LIVE BLOG: The Very Controversial Street Fee Comes to City Council

Comments

1
I would welcome being proven wrong on this, as I didn't keep up with news at the time, but it was my understanding that the Eastside Streetcar is one of the reasons we're so behind on street maintenance in the first place -- and wasn't that thing Charlie Hales' baby?
2
If deferred maintenance is the big problem then this fee needs to be dedicated 100% to deferred maintenance with a sunset clause when we get caught up. Right now it is just structured as an additional revenue source for all of PBOTs programs.
3
Cutting the streetcar would only save $4 million a year, Novick mentioned. To catch up on, and erase, the backlog for paving, we'd need to spend $91 million a year.
4
Making businesses, landlords, and schools pay will ALWAYS trickle down to working families and the poor in the end. This whole thing is a fleece job, which is why they don't want us to vote on it. Stop the insanity!
5
"We've been told the school districts are bracing for big hits, in the six figures, because of this fee. But that they're also stoked about the improvements that would wash up on their doorsteps."

Is the school district saying they're "stoked" or isthe city reporting that schools are "stoked"?
6
"The hard truth is we've got to pay for our own stuff."

Yeah Charles, you might try that approach on the front end rather than the back.
7
"...$112 a month alone on vehicle maintenance. Novick chimed in to note that gas taxes paid now already amount to $49 a month, on average."

Both of those numbers sound bullshitty to me.
8
$49 a month in gas tax means 163 gallons per month, or about $600 per month in gas at current prices.
9
I'm not sure what these folks drive, but if you look around Portland, you'll see a LOT of hybrid cars, very compact cars in general, and electric-only cars. I drive a Prius, which has maintenance included for 2 years and after that doesn't cost anywhere NEAR $112 a month to maintain. I fill it up twice a month at a cost of less than $60. I guess if you drive an Escalade or a Land Rover of something, YMMV, but the numbers they're presenting are hugely inflated.
10
I've yet to hear a good reason as to why this fee is regressive. So far, answers include 'Council fears the rich's opposition', 'It's a non-starter', and 'We can't wait'. Huh? If we can't measure usage and charge based on that, then the next fair option is by income. A flat fee just doesn't make sense.

Also, why are they pushing the residential fee so hard right now? If it wouldn't go into effect if the business fee isn't voted in, then why can't they vote on them at the same time? Because they're so unwilling to bring this issue to the voters, it makes me skeptical that they will indeed scrap the whole thing in November.

We should absolutely be paying to help make these streets better, but this fee seems so half-assed.
11
It is total BS that apartment dwellers drive less than homeowners. Can't we all see that the Novick is pleasuring his friends who own apartment buildings?
12
Wow, are they not going to let the public actually comment? Regardless of what you think of the tax, that's a fucking bullshit way to go about running a city government.
13
From a business perspective, it's regressive because it doesn't take into account anything except square footage and some kind of formula that assumes how much traffic is generated. There's no inclusion of things like what percent of sales would the fee represent or location of business. For example, my shop is in an area with a walking score of 98 and the streetcar right in front of the shop. But that doesn't matter in this formula for determining how much road traffic I'm supposedly generating. Are those examples that make more sense as to why this fee is regressive?
14
Sorry, to be clear, I don't understand why they've gone with a regressive fee and not a tax based on income. It's obviously regressive.
15
“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
16
Well, that's easy. If they call it a tax, which ig clearly is, then they are required to put it to a vote. And it's pretty clear that the citizens of Portland would vote NO! What they didn't count on was the rally of businesses flooding them with letters and phone calls opposing the fee and the fact that rumblings were already being floated about a referendum to get it on the ballot and even recalls. The latter was especially true after Novick made that BS comment about "If you don't like it, we're both up for re-election in 2016. Vote us out." Yeah, Steve, we don't really need to wait that long. :P
17
This is great coverage! Thanks!
18
It's great to know that city employees are for a tax that will have a direct financial benefit to city employees. How about some regular folks get to say something?
19
I love how they think people should have attended the hastily scheduled previous "public" hearings. Most people hadn't heard of this until after the last hearing was held. They did a wonderful job of keeping the whole thing quiet. What they failed to do was keep it quiet enough that they could pass it without anyone having time to object. Oops!
20
Weird- did the representative from the Police Bureau (4:38 update) just indirectly admit the city is liable for some traffic fatalities due to the status of the street infrastructure? That seems like a foolish thing to say, and I suspect the city attorney's office cringed hearing that. That'll be a nice admission of liability for someone's insurance company to bring up in court. Maybe a reporter should follow up with her and see which fatalities could have been avoided but for the cities infrastructure failures?
21
Absolutely stellar coverage! Thank you x 10,000, Denis.
22
I learned one thing as an owner-operator of a semi-truck. You cannot defer maintenance, or it will turn around and bite you in the ass. Seems like the city has done that, and now they are in a bind. I will say again, instead of as flat fee for license plates, charge by the value of the vehicle. There is no reason why the owner of a $50,ooo car should pay the same as someone driving a $1000 vehicle.
23
Interesting point, Number Six. Further, several proponents who spoke are pitting impending death against the fee. No one with a caring bone denies the primacy of safe streets. There's just something so unsavory about defending the fee in those terms when everyone's issues are with design not concept. It reflects so poorly on Hales and Novick. It's equally unsavory to spearhead and be accomplices to such demogogic appeals. Despite having shelved the commercial side for now, I've never lost more respect for a politician than Novick. And I don't even concern myself as much as I should with city affairs.
24
I couldn't stay for the entire meeting because my store needed coverage. It was frustrating to sit there for almost 2 hours without the council getting input from the public. So, I really appreciate your play-by-play of what happened after I left. Thanks!
25
"The fee will raise up to $50 million a year. Ditching the streetcar, as Novick said some people have suggested, would only save $4 million a year, by way of example."

