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Sources Say: City taxes the huh? factor

If Portlanders weren’t confused about the Art Tax before, they probably are now.

The city recently mailed a refund request form to all households where someone already paid the $35-a-year tax. It explains changes the City Council made to the tax since it was approved by voters in November.

Among other things, the council decided the tax should only be paid by residents who earn more than $1,000 a year. And the council learned that some state and federal income sources cannot be counted toward that minimum.

As a result, the city is trying to figure out if anyone deserves an Art Tax refund.

The form includes an explanation of the changes and flow chart for working them out, but it is also full of arcane abbreviations of the funding sources, including SS, SSI, RRRA, PERS, FERS, CSRC and USTI. The deadline for submitting requests is Sept. 9.

In the meantime, the city has collected $7.9 million in Art Tax funds. That's more than half the original estimate, and Portland Public Schools has already hired the equivalent of 45 arts teachers with its share of the Art Tax funds.

Ludlow says: Look over there!

Aside from the members of the Multnomah County Commission, elected officials in the region have been mostly mum about the controversy swirling around County Chair Jeff Cogen.

Although the four commissioners have pressed him to resign because of the fallout from his affair with a county employee, other politicians have been more discreet. That includes Clackamas County Chair John Ludlow . . . up to a point.

Appearing at Monday’s meeting of the Westside Economic Alliance, Ludlow let slip that he was not unhappy the press is chasing after another county chair for a change. Ludlow has been the focus of numerous stories about turmoil within Clackamas County government since he and fellow conservative Tootie Smith were elected to the board in November.

“It’s a matter of balance,” Ludlow told Sources, without offering an opinion about Cogen’s behavior.

Clock ticking on Cogen, county seat

In the meantime, the Cogen scandal has hit a lull. The Multnomah County counsel and the Oregon Department of Justice are conducting investigations into whether Cogen violated county policies or state laws.

The justice department has asked that no further documents related to the situation be released. And Cogen has hired criminal defense attorney Janet Hoffman as his representative.

How will the standoff end? Cogen has made it clear he will not resign unless the investigations reveal that he broke the law. But he has not said whether it will take an accusation, conviction or negotiated settlement to force his hand.

And, if Cogen ultimately doesn’t resign, he has to decide whether to run for re-election next year. He has a little less than $17,000 in his campaign account.

Other potential candidates also are going to have to decide whether to run for the seat. The first day anyone can file for the county chair position is Sept. 12, a little more than a month away.