Portland’s Clean Energy Measure Soars to Victory

Voters love the idea of taxing big-box retailers, banks and Comcast to pay for green energy projects and job training.

Cully Park (Benjamin Brink, Portland Parks & Recreation)

Portland's Clean Energy Initiative, otherwise known as Measure 26-201, appears to have energized voters, judging from early returns Tuesday night.

On the first release of results at 8 pm, the measure was ahead by a 63 percent to 36 percent margin.

The measure would levy a 1 percent tax on the Portland sales of certain retailers with sales of more than $500,000 in the city and more than $1 billion nationally. The tax would be spent on energy efficiency, green energy and job training for low income and minority Portlanders.

The victory comes with broad support from public officials, against skepticism from the press. WW and The Oregonian urged a "no" vote on the measure based on concerns about the vagueness of the plans for spending the $30 million to $80 million a year it could raise.

But the prospect of taxing companies such as Walmart and Home Depot and spending the money on energy efficiency, green energy and job training for low income and minority Portlanders proved irresistible.

Andrew Hoan, the CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, which opposed the mesasure, conceded defeat.

"While we remain seriously concerned with the impact this gross receipts tax will have on Portlanders who can least afford it, we stand in agreement with proponents of this measure that much more must be done to lessen the impacts of climate change to those most affected," said Hoan. "We look forward to finding ways we may all work together for our future."

Proponents celebrated their blowout victory.

"I am incredibly proud of what we, the people of this city, have come together and accomplished here today," said the Reverend E.D. Mondainé, President of the NAACP Portland Branch, Pastor of the Celebration Tabernacle Church, and chief petitioner of Measure 26-201.

"We have shown that our community is strong and has innovative solutions to the crises of environmental injustice and economic inequality. We have put forward a vision for a clean energy future where our workers have good-paying jobs, our homes are healthy and warm, and our power is as renewable as our spirits already are. The people of Portland said yes to this vision, and tomorrow we are ready to carry this vision forward to become our new reality."

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