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Updated: Adams blames “corrosive special interests”, wants street fee on November ballot

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 6th, 2008 at 10:12 am

[Updated: I've added full text of the statements made by Commissioner Adams, Mayor Potter, and the BTA's Scott Bricker.]

BTA's Scott Bricker testified this
morning. Read the text of his
testimony below.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Commissioner Adams' $464 million dollar "Safe, Sound, and Green" street maintenance and safety funding initiative went before Portland City Council this morning.

The big news is that Adams has decided to change course. He made a recommendation to put the proposal in front of voters in November's general election. Also newsworthy was that Mayor Potter remained in favor of sending it to the May ballot.

Potter initially voted to enact the plan, but as the political gamesmanship has heated up in recent days and weeks, Potter has clearly become less supportive of Adams and less committed to the proposal.

This is not what Adams preferred, but given Mayor Potter's lack of support for Council enacting the plan immediately (without a vote) Adams told news cameras after the meeting that this is "plan b".

Adams' recommendation for council to put the issue on the ballot, as opposed to having oil industry lobbyists attempt to do it, might be a way to take some of the fuel from their fire. By having Council voluntarily make this move, anti-fee groups won't be able to use the, "they're trying everything they can to keep it from a vote" line.

Another consideration is that if the initiative was to be repealed by an opposition group, they would then be able to revise the proposal themselves. Adams wants the vote to happen when a large turnout is likely and he'd like to have as much time as possible to educate voters.

When asked by TV news reporters outside council chambers today if his pending bid for mayor has played into his recent decisions, he said, "No".

Adams' initial hope was that his stellar public process -- a seven month effort that built broad support from the media, the public, and his Council colleagues -- would help him enact the plan with a Council vote. Adams and his advisors were concerned that, if put to a public vote, a plan to create a new transportation-related fee would bring out the deep-pocketed Big Oil interests.

They were right.

An opposition group led by oil lobbyist Paul Romain threw a major wrench in the plans. First, he testified against the plan. Then, after Adams revised it based on those concerns and it unanimously passed Council, Romain decided to begin a referral process even after he'd promised to not do so.

And now, with Mayor Potter clearly not on his side, and with his mayoral race challenger Sho Dozono also calling for a May vote, Adams realizes he has no choice but to change course.

Here's the statement Adams' made this morning:

"I believe that an enactment of a fee like this, the city needs unanimous support by City Council. [He then lists all the broad support the proposal has gotten.]

But the corrosive influence of special interest lobbyists have taken their toll on this issue. I still have four votes in support of enactment, but I no longer have unanimous support. So I propose that Council refer the Safe Sound and Green Streets (SSG) initiative to the November general election ballot.

It will be subjected to monumental misinformation by the Big Oil petroleum industry...but I trust voters to see through this and make the right choice to save lives, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A November election will allow for a full debate on the SSGS initiative. Anyone who thinks that this can get done in any way that is fair and objective in May, simply is saying they oppose safer streets in Portland."

And then Mayor Potter said, since he's the "fifth vote", he'd like to make a statement:

"I support this fee. I think it's important for our community. I think it's important how it's presented to the community. I feel this is something that should be voted on by the voters and I also recommend it be voted on in May, because of other important initiatives that will be on the November ballot... it (the SSGS plan) and a number of the other issues on the ballot will be in jeapordy, and I believe that's important...but there will be time for that discussion."

Next to make a statement was Commissioner Randy Leonard. His speech was moving and serious. I will share more soon, but he basically went back to explaining the roots of democracy in Greece and in America. He said referral and repeal efforts are "a perversion of democracy". At one point he reminded the audience that when we do the Pledge of Allegiance we say "to the Republic" not "to the Democracy".

His point was that the "passions of the public" instigated by folks like Paul Romain, Big Oil, and Big Tobacco, should "never marginalize the interests of the whole". He directly blamed efforts by well-funded, out-of-state corporate interests as the reasons behind Oregon's lack of children's health care, a lack of school funding, "crumbling infrastructure" etc... He said, "It is not appropriate to subject issues that have to do with public safety, welfare and interests to be subjected to millions of out of state oil interest dollars."

Leonard concluded with, "I won't sit up here and pretend like I'm defending democracy by going along with this. This is not one of the highest and brightest days since I’ve been on the city council."

Council listens to testimony by Scott Bricker.

After Leonard, the floor was opened to public testimony. Of note was the testimony of BTA Executive Director Scott Bricker. Here it is:

"I've been involved with the Safe Sound and Green (SSG) process since close to its inception. I'm going to be more blunt than I should about this issue...this has turned into a good-government/bad-government issue. Over the last nine months I have participated in good government. I've sat on an executive committee, a steering committee, and me and my staff and the people who I work to represent have attended over 20 public meetings and town halls.

