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Hales fights for business tax increase, other councilors work on substitute budget


TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is pressing ahead with plans for a business tax increase, even though other councilors have rejected the idea.Mayor Charlie Hales is not giving up on his proposal to increase the city's business license fee without a fight.

He is not likely to win, however.

Hales included a proposed 14 percent increase in the business tax in the proposed $501 million proposed budget he released last week. At the time, he said the $9 million or so it would generate every year would fund more police officers and homeless services.

But a majority of the City Council rejected the proposed increase when it first considered the proposed budget on Tuesday. Commissioners Steve Novick and Dan Saltzman came out against the increase after it was proposed, and Commissioner Nick Fish said he was opposed during the work session.

The meeting ended with Fish saying the council would craft a substitute budget to be considered Tuesday. It is schedule to be adopted on Wednesday. They all said the city shouldn't raise taxes when revenue is rising to record levels, as they are now.

But after the meeting ended, Hales sent a lengthy email to supporters claiming dire consequences of the council doesn't approve the increase — or find another way to generate an additonal $9 million in new revenue. The email said needed police officers would not be hired and warned that homeless camps would spiral out of control without city-funded support services.

Asked for a response by the Portland Tribune, Fish said he has no comment at this time but will have more to say when the council considers the substitute budget.

Here is Hales' email:

“Portland is a growing city that’s facing real challenges: youth violence at record highs; systemic hurdles to access and opportunity; a housing affordability crisis; thousands of people sleeping on our streets.

"To address these challenges, we need more revenue. The boom years we’ve experienced came after a record budget shortfall — $21.5 million cut from the general fund. We need to be pragmatic and responsible leaders, and take advantage of our prosperity to prepare ourselves for the future.

"At yesterday’s work session, my City Council colleagues expressed doubts about the proposed Business License Fee increase. That is one option to raise revenue with little impact on most Portland businesses, but a large benefit citywide. I am open to other options my colleagues propose, such as the planned construction excise tax.

"The bulk of additional revenue in my budget goes toward investing in the Police Bureau and continuing to address homelessness. Cutting these investments would be a disservice to Portland. The impact:

"Impact of not investing in police — Our current staffing numbers are at crisis levels. Just to respond to 9-1-1 calls, we need 370 patrol officers. Right now we have 335. We’re losing officers to retirements, terminations, and to other agencies that pay better than Portland does.

"In a letter to the City Council, Police Chief Larry O’Dea sums up the urgent need for real investment in the bureau: 'The bureau has done a tremendous job managing these huge challenges, but to be clear — we are on the verge of a serious crisis. I will be forced to continue to reduce and eliminate our specialty units and functions to staff the street. This means important and critical specialty units and functions like the Walking Beat, the Youth Services Division, the Traffic Division, the Family Services Division, the Gang Enforcement Team, and the Drugs and Vice Division will continue to have to increasingly support core patrol operations.

"These units and functions are all critical and should be expanded, not reduced or eliminated. Our ability to support important special events will continue to decrease. Our ability to meet community and Department of Justice priorities (community policing) will be seriously impacted. Our ability to support critical city commitments, like Vision Zero, will be reduced. Our ability to assist with all manner of livability issues, from marijuana impacts to homelessness, will be seriously impacted.

"To continue to provide public safety services Portlanders deserve, we must invest in our Police Bureau.

"Impact of not investing in homelessness

"July 1, 2016

"The One Point of Contact system ends; people will have to go back to contacting individual bureaus jurisdictions about homelessness issues. All support for camps stops. That means 200 people who are sleeping off the streets and in organized camping would no longer have toilets, dumpsters, storage, required Code of Conduct agreements, or management. Dumpsters, needle containers, and portable toilets that are helping to keep our streets clean will be removed.

"New organized camps won’t be established for vulnerable women or for homeless campers moving off the Springwater and city streets. All planning for new shelters — like the 100-man overnight shelter slated to open soon — stops. The pods constructed by Benson High School students will be removed from campsites, and construction will stop. Planning for organized car and RV camping ends; instead of safe, controlled environments, they’ll continue to stay on the street.

"Other items that will stop: mobile shower pilot program; development of new shelters and campsites; trespass signage coordination; neighborhood outreach on homelessness issues.


"Day storage ends. Homeless people have been able to store belongings for the day so they can job hunt or go to medical services. Without the service, they remain on the street with their shopping carts, backpacks, and other belongings.


"(Right to Dream Too) moves to new site in Central Eastside, but doesn’t have the funding to provide operation services at the site.

"This City Council has the opportunity to find new revenue to invest in Portland’s future. Now is the time to be responsible leaders and act in our city’s best interest.”

Read a related Portland Tribune story on the issue: portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/306007-184151-council-rejects-hales-business-tax-increase.