Business owners sound off at town hall on proposed street fee

Business owners sound off at town hall on proposed street fee »Play Video
Restaurant owner and manager, Renee Gorham (left and standing), told the crowd during a town hall at the Oregon Convention Center Tuesday, June 24, 2014 that it's embarrassing that money would be taken away from public schools. Under the original proposal, schools and public institutions would have to pay the street fee, as well.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Dozens of business owners angry over the proposed street fee packed a ballroom at the Oregon Convention Center Tuesday.

There was a lot of finger pointing, mostly at city leaders, and emotions were high for a few of the speakers who took the microphone at a town hall meeting to discuss the proposed street fee.

City leaders are looking for solutions to help raise $53 million needed for road repairs and maintenance. Most of the money for those projects comes from the federal gas tax, but Mayor Charlie Hales said it's no longer enough.

“The federal gas tax has been frozen since 1993,” Hales told reporters outside the meeting. “Think about how long ago 1993 was. That’s how long we’ve been charging the same amount for paying for our streets.”

Ideas were posted on boards in the ballroom and others voiced theirs.

“Let’s also go as a city to the Legislature and get studded tires taxed. They really wreck our roads,” said Martha Peck Andrews, a building owner and landlord, to applause from the crowd.

Another suggestion was a redo of the way the fees are calculated, leaving out schools and public institutions.

“It’s a ridiculous notion that we want to take more money away from our children and away from our public institutions. It’s embarrassing in my opinion,” said restaurant owner and manager, Renee Gorham, also to applause.

Voters likely won’t get a say on the final version, which probably won’t be complete until November.

The residential town hall on the street fee proposal is Wednesday night at the Kaiser Permanente town hall. That's located at 3704 North Interstate Avenue. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.