May 22, 2014 | Willamette Week-- Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick will try to charge Portland households $138.72 a year without taking their "street fee" proposal to voters, they announced this morning.
The fee, which City Council will vote on June 4, is expected to raise $40 million in the first year for city transportation projects, with proceeds rising as high as $50 million. But city officials still haven't decided how they will collect it.
The announcement confirms that Hales and Novick will attempt to avoid placing the fee on the November ballot. Instead, they will try to put up a political shield against a ballot referral by asking voters to approve restrictions on how the money can be spent—on road maintenance and transportation safety.
Hales and Novick announced what they dubbed a "transportation user fee" at a press conference by turns apologetic and defiant.
"None of us want to be doing this," Novick said. "If the voters are really mad at us, we're both up for reelection in 2016, and they can throw us out."
The fee, which Hales and Novick have been shopping for months, will charge low-income households $97.08 a year. It offers further discounts for people living in apartment buildings.
The proposal also creates a sliding fee scale for businesses, nonprofits, churches and other governments—some of whom could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. (Parking lots and railway yards get the only exemptions, which would pacify downtown land owner Greg Goodman and railroad giant Union-Pacific.)
"We think this is the least obnoxious option," Hales said.
The mayor said he didn't know if business interests would refer the fee to the ballot, as they did to scuttle a similar proposal by Sam Adams in 2008.
"I think they understand that the problem is not going away, " Hales said. "We're all in this together. Any of us can see the problem, even if we're not happy about the solution."
The proposal needs three votes on City Council. Commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman have said they'll vote no, leaving Commissioner Amanda Fritz as the tiebreaker.
Hales said this morning he believes he has secured Fritz's support. But she did READ FULL ARTICLE