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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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Council Holds Work Session on How to Make Heaviest Trucks Pay Fair Share

As we seek adequate funding for street repair and traffic safety, one question we need to address is, “how do we make sure that heavy trucks pay their fair share?” The City Council will hear ideas on how to answer that question in a work session this Thursday, April 7th at 2:00 p.m.

When I proposed that we send a gas tax to the voters (as we now have), I was warned that the heavy trucks that are engaged in interstate travel could avoid the tax by simply skipping the only truck stop in Portland and filling up somewhere else. So I decided that we should have a separate tax or fee that applies the heavy trucks have to pay – a tax that they cannot avoid simply by skipping a truck stop.  The State actually does the same thing: trucks over 26,000 pounds do not pay state fuel taxes, but pay a “weight-mile” tax instead.

We could try to have a local “weight-mile” tax, but the City of Eugene studied that issue extensively some years ago, and concluded it would very difficult to administer. So we are considering other options, which will be described in the work session.

One option would be to apply what is called a “load fee” to diesel fuel when it is removed from the huge fuel tanks on the Willamette River. The fuel from those tanks is distributed throughout the region, so any truck that buys fuel in the region would wind up paying the fee.

Another option would be to have a surcharge on the City’s business income tax that would apply only to businesses, registered to do business in Portland, that have heavy trucks that pay the weight-mile tax.

The Thursday work session will include descriptions of both of these options, plus a presentation from ECONorthwest on how to determine what the trucks’ “fair share” really is.

Make no mistake: We will make sure the heavy trucks pay their fair share. The only question is what methodology we will use. 

NEWS ADVISORY: Com. Novick and local leaders highlight recent Vision Zero, transportation safety improvements in East Portland and call for increased caution by all road-users

(April 5th, 2016)— Transportation Commissioner Novick, Representatives Fagan, Reardon, and Vega Pederson and East Portland leaders join the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and Portland Police Bureau for a crosswalk education and enforcement action at the intersection of 151st Avenue and SE Stark on Thursday, April 7th, 2016 at 9:00 AM.

The action will highlight the completion of several East Portland crossing improvements. The site is one of 16 rapid flash beacons newly constructed and activated in East Portland. Planning, design, and construction was made possible with $1.9 million secured by Representative Fagan and her legislative colleagues in the 2014 legislative session.

“As Commissioner in Charge of the Bureau of Transportation, safety is my highest priority,” says Commissioner Novick. “Every Portlander deserves a safe way to walk or bike to school or work. By partnering with our legislative leaders and local advocates, like the East Portland Action Plan, we’re able to leverage resources and prioritize new safety improvements that will make crossing the street safer and easier. We also need individuals to take personal action by remaining attentive to all users of our streets.”

PBOT encourages everyone to exercise care and caution when walking, biking and driving. Both drivers and pedestrians should remain alert and watch for people in crossings and drivers that may be turning onto or from 151st Avenue. Each crosswalk education and enforcement action involves a pedestrian decoy positioned at an unmarked, or in this case, marked crosswalk while police monitor how people driving, biking and walking adhere to traffic safety laws. Drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk or pedestrians who jaywalk may be issued a warning or citation by the Portland Police Bureau.

Education and enforcement actions are a key part of the City of Portland’s citywide effort to reach its Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries. During the education and enforcement action, police officers and PBOT staff will remind drivers to stop appropriately for pedestrians in the crossing and encourage people walking to cross at the corner and, when available, utilize rapid flash beacons to alert drivers to yield to pedestrians.

Following the crosswalk education and enforcement action, Commissioner Novick will be joined by Representatives Fagan, Reardon, and Vega Pederson for a press conference beginning at 9:30 AM. Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat will participate in the press event. Also joining will be Linda Bauer, current co-chair of East Portland Action Plan’s (EPAP) Land Use and Transportation Committee (LUTC), long time advocates for the safety improvements. The project implements safety improvement recommendations from the East Portland in Motion (EPIM) Plan, which the East Portland Action Plan strongly advocated for. Invited guests also include Oregon Walks and Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets.

The new rapid flash beacons come a year after the City of Portland adopted Vision Zero, a traffic safety initiative that rejects the notion that traffic crashes are simply “accidents,” but instead preventable incidents that can and must be systematically addressed.

Crosswalk education and enforcement actions are an effective way to communicate traffic laws to people driving, walking and biking. The transportation and police bureaus conduct education and enforcement actions throughout the year in response to requests by community members, city traffic safety engineers, and Portland Police to educate the general public on the rules at marked and unmarked crossings.

To find out more about PBOT's safety work and Vision Zero initiative-- PBOT's goal of making our transportation system the safest possible and moving towards zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2025-- visit There, you can learn more about rights and responsibilities for safely crossing a street and view the results of previous crossing education and enforcement actions

Contact: Bryan Hockaday
Office of Commissioner Novick
Office: 503-823-8701


City of Portland looking for your views on the Portland Harbor Superfund site cleanup

Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will announce a proposed plan to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site in the Willamette River north of downtown Portland, a process that will affect all Portlanders.

Once the proposed plan is released, the City will submit a formal response. In preparation for that response, the City wants to hear from you. Please take a moment to share and your priorities and values for the cleanup of the Portland Harbor site through an online survey at Oregon’s Kitchen Table.

This anonymous survey, developed with the help of key stakeholders, is your opportunity to share what you value most about the cleanup. The survey will be open through March 31. After it closes, responses will be compiled by Oregon’s Kitchen Table, and results will be shared with the community later this spring.

If you can’t take the online survey, you can call Sarah Giles at 503-725-5248 to request a hard copy to fill out and return. The survey is available in five languages.

After the survey closes, the public will also be able to participate in EPA’s public comment period this spring. EPA’s record of decision, the final cleanup plan, is expected this December.

