Mary Nolan’s response to questions about the Greenway

City Council candidate Mary Nolan’s answers below are in response to questions sent to candidates running for City Council elections. To see the original request click here. All responses from Mary Nolan are shown in there entirety:

1.  Please explain your familiarity with the Willamette River Greenway Trail between the Eastbank Esplanade and the Columbia River?

I’d describe my familiarity with the Willamette River Greenway Trail plan as modest and growing.  I’ve visited some of the key sites included in the plan and already begun to get briefings from advocates and some affected property owners.  I have long been supportive of regional and statewide trail expansion programs, and helped lead efforts at the legislature to support these programs by adopting strong policy frameworks, improving land land use laws and assuring funding through natural resources agency budgets.
I’d also mention my lifelong support — and string of successes — for open space, environmental stewardship and livability enhancements at the local, regional and statewide levels.

2.  What experience do you possess in working with a railroad company to procure use of or purchase of some property to place a multi-purpose trail on?

I’ve negotiated dozens of very complex agreements.  Among the most challenging were:

  • creating a funding mechanism for the Healthy Kids Program in which after being defeated by big tobacco in our first attempt, I came back the following session to help lead negotiations with hospitals, insurance companies health care experts and advocates for children to craft an agreement that insured over 80,000 and leveraged over $100 million annually in federal funds.
  • bringing together river users, ratepayer advocates, major polluters, small business owners and environmental groups to formulate the Clean River Plan to clean up the combined sewer overflows on the Willamette and Columbia Slough.
  • updating the state’s land use laws for the first time in nearly 20 years through a complex process involving conservationists, local governments, developers and public health leaders into the Big Look.
  • chairing a joint public-private consortium with FAA and NASA to modernize certification regulations for airplane safety, in which companies in direct competition with each other came to agreement on a regulatory framework to improve safety for all general aviation passengers.
  • Co-chairing the complex process to develop and pass the budget for the entire state of Oregon, involving over 150 different agencies, hundreds of funding sources, 50,000 employees and over $25 billion in annual expenditures.

But I’ve never negotiated with a railroad.  Perhaps the closest analogy would be negotiations I led for the City of Portland in ownership rights and maintenance costs for street light equipment in the public right-of-way in which we faced similar challenges relating to long-established rights, shared costs and long-term commitments.

I have established effective and respectful relationships with a growing number of players with interests in the trail plan area.  By reaching out to understand the needs and interests of neighbors, trail advocates, public health proponents, property owners and major industrial facilities, I’ve positioned myself as a credible, even-handed, open-minded and effective negotiator who can earn and retain the trust of all parties.
I mention my other successes in the hope that they illuminate my effectiveness in a wide range of challenging negotiations.  In particular, the key skill I bring to this effort is a proven capacity to lead a diverse, sometimes competing or opposing, group of stakeholders to find common ground where it is possible.

3.  ‘Taking’ is a concern for both the government entity and the private property owner when requiring the owner to construct a portion of a trail when development is proposed. Would you be willing to work to develop standards that would enable the trail to be constructed in exchange for requiring fewer parking spaces?

I like to look at the underlying purpose a rule or requirement is aimed at when considering whether to waive, relax or even undo it.  Parking requirements are mostly imposed to protect adjacent property owners and reduce congestion.  But they tend to increase total single-car traffic and work against efforts to shift to alternative transportation like transit, bike and pedestrian modes, so absent proof of their value I tend to question their usefulness anyway.
Having chaired the House Land Use Committee in 2009-2010, and having received 1000 Friends of Oregon’s Tom McCall Legacy Award for my leadership on land use, I applaud your astute recognition of the tension around property rights and public benefits.  While I hold strongly to principles of fairness, stewardship and equity, I have found that the best solutions are most often found or developed when parties come to the conversation with a willingness to authentically understand each others’ concerns and give validity to each others’ needs.  As a result, I encourage all parties to enter collaborations willing to realistically explore a range of options, and I would myself approach negotiations for property or right-of-way acquisition with an open mind guided by a vision of healthy neighborhoods, healthy neighbors and a healthy economy.

4.  What funding proposals would you propose to construct the trail?

The success of funding proposals is most often dependent on the strength and breadth of the coalition supporting both the project to be funded and the funding source.  In particular, if those who will pay the cost are the loudest advocates, the funding proposal is most likely to be successful.  Instead of proposing my own favorite funding mechanism, I’d work to build a robust coalition with uncommon partners to develop and then advocate for funding.
That’s the approach I used successfully to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the Healthy Kids Program, and to craft the budget-balancing plan that included bills that became M66 & M67 which preserved natural resource programs and parks programs (not to mention 3,000 teacher jobs and basic public safety services).
Among the options for funding the trail project should be existing City Parks funds, City and State pedestrian funds, Metro’s Intertwine program, state and federal grant funds for healthy communities and alternative transportation and new initiatives like the bond measure you mention below.

5.  If a bond measure were to be submitted to the public for trails would you support the Willamette River Greenway Trail being one of the trails to be constructed? If so, would you support construction of the entire trail at one time or a portion or portions of the trail?

This is the point in candidate questionnaires that gets pretty sticky.  I am impressed with the inclusive and ambitious work that has gone into the planning and initial implementation of the npGreenway project, and look forward to working with your team to implement.  My enthusiasm extends to committing to exploring and actively promoting as ambitious a trails program as possible.  But until the kind of strong, effective coalition I referenced in question 4 above is built, I think it is unwise to promise any one project or group that it/they will be included.
I’m a pragmatist.  There are times when presenting a big visionary proposal resonates best with the public (the original Measure 66 which set aside lottery funds for open space and watershed programs and was recently extended through M76).  There are other times when incremental approaches are more successful when the public (project specific bond measures for public safety and libraries come to mind).  Having put in the groundwork to build winning coalitions that have been able to achieve lasting success, I know what it takes to get to the finish line with results worth celebrating.  I will support whichever approach — entire trail all at once or successive portions — is most likely to win public approval.

6.  How can npGreenway assist you in getting the trail constructed?

Build and expand the coalition that is committed to this vision.  Make sure you ask as much of yourselves as of others.  Be both visionary and practical.  Support candidates with a proven track record of delivering important results in environmental stewardship and livability — like me.  And then push us to stretch our thinking outside conventional wisdom.

Contact information for Mary Nolan:

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