Through that process we have built community support. Yes there have been changes, yes there have been things that have had to be tweaked. That is part of the process. To come out at the end with support from every member of an 89 member group [referring to the steering committee] is monumental. That is good government. That is inclusive government.

What is poor government to me?

Poor government is having an organization and its affiliates not participate in the process even though they were invited, not seeing them at any of the meetings, come in at the end of the day, demanding things...and then, saying, 'well, we don't want to participate but we're just going to bomb this whole thing'.

The discussion over the last two weeks has been framed almost exclusively by the lobbyists of these big specials interests. I'd love to say that the bicycle industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. We are the less expensive alternative, we require donuts instead of petroleum and we don't have the big money but we have community support. There is a wide range of community support on this, but this discussion has continued because of special interests.

This program is about the fact that our roof is leaking, our roads are falling apart, our children are dying, our families are getting killed and injured and can't walk to school. If your roof is leaking in your house, you don't really have a choice; if you don't fix that, two years later it's going to cost 10 times as much to fix. We are in that situation now.

I urge you to unanimously pass this measure. I urge you to get behind the process that has been developed and I really hope that this can be done with the the people who we've so strongly elected, the five of you unanimously, as opposed to going to a special interest battle and referendum. Thank you."

So there you have it folks. Whether the vote happens in May or November, this is going to be a big one. Adams said he expects "the largest turnout" Portland has ever seen. At the meeting today, Adams said that Council will hear more about this issue on February 27th. Lots more curves in the road ahead. Stay tuned...

One last thing: Amy Ruiz of the Portland Mercury is covering the story very closely over on the Mercury's Blog.

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Comments
  • JayS. February 6, 2008 at 10:38 am

    As I interpret the update, election politics are making us wait nine months to vote on this. Then another how many months before any real action takes place? If it even passes after out of town interests throw there money into the process.

    BUMMER

    To Bad Sam didn\'t just leave it as three when he had an apparent arrangement with Romain.

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  • a.O February 6, 2008 at 10:59 am

    There may be another bike-related initiative to vote on in November as well...

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  • wsbob February 6, 2008 at 11:02 am

    This possible move to put this funding plan to a vote by the public doesn\'t seem to be in the best interest of the public. In addition to other reasons already discussed at length, another reason this might be a bad move has to do with the ability to change details of the proposal as needed.

    I imagine that if the public vote is going to be the determining factor in this thing, at some point before the election date, no more changes to the plan will be allowed. It kind of sounds as no further changes to the proposal will be able to be made outside of the public vote, unless of course, extra time and effort is spent in advance of the vote, on writing into the proposal, a condition that would allow such changes.

    Thanks Paul Romain. You\'re a real pal.

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  • Moo February 6, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Enough Dozono already, we know where his pockets are being lined. Where are all the other mayoral hopefuls on this anyway?

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  • Elly Blue February 6, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for the blow-by-blows, Jonathan. Will audio be available at some point? I\'d really love to hear the full text of what Randy Leonard had to say.

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  • Paul Cone February 6, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Amy Ruiz at the Merc is also blogging...

    BREAKING: Adams Recommends Putting Street Fee on November Ballot

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  • Mmann February 6, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Well, I\'m disappointed. BUT we know where we are right now. The work begins today to demonstrate to the rest of Portland why this is a good idea. Let\'s get going on it. The bright side is that if it passes the ballot no one will be able to say it wasn\'t the will of the people.

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  • chuck February 6, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Leonard sounds like a pretty stand up guy. He seems to share the same views I have about corporate interests and the welfare of our community. I don\'t know a whole lot about this street fee, but if it\'s going to end up on a ballot, you can bet your bottom dollar I\'ll be reading up on it, and voting one way or another.

    Thanks for being our eyes and ears on this Jonathan. We all appreciate it.

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  • Vance February 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    \"The enemy of my enemy is my friend.\", or, \"It is good to strike the serpent\'s head with your enemy\'s hand.\", if you prefer the Greek version. The problem of making a game out of politics is that games can be won, and lost.

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  • J February 6, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    It appears the city council has caved in just as the legislature has for years.

    No leadership. No decisions for the overall public good. Just weathervanes.

    Why bother voting? It will go down to defeat.

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  • Aaron February 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I am a little confused as to why this is being referred to the November ballot rather than the May ballot. Potter suggests the May ballot, and this would get the measure enacted more quickly. I can only imagine what would go through the mind of a parent who has a child injured by a driver in the next 3-4 months.

