City Commissioner Steve Novick wasted no time assuring the Portland Bureau of Transportation that he'll seek new revenue for street paving and calm any backlash against bicycles.
Upon getting official word from Mayor Charlie Hales on Monday that he'll oversee the embattled transportation bureau, the rookie commissioner sent a morale booster to PBOT staff: The city's backlog of road maintenance is not their fault.
"Part of my message to PBOT employees is, 'You have been beaten up,'" says Novick. "Really, what's needed are more resources. It's a matter of political leaders biting the bullet and saying, 'We can't do it all without more money.'"
Novick's statement both echoes and pushes back against two city audits issued this winter. They scolded the bureau and City Council for committing to new capital projects—including $86 million for the Sellwood Bridge replacement and $55 million for the Milwaukie light-rail extension—while not setting aside enough money for basic road upkeep.
But Novick was pushing for new revenue to fund PBOT long before the audits questioned how money had been spent.
During his campaign for City Council, Novick advocated installing new parking meters in Northwest Portland, and speculated about more meters along Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and Northeast Alberta Street.
“What I’m talking about is going where the money is,” Novick told WW in May 2012. “If you can’t get money out of the gas tax, where can you go? Parking.”
In his latest comments, Novick is also signaling that recent acrimony between the city and bicycle advocates over paving priorities must end. He says cycling, walking and public transit are keys to increasing public health—one of his core interests.
"I don't ride a bicycle, but whenever I see a bicyclist, I think, 'She's saving me money on my health care,'" Novick says. "How do we build a transportation system that helps to save people money—both on transportation itself and also on health care?"
In a personal eccentricity that has become a regular part of his policy announcements, Novick closed by quoting a song lyric. This time it was the final lines from the Rolling Stones' "Something Happened to Me Yesterday."
They offer timely advice to Pedalpalooza participants.