Petition to start to repeal Portland Street Tax

Press release from the Taxpayer Association of Oregon 1-30-08: REQUEST A PETITION HERE!


A coalition of small business owners and Portland taxpayers will seek to refer the Street Maintenance Tax passed today by the Portland City Council to the Portland voters. The coalition includes small convenience stores including the Korean American Grocery Retailer Association, the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, Americans for Prosperity Oregon Chapter, gas station owners, transportation critics Jim Karlock of, Craig Flynn of ORTEM, among other groups and citizen activists…and also including aerial support from radio host Victoria Taft (featured on KPAM 860) and radio host Lars Larson (featured on KXL 750). Taft is especially noted because she was declined the right to testify on the street tax before City Council (must read story here).

Jason Williams, founder of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, made the following statement on the referral:

“The city of Portland has once again turned to City taxpayers to dig them out of a long history of fiscal irresponsibility. Commissioner Sam Adams has worked at the City since 1991, yet has failed in over 15 years with the City to use previously dedicated road maintenance funds to fix Portland’s roads. Our elected officials have shirked their own responsibility and put pet projects like the OHSU Tram and the Street Car in front of essential transportation needs like fixing potholes and improving intersections. Portlanders should have the right to decide whether to make small businesses and homeowners pay to clean up the city council’s own mess. The people deserve the final say on this issue.”

Coalition members also cited the political games and Commissioner Adams’ “bait & switch” tactics. They cited Adams’ attempt to prevent a public vote on his tax by dividing the one ordinance into three separate ordinances, successfully doubling the cost of a referral effort.

“Adams cited the City Attorney’s opinion recommending he divide the ordinances into three to prevent a “˜single subject’ legal challenge, which we later found out was completely fabricated,” said Lila Leathers, who owns Leathers Fuels in Portland.

“The process at the City has been purely games, backroom dealing, and a bait & switch effort designed to keep this new tax out of the hands of Portland’s voters,” said Leathers.
The Coalition will begin collecting signatures immediately.

“Citizens should have a right to vote on such taxes. They should not be left out of the process, especially since they are the ones paying for it. ” Said Don McIntire, President of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.


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  • stephenfrias

    Car tax what a bunch of crap,these guys ought to be strung up

  • Matt Evans

    Americans for Prosperity – Oregon is pleased to join the coalition seeking referral of this unnecessary tax increase. The City of Portland has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on light rail, street cars, trams, bike lanes and the like – transportation options that are used by only a small minority of Portlanders – while neglecting the streets its citizens prefer to use. AFP – Oregon will bring Oregon money and almost 1000 Multnomah County members to bear on the effort to gather signatures. Then we will bring money and volunteers to help persuade voters to repeal this unneeded burden on Portland citizens and businesses. We invite readers of Oregon Catalyst to learn more at

  • Prefer to go Unnamed

    Thank you Jason and the rest! And, thank you to “our turn” on the Tribune’s website for posting the links… I eventually found this page!

    Over on the Portland Tribune’s site, there’s people saying that nobody should support the referendum because of the overall politics of the people involved. I think that’s garbage, everyone has the right to think for themselves and align with certain groups on certain issues only as they wish.

    If Victoria reads this (I can’t post on her site because I don’t have, or want, a Blogger/Google account): Excellent comments! I knew there were things the masses weren’t being told.

    Now all I need to know is when/where to sign. Anytime/place after the paperwork is filed at City Hall works for me (even if it’s the steps of City Hall immediately after walking out of the filing office).

  • Jerry

    I have always maintained that people who want to pay more taxes can – it’s easy – just send your money in. But, they always want someone else to pay more taxes.
    What a bunch!
    Of course the tax is unnecessary. The government can not budget or run a business. They keep proving this time and time again.
    Will the public ever wake up enough to care?


    Woohoo! Could this be the first step in the effort of Portlanders taking their city back from the corruption that grips it? Special interests, Developers, Rich downtown condo owners, beware!

    The people of Oregon use the initiatve process to rein in the state goverment. I guess the people of Portland need to start doing that too!

    Vote NO! and vote for Sho!

  • Terry Parker

    Why is Sam Adams demonstrating a maddening temper tantrum and is so adamant against this tax going to the voters? Because his divisively assembled stacked deck so-called stakeholder committee stuffed the Street Maintenance Fee with a horde of extra dollars that Adams wants so he can extort money out the back door to pay for his obsessive bicycle infrastructure agenda while giving his bicycle buddies discounts on their utility bills. Bicyclists want more specialized infrastructure for themselves as long as somebody else pays for it. Adams and his cohort Senior Policy Advisor Roland Chlapowski in back room deals with bicyclists kept a bicycle tax off the table and out of range for an open public discussion at the highly orchestrated and controlled town hall meetings. Instead of the arrogantly intense and demanding inflexible sales pitch, Adams should have used the town halls as more of a listening post to hear more public opinion.

    Another reason Adams went to such great lengths to make deals hoping to keep the tax off the ballot is that he knows he does not have the support of the electorate. If he changed his own bias priorities and redirected the huge amount of money he is spending for streetcars, bicycle infrastructure, curb extensions, couplets, etc; there would be a reasonable amount of money available for street maintenance and repair.

    The reality check is the people deserve the right to vote on this on this overstuffed politically motivated shake down scheme. If Adams attempts to block that, he is only hurting himself.


      Heck, if he got rid of the tax abatement and subsidies to the rich condo. owners downtown, he’d have enough for the roads….and bikes!

      • Alan

        But condos are where all those bike paths and light railers lead to. Not normal homes with nuclear families.

        • jim karlocik

          Portland is trying to get rid of normal homes and families.


