Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick are putting their proposed street fee on hold.
Sources at City Hall tell WW that Hales and Novick are postponing a City Council vote on a residential fee charging households $144 a year.
The vote was planned for Wednesday, but will be delayed until November.
Word of the decision was first reported last night by The Oregonian. Novick confirmed this morning the fee has been delayed "indefinitely" on Jefferson Smith's XRAY.FM radio show.
Hales and Novick have not responded to WW's request for comment.
The decision comes after two weeks of backlash—which began as soon as WW revealed on May 20 that Hales and Novick would try to pass a fee on households and businesses without a public vote.
The ire culminated at a nearly six-hour public hearing on May 29, where people said the cost of the fee would cripple their businesses, or mean they couldn’t afford groceries. Paul Romain, a lobbyist for the Oregon Petroleum Association, warned then that the fee would be referred to the November ballot anyway.
Romain tells WW that organizations opposed to the fee met May 30 to discuss ballot referral. That group included representatives of restaurants and convenience stores, as well as political consultant Mark Nelson, who lobbies for 7-11.
UPDATE, 11:25 am: Hales and Novick have released confirmation they're delaying a council vote until Nov. 12.
They say outcry from small businesses and low-income housing advocates changed their minds.
”The last street fee proposal in 2008 was derailed by a lobbyist filing a referendum petition,” Novick writes. “This one has been temporarily delayed due to concerns voiced by small business owners and low-income people and advocates. We are in a hurry to get to work, but if we’re going to be delayed, it’s for the right reasons.”
UPDATE, 12:20 pm: Novick has written a blog post reiterating his conviction that funding streets and sidewalks is "a moral obligation." But he says the public ire presents an opportunity to engage people on a solution.
Novick says he's open to reconsidering a sales tax or an income tax, instead of the street fee.
"Now, the polling on a sales tax is not encouraging," he writes, "and I'm sure some powerful groups are dead set against it, but if the work groups are interested and think an army can be raised to promote the idea …
"A local income tax is, of course, the most progressive idea, and it's something the people of Portland have actually supported before - the I-Tax. For some reason it did not do well in our poll. But again, if the work groups conclude that progressivity is the highest value, maybe there's a strategy for that."