Following his Jan. 30 State of the City address at the Sentinel Hotel, Mayor Hales has continued to deliver (a shorter) State of the City speech to diverse groups around the city in an effort to keep them informed about his agenda and how they'll benefit.
The night of the primary State of the City address, Mayor Hales spoke to the SEIU Local 49 union at its annual dinner. He received a standing ovation when he announced his plan to work with Commissioner Dan Saltzman to propose a $15 minimum wage for all full-time, permanent city employees and city contractors. Further, he announced, John Russell, a prominent local businessman, said he’ll match the city’s $15 per hour in his buildings. "I call on other civic-minded business leaders to match John Russell’s example," Mayor Hales said.
Mayor Hales talked to representatives of immigrant and refugee groups about the "human equation" theme of his priorities outlined in the State of the City address. He also conveyed what the City of Portland is doing to support New Portlanders:
The city's legislative agenda supports coalition efforts to establish a work group to research for and guide the Oregon Legislature on establishing a foreign vocational credential or license transfer system, helping immigrants access employment.
Mayor Hales has supported President Obama's executive action on the nation's broken immigration policies.
Mayor Hales joined a coalition of mayors nationwide to urge Congress to act on passing meaningful immigration reform.
During last summer's influx of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S., Mayor Hales contacted state leadership and local immigrant organizations to assure them that Portland would be a safe harbor for children fleeing failed states.
Hollywood Boosters, Feb. 4
Mayor Hales talked to the Hollywood Neighborhood business group about development and economic opportunity. He encouraged them to mobilize, and put their stamp on the Comprehensive Plan, which will guide development and investment in Portland for the next 20 years. "We want development the Portland way: the neighborhood plans, the city supports, and partnerships, partnerships, partnerships," Mayor Hales said. Read the Hollywood Star's coverage of the event: http://star-news.info/2015/02/04/pdx-mayor-connects-with-northeast-portland-stakeholders/
Rosewood Initiative, Feb. 10
Mayor Hales talked about his priorities for public safety and infrastructure, noting the number of shots fired and lack of sidewalks in East Portland. He talked to residents about his strategy for East Portland: "We're bearing down on a few neighborhoods rather than dancing over the surface of a lot of them, in order to accomplish real change," he said. "I've been out to Lents and Gateway and other neighborhoods east of I-205; I'm aware of the need, and I'm focused on making real change. We'll move forward with neighborhood plans, city support, and partnerships — the Portland way." MORE on plans for Lents and livable neighborhoods: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/517605
Gateway Area Business Association, Feb. 12
Mayor Hales attended the Gateway Area Business Association meeting in East Portland to talk about what State of the City means to them. He touched on neighborhood livability, public safety, and economic development. The weekend before the mayor toured the Gateway neighborhood and talked with business owners, who were concerned primarily about safety, as gang-related violence affects the east. Business Association members expressed concerns about how the city deals with people in mental health crisis, as well as public safety in the neighborhood and feeling heard by City Hall. The mayor told the business association that he is committed to seeing the investment that is being directed at Lents directed at Gateway, as well.
Mayor Hales spoke to the neighborhood economic development group Our 42nd Ave — comprised of of business owners, local employees, commercial property owners, community institutions, and others interested in economic change in the 42nd Avenue area — about using partners and aligned investment to create economic opportunity. Among the mayor's initiatives for economic opportunity, he'll propose a tax incentive for businesses that hire ex-offenders, and is creating a work force to make the Minority, Women, Emerging Small Business contract process more beneficial to those marginalized groups. He addressed neighborhood livability concerns, including building sidewalks and pedestrian crossings near schools. Mayor Hales responded to the group's questions about gentrification and increasing density in the Lloyd District, and how they could lobby their representatives in the Oregon Legislature to support an increase in the gas tax.
Mayor Hales talked with the group implementing the East Portland Action Plan, a community-driven process nationally recognized for its collaborative approach to addressing the long-standing needs of this historically underserved portion of the city. He discussed development projects in East Portland, such as the PDC investment in Lents, and public safety concerns that have come to the forefront with a substantially higher-than-average number of shootings this year — 23, involving 225 bullets fired as of Feb. 25. Attendees asked him about gun control, which is on the city's legislative agenda. They wanted assurance that East Portland would see affordable housing money invested in the area; Mayor Hales told them to advocate for general fund dollars as the budget process gets underway in March. And they wanted to know about his commitment to equity: "If you want to know a city's priorities, look at where it focuses its funding," Mayor Hales said. "I've tied equity to bureaus' budgets, which ensures leaders are considering the impacts of their programs and policies on all Portlanders, It's a critical step in institutionalizing equity in Portland city government."
ONI Community Summit, Feb. 28
Mayor Hales on Saturday attended the Office of Neighborhood Involvement Community Summit, where upward of 400 civic-minded residents met to connect over their community. The mayor addressed a group of about 100, and took questions about his priorities.
He called neighborhoods to action: “Neighborhoods should come up with ideas and bring them to the city. Community Development Corporations are a great example,” Mayor Hales said, referencing an idea articulated by Hollywood resident Yu Te. “We want neighborhoods to come to us with solutions that will work for their areas.”
