May 28th, 2014 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Transportation, Religion

Churches Worried by Portland Street Fee Plan

     
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Add another voice to the growing choir of doubt over the proposed Portland street fee: churches.

As first reported in today's Murmurs, the leaders of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon are alarmed that the proposal by Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick would levy a fee on churches and nonprofits.

David Leslie, executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, says he's worried the fee could first seek money from poor citizens, then from the religious nonprofits that help them.  

"It will adversely impact people living in poverty, and the organizations that do a lot of the heavy lifting on serving people in need," Leslie tells WW. "You may end up paying three times."

One example: Crossroads Church of Christ on Northeast 102nd Avenue could pay $4,444 a year, according to the rate calculator created by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Leslie and other religious leaders met with Novick yesterday afternoon to express concern.

The street fee proposal—which would charge most Portland households $138 a year, and levy larger charges on businesses, nonprofits and governments—has made an odd ally of churches and the purveyors of lottery tickets and cigarettes.

Backlash to the proposal began last week with restaurants and convenience stores—their lobbyists are meeting this week to discuss how to fight the fee.

The Oregonian reported Tuesday that the Portland Business Alliance has asked members to offer their objections at a public hearing in City Hall this Thursday, May 29.

UPDATE, 4:37 pm: Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera says city officials are offering churches a discount: not charging them for trips made on Sundays. (PBOT is levying the business fee using traffic estimates from the latest edition of the Institute of Transportation Engineers manual.)

"We're charging them the weekday rate," Rivera says. "We're not charging them for Sundays."

 
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