2012 Portland City Council election: Amanda Fritz vs Mary Nolan
From Portland Afoot
This guide to the 2012 Portland City Council race between Amanda Fritz and Mary Nolan for Portland City Commissioner Position 1 is part of Portland Afoot's low-car voter guide for 2012. Interviews were planned and conducted for Portland Afoot by active transportation advocate Aaron Brown.
Because neither leading candidate had a majority in the May 15 primary, the top two candidates have advanced to the general election. Ballots are due on or before Nov. 6.
 Relevant endorsements
The Sierra Club co-endorsed both leading candidates. There was no overwhelming favorite in the race among other local politicians.
 The candidates' policy positions
 On streetcar expansion
With the Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar project tabled, would you like to see the city continue to invest in Mayor Adams' Streetcar Plan?
Fritz: Only as a development tool, starting with outlying neighborhoods. "Streetcars are not very good for transportation; they are development engines. I was the only person on the city council to vote against the Lake Oswego streetcar because there was not enough capacity for adjacent development on the route. I am interested in streetcar as a development tool, I think it’s proven its worth in the Pearl, and we’re hoping it’ll prove its worth on the eastside. The next places we should be looking are SE Foster and 82nd and 122nd, if we’re going to use that as a development engine. It’s not very cost effective in terms of construction or operations. … Before we rush ahead and build stuff, let’s figure out how we’re going to operate it. I think we should look with TriMet and Metro at other funding mechanisms. The reliance on the payroll tax has not proved well during the recession."
Nolan: Only in dense neighborhoods. "It ought to be a part of an entire transit system, not stand alone, and it ought to be put in places where it makes sense because the density of the residents or jobs are enough to support the heavy infrastructure investment. The Lloyd District is a perfect example."
 On transit budgets
What can the city do to make transit more cost-effective?
Fritz: Stop subsidizing dense housing that transit doesn't yet reach. "Well, I think it’s already pretty cost effective; when you stand on a bus and you can barely breathe because you are so “sardined,” you’ve got to believe that we are getting the bang for the buck. ... One thing that we have done and that I will continue to do is zone with respect for transit routes; we’ve tended to build and then assume the transit would follow, and especially during the recession, it hasn’t. We’ve got to be more intentional, and Commissioner (Nick) Fish and I are rolling out “The Big Look” which is looking at transit oriented tax abatements and multifamily tax abatements, and trying to refine them so that we’re not putting places where people are unlikely to have cars where it’s really unlikely that they’ll be able to get to transit."
Nolan: Build roads and paths that help people get to transit. "First of all, I have done a lot at the state level, including granting authority for TriMet to expand its payroll tax in order to provide appropriate funding for transit. The state matching funds for the light rail expansion to Milwaukie would not have happened if I had not assisted on that. ... At City Hall, we need to have strong partnerships so that we have the infrastructure to support transit, and we need to design our system so it accommodates transit."
 On gas tax
"Would you be willing to go lobby the Oregon Senate and House for a higher statewide gas tax or mileage fees?"
Fritz: Maybe. "The reliance on the gas tax is not sustainable. We will be driving less and we will be using electric cars and such; increasing the gas tax, per say, looking at milage fees is an interesting concept, and a vehicle-fee regardless of what kind of fuel it is using is something else. I think we need to look at the street-maintenance fee that [Mayor] Sam [Adams] thought up four years ago. ... I don’t know if we should rely on any particular funding mechanism. ... I definitely supported the increase to the gas tax last time, and Mayor Adams and I have used it wisely in the first year to direct it to sidewalks."
Nolan: I wouldn't oppose it. "I’m not sure the gas tax is the way to go anymore. My car is electric, and I haven’t paid into the gas tax in eight months. ... So yeah, I’m not opposed to increases in the gas tax – in fact, I proposed legislation that would have converted it from a cents-per-gallon to a percentage-of-wholesale cost."
 On anti-congestion tolling
Would you be proactive in encouraging anti-congestion tolling on private automobiles on facilities such as the Sylvan Tunnel or I-84?
Fritz: Not unless she hears support for it. "It’s worked elsewhere. It seems like we have to have more of a conversation so that we don’t get ahead of where our taxpayers are willing to spend money and we make sure that we have the other options. At this point, we can say that we want to get people out of cars, but the buses are passing people standing by at the bus stops. ... We have to be realistic as to the social engineering aspects of tolling versus provision of services."
Nolan: Not unless she hears support for it. "I’m certainly open to it. I don’t know enough of the mechanics of it as to how it would work. ... The technology is out there. I think this region is getting more and more to a mindset that understands that tolling is an appropriate mechanism not only to raise money, but to manage demand. If we can come up with a scheme that works best for the region, I’d be proactive about it."
 On transit-friendly housing
"It is becoming increasingly difficult to find cheap housing near transit amenities. What role should the city play in encouraging workforce housing near transit?"
Fritz: Stop subsidizing and allowing density where transit doesn't already reach. "That goes back to what I was talking about with “The Big Look.” Instead of the whole of an urban renewal area being eligible for transit-oriented tax abatements, we’re looking at making it along transit lines. … The other piece of that is appropriate zoning near transit lines. We’ve got a lot of zoning in Outer Southeast that was (zoned as) blanket apartments, and nowhere near transit and, in some cases, not near paved streets or sidewalks. We’ve got to address that and make some corrective changes.
Nolan: Lighten regulations if projects are transit-oriented. "I think the city’s role here is largely an encouraging role. Perhaps a little bit of seed money, but mostly encouraging. ... Certainty in regulations is something the city can do. Second, we can expedite the permitting process, especially when development proposals are meeting citywide goals like smart, dense neighborhoods and transit-oriented development."
