BTA: Beyond the presidential race, your vote can change Oregon

By Rob Sadowsky, Contributing Columnist

First, I’d like to pause and say goodbye to Margaux Mennesson. Margaux has served as The Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Communications Director for the past four years. She is moving on from BTA and co-authoring the Healthy Street Beat. All of us at BTA and Street Roots wish her the best in her new adventures.

Election time is right around the corner. My parents always said voting was one of the most important things an American does for his or her country. Now we live in times of high-tech polling that only shares the current “opinion” of voters. We can read complicated statistical analyses of possible outcomes before a single vote is cast.

Oregon already has been determined to be “out of play” in the presidential election. The chance that a vote in Oregon will make a difference in the 2012 presidential election is small. Now here’s my twist to help make this article tie into Healthy Street Beat: A niche website calculates that “if you live in Oregon and ride a bike 4 miles to your polling place, you are roughly 85 times more likely to die on your way to the polling booth than you are to cast a meaningful vote in the 2012 presidential election.”

So why vote? There are many reasons to vote in any election from basic philosophical reasoning (you should exercise your rights while you still have them) to the highly local (your vote in local elections are much more likely to count). I’d argue that they are both good reasons. I want to register my viewpoint, even if it is in the minority: Your vote is a declaration of where you stand and may affect the perspectives of many people.

There are local elections and issues on the ballot that will help shape the future of the Portland metropolitan region. Whoever wins the Portland mayoral and city commissioner races will influence how the city is run, from prioritizing the future of our city’s streets to tackling vital issues such as homelessness, affordable housing development, fair housing enforcement and economic development.

Whoever becomes mayor will also determine who will be in charge of city bureaus, including housing and transportation. Outgoing Mayor Sam Adams is now in charge of Transportation, so we know that bureau’s leadership will change.

If you get a chance to attend one of the forums or debates that will happen between now and Nov. 6, please do so. One of the ways we can exercise our right to democratic engagement is to ask questions and share perspectives one-on-one with candidates. I have found that candidates really do want to know how you feel and to know what is important to you.

Your ballot will also include state and regional measures. It is so easy to vote in Oregon, because the ballot comes in the mail and you will have time to read it in the comfort of your favorite nest. You have until Oct. 16 to register for this election.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote. BTA is a 501(c)3 charitable organization and we don’t endorse candidates. However, I urge you and your friends to vote. In the primary elections, there were fewer than 7,000 votes separating the top two mayoral candidates and fewer than 3,000 between two commissioners. So, there’s a pretty good chance your vote will make a difference, a difference that just might make it safer to bicycle to the polls (or the mailbox) next time.

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