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  • Patrick February 6, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    I\'m relatively savy with the issues of our city. I\'m also an avid cyclist and bike commuter, I support this direction.

    My question is Why are people who would like to vote on this issue suddenly seen as supporting \"big oil\" or \"special interests\"? I understand the ramifications of not going ahead and pushing this through and how messy it will get.

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  • Bjorn February 6, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I think the main reason to put it on the November ballot is this allows time for the city to attempt to educate voters on how we got here and why this is needed. It took 7 months to develop the proposal, and we are about to have a whole bunch of people who don\'t know much about it be \"educated\" by oil industry financed 30 second infomercials.

    If we vote in May it is almost assured that most voters will only hear the side of the oil companies who oppose any increase in price that might reduce demand. The cigarette lobby spent over 20 dollars per no vote defeating a recent statewide measure. The shorter the period of time between now and the vote the less expensive it will be for Romain to \"buy\" the election, and the less chance of it passing.

    Bjorn

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  • Daniel (teknotus) February 6, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Any chance we can come up with our own funding plan in the meantime? I\'m tired of waiting, and I want stuff done sooner. We have been fighting in support of a bill that will mostly support cars, and transit with just a little set aside for bikes. Why not just go for the little bit we need?

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  • tonyt February 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Patrick,

    You asked, \"My question is Why are people who would like to vote on this issue suddenly seen as supporting \"big oil\" or \"special interests?\"

    The reason is that those are the people who have pushed it to that. Romain is an oil industry lobbyist. He, and those backing him, are the ones that brought this about.

    Certainly people can desire a vote on it and NOT necessarily be supporting the oil industry, but given how this whole mess originated, it\'s not an entirely unreasonable characterization.

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  • a.O February 6, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I think tonyt is right.

    We already had an extensive public process in which it was demonstrated to everybody\'s reasonable satisfaction that Portlanders generally support the idea. Because of that, and because we elected a City Council for this very purpose, a vote of all Portlanders wasn\'t necessary. The only ones who even suggested it are those who wanted to mount an extensive media campaign of misinformation to buy votes the same way monied special interests always do (see: Measure 50). And they\'ve used the political process to garner that opportunity, all at public expense, and all for the purpose of amassing more private profit and to the detriment of the health and safety of Portlanders.

    Although you might not be a supporter of big oil, you support their political agenda and strategy in this crucial matter. Too bad you\'ve put some high-minded and, IMHO, misguided ideal of direct democracy ahead of the practical reality of politics, not to mention saving lives.

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  • Mmann February 6, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Another reason for the November ballot may be te double majority rule - not sure that applys to city measures too? May will probably be pretty good turn out, but maybe not, since Oregon probably won\'t have much say in the primaries by that point. But November will be certain to get more than 50% voter turnout this year.

    As for people who want a vote being supporters of \"big oil,\" I agree that\'s probably an over-simplification, but the basic truth remains; we have a representative form of government in which we place trust in elected leaders to make decisions for the good of the public. When they fail, they hopefully don\'t get re-elected. But part of the checks and balances system is also the public comments and, like it or not, Romain represents a segment of the public strongly opposed to this measure. I\'m bummed about how the whole thing went down, but I can also see that, in a weird way, the system is working to ensure that a very expensive measure doesn\'t get forced through without thorough scrutiny.

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  • Mmann February 6, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Another more political consideration on the timing. If it was on the ballot in May and there was a lot of opposition, Sam Adams would be in the difficult position of running for mayor AND supporting the measure, and opposition to the measure could hurt his election. At the very least it could force him into a run-off in November (which could still happen.) But if he gets more than 50% of the vote in May, he\'s mayor, there\'s no run-off in November, and he can focus on the measure then without it being a referendum on his candidacy.

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  • BURR February 6, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    The voters will kill this and Sam will be just as disappointed as Charlie Hales and Jim Fransesconi before him, who both tried to enact similar road fees and failed.

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  • Bjorn February 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Anyone understand why sam/other\'s seem to support the council refering it over it being refered by romaine? Maybe they get more control over the way it is worded or something but I wonder if 9% of portlanders are really against it enough to sign. Either way making the lobbyists spend some of their money gathering signatures instead of on shady advertising seems like a good idea...

