TRANSIT RIDERS UNION CONFRONTS BOARD AT TRIMET MEETING WITH REEDVILLE CAFE BOYCOTT
At last Wednesday's TriMet board meeting, held in downtown Portland, Transit Riders Union confronted the board over repeated fare hikes and several rounds of bus and MAX service cuts by presenting info and brochures for the Reedville Cafe Boycott to Elect the TriMet Board & Stop the Cuts & Fare Hikes. TriMet's unelected board president, Rick Van Beveren, owns the Reedville Cafe in Hillsboro.
At the Wednesday morning TriMet board meeting, Transit Riders Union, following some testimony by two individuals who read their prepared written comments into the microphone, presented oral takes to the board about the unacceptable nature of TriMet's recent fare hikes, the cuts to 60 bus routes in September, safety practices (the Kindle driver was fired by TriMet later that day, for the second time), and the lack of accountability, transparency and democracy re the need to elect the TriMet board, since it is currently appointed by Oregon's governor.
In addition, TRU presented to the board two brochures and an article regarding the Reedville Cafe Boycott to Elect the TriMet Board & Stop the Cuts & Fare Hikes. Rick Van Beveren, TriMet board president, has voted for every fare hike and every service cut in the past two years. Van Beveren is owner of Hillsboro's Reedville Cafe.
***Noting that a bus boycott like Dr. King organized in Montgomery, Alabama, won't work in a state with the 7th highest unemployment and folks need to get to work, to job hunt, to school, to the store and to the doctor -- TRU noted that a targeted, specific boycott against Reedville Cafe is one way to start to make the TriMet board more accountable.
***It was noted that TRU collected and presented 1,400 signatures on petitions against the cuts and fare hikes to the TriMet board, which then voted 6-1 to implement the cuts.
***It was noted that TRU organizers picketed the Portland Business Alliance offices at 200 SW Market, the Black Box Building, as PBA not only pushed sit-lie but also pushed for two years, successfully in Jan. 2010, to gut Fareless Square.
Long term transit activist goals are to either have Metro (an elected body) take over TriMet (an approach favored by local elected officials Amanda Fritz and Robert Liberty), or initiate a petition to put on the Oregon ballot a measure requiring that the TriMet board of directors be elected, not appointed by the governor.
Van Beveren had already told TRU organizers at a previous board meeting that the Reedville Cafe was the site of the May 2010 primary Tom Hughes Metro president victory party. Hughes and Van Beveren both oppose having the TriMet board elected. Hughes also supports the CRC bridge. Portland Business Alliance, so far, has donated $10,000 to the Hughes campaign. Hughes faces progressive, green Metro president candidate, Bob Stacey (ex director of 1000 Friends of Oregon) on the Nov. 2 ballot to be the next Metro president, succeeding David Bragdon, who moved to New York City to work as Mayor Bloomberg's Sustainability Coordinator.
TRU also noted, to the board of TriMet, that both Bragdon and Robert Liberty had criticized (in the Oregonian) the 'closed nature' of the recent non-transparent hiring process which saw Neil MacFarlane, TriMet's light rail manager, named to succeed Fred Hansen as TriMet's $200,000 per year General Manager. The question was asked whether, in TriMet's 40 year history, if there had ever been a woman or minority General Manager. The board didn't answer.
In terms of the Reedville Cafe Boycott, Van Beveren himself made no comment. The board's vice president, one of two women on the TriMet board, recently wrote an op-ed in the Oregonian which defended TriMet practices, safety, fare hikes, service cuts, etc. -- contesting two columns written by Oregonian writers Anna Griffin and Susan Nielsen. But, Van Beveren, somewhat interestingly, as board president, did not write that op-ed rebuttal (nor did GM MacFarlane) to defend TriMet's practices.
PUTTING PRESSURE ON TRIMET NOW
In past TriMet board meetings, there has been one vote, but only one -- for transit riders, against the fare hikes and service cuts, and that is Lynn Lehrbach, with the Teamsters. However, Lehrbach, too, has endorsed Tom Hughes, the conservative candidate for Metro president -- just like Van Beveren. Upon essaying the Reedville Cafe Boycott printed material, Lynn told those present that boycotts 'are too personal.' Transit organizers maintain that when you cut someone's bus line or raise their fare, that's personal -- and, that the TriMet board are public officials (but not elected).
In a recent Willamette Week article, TriMet board president Van Beveren was quoted as saying that he thought it was 'unfortunate' that transit organizers would conduct the Reedville Cafe Boycott 'because that was making things personal.'
On the contrary, for too long, there has been zero conseuquences, along with zero transparency, on votes by the TriMet board.
Also mentioned by TRU at last Wednesday's board meeting was a rebuttal to new Gen Mgr Neil MacFarlane and TriMet's standard response to transit protests -- that is, that the 'economy' is forcing fare hikes and service cuts. According to Willamette Week, TriMet is a $2.5 billion agency, counting capital projects. Moreover, economists like Paul Krugman, TRU told the TriMet board, have stated that unemployment may become a permanent fixture, or remain high for 5-10 years, and that the economy WON'T be getting better. MacFarlane's standard quotable quote to media is that transit riders 'should just be patient for the economy to get better' to see improvements on fare hikes and service cuts in the transit system.
An additional aspect of this particular TriMet board meeting, was two parents of children who were killed by MAX and the #9 bus. The father of one of two women pedestrians in their 20s killed by the 'blind spot' of the #9 bus driver -- told the TriMet board, through tears, anger and prayers uttered out loud to god -- that he 'will be back' to seek justice and accountability on safety from TriMet, in the future. When the families of the two women killed in that #9 bus killing announced plans to sue TriMet, TriMet then terminated the woman driver involved.
TriMet in the past week also terminated the 'Kindle driver' who on I-5 (shown on national TV) was kindling while driving down the freeway. With national media and more exporure, TriMet is starting to be more responsive to transit rider concerns, at least on safety. With more pressure, including the Reedville Cafe Boycott, TriMet can be made to be accountable in many more ways, as a public agency, a public resource, as part of The Commons.
As TRU told the TriMet board last Wednesday, "TriMet doesn't belong to the governor, or the board of directors -- it belongs to people, it belongs to us."
address: PO Box 40011, Portland, Oregon 97240
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