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Anti-tax group, Americans for Prosperity, protests Sellwood Bridge funding plan – Updated

Posted by on November 26th, 2010 at 11:03 am

Sellwood Bridge Tour with Richard M.-3

The Sellwood Bridge.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Members of the Oregon chapter of Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax and limited government interest group founded by David Koch and Koch Industries, showed up in force on Thursday when the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners shared their plan to raise funds to help pay for the Sellwood Bridge. In order to raise $22 million of the estimated $300 million to replace the ailing bridge, Clackamas County wants to pass a new ordinance that would create a $5 per year vehicle registration fee.

But members of AFP (150 of them according to the group’s website) sent a strong message to the Commissioners: they do not want to help pay for a bridge that’s in Multnomah County (although a traffic study revealed that 70 percent of bridge traffic is from Clackamas County). According to news reports, some protesters said the proposed fee isn’t fair because bicycle riders wouldn’t be required to pay it (an idea that has been thoroughly debunked). Here are excerpts from local media coverage of the hearing:

From The Oregonian:

“The proposed fee has especially stung with Clackamas County residents upset that their dollars might end up paying for a streetcar, light rail, bike paths or other features they view as Portland-centric.

“Why are Clackamas County residents being Multnomah County’s patsies?” asked Bob Karl, a West Linn resident. “Why aren’t Multnomah County bicyclists required to pay? It’s sneaky, it’s dangerous, and it’s corrupt.”

From KGW:

“If we’re going to register,” testified one critic, “Let’s do the bicycles as well.”

According to sources at the meeting, AFP members were organized and were holding signs that read “No Fee. No Taxes”. AFP’s website says almost 150 members were at the meeting to “tell Clackamas County Commissioners that enough is enough on tax and fee increases in the County.”

Koch Industries is one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. and the two brothers behind the company, David and Charles Koch, have funneled over one million dollars into groups like AFP. These donations were subject of an article in The New Yorker back in August that characterized the Kochs as “billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.”

Wednesday’s hearing was the first reading of the proposed ordinance, and it’s slated to come back to the Commission for a potential vote on December 9th. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is urging their members to speak up in support of the new fee. Email your comments on the issue by December 8th to bcc@co.clackamas.or.us.

— Learn more about the project at SellwoodBridge.org or read past coverage in our archives.

UPDATE, 11/29: According to Jeff Kropf, Director of Americans for Prosperity Oregon, the local chapters of the group do not receive funding from the national AFP and all their money is raised in Oregon. Read his full explanation here. The headline of this story originally claimed that the protesters at the Sellwood Bridge meeting were funded by the Koch Family (founders of AFP); but if Kropf’s claims are accurate, they are not. I have edited the headline to better reflect my knowledge of this issue.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Hart Noecker
Guest

Show the footage of that bridge in Minneapolis collapsing. Then show it again, and again, and again.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Why am I not surprised by this?

Dear AFP members: I paid my $22 extra dollars in July when I renewed my plates. I will, at best, use this bridge about every 3 years or so. Consider that my “contribution” to the bicycle lanes. Thanks!

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

perhaps it should be rebuilt as a bike/ped bridge at extensive cost savings…

Jerry_W
Guest
Jerry_W

If the fee is for a bridge, make it a weight tax, cars pay $250 and a bike $.50.

Koch Industries make and sell Stainmaster carpet and Brawny paper towels. Don’t buy these, there are many alternatives that don’t funnel profits to extreme rightwing causes.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

If anyone believes it would cost $330,000,000 to replace the Sellwood, I would sell them the rest of the bridges over the Willamette too.

the "other" steph
Guest
the "other" steph

Fascinated by the Koch Brothers. The first I had ever heard of them was when Terry Gross interviewed Mayer: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129425186

mello yello
Guest
mello yello

I’m all for paying 20 million to setup the bike registration system to collect 1 million in bike registration fees.

fredlf
Guest

The Koch Brothers are, at best, intellectually dishonest. They simply favor government and tax policies that continue a status quo that has made them very wealthy and powerful. Their so-called Libertarianism is simply cover to paint a populist sheen on their ambitions.

If there was a way to make bikes out of coal, you better believe AFP would be organizing pro-bike lane protests and writing white papers on the need for government policies to encourage cycling.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Kindly note that TriMet’s new bridge, for trains, busses, bikes, walkers is budgeted for about one-third the cost of ODOT’s Sellwood replacement. And it is bigger and heavier, for it must carry Max trains.

