The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has fired its executive director, Scott Bricker. Here's a great, somewhat mood-inappropriate photo of Bricker from last year:
"He was let go," says Mary Roberts, Board Chair for the organization."The board decided, and it was a very difficult decision. We really thank Scott for all of his work, and we would not be here without his contribution over the last 11 years."
"The whole ecosystem for bicycling is moving out of it really being just about the bike to it being a much bigger agenda," says Roberts. "Bicycling really becomes about transforming a whole city and state, and so we're really looking to find an Executive Director who has worked on that stage."
Bricker has no future job lined up. He was told this morning at a meeting with the board, says Roberts. He has so far declined comment.
The BTA says it's now launching a "national search" for a new Executive Director.
Roberts says the BTA plans to "push much harder" for the bicycling agenda across the state, from now on.
"This is good news for the community and the state," she says.
"The way I'm looking at this, I think that leadership within an organization is not black and white," says Bricker. "And bicycling has a lot of leaders in it already. What I think I brought to the organization was being a great partner and continuing to build the leadership overall in the community.
"It's a board's role to hire and fire an executive director," Bricker continues. "But this is their choice. The upshot is that a new person will take charge of the organization and walk into a strong, vibrant and financially solid organization. The staff is really energetic, and the board is strong and really opinionated. I feel really strong about the service I provided over the last 11 years, the organization is in great shape. From my personal standpoint, I've been doing this for a long time, and this was the most challenging role I had at the BTA. I feel wonderful about my accomplishments, and I'm looking forward to some vacation for myself and my family. I plan on volunteering for the tax measures that are coming up, and then on seeking opportunities in the public policy arena."
In 2008, the BTA had a significant financial loss. "Some of that was cash, some of it was accounting. But in 2009, we're actually going to have a really solid year," Bricker says. "While there's a lot of opportunity for financial growth, from my standpoint, that's not one of the things driving this."
"I think the board wanted someone else to lead the organization," he says. "They just wanted someone else, and the reality is is it's their choice, and leadership is a key aspect to that."
"I've had mixed feelings about the direction that the BTA was going, definitely," says Jonathan Maus, editor of BikePortland.org. "I don't think there was the right vision, that the BTA was capturing the spirit of the community the way they can, and I think some of that can be attributed to the leadership."
"When was the last time the BTA had a rally at city hall?" asks Maus. "When did they last disagree with the mayor on a point? When did they last push people to really comment on the bicycle master plan? And when two people died in October it was the community that responded, and the BTA hasn't always been that quick to respond on these issues. They've clearly taken a more disengaged approach, in the past. What Bricker told me in the past was that they had a nuanced position, and I feel that given the place we're in in Portland right now, we need a really engaged advocacy group to push the city that's really getting comfortable with biking, and the BTA, I think, has thought that being strong, means you're losing your seat at the table. But I think there's a way to be strong and still stay respected."
"I think a lot of the community were disappointed that the BTA wasn't more of an advocate in the Columbia River Crossing process, too," Maus continues.
"I hope it's a realization at the BTA board about the changing nature of bike advocacy in general," says Maus. "Maybe they're recognizing that they need to hasten that shift in the way that it happens in Portland. We need to start looking beyond the "bicycle" in the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and not continuing to segregate out bicycling from other modes of transportation advocacy."
From this reporter's perspective, an event at the Bagdad theater earlier this year certainly captured the "complacent" spirit of the biking community that Maus may have been referring to. I even wrote a column on the subject. But who's going to pet Portland's kittens, from now on?
Bricker says he's going to continue to be active in Oregon policy, and good luck to him.