On August 20th, the East Portland Chamber GEACs heard from the newest executive on the Portland Business Alliance team. Marion Haynes is an advocate on behalf of businesses in Portland. She interacts with the city, county, state and other business associations. She follows a wide variety of topics, proposals and issues that affect the business community in the city, land use, transportation, city services, the new laws and ordinances. She reflected on some of the issues that she faced when working for the PBA governmental affairs team 6 years ago. Some projects have seen tremendous progress, while others seem to be stuck in the same place as her last gig. A few of the topics she is involved in…
The proposal for charging business and residents monthly fees to fund the maintenance of Portland city streets was rolled out by Mayor Hales and city commissioner Steve Novick early this year. It was slated for a vote in May with only a few weeks of public awareness. The proposal was met with enormous opposition from the business community. The vote by the city commissioners was delayed and several committees formed to come up with a more palatable solution. A few things that are in discussion for modification include:
- The original proposal was to raise $53 million dollars.. The newest number is more in the range of $25 to $35 million.
- The original plan was to raise half from business and half from residents. The latest discussion is to raise 1/3 each from business, residents and from city budget revisions.
- Many of the groups involved in revising the plan would like to first see a list of potential projects – not just a dollar figure with nothing attached. There needs to be commitment that the funds will go to maintenance and not other pet city projects. Recognizing that there are many safety needs – these funds should be used primarily for the maintenance that has been neglected due to the diversion of the franchise fees, which were originally dedicated to maintenance, but instead used for other projects.
- Businesses are advocating for a sunset of the fee with possible renewal as other projects are identified.
- There will be an oversight committee made up of bureaucrats and special interest groups. Only a few spots were slotted for business owners. PBA is advocating that business be represented in proportion to the amount of funds coming from business.
- There needs to be a provision that maintains the existing funds that the city allocates to maintenance of streets. They should not take money away from the city budget to be replaced with this new tax. It should be additive.
- The original proposal was to add the fee to the existing water utility bills. This means that it would be common for the landlords to be the collectors of the fee/tax and the application would not be consistent. The new proposal asks that all businesses with a license to do business in the city will pay the fee. The new proposal is based on business type and the square footage of the business footprint.
City Comprehensive plan:
Portland is working on an up-date to the comprehensive plan which includes jobs, economic development, land use policy, education, environmental regulation and many more details. The plan should be completed in September and voted on by the city in January of 2015.
The governmental affairs team and their corresponding committee at PBA support and represent their 1800 members, but also all of the other businesses in the city benefit from their activities and participation I the process.
VP of Business and Community Development