FRED HANSEN QUITS AS TRIMET GENERAL MANAGER IN FACE OF PROTESTS
Fred Hansen, TriMet's $250,000 per year General Manager, announced he is quitting the transit agency after 11 years. Hansen was not asked by Oregonian reporters whether the 1,400 Transit Riders Union protestors who oppose 'transit shock doctrine,' austerity cutbacks, and fare hikes -- had anything to do with Hansen's exit.
In 2009, 1,400 Portland metro area transit riders expressed their outrage with "TriMet's troika" -- Gen. Mgr. Fred Hansen, Wells Fargo president and TriMet board president George Passadore, and 'Butcher of Fareless Square' and TriMet board member Bob Williams -- by signing anti-austerity budget cut petitions to save local bus and MAX service and to stop the gutting of Fareless Square. The 'troika' ignored those 1,400 transit riders who petitioned against the cuts, and the TriMet puppet board of directors (with Williams, Passadore and Hansen's pushing) voted 6-1 to implement the cuts, including gutting Fareless Square (for 35 years, buses were free in Fareless Square, but now, in 2009, it is a $175 fine if you don't pay for a bus in what was Fareless).
TRU organizers picketed (Nov. 2009) pro-cutbacks NGO Portland Business Alliance, and will picket PBA again to fight the TriMet service cuts.
This week, TriMet Gen. Mgr. Fred Hansen announced he is resigning from TriMet, effective June, 2010, when his contract is up. Why wait? Why not quit today? In many respects, this constitutes a "liberation day" for transit riders. Following the lead of right-wing board member, Bob Williams, two weeks ago, who quit the TriMet board, Hansen is now also jumping ship. That leaves one member of the 'troika' left to go: Wells Fargo [which made $6 billion in profits in the first 6 months of 2009] regional ex-president and TriMet board president, George Passadore. Let's encourage Passadore to join Williams and Hansen to bail -- and take our transit back!
In Joe Rose (Oregonian) and Jim Redden (Tribune) stories, Hansen is lauded as bringing regional cooperation to the fore in harnessing federal dollars to expand light rail in the metro area. The lead editorial in the Oregonian even calls Hansen a 'rock star' for transit nationally and globally. Is that like calling Dick Cheney a 'rock star' for imperial warfare, or renditon and torture???
Joe Rose (Oregonian) did seek a comment from Transit Riders Union, but he was on deadline. Of course, transit activists and organizers from PSU Progressive Student Union have met six times with the Oregonian Editorial Board, and not once has the Oregonian EVER printed a Transit Riders Union In My Opnion piece, so far, against austerity measures, service cutbacks and 'transit shock doctrine' practices and mismanagement by Hansen, Passadore, and Williams. We'll continue to send in op-eds against TriMet mismanagement and calling for the TriMet board to be elected by the people, not appointed by Oregon's governor (the current, secret practice with zero transparency or accountability).
An op-ed, however, by right-wing light rail critic Dave Lister (who ran unsuccessfully for Portland City Council) did appear in today's paper, using bogus arguments (light rail promotes strip clubs on McLoughlin Avenue) with not-so-bogus conclusions: unlike Rose City Transit, TriMet's gutting bus service is not a 'grid system' to promote transit use, but a capital- intensive model which indeed 'harnesses federal dollars' but doesn't expand free transit as a public resource.
(This is akin to tea party activists accusing Obama of being 'socialist' and pretending that the health care bill is somehow single payer -- when it doesn't even have a public option. Corporate media promoting right wing propaganda, like Dave Lister's, makes 'bureaucratic agencies' appear to be moderate or reasonable: ie, Obama is no 'radical' just a technocrat manager doing his job, etc.).
Transit does fight cars and car culture, and we support transit funding for that reason. However, because TriMet claims that all their funds are dedicated to light rail construction, and the economy/payroll tax in Oregon is in bad shape, that means less frequent service on MAX, on buses, and some bus lines being cut altgother. It also means that, after 35 years as a community resource and public space (that fought air pollution and global warming), TriMet has, for now, gutted Fareless Square in half (rail and streetcar are still free in Hitler-Hansen Square, or, Fareless Finger/Fareless Rail).
In LA and SF and NYC, transit activists (even Mayor Bloomberg) have challenged light rail capital funding orthodoxy. After 1,000 NYU students protested against service cuts in 2009, Bloomberg proposed EXPANDING the free zone in the middle of New York to save on gas, to increase bus speed, and have drivers not have to check fares, etc. In LA and SF, transit activists have gotten judges to grant court injunctions against light rail and require more bus acquisition and increase bus service -- which tends to support low-income communities, workers, seniors, students and communities of color... while light rail tends to service the more affluent parts of big U.S. cities.
Promoting and preserving bus service helps the still employed get to jobs, and the unemployed be able to look for jobs. Bus service also helps students get to college in order to better compete as grads in the global marketplace -- yet, Oregon, as a state, is cutting public higher education as part of an 'austerity' agenda, as well! (Unlike Greece in 2010, or Caracas in 1989 when there were riots protesting a transit fare hike -- so far, opposition to austerity cutbacks in Oregon are in the form of (censored) op-eds, (ignored) petitions, and, for now, (more effective?) pickets against the Portland Business Alliance.
Transit Riders Union meets Saturdays at Chit Chat Cafe at PSU at 12 noon, 1906 SW Sixth Avenue and can be reached at www.trimetriders.org or 503-222-2974.
address: PO Box 40011, Portland, Oregon 97240
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