TRANSIT RIDERS UNION PROTESTS AT WED TRIMET AUSTERITY CUTS HEARING
21 people commented at two nights of hearings re the proposed TriMet fare hike and bus cuts to up to 60 routes. TRU urges the TriMet board to defeat both proposals from staff, come up with alternate funding, and TRU calls for the TriMet board to be elected (not appointed by Oregon's govenor, which is currently the case).
At the Wednesday austerity cuts and fare hike hearing held by TriMet, Transit Riders Union came out opposing both the five cents a ride fare hike and proposed bus and MAX cuts. 17 people talked at this hearing held at the Portland Building in downtown Portland, all opposing the cuts and fare hike. A hearing the night before at Clackamas Community College drew 4 people who made comments. A third hearing is tonight at a location that TriMet was very unclear about -- the TriMet official told us that the location is close to the 15 bus and to MAX by Mall 205, at Academy School, but he wasn't exactly sure how to get there, etc.
Rev. Dr. Allen Bethel, newly appointed TriMet board member who is also a police accountability activist and chair of Albina Ministerial Alliance, attended this hearing but sat next to Fred Hansen. Transportation for America staffer Chris talked at the hearing, and 'sympathizes with the difficult task of TriMet in the face of budget tightening' while urging people to support more funding for transit at the federal level ("this is a federal problem") thru the Wyden-Brown Bill in the U.S. Senate.
Fred Nussbaum, ex-TriMet worker and kin to PSU's Rudy Nussbaum (Physics Dept teacher at one point) countered, as did TRU, by saying this is a local problem, not just a federal problem. "I don't care about the national angle," Fred stated. TRU pointed out that in LA, the Bus Riders Union there was able to get a court injunction requiring a halt to light rail construction for five years and requiring MTA to purchase 500 buses for inner city workers, students, and low-income folk who are trying to get to school, work, doctor office visits, etc.
Activist bus riders in LA and SF have both forced concessions from transit agencies in what is, supposedly, a capital projects v. operations funds 'mandate' (or funding constriction) from Republican Ray LaHood, Obama's Transportation Secretary. In an exit interview with TriMet's 2-years-and-out Operations Mgr., Steve Banta, in 2010, before Banta took a management job with Phoenix transit agency -- Banta stated that LaHood was hardly a good transportation secretary.
Transit cuts raise the issue of whether Obama is realy a 'green, pro-ecology president' if funds are being cut, in order to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- instead of actually funding and supporting public transit here at home -- which lessens the need for foreign oil and wars (which Obama rhetorically says, but then cuts the budget the opposite direction from what he himself claims). (A possible new, anti-Obama transit slogan: 'Fire LaHood, and Fund Our Buses!").
Transit Riders Union in Portland meets Sundays at 6pm at Hot Lips Pizza, at PSU, 1906 SW Sixth.
In addition, at the Wednesday TriMet fare hike and service cuts hearing, a manager from Netflix opposed limitid bus service now for their workers (they want to add 100 jobs, but may have to replace another 100 workers who may have to quit due to proposed cutbacks on bus service TriMet is now proposing). Transit riders new to Portland, and from Sellwood, complained about the lack of adequate bus service in our community -- supposedly a 'green city' according to the PR dept. of Portland's mayor and local corporate media.
In the recent exit interview with 5 organizers from Transit Riders Union with former Operations Mgr., Steve Banta, Banta was quick to note that NONE of the current non-elected TriMet board members had worked with staff to seek alternate funding methods in the midst of the 'economic crisis.' TriMet staff have told TRU organizers that TriMet want to cut, or gut, Fareless Square as early as 1989, far earlier than the current 'recession' crisis.
(TriMet's outgoing $250,000 per year Gen. Mgr., Fred Hansen, and Olivia Clark, in charge of fundraising/lobbying in D.C. and Salem for TriMet, alone and together, have cancelled out of 8 meeting with transit organizers re: alternative funding and stopping the cuts -- this is the third round of bus and MAX cuts, so far. That is, the frog in a slowly-boiling pot.
One elected official at Metro recently told TRU organizers that if "Oregon had a sales tax, we could fund transit more" instead of relying on the payroll tax. However, transit agencies with the sales tax are also slashing public transit -- New York City just made $100,000,000 in cuts to their bus and transit service.
If it "just" a federal question, why did Obama appoint a Republican as Transportation Secretary, and why is Obama slashing public transit funding while promoting both nuclear power and offshore drilling?
Rather, this is a "local" problem (like Oregon's Bottle Bill -- 40 states don't have bottle bills), and if activists in Portland, like LA and SF, mobilize effectively, we can fight these supposed 'austerity' budget cuts. In Greece and other parts of Europe, austerity budget cuts under neoliberal regimes (think Sarkozy, who just experienced massive election losses to France's socialist party) -- union workers, students and other have demonstrated, and rioted, to fight cops over austerity measures on jobs, education, transit, etc.
address: PO Box 40011, Portland, Oregon 97240
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