support for leadership by other members of the Council on issues of solid waste, natural areas protection and the success of our visitor and meeting facilities.

I enjoyed working with the citizens in my district and the region, other elected officials (where I enjoyed the debate and dialogue on the Metro Policy Advisory Committee) the staff here at Metro and my colleagues on the Metro Council. In my new role, I will take the lessons I have learned during the past six years and put them to good use in other parts of Oregon, around the nation and in other parts of the world.

Thank you again for your support. You have my best wishes for your continuing participation in the efforts to keep this region a place we are proud to call home. I am sure our paths will cross many times in the years ahead.

Robert Liberty
Metro Councilor

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