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TRANSIT RIDERS UNION ORGANIZERS BRACE PORTLAND CITY COUNCIL ON TRIMET CUTS

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, three organizers from Transit Riders Union spoke in 3 minute blurbs to the Portland City Council. The organizers urged the city to become more active in opposing service cuts (TriMet plans to cut Fareless Square in half in Jan by charging for buses but having Fareless MAX continue). The organizers also urged the city to support having the TriMet board elected by the people -- it is currently appointed by Oregon's governor.
At the Sept. 9 Portland City Council meeting, Transit Rider Union organizers braced the five members of Portland City Council, and urged council to become active in opposing current and further service cuts being enacted by TriMet. Organizers also urged the council to support efforts to have the TriMet board elected by the people. It is currently appointed (and therefore unaccountable) by Oregon's governor. One organizer noted that Transit Riders Union presented 1,400 signatures on petitions against the cuts to the TriMet board president at their last board meeting, but George Passadore said nothing and the TriMet board then voted 6-1 to enact the cuts, which don't become effective until Jan. 2010. 50 bus routes also are scheduled to be reduced (TriMet says 'adjusted') at that time.


Transit Rider Union organizers at city council noted that TriMet currently is both anti-democratic, ignoring widespread opposition to cutting Fareless Square, and not acting in the public interest, to boot.


After the three short presentations, only Randy Leonard on council had anything to say, "TriMet is not the jurisdiction of the city council." This, despite Portland's mayor, from Goldschmidt to Adams, being the single most important political player in the state vis-a-vis TriMet decisions (probably far more important that TriMet's Gen. Mgr, Fred Hansen, who makes $250,000 per year, plus a part time consulting job in Australia). To the city council's credit (and in spite of Leonard's assertion that the city doesn't do anything vis-a-vis TriMet), the city council two weeks ago approved expanding the free high school TriMet pass program from three to all 10 Portland area high schools.


TRU organizers, at city council, did thank Catherine Ciarlo, Sam Adams's transit director, for meeting for a half hour with two TRU organizers re the Fareless Square cuts, and thanked Amanda Fritz, who also met with a TRU organizer for a half hour, in part to discuss TriMet and city council relations: Amanda, before being on city council, testified in 2008 against the then-proposed cuts to Fareless Square, and emailed TRU organizers that she had talked to Fred Hansen by phone in August, 2009, about the renewed effort to bag Fareless Square and that Hansen said TriMet would cut Fareless Square no matter what.


So far, both TriMet's board and the Portland City Council feel that there is no 'real cost' to their 'standing down' and pushing through the cuts to Fareless Square set for Jan. 2010. Also, this is the second round of TriMet cuts this year by the TriMet board, whose PR/marketing department keeps blurbing that TriMet has plans to build 20 more light rails lines over the next 60 years in metro Portland (at $1 billion each, or so), etc. TriMet just cut back MAX frequency this week, along with cutting 4 bus lines altogether and cutting back on 37 other bus lines -- because TriMet claims it has no money in the current recession (except that TriMet has a $900,000,000 annual budget).


At the TriMet board meeting, which both Amanda Fritz and Sam Adams's offices stated that they sent representatives to attend (but not to speak against -- TRU asked for Amanda and Sam to testify in person against the TriMet service cuts -- both refused) -- at the TriMet board meeting, when Passadore and five other TriMet board members (none of whom are elected, none of whom are transit dependent commuters) voted to ignore the 1,400 protest signatures -- TRU organizers chanted from the back of the room, "Elect the board, elect the TriMet board" and "Shame!"


TriMet's marketing blitz (they have almost a $900,000,000 annual budget) for the new Green light rail line started in earnest the next day, after the city council meeting, on Sept 10, when the Tribune printed an 80-page 'insert' promoting the Green Line and how cool TriMet is -- it wasn't clear if TriMet paid for the 80-page 'ad' or if the Tribune donated it. There was a lead news story by Jim Redden, in the news section of the Tribune (front page) detailing the history of opposition to TriMet expansion, almost exclusively by right wing, Republican, anti-transit, pro-car Oregon figures from Bill Sizemore to Mel Zucker to Bob Tiernan (now chair of the Oregon GOP, Lazarus-like).


Transit Riders Union organizers told city council, however, that, like the 10 other Bus Riders Unions in big US cities, TRU is a progressive, Left-wing coalition which seeks to expand fareless service, expand service overall, add more buses, cut fares, and have the TriMet board elected.


In the Tribune 80-page 'advert', there were two interesting stories profiling city council member Nick Fish (despite Randy Leonard's assertion that the city has no 'jurisdiction' re TriMet) promoting TriMet as a really cool agency and light rail being really cool, as well, with a photo of Fish (he is up for reelection next year in 2010, and is rumored to want to be mayor, as well).


The photo and profile of former NW president of Wells Fargo, and now TriMet board president, George Passadore -- noted that Passadore is a great transit advocate, apparently, since he has a 'classic car collection' (10 cars? 100 cars? more than Jay Leno??) at his estate, next to his 'party room,' according to the article.


The 'coalition' of groups supporting cutting Fareless Square to start charging for buses in January (TriMet says they will only raise $800,000 in revenue by doing this, however) includes: Oregonian Editorial Board, Portland Business Alliance, Portland Tourist Bureau, Cascade Policy Institute and the TriMet board itself.


TRU plans to organize a direct action campaign against cutting Fareless Square in the fall, and the next Transit Riders Union meeting is set for 6pm on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at Chit Chat Cafe, next to Hot Lips at PSU, 1906 SW Sixth (on 9, 12, 17, 19, and 44 buses).


Transit Riders Union also has a workshop set for the Chomsky Conference the first weekend in October at the Unitarian Church.


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phone: phone: 503-222-2974
address: address: PO Box 40011, Portland, Oregon 97240