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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

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Lincoln on Government

by Steve Novick-- The following is adapted from a piece of mine that the Register-Guard was kind enough to print a few years ago:

Abraham Lincoln is, of course, best known as the first Presidential candidate to win Oregon. (As you know, we became a state in 1859 – and we made the right choice.) Then of course there was that whole business of freeing the slaves and winning the Civil War. But Abraham Lincoln should also be remembered as one of America’s most eloquent explainers and defenders of the role of government.

In a July 1854 essay, Lincoln wrote:

“Why … should we have government? Why not each individual take to himself the whole fruit of his labor, without having any of it taxed away?” He answered his own question: “The legitimate object of government, is to do for the people whatever they need to have done, but which they can not do, at all, or can not do, so well, for themselves – in their separate and individual capacities … There are many such things … roads, bridges and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools … the criminal and civil [justice] departments.”
In the same essay, Lincoln made this observation: “The best framed and best administered governments are necessarily expensive.” In other words: in government, as in life, you get what you pay for. That seemed obvious to Lincoln – but today, most supporters of government services would probably be too scared to be that blunt.

Lincoln’s views on taxation were somewhat out of sync with modern Republicanism; he thought that the wealthier members of society should pay a good deal of the cost of government. As President he enacted a progressive income tax. As an Illinois state legislator in 1839, he defended a proposed tax increase this way: “I believe it can be sustained, as it does not increase the tax upon the ‘many poor,’ but upon the ‘wealthy few.’”

He added, with a touch of mischief:

“The wealthy can not justly complain, because the change is equitable … If, however, the wealthy should, regardless of the justness of the complaint, as men often are, when interest is involved, complain of the change, it is still to be remembered, that they are not sufficiently numerous to carry the elections.”
Smart guy, that Lincoln.

Originally posted on on Feb. 12, 2009

Photo credit: Smithsonian

Portland's earned sick leave proposal moves forward

Yesterday, Council held a second public hearing about the earned sick leave proposal introduced by Commissioner Fritz in January.

Thanks to everyone for all the input I’ve received so far about the proposal. I also commend the work of the task force chaired by Commissioners Fritz and Saltzman. With help from the task force, business owners, employees, and others, I believe we've made some important technical changes that will limit the administrative burden for businesses while ensuring that workers are protected. It's time for the Council to act and ensure workers have the opportunity to earn sick days.

About 60% of Portland employers already offer paid leave to their employees, but for the other 40% of workers, catching the flu means deciding between working sick or foregoing pay to stay home. And those decisions are even harder for parents who must decide whether to stay home with a sick child.

During the public testimony yesterday, we heard stories from many people who have been forced to make these very difficult decisions. One person whose story stands out for me is Ian Rizzio, a PSU student working at a sandwich shop to make ends meet who got fired because he was sick at work. I encourage you to read his full testimony here.

Ian’s story is just one example of why the earned sick leave proposal is so important. Ensuring that workers can accrue and take sick days will help stop the spread of illnesses and add an important worker protection to those already in place. I look forward to voting for this common sense proposal.

Where the sidewalks end

Last Saturday, at the invitation of David Douglas School Board member Kyle Riggs, I (along with State Representative Shemia Fagan) walked the stretch of 136th where 5-year-old Morgan Cook was struck and killed on February 28. It is certainly a terrible stretch of road for pedestrians – and the spot where Morgan was struck was not even the most inherently dangerous place. For example, between Reedway and Ellis streets, on the west side of 136th the brush has grown right down to the roadway, so that there is not even a shoulder for anyone to walk along. A pedestrian would be forced to walk in the street.

We need sidewalks in East Portland, and I support completing the 136th avenue sidewalk project (which happens to be near, but not including, the spot where Morgan was struck) that PBOT recently proposed postponing. I understand that we need to maintain the roads, too, but pedestrians cannot be forgotten.

Sidewalks are expensive, though, so I realize we can’t put them everywhere we need them until we find new sources of money. But it seems to me that it can’t be too expensive just to clear out some blackberries, so at least people are able to walk on the side of the road instead of in the road. I have asked the Mayor’s office to talk to PBOT about prioritizing brush removal at spots like that stretch between Reedway and Ellis. 

Lunch with Commissioner Steve Novick!

Commissioner Steve Novick invites you to celebrate National Public Health Week by joining him for lunch on Thursday, April 4th, at noon.

Portland Public Health & Wellness Day
Date: Thursday, April 4th 2013
When: NOON-1:30PM
Where: City Hall Courtyard (1221 SW 4th Ave.)

City of Portland BHR, Benefits and Wellness Office
Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation
Urban League of Portland
American Diabetes Association


Portland Public Health & Wellness Day

You’re welcome to bring your well-balanced lunch to the City Hall Courtyard during your lunch break and take advantage of a free, preventative health screenings and other wellness resources.

 Staying healthy helps us each maintain a high quality of life, but controlling the cost of health care also matters to all of us as a community. Rising health care costs make it more and more expensive to do business in our community.

We can all do our part to help control costs by taking an active role in our own health and wellness. If you have any questions, please contact Bryan Hockaday in my office at or by calling 503-823-4682. I hope you see you Thursday!

 To good health!

Commissioner Steve Novick

City of Portland, Oregon