Rene Gonzalez Urges Refinement of Homeless and Preschool Taxes While Exploring $800 Million Parks and Fire Bond

The city commissioner said he would “strongly support” putting the Preschool for All and supportive housing services taxes back on next year’s ballot.

WINNING TIME: Portland City Council candidate Rene Gonzalez speaks with local journalists at his campaign office during an election night party in Portland on November 8. (Jordan Gale)

Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez sat down and spoke with members of WW’s newsroom last week about his campaign to become Portland’s next mayor.

When it came to the discussion of taxes, Gonzalez didn’t hold back. He said he would be in “strong support” of sending both the Multnomah County Preschool for All tax and Metro’s supportive housing services tax back to the ballot next year for revision.

But when it came to Gov. Tina Kotek’s proposal that the city put a three-year tax moratorium on itself, Gonzalez wasn’t so jazzed.

“What’s really perverse in the current structure is that the county is overtaxing you. Metro is overtaxing you. But the city has taken some austerity measures,” Gonzalez said. “So we are heading down a path where we’re going to start starving the city of resources while the county and Metro overtax you.”

Gonzalez pointed to the Portland Bureau of Transportation as one example of Mayor Ted Wheeler mulling austerity measures; earlier this year, Wheeler proposed that the city not enact a planned 40-cent-per-hour parking fee increase. His four colleagues on the City Council voted to instead approve a 20-cent parking increase. The Transportation Bureau is facing a $32 million budget shortfall next year.

“PBOT is going broke, guys, so continuously putting the brakes on their ability to raise parking fees doesn’t make sense to me,” Gonzalez said. “I’ll go tell the Portland Metro Chamber that. I think they’re wrong on this issue.” (That’s the new name of what was formerly called the Portland Business Alliance, the most powerful business group in the city. Gonzalez has drawn ample support from the business community over the past year.)

One week later, WW broke the news that Gonzalez and the city’s parks commissioner, Dan Ryan, are exploring placing an $800 million bond on the November 2024 ballot for the Parks & Recreation and Fire & Rescue bureaus. Both have aging and outdated buildings in need of large-scale repairs.

In hindsight, Gonzalez’s insistence that Portland not enact a tax moratorium while urging tweaks to two other area taxes now makes more sense: He’s seeking a hefty bond measure for one of his city bureaus.

Watch the entire exchange below.

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