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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

Sidewalk safety projects underway in East Portland

The other week, we didn’t have our usual City Council session, so I had some unscheduled time. I decided to spend a couple of hours touring some ongoing (or recently completed) sidewalk and safety projects in East Portland. I spend a lot of time hearing about and talking about and trying to do something about the gaps in our pedestrian network; I decided it would be nice to see some of the work that the Bureau of Transportation has been able to do with the limited resources it has. 

The first project I visited Wednesday was on 102nd from Glisan to Burnside. This project will widen sidewalks in a high pedestrian zone in Gateway – so that, for example, two wheelchair users could safely pass each other. It will also bring a rapid flash beacon to the crossing at NE Davis and 102nd. These sidewalks will provide a safer route for families and students who walk from the bus and MAX to the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)’s services.

I had a chance to meet with Hollie Berry, who was obviously proud of her work in Gateway, and told me that she was also responsible for constructing the Cully Boulevard Green Street Project, the first cycle tracks project in Portland ever.

The second project I went to visit on Wednesday was on 136th. A new six foot sidewalk was placed where there had been no sidewalks before along 136th from Foster Road to Division. A four foot planting strip and street trees will also be added as part of the streetscape.

As we were walking along, one of the residents, Betty Snorgrass, came out to tell us how what a difference the sidewalk had made.  She said that she now sees neighbors whom she hadn’t seen in years come walking down the new sidewalk. (Ms. Snorgrass was so excited about the sidewalk that she actually called KATU Channel 2 a few months ago to talk about it; she told them "I am tickled pink that they're getting this done." Her son told them, “This news is worth sharing. These are not just sidewalks that are being built, they represent accessibility for the disabled, safer routes for children to get to school, and more customers for our neighborhood businesses."

I was very, very glad that I had the chance to spend a couple of hours that way. I’ve been beaten up pretty good recently about the street fee proposal. But it’ll all be worth it if at the end of the day, we’ll be able to give PBOT employees like Hollie the resources they need to do more projects that make Portlanders like Betty Snorgrass that happy. 

New survey provides further information for transportation funding working groups

July 17, 2014— A new survey provides some additional information on Portlanders’ attitudes about transportation funding options for the citizen working groups the City has convened to advise the City about funding mechanisms to address its significant transportation needs. 

"Some business owners were concerned that the proposed non-residential fee, based on trip generation, didn't take into account the profitability of the business. So we tested people's attitudes toward increasing the tax on business profits," said City Commissioner Steve Novick. "The most common concern we heard about the residential fee was that it was regressive. So we tested new versions of a progressive income tax. We also tested a revised version of a sales tax, combined with a business profits tax," Novick said. 

The survey, conducted by DHM Research on June 19 through 22, tested separate sets of 300 voters on each of 4 funding options. It found that: 

  • Portlanders were closely divided – 47% yes, 48% no - on the idea of raising the city tax on business profits to 4% from its current rate of 2.2%. (That option would raise the entire $53 million annual goal set by the Mayor and Commissioner Novick.) 
  • They supported, by 50% to 45%, the idea of an income tax of one-quarter of one percent on incomes below $100,000; 1% on the amount of income between $100,000 and $250,000; 2% on the amount of income between $250,000 and $500,000; and 3% on income above $500,000.
  •  And, Portlanders supported, by a margin of 60% to 37%, the idea of an income tax of 1% on incomes above $125,000, 2% on income above $250,000, and 3% on income above $500,000. 
  • The survey also tested the concept of combining a smaller increase in the business profits tax (to 3.1%) with a sales tax of one-quarter of one percent that would exclude uncooked food and have a rebate for low-income people. Portlanders disapproved of that option by a margin of 59% to 36%. 

Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick have set $53 million as a target for a new transportation funding mechanism. When we asked the State Legislative Revenue Office (LRO) for a rough estimate of the revenue that could be generated by these income tax options, LRO indicated that the “$125,000 and up” option would likely raise an amount in the $50-$55 million range and the option including an 0.25% rate on incomes under $100,000 would likely raise an amount in the $60-$65 million range. 

Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick have called for a transportation funding mechanism that splits the responsibility for new revenue between businesses and residents.  Therefore, if the working group recommends and the City moves forward with one of the income tax options, the rates outlined above will likely be halved to yield the goal amount from residential payers. In that case, the first option above would be adjusted to become an income tax of 1/8 of 1% on incomes below $100,000, ½ of 1% on income between $100,000 and $250,000, 1% on income between $250,000 and $500,000, and 1.5% on income above $500,000. The second option would be adjusted to an income tax of ½ of 1% on income between $125,000 and $250,000, 1% on income between $250,000 and $500,000, and 1.5% on income above $500,000.

LRO used Oregon taxable income (not gross income) as the basis for its rough estimates. LRO said that a couple making $60,000 in gross income, with a typical amount of deductions, would likely pay about $50 a year – or slightly over $4 a month – under an income tax rate of 1/8 of 1%.

