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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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View More Would money from a street fee stay on the right road?

April 19, 2014 | "It's not that much, but it's a heckuva lot more than we're doing now," Portland Commissioner Steve Novick recently said of a potential street fee he's pushing to address the deferred maintenance of Portland's 5,000 miles of roads.

Portland is hosting four town halls — the first two were Wednesday and Thursday — to discuss the possibility of imposing an $8 or $12 monthly street fee on residents. And Novick held a press conference earlier this month discussing the latest results from a second DHM Research poll conducted this year on behalf of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The first survey focused on improvements residents hope to see on city roads.


This poll offered no real clarity, finding 47 percent of residents support an $8 monthly street maintenance fee, while 49 percent oppose it. A $12 monthly fee had 44 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed. While Novick's right that for most residents $8 or $12 a month isn't a lot, most people can add. And when you pile $8 on to the new arts tax, gas taxes, property taxes, state and federal income taxes and so on, it IS "that much."

Our tax burdens are so layered, they annoy, confuse and frustrate. And government prioritizing -- at city, state and national levels -- is absent. If it wasn't, we'd see needs met before wants. That isn't the case.

To be fair, paying for road repairs isn't easy. Federal gas taxes don't go toward city street maintenance and most of Portland's property taxes are dedicated to police service, fire protection and public parks. Complicating things more, the share of the city's county and state gas taxes are fading -- for many virtuous reasons. Novick said the poll did clearly show the street fee is the more preferable funding measure compared to an income tax, sales tax or bond measure.

An Andrew Theen story in The Oregonian earlier this month reported a DMH pollster saying that once respondents learned more about what the money raised would buy, support increased. But we're all aware that planning how to use money and actually using money for what is planned are two different things. The road to a street fee is paved with good intentions, shall we say. Residents are right to worry that road will soon be bumper-to-bumper with regret as another not-as-necessary, government-provided service or amenity is funded with the needed "street fee."

One of the rules I strictly adhere to is to trust ONLY those who prove trustworthy. And when Portland residents read about various urban development deals, red-light cameras unable to pay their own way because money is diverted from READ FULL ARTICLE