ODOT wants to spent $134,000,000 for a motor interchange on the west side of Sellwood alone–more than the ENTIRE cost of TriMet’s structure.

Good old highway department policy: AUTOS UBER ALLES!

BURR
Guest
BURR

Let’s just build a cyclist-only bridge, I’m sure you could get cyclists on board with some sort of funding arrangement for that.

Anna
Guest
Anna

Could we please put this issue to rest once and for all , ie “bikes not paying their fair share”, by taking a survey of regular bike commuters/users who also own cars, and, publicize it ? I think you’ll find that many, like myself, pay more than our “fair share” by not using the roads as much and therefore reducing the wear and tear, not to mention traffic congestion.
Why should we have to pay twice, that’s insulting to say the least.

Oh Word?
Guest
Oh Word?

Maybe a toll can be charged to use the bridges unless you live in Multnomah County.

cold worker
Guest
cold worker

i’m always curious how the ‘no fees, no taxes’ crowds think society works. really.

i wish a place could be set up somewhere where all the backwards, regressive laws and tax policies and social norms they’d like to see set in place be allowed to come to life. i’d like to see how that scenario played out for them. take a dakota or nebraska or utah, and just let them go nuts. watch it implode. no federal aid for anything. no regulation for anything. a tea party everyday.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

I’ll register my bike as soon as THEY pay an annual registration fee that is calculated based 1st on vehicle weight, 2nd on miles traveled and 3rd on enviromental discharge of said vehicle.
Conversely we could charge a Clackamas only bridge toll. Real time sorting of vehicles by licences plate is doable. Either make them pull over and pay a person manually and slowly or just charge it straight to their annual registration fee.

I think $5 per one way bridge trip is appropriate.

If they don’t like Multnomah county so much they can give up those jobs and stop taking up the road space: stay in Clackamas.

Keith Laughlin
Guest
Keith Laughlin

An earlier poster suggested that cyclists boycott Koch Industry products, such as Brawny paper towels and Stainmaster carpet. But a Wikipedia search reveals that Koch also owns Investa, which makes Lycra. Are cyclists really ready for a Lycra boycott?

Jerry_W
Guest
Jerry_W

No way, gotta have that!

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

lycra is made exclusively by invista while spandex is made by dozens of companies.

Tourbiker
Guest
Tourbiker

In 2010, Koch Industries was ranked 10th on the list of top US corporate air polluters, the “Toxic 100 Air Polluters,” by the Political Economic Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Big Suprise…Kotch can have a bike reg fee when he starts paying for my lung cancer therapy.

Matt Evans
Guest

I know facts aren’t really welcome here, but AFP’s Oregon Chapter – along with the Clackamas County Chapter – do not receive any funding from Koch Industries, or the Koch Bros. 100 percent of AFP-Oregon’s funding comes from Oregon.

heather andrews
Guest
heather andrews

I for one am a lifelong Clackamas County resident (almost 33 years!) who is happy to pay the proposed fee. Over the last 15 years I have been relying on the Sellwood Bridge to get me to school, work, volunteering, recreation, and more. As a driver, cyclist, and pedestrian, I have felt extremely unsafe on the bridge for years. Chipping in a few bucks is the very least I could do to improve a dangerous situation.

While I was unaware of the meeting until reading the Oregonian’s report, I look forward to submitting public comment. These people do not speak for all of us.

Barney
Guest
Barney

This is a no brainer, make it a toll bridge, all users pay! Figure out a fair rate schedule based on precedent in other areas and it should pay for itself in 20 years or so.
By the way, why do these topics often end up as left vs. right arguments? This $#!+ must be paid for people, you can’talways just shift the cost to “others”. If you want infrastructure just shut up and pay, otherwise just shut up!

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Seriously, I’m going to have to give up drinking my tea; I wouldn’t want to be mistakenly mis-identified as one of those…well nevermind.

Why are some folks so easily jerked around to respond in reactionary ways. I need to quit asking why.

Anyway, I was all for the toll bridge idea, except that where I used to live in a ‘burb of Omaha, there was a toll bridge across the Missouri river, I used it mostly by bicycle, quickest way to get out of town for some open road riding. It was alllllllmost paid off, and then there was to be no tolls. An audit showed the funds had mysteriously eroded somewhere for the previous 30 years or so, and the bridge would now have to continue tolls probably forever, due to the sheisty financial insider abuses. Makes me want ta holler!
Not only that, but they started charging bicyclists tolls too, like we were really putting potholes in the bridge! The worst part was that coming over from the Iowa side, after a seven mile lead-up with no where else to go, the cylists found AFTER they crossed the bridge that they had to now pay a toll. Weird.

