Few forces standing in the way of a Portland "street fee" are as powerful as the Portland Business Alliance.
Today, the business lobby came closer to getting money from City Hall for holiday advertising, including an "ugly sweater" campaign that will dress downtown statues in Christmas yarn.
The fate of the street fee and the release of money for holiday advertising are connected—because earlier this year the PBA threatened City Commissioner Steve Novick, who had proposed to cut the marketing money from the city budget, that the PBA might respond by opposing new transportation taxes.
When preliminary city budgets were released this February, Novick had cut $800,000 that was slated to come from the transportation bureau and pay for Travel Portland's downtown marketing.
The PBA was furious. Bernie Bottomly, the PBA's representative to the PBOT budget advisory committee, joined with Corky Collier of the Columbia Corridor Association to issue their own splinter budget suggestion to City Council.
"These agreements were made in good faith and the community stakeholders have upheld their end of the bargain," they wrote. "If the city were to move away from those commitments it would undermine the trust and cooperation that will be needed to address the bureau's long-term funding needs," referring to what would become the street fee.
This spring, the PBA warned Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales to slow their proposal to raise $50 million a year for paving roads and building sidewalks. That reluctance played a role in Novick and Hales delaying their plan.
Meanwhile, the city passed a final budget that cut the $800,000 for downtown marketing.
Today, City Council moved forward on a plan to restore $170,000 of the $800,000 for holiday advertising originally cut. The one-time money will come from city's general fund, instead of the transportation budget.
Hales explained this morning that the city's checkbook was less squeezed than it was in June.
"Now, perhaps, we have a little bit of room to add back some of the things we were forced to crimp and scrimp on," Hales said. "We've heard a very sincere plea. That's why this item is on the calendar."
But Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted no—delaying final approval until next week.
"We made a decision in the budget that we were not going to fund it," Fritz said. "We have other priorities. If I was going to vote to spend $170,000 for a project today, I would vote for another pedestrian crossing in East Portland."