Sunday, November 29, 2015

Former Government Official Blasts ODOT in Today's Paper

You might recall the talk that David Bragdon gave at the Portland City Club a month ago.

In it he launched a pretty detailed critique of ODOT's management and current processes.

It looks like a wall of text - but read it!
In today's paper he's got an extension of the analysis with some specific commentary on Salem:
On Nov. 3, voters in the Cherriots district rejected a tax increase to improve transit. That same election day, 13 out of 16 transit referenda across the nation from Maine to Washington state passed, with a wide variety of places like Fraser, Colorado, Flint, Michigan, and Snohomish County, Washington, saying yes to taxes for transit.

Salem-Keizer joined only Box Elder County and Utah County, suburbs of Salt Lake City, in saying “no.”

Are Oregonians and Salem-Keizer residents hostile to better transportation, when conservative jurisdictions in suburban Atlanta and the legislature in Wyoming are not? No. But here’s one difference: Salem-Keizer residents cast their ballots amid low confidence in government’s competence, partly due to a loss of credibility that had happened in Salem months before.
That loss of credibility? He talks about the collapse of the "transportation package" at the Legislature as a partial result of unreliable estimates and modeling from ODOT. That seemed to him an ingredient in the Chamber's ability to sow discord and misinformation.

(I'm less sure this was that much of a component in the Chamber's campaign and its reception by the citizenry, but it's certainly background noise. In any case it's remarkable how many other transit measures passed around the country, and how retrograde Salem's refusal seems.)

And he has more:
The good citizens who have been appointed to ODOT’s board [the Oregon Transportation Commission] also have limited means to create change. The last time a board memberasked a meaningful question of staff was when chair Catherine Mater, a Corvallis civil engineer, questioned the prioritization of a coal project which evidently did not meet technical criteria. For doing the job of commissioner and asking tough questions, Mater’s reward was to be removed by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The chilling message to remaining commissioners endures: Your role is to rubber stamp whatever staff puts in front of you. [link added]
He concludes:
While other states move ahead, Oregon has stuck with a balkanized and irrational transportation governance model. Glowing danger signals like chronically flawed forecasts, under-maintenance of core assets and increasing debt should alarm anyone concerned with Oregon’s competitiveness.
If you missed the critique the first time around, it's important reading. Check it out.

The problems Bragdon identifies contribute to the insanity of the Third Bridge effort, contribute to our difficulties with stable funding for transit, contribute to our begging ways for basic sidewalks and bike lanes, and underlay our commitment to hydraulic autoism and all the carbon emissions that implies.

He's right: We need a thorough-going transportation reform.

1 comment:

Jim Scheppke said...

I think it's safe to say that the defeat of the Cherriots payroll tax had nothing at all to do with anything that happened in the Legislature. It's understandable how Bragdon, from a distance, might connect those dots, but they can't be connected. The Cherriots measure lost because the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce went to war over it and got big contributions from Salem Hospital, Garmin and Norpac and outspent the proponents 7 to 1. You can't win a low turnout election when you are outspent 7 to 1. Also, the Chamber was willing to lie about the measure ("targets small business," "State Government is exempt," etc.) which is something many of us will remember for a long time. The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is a tarnished brand.