Two weeks ago, city council voted 4-0 to yank city subsidies from Flexcar, forcing the car-sharing company to reimburse the city for the money it spends on Flexcar parking spaces and other expenses. The estimated total: $100,000 per year, about half of that from lost meter revenue.
Representatives from Flexcar were, to say the least, not happy about the hit to their bottom line—they claim it means fewer cars and less service, which in turn means it'll be increasingly difficult to help Portlanders stop relying on their cars.
But, weirdly, it now looks like the city and Flexcar might kiss and make up.
On Thursday, July 6, Mayor Tom Potter is helping kick off something cheerily called the "Low Car Diet"—in which 25 Portland residents will give up their cars for a month and use alternative transportation, including free use of Flexcar. According to a press release sent out by the company, the stunt is meant to show people how easy it is to rely less on personal automobiles.
Of course, that would be much easier if the city would stick up for the one company in town that actually helps people dump their cars.
Speaking of dumping things! In all the hubbub about Commissioner Randy Leonard's biodiesel plan—and his efforts to get $735,000 earmarked this year for sustainable development—there's one detail that gets overlooked: This isn't his bureau. It belongs to Dan Saltzman, the commish of the Office of Sustainable Development (OSD).
Years ago, it was against council rules for a commissioner to introduce an ordinance that was in another commissioner's policy area—it was a huge no-no. But then Saltzman went and changed all that, pushing through the idea that commissioners should be able to legislate in any area. Ironically, the idea came back to bite him, with Leonard using up OSD staff time to draft his biodiesel ordinance. Reportedly, Saltzman's office has been completely accommodating, but during the council hearing on the plan, he said almost
nothing—despite the fact that renewable energy is, like, his baby.
The backdrop to this is the city's charter review, which is examining Portland's bizarre form of government. The charter review committee has recommended scrapping the commissioner-form of government and pulling city bureaus out from council members. They wouldn't have to worry about things like "bureau management" or "policy areas," and could introduce whatever proposals they felt like introducing—ending what is irritatingly known as the "silo mentality."
Wonder of wonders, the idea isn't especially popular among the current commissioners, with the possible exception of—you guessed it—Dan Saltzman.