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Street fee back to three; will Romain let it be?

Posted by on February 4th, 2008 at 10:26 am

City Council will hear the “Safe, Sound
and Green” proposal again on Wednesday.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus)

As first reported by the Portland Mercury, Commissioner Leonard’s move to pull-back the recently passed “Safe, Sound, and Green Streets” funding plan has resulted in the package being, once again, split into three separate ordinances.

With this recent move, it’s clear that the gloves have come off in this no-holds-barred political wrestling match.

Romain and his coalition of Big Oil backers, convenience stores and gas dealers are crying foul, while Leonard and Adams are doing the same. Adams told the Portland Tribune on Friday that his re-splitting of the ordinance was done because “they have exposed themselves to be completely untrustworthy.”

If you’re taking notes, the funding package began as one ordinance. Then, fearing a possible legal challenge, Adams split it into three separate ordinances. Once a compromise was thought to have been reached with potential challengers (they promised to not refer it), Adams put the ordinance back into one piece. When that promise broke down, Adams split it into three again.

Adams says he’s simply taking every possible precaution to ensure the funding package is not legally challenged.

At this point, the $464 million street maintenance and improvement program is set for a City Council hearing and re-vote this Wednesday (2/6). If it passes again, those who want to refer it would have the seemingly insurmountable task of gathering nearly 60,000 signatures (18,000+ for each ordinance) in less than 30 days.

Will it pass? Leonard — who told the Oregonian he thinks a public vote would “not be a good idea” because “All the oil industry wants to do is pour in a lot of out-of-state dollars to mislead and misinterpret what the proposal really is,” — also told the O his plan has “at least three votes” on Council already.

Will Romain and his allies throw another curve into the mix?

Stay tuned. It should be an interesting week.

[You can stay in the loop with the local media coverage of this story on my Street Fee Newswire page.

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  • DJ Hurricane February 4, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Hey, thanks for the update! Jonathan, I really enjoyed your piece on who\’s behind the referral effort. In that same regard, it would be particularly interesting to know where these people live. Perhaps people who don\’t even live in Portland should stay out of our decision-making.

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  • Opus the Poet February 4, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Question: Do they have to get 60,000 unique signatures or just 18,000 signatures 3 times? In other words couldn\’t they just get people to sign 3 different petitions at the same time?

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  • Resident February 4, 2008 at 10:59 am

    If Randy is that affraid that it wouldn\’t pass a vote of the people…PERHAPS HE IS NOT REPRESENTING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED HIM IN! Portlanders are smarter than the average folks who would get scwindled by an oil comapny ad. This is just ends justiying the means, and the means are WRONG in so many ways. Find another way to fund this Randy!

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  • kevin hedahl February 4, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Resident, enough money pouring in will change any election. The cigarette tax is a perfect example. The polls completely changed once tabacco companies began pouring money in.

    Opus, it\’s 18,000 signatures on 3 pieces of paper. It\’s difficult to get because it takes a lot more time to have someone sign 3 times than just once. It will take a lot more resources to gt the signatures with a higher degree of error.

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  • Moo February 4, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Yeah-along the lines of #1…where is this puppet Romain from anyway? And let\’s hope that if it does get to a vote, we\’re all smart enough to weed out the b.s. from the facts.

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  • John Reinhold February 4, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Resident #3,

    The \”will of the people\” is easily bought by multi million dollar ad campaigns by rich and powerfull corporations.

    Why do people consider things that ELECTED representatives put together to be bad – while supporting the wills of corporations that you do not elect, have no say in how they ate run, and that make trillions of dollars off of regular peoples backs?

    The city will lose if they have to get into an advertising war with an industry that has trillion dollar PROFITS year after year.

    People seem to hate when the city spends money but seemingly have no problem with forcing the city to spend millions of dollars defending a proposal that has been vetted against so many people and organizations already. The public had had so many ways to comment, provide input, and work with this proposal in the last year and yet some insist on forcing a full vote.

    If we are to have a public vote on every issue before city council, why do we elect councillors and bother to pay them salaries?

    We just lost an expensive advertising war against tobacco, I don\’t want to fight one against oil.