East Portland Action Plan, the mayor said, is a great example of bottom-up solutions. Old Town/Chinatown residents likewise came up with a development plan for their neighborhoods, which Council approved.
Mayor Hales said that while Portland’s acclaimed neighborhood association model helps represent hyperlocal issues, it needs to be more inclusive. “People who don’t speak English, immigrants, young professionals, those who typically don’t have time to attend meetings—the city needs to hear from them and they need to be represented,” Mayor Hales said. He has begun hosting Twitter Town Halls in an effort to reach some of those demographics: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/index.cfm?&a=520502
“Become a leader,” Mayor Hales said. “Get involved. Come to Council and ask us to put you in a leadership post.”
Residents also questioned him about affordable housing and infill and demolition. The mayor said the city needs money for affordable housing, and he’s looking for creative ideas to get it. More on infill and demolition: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/517606
They asked about homelessness, and what the city is doing to curb what seems like a growing trend. Mayor Hales discussed his and Multnomah County’s effort to house all of Portland’s homeless veterans by Veterans Day: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/517610
TUESDAY, DEC. 30, 2014 — In his second year as mayor, Charlie Hales has worked to fulfill his “back to basics” promise — taking care of basic infrastructure and achieving financial stability — while also refocusing the Police Bureau on community policing and ensuring opportunity for all Portlanders. An overview of Mayor Hales’ progress, by the numbers:
15 uniforms donated by Nike to the East African All Stars basketball team, after the Somali American Council of Oregon, active in city public safety and economic development groups, asked Mayor Hales for help.
10 Portland Police Bureau officers assigned to walking beats in downtown and on Southeast Hawthorne. After the successful pilot, Mayor Hales has a goal of expanding walking beats to more neighborhoods.
2,000 contacts with people experiencing by police officers on walking beats, which Mayor Hales revived in an effort to re-focus on community policing. Walking beat officers wrote just 21 citations in summer 2014.
25 community leaders met with the future Police Chief Larry O’Dea and Mayor Hales shortly after the announcement of a smooth transition in Police Bureau leadership to discuss community interests and issues.
2 awards for Portland’s environmental accomplishments: One of 15 cities named a Climate Action Champion by the White House, for our greenhouse gas reduction and climate change mitigation; and one of 10 cities awarded a City Climate Leadership Award from C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group for our sustainable community efforts.
20,500 soccer fans attended the Major League Soccer All-Star Game at Providence Park, drawing the world’s eyes to Portland to watch the best domestic players of the American league play the Bayern München football club of Germany.
1,300 single-family short-term rental units legalized with policy reform addressing vacation rental businesses like Airbnb and HomeAway. 2,085 multi-family units will be legalized after final City Council approval of policy, expected at the beginning of 2015.
20 representatives with the Police Bureau, U.S. Department of Justice, local hospitals, coordinated care organizations, and state and county health departments convened by Mayor Hales planning an emergency psychiatric center for people in mental health crisis, a part of an effort to address the region’s mental health needs.
$10.1 million of unspent resources from last fiscal year available to budget, thanks to conservative budgeting under Mayor Hales. When he took office, Mayor Hales confronted the city’s largest-ever budget deficit — $21.5 million — and balanced the budget.
3 values guiding budget development: Equity and Opportunity, bolstering economic and housing opportunity for all Portlanders, as well as equity in service delivery; Complete Neighborhoods, extending Portland’s vaunted livability to more areas of the City; Emergency Preparedness, equipping bureau operations and our citizens to better withstand a disaster.
200 low-income students participated in Shop with a Cop. For 12 years the partnership between the Police Bureau and Fred Meyer has ensured youths can show up to the first day of school looking and feeling their best.
109 gang-related incidents of violence, including a spike in violence during the summer, prompted the North and Northeast Portland community to form an “Enough is Enough” campaign, supported by Mayor Hales and his Office of Youth Violence Prevention, as a stand against that violence in their neighborhoods.
Outreach Workers, Police Praise Relationship-Building Approach to Policing
THURSDAY, DEC. 4, 2014 — Mayor Charlie Hales recently convened a work session on managing the homeless population on sidewalks and in parks to brief City Council on the Portland Police Bureau’s work toward relationship-building as policing.
Hales, commissioner in charge of the police bureau, in the summer joined a police walking beat on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, and was impressed with the evident relationships those police officers had built with the homeless population and business owners. Hales plans on growing the police-community connection, with a vision of a walking patrol in every neighborhood.
“As Sir Robert Peel said, ‘The police are the public and the public are the police,’” Hales said. “That’s our guiding principle.”
At the meeting, Hales asked police, outreach organizations, and others to share with the rest of Council their experiences with the pilot programs.
“Street Roots wants to say the walking beat has been great success. It can be national model for police bureaus across the country, which are looking for formulas that may work to solve these problems. In 15 years been doing this work, this is the best program I’ve seen.”
