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Sources Say: Want street fee details? You might have to dig for them

Social media may be all the craze these days, but is it really the best way to release important information on a public policy decision?

For weeks, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has been saying the proposed street fee would cost businesses between $3 and $144 a month, depending on such factors as their gross revenue and the number of their employees. But those figures are only for an individual location and not how much a business will be charged if it has multiple offices or stores. Some of those following the debate have pestered PBOT to release cumulative totals for individual businesses and it finally did — as a link to a chart in a tweet just two days before the City Council hearing on the proposal, now dubbed the Portland Street Fund.

The chart had a lot of interesting information, including the fact that the city of Portland would pay the most money, $4,905 a month for its estimated 394 locations. But the chart was hard to find for anyone not following PBOT’s Twitter account. The chart was not posted prominently on the PBOT website dedicated to the proposed fund.

Windows on the left?

Oregon Historical Society Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk routinely moderates the panels at the Portland Business Alliance’s monthly breakfast forums. Well before that, he won the TV game show “Jeopardy” four times. And, last week he appeared to stump the alliance’s members without meaning to.

As usual, Tymchuk brought an artifact from the society to introduce the forum’s topic. This time it was on the need for an educated work force. Tymchuk brought a list of requirements for public schools approved by the Oregon Department of Education in 1926. One of those: each classroom must have windows on the left side of the room, prompting puzzled murmurs from the crowd at the Sentinel Hotel.

Portland State University President Wim Wiewel offered a plausible explanation when Tymchuk introduced him as a panelist. He explained that windows provided much of the light in classrooms those days, and all students were presumed to be right-handed.

“If the windows were on the right, their hands would cast shadows on what they were writing,” Wiewel said, which made as much sense as anything.

Everyone wants a piece of the kicker

The state’s improving economy means the Legislature should have more money to spend in 2015 than the last few years, proved the so-called kicker law doesn’t rebate much of the growing surplus. But even if the rebate doesn’t kick in, lobbying already is underway to claim every available dollar and then some.

For example, a new organization called Promise of Oregon recently formed to push for increased funding for pre-school though 12th-grade education, otherwise called K-14. Representatives of business organizations are scheduled to meet with Gov. John Kitzhaber soon to advocate for more money for higher education, including the state’s community colleges and universities. And the Oregon Department of Transportation is looking for more money for road, transit, bike and pedestrian projects.

It’s unlikely the session that starts in January will be able to satisfy everyone. Unlike Congress, the Legislature must balance the state budget every year.

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