    • Gardiner Menefree

      While Sham Adams has certainly earned contempt, doesn’t Randy “Manypensions” Leonard merit disapprobation? He heartily embraced Sham’s tax, hugging it more tightly even than our self-described “irrelevant” mayor. He allegedly minds the Water Bureau yet he hasn’t told us what it’s going to cost us to construct a microbilling system so that we are billed MONTHLY for our water and the other taxes that are finding a place on what should be a straightforward bill for an essential human need.

      We’re still paying — in our “base rates” — the $30-40million that was flushed for a faulty water billing system. (Sten, who didn’t bother to show up yesterday, has said “sorry” yet still draws his $95K+ salary. We recall him every time we flush.)

      Leonard certainly gave up the struggle to provide representation for ordinary folks in SE and elsewhere who have been forced to subsidize the Pearl, the tram, and other exclusive schemes that have made it more difficult to live our ordinary lives in SE and elsewhere.

      “Manypensions” doesn’t want us to vote on Sham’s tax either. He’s also running for re-election this year and currently has what all the deadtree journals in town have called “no serious opposition.” He’s no better than Sham and should also go down with this oppressive tax.

      BTW, do you know of any municipality in OR or the US that sends out tax bills EVERY MONTH to its citizens?

  • Ian

    Has it ever occurred to any of you that spending 2-3% (currently 1%) of transportation money on the 4-5% (very conservative # for Portland) who commute by bike is FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE! And before you wave that false flag about cyclists not paying transportation taxes, think again: 90% of those who ride bikes regularly also license & drive a car. Not only is this smart investment because it is net positive, it also REDUCES the damage done to public infrastructure (even more positive).

    It is truly sad that so many so-called conservatives keeping missing the point when it comes to supporting smart investments in our transportation future. If we were to follow the ideas I’ve read here, we would wind up forcing our city and state to spend untold billions on irresponsible infrastructure investments.

    By the way, it looks to me like the vast majority of the money generated by the current tax plan would actually go to fund road improvements. Do you folks want our streets to continue to degrade (and cost exponentially more later) just to prove some point about who you like and dislike in public office?

    You are giving those of us who are true conservatives a really bad name with all this nonsense. I can only hope you someday understand that being selfish and being conservative are not one and the same.

    • Chris

      Cheers Ian, well said!

    • Anonymous

      How is spending auto and truck taxes on bike paths conservative? The auto and truck taxes are user fees. There are no user fees for bikes, but the bike community is very vocal and demanding. If you would like special bike paths, you should raise the money and get it done. Instead of demanding auto and truck taxes to pay your way.

      Portland is in trouble because it has spent it’s money on the want list, instead of the need list.

      The mandate for spending on bike projects out of our auto taxes is 1%. We spent far more than the 1% mandate. Most of the time when a road is upgraded a bridge is rebuilt the bike portion is not included in the 1% mandate. Instead it is buried in the road project and not counted towards the 1% mandate.

      • Chris

        As Ian mentions “…90% of those who ride bikes regularly also license & drive a car…” so they are in fact contributing funds towards those projects. In addition, auto and truck taxes do not pay for 100% of road and bridge projects; general fund money pays for much of these projects. One thing unites us all – bicyclists and drivers- we all pay taxes to the State and the Feds. Seems to me the bike community does pay.
        All those bicyclists also benefit you by removing 12,000+ cars from the road every day!


      Ian, the extra cost of paving/ maintenance of the portion of the roads dedicated to bikes is paid for by automobile drivers. I don’t have a problem with the bike riders but they should pay for the “extras” that they want to use. My personnal opinion though.

    • Not Your Pal

      Hey Ian – Do You have any PROOF to back up your statement about 90% of bike owners also owning cars? Did you do a survey or are you simply pulling numbers out of your *ss?
      I’m calling you on your BS – especially since most of the schleps I see riding bikes on the east side of town being unable to even hold a decent paying job.

  • Anonymous

    Chris said
    “”As Ian mentions “…90% of those who ride bikes regularly also license & drive a car…” so they are in fact contributing funds towards those projects. “”

    No when you drive a car you are only contributing to auto user fee there is not bike user fee. Auto user fees are not bike user fees. I have no problem if some one rides a bike on the street.I only have a problem with the extras the biking community demands out of truck and auto fees.

    Chris said
    In addition, auto and truck taxes do not pay for 100% of road and bridge projects; general fund money pays for much of these projects.

    No most of our road money comes from auto and truck user fees such as federal fuel taxes, state fuel and registration taxes and local fuel taxes and fees.

    Chris said
    12,000+ cars from the road every day!

    There are not 12,000 cars off the road 365 days a year because of bike riders. Bike riding drops to only the hard core this time of year

  • Ian

    Anonymous: you really need to take an economics class, and I don’t have the room here to teach you the math. There is no need for a ‘bike user fee’ because 1) bikes don’t damage or degrade the infrastructure and 2) every time someone bikes (or walks) they are costing us all less money than if they were driving. Auto ‘fees’ cannot possibly keep up the cost of infrastructure support, especially as the number of drive-trips increases. This is still my point: the cost of encouraging and designing for bicycling, walking, etc. is still far less than the money needed to close the widening gap between the true auto infrastructure costs and what current users are paying in fees. This is why smart transportation design and programs are true fiscal conservatism.

    • Anonymous


      I will repeat

      I have no problem if some one rides a bike on the street only have a problem with the extras the biking community demands out of truck and auto fees.

      If a person only walks down the street or rides a bike on a existing street they do not cost anything. If you want special bike paths, boxes or lanes yo need to pay your fare share.

