Street Fee Proposal
Portland’s next mayor is a Multnomah County commissioner turned state treasurer who embraced protected bike lanes and more neighborhood greenway traffic diverters from almost the start of his run for office.
Ted Wheeler was drawing 58 percent of Portland’s primary vote Tuesday night, easily defeating opponents Jules Bailey and Sarah Iannarone, among others.
Wheeler also set himself apart on transportation issues by endorsing a local gas tax to improve Portland streets on the day he announced his campaign — a position that rapidly became conventional wisdom among local politicians and won a narrow victory Tuesday night.
Three years ago, before launching his long, awkward crusade to raise money for Portland streets, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick made a really good point.
Five months after a poll showed a slight majority of likely Portland voters would support a temporary 10-cent gas tax to improve local streets, some donors are hoping cash will lock that lead in for the May election.
Backers of a local gas tax have so far pledged $17,000 for the effort, campaign strategist Stacey Dycus said Tuesday.
“We’re going to ask some local electeds to help chip in,” Dycus said. “We’re going to ask businesses to chip in. We’re looking for help from organizations. … Hopefully organizations and businesses and individuals are going to step up and help us tell the story.”
offered conditional support.
(Photos from City Council live feed)
Advocates of a 10-cent local gas tax joined up to form quite a list of endorsers Wednesday for a midafternoon hearing at Portland City Council. Council heard a presentation and testimony about the idea ahead of adopting a resolution to send the tax to the ballot.
“I feel like a possum on I-5 during rush hour right now,” said Paul Romain, a lobbyist for Oregon gas retailers who was one of only two people to speak clearly against the measure.
Offering support was everyone from a freight advocate to a business advocate to an environmental justice advocate from East Portland to a frequent City Hall testifier who goes by the name of “Lightning.” While almost everyone seemed to like the idea, a close look at their testimony reveals mixed feelings that could offer clues to future debates.
It’s relevant as the city gets ready to vote on a 10-cent gas tax that would go toward slowing the crumbling of Portland’s streets and improving their safety.
Who pays gas taxes?
After a long pause to gather its strategy and thoughts, Portland’s city council is expected to launch its latest plan Wednesday to raise money for the city’s streets.
The new concept, a public vote for a temporary local gas tax of 10 cents per gallon, comes endorsed by a 93-page report from the City Club of Portland and at least two mayoral candidates (Jules Bailey and Ted Wheeler) as the least bad way to slow the city’s deepening pavement problem while getting some high-priority safety improvements on the ground.
And in a new development, it looks as if some resources have been found for one of such a ballot issue’s biggest needs: an organized “yes” campaign.
in front of the boarded-up window smashed
by a car on April 2.
(Photo courtesy Mičetić)
The owner of a game store on SE Foster Road whose front window was destroyed this month by a speeding car also happens to be one of the most prominent backers of safety improvements to Foster Road, and also of a citywide street fund.
In fact, Matthew Mičetić of Red Castle Games was one of two small business owners that Portland leaders invited to speak at the press conference where they launched their currently paused street fund effort last spring.
He’s also head of his local business association — a group that he said surprised Portland City Council last summer when its members showed up in force to support redesigning their street to add a center turn lane and bike lanes by removing two passing lanes.
Unfortunately for Mičetić’s storefront, the redesign won’t happen until next year. That meant that when a man named Myles Nees was allegedly drunk and fleeing from police during the early evening rush hour on Foster April 2, he had enough room to veer his car from lane to lane. Mičetić said Nees reached speeds of 60 to 80 mph before losing control and running onto the sidewalk into Red Castle’s building.
A few miles up the road, Portland’s big-sister city is doing something Portland hasn’t yet: charting a viable path to paying for its transportation goals.
The nine-year, $900 million “Move Seattle” property tax levy proposed Wednesday by Mayor Ed Murray would include (among many other things) 50 miles of protected bike lanes and 60 miles of neighborhood greenways over nine years. That’s about half of the projects that Seattle’s 20-year bike plan refers to as parts of the “citywide network.”
For comparison’s sake, Portland’s “paused” street fund proposal included, at one point, an estimated 14-20 miles of protected bike lanes and 40-50 miles of greenways over 10 years. But the possible lessons here for Portland aren’t just about scale (Seattle is bigger by most measures, after all) and the story here isn’t just that Seattle is succeeding where we aren’t (Seattle has a long way to go, after all).
new revenue, and a host of other projects on pause.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
“There are some who say, ‘Why would you move ahead with bike share if you can’t pave the streets?'”
— Mayor Hales, August 2014
This story was co-written by Michael Andersen and Jonathan Maus
Now that Portland’s erratic search for new transportation revenue is on “pause”, it’s raised another question for the city: How long will the rest of our transportation agenda be on pause?
There’s no better illustration of this problem than the way Portland’s plan for a public bike-sharing system fell apart.
In a previously unpublished interview last August, Mayor Charlie Hales was characteristically candid about this. He and his colleagues have not prioritized bike sharing, he said, because it might endanger their push for new revenue.