If Sam Adams proposes anything less than a 12-lane bridge across the Columbia, he will be doing so for the sake of "appearances," and because of a "lack of substance" behind any such proposal, says City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who appears to be gearing up for a fight with his former council buddy over the bridge.
Leonard had strong union support in his recent reelection, and his friend, AFLCIO boss Tom Chamberlain, spoke out in strong support of the 12-lane option for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) at the recent council hearing on lane options. In the past, Leonard may have offered to broker a deal with the unions over lane options on Adams' behalf, but since breaking his close ties with Adams over the Breedlove scandal, Leonard has nothing to lose by sticking with his pals, leaving Adams to find his council support elsewhere.
Adams, meanwhile, is yet to voice a firm preference for the number of lanes he wants to see on the bridge. But sustainability advocates, including Adams' own sustainability and planning policy adviser, Amy Ruiz, have been outspoken about the dangers of building too many lanes. Metro Regional Council president David Bragdon spoke up in favor of eight to 10 lanes at a meeting of the CRC project sponsors council last Friday, saying he "doesn't trust" traffic projections done by the state department of transportation for the bridge, and citing the probable "induced demand" that a 12-lane bridge would create, like expanding the freeway system has in Atlanta.
Adams left council this morning with Leonard, reading a copy of Willamette Week's news lede. "A Bridge too wide?" said Adams, testily, as he walked towards Leonard's office, quoting the title of Nigel Jaquiss' story, which makes the argument that Adams' political clout is shot to pieces, so he won't be able to deliver a "sustainable" eight or ten lane council recommendation on the bridge. Adams and Leonard had a brief 10 minute closed-door discussion in Leonard's office, before Adams emerged, stony-faced, with a staffer, to be dragged off to a meeting with the Portland Development Commission.
Leonard told the Mercury he had been direct with Adams, telling him that the comparative cost of building 12 lanes, instead of 10, when the bridge is going to have to last for the next century, means it's worth pushing for. Was Adams frustrated with Leonard's position?
"A little bit," Leonard conceded. "I don't know. He was just trying to find out what I could live with, and what I could not live with, I think. It was more, you know, can you wait to see what the final package is that I deliver, but that I hear what you're saying, and that I'll give voice to everyone's concerns."
Has Leonard essentially preempted Adams' decision on lane numbers?
"How would I have done that?"
Because if he says ten lanes, you'll shoot him down.
"No, I'll just vote against him."
That's a pretty direct negotiating style on Leonard's part—the last thing Adams can afford is for his council to look divided over such a controversial issue, especially when pushing for fewer lanes was already going to look like
bold leadership on sustainability issues the madness of a socialist European. The kind of socialist European who likes art and bike lanes, I mean. Never mind legally questionable snatches of amour fou in city hall restrooms.
Leonard, meanwhile, says that sustainability advocates have simply resorted to "name calling" when he has challenged them to provide statistical support for their arguments for fewer lanes. "And that swings the argument for me, right there," he says.
Leonard has come up with an unusual compromise, which according to his chief of staff, Ty Kovatch, they just concocted in conversation, which is to build the bridge for 12 lanes, but stripe it for 10. It's not clear where the statistical support is for this option, either. But some folks in the project sponsors' council seem to like it...
It's not just the CRC that's likely to suffer from Adams' reduced political pull, either. Powells Bookstore owner Michael Powell is quoted in this month's NW Examiner, saying the fate of the Burnside-Couch couplet, another of Adams' darling projects, "is completely up in the air now."
I considered titling this blog post "Randy Leonard is going to make Sam Adams' life hell, part one," but thought better of it. However. If we do end up with a 12-lane bridge across the Columbia, can we at least rename it? How about The Beau Breedlove Interstate Bridge? Perhaps the Recall Sam Adams folks can gather the signatures...
Adams' spokesman, Roy Kaufmann, is yet to return a call for comment.