 On the Columbia River Crossing project
The CRC project continues to make headlines for its inability to clear political and engineering hurdles. Given the uncertain state of the CRC project, would you ever sign off on a bridge without light rail, a bike/walking route and tolling?
Fritz: No. "No. I voted against the big bridge, I was the only member of the City Council to vote against it, and I’ve consistently said that I don’t think it’s sustainable. … If we don’t have enough money for the big bridge, I’m interested in looking at the arterial bridge to Hayden Island, fixing the rail bridge, and possibly later looking at some modifications to the big bridge."
Nolan: If bus rapid transit could do the job, light rail isn't necessary. "The Columbia River project isn’t a bridge. It’s a highway project that runs five miles. ... I think there are some very urgent needs in that segment of I-5. One of them is freight mobility, and the other is air quality and neighborhood amenities, which would include bike and pedestrian access. I could imagine how you could address both of those issues without building the bridge that has light rail on it. I like light rail ... but if the best way to serve the I-5 corridor across the Columbia is through bus rapid transit, I’m not stuck on light rail."
 On Sunday Parkways
As Commissioner, will you continue to support city funds for Sunday Parkways?
Fritz: Not as much as in past years, and not indefinitely. "There is a small amount of city funding that I voted to support for Sunday Parkways. ... The better funding model for that particular service, especially considering we don’t have enough money for potholes and sidewalks, is to have it privately funded, and still a great program that I’m still proud to have had funded and will continue to support until it can stand on its own two feet."
Nolan: Yes. "I would. I like Sunday Parkways. ... We do need to prioritize and make sure that we’re being as smart about the way we support services like that. But Sunday Parkways has essentially turned entire neighborhoods into a park for a day. We invest in parks, we invest in opportunities for outdoor recreation; this is an extention of that. ... If there’s this much enthusiasm out there among the residents and small business owners in this city, I think there’s a way we could find a way to keep it going."
 On TriMet reform
Some riders complain that because TriMet's management answers to the governor's office in Salem, local transit riders' needs are neglected. Would you, as an elected official, support any initiative involving reforming TriMet for more local control?
Fritz: Yes. "Yes … I think that it is a problem that TriMet board is appointed by the Governor. ... I would like to see local control at the Metro level, and potentially either elected at the metro level or at least some input from the jurisdictions who it supposedly serves. And I would like to see that coupled with more funding for TriMet; perhaps an omnibus package to look at how do we provide paved streets and sidewalks where there haven’t been."
Nolan: Not if it led to less state funding. "I’d certainly be open to the conversation about it, ... But I don’t want the state that it is off the hook financially then, and that would be the downside. I want the state to continue to feel invested in the solvency and vitality of the transit system in the Metro area. So, somehow we need to blend a little more local control but still a state sense of obligation."
 On high school transit passes
What if anything would you do to continue YouthPass after it expires in May of 2012?
Fritz: Whatever it takes. "That has been one of my pet projects. ... YouthPass has been one of my things that I have consistently advocated for, and the Mayor has been very strong on it too. Education is the foundation of our community, and as a mom who has had kids in Portland Public Schools for 17 years, I know how hard it is for kids to be able to get to school. A lot of kids don’t want to go to school to go in the first place, and then you make them pay to do so? That’s the opposite of public education. ... I’m very disappointed that the legislature chose to end that tax credit. We lobbied hard ... Clearly, transportation for high school issues is a priority in order to help them graduate in order to help them support whatever the next mayor and whatever the next council can put together so that we have the transit passes in September and thereafter."
Nolan: It's a top funding priority. "I don’t want to just continue it. I want to expand it to keep students going to public and community colleges and public universities. It is well worth finding the resources, either at TriMet or in the city, to provide some subsidies like that. I don’t think realistically that the school districts can find the money, because they are squeezed so hard. Whether that’s some kind of partnership with businesses, some kind of partnership with the education foundations around the community, it’s a top priority."
 On the candidates' favorite places
And finally: What's your favorite public transit facility and your favorite active transportation facility?
Fritz: SE Powell MAX station, and any sidewalk. "I particularly like the Green Line of the MAX, partly because there’s a stop at 92nd avenue which is right next to Marshall High School, where my son taught for two years. … Here’s this multimillion dollar transit line that is the best in the world, I think, that gets you downtown, gets people to Portland State, and the places they need to go.
(Biking/walking) "I think my answer is any sidewalk. I live in deep Southwest where we have one mile of sidewalk in my entire neighborhood, and I like that one. I did a survey when my kids were at Markham Elementary School, and we asked kindergarteners, “where would you like to have sidewalks?” One of the students wrote, “Wherever there isn’t any” and “Wherever my shoes get muddy!” I thought, what really good answers, and grown-ups should pay attention!"
Nolan: Downtown streetcar and the Springwater. My favorite transit facility is the downtown streetcar. The loop out to Northwest Portland, because it connects Portland State and reasonably affordable housing neighborhoods, and some pretty cool small business activity. (Biking/walking) The Springwater Corridor. It’s a blast!"
 See also
- 2012 Portland mayoral election: Eileen Brady vs Charlie Hales vs Jefferson Smith
- 2012 Portland City Council election: Steve Novick vs Bob White vs Jeri Williams
- 2012 Portland City Council election: Amanda Fritz vs Mary Nolan
- 2012 Metro District 5 election: Sam Chase vs Helen Ying
- 2012 Metro District 6 election: Jonathan Levine vs Bob Stacey
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