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  • Matthew February 4, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    It should be noted this this is a real loss for Romain. As far as I know, the three measures includes the old fee structure for gas stations, which means that they will be paying quite a bit more than if Romain had simply kept his word and let the last one stand…

    The OPA may be looking for a new lobbyist in a few months.

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  • dayaram February 4, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    The real issue here seems tobe that the council, especially Sam Adams, is trying to make ALL city residents pay a new tax by rolling it into a necessary basic item, water and calling it a \”fee\”.

    I support more and better bike/pedestrain services. But this process of hiding money increases by adding them to unrelated services is at dishonest.

    It also is a VERY political ploy and we all need to realize this!

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  • Opus the Poet February 4, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    OK I see what the hubub is about on the split referral.

    What I fail to see is why people are getting up in arms about splitting out taxes from the General Fund, and naming them with the portion of city government they support. This will eventually result in better services and lower overall taxation, as Basic Services can\’t be robbed of funds to pay developers or whatever, and we can see what we\’re getting for our taxes and what the cost is. And since everybody pays these taxes no group can say they are paying for another group like currently drivers say about cyclists. This tax will only make it more explicit that cyclists have been susidizing drivers all along.

    Opus

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  • stumptown February 4, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    dayaram

    this process of hiding money increases by adding them to unrelated services is at dishonest.
    I\’m finding it very had to imagine how they could \”hide\” a $464 million street maintenance and improvement program.

    Seems to me that the process has been exposed to a ton of public review. It\’s not like this proposal sprung whole from the head of Zeus – errrrr Portlandia.

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  • Matthew February 4, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    You have to understand that the water&sewer bill hasn\’t be \”just a water&sewer bill\” for a while. There are charges on there related to wetlands restoration, a charge for cleaning up the Portland harbor Superfund site, and there is what is called the \”rain tax\” which is used to pay for dealing with the runoff from rainfall. You can get a discount for disconnecting your downspouts, but 2/3rd of the tax is for dealing with rainfall on public streets. And on a yearly basis, those \”rain taxes\” are about as much as the state gas taxes for the average person, which means that bicycles end up contributing about half as much money as motorist do to fund the roads… (Given that bike lanes are usually less than 1/3rd of the road width, that means we are paying more than our share already.)

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  • nuovorecord February 4, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Matthew #7 – My understanding is that while the three measures do not currently include the compromises reached previously, Sam intends to go back and amend them in once Council has approved them. This according to the Mercury\’s blog

    http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/2008/02/update_on_the_street_feethree.php

    Says a lot about Sam\’s character, I think. Still willing to keep his side of the bargain even though Romain stuck a knife in his back.

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  • Axe February 4, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Sure, it says something about Sam\’s character to keep up his end of the bargain, but it sure would feel good to be spiteful! I would love for Romain to feel like a chump for his treachery.

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  • nuovorecord February 4, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    WWeek is reporting that any referral won\’t go on the May ballot, but on the November one instead.

    http://www.wweek.com/wwire/?p=10674

    Romain has to live with himself. I can think of no worse punishment for him. Sam stands to lose a lot more than he has to gain by getting deeper into the mud. Remember, he\’s running for mayor.

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  • BURR February 4, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    follow the money. romain makes a pile of money for himself either way.

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  • Opus the Poet February 4, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Reading this has been a hoot. Let\’s see, I think the last report I saw said that something like 30% off all trips in Portland and the surrounding communities were made by bike last year, or was it 30% of all commutes? Someone will correct me on that I know, and bike only facilities in the Safe Streets program account for 3.6% of the total funds with the rest going for car facilities and adminstration. Did I get that right? So, that means unless the administration part of the fee is freaking huge (and while $50 Million is a lot, out of $450+ million its chump change) that means once again cyclists in Portland are going to be subsidizing drivers by a factor of 10. Did I get that right also?

    Opus

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  • BURR February 4, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I think the correct numbers are closer to 5 to 6% current bike mode split and 1.6% of transportation funding currently goes for bike specific infrastructure.

    but forget about today. the state has land use planning goals to significantly increase bicycle mode split, and we\’re way behind schedule!