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  • 2GOAT February 6, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    I too am extremely disappointed in the city council\'s actions today and agree with #10 \"the council has caved in\"
    I guess I have just witnessed eight months of responsible open research and development of a proposal to maintain and improve the streets of portland fall victim to the \"evil\" side of politics and the unbelievably sleazy world of lobbiests.
    Commisioner Leonard gave and eoquent statement today reminding all present of what a amazing feat the founding fathers of the United States accomplished when they wrote the constitution. Combining the freedom of democracy with the protection of a republic.
    That said, you can watch all of the city council meetings live @ http://www.portlandonline.com. By the end of this week today\'s meeting along with all past meetings are available to view in the archives. I recommend checking out 1/9/08 starting around 9:42 and out into 2:30:30. 1/16/08 1:50:54 and 2:28:00.
    In response to \"Why bother voting\". Due to political manuevering, the Safe,Sound and Green Street proposal will now go to a vote. APATHY and MISINFORMATION will be it\'s downfall.
    Sam Adams move to place the proposal on the November rather than the May ballot will accomplish at least the following 3 tasks: 1) It allows the wording of the measure to be constructed by proponents of the proposal rather than be subject to a repeal composition. 2)It positions the ballot at a time when historically more people actually do go out and vote. 3)Allows time to educate these voters.
    I encourage all readers of this website to FIGHT APATHY, fight the political machinations of \"deep pockets\" and exercise your right to vote responsibly not emotionally.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 6, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    \"Anyone understand why sam/other’s seem to support the council refering it over it being refered by romaine?\"

    I just added something to the post about this. The main reason I see for doing this, and Tom Miller from Adams office seemed to agree with me, is that by doing this voluntarily it will take some fuel out of the opposition\'s fire. If Romain forced a referral, things would likely be much uglier during the campaign than if Adams and the Council do it themselves. does my explanation make sense?

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  • jleiss February 6, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I\'m not so sure that this will be killed in a citywide vote - and if it will, I think Sam mishandled it and that had something to do with it. He\'s let Romain corner him and now he looks like he\'s scared of the issue.

    He should have just struck first, even referring it himself to the May ballot rather than let Romain paint him as working behind-the-scenes and afraid of a public vote. He could have claimed the high road and won big.

    Instead, it looks like he is too concerned about the election. So what if he has to go to a runnoff? I think he could have come in first on the May ballot and still gotten the street fee passed.

    And re: #13, I think this is all about politics and not at all about getting a message out.

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  • BURR February 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    another thing that will occur if this goes on the November ballot is it will give Sam a chance to clinch the Mayor\'s office on the May ballot, without having to compete with this referendum.

    Placing it on the May ballot could give a lot of anti-tax advocates an excuse to come out in May to vote against Sam and his road tax.

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  • rixtir February 6, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Here\'s how Sam should have split this:

    Present a council measure to require spending for cycling infrastructure to exceed demand (as measured by cyclists as a percentage of the commute) by some percentage that will increase ridership to meet city goals.

    Present a November ballot initiative to raise funds for street improvements. Then let big oil and the anti-tax gang fight for their right to potholes.

    We\'d still have our spending increase, taken from the current spending dedicated to auto infrasructure.

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  • John February 6, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    As long as we\'re starting over, I\'d prefer it be a city gasoline tax just like I said at the public meeting. Putting most of the burden (gas tax) on those who use the most resource (road capacity and wear and tear) is best. Under the current proposal, my widow neighbor and I, who drive very little, pay the same per month as our motorized neighbors with 5 cars who probably drive a combined 200 miles per day.

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  • Patrick February 6, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Is it the just the gas tax that big oil is against or the Street Maintenance fee? If it were the gas tax, wouldn\'t there be enough money to move forward without the gas tax? Or has the issue now become the red herring: It needs to go before the voters?

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  • Matthew February 6, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Patrick, there is no gas tax in the Safe Sound and Green plan. There was at one time, and Mr Romain claimed, (although he was probably lying, he does that a lot,) that he would support a statewide gas tax increase of 14 cents per gallon. There is a fee that would be charged to gas stations based on the number of trips they generate. The fee that they would have to pay would be about 1.5 cents/trip. For most gas stations, that would be one trip per fill up, (plus a few more a day for employees and tanker trucks,) which would work out to around 1.01 trips per customer, so it would be very close to 1.5 cents/customer. Assuming the average person buys 15 gallons at a time, (some people would buy less, but SUVs would often buy 25,) that works out to a price increase of 0.1 cents/gallon. To put that number in perspective, that would have the same as a 4.2 cent price change in the cost of a barrel of oil. Since oil is currently 8700 cents per barrel, and on a daily basis moves around 100 cents in a random direction, so if this fee had passed, it is unlikely that anyone would be able to tell based on the prices posted at the pump...

