Metro: Robert Liberty announces resignation; Bob Stacey expresses interest

Carla Axtman

Nigel Jaquiss, Willamette Week:

Metro Councilor Robert Liberty announced his resignation from the Metro Council today. Liberty, a former director of the land-use group 1000 Friends of Oregon, first won election to Metro in 2004, representing District 6, which covers parts of Northeast, Southeast and Southwest Portland.

Liberty, who earned his law degree at Harvard, is returning to the University of Oregon, where he studied as an undergraduate. He will lead the university’s Sustainable Cities Initiative, an interdisciplinary effort “that seeks to promote education, service, public outreach and research on the design and development of sustainable cities,” according to the SCI website.

Bob Stacey, who barely lost the Metro Chair race to Tom Hughes, lives in Liberty's district and is expressing interest in the position, which has two years left before reelection.

Stacey told me that he spoke earlier today with Tom Hughes. Stacey said Hughes told him that he thought it was great that Stacey is applying for the position, but that he will wait and see who else expresses interest.

Stacey also said, "I would have liked to have won (the Metro Chair) of course, but the main goal for me is to work on issues that Metro manages." He said that according to Metro's charter, the Council votes on a replacement. Stacey is calling the other Metro Councilors to let them know of his interest in the job.

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    Back during the primary, lots of folks wondered aloud why we couldn't have all three - Tom, Rex, and Bob - on the Metro Council.

    And now, for at least two years, we can.

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    Losing Robert Liberty from Metro will be huge. He has been the loudest, most consistent voice among all electeds in the region in opposing the madness of the Columbia River Mega-bridge. He is super smart, principled and tough.

    Good for the U of O to have the sense to steal him away. I think Bob would be a very worthy successor, but nobody is going to replace Robert Liberty.

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    Robert Liberty is a great visionary who realizes what must be done for our region to reach sustainability. I hope he gains maximum influence at the new job.

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    Sad to see Liberty go.

    Robert has always been one to push us to think of the ethical implications of our decisions, and hold our actions up to our aspirations. As a newspaper (WWeek?) once noted, he was the conscience of the Metro Council.

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    Here's a note that just went out from Councilor Liberty to his supporters and friends (part one):

    Dear friends:

    I am pleased to announce my selection as the first executive director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon. As described in the attached media advisory, this is an exciting new position and program that allows me to continue my 30-year effort to build livable, sustainable and equitable communities.

    Read the media advisory

    I am planning to serve my last day as a member of the Metro Council on January 15. The council will select the person to fill out the last two years of my term as the representative of residents in Metro Council District 6.

    I appreciate the support and interest you have taken in my work at Metro over the last six years. I believe I have provided new ideas and leadership on a range of issues on behalf of all of you.

    I contributed to shifting the regional emphasis from urban development on productive farmland, forestland and natural areas around our urban growth boundary, to reinvesting in neighborhoods we already have. I worked with architects, neighborhood leaders and developers to explore new ways of providing for the region’s growth that enrich, rather than diminish, existing neighborhoods.

    I made it a point to speak up on issues relating to the economic opportunities and quality of life of minorities and families of modest means from areas of our region that are struggling. I added these perspectives into aspects of the natural areas bond measure, into transportation planning decisions, and most recently, in planning for greater housing choice in new and existing communities.

    I worked hard to reform transportation decision-making, from the project level to the regional system level. My views did not always prevail, but I believe I raised awareness. Perhaps in some modest ways, I prepared the ground for the reforms that I am confident we will have to make in a world of financial and environmental limits.

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    ...and part two:

    More recently, I enjoyed working with leaders in the business community and nonprofit organizations on the effort to create a regional consensus around the highest priority investments we should be making in the region. If done well, this can be an important effort to improve the region’s economic health and increase economic opportunities for working class people while maintaining our high standards for protecting the environment and promoting innovations in urban development.

    In more modest ways, I contributed to Metro’s efforts to update the Oregon Zoo’s facilities, enhance its conservation and education work, and make sure citizens have a voice in Metro’s regional work.

    I offered support to other members of the council for leadership on issues of solid waste, natural areas protection and the success of our visitor and meeting facilities.

    I enjoyed working with the citizens in my district and the region, other elected officials (where I enjoyed the debate and dialogue on the Metro Policy Advisory Committee), Metro staff, and my colleagues on the Metro Council. In my new role, I will take the lessons I have learned during the past six years and put them to good use in other parts of Oregon and around the nation and the world.

    Thank you again for your support. You have my best wishes for your continuing participation in the efforts to keep this region a place we are proud to call home. I am sure our paths will cross many times in the years ahead.

    Robert Liberty

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    Robert Liberty is one of the rare "good ones" in a sea of sharks- I'm sure he will be missed on Metro but hopefully he still will have public service in mind for the future. If you are looking to slay dragons he's your boy.

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    Robert Liberty, in a way, got me interested in politics. When I was 19 I was hitchhiking down to U of O for the weekend and I met him when he gave me a lift. We talked UGB ideas and policy for about an hour and I had not really met anyone that could emulsify passion and intellect so effectively before. I remember that he could move from detail, or micro-level concepts and bigger-picture, macro-level concepts effortlessly without losing the distinction or confusing the two. That might be one of the top two of three criteria for a great communicator. He changed my mind on town houses and infill strategy. I guess now he's giving all of us hitchhikers a ride down to Eugene now.

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