      Here is what drains the coffers

      $800,000. Bike path opens near airport 12/14/07 Portland Business Journal

      Swan Island Transportation Management Association – $250,000 to construct
      sidewalks on Swan Island to connect to the Greenway trail

      Metro Parks and Greenspaces – $210,000 to help connect the Springwater Corridor Trail gap from just south of the Sellwood Bridge to Southeast 19th Avenue and Ochoco Street

      Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee –$144,000 to install curb extensions on Southeast 11th Avenue and Clay Street

      Steel Bridge Pedestrian Way $1,500,000

      Central Eastside Bridgehead
      Improve pedestrian and bicycle access to bridge approaches. $2,148,963.00

      NW Flanders (Steel Bridge to Westover): Bicycle Facility
      Develop a bicycle and pedestrian crossing of I-405. $2,392,336.00

      Lombard at Columbia Slough, N: Overcrossing
      Add sidewalk and bike lanes to strengthened bridge. $2,328,040.00

      Burgard-Lombard, N: Street Improvements
      Widen street to include 2 12-foot travel lanes, continuous left turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalk. $8,940,604.00

      Twenties Bikeway
      Design and implement a bikeway using bike boulevards and bike lanes. $1,837,572.00

      (Marine Drive, 6th to 185th)
      Retrofit bike lanes to existing street and complete off-street paths in missing locations. $2,130,835.00

      Springwater Trail gets linkage
      Span over McLoughlin Boulevard may slow traffic until March
      By JIM REDDEN 12/ 20/05 $4.7 million

      Morrison project fit for bikes, walkers 02/18/03
      federal transportation grant of $1.3 million and $155,000 in county matching funds.

      Seventies Greenstreet and Bikeway,(Killingsworth – Clatsop)
      Develop a combined pedestrian greenway and bike boulevard including crossing improvements at arterials. $4,227,056.00

      bikes are almost free

  • John Fairplay

    An individual car also does not “damage or degrade the infrastructure.”

    Each time someone rides a bike instead of driving a car, they are avoiding paying infrastructure taxes that should be raised from them to pay for their special lanes. There’s no reason they should get a free ride. These are “user taxes” not intended to impact social decision making.

    • dean

      John…yes, an individual car does wear pavement down every time it is operated, especially if it has studded tires. The same is probably also true for an individual bike, though the amount of wear in the latter case is infinitesimal.

      You should be thanking the cyslists for not driving. They are saving you money, leaving your air cleaner, and by maintaining their physical health are holding health care costs down. In fact, economically drivers should probably pay the cyclists for what they are doing.

      • Anonymous

        Auto do very little if any damage to streets because the roads are built to carry buses and Semi Trucks. The exception, Studded tires.

        If someone rides a bike, they may save money but the rest of us don’t.

        We do pay bike riders. Who do you think pays for all their bike paths, trails and the new bike boxes.

        • dean

          Its physics. The heavier the vehicle and the bigger the tires the more friction and the more wear of a paving surface per mile driven. Not only should we charge per vehicle, we should charge more for bigger vehicles. So fine…charge bikes based on their weight and tire width proportionally against SUVs and see where that leads you.

          • Chris McMullen

            Yeah, charge by weight. Then Tri-Met would help cover all the damage their buses cause. Oh wait, Tri-Met is a bloated, subsidized government agency — they’ll just squirt a few and liberal Portland will come running to their rescue with more tax dollars.

            Never mind.

          • Terry Parker

            One of TriMet’s two axle busses chew up and does as much damage to the streets and roads as 22,000 cars (Source: Sam Adams Office)

      • Chris McMullen

        Should we thank them for slowing up vehicular traffic, as well?

  • Jerry

    All of you are missing my point about the bikes. We need a state tax rebate NOW for up to $500 for anyone who buys a bike. This will immediately help us in so many ways I will not list them again.
    Where is the action on this great idea??
    What is going on out there that people can not understand what was said above…every single time a person rides a bike it is HELPING not only our economy (trade imbalance) but our environment as well.
    It really is as simple as that.

    • Anonymous

      Jerry why would you give some one a $500.00 credit to buy a bike when you can buy one for around a $100 bucks.

      Bike riding limits your job opportunities because you are limited by how far you can ride.

      I don’t know anyone that needs a tax credit because about everyone I know owns a bike or 2.

      Our air is cleaner every year because the new cars are so clean.
      We have more then 2 x’s as many drivers as we had when we had pollutions days in Portland and our water is cleaner. It is not because of bike riders. It is because we are better at making autos.

      I have no idea how riding a bike has anything to do with a trade imbalance , are you kidding.

      • dean

        Anon…didn’t “big government” have something to do with regulating tailpipe emmissions, with those regulations bitterly resisted by the auto industry for years? Didn’t the EPA prohibit lead as a gasoline additive? And haven’t those regulations had a bit to do with cleaner air in spite of more autos? Go on…you can admit it.

        And ditto for clean water. Wasn’t it the Clean Water Act, followed by creation of new bureaucracies like DEQ, that regulate discharges into rivers, lakes, and estuaries, as well as conserve wetlands? Its not like polluting industries volunteered to clean up their act.

        Jerry…don’t give up. Your bike credit idea is just ahead of its time. Real cyclists do not ride $100 bikes. A custom, Portland made frame (very good for the local economy) starts at around $3000 big ones.

        • Anonymous


          The auto industry was on it’s way to cleaner cars because the consumers were demanding it.

          Now it is more of what came first, the chicken or the egg.

          I don’t know anyone that wants to drink or play in dirty water.

          If you want a $3,000.00 bike, go out and buy it. Don’t make up silly reasons why the rest of us need to pay for your choices.

