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  • 27 Nov 2014

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Street fee ballot measure delayed for months

Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick pulled a proposed ballot measure related to their street fee off the City Council agenda at the last minute Thursday.

The measure, aimed at the Nov. 4 General Election ballot, would have restricted funds raised by the fee to transportation projects. The council is not scheduled to consider the final version of the fee, intended to raise about $50 a year, until Nov. 12, however.

Hales' office issued the following statement after the Thursday hearing has already begun:

A proposed change to the city charter from Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick, designed to lock in the use of the proposed street fee for maintenance and safety, will be pulled off the table.

“The issue was confusing to people,” Hales said. “We listened to hours of testimony. We’ve received hundreds of emails and calls. Local media claim it confuses them. We’re listening. If the charter change is muddying the real message – that we must take care of our streets – then we’ll take it off the table.”

Hales and Novick have held 10 town hall meetings and have discussed a street fee at many City Council meetings this spring and summer. In 2012, Hales ran on making street maintenance a priority. And he’s talked about it since arriving in office 18 months ago.

“The independent auditor tells us we need more than $75 million per year to take care of the largest thing we own: our streets. We haven’t even gotten close to that. Our streets are in disrepair. The state and federal governments are not going to swoop in with a more robust gas tax to save us. It’s up to us.”

Hales and Novick are committed to ensuring that revenue from any new funding mechanism would be dedicated to improving the maintenance and safety of our city’s transportation network, including paving and sidewalks. The charter amendment that would have gone to voters in November would have codified that commitment.

But residents who attended town halls, or who contacted the mayor’s office, have said the proposal is confusing.

“We don’t want any confusion on this: We have not taken care of our streets; we have to turn that around; we don’t have the millions-per-year necessary now to do it; no one else is going to do this except us; we need a street fee,” Hales said. “None of that has changed. We’re told that the charter amendment was adding confusion. So we’ll take that off the table for now, until we’ve reached a consensus on a funding proposal.”

Work groups will be created this summer to examine the best way to enact a residential fee and a non-residential fee. All meetings will be open to the public.

Hales and Novick expect a council vote on the transportation fee by this fall. It is expected to be enacted by July 2015.