Anyway, Sellwood property values would be nowhere near what they are if it weren’t for that easy access across the river. They need to help out.

joe adamski
Guest
joe adamski

limit it to 1000 gvw. Everyone else must use another crossing. Cyclists and peds will be fine on it, antagonizing motorists. They will come to the most reasonable decision, when they are ready.
%$@*! the Koch Brothers. Carpetbaggers.

Dan Kaufman
Guest

Want to shut ’em up? Just shut down the bridge.

Chris
Guest

Wait… we are talking $5 per year per extra on vehicle registration??? Is that it? That’s the price of a burrito! If Clackamas really does not want it, then I say slap on a $1 toll to cross the bridge one way, so that drivers crossing the bridge can pay @$250 a year going to and from work. How does that price sound?

JR
Guest
JR

We are clearly not in an age of reason when groups like the AFP can get 150 people to a meeting to avoid paying for an obviously well needed bridge replacement.

David Parsons
Guest

Personally, I’d be delighted if Multnomah County decided to cater to the delicate sensibilities of the anti-streetcar anti-bicycle anti-tax-except-for-the-military,banking,and-foreign-tribute fringe in Clackamas County by setting up toll booths on the bridge. Free for Multnomah County residents, of course (since Multnomah County is paying for the bulk of this bridge), but some reasonable price for Clackamas County residents. $10, maybe?

And this means that the elaborate interchange for the west side of the bridge won’t need to be built and Clackamas-bound traffic can go down Macadam and 43 to Oregon City instead of using Sellwood as a shortcut. It’s a win for everyone; the anti-trolley people get the crippling traffic on Macadam that they desire, Sellwood gets a new bridge that’s more suited for the size of the neighborhood, and the suburbs get a taste of what happens when the anti-tax crowd chokes off government revenue.

Red Five
Guest
Red Five

when did BikePortland get so heavy on censorship? This site has such a political slant and it seems pointless to offer a comments section. Unless your post is 100% progressive in nature it will deleted.

Mike
Guest
Mike

The Koch brothers have become the George Soros of the right. Intellectually lazy left wingers try to use some connection to them in every argument because they are the boogeyman of the day.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Twenty years ago an associate in the engineering business informed me of the parlous state of the Sellwood Bridge, especially the fact that the west abutment was on an active landslide working its way into the river. The bridge should have been replaced long ago with a special design not sensitive to that sort of boundary condition.

But mysteries abound! Why was the bridge to Sauvie Island, not nearly so vital and not nearly so decrepit, replaced first–for a paltry $38,000,000? The new Sauvie bridge is a good cost model for a new Sellwood, for it is the same width and two-thirds the length. But the new Sellwood is purported to be nearly ten times as costly.

An explanation: Mike Pullen, Director of Public Relations for MultCo, who knows nothing about bridges, is leading the charge. Another explanation: Matt Garrett, Director of ODOT, seems determined to bloat every project to outrageous expense–vide Columbia River Crossing.

Here is another “outside the box” solution: a ferry boat for cars! Maybe pedal powered scows for cyclists!

Great thread, Jonathan! This is the sort of thing BikePortland.cog does so well!

David Parsons
Guest

The Sauvie island bridge is only a 360 foot main span with viaduct on each side. The Sellwood bridge would require *three* Sauvie island main spans (in deeper water==more expensive piers) plus viaducting, including whatever special mitigation is needed to deal with the slide zone on the west side of the river (and from the description of the new bridge, the construction includes new bridges over some of the small streams that come down the bluffside in that neighborhood.)

It’s a substantially larger project.

(And it’s not nearly as vital as the Sauvie Island bridge; if the Sellwood bridge fell into the river, Clackamas commuters still have the option of going south to the Glen Jackson bridge, but unless I’ve managed to miss something there’s only one bridge onto Sauvie Island.

abomb
Guest
abomb

I live in clackamas county and ride or drive over the Sellwood bridge everyday. As far as I’m concerned $5/yr is a killer deal.
A little off topic but whats up with Riverview Cemetery blocking access at the top when the gate is closed. I thought we raised the $5000 so that bike route would stay open.

jim
Guest
jim

Why not just do a toll? Then the people that use it, get the benifit for it pay for it. Set up a toll that includes all users, cars ,trucks, bikes, pedestrians. It is what washington state does with the ferries. It is fair. There are discounts for seniors, and disabled. Monthly passes are available. When the bridge is paid for the toll goes away. The registration idea is not enough to pay the interest on the loan.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Set up a toll that includes … pedestrians.”

i think i payed a pedestrian toll when i crossed into tijuana (once).

