Onward and upward with the task farce

Governor Kohoutek's top secret "task force" to salvage downtown Portland has held its last in-person meeting and is now busy filling up its grab bag of ideas for salvation. Some of the proposals that have leaked out of this book club are decent, if obvious. Make parking free for a while? Sounds good to me. More graffiti cleanup? I couldn't agree more. 

But if I were putting together a list, those would be down quite a way from the top. And a lot of what is being talked about doesn't exactly inspire optimism.

"I'm just really excited that we're looking at ways to make downtown better," said Lisa Schroeder, who runs Mother’s Bistro, a dining staple in downtown Portland. Schroeder is on the task force in the committee focused on public safety. She said they’ve been talking about opening a sobering center downtown and having a van to transport people from the streets to the center. 

"We're also looking at peer-to-peer support, bringing people who have experienced substance abuse out to the streets and working with people and trying to encourage them to get help," Schroeder said.... 

As for a van and sobering center, of course we need them, but you can't expect the current crowd of elected bobbleheads to get them going. Already the county chair, Chevy Vega (currently en route back home from the Portugal junkie junket), has mismanaged her way into forfeiting a half-million-dollar federal grant to restart such a service.

And apparently the committee members are buying into the "peer-to-peer counseling" spiel from the homeless industrial complex. As far as I can tell, there's plenty of that going on already, at Deadly Deborah's addict day spa and at the city's managed overnight camps. It sounds like the "force" is going to say we need to throw more money in that direction. The politicians may hurt their necks nodding vigorously in agreement.

I was flabbergasted to read that at least one of the committee members is taking this opportunity to push for an income tax holiday for anyone crazy enough to run a business downtown, and a new retail sales tax for everybody else. 

"I think we need to think about who the audience is that we're trying to get back down here," added Jessie Burke, who chairs the Old Town Community Association and co-owns a small hotel in the heart of Old Town.... 

Other task force suggestions include waiving income taxes for businesses based in downtown, removing parking fees and converting empty office space into housing.

"That is my greatest wish. If we can only turn office space into housing, we'd see this city flourish," Schroeder said.  

A city spokesperson told KGW that Mayor Ted Wheeler is talking with several interested downtown building owners. On Monday, Burke suggested introducing a sales tax to help pay for these types of larger projects.

Mostly everyone has been skeptical of this "blue ribbon" group from the minute it was formed. Now that they're six weeks away from being done, the forecast calls for a steaming hash of quixotic proposals. As has been fairly clear from the start, the ones that match the politicians' existing agenda are likely to be hailed as brilliant, and the rest will wind up in a drawer.

Until then, aside from a few interviews by committee members, the public's been left in the dark about what's being discussed. The "force" has set up a web page that's supposed to update us all on how it's going, but there's little to no information on it about anything. Each of the five committee update pages still says "Updates coming soon," as it has for weeks. And some of the links on the update top page are bad. But when there's no content wherever you go from there, the misdirected clicks hardly matter.


  1. Since the local bobbleheads are not competent about staying within existing budget constraints and since new ideas will need new money. A sure thing will be the need for new tax revenue.

    Guess what the bobbleheads don’t anticipate regarding the unintended consequences of instituting more taxes.

  2. Until there are actual consequences for the actions people are getting away with downtown (open drug use, shootings, theft, illegal camping, etc) no amount of housing, sober centers, or rehab will help. Oh and you can make the parking free 24/7 and I'm not visiting downtown.

    1. Shallow thinkers always believe that applying more money can solve problems.

  3. The most effective change Portland could take is, over 10 years, shift the property taxes from uniform rate on land and improvements to all tax on the land and none on the improvements at 10% a year change — in other words, stop taxing people for taking risks and investing in improvements while at the same time you start taxing hell out of people keeping land vacant or under utilized as a form of speculation (because they would no longer be enjoying low carrying costs while holding the land for speculation). You’d see a huge bloom of development on land currently sitting essentially vacant under parking lots or food trucks, likely for downtown housing. This is the fairest and most efficient form of property tax there is — because people are not taxed on the value they create in the downtown (the improvements they add) but everyone is taxed on the land value they occupy, and land value is socially created value (created by other people). Land is the only thing you can tax that is not encouraged or discouraged by a tax (no change in supply due to taxation) and land vastly easier to appraise/assess for tax purposes. We would need a state law change, but the crisis and doom spiral in Portland make it imaginable that Salem would let Portland do it. Pennsylvania allows two-rate taxation already, and it’s valuable.


  4. And nothing gets done very gradually.

  5. With all the talk and no walk it is any wonder we all continue to say, "what the fawk?"....


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