Candidates for Portland City Council Position #4

A questionnaire was sent out in May 2012 to each candidate for Portland City Council Position #4 and below are the answers by question grouped by issue submitted by each candidate. To skip to a specific issue area, use the links below.

- Value of Jobs
- Community Attitudes on Economic Growth
- Business License Tax
- Urban Renewal
- Transportation
- Central City
- Education
- Higher Education
- Land Use
- Small Business
- Communities of Color
- Cost and Efficiency of City Government
- International Trade
- Economic Development
The Alliance's 2010 Checkup on the Portland-Region's Economic Health found that metro Portland per capita wages and incomes were lagging relative to the national average and peer metropolitan areas.
1. Do you agree that Portland wages and incomes are lagging relative to the national metropolitan average?
Steve Novick Yes.
2. What in the report disturbs you the most?
Steve Novick The fact that per capita income in Seattle, Denver and Minneapolis is 16 to 21% higher than in Portland.
3. What would you do as a member of Portland City Council to improve wages and incomes?
Steve Novick One strategy I would pursue is working to make Portland the #1 city in America at controlling health care costs, using an innovative strategy pioneered by the casino workers' union in Atlantic City and the Boeing Corporation employing public-private partnerships to take that citywide. My website gives details on that, and strategies to improve Portland schools.
The Alliance and its partners contracted with Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall Inc. on a survey of Portland residents in 2011, which found the following results: When asked what issue elected officials should be most focused on, 71 percent of Portland residents picked jobs and the economy over the environment and sustainability.
4. Are jobs and the economy your top priority as you develop public policy?
Steve Novick Yes. Jobs and the economy are my top priority.
5. How will you balance jobs and the economy with the environment and sustainability?
Steve Novick In most cases there is no conflict with the environment and sustainability. But I agree that "sustainability is not enough." That's why I want to use strategies - like controlling health care costs and improving the schools - that help all businesses, green, blue or orange.
In the poll, 68 percent of respondents held the position that our region needs to change its priorities, and that it is time we focus more on creating family-wage jobs and less on issues like bike lanes and other sustainability issues that have gotten so much attention in recent years. Only 12 percent strongly disagreed with this position.
6. Do you agree that elected leaders need to focus more on supporting the creation of family-wage jobs and less on issues like bike lanes, sustainability and other issues that are not directly related to economic growth?
Steve Novick Adding bike lanes and endorsing sustainability doesn't prevent elected leaders from focusing on jobs; I'd like to think they can walk and chew gum at the same time. However, we do need to recognize, despite our national reputation for sustainability, our economic performance is lagging. 'Being green' is not all we need to do to improve our economy. (Bicycling does reduce health care costs and dependence on foreign oil, which helps.)
The City of Portland and Multnomah County are two of only a small number of communities nationally that have a local business income tax. The Alliance has been working for years to reduce the burden of this tax on small, owner-operated businesses that are particularly hard hit. While some progress has been made, the conversation has stalled during the recession.
7. Do you support reducing the impact of the business license tax on small businesses by increasing the Owners Compensation Deduction to $125,000?
Steve Novick I'd love to, but I don't know what city services I would cut to make up the lost revenue.
8. If so, over what time period would you like to see this happen? If not, please explain your position.
Steve Novick Does the Alliance believe this proposal takes precedence over (for example) increasing general fund support for economic development, as suggested in question 30?
The Alliance believes that the central city faces unique challenges because of the cost of construction, seismic standards and small block sizes and that urban renewal is a critical tool in ensuring the ongoing vitality of the central city core. At the same time, Portland State University's expansion, which has included three-year increases of 61 percent in research funding and 14 percent in enrollment, offers a unique opportunity to build private sector partnerships and foster investment and growth in the central city.
9. Do you support the creation of a new urban renewal district in the central city that encompasses Portland State University and the retail core of downtown?
Steve Novick No. I am skeptical, and will take some convincing. The bill for urban renewal now takes up 24 cents of every city property tax dollar, reducing funds available for city and county services - and I have not seen evidence that our urban renewal districts "pay for themselves" in eventual increased property taxes. I might be more inclined to consider simply giving some more direct assistance to PSU.
The Alliance has long believed that a diversity of housing is needed in the central city and that urban renewal funds should be considered for workforce housing (80-100 percent of the Median Family Income) and low income student housing. Currently city policy for the use of the 30 percent set aside focuses heavily on housing for individuals below 30 percent of MFI (a maximum of 70-90 percent of set aside funds can be dedicated to 0-30 percent MFI in central city urban renewal districts), and prohibits the use of set aside funds for student housing, regardless of income.
10. Do you support broadening city policy to make low-income student and workforce housing eligible to compete for the 30 percent set aside funds?
Steve Novick My inclination is to focus this limited resource on the very neediest, but I am open to the discussion on a case-by-case basis.
Urban renewal funds have been the primary source of funding for the city's economic development programs. While the Alliance recognizes that there are significant limitations on the use of these funds, it continues to believe that these programs are critical to the continued economic vitality of the city.
11. Do you support the continued use of urban renewal for economic development?
Steve Novick No. How effective an economic development tool has it been? Yes, the Pearl looks great. But as you point out, Portland's economic performance lags that of cities we see as comparable, like Seattle. Seattle does not practice "tax increment financing urban renewal" - while in Portland, we are spending 24 cents of every property tax dollar on urban renewal. I would need to see a very strong case for specific projects.
