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Sources Say • Candidates hit rail vote hitch

Sources Say • Candidates hit rail vote hitch

The Clackamas County Commission is facing a difficult decision after the county counsel's office issued an opinion this week saying that the public rail funding measure on the Sept. 18 special election ballot doesn't apply to the $1.49 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail project.

Activists who gathered enough voter signatures to place the measure on the ballot certainly intended for it to require a public vote on the county's $25 million commitment to project. Virtually all of the news coverage said it did, too.

But now the commission has to decide whether to risk angering even more voters by saying they don't have the right to vote on the funding even before the measure passes or fails.

The decision is especially tricky for Chair Charolette Lehan and Commissioner Jamie Damon. They are already facing funding opponents at the November general election. Appearing to be against the right to vote is probably not the best way to win re-election, even if there's a legal opinion to justify such a decision.

TriMet's budget alternatives

A lot of advocacy groups are good at complaining but not so good at coming up with workable solutions. OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon has spent many hours tweaking TriMet's proposed budget to reduce fare increases and maintain bus service during the past few weeks, however.

Members of the group met with TriMet board members and staff to make sure everyone agrees on their numbers.

OPAL, which believes public transit is a civil right, accepts the creation of a single fare, the elimination of the Free Rail Zone and the reconfiguration of 15 bus routes to improve efficiency, as TriMet proposes. But OPAL argues for lower fares, discount ticket books, extended transfer times and maintaining low-ridership lines. The group would balance the budget with a smaller contingency fund, reduced subsidies for Portland Streetcar and parking fees at park-and-ride lots.

OPAL says its budget would generate more than 300,000 additional rides a year while TriMet's proposed budget would reduce them by 1.1 million. Dozens of people are preparing to testify in support of OPAL's proposal at the board's June 13 meeting. The group also is organizing a rally before the meeting, when the final budget could be adopted.

OPAL's alternative budget can be found at opalpdx.org.

Political junkie withdrawal

A post-election change in campaign finance reporting requirements is preventing political junkies from learning who has contributed to the candidates that survived the May 15 primary election.

In the months before the election, candidates had to report all contributions within 30 days of receiving them. But as the election neared, the requirement was shortened to seven days, allowing a more accurate look at who was raising the most money in each race.

But the deadline reverted back to 30 days on May 16, meaning contributions received since then won't start being reported for another week or so.

The seven-day requirement won't go into effect again until Sept. 25, just six weeks before the Nov. 6 general election.

The same is true for campaign expenditures, meaning we won't know how much money the major candidates spent in the primary race for Portland mayor -- or any other primary race -- for a little bit longer.

Sources could always call each campaign and demand the latest contribution and spending information, of course, but it's so much easier to complain and wait.