Do you want to pay $12 a month for a new city “street maintenance and safety” fee?

That’s the question being put to voters in a telephone survey paid for by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

And the phone survey—first reported by and obtained by WW—points to how Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick will try to raise money for the bureau.

The new fee ($144 a year) on Portland’s roughly 250,000 households would bring in $36 million annually for street paving and building sidewalks. 

"It is our sense that people don't want to cut fire, parks, police and other services," says Novick's chief of staff Chris Warner. "But they may be willing to pay for transportation in other ways."

The poll tests three main options: an $8-a-home fee, a $12-a-home fee, and a second $12-a-home version that sets aside money to increase TriMet bus service in low-income areas, as well as "preparing one downtown Willamette River bridge to survive an earthquake."

And further down in the survey, voters are asked if they'd support funding PBOT with a 1-percent city sales tax with an exemption for groceries.

The poll was conducted last weekend by Davis, Hibbitts, & Midghall. Transportation officials tell WW it cost roughly $28,000.

One question not asked: What if City Council passes the new fee without a public vote? Circumventing voters is one option being looked at by Novick and Hales.

Both the $8 and $12 fees could be legally passed by City Council without going to the ballot.

That bugs Jason Williams of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, which regularly challenges tax increases on the ballot.

"It just seems like whenever the politicians have a dumb idea or a dangerous idea," Williams says, "that's when they don't ask the voters."

Williams says he hasn't decided whether he'd challenge a fee passed by City Council.

And Novick's office says City Hall hasn't decided either. "There's a process to go through," says Warner, "before council makes that decision."

Meanwhile, PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera says the bureau will continue gathering input from citizens at four public forums, starting April 16.