Portland’s Transportation Priorities Adrift? Say it isn’t so!
In a dog bites man story, the Oregonian reports on the latest report that the City of Portland’s vaunted transportation department lacks focus, overspends and doesn’t achieve its goal. Not a big surprise to Portlanders who know too well the energizer-bunny characters of the ex-Mayor (who headed this bureau for 8 years) and his doppelganger, the recently fired bureau director.
Why does it matter that Mayor (and Transportation Commissioner) Sam Adams never saw a project he didn’t like, from unwarranted streetcar lines to million dollar bikeway on North Williams? In his undisciplined pursuit of every shiny object, basic operations were overlooked and consistent progress on making the City safer for cyclists and walkers foundered for lack of money. Which is why there aren’t sidewalks and bike lanes in many neighborhoods. And which is why Portland is losing its leadership in promoting bicycle use to cities like Minneapolis and New York City.
Adams’ lack of focus affected the other bureaus he oversaw, critically Planning and Sustainability. In a classic case of fiddling while Rome burns, four years were spent on re-doing the previous Mayor’s citywide plan update while the economy crashed, basic permitting and economic development activities were in disarray and a mockery made of the City’s motto–the City that Works. (ironically coined by Adams’ previous boss, Mayor Vera Katz.)
Portland’s archaic commissioner form of government also is to blame. Councilors are encouraged to keep their noses in their own bureaus, ending up allowing this kind of floundering because they are just as unaccountable for their own empire building.