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  • BURR February 6, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    rixtir - the reason why it\'s not going that way is because the bicycle component is still a significant minority of the money being discussed. ironically, the vast majority of the money is, as usual, going to motor vehicle projects and the oil companies and motorists still,?em> object, wtf?!?!?!?

    the downside of this going on the november ballot is that if Sam doesn\'t clinch the mayor\'s race in May, he will be competing with this ballot measure during the runoff in November.

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  • BURR February 6, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    rixtir - the reason why it\'s not going that way is because the bicycle component is still a significant minority of the money being discussed. ironically, the vast majority of the money is, as usual, going to motor vehicle projects and the oil companies and motorists still, object, wtf?!?!?!?

    the downside of this going on the november ballot is that if Sam doesn\'t clinch the mayor\'s race in May, he will be competing with this ballot measure during the runoff in November.

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  • BURR February 6, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    rixtir - the reason why it\'s not going that way is because the bicycle component is still a significant minority of the money being discussed. ironically, the vast majority of the money is, as usual, going to motor vehicle projects and the oil companies and motorists still, object, wtf?!?!?!?

    the downside of this going on the november ballot is that if Sam doesn\'t clinch the mayor\'s race in May, he will be competing with this ballot measure during the runoff in November.

    I\'ll get it right here eventually... jonathan - please delete duplicates, thnx!

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  • Ralph February 7, 2008 at 7:42 am

    I can understand why a gas station owners would feel that they are being targeted. They already collect the gas tax, they will be paying the \"fee\" in their water bill, and they will be hit up for every visit to their store front.

    How exactly does charging the owner of the gas station for visits make things greener? Isn\'t it up to the public to ween themselves off gas? Won\'t they just pass the \"fee\" on to the end user?

    And why just gas stations. Shouldn\'t the Lloyd Center and Washington Square merchants pay up? They generate more trips than a gas station does.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 7, 2008 at 8:02 am

    \"I can understand why a gas station owners would feel that they are being targeted. They already collect the gas tax...why just gas stations?\"

    Ralph, all businesses will be assessed the fee based on the number of trips they generate (and thus wear and tear of the roads they contribute to). Romain has claimed that gas stations and convenience stores should have a lower # of trips because they are \"pass through\" destinations...meaning people stop by on their way to somewhere else.

    Also, the gas tax has not gone up since 1993 I think and it is a vastly inadequate revenue source.

    and this fee plan is not just about making streets greener... it\'s primarily about paying for long-overdue maintenance that until Adams came along, no other elected official had the guts to tackle.

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  • BURR February 7, 2008 at 8:39 am

    that\'s not true Jonathan, Jim Francesconi proposed an almost identical scheme with fees based on trip generation, which failed to pass.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 7, 2008 at 9:06 am

    \"that’s not true Jonathan, Jim Francesconi proposed an almost identical scheme with fees based on trip generation, which failed to pass.\"

    thanks for that info/reminder Randy. I should do some research into Francesconi\'s plan.

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  • steve February 7, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Soooo,

    There was an extensive, drawn out, and city wide community process. A process that was open to all and at the end was a bill that blended the interest of the entire community.

    Then what is the problem with a vote again? Big oil can\'t lie to the voters, cause the voters already know the truth. Right?

    Or is it perhaps that instead of a city wide community based process, what we instead had was a rigged process. A process loaded up with hand picked \'stakeholders\'. A process that was not open to outside suggestion. A process that at the end produced the exact fee it was designed to create.

    If this was such an inclusive and well received fee, there should be absolutely zero concern with it on the ballot.

    Which sort of makes me wonder why everyone is so worried about the voters. Perhaps it is well known that they were in fact, not included in this process.

    I can only hope that this will ensure- ANYONE BUT SAM FOR MAYOR!

    Oh yeah Jonathan,

    \'The gas tax is a vastly inadequate revenue source\'

    What a steaming pile that opinion is! Talk about propaganda. It is only inadequate because we are too chicken to raise it. Gas is dirt cheap. 3 dollars a gallon. I pay much more for Orange juice.

    We need to raise the gas tax by dollars, not cents. Anything else is a poorly applied band-aid. This fee is a regressive and cowardly proposal.

    Portland should be pushing for real change. Not supporting another in a long line of faux progressive status quo.

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  • steve February 7, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Another misstatement Jonathan-

    \'Ralph, all businesses will be assessed the fee based on the number of trips they generate (and thus wear and tear of the roads they contribute to)\'

    This only applies to small businesses. It is quite disingenuous to not point that out. The way this laughable fee is structured, the MORE trips a business generates, the LESS they will pay per trip.

