In February, City Commissioner Sam Adams' ambitious plan to patch up Portland's streets got him into an arm-wrestling match with a lobbyist and Mayor Tom Potter, temporarily sinking the proposal. But Adams' aim to fix the roads is making a comeback—and he's got a two-prong attack.
For starters, he's asking for $7 million in one-time budget funds this year, to make a dent in the "Safe, Sound and Green Streets" $464 million work order. And he's asking the council to dedicate any extra revenue from future "utility licensing fees"—what utility companies pay to do things like bury wires under the street—toward transportation.
"It's keeping faith with, when we have extra money, that more of it than ever go to addressing some of the worst cases of safety problems and maintenance problems," Adams says.
Meanwhile, his 89-member street fee steering committee has convened twice to reexamine the plan before Adams brings it back to the council to refer it to November's ballot. "We wanted to take the extra time that we have before July [referral deadline] to look at some issues within it that would benefit from continued perfection and polishing," he explains. What's being spit-shined? The fee's "impact on affordable housing is an issue."
Speaking of things that should have been taken care of in the first place: The Citizen Campaign Commission (CCC)—the group that oversees Portland's public elections financing—met in the auditor's office on Monday night, March 24, to talk about how much cash candidate Jim Middaugh should get if there's a runoff in the shorter special election race to replace outgoing Commissioner Erik Sten.
CCC members had terse words for city council members who'd punted the issue to them—Commissioner Randy Leonard and Mayor Tom Potter are now arguing that Middaugh should get a prorated $66,666, not $200,000 like candidates in the regular full-length election. But, CCC members pointed out, they (and the council) had agreed back in January not to meddle with an election in progress. (Never mind that no one had filed for the race when this discussion started, and the council could have clarified then what candidates could expect.)
"We didn't want to have this conversation. But we're having it. We've been asked to have it," Chair Leslie Hildula said on Monday night. Following nearly two hours of debate and campaign budget calculations on a giant notepad, the commission tabled the discussion until their next meeting. And they agreed to send a letter to the city council, inviting commissioners and the mayor to attend their next meeting to hear the discussion.
CCC member Dylan Amo interjected: "I think it needs to be sterner than an invitation. If they're going to direct us to take action, then they better well come here and give us a reason why," he said.
"And the $66,000 figure is embarrassing," added commission member Len Norwitz.