City Commissioner Calls Nick Fish "Captain Renault," Answers His Questions on the Portland Street Fee

Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick has responded to his colleague Nick Fish's 11 questions about the Portland street fee.

Judging from the tone of the email, this is not the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Novick starts the letter with "Dear Captain Renault"—a reference to the corrupt military police officer in Casablanca who was "shocked, shocked" to discover gambling at Rick's bar.

The barb seems directed at Fish's questions about why Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales are funding transportation projects by levying a fee on the poor.

"We hope to extend the low-income discounts to as many low- income residents as possible," Novick writes Fish. "As you know, it is administratively difficult to make such discounts accessible to renters, especially in multifamily housing. You know this because the Bureau of Environmental Services does not provide such discounts in multifamily housing at all."

The response, sent to four local newspapers, continues a tense exchange that began at the May 29 public hearing on the street fee. That's when Fish—who is opposed to passing any version without a public vote—asked to delay action to consider complaints brought by citizens.

When Fish followed up May 30 asking about poverty discounts on the fee, Novick challenged him to offer more low-income discounts on water and sewer bills.

Novick's latest reply also volunteers some of his strategy in passing the residential fee June 4 while delaying on a business fee. Novick says he's trying to leverage the business community into finding a version of the proposal they'll accept.

"It is my hope," Novick writes, "that if they know that 'the residential fee is already passed, the city has set a deadline to resolve this fee, this is really happening,' it will create pressure to come to something of an agreement."

(UPDATE, 4:45 pm: Fish is holding out hope for a happy ending.)

Here is the full text of Novick's response.