June 11th, 2009 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Multnomah County, Legislature

Deborah Kafoury Gives 'Teddy Bear' an Assist in Salem

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When Multnomah County commissioners wanted to raise vehicle registration fees last year to help pay for a new Sellwood Bridge, their plans were shut down by the city councils of Gresham, Troutdale and dinky Maywood Park.

Their support was required under state law, and when county Chair Ted Wheeler failed to convince them to go along with the plan, the episode again raised questions about whether Wheeler has the political chops to bend reluctant partners his way.

Now, as the Gresham Outlook reports, Wheeler and the county commissioners are on the brink of finally getting their way. The Legislature has approved a provision in the state transportation package that would give the county the ability to raise vehicle registration fees — without the approval of smaller local jurisdictions.

But it wasn't Wheeler who got the job done. Rather, it was Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, a former state lawmaker who's been spending up to four days a week in Salem lobbying on the county's behalf.

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Because of Kafoury's efforts, the state transportation bill gives Multnomah and Clackamas counties the ability to raise vehicle fees, while other counties are under a four-year moratorium on vehicle fee hikes. The bill also lifts the requirement that small and neighboring jurisdictions approve vehicle fee hikes.

According to the Outlook, that move seriously pissed off at least one Troutdale city council member. The Outlook also says Commissioner Diane McKeel, who represents East County, was unaware of the provision. McKeel has not yet returned a phone call from WW for comment.

Kafoury says she worked closely in Salem with Rep. Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie) and Sen. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Northeast Portland) to give the county the ability to raise vehicle fees. Kafoury says she's not sure how much the fee will go up, but the board of commissioners intends to raise it to help replace the wobbly Sellwood Bridge.

More than half the estimated $326 million needed for that project is still unaccounted for, Kafoury says.
 
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