Dennis Lundberg, associate director of Janus Youth Programs:
“I deeply applaud Central Precinct’s work. This is something that, at Janus, we’ve been striving for for at least a decade—this level of partnership. It’s not a matter of shifting back to community policing, it’s a matter of putting the right officers with right training out of the street. I deeply respect all the men on the police foot patrol.
“For me, and I’ve doing street outreach for over 13 years, it’s like having a whole ’nother team of street outreach workers out there. Their level of empathy, compassion, the way they’re engaging young people experiencing homelessness should be applauded. And I agree with Israel: This should be a national model.
Mark Jolin, executive director of JOIN:
“All of us who do this work, we know it’s a process of coming back over and over again, and building trust to the point people actually believe that your offer of services is an offer of ongoing support and relationships that go beyond recommendation to a service that’s already very full.
“We at JOIN have had a relationship with police for close to 20 years. This approach to the work has been present, but now it’s organized and it’s getting support at the highest levels of the Police Bureau.And it’s going to make a world of difference—it did this summer in the pilot area, not just in addressing these problems, but also in bringing to community attention to them.
“It didn’t solve the problem of camping, and of people generating complaints; we still have thousands of people living personal private lives out on the street.
“What changed was the way the officers tasked with responding to that were engaging people. It wasn’t just, ‘this is the impact you’re having on the neighborhood.’ It was recognizing, ‘asking you to move has an adverse impact on you,’ and addressing that.”
Sgt. Ric DeLand, Portland Police Bureau:
For the walking beat pilot program, Sgt. Deland wanted a team of officers who volunteered for the duty; 12 did. Since the success of the program, more officers have e-mailed him, interested in joining, he said.
“We welcomed an entire community of people back to Portland after they’ve been told, ‘we don’t want you here.’ We invited them back in and said, ‘We want good people here. We want good people invested in community.’ We talked to them about how they present themselves, and they responded in droves.”
DeLand said the officers this summer led by example. For instance, he said, “Uniformed officers picked up garbage this year.”
One day on Hawthorne, he saw that someone had knocked over the newspaper boxes in front of Bagdad Theater, leaving a mess of newspapers strewn across the sidewalk and in the street. He walked over and started picking them up. A person sitting at a table put down his beer to help. The traveler asking for change in front of the building got up to help. The three found a business with a recycling bin to toss the papers. When DeLand walked back along the stretch, people at the tables outside the Bagdad raised their beers.
“We brought a scalpel to this broad brush problem—that’s the change we made this year. We dealt with people on an individual basis, with the families they create for themselves, with tribes, as they call themselves.”
DeLand pointed to an example another speaker had, of a sign on the porch saying, “If you’re going to sleep here, please leave by dawn and clean up after yourself”; people have done just that. “That’s the experience we’ve had with people,” he said.
“That’s the vast majority of people. If you present the issues and how they can help, they’ll be responsive to that. Only a handful of people haven’t been,” he said.
He pointed to the Waterfront Park cleanup, when 100 travelers worked shoulder-to-shoulder to clean up garbage in the park.
“Invite them to be part of the solution rather than being part of the problem, and they’ll jump at the opportunity.”
Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick Mark Fulfilled 'Back-to-Basics' Promise
MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2014 — Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick on Monday announced they had bested their “back-to-basics” promise, with more than 100 miles of streets paved in one year.
“We paved a lot of streets with a limited amount of money,” said Hales, standing in front of the paver that will complete the city’s 104th paved mile of 2013-14 alongside the Lloyd Center MAX tracks. “The bad news is, to keep this up we need new revenue for our transportation system. Our mindset needs to be taking care of what we have by investing in what we need in order to build world-class neighborhoods.”
Portland Bureau of Transportation spent $11 million paving 100 miles; 53 miles were treated with fog seal and 47 miles with grind-and-pave. Low-traffic streets, such as residential streets around schools, were treated with the less pricey fog seal, and high-traffic streets were ground down and repaved.
Before the mayor took office, only around 30 miles of streets were repaved annually. Hales and Novick, Transportation commissioner, last year vowed to get “back-to-basics,” with city government taking care of its assets.
Streets are like teeth, Novick said Monday: Just as brushing is a lot cheaper than a root canal, maintaining streets as they’re beginning to show signs of wear is a lot cheaper than rebuilding them.
Idaho Legislature passes gas tax increase; Portland should too
THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2015 — The Idaho Legislature has passed a gas tax increase, with a bipartisan coalition recognizing the tremendous need for funding to maintain roads and bridges. "If Idaho can do it, Oregon certainly should be able to," Mayor Hales said.
Like leaders across the country, Mayor Hales has been grappling with a lack of state and federal funding to maintain the city's largest asset -- its streets. He has asked the Oregon Legislature to index the state gas tax so that it keeps pace with maintenance needs (https://www.portlandoregon.gov/ogr/article/510982). Last week the mayor joined leaders across the country in a #StandUp4Transportation campaign, calling on Congress to adequately fund transportation.