          A SUV carrying 4 passengers is greener than a Tri-Met bus and does less damage to the roads with the advantage of door to door service


    It doesn’t really matter, Randy Leonard is pulling an underhanded trick to stop the referral e.g. not letting the people vote.

    I now pray that Sam Adams is not elected Mayor, there is obviously no end to the depths to which he’ll stoop.

    • dean

      CD…I’m not the religous sort, but would expect God has bigger issues to deal with than a piddly user tax for a single insignificant city no?

      Anon..give me a break. It was California, specifically the regional air quality authority that first forced the auto industry to change its polluting ways. They were both chicken and egg. The industry had no consumer incentive to make cleaner cars and fought new regulations at every step, just like today they have little consumer incentive to make cars with better mileage, which is why the government just passed updated CAFE standards, again over the objections of auto makers. Don’t rewrite history here okay?

      No wants want to play in dirty water, true enough, but industries that were dumping waste into public waterways had no reason to clean up their act until they were forced to do so. In point of fact, if one factory invested millions to clean their water, while their competitor up or downstream did not do so, the cleaner one would likely lose market share, not gain it. It is called the tragedy of the commons. Look it up. Rivers are no longer catching fire because of regulations passed by liberals against the foot-dragging and gloom and doom projections of conservatives. Global warming policy resistance is simply a repeat performance.

      My $3000 bike comment was aimed at Jerry’s proposal. Your argument on that point is with him, not me, though I like his idea.

      Maybe an SUV with 4 passengers is “greener” than a partly loaded bus…I don’t know. But few SUVs have 4 passengers at any given time, and few buses are fully loaded, so I really don’t get your point. I don’t know of any reliable data anywhere that shows cars are greener than transit measured overall. Enlighten us.

      • Anonymous

        Think you’re being clean and green by taking Metro? Maybe you should drive an SUV instead.

        • dean

          Anon…thanks for the enlightening. I know you did not mean to , but you now have presented a good argument for electric light rail and streetcars.

          Also…do you really want to exchange that one bus for 32 SUVs, all things considered?

          • Anonymous

            dean said

            “I know you did not mean to , but you now have presented a good argument for electric light rail and streetcars.”

            It doesn’t matter if light rail or heavy rail is better than buses if only 1% ride on the rail. But you forgot one factor building the rail. According to the environmental impact statements put out by Tri-Met it takes 20 years to break even on the energy it takes to just build the line, before you see any energy saving. not counting the upkeep and the rebuilding that needs to be done in 20 years.

            I assumed you knew that.

          • jim karlocik

            Don’t forget electric cars. They will eventually dominate, after a transition period of plug-in hybrids. They will continue the trend of people abandoning mass transit for cars which are more convenient, lower cost, less crime, more spacious and able to carry more things.

            (sorry to puncture you Luddite dreams of stopping progress and returning us to the 1920s, when most lived in poverty.)


  • Mel

    The wear to pavement, asphalt and concrete, is negligible for axle loads under 20,000 lbs if tires are not studded. That is why we use a system called weight-mile. As loads increase, damage increases in a non-linear way (see ). Anonymous below was on the right track. We charge for usage using gas taxes and weight-mile taxes for weight damage.

    The damage difference between SUV or sedan or coupe is not measurable.

    The clean air argument is bogus. Our air is cleaner now than in the 60’s or 50’s despite the huge increase in the number of cars. DEQ has the data on it’s site and you can get a hard copy by calling.

    Smog is worse in the downtown area where bike usage is the largest because of the concentration.

    Bike usage is not reliable in this climate so we have to have the roads and transit for the times bikers can’t or won’t use their bikes. NHTS says bike trips are less than 2 miles so, when the climate is good for biking, most might be walk trips if they didn’t bike.

    • dean

      Anon…do you also amortize the energy costs of building roads and bridges and maintaining them into your assumptions about cars? ODOT is burning a lot of diesel right now keeping the passes clear.

      Mel…I agree the wear is “negligible” per trip, and may be not measurable between passenger vehicles, but what about cummulatively? Most Portland streets are local and do not have heavy trucks on them except the ocasional moving truck. Yet they still must be repaved ever so often. Part of that is simply weather, sun, and so forth, but part is wearing down no?

      On bikes…Amsterdam has a similar climate and significantly more cycling year around. As infrastructure increases, and cycling becomes safer, it will continue to grow here. Yes, winter cycling takes extra gear and fortitude, but is quite doable in Portland. I cycle comuted for 11 years from Portland to Gresham, cutting down to only a few days a week in winter, picking my spots between storms. My experience suggests you are underestimating the potential.

      As for cleaner air…I’ll say it again. It was big government forcing the car companies to install catalytic converters, forcing the petrol companies to drop lead, and so forth. And….there is only so much room on our strets for people driving their own cars everywhere.

      Bottom line, and back to the original post. Portland and other communties have a lot of streets to maintain with a diminishing gas tax. Its alaways easy to argue they should allocate existing resources more efficiently or differently, but there are voting constituencies for the other services they fund, including cyclists.

  • Anonymous


    I must have missed you point I thought you said

    “thanks for the enlightening. I know you did not mean to, but you now have presented a good argument for electric light rail and streetcars.”

    So all I did was compare energy uses to building and operating rail compared to buses. Rail moves to the back of the bus.
    You might be surprised, but I support any streetcars or light rail lines that are built that meet one rule. It must be self supporting out of the fare box.

    Now your telling us that we have “a diminishing gas tax”

    In dollars collected

    in 1989 Oregon collected
    122,189,705 in truck taxes
    219,559,052 gas taxes
    147,904,481 Federal Highway Trust Fund

    489,653,238 total for 1989

    in 2001
    199,038,447 in truck taxes
    392,543,138 Gas Taxes
    396,473,669 Federal Highway Trust Fund

    988,055,254 total for 2001

    Dean I don’t know who is telling you we have less money
    for roads but all the major auto and truck user fees are are up.

