The City of Portland Wins 3 Legal Challenges

Courts sided with the city on the arts tax, sewer fees and reservoir demolition.

The city of Portland won three court battles in recent weeks, including two on Wednesday, on issues ranging from the constitutionality of the arts tax to the distribution of stormwater fees.

On May 30, a U.S. District Court judge in Portland sided with the city on a matter brought by major airlines alleging they shouldn't have to pay city utility fees passed on to them by the Port of Portland. In a 14-page decision, the court dismissed the case brought by A4A, an industry group representing airlines, saying that whether the airlines paid the sewer and stormwater fees was between them and the port—not the city.

"The airlines argue that the fees violate a federal statute that limits how airport revenues are spent," the court wrote. "The City argues that A4A lacks standing to bring this case because the economic injuries they allege as a result of the fees are not caused by the City, but rather the independent decision of the Port of Portland to pass those fees to airlines as an operating cost of the airport. The Court agrees."

The decision spares Portland a battle over about $4 million in utility fees per year.

Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the Portland arts tax, writing that the $35 per person tax is not a poll tax or a head tax, two forms of taxation that the Oregon Constitution prohibits.

Next week, city officials will consider a resolution that will send the names of Portlanders who haven't paid the arts tax to a collection agency.

Also Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals struck down an appeal of a land use decision by the City Council ordering the demolition of the drinking water reservoir at Washington Park.

The city is rebuilding the water system at Washington Park to meet state and federal requirements, including the water quality rule known as LT2, or the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule.

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.