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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

Committed to improving safety on all our streets

"My heart goes out to the young cyclist involved in Sunday’s tragic crash and I commend the lifesaving efforts of first responders and medical professionals. As tragic as the incident is, it's unfortunately not a unique one. We have long known that crossing and signal improvements along Powell Blvd. could significantly improve the safety for everyone sharing the road, whether you’re driving, biking or walking. The City is committed to reaching our Vision Zero goals to move towards zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. I look forward to continuing to work with ODOT and I hope that these safety improvements will be prioritized, especially on crossings near schools."

Commissioner Steve Novick

Hales, Novick propose 120-day pilot program for taxis and Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies

(April 17, 2015) Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick today proposed a 120-day pilot program that will modernize for-hire transportation in Portland and ensure fair competition between all private for hire operators, including both taxis and Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The proposal builds on the recommendations by the Private for Hire Innovation Task Force, which Novick appointed in December to examine the issue and recommend how the City should modernize its regulations. Evolving consumer interests, population growth and a booming tourism industry have generated more demand for taxis and other for-hire transportation service. In addition, Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have emerged as a new model of for-hire transportation service.

Under the proposal by Hales and Novick, the City would lift the cap on taxi fares, so taxis and TNCs could both set their own fares without city regulation. Both taxis and TNCs would be required to provide service to people with disabilities, provide service 24 hours a day/seven days a week and certify that their drivers have passed City-approved background checks. The City will audit these records to enforce compliance. The resolution directs Transportation Director Leah Treat to create and sign an administrative rule launching the pilot program.

“This is a historic deal,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “We were able to move from confrontation to collaboration, with an open process and tough negotiations that have come up with a result that will improve our transportation system and creates a real win for consumers.”

“The existing taxi companies have had two lines of argument against the pilot. One is, simply, that they should be protected from competition in order to ensure a living wage for drivers and good service for people with disabilities. Given that our best information is that the average net hourly income of Portland taxi drivers is $6.22 an hour, and given the complaints people in the disability community have about taxi service, we are not entirely persuaded by that argument,” said Commissioner Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “But the other line of argument is that any competition needs to be fair competition. We agree with that, and in order to ensure fair competition, the proposed framework makes some changes to the task force’s recommendations – and underscores certain features of those recommendations that might not have been well understood.”

The Portland City Council is scheduled to conduct a public hearing and vote on the resolution by Hales and Novick (attached) on at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21. The hearing will be held at City Council Chambers, Portland City Hall, 1221 SW Fourth Ave.

Under the proposed framework:

  • The rules for fares will be the same for TNCs and taxis: The City will lift the cap on fares and, as always, have no minimum fare.
  • Background check requirements for taxis and TNCs will be the same. Both can use City-approved third-party background check providers and the City will audit random samples to enforce compliance.
  • Taxis and TNCs will implement service performance measures to ensure timely service for people with disabilities.
  • The TNC companies will not be allowed to pick up passengers until permits have been certified.
  • Taxis and TNCs will both be required to offer 24/7 service. Neither will be allowed to reject trip requests based on the shortness or length of the journey.
  • The City prohibits disclaimers of liability for negligence or other tortious conduct contained in Terms of Service and requires that all tort claims be governed by tort law in effect at the time of a claim.

The framework differs in some respects from the private for hire task force recommendations the City Council heard last week. It does not include a cap on taxi fares. It also includes specific language on TNCs’ legal liabilities.

The Task Force is recommending a two-phase approach, which still guides City action. Phase 1 includes a 120-day TNC pilot program, during which time market data will be collected and analyzed. During Phase 2, the Task Force will assess the market data and solicit public input that will inform recommendations for an overhaul to all of the City’s PFHT rules. The Task Force’s final report is expected this summer and will include recommendations for all modes of for-hire transportation, including taxicabs, TNCs, accessible for-hire transportation service, Limited Passenger Transportation companies, pedicabs and shuttles.

Hales and Novick thanked the Task Force for its recommendations, which were the basis for the resolution. “This task force did the City an incredible service by tackling these tough issues in a very tight timeframe,” Hales said.

