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  • illustration by ashley-renee cribbins
One of the loudest complaints in this month's since-delayed rush by Commissioner Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales to pass a $12 transportation user fee was an overwhelming sense of shock.

Despite a series of town halls on the city's transportation funding ills—both before and after Hales and Novick held their noses and settled on a regressive utility-style fee—residents and business owners still felt blindsided by the reality of that proposal once the time came for a vote. Sensitive details had been allowed to dribble out in piecemeal fashion, with the final proposal coalescing only a week or so before it was scheduled to go before council. And Novick and Hales only compounded the public's queasiness with a series of late alterations and tweaks.

Which is partly why (there also was the matter of securing a third vote...) the whole thing was put off until November, in part to hear from surprised residents and smooth out some remaining kinks.

So why rehash the history? The Bureau of Transportation appears genuinely and deadly serious about making sure no one can play the "panicked surprise" card ever again. It's just announced two more town hall meetings on the two facets of the fee and how and whether to improve them.

• Town Hall on Business and Non-Residential Fee: 8 to 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 24, at Venture Portland, 1125 SE Madison St., Suite 112.

• Town Hall on Residential Fee: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 25, at Kaiser Permanente’s Town Hall, 3704 N Interstate Ave.

The release includes some other notable details.

A comprehensive summary of the proposal, as currently envisioned, now lives on PBOT's website. And PBOT has added detail to what was a vexingly vague calculator meant to help businesses (based on type and size) estimate their likely fees.

There's also some cautionary language from Novick and Hales. Yes, you'll have a few months to suggest ideas and fixes. But, no, in the event no one can agree on what those new ideas and fixes ought to be, this thing won't go away.

“There’s no question that we need to pay to maintain our streets,” Mayor Hales said. “If someone has a way to improve the Transportation User Fee and still raise $50 million a year, let’s hear it. Our community can no longer pretend that Congress or the state will save us from the need to invest in basic maintenance.”

“Too many children are forced to walk to school in a ditch for lack of sidewalks,” Commissioner Novick said. “I understand that some business owners want to adjust the transportation fee to better protect small businesses. If we can’t find a way to improve it, Mayor Hales and I are prepared to move forward this fall with the proposal on the table.”