City Council today approved a $214,940 contract with Alta Planning + Design
led by Mia Birk,
the former City of Portland transportation administrator who recently served as a co-chairwoman of the city's Bicycle Plan for 2030 steering committee. (The vote was 4-0 with Commissioner Dan Saltzman absent.)
Don't let the unanimity fool you. Before the vote today, the contract raised questions in at least one commissioner's office.
In fact, the contract was listed on last week's consent agenda. But Commissioner Amanda Fritz
asked that it be pulled so she could study it more. The contract is supposed to provide "project development services for street design projects to implement the Portland Bicycle Plan." In part that means the deal calls for contractors to conduct some of the public outreach around the bike plan.
And who's is doing that outreach? Subcontractors Scott Bricker
and Michelle Poyourow
(pictured above at City Hall on Feb. 4), two former employees of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Bricker left the organization in November 2009; Poyourow left the BTA in February 2010. Both now have independent consulting firms. For her part, Poyourow was active in BTA's campaign to push the bike plan through City Council back in February, testifying before commissioners and the mayor about the plan's benefits.
Now Bricker and Poyourow will make $75 an hour and $65 an hour respectively conducting public engagement around the bike plan. A City of Portland employee would have made about half that in salary, not including benefits.
Two other firms submitted bids to the city for the contract. But a five-person committee of City of Portland employees and independent reviewers selected Alta. In voting for the contract today, Fritz said her concerns had been allayed.
Birk, speaking by phone with WW
from Chattanooga this afternoon where she is attending a transportation conference,
said her new city contract had a "very low dollar value." And she defended the rates paid to Poyourow and Bicker as reasonable, given
they don't include
contractors pay for overhead or benefits. Responding to the appearance that she is benefiting from a plan she helped steer, Birk said, "There isn't a conflict."