It has certainly been a momentous–and busy–election night. In DC, the status quo was mostly maintained–President Obama is re-elected, and neither house of Congress changes control (the Democrats pick up a few seats in the Senate, and likely will in the House as well; though many seats are still undecided at this point). All Oregon congresspersons are re-elected, and the Jaime Herrera Beutler in WA-3 appears headed for re-election as well. In Salem, the Democrats will maintain control of the Senate and re-take the House.
But several local races may have a bigger impact on transit and land use.
First, in the Portland mayoral election, Charlie Hales has defeated Jefferson Smith. This result was not surprising, given the various damaging personal revelations about Smith to surface in recent months. Earlier in the year, Hales gave an interview with Portland Afoot where he stated his positions on the relevant issued. He is, of course, a strong supporter of (and strongly associated with) Portland Streetcar, and has long supported the system during his career in both public office and private industry, and supports its expansion. He believes that transit in general is a worthwhile public endeavor, and supports new taxes/fees to fund operations. On the other hand, he is also a strong supporter of the Columbia River Crossing project (arguably moreso than Smith was), though has made clear that he will continue Sam Adams’ policy of requiring alternate transportation on the CRC as a condition of Portland’s support for the project.
Which brings us to Proposition 1, the initiative in Clark County for a 0.1% sales tax hike to fund both MAX operations as part of the CRC process, and the proposed Fourth Plain BRT project. It failed, 56%-44%. As Portland Afoot notes, officials in Washington have been viewing Prop 1 as a referendum on the CRC itself. With Clark County expressing its dislike for light rail across the river, and Portland likely continuing to insist that it be built, and a continued lack of funds from either Olympia or Salem, and the extreme difficulties the project team seems to be having with designing a bridge that will meet regulatory approval; will this put the brakes on the CRC? (One other factor that may have an affect: The Washington governor’s race remains too close to call at this time).
Two Oregon suburban communities also continued an anti-rail backlash, with Tigard voters passing a measure to require a public vote on tax/fee increases going towards future light rail spending (and doing so by a wide margin). This measure seems to be more competently drafted than the similar measure which passed in Clackamas County–it only applies to new taxes and fees (not sure how it deals with the money-is-fungible problem), and also only applies to construction projects. It doesn’t appear that this measure will limit Tigard’s ability to participate in the SW Corridor planning process; though it certainly could constrain the result of that process. As noted previously, if Tigard residents are opposed to light rail, this is the time to speak up. While Clackamas County residents have made opposition clear to future projects, the Green Line is already in operation along I-205, and the Milwaukie line is under construction as we speak.
Speaking of Clackamas County, transit opponent John Ludlow is currently leadingincumbent Charlotte Lehan in the race for county chair, and another transit skeptic, Tootie Smith, is leading Jamie Dimon. Should both results hold up, the county government will shift to a position of being considerably more hostile to “Portland creep” in the county. Whether this will affect ongoing projects like MLR remains to be seen; though it’s safe to assume that future “smart growth” projects will be on hold in the county for a while.
Portland Afoot has more analysis of tonight’s election results.