But Mayor Hales predicts funding street safety and maintenance will fall to the local level: "I wish Congress would do its job. I wish they would pass a transportation reauthorization bill. I wish they would move the gas tax from where it’s been stuck for 21 years at 18 cents. That’s crazy. What did $0.18 buy 21 years ago versus now? Well, not as much asphalt. I can tell you that. So Congress is inert and running for cover, and those of us at the local level are going have to step up on this stuff."
Mayor, leaders across the country call on Congress to fund transportation
THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2015 — Last fall Mayor Hales talked with The Urbanophile about Portland, touching on the need for transportation funding. Mayor Hales has been grappling with a lack of state and federal funding to maintain the city's largest asset -- its streets. Now he is standing with leaders across the country to call for Congress to adequately fund transportation. #StandUp4Transportation
An excerpt from the interview: "I wish Congress would do their job. I wish they would pass a transportation reauthorization bill. I wish they would move the gas tax from where it’s been stuck for 21 years at 18 cents. That’s crazy. What did $0.18 buy 21 years ago versus now? Well, not as much asphalt. I can tell you that. So Congress is inert and running for cover, and those of us at the local level are going have to step up on this stuff." #MayorsDo
Mayors call for funding in #StandUp4Transportation campaign
Blumenauer Reintroduces Bill for Federal Gas Tax Increase
WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 4, 2015 — Congressman Earl Blumenauer today introduced the Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act, which would generate a much-needed $210 billion over the next 10 years for the nearly insolvent Highway Trust Fund.
“Rep. Blumenauer is once again pushing Congress to be the partner it’s supposed to be in transportation funding. Thank you, Earl, for your leadership,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “Portland has a $1.5 billion unfunded street liability. We need Congress and the Oregon Legislature to act — and to act at the city level — to take care of our largest asset.”
Congressman Blumenauer’s UPDATE Act would raise gas and diesel taxes by 15 cents over three years, indexing them to inflation. The $210 billion it would generate over a decade would be enough to make up the Highway Trust Fund shortfall and increase infrastructure investment by at least $4 billion per year.
States and cities need the certainty of a long-term reauthorization and a sustainable funding mechanism to create jobs, reduce congestion and repair roads and bridges, Mayor Hales says. Since the last full six-year surface transportation bill expired in 2003, Congress has passed 23 short-term extensions. The latest extension is set to run out at the end of May — on the eve of the summer construction season.
The president called for a 14 percent one-time tax on previously untaxed foreign income. That would generate an estimated $268 billion in revenue. The budget helps fund a six-year, $478 billion program for highway, bridge and transit projects; that’s a 33 percent increase in large-project funding and a 75 percent increase on transit.
In Salem, Gov. John Kitzhaber and Speaker Tina Kotek have prioritized transportation funding for the session, which started this week.
After putting street fund efforts on hold while transportation funding is considered in the Oregon Legislature, city leaders have asked the body to lift state pre-emptions that prohibit the city from raising revenue on vehicle registration and studded tires. They’ve asked for a regional gas tax; for the state to fix up orphan highways and deed them over; and for an increase in statewide gas tax. A gas tax increase will require 18 votes in Senate and 36 in House.
“Last year we dug down deep with the dollars we already had and paved more streets. We went from paving 30 miles per year to paving 100 miles per year with the money we already had,” Mayor Hales said. “Now we’re calling on Congress and the State Legislature to support our colleagues in funding transportation.”
Portland Transportation Leaders Pause Street Fund Vote as Legislature Crafts Transportation Bill
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 – Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick today temporarily halted the paperwork necessary to take an advisory vote to the May ballot, regarding options to pay for city street maintenance and safety.
"Today, I am announcing a pause in our local efforts to fund our streets and safety projects within the City of Portland," Mayor Hales said. "Over the past week, I have had conversations with Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and with Gov. John Kitzhaber. They have each assured me that a statewide transportation package is a top priority for them this legislative session."
The Legislature is set to convene in February. The deadline for Portland to submit paperwork for the May election was 5 p.m. today.
"Because they recognize the importance of efforts to fund transportation infrastructure, they will hear the needs of local governments and ensure they are part of state transportation conversations as they work to give communities the tools to build and maintain critical infrastructure," Hales said.
"We are pleased to know that the Legislature is very interested in a transportation funding discussion this year," Commissioner Novick said. "We have said all along that the street fund we have proposed will not address all our needs, and that we are counting on the state and federal governments to step up."
The city has conducted more than 14 months of hearings to craft a proposal to pay for street maintenance and safety.
"During the passionate conversations we have had in Portland regarding transportation funding, many options were discussed, none of which prove to be popular," Hales said.
"Some options were put forward by Portlanders that we do not have the authority to enact. As your mayor, I will go to Salem to seek that authority."
Hales said he also will enlist the aid of mayors throughout Oregon to push for more authority for cities. "Together, we can represent the needs of cities, all of which will benefit from new options to fund infrastructure at a time when the existing options don’t satisfy our communities," he said.
"The completion of this work comes when all three levels of government have acted; when Congress, the Legislature and the Portland City Council have all authorized new revenues to pay for streets and roads," Hales said. "This cooperation between the State of Oregon and local governments gives us, as Oregonians, the best way forward toward that objective."
