Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Adams opts for Council vote on funding initiative

Posted by on December 18th, 2007 at 9:58 am

Last Friday, City Commissioner Sam Adams told the Portland Tribune that he has decided to not refer his Safe Sound and Green Streets transportation funding initiative to voters. Instead of including the proposal in the May primary elections, Adams will seek approval directly from City Council in January.

The funding proposal includes new street maintenance fees for homeowners and businesses, $24 million for bike boulevards and other safety improvements, and seeks to address a $422 million street maintenance backlog.

When the Tribune asked Adams why he decided against a vote he cited that Multnomah County and the City of Portland have conducted an extensive public outreach process and that polling has shown substantial support for the idea. “It’s a question of leadership” he told the Tribune.

Roland Chlapowski, Adams’ transportation policy staffer, says that the public will get to vote on the Multnomah County part of the proposal, which seeks an increase in vehicle registration fees.

Chlapowski also cited the defeat of Measure 50 (a tobacco tax to pay for children’s health care) as an example of what can happen when powerful special interest groups sway voters. In the case of Measure 50, the Big Tobacco lobby spent $12 million on an advertising campaign that many say helped defeat the measure.

Not surprisingly, Adams’ decision has sparked a range of reaction, many of them critical, in the comments of the Tribune article.

If City Council approves the proposal, which seems likely, the City will be ready to start processing the street maintenance fees by July 2008.

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

  • Dan (teknotus) December 18, 2007 at 10:14 am

    You forgot to put the million after the $12.

    \”Big tobacco companies spent $12 million — $24 dollars per vote — to change the subject,\” – David Wu


    Thanks Dan. I edited the post — Jonathan

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  • JL December 18, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    I\’m disappointed that this will not be put on a ballot. I\’m a Portland homeowner, and a part-time bike commuter. I would have voted YES, but I don\’t like it when I\’m demanded money instead being asked nicely.

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  • Rick Glos December 18, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    While I support increasing the funding, not allowing this to go to vote, and let the people get their say, feels like it has negative connotations and something wrong is being done.

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  • Grimm December 18, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Not to drag this post into all about measure 50, but I voted against for reasons other than the advertising. In fact I don\’t recall many ads for it (I don\’t watch a lot of broadcast TV though), I only read the voter\’s pamphlet. My decision was because I didn\’t see enough of a correlation between cigarette smokers and children\’s health. Children\’s health care should come either from general or more health specific funding and taxing smokers should go towards cancer research. Granted money is money and decreasing smoking while providing health care is good, but if we are taking it from one group to give to another there should be a more direct reason. But the main factor for me was the fact that there was an something like 30% extra funding the tax would create that was not accounted for. Granted I understand there is overhead involved but I can\’t go charging clients and extra 30% to cover unknown expenses or just to pocket it to spend on whatever whim I see fit. I felt kind of terrible but it seemed like an ill-conceived plan. Hopefully a similar and more accountable measure can be drafted next year.

    Anyways. Onward with the transit funding.


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  • Matt Picio December 18, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    I have no idea what Commissioner Adams\’ motivations are, but it\’s actually pretty shrewd: if the council rejects it, it can be put to the voters. If put to the voters first, then if it is rejected it is very unlikely the council would approve it, especially with a mayoral election approaching.

    If he hasn\’t already, Terry Parker is going to go ballistic on Sam\’s blog.

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  • david December 18, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    i don\’t know, grimm/ben. i believe it\’s fairly common to attach a contingency figure to a budget/expense account without detailing specifically what that money will be used for, and 30% doesn\’t seem all that unreasonable.

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  • encephalopath December 18, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    We elect people to make hard decisions like this. I don\’t like it when elected officials punt difficult decisions to a referendum.

    I don\’t want them to throw up their hands when a politically charged issues comes across their desks. The initiative process is too easily corrupted by corporate money to be of much use.

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  • Matthew December 18, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    How much does it cost to put something on the ballot? I mean, there will be an election then regardless, but someone has to count all the ballots, and there are statements in the voters pamphlet, and everything else, so it clearly isn\’t free to have another item on it. And if he thinks that 50+% is going to vote for it anyways, then it seems like a good idea to just do it…

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  • Nuada December 19, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Speaking about powerful special interest groups, I wonder how much they had to twist his arm to take out the gas tax. That is something I would have voted for. It would be much more fair since cars and trucks are responsible for tearing up and wearing down the roads, not bicycles. Maybe it\’s time for a letter writing campaign.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 19, 2007 at 12:18 am

    \”I wonder how much they had to twist his arm to take out the gas tax.\”


    far as I know, Adams chose to drop the Gas Tax because he feels there\’s a high likelihood that a Gas Tax will be sought by the state legislature in 2009.

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  • Joe R. December 19, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    gas taxes for cities aren\’t a very effective taxing mechanism in metro areas because if the tax is noticeable, it can be avoided easily by crossing city boundaries.

    i\’m glad we have an elected official who isn\’t afraid to actually do what he\’s responsible for. i\’m so tired of having to go through a painful, drawn out election to approve most everything government should be doing on its own. elections should be referendums on leaders, not on every detail of government operations. we vote for Adams, he does his job.. those who don\’t like what he does can vote for someone else next time around. why is this such a difficult concept?

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