“It is fair. There are discounts for seniors, and disabled.”

i guess the poor can swim.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Sauvie Island had a ferry until the 1950s. As a kid on the way out to my uncle’s farm for Sunday dinner I watched the old bridge being built . It was good enough to get to the nice rides on Sauvie, or even to Kruger’s Crossing events.

The current Sellwood is a hyperstatic continuous truss of four spans on five piers, one in the middle of the river: Gustav Lindenthal, no tyro, designed it to be as cheap and functional for 1920s traffic as possible. My understanding is that Lindenthal’s structure still is sound; the problems are with the east and west viaduct approaches, which are not his work. Of course, the whole thing is way too narrow, even without the lighting standards’ encroachment on the narrow sidepath.

I have completed a design study that identifies a self-anchoring suspension bridge as the optimal solution. It “floats” over both problematic approaches, the landslide on the west, the encumbered easement over the buildings–how bizarre is that–on the east. No vertical forces on the abutments and only two piers in the river for the lightest and cheapest structure possible. In high strength structural steel.

Less than the Multco/ODOT ORIGINAL ESTIMATE OF $80,000,000, and in line with TriMet’s $127,000,000 cable-stayed span of equal length for much heavier loads.

If you want to talk bridges, guys, get out your design manuals for structural steel and your slide rules!

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

I’m pretty sure that part of the reason why the interchange on the west side of the river costs so much is that they have to do a lot of work to prevent future slides. I know the city thinks that the cost of the interchange can be cut, they’re working with the county to find cost savings. Nevertheless, there are substantial complications with this project that make it more expensive than relatively simple projects like the Sauvie Island Bridge:the slide zone on the west side, property that needs to be purchased near the old and new bridge construction sites, the need to maintain two lanes of traffic during construction (much like 99e just north of the Ross Island Bridge). The costs are different because the challenges are different.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Jim Lee: Isn’t the center span the old Burnside Bridge span, which was re-used because the county ran out of funds for bridge building? The encumbered easement on the east side was also due to lack of funds, the county couldn’t afford to buy the rights to the land under the bridge.

Does the cost of your bridge include the cost of the interchanges on either end? Does it include the purchase of property on either end of the bridge? Does it include the cost of making the bridge ready for streetcar? What about stabilizing the hillside on the west side of the bridge?

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

cyclist, you go. i haven’t driven my car for months (my better half’s vx died – 280K) and am perfectly willing to pay for this bridge.

Allan
Guest
Allan

I think a bunch of MultCo folks should go counterprotest that this bridge shouldn’t be built at all. If the current bridge fell into the river I’m sure the bridge would get rebuilt way faster than this crazy process. It kind of makes me think we should knock it down and then see if there is so much protest. Just spend the $$ already

Brad
Guest
Brad

I’m with Allan. Condemn the Sellwood Bridge and remove it without a replacement bridge planned. Claim poverty and “hearing the people’s voices!” about reigning in government spending and taxation.

Then watch the fuming and fun as Clackamas commuters have to find alternate routes that add time to their already terrible commutes.

This would be an excellent object lesson.

Geezer Guy
Guest
Geezer Guy

Maybe the county should just make everyone mad and close the bridge. Blow it up and be done with it. . . . That would be a great cost savings.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

UPDATE on funding question (does local AFP chapter receive funding from National AFP?). Here’s a response explaining that the local chapters DO NOT receive national money from the Director of AFP Oregon Jeff Kropf:

Jonathan, thanks for reaching out in an effort to be accurate. We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight, as there is much misinformation out there about AFP and the Kochs. Matt Evans (AFP OR’s communications director) is quite correct as AFP OR receives no funding from the Koch’s, their foundations or any of their companies, even though they own Georgia Pacific, with several locations in Oregon. Believe me when I tell you how much I would like to receive funding from the Koch’s, their companies or other out of state donors, but AFP’s national policy does not allow it. If I could raise more money, I could promote grassroots politics at a much higher level by being able to better support the local efforts of our volunteers such as the efforts of our Clackamas chapter of AFP.