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  • joeb February 4, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    I’m going to throw out erroneous information if I try answering total number of bike trips. Some areas may be 20%, but I think I’ve heard total trips are around 5.5%. Portland Department of Transportation has a lot of great data. This table shows about 10% of trips across the bridges into downtown Portland being by bike in 2006. The bridges are the biggest concentration of bike trips and the easiest place to count. http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=158297

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  • Former 49er.. February 5, 2008 at 12:33 am

    A referendum isn\’t necessarily a bad thing unless it\’s bankrolled by a special interest group that clearly has no shared interest with that of the larger community. This is clearly a case of personal profit and emotion. Big Oil loves the freedom to pollute without repercussion. They can spend millions on marketing to create whatever image of their opponents that they wish and carry a significant voting block as a result. Why should we support spending millions on additional voting on an issue that our elected representatives are capable of handling on their own?

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  • mechanic Mark February 5, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Okay, here\’s the part that seems to get overlooked every time folks get into the bit about cyclists getting special treatment or not paying for their share of the road: freeways. That\’s right, how about those thousands of miles of cement and overpasses that are for the most part restricted to motorized traffic only? I don\’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but I\’m pretty sure it costs more to build and maintain that extensive network of roads than it does to paint a stripe on the edge of some of our city streets for bike lanes. I\’d be willing to bet that it costs even more than it would cost to build separate cycle paths on all of the major streets. The federal government gets my income tax dollars, so I\’m paying for \”my share\” of these roads that I can\’t use with my bicycle. I realize that goods that I consume are brought to market with the interstate freeway system, but there are an awful lot of private users commuting as evidenced by the congestion that occurs at the beginning and end of each work day. Why am I subsidizing these fools?

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  • Tamara DeRidder, AICP -AKA TamDBiker February 5, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Well, it looks like Sam and the Boyz want to restructure the approach to the \”Safe, Sound, and Green Streets\” proposal and keep their hands from getting dirty at the same time (see finger pointing, above). I, for one, am reading through these 3 proposed ordinances to find out what was cut from the original proposal (Does anyone have a copy of the original?? It has been taken off-line by Pdx Trans). The move of breaking the topic into 3 separate ordinances is actually a shrewd political maneuver – which we always seem to applaud if the action is in our favor. At this point, I believe it IS in the best interest of the bicycling & walking commuters that this approach is being taken…Why?
    1)The business leaders at the Rotary & Kiwanis Clubs I have visited in my rounds for PDX Position #2 have stressed their frustration of $463 Million being gathered over the next 15 years with the bulk being charged to local businesses. This could readily drive the death nail into many businesses already suffering from the effects of the Recession & stock market instability. Their concerns may toss the tax idea on it\’s ear without a more sensible way of spreading these costs to actual users;
    2) To Open Topics to Public Discussion: If these Ordinances are referred to the May 20th ballot (which I pray they are), it will allow various factions of the public to participate in the pros and cons AND the final decision-making to be made by you, the public.
    Also, it will hopefully open everyone\’s eyes that we as a healthy community are interdependent with one another. To make one area, let\’s say the business community, suffer for the needs of the cyclist/pedestrians is not healthy nor equitable approach…as they provide jobs to those of us who walk and bike…(Hmmmmm – Options?).

    I suggest, we open the debate on creative mechanisms by which these needed funds could be gathered. One concept is to calculate fees for user of roadway, paths, and parking facilities. If Portland applied fees per vehicle (less for bikes of course)that use their streets & based it on DEQ mileage/ scan-able decal check and sent bills monthly then the system would be more equitable. Someone mentioned in their blog the \”no one wants to pay\” – which is true…but, I will add my 2-cents + if it maintains and improves what we have.

    In addition,an added impact fee may need to be considered for vehicles with more than 4 wheels & at various weight classifications. Yes, the impact may be that Nike shoes purchased downtown might be 5 cents more expensive due to the added fee on the delivery truck…but, remember – Business also runs on Location, location, location.

    Thank you for this great blog site & keeping this important topic alive and accessible.

    Happy trails,

    Tamara AKA TamDBiker

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