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Hales to region: initiatives could be toxic for cities


Mayors tell business group tax reform could spur growth

Mayors from the three largest cities in the region talked about the benefits of cooperation and problems created by Oregon’s complex property tax limitation system last week at the Westside Economic Alliance’s breakfast forum.

It was the second time Portland Mayor Charlie Hales spoke at the forum of the Tigard-based, public-private economic development advocacy organization. He was joined by Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey.

All three mayors cited their joint efforts to convince Google to install its ultra-high-speed fiber optic broadband system in the region as an example of working together. Six cities in the region are trying to convince Google they can handle the complex permitting and installation request by May. The other cities are Tigard, Gresham and Lake Oswego. Google will decide where it will expand by the end of the year.

The mayors were also in agreement that property tax restrictions have prompted their cities to impose new fees and charges to help finance infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate growth. Hales, Willey and Doyle all said they believe the fees and charges — including System Development Charges imposed on new construction projects — are now so high that some developers are going elsewhere. Hales said he hoped Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber will lead a tax reform effort to address the problems created by the tax limitation system, including wildly different taxes paid on properties of equal value.

And all three agreed that local government will have to find new sources of funds from road projects and improvements because the federal and state governments have failed to keep raising gas taxes to keep up with inflation and population increases.

Hales also criticized two upcoming ballot measures as “toxic.” He denounced the measure on the March 11 Special Election ballot in Tigard that would block plans for a new high-capacity transit line between Portland and Tualatin. He also blasted the May 20 Primary Election ballot in Portland to create an independent water and sewer district. Although Hales said both measures were “seductive,” he warned they would have negative consequences.

Doyle and Willey declined to comment on the measures.

However, Willey did take the opportunity to announce that the 2014 Oregon International Air Show is back on track. The headline Canadian Forces Snowbirds had pulled out because of budget cuts, causing organizers to consider canceling the popular Sept. 19 to 21 event at the Hillsboro Airport. But the group recommitted just days before the Feb. 27 forum, much to the relief of Willey and his wife, Judy, who is president of the show’s board of directors.