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City ‘pauses’ Street Fund vote in lieu of legislative action

Posted by on January 15th, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales just announced plans to halt their upcoming vote on how to pay for new transportation revenue. The full press release is below:

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick today temporarily halted the paperwork necessary to take an advisory vote to the May ballot, regarding options to pay for city street maintenance and safety.

“Today, I am announcing a pause in our local efforts to fund our streets and safety projects within the City of Portland,” Mayor Hales said. “Over the past week, I have had conversations with Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and with Gov. John Kitzhaber. They have each assured me that a statewide transportation package is a top priority for them this legislative session.”

The Legislature is set to convene in February. The deadline for Portland to submit paperwork for the May election was 5 p.m. today.

“Because they recognize the importance of efforts to fund transportation infrastructure, they will hear the needs of local governments and ensure they are part of state transportation conversations as they work to give communities the tools to build and maintain critical infrastructure,” Hales said.

“We are pleased to know that the Legislature is very interested in a transportation funding discussion this year,” Commissioner Novick said. “We have said all along that the street fund we have proposed will not address all our needs, and that we are counting on the state and federal governments to step up.”

The city has conducted more than 14 months of hearings to craft a proposal to pay for street maintenance and safety.
“During the passionate conversations we have had in Portland regarding transportation funding, many options were discussed, none of which prove to be popular,” Hales said.

Stay tuned for more coverage and thoughts on what this means going forward.

Ugh.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

41 Comments
  • Phil Richman January 15, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Maybe this provides some hope for Barbur Blvd? On another note I’ve become curious about crowdfunding for civic projects. Maybe feature in an article? http://www.citizinvestor.com/

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  • Patrick Barber January 15, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Sounds like they took what they learned from the NE 28th debacle, and are deftly applying it to the whole city of Portland. Brilliant.

    Also, if I am not mistaken, along with PBOT asking people to provide “citizen support” for city planning policies, the city is now also looking to state and federal sources for support.

    At least it’s an easy song to learn, since it gets so much rotation.

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson January 15, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    what a waste of time for everyone. ugh. there is a big leadership gap in portland right now. maybe time to move to seattle? wait they have a big tunnel machine stuck under downtown. I’m just going to Copenhagen, see you all later!

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    • Adron @ Transit Sleuth January 15, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      You wouldn’t be the first, I hate to say this – but you’ll have to get in line for Copenhagen – http://transitsleuth.com/2014/10/30/portland-gateway-to-copenhagen-amsterdam/ <- It seems Portland has become a little bit of a migration funnel to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, etc. In many ways, it has to do with the world class livability and biking infrastructure in those cities.

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    • Cheif January 16, 2015 at 8:26 am

      Seattle is an improvement over a leadership gap only if you prefer no leadership whatsoever.

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    • Lester Burnham January 16, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Have fun in Copenhagen. The rest of want to take back control of OUR city from inept city leadership. Why do we elect the same mediocrity over and over again?

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      • Jeff January 16, 2015 at 9:26 am

        because there haven’t been strong candidates to choose more than 10 years…

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        • Lester Burnham January 16, 2015 at 11:04 am

          Sad, but true. : (

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  • spencer January 15, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    i highly doubt a politically feasible increased statewide gas tax will sufficiently fund our maintenance backlog, let alone make our streets safer.
    there had better be a HUGE gas tax hike to meet PDX’s funding needs

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • 9watts January 15, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      What is ‘politically infeasible’ today may well be ‘politically feasible’ tomorrow.
      Less than eight months ago I was skewered here in the comments for arguing that this Street Fee was a disaster and predicting we should and would get a gas tax instead.
      http://bikeportland.org/2014/05/28/guest-perspective-pbot-street-fee-kiel-johnson-106543

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      • davemess January 16, 2015 at 9:34 am

        Skewered on here, but plenty of us in the community (coming at it from a number of different angles) were against this from the poorly written beginnings (and many were on board with the gas tax).

        Bikeportland is but a very small percent of “voice” of Portland.

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    • canuck January 16, 2015 at 7:25 am

      How does the state now determine who gets what from a state wide gas tax? Doesn’t this money go into the state general fund?

      What level of administration will be put into place and at what cost to track where the tax came from so it can go back to that location to deal with road work?

      And why make it a state issue when cities and counties can apply a gas tax , reaping the entire amount for themselves? The link below shows that Multnomah county already takes $0.03 per gallon and Washington county $0.01. Fifteen cities have a gas tax with Eugene getting $0.05 per gallon.

      If Hales really believes the money is needed then he needs to stand up and get it done, not crawl away and make the state do his job. Although with a $1.5B budget his job is to cut the waste first before putting his hand into our pockets.

      http://www.oregon.gov/odot/cs/ftg/Pages/current_ft_rates.aspx

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      • J_R January 16, 2015 at 8:25 am

        You’ve asked several questions. I’ll attempt to answer some.

