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August 25th, 2010 Jacob Pierce | News Stories
 

Triple Play

Our guide to three money measures popping up on your ballot.

     
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Since mid-July, three different local governments have put money measures on the ballot for Portland voters to consider in the Nov. 2 election.

The most recent addition came Aug. 19, when the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to ask county residents to OK a five-year levy for the Oregon Historical Society. That request joins a bond proposal from the city for fire services and another bond issue from TriMet.

If all three measures pass, the total property-tax bill from the trio of requests for a Portland homeowner with property assessed at $150,000 would be $33.50 a year.

For those trying to sort through the three measures, here’s a breakdown.

Fire And Emergency Services Bond Issue

Total cost: $72.4 million, or 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value; 14 cents per $1,000 by the end of the 15-year payoff period.

Cost for the owner of a property assessed at $150,000: $14 per year.

What supporters will tell us: The city will go up in flames if the Fire Bureau doesn’t replace several fire engines, the oldest of which has 175,000 miles on it and is going on 19 years. The measure would also finance construction of a new fire station on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and a new emergency response station. And it would allow emergency services to switch from an outdated analog radio system to a digital one.

What opponents will tell us: Fire Commissioner Randy Leonard should have fought for funding during the normal budget process instead of throwing it to voters as an added expense.

Who’s paying for the campaign: So far, Commissioner Nick Fish, Beam Construction and Management, and Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson’s Peregrine Sports have all made $2,500 contributions. Other donors include Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Uptown Developers LLC, and the local chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Tri Met Bond Issue For New Buses

Total cost: $125 million, or 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Cost for the owner of a property assessed at $150,000: $12 per year for 20 years for residents of the tri-county transit district.

What supporters will tell us: Elderly riders now—and the aging baby boomer population in the years ahead—will be trapped in their homes without an overhaul of the aging bus fleet and more accessible bus stops. The bond will fund replacements for up to 150 aging buses, nearly one-quarter of the 649-bus fleet. Also, there will be no net increase on property tax bills because this bond issue would replace an expiring TriMet bond issue that funded westside MAX service.

What opponents will tell us: Until TriMet gets its generous benefits for drivers in line, the agency has nerve hitting up voters up for more money. And speaking of chutzpah, TriMet is poised to increase fares by a nickel Sept. 1 and make some cuts to service. Now it wants money from taxpayers for buses?

Who’s paying for the campaign: Even though ballots will be mailed in less than two months, no political action committee has been formed. Groups such as Elders in Action and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition are endorsing the bond issue.

Oregon Historical Society Levy

Total cost: $10 million, or 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for residents of Portland and all of Multnomah County.

Cost for the owner of a property assessed at $150,000: $7.50 per year for five years.

What supporters will tell us: Reject this tax levy and one of the state’s treasured organizations could be history because it has barely enough funds to last until spring. This is only a five-year levy designed to buy time. Unlike smaller counties, such as Lane and Washington, Multnomah County lacks a historical society. And OHS, located in downtown Portland, fills that void.

What opponents will tell us: This is a Band-Aid that just punts the issue until 2015. Other arts groups planning their own future money measure say this OHS levy will hurt. “If this goes through, people will feel ‘Oh, we already voted for that,’” says Scott Lewis, executive director for Northwest Dance Project.

Who’s paying for the campaign: The campaign just began last week. But the historical society will tap bigwigs such as Melvin Mark and William Swindells, to donate. Executive director George Vogt says the plan has backing from many history professors and high-school teachers, as well as Thomas Vaughan, historian laureate for Oregon.

 
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