Commissioner Novick announces two-part strategy to fund safety and maintenance
MONDAY, DEC. 29, 2014 -- As a year of debate over city transportation funding draws to a close, City Commissioner Steve Novick today announced a two-part strategy to ensure funding for transportation maintenance and safety priorities.
“We are proposing a revised residential user fee, with a hearing on January 8 at 6 p.m. and a vote scheduled for January 14. If that fails, either in Council or through a subsequent referral to the ballot, we will prepare to campaign for a progressive income tax in 2016,” Novick said. The proposed non-residential fee is unchanged.
The proposed user fee will vary by income, based on national statistics showing the extent to which gasoline consumption varies by income quintile. “Gasoline use is one proxy for ‘road use,’ and gasoline use varies somewhat by income level,” Novick said.
Under the proposed fee, tax filers in the lowest fifth of the income distribution would pay $3 a month; filers in the second fifth would pay $5 a month; filers in the middle fifth would pay $7.45 a month; filers in the second-highest fifth would pay $9 a month; and filers in the top fifth would pay $12 a month. The fee is projected to raise $23 million per year.
If the user fee fails, Novick said, he plans to propose a progressive income tax to be sent to the ballot in May or November of 2016. “What I would propose is an income tax that, for married filers, exempts the first $35,000 in income, and then applies graduated rates as follows: one-tenth of one percent of income between $35,000 and $60,000; two-tenths of one percent of income between $60,000 and $100,000; three-tenths of one percent of income between $100,000 and $250,000; and four-tenths of one percent of income above $250,000.” Such a tax is also projected to raise $23 million a year. That proposal includes a $5000 per dependent deduction and is tax deductible on the state and federal returns.
“My personal preference is for a progressive income tax, which is also the most popular option among Portlanders generally. But pursuing that option would involve a campaign that would not end until at least May, and possibly November of 2016 – which means postponing actual work to repair streets and make them safer. As the Mayor and I have repeatedly said, the longer we wait, the worse the problem gets. It seems possible that we could pass a user fee in Council that would not require a campaign, which would mean that we could get to work much sooner,” Novick said.
Table 1 shows the monthly fee that would be charged under the Residential Transportation User Fee. This proposal will be presented to the City Council at a public hearing Jan. 8.
Table 2 shows the monthly charge estimated for a residential income tax that may be introduced to voters if the Residential Transportation User Fee proposal is not approved.
Table 1: Residential Transportation User Fee proposal
Annual Income Range
Average Annual Gas Spending
>$13,000 - $27,000
>$27,000 - $46,000
>$46,000 - $82,000
Notes: Income ranges apply to single filers and married or joint filers. Average Annual Gas Spending is based on national averages calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics..
Mayor Talks to 'Think Out Loud' About Proposed Street Fund
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 19, 2014 -- Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick, in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, this afternoon talked about the street fund on OPB's "Think Out Loud" program.
They were joined by two vocal opponents of the proposal, which would use a small fee and modest income tax to generate about $46 million to repair streets and improve safety. One guest on the show, a woman who owns a business, said that although her fee would be $3 per month, she objects to the fund on principle.
Hales challenged the basis for opposition, saying the city needs to do this -- the street fund -- or do nothing, or do something else. Opponents were unable to offer alternate revenue-generating proposals.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 19, 2014 -- Mayor Charlie Hales last week talked to KATU News' "Your Voice Your Vote" program about the street fund, which will be heard at City Council tomorrow, Thursday, at 2 p.m.Hales tells the program: "Taxes aren’t popular. I want to remind people that we have a crumbling street system in the city of Portland. It’s been crumbling for decades. And we have three options: Do this. Do nothing. Or do something else."
Hales has heard from residents and businesses that the new street fund is a manageable solution. The fee for businesses and income tax for residents (starting at $5 per month for households with, after deductions, a $40,000 annual income) will cover basic maintenance and paving (56 percent) and basic safety, such as building sidewalks (44 percent). Hales emphasized that the fund is only a start: "We also need state and federal governments to step up and raise revenue."
Why push is the mayor pushing for this revenue? "It ought to be possible for children in Portland neighborhoods to walk to school on a sidewalk. That’s not true today. It ought to be possible to get across streets with heavy traffic, and right now that’s not the case. Last year, we had 35 Portlanders killed in traffic in a city that only had 16 homicides. Each of those people was lost to a Portland families. Safety is a big deal."
Council Hears Public Testimony on Revised Street Fund Proposal
MONDAY, NOV. 10, 2014 – After months of public input, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick proposed a Portland Street Fund that will more than double the City’s pavement maintenance budget.
The Street Fund investments also will make it safer for children to walk to school and for seniors to walk to transit stops, by filling in missing sidewalks and making crossing improvements at dangerous intersections.
The Portland City Council will conduct a first reading and public hearing on the proposal at 2 p.m., Nov. 20 at City Council Chambers. A second reading and vote are expected at 10 a.m., Dec. 3.