    My guess is the big problem is spending! The auto and truck user
    fees on transit, special bike programs and some pedestrian
    projects. Such as the $30 million Eastbank Esplanade, $5 million of its costs were paid with federal transportation money. first estimates were that it would take $60,000 to $90,000 from the $370,000 parks public safety budget just to patrol it.

    Then you have the $12 million dollar walking bridge out of the S Water front. Paid for by Road user fees instead of the South Water front project. That’s $12 million and rising.

    Now you support $500.00 tax credits for buying a bikes.

    The groups that don’t pay enough user fees to cover their wants, want the most from the auto and truck user fees! Makes you wonder if there is a connection?

    Technology is cleaning our air and water, not bikes and transit.
    It doesn’t really matter if it was the chicken or the egg
    it’s working.

  • Mel

    When we construct a road, we pay for the energy in the payment to the contractor. We pay for keeping the roads in the mountains usable so goods and services are available to the people on both sides. Cities are no longer independent. They can’t survive without contact with other places. For example, Central Oregon has no fuel and no refineries. They depend on fuel deliveries just as people in Portland depend on food, fuels and everything from outsiders.

    The trucks and autos pay for road maintenance, unlike bikers who freeload.

    Even local streets have truck deliveries but they are affected nature (i.e. expansion and contraction) and things like tree roots. There is wear but you would have to wait 100 years if wear was the only factor. Roads should be constructed to standards based on the projected usage. We use asphalt and concrete because they do a good job given the investment but both are permeable and are subject to deterioration even if there was no friction applied.

    The roads always used by the con artists like Sam Adams, Charlie Hales for their television spots for more money are the roads that were never constructed to city or county standards. Those roads should be brought up to standards before cities and counties do any maintenance.

    On bikes?
    You are wrong. I am just realistic. Bikes are for a small segment that are physically able AND whose necessary trips are short. Bikes are not suitable for anything more than carrying the person and a candy bar. People use autos and trucks for the supplies they need to survive and to maintain their personal and real property.

    Bikers are delusional and egotistical. If you like the sport, do it but stop kidding yourself about the limitations. You are not surviving because of bikes.

    “As for cleaner air”?
    You need to read a little about the health in cities before the auto and read the available published evidence regarding air quality instead of just repeating your prejudices.

    As for room on the streets, there are problems caused by density. That is why people and businesses have fled the cities. In whacko places like Portland, government tries to coerce people to live in a prescribed manner. Remember what Yogi Berra said — Don’t always follow the crowd. When you get there it may be too crowded.

    On your bottom line?
    Again, you are mistaken. Our tax *rate* hasn’t gone up but usage has gone up. The amount Portland receives each year has gone-up, not just because of gas tax receipts and weight-mile receipts. Portland has received as much or more federal money per capita than any city in the US. The misuse of the funds on trolleys and esplanades and light rail has NOT improved mobility. Nor has it attracted businesses that people need to survive. Taking road space from the mode people use and build bike lanes that very few people use is dumb.

    • dean

      Mel…we can agree, or at least I can propose that we agree to disagree.

      Trucks and freight trains are necessary, cars are more than useful, transit, sidewalks and bike lanes are important (but not sufficient on their own,) and more people means more density. More density means things are closer together, making driving both less necessary and less convenient. This is the pattern of development that Portland’s *people* and political leadership have chosen, no one has forced it upon us, and in my personal view it is working. Not perfect, but working.

      On air quality…19th century (pre-auto) air pollution was from coal burning for home heat and industrial plants. What that has to do with bicycles is a mystery to me. The worst air in the world right now is probably in China and it is due largely to coal burning.

      Bikes can carry an amazing load. I often cycle from my Damascus farm to Gresham returning with 2 bags of groceries in my panniers, and I am 54 and not in great shape (unfortunately). In Italy you see 80 year olds on single speed bikes cruising through towns, cities, and along country roads. we are spoiled rotten here.

      Yes…I agree the total amount of money has increased, but not at a rate sufficient for the need given the increase in population and commerce. And as we move to more fuel efficient cars the gap is going to get wider. A different type of user fee is the only logical solution, either through tolls or a utility tax.

      I also agree with you that the Trolley is not much help in getting around (too slow and infrequent). The Esplanade is essentially a linear park along an otherwise trashed waterfront. It is not helpful for mobility, though will be if and when the trail is extended north.

      It is primarily the striped bike lanes that make riding in Portland relatively safe and convenient, and those are quite low cost.

  • Anonymous

    Wow! Dean lives on a Farm in a sprawling neighborhood!
    Away from Light Rail, Density, the inners city congestion, Portland’s new tax and a walkable community.

    But don’t worry the Metro Planners will fix Damascus. I saw one plan for Damascus that proposed a street car.

    Maybe dean will be growing condo’s in the future.

    When did Portland People chose density? Many Portland residents are moving away from density to Damascus and the burbs because Planners chose density for their neighborhood and didn’t ask the property owners.

    Parents with children have been priced out of their homes and prefer yards for their children over density and congestion.

    An occasional trip on a bike to the store may be fun but doesn’t do much for congestion.

    Bikes won’t solve congestion or clean the air. I would not want to see my parents riding a bike, the fall would kill them.

    If we are going to add density we must add capacity to our roads, we can build our way out of congestion and until about 20 years ago always did in Portland. now we build expensive bike paths and light rail lines so 2% of the people and eat up the majority of our transportation dollars

  • Mel

    If we added roads we would need more money for maintenance. But we, actually, have decreased road lane miles. Check the annual report by ODOT named Oregon Road Miles put out by Billie Larson at ODOT.