        Gas tax revenues, weight-mile and license fees do not go into the general fund. The Oregon Constitution, Article IV, Section 3a specifies that revenues associated with operation of vehicles must be spent on transportation.

        Sharing of revenues collected by the state with cities and counties originated decades ago. I believe that it was the result of complex negotiations at the legislature to get the backing of cities and counties and the legislators who represent those areas. The current ODOT Budget Document indicates Oregon Counties receive $496 million and cities receive $333 million.

        The rationale and need for a state gas tax increase is based on maintenance, construction, and operational issues at state, county, and city levels. Since 1993, the state gas tax has been raised only once (by 6 cents per gallon effective January 2011), while the construction cost index has risen by 70 percent. Adjusted for inflation (using 1993 as the base), Oregon’s gas tax should be 42 cents per gallon instead of the current 30 cents per gallon.

        When the legislature passed the last gas tax increase during the 2009 legislative session, they included a temporary, five-year, prohibition on new or increased local gas taxes. That prohibition expired in January 2014, so local governments have had the ability to increase local gas taxes. Lack of courage to do so and the threat of an initiative referral to the voters has kept most from doing so.

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        • paikiala January 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          One caveat, Portland also gets a transfer of gas tax revenue from Multnomah County, since most of the county residents and infrastructure is in the City.

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          • J_R January 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm

            You are correct. The payment from Multnomah County to Portland is about $26 million per year.

            The negotiation of the amount transferred from Multnomah County to Portland occurred about 30 years ago when the County transferred ownership of essentially all county roads within the city limits to Portland. As a side note, Portland did not accept the Multnomah County bridges, so the Morrison, Burnside, Hawthorne, and Sellwood Bridges still belong to the County even though the roads leading to them belong to the city.

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  • Eric Iverson January 15, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    I’ll chip in for some diverters on Clinton. It will improve my quality of life significantly. I’ve got all sorts of disposable income now that I don’t pay for one of those fast-moving metal shapes that honks and kills people

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  • Stephanie B January 15, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Is it possible that they will finally consider the question of — gasp — studded tires? The local politicians always say a ban is off limits because it would require state legislation. I realize this doesn’t answer the question of funding, but it is the #1 obvious culprit in the degradation of our streets. Now that Gov & Speaker are involved, will it even get mentioned? I’m not holding my breath.

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    • Panda January 16, 2015 at 7:40 am

      The legitimate (IMO) argument that I have heard against a huge fee on studded tires statewide id that would disproportionately affect poor, rural communities. To avoid that, I would like to see to Portland or Multnomah County create a sticker that would be required before driving on city streets with studded tires. It could cost a few thousand for a season pass or a couple hundred for a day pass. It would work like the snow park passes work now. Anyone caught driving with studded tires without the sticker gets a ticket with a big fine that goes up significantly for repeat offenders. Commercial users like taxis would pay more. (It really grates my nerves to hear the taxi minivans with studs drive by, knowing they are out chewing up the roads all over town, all day every day,)

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  • Terry D-M January 15, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Spineless…tha Street fund was only one leg of a three leg tripod of funding increases we need….state gas tax/carbon tax, local street fee, and pricing parking. Hales is just booting the decision down the street…again.

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    • Jeff January 16, 2015 at 9:29 am

      or the government can use the money we already give them more responsibly for its original purpose.

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      • paikiala January 16, 2015 at 3:31 pm

        So, you found some ‘missing’ money not already accounted for? Where? And on what things was it being wasted?

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        • davemess January 17, 2015 at 9:10 am

          Do you have a good link for PBOT’s finances, I’ve tried and not found one easily available.

          And while only one example, I will suggest that fixing VERY minor cracks in the sidewalk at my local park (by replacing the entire sidewalk), was probably not the best use of PBOT money considering:
          1. One side of the park has a 200 foot section of dirt that makes the sidewalk around it discontinuous.
          2. The city claims that streets are in critically poor shape. And they don’t have enough money.

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  • Adam Herstein January 15, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Increase the gas tax four-fold, heavily tax studded tires, set aside 10% of transportation revenue for bike infrastructure, and 20% for public transportation.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • 9watts January 15, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Nice! But I’d probably change it a little:

      “set aside 10% of transportation revenue for auto infrastructure”

      Recommended Thumb up 8

      • Reza January 15, 2015 at 11:59 pm

        You mean 10% to maintain the same roads that buses and bikes need to use?