The fund will provide about $15 million per year for preventive maintenance for street pavement in the first three years – investments that are estimated to prevent the need for more than $650 million in costly rebuilds, over a 10-year period.
“I had said: When it comes to street maintenance and safety, you can do this, do something else, or do nothing. And I wasn’t interested in ‘do nothing.’” Mayor Hales said. “These proposals come from community members who stepped up and designed a great plan.”
Individuals, meanwhile, will pay rates related to their ability to pay. For example, a couple making between $40,000 and $60,000 per year will pay $5 per month, while a couple making between $60,000 and $75,000 per year will pay $7.50 per month.
The Portland Street Fund results from the Our Streets PDX transportation funding conversation that started in January. The City Council considered a Transportation User Fee in May, but decided to seek more public input on ways to reduce charges for low-income residents and businesses, and provide a discount for non-profits.
The fund will allocate 56 percent of net revenue to maintenance, and 44 percent to safety projects, with the understanding that many projects accomplish both goals. Just under 40 percent of the first three years of safety improvements will be made in East Portland.
“Preventive maintenance saves money in the long run,” Transportation Director Leah Treat said. “The Portland Street Fund will provide $45 million in the first three years, and at that rate after 10 years, we can avoid spending more than $650 million in more expensive road rebuilds. Our crews are working hard to provide the right treatment at the right place, at the right time.”
Oregon League of Cities Op-Ed: Portland Prioritizes Maintenance, Safety Needs for Transportation
MONDAY, NOV. 3, 2014 -- Mayor Charlie Hales wrote about Portland's transportation needs in the Oregon League of Cities magazine, Local Focus. The issue was dedicated to transportation funding as a city issue.
"For too long, the streets of Oregon’s largest city have withered under the wear and tear caused by population growth and years of deferred maintenance. Now, almost half of our busiest streets are rated in “poor” or “very poor” condition. We still have many neighborhoods where people don’t feel safe walking to a bus for lack of sidewalks and safe crossings.
We’ve talked about this for decades here in Portland. And while we have talked, 28 other Oregon cities have enacted street fees.
The time has come for Portland to act.
And act we must, because as city government leaders across Oregon know, transportation funding has been short for decades. The last time the federal gas tax was raised, Beanie Babies were the popular toy. That was 1993, when the gas tax was increased to 18.3 cents per gallon. If it had been adjusted for inflation over the years, the U.S. gas tax would be 30 cents today.
Not only has the federal gas tax not kept up with inflation, it hasn’t kept up with the demands of technology and our growing population. An audit by Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office this summer reported the trend toward fuel-efficient cars is reducing the gas tax revenue traditionally used to pay for transportation. Young people are less interested in driving than prior generations. As our cities grow, people expect public transit and safe bicycle options to get where they need to go.
When Oregonians consume less gas, they pay less into the system that maintains the streets they rely on. The state constitution prohibits us from spending gas tax dollars on public transit and many of the other needs of modern cities. The city of Portland supported the Legislature’s approval of gas tax and vehicle registration increases in 2009. While helpful, the city’s share was just enough to cover the debt service on our contribution to replacing the Sellwood Bridge, a regional asset."
Street Fee Package Handed to Council; Mayor Comments
MONDAY, OCT. 13, 2014 -- Mayor Charlie Hales, following the street fee work session this afternoon, commented on the progress of the street fee:
"I appreciate all the work that was done this summer to really “Portland-ize” this street funding proposal. We have come away with a much better product than we started with — one that provides revenue for street maintenance and safety improvements without being overly burdensome.
I’ll emphasize that this package would pay PART of the cost of street maintenance. We’re still counting on the Oregon State Legislature to adopt a bill to help properly fund our roads. We’re still counting on the federal government to pass legislation to raise the gas tax. We’re hoping taking this action will inspire action by two other levels of government.
The street fee work has now been handed back to Council. While a few criteria need to be finalized, we are close to putting a proposal together that I believe emphasizes fairness, while starting the process of repairing our system.
Ultimately, it’s not going to be a perfect mechanism, but I knew that when we began. But we’re within striking distance of something that’s fair for all Portlanders and that begins the critical work of repairing our biggest city asset: our streets."
Chief of Staff talks Transportation Need in Portland
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 17, 2014 -- Gail Shibley, the mayor's chief of staff, at the Oregon Coast Economic Summit in August was interviewed about transportation needs in Portland -- how the mayor fulfilled the 100-mile paving promise, the street fee, and taking care of what we have and investing in what we need.
"In the city of Portland alone we have 56 miles of unpaved streets -- unpaved, nothing there, gravel. No sidewalks, no crossings for kids," Gail said. "Better streets are a real need -- a public safety need, a mobility need."
Congressman Calls on Mayor, Other Leaders Discuss Transportation Issues
TUESDAY, AUG. 5, 2014 — Mayor Charlie Hales on Monday joined some of the most influential leaders in transportation for in-depth discussion of funding streets, roads and highways at U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s “Forum on the Future of America’s Transportation Infrastructure.”
