City assembles ‘sales team’ for street fee plan (updated)

Three members of PBOT’s standing Budget
Advisory Committee Tuesday.
(Photo by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland voters could decide as soon as November whether to approve a per-household and per-business fee that budget committee member David Hampsten said would raise about $25 million a year for street upgrades.

Alternatively, the proposal to pay for transportation infrastructure might simply be approved by the city council after extensive public outreach, a citizen committee member said Tuesday.

With that in mind, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales have created a new committee of stakeholders expected to vet the plan and, over the coming months, help persuade the city of its merits.

“It’s a sales team,” Steph Routh, a member of the new “Transportation Needs and Funding Advisory Committee,” said last week.

The city says its aging street network is badly in need of maintenance, with $1.5 billion required just to clear the maintenance backlog for the city’s $15 billion transportation system. Novick also frequently mentions the importance of better sidewalk and crossing improvements in East Portland, including them in a $1.3 billion wish list shared with the media last month.

In a potentially related effort, the city is preparing an online community survey intended to gather a sense East Portlanders’ top priority. There’s a meeting about the multi-lingual survey, expected to be usable on a range of phones and devices, 10 a.m. tomorrow at the East Portland Neighborhood Office, 1017 Northeast 117th Avenue.

David Sweet, a member of the city transportation bureau’s standing budget advisory committee, said Tuesday that though Novick hadn’t expressed certainty that the proposal would go up for a direct public vote, the commissioner seemed adamant that this November, which will also see two city council races, the national midterm elections and a high-profile ballot measure to allow gay marriage, would be the best time to put a new fee before voters.

“It’ll be a better attended, higher-turnout election than a primary or a special election or an off year,” Sweet said. “High turnout generally favors progressive ideas.”

Sweet also warned the Budget Advisory Committee Tuesday to expect pushback from people who will say the city should be spending even more on auto infrastructure than it plans to.

“There’s going to be an argument that the revenue needs to be spent to facilitate the unimpeded movement of motor vehicles at all times,” Sweet said, referring to an Oregonian editorial published last week.

Well, the newspaper’s editorial board won’t have a seat on the new committee, Portland Business Alliance Vice President Bernie Bottomly replied, to laughter.

Update 1/17: Here’s the committee listing:

Charlie Hales, Mayor, City of Portland
Steve Novick, Commissioner of Transportation, City of Portland
Leah Treat, Director, Portland Bureau of Transportation
Craig Beebe, Member, City Club of Portland
Richard “Buz” Beetle, Business Manager, Laborers’ Local 483
Bernie Bottomly, Vice President of Government Affairs & Economic Development, Portland Business Alliance
Corky Collier, Executive Director, Columbia Corridor Association
Noelle Dobson, Associate Director, Oregon Public Health Institute
Marie Dodds, Local Dir. of Government and Public Affairs, AAA
Deborah Dunn, President, Oregon Trucking Association
Marianne Fitzgerald, President, SWNI
Maxine Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc.
Leslie Foren, Executive Director, Elders in Action
Deane Funk, Local Government Affairs Manager, Portland General Electric
Chris Hagerbaumer, Deputy Director, Oregon Environmental Council
Tom Lewis, Chair, Centennial Community Association
Matt Morton, Executive Director, NAYA
Stanley Moy, Organizer, APANO / Jade District
Linda Nettekoven, Past Chair, SE Uplift
Jonathan Ostar, Executive Director, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
Vic Rhodes, Rhodes Consulting, Inc Rhodes Consulting, Inc.
Steph Routh, past Director, Oregon Walks
Carmen Rubio, Executive Director Latino Network
Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Mychal Tetteh, Chief Executive Officer Community Cycling Center
Joe VanderVeer, Chair Portland Commission on Disabilities
Dan Zalkow, Executive Director of Planning, Construction, and Real Estate, Portland State University

Publisher/editor Jonathan Maus contributed reporting.

Correction 5:45 pm: An earlier version of this post incorrectly implied a direct link between the city’s project list and a forthcoming East Portland priority survey, and incorrectly reported the new committee’s name. Also, it failed to cite general PBOT budget advisory committee member David Hampsten as the source of the $25 million figure.

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