    In the 70’s, small cars were introduced in greater relative percents but gas mileage goes up. Ethanol doesn’t reduce fuel use to any measurable extent because it produces less energy so we use more gas. If we ever get nuclear energy, we could produce hydrogen. At that time, we would have to go to a VMT tax.
    Tolls are not suitable for our roads. They would only force more volume on neighborhood streets.

    A Utility tax is inappropriate because actual users would drive more knowing that someone else is footing part of the bill.

    • dean

      Anon…yep…I’m on a farm. Locally the sprawl was stopped by the state land use system in the 70s. My house was built in the 20s, as was my neighbors.

      And yes…my farm could end up growing condos or single family homes or something else yet to be determined now that it is inside the urban growth boundary. Though with the subprime meltdown, who knows?

      Portland and the entire metro area chose higher density over sprawl in the 90s when the 2040 plan was developed. People were asked to choose between low density sprawl, high density (no UGB expansion) and a corridor and center plan that called for higher densities along major road/transit corridors and centers, like historic downtown Gresham. This plan included modest UGB expansions. The public response strongly favored door number 3, and that is more or less the plan we have been following since. And…we have time and again elected officials at all levels who basically support that plan.

      You may not like it, but that is reality in Portland.

      I have checked housing prices ad hoc for years. Prices in Portland for rowhouses with no yard match those for ranch houses (similar square footage) in Damascus on an acre. Portland’s new condos, skinny homes, and rowhouses have sold like hotcakes. Yes, some families who want more space for less money move farther out, which has always been the case. But the tens of thousands of older Portland homes on 5000 square foot lots were large enough to raise large families in the past, and they are still large enough for the smaller families of today.

      How would you go about “adding capacity” to SE Division street, Burnside, Stark, Macadam Avenue, Corbett, NW 23rd, Alberta, and countless existing streets that are hemmed in by buildings? What neighborhood would you drive a new freeway through?

      I was downtown today and 2 things caught my eye. The first was the number of bicycles at teh PSU campus, even in the dead of winter. The second was a packed to the gills Max train headed out of town at 6:30 PM. I tried to imagine all those cyclists and all those Max riders in individual cars and what that would do to traffic. Not pretty.

      Higher density, increased transit, and increased cycling are all logical and inevitable consequences of growth in a finite world, with or without urban growth boundaries.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t seem to remember when we were asked if we wanted to all live in higher densities. I don’t recall any campaign that proposed that. Do you?

    This is more like the way I remember Metro doing it
    1992 was aided by a confusing ballot title that promised to “limit regional government.” “If this passes, most voters will think they have struck a blow to limit regional government, which is exactly the opposite of what it does,” admitted a top Metro official at the time. “In nearly all respects, the charter expands Metro’s powers over current state law.”

    Later in May 2002 Metro didn’t like a The Oregonians in Action ballot measure so Metro added a competing measure and advertised it as “increasing density” No Way they would never do that!

    Metro advertised its referendum as prohibiting higher densities in single-family residential neighborhoods.

    The ballot read

    QUESTION: Shall Metro Charter: Prohibit increased density in existing neighborhoods; require report to residents on proposed Urban Growth Boundary changes?

    SUMMARY: Amends Metro Charter’s regional planning provisions to prohibit Metro from requiring density increase in identified single-family neighborhoods.

    I’m still looking for the vote by the citizens for density, maybe you know where it is? And we never voted on the 2040 plan.

    Around 97% of Oregon is open space, 98% of Oregon is zoned exclusive farm and timber. So maybe save 1 or 2% of Oregon you believe we need to live in high density while you live on a farm.

    Why do so many of the supporters of living in density, live in the burbs or on a farm, Is this you way of red lining?

    If you can’t find a way to add capacity to relive congestion on our road system you should not mandate density. It is poor planning to do so.

    When I was a full time bike rider, I was in my early 20’s, just like many of the collage kids you saw downtown. Now I prefer my car for commuting and my bike for fun. Just like about 95% or more of the the people that live in Portland.

    Max trains are packed because they are low capacity cars that can only carry 1/3 of a freeway lane worth of passengers and the wait is about 12 minutes apart equal to 4 possibly 5 cars a hour.

    I was on many freeways and they were all packed with cars.

    • dean

      Anon…no, we never voted directly on the 2040 plan, but there were many opportunities for citizens to express their preference, and tens of thousands did so. I am a critic of Metro when they do public involvement and don’t bother actually listening to what people say, but in this case they did listen and the plan reflected what they heard. For many people it was the lesser of 3 evils.

      The measure they promoted about not increasing density in neighborhoods was a response to problems that croped up when the city of Portland planners drew up plans that would have displaced single family homes with rowhouses in several areas, including Sellwood, Multnomah, and Albina. They redirected the focus to corridors and centers, which are not single family neighborhoods. For example, the Clackamas Town center is now being tansformed into a mixed use area with higher density housing, offices and other uses.

      As for Oregonians in Action, the problem with ballot measure solutions is they never account for the down side. Cut taxes, but don’t bother identifying what services to cut. Provide retroactive property rights but don’t deal with what happens to the neighbors of new subdivisions and gravel pits. Limit density but don’t mention the sprawl that will result. Single issue measures are a bad way to make public policy.

      State land use regulations require all the 26 cities of the Portland Metro area to have new development built at average densities of 6-10 units per acre. As I understand it, this is a result of a negotiated agreement between all these cities that dates back to 1981.