“Portland is in competition with other cities for quality of place — and other cities are being more aggressive, improving their streets, sidewalks, bikeways and public transportation,” Hales said. “When 40 percent of our streets are in ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ condition, we need to do something.”
Blumenauer organized the forum to discuss federal, state, regional and city transportation funding issues, and to brainstorm ways to pay for transportation infrastructure outside of federal funding. Leaders also discussed “climate smart” transportation planning, emphasizing sustainable modes of transportation that also reduce wear and tear on roadways.
Ultimately, leaders said, transportation improvements boil down to more revenue. Representatives from trucking and associated industries supported higher taxes to pay for infrastructure, which would benefit their industries in the long run. Likewise, Hales said, Portlanders and Oregonians paying for their streets and sidewalks today will have long-term payoffs.
“Right now we call our highways in this country ‘freeways,’” Hales said. “That’s unrealistic. We’re going to have to get used to paying as we go. It’s taking care of the infrastructure we have and investing in long-term growth.”
In other parts of the country, sales tax and highway tolls pay for transportation and other needs. With the federal Highway Trust Fund stagnant at 1993 funding levels and inadequate state gas tax revenue, Hales said, eventually that also will be Oregon’s reality.
“We’ve gotten used to a state of affairs that can’t last,” he said.
Community task forces are meeting this summer to help design the residential and non-residential fees. Council is slated to vote on the fee in November.
“It’s a clumsy method to raise revenue,” Hales said. “I’m open to other ideas that can raise the $53 million we need for streets. But so far, there hasn’t been a viable alternative.
“Streets are only getting worse. There are unpaved gravel roads in the city limits,” he added. “Potholes are driving neighborhoods crazy. Kids in some neighborhoods don’t have proper sidewalks or crosswalks. We need revenue to address these problems.”
Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick Agree to Pull Back Charter Amendment; Push Forward with Street Fee in 2015
THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2014 – A proposed change to the city charter from Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick, designed to lock in the use of the proposed street fee for maintenance and safety, will be pulled off the table.
“The issue was confusing to people,” Hales said. “We listened to hours of testimony. We’ve received hundreds of emails and calls. Local media claim it confuses them. We’re listening. If the charter change is muddying the real message – that we must take care of our streets – then we’ll take it off the table.”
Hales and Novick have held 10 town hall meetings and have discussed a street fee at many City Council meetings this spring and summer. In 2012, Hales ran on making street maintenance a priority. And he’s talked about it since arriving in office 18 months ago.
“The independent auditor tells us we need more than $75 million per year to take care of the largest thing we own: our streets. We haven’t even gotten close to that. Our streets are in disrepair, the state and federal governments are not going to swoop in with a more robust gas tax to save us. It’s up to us.”
Hales and Novick are committed to ensuring that revenue from any new funding mechanism would be dedicated to improving the maintenance and safety of our city’s transportation network, including paving and sidewalks. The charter amendment that would go to voters in November is one way of codifying that commitment.
But residents who attended town halls, or who contacted the mayor’s office, have said the proposal is confusing.
“We don’t want any confusion on this: We have not taken care of our streets; we have to turn that around; we don’t have the millions-per-year necessary now to do it; no one else is going to do this except us; we need a street fee,” Hales said. “None of that has changed. We’re told that the charter amendment was adding confusion. So we’ll take that off the table for now, until we’ve reached a consensus on a funding proposal.”
Work groups will be created this summer to examine the best way to enact a residential fee and a non-residential fee. All meetings will be open to the public.
Hales and Novick expect a council vote on the transportation fee by this fall. It is expected to be enacted by July 2015.
Hundreds Line Up to Speak at 10th Street Fee Hearing
THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2014 – An estimated 120 people jammed into a community space at Kaiser Permanente Interstate on Wednesday to express their views on the proposed city street fee. Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioner Steve Novick and Leah Treat, director of the city Transportation Bureau, sat through more than two hours of emotional testimony.
The street fee has been proposed by Hales and Novick to address the backlog of maintenance and safety repairs to the city’s streets. Historic funding mechanisms – federal and state gas tax – have become woefully inadequate in the 21st century.
“Our options are to do this, to something else, or to do nothing,” Hales said, noting that more than 40 percent of the city’s streets are rated at “poor” to “very poor” condition. “Frankly, ‘doing nothing’ is not an option. I refused to leave this to our children and our grandchildren to pay for.”
Treat said the city formerly had repaired about 30 miles of street per year. Last year, Hales and Novick vowed to repair 100 miles – of the estimated 5,000 lane-miles owned by the city.
Transportation crews will hit the 100-mile mark within a week.
“At this rate, it would take 48 years to repair all our roads,” Treat said.
Hales and Novick are proposing a street fee for residents and non-residents, to begin in July 2015. They have held 10 public hearings on the topic. Work groups for both the residential and non-residential will be formed this summer. All meetings will be open to the public.
“Nobody wants fees,” Hales said. “We hear you. But our largest asset is our streets. The feds won’t bail us out. The state won’t bail us out. It’s up to us.”
