May 6, 2014 | Oregonlive.com-- The leader of Portland's largest chamber of commerce wants Commissioner Steve Novick to "slow down" his rapidly moving plans for a citywide street fee on households and businesses.
"We have some questions," said Sandra McDonough, president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, said of a proposal that could raise up to $53 million annually for safety and maintenance projects on city streets. "The biggest concern I hear is that it's moving very fast and that worries me."
McDonough made her comments as Novick prepares to bring his concept for an $8 or $12 monthly street fee to a City Council vote as early as next month. Both Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales have been talking about transportation funding for months, though the specific idea of a street fee only came to light in early April.
The support or opposition of the 1,700-member business alliance could play a major role in determining the fate of Novick's plan.
On Tuesday, McDonough asked Novick to slow down and allow "a discussion."
"On something of this magnitude there needs to be a broader civic discussion," McDonough said.
Novick said he has no problem talking to more business owners about the street fee, but he does think there is a need to act soon.
"We've got 14 years of lethargy on this to make up for," Novick said.
Novick, city transportation officials and Mayor Charlie Hales have held a rotating series of town hall meetings to discuss Portland's transportation maintenance backlog and the safety concerns throughout the city. In early April, citing a city-commissioned poll, Novick said he would "probably" support a street fee that would raise $34 million to $53 million annually from residents and businesses.
The scenarios include either an $8 or $12 monthly fee. Last year, Portland's elected auditor said that the city would need to spend $70 million annually for a decade on streets to make up for years of neglect.
Just last week, the Portland Bureau of Transportation issued an annual report showing that both neighborhood streets and heavily trafficked roads are in worse condition than the previous year. The PBA isn't ready to formally state a position either in favor or opposition of the fee, McDonough.
Novick wants a City Council decision by June in part to allow the street fee to go on the November ballot -- when turnout is usually high -- should council members decide to refer it to voters. He added that state and federal funding isn't going to READ FULL ARTICLE