      I expect most citizens, including myself, prefer lower density living. If we put it to a vote we would probably vote against growth…period. Parts of the country have zero or negative propulation growth and declining economies, but we happen to be a place that has high growth and a vibrant economy, so we have to decide how we want to deal with it. Any path we choose has tradeoffs.

      Sure…most of Oregon is open space, and is likely to remain so whether we opt for sprawl or density. I think the point is not “most of Oregon” but the Portland Metro area, where we have 1/2 the population of the state living in perhaps 1/100th of the land area. And the land area the surrounds the region has some of the highest productivity agriculture anywhere in the nation, let alone the state.

      We all make our individual choices. I still ride my bike for more than pleasure…exercise being top of the list. If I did not have a home-farm based business, I would be commuting by bicycle now, and would take adavantage of the safer infrastructure than existed a decade ago.

      My point on the train being packed was not that there were no cars around. My point is that without the train (or bus) all those people would have added to the cars on the already crowded road.

      When you say the train capacity equals 4-5 cars an hour, are those 4-5 cars stuck in traffic or moving freely at legal speed? I find these arguments against transit tedious frankly. They posit a world of freely moving cars in an urban environment that simply does not and cannot exist. In LA the average freeway speed is something like 19 MPH, and this is where we are headed in Portland. You did not address my comment about where you would add all this road capacity, even if you had the money to do so. Who’s neighborhood would you sacrifice?

  • Chris McMullen

    “where you would add all this road capacity…?”

    Stacked freeways.


  • Anonymous

    Dean said

    “You did not address my comment about where you would add all this road capacity, even if you had the money to do so. Who’s neighborhood would you sacrifice?”

    Yes I did by saying
    “If you can’t find a way to add capacity to relive congestion on our road system you should not mandate density. It is poor planning to do so.”

    I will add, we have transportation engineers that know how to relive congestion, but we don’t let them. It always worked in the past.

    I’ll ask, are you willing to sacrifice every neighborhood by congesting the whole Metro area? I’m not.

    Dean also said
    “In LA the average freeway speed is something like 19 MPH, and this is where we are headed in Portland.”

    You are correct ! Because we are not addressing congestion and adding density, we are becoming just like LA. The LA area has the fewest freeway miles per person and the highest density in the nation. If we keep adding density and don’t add any road capacity we will be just like LA. Below is from a Metro Document

    Metro Measured:”
    By way of contrast, common perceptions of Los Angeles suggest low density, high per capita road mileage and intolerable congestion. In public discussions we gather the general impression that Los Angeles represents a future to be avoided. By the same token, with respect to density and road per capita mileage it displays an investment pattern we desire to replicate.’
    From page 7 of https://www.stopmetro/por/docs/metro_measured.pdf (Metro_measured.pdf – 2.3 meg)

    You may get your wish to be just like LA

    • dean

      Anon…LA is not my desire.

      Yes, engineers know how to relieve congestion. Give them a boatload of money and eminent domain and they will build or widen highways until the cows come home.

      What I personally would like to see in neighborhoods is what we are actualy seeing in places like Clinton, Division Street, Northwest, the Pearl District, Belmont, Downtown Lake Oswego, and other areas. That is, somewhat higher density along the main streets, pedestrian friendly sidewalks, frequent bus service, and safe bicycle lanes and boulevards. All of this allows people to drive less, which is another way to keep car traffic at reasonable levels.

      Chris…stacked freeways? What would that cost? And what happens to doubling the number of cars when they reach the exits? And what happens when we have our big subduction zone earthquake, which is about due.

      • Chris McMullen

        Dean, you asked, “…where you would add all this road capacity, even if you had the money to do so…”

        You said “even if you had the money to do so,” Dean. Regardless, we would have plenty of money for freeways if huge chunks of its funding wasn’t diverted to toy trains, bike lanes and pedestrian corridors.

        Do you really think we don’t have the engineering prowess to come up with alternatives to doubled exits? Shit, I could draw up plans on a napkin that would ease traffic on 217, I-5 and 84.

        Moreover, I guess we better tear down the Marquam and Freemont bridges, they’re double stacked. Using your logic, all the state’s bridges highways, buildings and homes should be made 3 feet tall.

        Taiwan can build the world’s tallest building in an earthquake zone, but we can’t build stacked freeways? Please.

        Dean, you need to get over the fact that cars and suburbs are never going away.

  • Anonymous

    Dean said

    Yes, engineers know how to relieve congestion. Give them a boatload of money and eminent domain and they will build or widen highways until the cows come home.

    We do it for Light rail (1.4 billion to replace a milwaukie bus line) and street cars and they don’t relive congestion, what is the difference? At least a new highway will relive congestion and improve our lives.

    Double decking freeways are very freezable

    Your desire for Clinton, Division Street, Northwest, the Pearl District, Belmont, Downtown Lake Oswego, I’ll add Gateway, Lents, Interstate and other neighborhoods is interesting. You don’t live there, what give you the right to tell the property owners in these neighborhoods they must live in higher density’s. That would be like me telling you your farm should be condos. That is what’s happening to Clinton, Division Street, Northwest, the Pearl District, Belmont, Downtown Lake Oswego. Planners and government bureaucrats that don’t live there are allowed to out vote the residents.

    I don’t oppose higher densities if that is what the neighborhoods choose. I oppose rezoning neighborhoods with anyone outside of the property owners voting. That is what is happening.

    In the good old days, if you wanted to rezone a property, the property owners got together and petitioned their neighbors to do it. Now government can do it without the blessing of the property owners.