    This joke will actually incentivize more trips and punish smaller retailers.

    Safe, sound and Green. My, I love double speak!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 7, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I said:
    \"all businesses will be assessed the fee based on the number of trips they generate\"

    then steve said:
    \"This only applies to small businesses. It is quite disingenuous to not point that out. The way this laughable fee is structured, the MORE trips a business generates, the LESS they will pay per trip.\"

    steve, I realize there is an algorithm on the trip-fee calculation... I was not trying to hide anything, I just made a quick comment... nothing \"disingenuous\" about it. I also realize you seem to think I am trying to propagandize. That is not the case either. Am I for the SSGS initiative? Yes. I think it is the best opportunity we have to fix a huge problem.

    I understand your point about how larger businesses pay a smaller, per-trip fee. My thought on that is Sam is aware of political realities needed to get something like this passed. as such, he crafted it in a way that would best ensure its passage. it may not be perfect, or 100% fair to everyone involved, but nothing is.

    does anyone who is not thrilled about the street fee initiative have a better solution (and one that would actually gain broad support)? I\'m all ears...

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  • steve February 7, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Well, there is the trouble Jonathan!

    This tax does not gain broad support either. If we are not going to fight for actual change, and continue to insist on putting forward milquetoast, useless plans, where will the necessary capitulation lead us? Right back to where we started!

    I am just baffled to why this tax is called green. I see nothing in it that will discourage driving. NOTHING!

    The bulk of the funding is allocated to antiquated transportation modalities. To function, this new tax requires an entire new beaurocracy to support, oversee and collect the funds. This is undeniably wasteful. The overseers also have discretion to allocate funds however they see fit. Which means we are really voting on what exactly?

    The funds for alternative transportation schemes are sparse. Worse yet the funds are for highly questionable priorities. Bike boxes? Please...

    The better solution is and always has been to raise the gas tax. Do we charge businesses a fee based on how many smokers visit them in an effort to discourage smoking? Of course not, because it is backwards and regressive.

    GAS TAX!

    Taxing at the pump would do numerous things.

    First, it would be an excellent motivator to purchase less toxic oil sludge (gas).

    Second, the system for collecting and overseeing the gas tax already exists. That just saved 50 MILLION dollars. How many bike boulevards does that buy??? Let that one sink in before dissing the gas tax.

    $50,000,000...

    Most importantly, if we are trying to discourage driving and gasoline consumption, as well as fairly charge the users and destroyers of our roads, you would be hard pressed to find a more equitable and fair proposal than a Gas tax hike.

    It would place the burden directly on the creators of the problem. Buy gas, pollute, chew up the roads in your heavy, inefficient car? Well, fine. Pay 5 dollars a gallon then!

    Simple, obvious and fair.

    As such, I am sure it will never pass. Though our country is crumbling so fast, I can no longer support symbolic and obviously flawed fixes. Especially expensive, wasteful ones like Sammy boy\'s here.

    We are running out of time to change things folks. The time for measured half steps and cowardly politicking is over.

    And that is the problem. If this oozing sore of a tax passes, nothing will change. Same amount of cars, heck they will even have marginally better roads to keep driving on. yay.

    We need change and selfless leadership. Sadly, all we will get is more status quo. Albeit, a shined up and green washed status quo.

    Anyway, say it with me. Gas Tax!

    I want a 5 dollar a gallon one. Hows about ya\'ll?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 7, 2008 at 11:06 am

    \"This tax does not gain broad support either\"

    Steve,

    It was unanimously supported by a diverse 89 member stakeholder committee, has the support of the Portland Biz Alliance, countless community organizations, and it was also unanimously supported by City Council (before Potter\'s change of heart).

    \"I am just baffled to why this tax is called green. I see nothing in it that will discourage driving. NOTHING!\"

    Improved bikeways, pedestrian improvements, millions for Safer Routes to School, incentives for businesses who promote biking and taking transit.

    As for you hope for a gas tax...as I recall gas taxes have a very hard time making it through the legislature and in order for a gas tax to keep up with inflation and oil costs, it would have to be very significant... hardly the type of thing that would be palatable to politicians or the public.

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  • steve February 7, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Jonathan,

    This is disingenuous-

    \'Ralph, all businesses will be assessed the fee based on the number of trips they generate (and thus wear and tear of the roads they contribute to)\'

    And here is why. You were ststing that the taxis assessed based on generated trips, with the implication being they are charged for the wear and tear they contribute to.

    More trips = more wear and tear = more taxes.

    That is what your statement undeniably implies. The reality is very different.