BOEC dispatcher wins funding to help sick and injured animals

Virginia Krakowiak, a senior dispatcher at the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), answers 9-1-1 calls and sends fire, police, and medical first responders to help people. BOEC calltakers also regularly receive concerned calls about sick or injured animals. Krakowiak noticed that she and other 9-1-1 staff have very limited options for these calls, and she recognized another opportunity to help. She developed a successful proposal for the City’s Innovation Fund to create OCCRA: On Call Community Rescue for Animals. Today, City Council approved the $20,000 proposal. As Commissioner in charge of BOEC, I am thrilled to congratulate Virginia on her successful application to the City’s Innovation Fund. Her commitment to BOEC and helping sick and injured animals exemplifies the best of public service.

Today, when someone calls 9-1-1 because they see a sick or injured animal, they are told to contact Multnomah County Animal Control from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outside of those hours, there aren’t any resources available to help wild animals unless the animal is causing a road hazard or the individual is willing to pay out of pocket for a private contractor to respond. Krakowiak’s proposal addresses this problem by engaging a network of trained volunteers who respond to injured or lost wild animals, provide care to animals, and provide transport to appropriate rescue, shelter, or sanctuary. The twelve month, $20,000 grant will pay for pagers; rescue kits, crates and other similar equipment; and volunteer medical insurance coverage, as well as training. Because of this proposal, 9-1-1 dispatchers will be able to advise callers to contact OCCRA rather than law enforcement or animal control anytime between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.

It’s anticipated that the proposal will save law enforcement time and money because people will no longer request police response for calls about sick and injured wild animals. Krakowiak will voluntarily organize and run the program outside of her work hours. OCCRA will be available when equipment has been purchased and volunteers have been trained. Krakowiak has consulted Multnomah County Animal Services, Oregon Humane Society, and Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital about this proposal.

If you are interested in volunteering for OCCRA, please contact

Partnerships key to preparing for 'The Big One'

A recent guest column in The Oregonian/OregonLive questioned the City of Portland’s efforts to encourage residents to seismically retrofit their homes. I couldn’t disagree more.

For nearly a century and a half following Portland’s founding in 1851, residents remained blissfully unaware of the seismic danger to the region lurking off the Oregon coast. Homes and businesses, roads and bridges were constructed without a catastrophic Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake in mind. In the 1970s and 80s, this changed as scientists increased their understanding of the danger and building codes began to catch up. And thanks to the widely-read article in The New Yorker last summer, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Unprepared” series, and the efforts of scientists and emergency managers, the public is now more aware than ever that Portland is in earthquake country. Unfortunately the bulk of Portland’s building stock remains vulnerable to a major seismic event.

Getting our built infrastructure ready for the “Big One” requires approaching the issue on many fronts. We should look to adopting new policies and leveraging resources wherever they can be found, driven by a singular goal: saving lives when the ground starts shaking, and getting Portland up and running again as quickly as possible.

Key to achieving this outcome is ensuring Portland homes are safe and livable after a quake. There are an estimated 100,000 older single-family homes in the city limits built prior to 1974 potentially vulnerable and in need of a seismic retrofit. If residents are unable to stay in their homes, there is a legitimate concern they will be forced to move away in a disaster, as happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Although some can afford the typical $3,000-$8,000 retrofit cost, many cannot. The Oregon Resilience Plan– Oregon’s 50-year roadmap to prepare for a Cacsadia quake –identifies this issue and recommends the adoption of programs and incentives to encourage homeowners to retrofit their homes.

Last week, I was pleased to announce that Portland received a $500,000 FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant, thanks in part to the efforts of Congressman Earl Blumenauer and the other members of Portland’s federal delegation. We are fortunate to receive the award – in 2015, only $11 million was available nationally on a competitive basis. Fortunately, this pre-disaster competitive grant funding was increased to around $50 million in 2016, and I—along with Emergency Management Director Carmen Merlo— will go after every penny of available pre-disaster FEMA resources to help strengthen Portland’s natural and built infrastructure, including homes, businesses and institutions.

Building on a successful partnership between the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) and Enhabit (formerly Clean Energy Works), the pre-disaster grant funds will be available to fund some of the retrofit costs for 150 homeowners. These funds have long-term benefits not just to individuals (by improving the safety and resilience of their homes), but also to the City at large by increasing the number of residents able to remain in Portland after a quake and to FEMA by reducing the amount of money needed for disaster recovery. Ensuring a robust inventory of retrofitted homes is important in a region where housing is already in short supply. Unless we take action, an earthquake could exacerbate our existing housing crisis and force residents to move away.

Portland also needs to address the danger posed by nearly 1,800 unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs), often made of brick. URMs define the character and culture of many of our neighborhoods and business districts. Unfortunately they are also extremely vulnerable to seismic activity. My office has been working with PBEM, Portland Bureau of Development Services, Portland Development Commission, and other community stakeholders to come up with a mandatory URM retrofit policy to keep Portlanders safe, and also consider the historic nature of these buildings. Our neighbors in California have already taken on this problem; it is now time for us to do the same. I look forward to bringing a policy forward for Council to consider in the summer.

Although an enormous amount of work is still needed to prepare us for disaster, we now clearly understand the risk. Every structure built today is engineered for the Cascadia quake. Over time our infrastructure will gradually improve as buildings are upgraded and replaced. But the legacy of 150 years of construction still remains with us today. While we grapple with many important and pressing issues, we must also prioritize investments in Portland’s future by taking actions now to prepare for an earthquake.

Resilience should be seen as the ultimate indicator of Portland’s sustainability. I will continue to seek funding to help keep Portland standing strong after the Big One and continue this program to make it easier for Portlanders to retrofit their homes – especially those unable to pay the entire cost.