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Fish: Questions about residential street fee

Although a majority of the City Council appears ready to approve a residential street fee next Wednesday, a commissioner who believes it should be submitted to the voters has not given up.

The day after the first public hearing on the fee, Commissioner Nick Fish emailed a list of 11 question about the fee to the rest of the council and the Bureau of Transportation on Friday.

Fish also asked about the decision the council made at the May 29 hearing to separate the residential fee from the fee on businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, which is still being crafted.

And Fish had a question about a November ballot measure Hales has proposed to restrict the funds raised by the fee to street maintenance, safety, bicycle, mass transit and other transportation-related projects.

The fee — officially called the Transportation User Fee — was developed by Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick. Commissioner Amanda Fritz indicated she was willing to vote for the residential fee next Thursday after Novick assured her it would be repealed if the other fee was not approved by Nov. 13.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman also believes the fee should be referred to the voters.

Novick says he and Fish have subsequently "agreed to work together to alleviate the impact of utility fees on low-income Portlanders." Hales office says PBOT and the Revenue Bureau are working on answers.

The text of Fish's e-mail follows:

Dear Colleagues,

Based on the testimony and emails I have reviewed, I have a number of questions and concerns about the proposed street fee. They are, in no particular order, as follows:

1. The impact of the proposed fee on low-income renters, particularly those with federal vouchers.

2. The adequacy of discounts generally, and the availability of waivers, for low-income individuals and families.

3. The decision to bifurcate the ordinances on a residential and non-residential fee.

4. The text and purpose of the Mayor’s proposed ballot referral.

5. An analysis of whether it should include a sunset clause or any other triggers.

6. The proposed composition of the oversight committee and the selection process.

7. The financial impact of the fee on the faith community and nonprofits.

8. The cost to City bureaus.

9. Whether and how parking lots should be included.

10. The value of either an administrative cap or annual audits (modeled after the Children’s Levy).

11. Impacts on small business.

I would be pleased to get written comments—or to schedule a follow-up meeting with the PBOT team—whichever makes the most sense.

Thanks in advance.

Nick