Itâs not every day that a conservative talk-show host suggests spending more taxpayer dollars. But during his May 8 show on KXL-FM 101.1, Lars Larson floated an alternative to Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novickâs proposed street fee to pay for transportation projects: Use $50 million a year from urban renewal areas, run by the Portland Development Commission, on the cityâs $1.5 billion road-maintenance backlog. âLet the developers finance their own projects,â Larson said, âand pour that $50 million into bringing the streets back up to standard.â Hales, meanwhile, continues to defend the fee to raise transportation funds by charging up to $12 a month per household, regardless of homeownersâ income. âWeâre going to start charging poor people to pave their streets because we have to,â Hales told a regional transportation advisory committee May 5, as first reported by Metro News. âItâs regressive, and Iâm sorry itâs regressive. We have to be that clear with people because itâs so much easier to stay in denial and hope we can go another couple years without having to raise taxes.â
In another spending controversy, Hales has moved quickly to enact reforms in the way the City Council reviews big construction projects, following a WW report on the tripling in costs of a new Bureau of Environmental Services office building thatâs home to sewer engineers (âSpace of Waste,â WW, April 30, 2014). We reported contract and design changes for the building went through the City Council five timesâall without debate. Hales told city bureau directors May 6 that contract increases of $1 million-plus can no longer go on the councilâs consent agenda, where items are gaveled through without debate. WW reported the buildingâs original price rose from $3.2 to $11.4 million. KOIN-TV last week uncovered records showing the final cost actually hit $12.6 million.
Two national magazines are highlighting the big money helping Portland neurosurgeon Monica Wehbyâs campaign to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. National Journal profiled John Jordan, a multimillionaire vineyard owner from California who supported the NewRepublican.org political action committee, which bought advertisements supporting Wehby. And Mother Jones wrote about Loren Parks, a medical-device seller and frequent donor to conservative causes. Mother Jones highlighted Parksâ claims that, as an unlicensed sex therapist, he can hypnotize women into becoming âsex machines.â Parks gave $75,000 to a PAC called âIf He Votes That Way in Salem, Imagine What He Will Do in Congress,â which ran ads against Wehbyâs chief opponent, state Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend). The winner of the GOP primary is likely to face U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in the fall.