A local property manager is taking a strange tack in telling his Northwest Portland tenants to vote 'no' on the $790 million schools bond voters will consider tomorrow: Riffing on the messaging of Donald Trump.
Paul Medica, managing partner of a pair of family-owned property management companies, sent tenants a two-page letter in early May, inviting them to "make your wallet great again," by saying no to the measure—the largest bond ask in state history. If the measure passes, Medica assured his tenants, "I will have no choice but to substantially raise rent rates..."
A tenant who anonymously shared the letter with the Mercury says it came off as a threat. That could run afoul of a state law against exerting "undue influence" in elections.
Medica quickly became angry on Sunday when told it had been perceived as such.
"Nothing in that letter is threatening—nothing," he shouted, before scolding us for calling him on Mother's Day and hanging up. "I'm sorry they felt that way."
In his letter, Medica accuses Portland Public Schools of attempting to double-dip, by pushing a bond measure while still paying off a $482 million bond measure approved in 2012. If passed, the current bond proposal would result in property tax increases of $1.40 per $1,000 of assessed value in the short term. Medica is assuring his tenants that tax increase would result in their rents rising.
"I urge each of you to: VOTE NO on measure 26-193," he writes. "And make your wallet great again!"
The letter also contains some dubious claims. Medica says the district discovering lead issuing forth from water faucets when it did was "timely," and tells his tenants that only four schools were tested for lead in the water. He suggests that the district is being misleading in claiming that it has a widespread problem. In fact, all schools were tested and the vast majority turned up at least one result that exceeded the the US Environmental Protection Agency's "action level" of 15 parts per billion.
"The real travesty is that in the unlikely condition every faucet in every school is distributing drinking water with lead levels above the acceptable standard, the bond does almost nothing to 'get the lead out of PPS facilities,'"Medica writes, noting most of the bond money would be put toward the renovation or replacement of several high schools.
The campaign pushing the bond says that, too, is bad information. There's enough money in the bond to eliminate concerns about lead and copper, and do away with the need to give students bottled water, they say.
"We're disappointed to learn that a wealthy landlord chose to intimidate his tenants by mailing a deliberately inaccurate letter including misinformation about the school bond that concluded by stating he would 'have no choice' but to raise rents on Portland families should Measure 26-193 pass," bond campaign manager Aaron Brown said in a statement. "This bond continues the excellent, accountable, on-time and on-budget work conducted by the district with the 2012 Bond to provide our first wave of major renovations to PPS schools since 1945. It's a shame that landlords are disinterested in contributing to these much needed investments in our schools and the well being of our city."
It's not clear how many tenants Medica's letter was sent to. The man has roles in two family-owned companies, Roseco Property Management and TLC Property Management, which together own nearly a dozen residential and retail properties along Northwest Thurman and Southeast Belmont, according to court records. The letter the Mercury obtained was addressed to "tenants of Roseco Property Management."
Also unclear is whether Medica's communication runs afoul of state law. Aleea Sharp, an investigator with the Oregon Secretary of State's Elections Division, says her office needs to receive a formal complaint in order to make a formal determination in cases like this. She confirms that she would look into whether the verbiage would be strong enough to qualify as undue influence under the law, as opposed to just influence. It's not uncommon, she notes, for businesses to claim new taxes up for a vote will raise their prices.
"It’s gonna depend on what is said and how it's phrased," Sharp says.
Medica's full letter is below.