“Thanks to the task force, the City Council can rest assured that our pilot program has been thoroughly vetted,” Novick said. “The task force did groundbreaking work, and I look forward to their report this summer on broader for-hire transportation issues.”

The City of Portland has been regulating private for hire transportation for more than a century, and that responsibility was moved in July 2014 from the Office of Management and Finance to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. For more information about private for-hire transportation, visit:

PFHT Innovation Pilot Program

To file a complaint about taxi service, call 503-865-2486 or email

Reno 9-1-1: Nurse Triage Edition

As you know, the United States spends far more on health care than other industrialized nations. That excess spending is a drag on our economy. So I see one of my jobs as a City Commissioner as looking for ways to reduce unnecessary medical spending. And as Commissioner in charge of Portland’s 9-1-1 system, I have a little piece of the health care system, because many 9-1-1 calls are medical calls. And although many callers absolutely need to get an ambulance to the emergency department (ED) right away, research shows that our system generates a fair number of unnecessary emergency room visits.

Some jurisdictions have reduced unnecessary ambulance trips to the ED by having 9-1-1 direct some callers to a “nurse triage” line. Last week, I joined a group from the Portland region on a trip to Reno, Nevada, where a Nurse Health Line offers 24/7 access to assessment, clinical education, triage, and referral to health care and community services. Reno believes that this service ensures that people get the right kind of care at the right time when they call 9-1-1 with a medical concern. The site visit offered some important insights that we can use here in Portland.

Reno’s program, which is managed by REMSA (Regional Emergency Management Services Authority, a nonprofit ambulance service), provides patients with quicker access to medical information and more care choices from a team of specially-trained experienced registered nurses. REMSA’s nurses don’t substitute for primary care, but they help patients access the right level of care, including connecting uninsured patients with available resources.

In Portland, a similar initiative would require collaboration between Multnomah County, which is responsible for providing Emergency Medical Services, and the City, which is responsible for providing 9-1-1 service. It would also require an investment - both financial and non-financial - from the health care community. The group that traveled to Reno included: 

  • Multnomah and Clackamas Counties
  • Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency in Vancouver
  • AMR, which provides ambulance service in Multnomah County
  • Health Share of Oregon
  • FamilyCare Incorporated
  • Providence Medical Group

My personal observations after reflecting on what I learned in Reno include:

  • We cannot overstate the need for excellent community outreach. Reno decided to offer a non-emergency phone number for anyone to call with any medical issue or question. At the same time, they triage some lower acuity calls from 9-1-1 to the Nurse Health Line. Regardless of the approach, we would need to allocate time and resources to develop the new program for the community.
  • All partners must engage early to design a program that will work here in Portland. REMSA engaged a broad array of partners in the areas of health care, community, quality improvement, and technology. The group that traveled to Reno from Portland is a great start for the range of stakeholders who would need to be involved for an initiative here.
  • Dedicated funding is critical – but if we have the right stakeholders involved, the value will far outweigh the cost. REMSA received a $9.8 million Health Care Innovation grant from the federal government for their Nurse Health Line. Their grant funds expire later this year, and they are planning to sustain the innovation by working with partners and insurers who have realized savings because the Nurse Health Line has kept people out of ambulances and emergency rooms. Without a federal grant to help us get started, Portland would need to have the partners together at the start to align the value of this innovation with those who would benefit.
  • We must make outcomes a priority. REMSA has carefully established its goals for the Nurse Health Line and collected data to track progress toward those goals. Preliminary results show the line saved over $3 million over fourteen months by avoiding 2,296 emergency department visits and 414 ambulance transports. REMSA has also tracked the safety of the Nurse Health Line and has identified zero adverse outcomes --- and, they ask patients about their experience and receive comments like, “I love the program, you helped me through a hard and scary time.” If we decided to move forward with a similar initiative here in Portland, we would need to identify and track these kinds of outcomes from the outset.



Remembering Leonard Nimoy

Star Trek is literally the first TV show I remember watching, and I was always a Spock guy (maybe all of us were). I took comfort in the fact that Leonard Nimoy was still with us. It is strange to have him gone. The Oregonian’s Kristi Turnquist does a great job of capturing the significance of his character, and of the show:

"While aspects of the original 'Star Trek' series have inevitably dated -- those papier-mache boulders on strange new worlds, the new life and new civilizations that regularly consisted of babe-a-licious alien women with big hair and skimpy outfits -- Spock was a revelation.