Street Fee: Residents Sound Off at Town Hall
TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014 — Business owners expressed their concerns, complaints, and support for a street fee Tuesday morning at the Oregon Convention Center during the ninth town hall addressing the mechanism proposed to improve Portland’s streets and sidewalks.
The transportation user fee would raise around $53 million annually for street maintenance, safety and projects, such as paving gravel roads — less than the billion dollars in need, but enough to prevent street maintenance from becoming cost prohibitive in the future.
“We have not taken care of our largest asset: our streets,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “If we do nothing, your children and your grandchildren will get the bill. And it will be much, much higher than it is today. We cannot do nothing.”
Mayor Hales, Commissioner Steve Novick and Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat noted people’s concerns about the flawed trip-generator model and regressive nature of the fee, as well as some suggestions for alternate sources of revenue — a 40-cent higher gas tax, tax on studded tires, and a sales tax. Some business owners asked to broaden the scope of the fee to raise more revenue.
Most of the 30 speakers acknowledged a need to improve streets; one speaker read a news story about potholes in Southwest Portland, and several business owners said they were aware that better streets and sidewalks are good for business.
The town hall drew about 140 people. A 10th town hall to discuss the residential fee will be Wednesday, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Kaiser Permanente’s Town Hall, 3704 N. Interstate Ave.
Street Fee Town Hall Moves to Larger Venue
JUNE 20, 2014 – With higher-than-expected interest in the transportation funding proposal, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has decided to relocate Tuesday’s town hall to the Oregon Convention Center, Portland Ballroom 255.
The event is free and open to the public. The Tuesday meeting is intended to focus on how the transportation fee would work for businesses, non-profits and other non-residential land uses. Participants are encouraged to discuss ways improve the proposal or suggest alternative ways of raising money for transportation safety and maintenance. A Wednesday night meeting will focus on the fee for households.
“Portlanders are passionate about participating in local government,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “We welcome ideas about how they want to improve the transportation fee, or alternative proposals on par with the $53 million it would raise. There’s no question we need to invest in basic transportation maintenance and safety.”
The Tuesday event is the first of two town halls coming up:
Town Hall on Business and Non-Residential Fee: 8 to 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 24, at Oregon Convention Center, Portland Ballroom 255, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Directions and visitor info.
Town Hall on Residential Fee: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 25, at Kaiser Permanente’s Town Hall, 3704 N Interstate Ave.
The town hall meetings will provide an opportunity for the public to speak with transportation staff, ask questions and make comments to Mayor Hales, Commissioner Steve Novick and Transportation Director Leah Treat.
The City Council delayed the proposal June 4, after five months of Our Streets PDX town halls, online surveys, advisory committee meetings and a five-hour public hearing May 29. Two upcoming town halls will kick off the next phase of outreach through October, designed to gather input to address the needs of businesses, non-profits and low-income households.
For more information about the Our Streets PDX funding conversation and the proposed Transportation User Fee, see the project web page: www.ourstreetspdx.com.
See updated information on the proposed fee the council amended May 29:
Updated online calculator: PBOT has updated an online calculator that estimates the monthly fee for residential and non-residential ratepayers. PBOT has updated the web calculator from the proposed $11.56 fee to the 3-year phase-in starting at $6 a month for single-family properties.
Street Fee: Council Vote Delayed, but Not Fee Itself
TUESDAY, JULY 3, 2014 -- The proposal by Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick to launch a street fee in 2015 remains on schedule. However, the council vote on how to structure the fee will be pushed back until November.
"We have not taken care of our largest asset: our streets. We have to change that," Mayor Hales said. "We’ve been talking about this for 13 years, and we held several town halls this winter and spring to hear from people. Despite that, many constituents still haven’t been heard yet. We get that. Postponing the Council vote will give people time to weigh in on whether this is the best solution to this dire need, and to consider changes to make it work better."
"The last street fee proposal in 2008 was derailed by a lobbyist filing a referendum petition," said Commissioner Novick. "This one has been temporarily delayed due to concerns voiced by small business owners and low-income people and advocates. We are in a hurry to get to work, but if we’re going to be delayed, it’s for the right reasons."
The City Council on Wednesday will still vote on referring a charter change that would lock in the use of any street fee for transportation purposes. "Voters need to be assured that we will spend this money the way we say we will," Hales said. "A charter change will ensure that we stay true to that commitment, administration after administration."
However, the council vote on both the residential fee, and the non-residential fee, will be pushed back to November.
Further public forums will be scheduled to hear from residents and the business community.
And two work groups will be formed. Their charges:
● To analyze city policy regarding low-income residents and fees. The work group will look at the street fee as well as fees for other city utilities, including water and sewer, to see how well low-income residents are being served and how widely discounts can be applied.
● To further engage with small business, nonprofit and government partners on design and implementation of the fee.
"Think of this as a track race," Hales said. "We haven’t moved the finish line, which is July 2015. But we’re moving the starting blocks. We heard from the community: We are taking our time to hear a more robust debate on the details of this fee. But we have not wavered in our resolve. It is our intention to finally address our deteriorating streets."