A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Draft budget preserves the city's new bicycle and pedestrian program at City Hall

Portland's new city manager, Mark Rees, released his first-ever budget proposal for the city today. You can download the document here. It calls for a number of sensible management streamlining initiatives, including better IT systems within City Hall and on its woefully out-of-date website. This ought to improve City Hall's responsiveness to civic issues, reduce costs, and increase transparency and accountability among the city government's various departments and committees.

The Manager also recognized the public's calls for streamlined city permitting, which has unnecessarily obstructed worthy new businesses and developments.

But most excitingly for me and for my colleagues at the Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Portland Trails, and the Bike Coalition of Maine, the city manager also included this tidbit in the draft budget:

"Portland is no longer a community dominated by one mode of getting around, rather we have become a community craving diversity and an infrastructure that supports all. Whether it is safe routes to schools, bike lanes, efficient busing routes or redesigns of busy intersections, people move around the city differently than they did twenty years ago and we need to respond to these changes with a comprehensive approach...

In keeping with this goal and in recognition of the importance that all modes of transportation receive focus and attention, I am making the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator a permanent position. This position was originally funded by a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant to support the city's effor to prevent obesity. While the grant and its funded initiatives concluded last month, there are a number of bike and pedestrian initiatives from the redesign of the USM-Brighton Avenue intersection to the adoption of a bicycle-pedestrian plan that need to continue.
Keeping the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator position in City Hall has been a top priority of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Bruce Hyman, who currently serves that role, has done a tremendous amount of work in the past two years — he's implemented the city's first Neighborhood Byway on a shoestring budget, ushered a new Bicycle and Pedestrian plan through public hearings on a tight schedule, acted as the city's liason for bicycle and pedestrian issues on large development proposals like Thompson's Point (more on this soon), and generally provided a lot of value to the city for not much money.

It's still too early to celebrate Bruce's continued employment for the city — the budget still needs approval from the City Council, and the city isn't flush with money by any means. But having the city manager endorse it makes a very good start for the idea. Our next steps will be to check in with each City Councilor and get them to affirm their support for the position loudly and often.

You can read more about the budget process here:

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