    • dean

      Chris…sure engineers can design any structure you want for a price. Marquam and Freemont bridges are both double deckers, but for limited distances. A double deck running the length of I-84 would be a 10 or 15 mile bridge. That is a bit spendy, whether you use a napkin or an advanced CAD system. And yes, one can engineer a bridge on soft silts that will withstand an earthquake, but again at very high cost. And I’ll repeat…what do you do with all those cars AFTER they exit? Surface streets are limited in width and can’t be made wider without cutting into already very small Portland blocks.

      I’ve never advocated for cars or suburbs to “go away,” and have no expectation they will do so. I do support designing neighborhoods, streets, towns and districts that are easy to walk and cycle in, and I do support transit. I don’t view this as either/or, but rather as all of the above. Like my Greek ancestors said, everything in moderation.

      Anon…it would take 10 times the amount of rail we have built and free tickets to “relieve” congestion. The bottom line is that in big cities, like what Portland is rapidly becoming, traffic is always a problem no matter how much transit you build. Portland’s traffic is a symptom of its growth and maturity, and we will never be able to have free flowing roads in a region of well over a million people. Big cities without traffic are dying cities, like Detroit and Cleveland.

      I stated that I like what I am seeing in the places I mentioned, I did not say I was advocating that those neighborhoods and communities develop in any particular way. I agree with you that it should be up to local neighborhoods to figure out their own future. But, local decisions should be made within a larger context, meaning that if we don’t want to see the urban growth boundary expanded too much, we in our local neighborhoods need to be willing to accept some density increase as our fair share of the burden.

      When I lived in Sellwood I joined my neighbors in opposing upzoning that resulted in fine older houses being torn down to make way for cheap rowhouses. After a lot of discussion, a compromise was agreed to that focused increased density along the main corridors like Tacoma, 13th, Milwaukie, and so forth. This made sense because most of the buildings are cheaply built one story structures. Replacing these with 2-4 story buildings is economical, allows more frequent bus service, and provides more customers for more stores and cafes.

      This pattern was extended to other Portland neighborhoods, like Division, Hawthorne, NW 23rd, and so forth. Some suburbs have adapted these ideas, notably Lake Oswego and Hillsboro in their downtowns.

      I don’t know of any communities where rezoning has been voted upon. I have advocated that here in Damascus, given the magnitude of the change we are facing, that the citizens be allowed at least an advisory vote on whatever plan eventually emerges.

      In the very good old days there was no zoning. But some property owners built things that were noisy, gave off odors, or blocked out the sun. London burned to the ground in the 17th century because of crowded, shoddy buildings in an unregulated boom market. So citeis found they needed zoning, and we now live in more complex circumstances. Cest la vis.

      • Chris McMullen

        Dean, are you intentionally being obtuse? Where is it written that both decks on a stacked freeway have to exit? You make one deck for through traffic and one for exiting traffic. Jeezus!

        217 is a perfect example. Since the greenies in Oregon won’t allow a west side bypass to be built. The majority of commuters use 217 as a thoroughfare. A stacked 2-lane express rout could be built for minimal cost. It could even be tolled by users.

        It’s not difficult to employ at least a modicum of creative thinking.

  • Anonymous

    Dean said

    Anon…it would take 10 times the amount of rail we have built and free tickets to “relieve” congestion.

    Who would pay for this? The users of the rail? No wait! You said free tickets. It won’t work! Gee Dean, you seem pretty worried how to add road capacity, that are paid in full by the users, but you don’t have a care in the world how to pay for 10 times more Light rail?

    And you know it won’t relive congestion, you would need a grid of rail and tear up nearly every neighborhood and it would take all the transportation funds of the this country to do. What a Great planning Idea!

    We can relive congestion, we always have. Until about 20 years ago when we gave up replaced it with transit. If we can’t relive congestion, we should not add density.

    Density = congestion if you don’t add capacity to our roads
    Light rail + density = congestion
    Density = more pollution because of the congestion
    Density = more cars on the road in that area

    Name a town that congestion was reduced by transit and or rail?
    Key word Reduced! Not reduced the growth of in the future but reduced congestion.

    My bet, you can’t, because it doesn’t. That is why supporters of rail no longer try to tell us a light rail line will replace a 6 lane freeway. Light Rail only carries enough people to replace 1/3 of a freeway lane in the Metro area and it can take forever to get somewhere.

    Then you say a double deck freeway is too expensive. A double deck freeway can be built with user fees. Unlike any new rail line .

    Dean said
    Tacoma, 13th, Milwaukie, and so forth. This made sense because most of the buildings are cheaply built one story structures. Replacing these with 2-4 story buildings is economical, allows more frequent bus service, and provides more customers for more stores and cafes.

    Dean what gave you the right to vote to rezone someone else’s property? When I say neighborhoods should decide on zoning, I mean only the Property owners should decide on the rezoning change. No one should be able to rezone my property, just because they (or you) prefer density. Unless I agree.

    That would be like if I decided you could never rezone your farm to be anything but a farm. Because I believe it should be a farm forever.

    Because of zoning a few so called elite planners can pick the winners and losers of the land use lottery. If I was a planner in Damascus I could decide to make you millions or zone you as green space and that is not right.

    I’m sure you support picking the winners and losers.

    • dean

      Anon…I’ll make it easy for you. Since you insist on attributing arguments to me that I did not make so that you can win your argument with yourself, why don’t you just write in under my name and say whatever you like, then respond under your non-name knocking down the arguments I did not make, and back and forth until you have solved transportation problems for now and into the far future. It would be like a modern version of the Dialogues of Socrates.

      Best of luck.

  • Dale Sherbourne

    This should be a bond measure that would come out as property tax.
    Property taxes a tax deductable from your federal taxes therefore we would be keeping our tax dollars here instead of sending them to DC.

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