It's almost decision time. Does House Bill 3606 have a chance of getting out of the Senate Rules Committee and onto the floor? And if it does, will it pass?
Yes, says David Kahn, who heads the group trying to bring major league baseball to Portland.
The bill authorizes the use of state income tax from major league players and team personnel to pay $150 million of the ballpark's cost. It has been languishing in committee after passing the House of Representatives.
There has been speculation that it would die there, but Kahn not known as a wild-eyed optimist believes that the bill will move to the Senate floor as soon as the budget problem is resolved.
'I think we have an excellent chance, still, of pulling this thing through,' Kahn said. 'I believe that when you have this many people in favor of an issue and, in this case, it's the governor, the mayor of Portland, 600 local businesses, labor, neighborhood alliances, and hundreds and hundreds of volunteers that it matters.
'This thing will ultimately be successful. I'm not sure about the time frame because the budget is still the backdrop. The budget still influences the timing. All we want is a fair vote. Look at all the folks who are supporting this. After all the work being done by all these folks from all walks of life, it would be wrong not to have a fair vote.'
Kahn addressed a few concerns Monday that have surfaced late in the game, including:
nTeam ownership. 'It's not an issue whatsoever. Until we have a financing plan for the stadium and a lease with the city, no owner should step forward. When we have the building blocks in place, it will be too attractive for someone to pass up. It's the most underserved sports market in America.'
Is Kahn aware of an ownership group waiting for Portland to resolve these issues? 'Yes,' he said.
nWill the income tax plan work? 'None of us has a crystal ball to know what player salaries will be in 25 years. But we have enough historic data to know the numbers being proposed are safe and conservative.'
nWhat about the city's share of the ballpark tab? 'We have been working hard with the city not just for weeks but for months at identifying what's doable, while adhering to the self-mandate that no monies be taken from existing sources of revenue and that no monies be used that aren't baseball-related. I wouldn't say that the day after the bill passes the city would be ready to detail its plan, but I do believe it won't be long. It will be a matter of weeks, not months, before the city is able to announce its plans to pull together pockets of financing that will make it happen.'
nIf the bill passes, will Portland get the Expos? 'From Day One, it's never been just about the Expos. I believe more than one team could be relocated. But having said that, I really do believe that if the bill passes this month, the Expos are there for the taking. Why not us?'
Indeed, why not us?