Let me be clear, I can only spend money that we raise on behalf of AFP OR from Oregonians. I am not allowed to raise or spend money from outside of the state, period.

Your review of the IRS filing for AFP is easily explained in the following manner and should shed light on how a national non profit organization works. All of the money that we raise in Oregon for our operations here is sent to our national headquarters in Virginia for accounting purposes, then redistributed to each state. This is logical in that it would be a accounting nightmare for each of our 31 states to have their own checking accounts, foundations ect. The expense you note in the filing for “state chapters” is money each of our chapters raised that gets sent back to us. Headquarters staff provide some support to the state AFP chapters such as accounting and research.

Again, let me be clear, as much as I would love to have Koch funding, I get absolutely none, period.

Evidence of this arrangement however, is not available as AFP does not disclose its donors, just as other non profits do not do such as the Sierra Club. You will have to take my word as being the truth and I might note that I am not known for being a liar, even amongst my former Democrat colleagues when I served in the Oregon House.

Also, you should note AFP does not have PAC, nor do any of its state chapters as we don’t endorse candidates. Our mission is to build limited government grassroots capacity, which is what we focus on.

No matter where the money comes from however, you should also consider this. AFP OR does not pay our volunteers to show up at hearings, like the one you accurately described in your article. These folks are led by a team of local, trained and motivated grassroots volunteers who do what they do because they believe in the standing up for limited government principles. You cant gin up that kind of volunteer effort by spending money. It comes from the heart.

Even though we may have opposite views on this particular issue, AFP OR appreciates your willingness to be accurate.

Feel free to reprint this email response in its entirety.

Jeff Kropf

Eric in Seattle
Guest
Eric in Seattle

“Americans for Prosperity”
Just another example of the principal that a group’s name is pretty much the opposite of what they really want.

Eric in Seattle
Guest
Eric in Seattle

Another option: Multnomah county pays the whole thing, and it becomes a toll bridge. All cars registered in Multnomah county cross for free. The other 70% pay a buck or two a pop. That’d probably pay the bridge off pretty quick.

Pete
Guest
Pete

are
…these guys can now buy elections, thanks to the roberts court.

That’s the first thing that popped into my mind when I read this. The American “freedom” crowd seems to get pissed off over so many silly little things (gay marriage, bicycle lanes, etc), but allow your government to uncap corporate donations and where’s the outcry?

Ethan
Guest

how about everyone pays 1% of the value of their bike or car . . . if they want “fair” lets make it proportional.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Since the new Max Line will run through the area and down into Clackamas County, let commuters ride the rail. Tear the Sellwood down once the line is open and don’t replace it. Lake Oswego residents will still have access to downtown on 30 and Clackamas County commuters can ride the Max which is already budgeted and under design.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Excellent idea, Fred!

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

I can hardly contain myself, I ‘m ashamed of the selfishness of my generation. $5 really? Multnomah county supports many county services for the mentally ill & disadvantaged that most counties throughout the state don’t provide for on the scale that we do. Clackamas County should be jumping at the opportunity to help, $5? Clackamas county should be embarrassed, it’s 70% use by them is what wore out the current bridge. We should raise the gas tax to cover all road and bridge maintenance and replacement. Then you can drive anywhere you want knowing you helped pay for the infrastruture your using & that everyone enjoys. Remember your food comes down that road in a big heavy truck that needs a sturdy $300 million bridge. Until you grow your food at home, we need the bridge.

Tolls are impractical & unenforceable just avoid the bridge. Clackamas County’s $22 million is only 6% of the costs, yet they use it 70% of the time. That’s a pretty good return on investment, just saying.

memo
Guest
memo

“According to news reports, some protesters said the proposed fee isn’t fair because bicycle riders wouldn’t be required to pay it (an idea that has been thoroughly debunked).” I clicked on the link and it had no local numbers to support your assertion that the “idea [of bicyclists not paying for roads] was thoroughly debunked.” The linked mentioned this was untrue locally since it claims a large portion of the cost for roads comes from the “general tax fund.”

However for the State of Oregon, only $10 million of the over $5 billion in revenue comes from the general fund http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/COMM/docs/BudgetBooklet_09-11.pdf (page 4)

In Portland, none of the general fund expenses listed are for roads – http://www.portlandonline.com/omf/index.cfm?c=51313&a=268836 (page 38)

Please provide us with actual, usable, local information that shows how much bicyclist contribution to the roadways.

Thank you,