Hm. So, given this dire, immediate, 'the city is done whistling past the graveyard we mean it this time no seriously' situation, what *is* the government willing to cut to alleviate costs?
26
An executive heads into a restaurant downtown for a high powered lunch meeting. A worker gets lunch at a drive-thru. A bum walks into a soup kitchen.

The logic of this fee is that each of those people owes the city the same tax just for coming through the door. I think that's indefensible.

Too bad Hales and Novick aren't willing to put the same effort into a fair tax that they've put into this garbage.
27
Didn't a lot of the $70 million+ a year Portland collects through franchise fees used to go to road maintenance before Katz came along and diverted that money into the general fund? Who's to say that won't happen again?
28
Apparently the ordinance will state that the funds can only be used for transportation.

But, since the franchise fees were diverted from transportation, why can't they be reverted back to transportation?
29
Isn't ODOT supposed to move to a VMT tax soon? I know the argument is that we need to address funding concerns RIGHT NOW, but wouldn't it make more sense to fold any additional funding needs into the new VMT tax scheme?
30
These taxes are killing us. What are the lottery dollars for..What are they doing with the taxes on our property that we pay every year that keep going up up up. they are putting people like me into bankruptcy.....taxes go up but not our salaries
31
The $4 million number cited for streetcar funding is what PBOT is putting into the annual operations. It does not take into account the money that the city paid to construct the line, instead of being used for critical maintenance issues. Take some of the $4 million from the streetcar, and a few million from various other projects, and we start making a dent into the backlog. Until the City Council makes a real effort to prioritize the city's needs, funding first the highest priority items (safety and maintenance?), I will be opposed to this fee.

Last fall, SE Gladstone from 28th to 39th/Cesar Chavez was scraped and repaved. I couldn't find anything on the city's site about what it was for. The workers said it was to make the existing bike lanes wider (9" wider is what I remember). The pavement itself was in good shape, and a few blocks east (left untouched), the bike route becomes a hill of broken concrete. Why was 28th to 39th repaved when there are a half dozen nearby streets in greater need of maintenance? I like (and use) bike lanes, but tearing up the street to make them a few inches wider makes no sense to me.
32
I foresee some legal challenges if this thing is passed without a public vote re: fee vs. tax. From my limited search, street utility fees are relatively recent funding mechanisms developed over the past few decades. Oregon seems to be a bit of a pioneer in getting them implemented apparently without any sort of legal challenges. Washington's court ruled Seattle's attempted street fee a tax as did Idaho's. Of course, Oregon taxation statutes may differ from those states so the situation would not be entirely analogous.

But it will be really interesting to see the Federal Government response. Federal property is immune from local taxation, but would be required to pay for things like utilities. Here, The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal agencies didn't have to pay a West Virginia city's "municipal service fee" http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?cas…,

The Court stated that "fire and flood protection and street maintenance are core government services" and cited a Supreme Court case that stated that the United States is immune from liability for "taxes in the nature of reassessments for sewers and sidewalks.")
33
Portland has way too many police officers. Fire about 200 of them and there's your $100M per year. Let the State and County cops earn their pay for a change. There will be a lot less frivolous harassment this way.
34
In fact you could cut half the department, that's about 500 of 1,000, and there would still be way too many police. The State and County cops could still fuck off, and harassment wouldn't be reduced at all.
35
Come on people... isn't it fairly obvious that PBOT is just butt sore that they lost out on the CRC gravy-gasm? Hales and Novick are merely the handmaidens tasked to deliver the pound of flesh they were salivating over. Welcome to Plan B.

"We have been talking about this for 14 years," Hales said.

Yeah, and you've been suck'n on that public dick the whole time Charlie!
36
To the extent that police officers get shit canned, the officers' pension fund is also diminished, and whoever has their hands on that, wants as large a pool as possible, in order to borrow against it. The shift from the pension fund slush pile to the street fee slush pile amounts to six of one half a dozen of the other. There is no personal profit in it for the sleazy politicians. Fuck these bastards. Recall them all just for talking about it.