    More trips = more wear and tear = LESS taxes.

    That is why your statement was disingenuous.

    dis·in·gen·u·ous [dis-in-jen-yoo-uhs]
    –adjective
    lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere.

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  • blogmayor February 7, 2008 at 11:12 am

    In the past twelve months we have seen three City issues produced with extensive and highly structured \"citizen\" involvement blow up: charter reform; Chavez recognition; long term budget for transportation needs--including walkers and cyclists.

    I think the process is a big part of the problem. Most of the participants represent established interests, be they BTA or ExxonMobil in the case of Sam\'s streets proposal. Yes, we cyclists are now insiders!

    As posted recently I know much more about bikes and riding them safely than Sam does, for sure, probably more than Scott, maybe more than anyone involved in the process.

    But I\'m an outsider, so I\'m excluded.

    I like Sam, and tried to help him on the issue of safe cycling several years ago, donating my copy of Robert Hurst\'s \"The Art of Urban Cycling\" to his chief of staff, the eminent fixer Tim Miller. I really did not expect to be acknowledged (an expectation that was fulfilled) despite a couple of followups.

    I would have been very pleased if Tim or Sam had asked me to participate in \"Safe Streets\" in some way. Nada, Zipolla. Black hole.

    BTA has done great work, but now seems to be run by paranoid snoots. Scott Bricker says its \"good government\" (us) versus \"bad government\" (them). Paranoia central. Read Robert Hurst. The book is in the stores.

    I belong to OBRA and volunteer with CCC. BTA is way to big for its britches.

    Can\'t wait for Alpenrose to dry under the spring sun and to help with WDYR this Sunday. BTA can go work out on its spin machine.

    Fixies rule!

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  • Mmann February 7, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I can recognize that any initiative that passes is going to have to involve compromise, which can be hard to swallow.
    Steve, I agree with you 100% on your main point. Gas is too cheap. Think about it - the stuff is freakin\' amazing in what it enables us to do. Like produce in the grocery store, acknowledgement of, and a willingness to pay for the true costs of the product would solve a lot of problems.

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  • steve February 7, 2008 at 11:17 am

    \'As for you hope for a gas tax...as I recall gas taxes have a very hard time making it through the legislature and in order for a gas tax to keep up with inflation and oil costs, it would have to be very significant... hardly the type of thing that would be palatable to politicians or the public.\'

    Looks like your and Sam\'s tax is having similar problems. I really like your site and you, Jonathan. That said, the full court press on this has brought a very different tone to your site.

    Is this Bike Portland?

    Or SamAdams4mayor Portland? Not that I begrudge you your alignments. Just pointing out how apparent they have become to anyone reading over your fantastic blog.

    Perhaps you are aware of and are ok with that.

    I know that I am having second thoughts as to if I should keep referring customers at our shop to this site as a resource.

    I would have to imagine that others are as well. To be clear, I ride a bike every day and I live in Portland. Have I come to the wrong place?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 7, 2008 at 11:19 am

    \"That is why your statement was disingenuous.\"

    Steve. please. you win. it was a quick comment, I did not mean to be dishonest or withhold information in any way. i will be more careful in the future.

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  • a.O February 7, 2008 at 11:56 am

    steve, unless you\'re calling Jonathan a liar, then you\'re wrong: He was not disingenuous based on the definition you offered for the term because he has stated that he made a mistake and did not make the statement insincerely.

    If you\'re going to pick the nits, then be prepared to have them picked back.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 7, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    \"Looks like your and Sam’s tax is having similar problems. Is this Bike Portland? Or SamAdams4mayor Portland?\"

    Steve,

    I hear where you\'re coming from. I\'m not sure if you\'re purposefully trying to antagonize me or not...but I err on the side of taking every comment directed toward me seriously.

    I don\'t have time for a long defense of the tone of my coverage. The simple fact is that I am for this fee because I feel it is the best solution and opportunity we have to solve a major maintenance problem and invest in slowing down that problem by encouraging more bike use.

    I don\'t want to see our transportation system go the way of children\'s health care, our underfunding schools, our lack of State Police, and all the other measures that were needed for the health of our state but that were derailed by deep-pocketed special interests.

    I also happen to respect Sam because sees a future Portland where people have the priority, not single-occupancy vehicles. I also have a lot of respect for how Sam balances political realities with listening to the public. Of course he is a political animal, that\'s his job. In all my work with him I have found him to have a good sense for when it\'s time to move things forward aggressively vs. taking time to listen and respond to feedback.

    I will keep your feedback in mind. ..and I hope you will continue to refer your customers to this site. Regardless of what and how I write, I think the comments alone are a valuable resource for the community.

