May 29, 2014 | Portland Mercury-- Commissioner Steve Novick announced this morning he supports Mayor Charlie Hales' plan to split up their proposed "transportation user fee"—moving forward on an $11.56 monthly fee for most homeowners, but pulling back on a fee for businesses—but with a pledge to scrap the whole idea if both pieces aren't in place by November 14.
The slowdown follows a swift and apoplectic backlash among business owners in the week since the road maintenance and safety fee was formally announced last Thursday. Opposition from big business lobbyists, like the Portland Business Alliance, was expected. But far more surprising was fury from small businesses and nonprofits, some of whom faced the possibility of paying thousands of dollars a year. In all, the fee could raise up to $50 million a year.
Beyond the obvious sticker shock, many complained the city's fee calculators for helping businesses estimate monthly payment, based on how many trips generated, were imprecise and opaque—and even altogether flawed. That sustained outcry, coming in wave after wave of calls and emails, resonated with the mayor and Novick, forcing their hand just hours before a public hearing on the proposal at 2 this afternoon.
The proposed pullback was first reported last night by Willamette Week. Looming over all of this is the serious fear opponents of the fee will be seriously motivated try to refer it to the ballot. Mollifying the business community and prolonging the debate seems to be a good way to sap some of that energy.
"This does not mean that we are planning to have a fee for residents but no fee for businesses," Novick says in his announcement today. "In fact, we are putting language in the residential fee ordinance that says that if the council does not pass a nonresidential fee by this November, the residential fee will be cancelled. Both residential and nonresidential users would start paying as of July 2015. But we do think there is reason to do more work on the business/nonresidential fee."
According to the Oregonian this morning, the plan to split the street fee will pass muster with Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the swing vote Novick and Hales need READ FULL ARTICLE