19 Jan

On street tax, there’s no way around going to the voters

For months, the Portland City Council has been considering how to ask citizens for more tax revenue.

Now, it’s decided instead to ask for advice.

At least advice is always free.

After months of unsuccessful efforts to devise a tax for street improvements that could get three votes to pass the Council and not go to the voters, the Council decided to hold – for the first time in Portland history – an advisory vote. Next May, Portland voters will be asked their advice on several potential taxes to produce the money.

Public input is always a good thing, especially in Portland, which cherishes process over pavement. But we might wonder whether the Council is asking the wrong question.

The right question might be not what kind of tax Portlanders prefer, but why one tax isn’t presented to voters for final approval. Reluctance to do that, it seems, is what kept the council from finding three votes.

It’s unlikely that an advisory vote will tell the Council that voters are overwhelmingly thrilled with one particular tax.

With luck, one might be least unpopular.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 1/17/15.

If the Council finds that out, it should still go back to the voters for a final vote, before a petition refers it.
The Council can have that advice right now.

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