Portlanders have heard a lot from powerful voices opposing the City’s Our Streets Transportation Funding effort that looks to raise $46 million a year in transportation revenue via an income tax and fees on businesses. Now, a coalition of health, environmental, and transportation advocacy groups have released a letter in support of the plan.
The groups applaud City Council for creating what they call, “good public policy” that “addresses existing regressive transportation fees and taxes and the inequitable distribution of public resources by exempting our lowest income households, dividing the revenue burden equally between residents and businesses, and steering a majority of the revenue to the areas of the city that have for too long been neglected and are unsafe.”
Here’s more from the letter:
“As with most collaborative efforts, compromise is often required, and we believe the city has made substantial concessions to the business community in order to bring this policy framework forward. We are disappointed that the business community continues to publicly oppose this proposal despite these concessions, and as the public conversation continues, we anticipate further complaints from wealthy residents and business interests, including threats of referral.
Should a proposal eventually be referred to voters, our willingness to join the “Yes” campaign and invest resources in upholding this proposal will likely depend on whether the City Council passes a truly progressive package, one that is fairer for the middle class and places a stronger emphasis on safety.
Given our support, and given that the concessions afforded to the business community have not secured the level of support intended, we recommend that City Council amend the proposal to ensure that working families and middle-class households are not burdened at the expense of the wealthiest among us, who can clearly afford to pay more.”
The letter reads like a pre-emptive strike against further concessions Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick might be planning to make to curry favor with the Portland Business Alliance and others who oppose the plan.
The coalition is also against Council amending the proposal to include a sunset clause. Some critics of the plan see such a clause as a way to re-assess the program and/or stop the new taxes and fees if they prove to be unpopular. Hales and Novick have resisted that, saying that an ongoing revenue source for transportation infrastructure is too important to take off the table.
Here’s a list of the coalition members who signed onto the letter (many of whom plan to testify at City Council when the plan gets a public hearing starting at 2:00 pm today):
- Jason Miner – Executive Director 1000 Friends of Oregon
- Rob Sadowsky – Executive Director Bicycle Transportation Alliance
- Mara Gross – Executive Director Coalition for a Livable Future
- Jonathan Ostar – Executive Director OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
- Noel Mickelberry – Executive Director Oregon Walks
- Chris Hagerbaumer – Deputy Director Oregon Environmental Council
- Karianne Schlosshauer – Pacific Northwest Regional Policy Manager Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership
- Heidi Guenin – Policy Manager, Transportation & Land Use Upstream Public Health
Stay tuned for more coverage from today’s Council hearing. Learn more at OurStreetsPDX.com.