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        • 9watts January 16, 2015 at 8:01 am

          Not necessarily. Some infrastructure serves multiple modes well (Hawthorne bridge); other infrastructure serves only cars and trucks (I-5, Powell Blvd). I would be for shrinking the percent of these funds that go to auto-only streets and highways to zero; but in the spirit of compromise, and piggybacking on Adam Herstein’s suggestion, I’d go for 10%.

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          • random January 16, 2015 at 8:09 am

            There aren’t buses on Powell?

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            • 9watts January 16, 2015 at 8:44 am

              I meant Powell Blvd is pretty inhospitable to biking.

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  • B. Carfree January 15, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    Gasoline is something like $2/gal cheaper now than it was two years ago. Why can’t we get a reasonable, like $1/gal, gas tax to pass? (Don’t answer. I already know and I’m just whining.)

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Spiffy January 16, 2015 at 7:55 am

      my vehicle gets awesome gas mileage so I’m hoping for that $6 gas tax… of course, I’ve been hoping for a $5 gas tax for a decade now…

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  • jeff bernards January 15, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Driving around the state it’s obvious the long term damage studded tires have done to ALL OUR roads. I proposed the studded tire initiative after Matt from ODOT told me I should talk to Les Schwab about banning studded tires. Well now the time has come to face the facts, they’ve neglected to deal with the issue and now it’s going to cost $millions to fix the damage. I think Les Schwab should take some of their corporate welfare money and pay back the citizens of Oregon for their lobbying efforts over the years. The tobacco companies had to pay up, I think this is a similar situation.

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  • Mike Quiglery January 16, 2015 at 6:00 am

    Whatever Portland does don’t do what Lane county is planning. Enact a street fee of $35/vehicle, BUT EXEMPT ALL COMMERCIAL VEHICLES! This in a county full of overloaded log trucks, and voters who regularly reject any increase in the gas tax. And for a kicker, there’s no mandate that outlying communities even use the fee for road maintenance! Will the locals vote for it? Probably.

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  • Todd Hudson January 16, 2015 at 8:26 am

    In other words, 4th down and 50 yards to go. Steve and Charlie will punt the ball….

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  • Peter W January 16, 2015 at 9:16 am

    So many holes in that press release.

    > “Today, I am announcing a pause in our local efforts to fund our streets and safety projects within the City of Portland,” Mayor Hales said. “Over the past week, I have had conversations with Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and with Gov. John Kitzhaber. They have each assured me that a statewide transportation package is a top priority for them this legislative session.”

    They’re trying to frame this as “we just learned the legislature will push a transportation package, and so we’re scrapping our plans”? If so, either a) Hales is learning something everyone else knew for a very long time or b) Hales thinks it’s easy to pass flimsy arguments over Portlanders.

    > “We are pleased to know that the Legislature is very interested in a transportation funding discussion this year,” Commissioner Novick said. “We have said all along that the street fund we have proposed will not address all our needs, and that we are counting on the state and federal governments to step up.”

    If the local funding would have left a small hole to be plugged by state funding, then the state funding alone will leave a very large hole if we don’t also have local funding.

    Perhaps a requirement from the press release author was “at least one illogical argument from each of you, gents!”.

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  • Peter W January 16, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Also,

    > The city has conducted more than 14 months of hearings to craft a proposal to pay for street maintenance and safety.
    “During the passionate conversations we have had in Portland regarding transportation funding, many options were discussed, none of which prove to be popular,” Hales said.

    The Mayor is saying “we spent 14 months trying to figure out what you want, and nothing was popular so we’re quitting”?

    Really? They really thought that was a good ending?

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  • davemess January 16, 2015 at 9:31 am

    “Ugh.”

    Perfect finish to this article Jonathan! Well written.

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  • Rebecca January 16, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Of course none of the options were “popular.” Any one of them would have required Portlanders to pay for something we’ve always gotten for free.

    But that’s the sort of thing we look to local leaders to do – make unpopular but necessary decisions for the good of the city as a whole.

    Our elected leadership first absolved themselves of responsibility for making any difficult decisions by passing it on to a public vote. Seeing that even that route would cost them points in the civic popularity contest, they’re passing the buck on to the State Legislature.

    I hope there are elected leaders down in Salem with a spine. Ours have spent 14 months wasting our time and public resources with nothing to show for it.

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    • davemess January 17, 2015 at 9:11 am

      “Any one of them would have required Portlanders to pay for something we’ve always gotten for free.”

      Say what????? For free?

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  • Jayson January 16, 2015 at 11:03 am

    LOL. Wake me when it’s done.

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  • bloodcircus77 January 16, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Here’s hoping it’s delayed long enough for us to vote these clods out of office. No confidence.

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  • Max January 18, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Sounds like they found a political exit strategy for the unpopular tax.

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