Oregon Transportation Commission was empowered to exercise independent judgement, think again.
The Oregonian reported yesterday that Governor Kitzhaber has fired the Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission because she voted against a coal terminal project.
Catherine Mater, a Corvallis civil engineer appointed just last summer by Kitzhaber, told The Oregonian/Oregonlive on Monday that the governor pressured her to approve a $2 million subsidy.According to OTC site, "The Oregon Transportation Commission establishes state transportation policy."
She was the deciding vote in a 3-2 commission motion in August that doomed the grant that would've benefited Ambre Energy, the company proposing to annually export 8.8 million tons of coal through Oregon.
Kitzhaber's action is puzzling because of his outspoken opposition to coal exports. His office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment....
She penned an opinion piece for The Oregonian/Oregonlive Jan. 3, arguing that the state should discriminate against coal and oil projects in awarding transportation grants.
Mater said Kitzhaber's chief of staff, Mike Bonetto, called Friday and said she needed to step down immediately. Mater said she was drafting her resignation letter.
Mater recalled Bonetto saying: "We have a situation that has escalated. We need to accelerate your removal."
Her forced removal clears the way for the grant to be approved when the commission meets again in February and sends a clear message from Kitzhaber to members of the Oregon Transportation Commission to fall in line.
Guess again! The OTC meets on Thursday and they will reconsider some ConnectOregon funding. It looks like the coal terminal project is going to slide back in. (See below for an update on ConnectOregon.)
And on that note of checks and balances, and of intellectual honesty and independence, the Legislature kicked things off yesterday, and it was interesting to see this:
Oregon State Police took Sec State Brown, Sen Burdick, Rep Reed to secure site in case Big One hits during inauguration. #orleg #orpolSo maybe this is a sign that the Legislature is in fact going to be serious about seismic issues.
— DickHughes (@DickHughes) January 12, 2015
And it seems like bike stuff as natural, cheap, and easy implementation of low-carbon and quake-preparedness policy is a better way for things to happen than local earmarks or set-asides. If we get serious about carbon, it will not be difficult to find money for bikes, but otherwise freight's gonna resent things like expanding the Bike Bill to go from 1% to 2% of gas tax funds for people walk and bike.
It's also important for the Legislature to embrace "fix and maintain" over "build shiny new things."
In years past we've posted weekly updates, but that has yielded a lot of copy-and-paste from week to week. The sausage-making is also kinda tedious. So we'll probably let the news rather than the calendar drive updates this season. (And it's possible we'll lose interest entirely if real action on meaningful things looks increasingly unlikely.)
This is a partial list of bills filed before the session started:
- SB 5 Name Highway 126 the "William Tebeau Memorial Highway" (this is just ceremonial, so it won't be one to watch, but it is interesting! He just had an OSU dorm named after him, as well)
- SB 177 Bike licensing bill
- HB 2256 Cleans up language about PIP in auto insurance (not sure if it's a policy change or just housekeeping on language)
- HB 2274 Changes name of "Connect Oregon Fund"
- HB 2552 fees for studded tires
- HB 5040 ODOT Biennial Budget
- SB 324 low carbon fuel standards
- HJR 10 Carbon tax
- HB 2082 Carbon tax
- HB 2086 Carbon tax
- HB 2159 Carbon tax
- HB 2192 low carbon fuel standards
- HB 2450 low carbon fuel standards
This is very preliminary and far from exhaustive. We may come back and silently update the post as other bills come to light.
Here's more on the OTC and ConnectOregon V program:
Front Page: Eugene bike share system lands near top of state grant list http://t.co/uV18GJkfDL pic.twitter.com/s6KjXTSZb8
— Jonathan Maus (@BikePortland) January 9, 2015
Proposed Salem transit project misses out (just barely) on ODOT funding http://t.co/2BSWWi3AWC #SJBiz pic.twitter.com/VQHVrwfEB1See note at the bottom of this post for the final project rankings last summer. The transit center was #50 out of 104 projects, the top area ranking.
— Laura Fosmire (@fosmirel) January 13, 2015
The first recommended alternate to slide in for the additional funding is the "Port of St. Helens, Berth 2 Dock Reconstruction." This is the Ambre coal transloading project. In the letter of recommendation, there is no language about "coal," "health," or "carbon."
Notes on the whole ConnectOregon V program are here.