Novick said that he expected the working groups to take the information - as well as previous surveys - into account as they work to develop modifications or alternatives to the transportation user fee Mayor Hales and Novick had proposed. "One message I take from the survey is that a sales tax is unacceptable to such a large percentage of Portlanders that we can safely say that's off the table," Novick said.


Parallels between baseball and crime

As a good baseball fan, I tend to believe that baseball explains everything. For example, I think the decline in American living standards that began in 1973 is in part directly attributable to the adoption of the designated hitter rule in the American League. Whatever supernatural forces exist in the world clearly want pitchers to hit. They decry extreme specialization and enjoy the double shift.

But you don't have to be a dues-paying member of what Susan Sarandon called the Church of Baseball to notice some really interesting parallels between baseball and crime.

Over the past twenty years, there has been a dramatic drop in crime throughout the United States (Canada too, actually). There is now a pretty compelling chemical explanation for that phenomenon: the elimination of lead from gasoline. Lead damages aspects of the brain that are highly relevant to criminal behavior - like impulse control. As Kevin Drum pointed out in a February 2013 Mother Jones article, the lead theory is the one theory that explains both the increase in crime in the '60s through '80s and the subsequent decrease: there was an explosion of automobile traffic in the decades after World War II, exposing more and more children to lead; then, in the '70's, we started to phase out lead in gasoline, and twenty years later, crime started to drop.

Meanwhile, in the '90s, there was an explosion of offense in baseball, and there is, as you may know, a chemical explanation for that, too. A large number of players started taking steroids.

In the past few years, baseball has finally taken steps to get steroids out of the game, and offensive production has gone down. Just like getting lead out of the air caused crime to go down.

But this year, offensive production in baseball has gone down even further, to levels not seen since the early '70s. One compelling explanation is that baseball teams have dramatically increased their use of an old, but traditionally seldom-used strategy: Shifting the infield around based on the tendency of a particular hitter to hit the ball to certain areas.

As David Waldstein explains in a May 2014 New York Times article, this strategy has been used for decades - but very sparingly. In the past few years, however, more and more teams have realized that pretty much every hitter has his own tendencies - so why not place your fielders to anticipate those tendencies? The turn-of-the (19th / 20th) century Baltimore Oriole Wee Willie Keeler used to say that the key to success as a hitter was to, "Hit 'em where they ain't." Today's managers are turning that on its head. They have decided to "play 'em where they hit."

Why is this relevant to crime? Because, as researcher Cody Telep told the Portland City Council last year, crime tends to be very concentrated in particular locations. Innovative police forces have realized that the best way to deploy officers is to have them spend time in those particular locations. The Portland Police Bureau has now taken some steps toward adopting that strategy.

Based on this year's batting averages, the Portland Police Bureau should double down on that strategy. After all, it appears that once you've dealt with the dangerous chemicals in both baseball and crime, an old saying from another industry is equally relevant: It's all location, location, location.

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Meet the Intern, Zachary Cross

Zach is a SummerWorks intern who is ecstatic about his position in Commissioner Novick’s office. Zach is currently a sophomore at the University of Oregon and is aiming for a Business major, with a focus in advertising and marketing. After graduating from Central Catholic High School in 2012, Zach worked at a Chevron gas station, which has taught him mannerism, patience, and to respect all kinds of people. Zach is capable of interacting sufficiently with others and will do whatever it takes to get the job completed.

Zach is an active member in his community, participating in volunteer activities such as serving lunch at the Blanchet House, interacting with participants in the Nike Special Olympics, and is also a current volunteer at The Salvation Army. Zach enjoys helping his community and is willing to give his time in order to see the community prosper.

Throughout Zach’s life he has been blessed with many opportunities and plans to take full advantage of the chances he is given. His grandfather always told him “To whom much is given, much is expected” and Zach plans to follow this quote throughout his career. While interning this summer, Zach plans to gain experience involving politics and business, create relationships that will benefit him in the future, and enhance his professionalism.

In his free time, Zach enjoys playing basketball, listening to music, drawing, and traveling the country. Zach has visited over 15 states, and plans to travel more, when given the opportunity.

Know when and when not to call 9-1-1 this Fourth of July

July 4th is typically one of the busiest days of the year for 9-1-1 call volume. On any given day, the Portland 9-1-1 Center processes more than 3,000 9-1-1 and Public Safety Non-Emergency calls. On July 4th, that number increases exponentially. You can help ensure that first responders arrive quickly in real emergencies by knowing when you should and should not call 9-1-1.

9-1-1 telecommunicators also answer the Public Safety Non-Emergency phone lines. What does this mean? When you call 9-1-1 or the Public Safety Non-Emergency number (503-823-3333), you may wait on hold for someone to answer. The 9-1-1 Center ALWAYS prioritizes 9-1-1 calls, and you can help by only calling 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Whether something is an emergency or not is determined by a danger to life or property. If it is not happening right now, it is more than likely not an emergency.

Please do not dial 9-1-1 to report fireworks unless there is an active fire hazard; examples of active fire hazards include aerial fireworks that have caught a roof on fire and fireworks shot directly at a person. Instead, help keep your neighborhood safe by reporting non-emergency illegal firework activity by calling the Non-Emergency number at 503-823-3333.