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  • wsbob February 7, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    \"Anyway, say it with me. Gas Tax!

    I want a 5 dollar a gallon one. Hows about ya\'ll?\" Steve

    Steve, obviously, Paul Romain, the coalition members he heads up, and the shadowy big oil entities aren\'t saying it with you. That\'s probably one of the major reasons that many, many people including Sam Adams and as people tell, Jim Francesconi before him, working together, have had to expend time and energy formulating a plan to improve and maintain city streets. There isn\'t going to be any big gas tax increase to pay for better streets, such as you suggest, Steve, as long as the crowd Romain represents denies the reality of a need for one.

    The streets still need to be improved and fixed. So, what\'s the next best alternative? This SSGS initiative sure seems like a good start. Safe and sound streets are fundamentally important to everyone living in the city whether they drive a lot or not at all.

    People will probably vote in favor of this initiative if it has to go to a vote of the public, because it\'s well known that streets need improvement and impair. The problem with a vote by the public, is that means of legislating slows the approval process down so much, making it very difficult to get anything done. What happens if, when the initiative is approved, it then becomes clear that certain adjustments need be made to such things as individual project allocations or fee structure? Will these changes also be contested, again holding up the funding initiative from doing the work it\'s designed for? Forever and ever, is what it seems that Romain and his coalition members hope for.

    I will agree about one point in the initiative that should be looked at probably structured with greater fairness in mind: Businesses with high volumes of trips generated should not be getting a steeper rate discount than businesses with comparatively low volumes of trips generated. It should set the opposite way: more trips, higher rate.

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  • Opus the Poet February 7, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Why is anyone on this site seriously supporting a gas tax for city streets? Don\'t you listen to what the drivers are saying about cyclists on the streets, that gas taxes pay for? Uncouple streets from gas, make the tax visible so that drivers know where the funds are coming from (everyone) instead of the mistaken belief that gas taxes pay for everything. We win on several fronts, with good streets and other facilities, and the propaganda war against the \"streets are for cars only\" crowd.

    Go SSGS!

    Opus

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 8, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Steve:
    We all know that this whole country is going down the toilet. You are right that we need a gas tax. Before that happens, though, the toilet will get flushed and all of us along with it.

    In the meantime, we will continue to ask people to \"represent\" us who can make us feel marginally better about this disaster, without really going too far out of their way or upsetting any applecarts. Nice, well-meaning people like Sam Adams. You, however, are wrong to blame Sam for any of this.

    Maybe in a different city in a different country Sam would have been a hero boldly and courageously advocating the radical measures that you are talking about. However, no single \"leader,\" no matter how politically genius, can take bold and audacious moves without a sufficient groundswell of people ready to push him towards making those moves.

    Did you know that Martin Luther King had to be FORCED into greatness by the Young Turks of SNCC? That\'s right! He was ready to hang back and let them do the grunt work of organizing and attending the Freedom Rides initially \'cause he thought getting locked in jail wasn\'t dignified for a man in his position, a doctor of theology, pastor of a church with a national reputation, etc. They had to SHAME him into IT! And out of that came one of the most famous epistles in the history of the 20th century, Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

    Never look to \"leaders\" first. It is the PEOPLE who must lead -- good leaders are only people who notice which way the wind is blowing and muster the courage and initiative to let it guide them.

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  • wsbob February 8, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Opus or anyone else... . In terms of a gas tax for street repair as opposed to this user fee attached to the water bill means of obtaining funds for street repair. I\'m not sure I\'d support a dedicated gas tax, but clearly, money to fix and improve streets has to come from somewhere...now...not 10, 15, 20 years in the future.

    The situation we face seems to be one where certain people and groups with a knowledge of how to strategically exert pressure, have for many years now, done so in such a way as to deliberately and repeatedly obstruct efforts to make needed repairs and improvements to city streets that are necessary for everyone\'s safety.

    Certainly, gasoline at $3.00 a gallon is cheap for some people, relative to their income. For many other people, gasoline at $3.00 a gallon is barely affordable or prohibitively expensive. Having allowed a city to be created that effectively mandates many people must drive motor vehicles to obtain work puts those that struggle to pay for gasoline, in a very difficult position.

    Opus seems to make a good point regarding the idea of \'uncoupling streets from gas\', to help eliminate the excuse some motor vehicle drivers use to claim bike commuters aren\'t paying their share. As the responsibility for funding street repair and improvement is more clearly identified as being assumed by a more accurately representative user group, support for infrastructure enabling more commuter related biking and walking , should come more easily.

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