He was a revolutionary character for the mid-'60s, in that his superior intellect and emotional reserve made him more elegant than Captain Kirk, with his womanizing ways; Chekhov, and his emotional outbursts; and Scotty, with his cries that the engines can't take any more strain.

Only Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Sulu (George Takei) came close to Spock's level of dignity, and all three characters stand as examples of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's goal of using sci-fi to comment on the need for equal rights and to condemn intolerance of those considered 'different.'"

-Oregonian (February 27, 2015)

My thoughts on why Portland should stay out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force

This is not an easy decision.

I do not dismiss the threat of terrorism – I once tried a case in the courthouse next to the Oklahoma City Federal building that was blown up by domestic terrorists. And I think that in the abstract, the idea of local law enforcement, with their broader knowledge the community, working with the FBI is a good one.

I do not think we should make decisions about working with the FBI now based on how bad J. Edgar Hoover was.

I have met with the local Special Agent in Charge, Greg Bretzing, and his leadership team, and I think they are good, well-intentioned people.

I was impressed by the argument that if we have police in the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), they are in a position to raise concerns about FBI operations that seem inconsistent with Portland values. And I very much appreciate the Mayor’s statement about the conversation he would have and the instruction he would give to officers participating in the JTTF.

In short, I think there are good arguments for joining the JTTF.

But I also think there is a strong argument against joining the JTTF.

One of the main arguments for the value of having the Portland police in the JTTF is that the police have a broader knowledge of our community and the stronger relationships in our community than the FBI.

But we have heard from representatives of some communities in our city that joining the JTTF would weaken the relationship that they have with the police, and formally leaving the JTTF would strengthen those relationships.

We received a letter recently from a number of groups with Muslim constituencies expressing their concerns. The letter was signed by the Islamic Center of Portland, Islamic Society of Greater Portland, Muslim Community Center of Portland, Bosniaks Education and Cultural Organization, Oregon Muslim Citizens Alliance, Islamic Community Center of Hillsboro, Oregon Islamic Champlain’s Organization, Muslim Educational Trust, and Islamic Social Services of Oregon State. I encourage you to read the letter in its entirety: READ HERE.

Now, I know that not all Muslims in Portland feel the same way. We received a letter from the Somali American Council of Oregon urging us to join the JTTF.

And I am sure the FBI would take issue with some aspects of the Muslim coalition’s description of the FBI’s activities.

But I cannot ignore the fact that the leaders of numerous organizations in the Muslim community say that many Muslims do not trust the FBI and would trust the Portland police less if we joined the JTTF. I do not want to take the risk that people might not warn us of real potential threats because they don’t trust us.

I am also encouraged by the message that these Muslim and Arab leaders are interested in reviving American Muslim Police Advisory Committee (AMPAC), especially if we withdraw from JTTF. And I think we should take them up on that, and hope that can happen even if we join the JTTF.
If my view had prevailed today, I do not think it would have had to be the last time we considered this issue. As I said, I was impressed by Special Agent in Charge Bretzing, and I expect that he will work to improve relations with communities throughout Portland, including the Arab and Muslim communities. It may be that a year or two down the road, there would not be such community concern about joining the JTTF.

And again, I do not think this is an easy decision. I have been making calls and reading letters on this issue up to the last minute. Just this morning, I called Laura Dugan, a University of Maryland criminologist (and former colleague of my wife’s) and a member of the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism. She told me that other things being equal, participating in the JTTF would be a good idea, but when I told her about the concerns raised by members of the Muslim community, she said that those relationships are very important and those concerns have to be taken seriously. She added that regardless of whether we formally participate in the JTTF, we could do emergency preparedness drills with the FBI; she said that in Boston, local law enforcement’s history of engaging in such drills was a key factor in the effective response to the Boston Marathon attack.

Again, I very much appreciate the approach the Mayor is taking to membership in the JTTF. But I respectfully vote Nay.