local gas tax
Not everybody loved the local gas tax that Portland voters approved in May. But most Portlanders can probably agree that now that it exists, it ought to be spent as promised.
There’s a strong possibility that the tax might bring in more or less money than expected, or that the city might eventually consider changing the project list in ways that violate the implicit promise to voters that it made when it created the list.
If either of those things were to happen, the main watchdog institution will be a volunteer oversight committee that’s currently recruiting members.
Three out of four east Portlanders who voted last month didn’t vote for the local gas tax. But given how their area’s been treated in the last few decades, can you blame them?
That’s the perspective of one east Portland resident who supported the “Fix Our Streets” plan, commenting on Thursday’s post about gas tax voting patterns.
BikePortland reader Jim Chasse is part of an extremely effective network of east Portland advocates who’ve brought in tens of millions of dollars of budgeted commitments to east Portland streets over the next several years. If the city keeps those promises, he suggests, east Portlanders may notice.
The paving and safety projects scheduled to be built with Portland’s proposed gas tax will be spread quite evenly across the city.
But votes on the gas tax definitely weren’t.
Of the 81 Multnomah County precincts in the City of Portland, only 19 tallied “yes” votes between 45 percent and 55 percent. In more than half of precincts, the vote on the 10-cent local gas tax, one of the country’s largest local fuel taxes ever approved by popular vote, was a blowout victory or loss by 20-point margins or even more.
Among the many projects funded this month by Portland voters is one we first covered in early 2013: a network of protected bike lanes in downtown Portland.
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.
Despite endorsements from big business, small business, every significant mayoral candidate and seemingly every civic or nonprofit organization in town, two major institutions oppose the gas tax on Portlanders’ ballots Tuesday: the oil industry and the Oregonian editorial page.
Last week, a poll showed the measure with a narrow lead. The oil industry responded Wednesday with their latest mailer (the “no” campaign has raised $165,000 so far, half of it from out of state) claiming that a tax on their product would be the worst idea ever.
Three years ago, before launching his long, awkward crusade to raise money for Portland streets, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick made a really good point.
If you want to understand the behind-the-scenes fundraising battle over a proposed 10-cent local gas tax in Portland, start on the 5000 block of Front Avenue in the Northwest Portland industrial area.
That’s where you’ll find two companies operating on adjacent lots: CalPortland, a pavement supplier whose local vice president gave $5,000 to the “yes” campaign, and McCall Oil and Chemical, a fuel and asphalt distributor that has given $1,800 this year to the PAC running the “no” campaign.
Donors to local campaigns are often driven by financial self-interest, but it doesn’t get much clearer than this.
Based on public records filed so far, a coalition of construction and development firms backing the four-year gas tax is easily outfundraising opponents, almost all of which are companies that sell gasoline.
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.”