Something strange has happened. Somewhere along the way in the conversation about the city’s tax proposal, we lost sight of the problem: the need to fix our streets.

I am a Portland small business owner and chair-emeritus of the city’s Small Business Advisory Council. I am also a Portland resident, voter and father of two public school children. My kids walk to school almost every day. My employees, customers and partners rely on the transportation system to get to work and conduct business. I don’t disagree with the premise that some new revenue may be needed to ensure well-maintained, safe streets, so it’s beyond me why the city keeps wasting public time and resources fighting over creation of a brand new citywide personal income tax. Especially when there are plenty of other already established alternatives.

Portland has never before had a personal income tax, and adding one now would be a burden on residents and small businesses. According to the city’s current plan, this tax would have no end, could be expanded or extended, and could end up funding anyone’s guess of future projects. Pile on the fact that employees on public pensions — including every member of Portland City Council when they retire — won’t pay a dime, while those collecting private retirement will, and I stand appalled. Do retired public employees not use the transportation system?

But what really galls me as a member of the community is that Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick refuse to put this issue on the ballot for a vote. Whether you agree with the proposal or not, I believe the people of Portland ought to have a say about a brand new tax structure.

A recent poll among Portland-area voters, coordinated by the Portland Business Alliance (of which I am a member), showed us that 75 percent of Portland voters are aware of the income tax discussion and 77 percent believe this thing should go to a vote. Clearly I’m not alone.

So, Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick, let’s get this conversation refocused on the real issue of fixing streets. This fight over a new income tax structure wastes time, drains energy and detracts from other civic issues that need attention. It’s time for everyone to get back to work and start focusing on the problem we all agree we need to solve: fixing our streets.

Andy Frazier is managing partner of Frazier Hunnicutt Financial, chair emeritus of the Portland Small Business Advisory Council and member of the Portland Business Alliance

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