The Alliance is a strong supporter of investing in the city's multi-modal transportation infrastructure, including bicycle and transit investments. However, these investments should not be to the detriment of freight mobility and congestion reduction strategies which we believe are key to the city's future economic health and competitiveness. The Alliance believes the Columbia River Crossing is an important investment in achieving these goals. The Alliance supports accommodating multiple modes in the system while preserving and enhancing freight facilities. In the central city access, circulation and increasing trips is critically important to the success of the core as the region's major office center. Preserving the capacity of portals into downtown is a high priority.
12. Do you support policies that preserve portal capacity for autos and trucks into the central city?
Steve Novick Yes.
13. Do you support the Columbia River Crossing project as proposed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and will you advocate for state and federal funding for its construction?
Steve Novick It seems to me that Congressman DeFazio has repeatedly warned that he does not expect enough Federal money to be available to support the project as currently scoped. Realistically, then, I'd like to see a phased approach, starting with components that can improve safety and freight movement within a feasible budget.
14. Do you support policies that prioritize freight movement and seek to reduce conflicts between freight and other modes?
Steve Novick Yes. Although it strikes me as a question that needs to be answered on a conflict-by-conflict basis.
The Alliance believes that an economically vibrant central city plays a key role in the success of the city and the region's transportation, land use and economic development strategies. The central city faces multiple challenges, from high construction costs, to perceptions regarding crime to a concentration of low income services. The businesses in the central city not only invest heavily in their own properties and stores, but they also contribute millions each year to public services through the Clean & Safe District and multiple overlapping local improvement districts, SDC overlay areas and special assessments. Maintaining a clean and inviting environment is critical to the health of the retail and office businesses.
15. Do you support regulation of the sidewalk environment as outlined in the Sidewalk Management Plan, including prohibiting sitting or lying on certain areas and sidewalks?
Steve Novick Yes.
The Clean & Safe District pays for the services of four Portland Police Officers who work in coordination with Clean & Safe security and dispatch. This coordinated effort provides tremendous benefit to the residents, visitors and employees in downtown.
16. Do you support the continued partnership between Clean & Safe and the Portland Police?
Steve Novick Yes.
The central city has long battled drug dealing and prostitution. When the city did not renew the drug and prostitution free zones, an important tool to address this persistent and corrosive problem was lost. Recently, the city adopted illegal drug impact areas and has worked with the Multnomah County District Attorney to impose post-conviction exclusions from high drug activity areas.
17. Do you support the illegal drug impact area approach of post-conviction exclusions?
Steve Novick Yes. I think the current approach should be given a chance to demonstrate its effectiveness, but needs to be monitored very carefully for disparate racial impact. In future, I want to see such projects developed as part of a comprehensive city-county public safety plan rather than as 'one-offs.'
The Alliance has taken a leadership role in advocating for effective K-12 education in the region, including supporting thoughtful additional funding measures and efforts to improve outcomes. While the Alliance supports strong schools, we do not support strategies that unduly impact business viability or stretch the credibility and legal bounds of important economic tools like urban renewal.
18. Do you support creating so-called "satellite" urban renewal districts to transfer tax increment generated in one area to schools in another area?
Steve Novick No. Seems like an unnecessarily complex method of trying to assist schools.
19. How would you respond to a request to increase or impose a temporary surcharge on the business license tax to fund Portland schools?
Steve Novick I'd ask for another idea.
20. Do you support the Cradle to Career effort, which aims to bring all education-related programs to the table on an overall coordinated approach to improve education outcomes in Multnomah County?
Steve Novick Yes. FYI, I have heard rumblings that there should be more professional educators and small businesses at the table.
The Alliance believes that improving higher education is important to the long-term economic success of the region and the city. The Alliance has a goal of growing PSU, developing greater partnerships between PSU and OHSU, and expanding the partnerships between community colleges, universities and the K-12 system.
21. Beyond the possibility of a new urban renewal district, how would you use your position on city council to promote PSU, OHSU and other higher education institutions in Portland, and help leverage business development opportunities these institutions create?
Steve Novick I strongly agree that the evidence shows that having strong higher education institutions in major cities is a key to those cities' and their regions' economic health. I will advocate for PSU and OHSU with our State and Federal partners. I am intrigued by the idea that the City should help establish business incubator space in the PSU/OHSU Life Sciences Building.
The Alliance believes that land use decisions must balance the goals of environmental preservation and economic development and growth. Historically, economic development has taken a secondary position in these policy discussions. The Alliance believes that the success of the regional land use and transportation strategies require that land within the urban core be intensively developed in order to minimize the outward pressure on the urban growth boundary. That intensity of use can not be achieved if land use regulations are inflexible, unworkable or result in costs that discourage investment.
22. Do you support amending the city's adopted River Plan to allow for a fee in lieu of or off site mitigation option at the discretion of the developer?
Steve Novick Yes. I am committed to maintaining and adding family-wage jobs on the working waterfront, and recognize the need for speed, certainty, and avoiding duplication in the regulatory environment. My understanding is that the City is developing a restoration project / "mitigation bank" approach that should have the same effect as a "fee in lieu" proposal, which sounds good to me. I am eager to hear your observations on the current plan.
In July 2009, the Portland City Council passed a resolution directing staff to plan for 300 acres of West Hayden Island for marine industrial use.
23. Do you support annexation and zoning of sufficient land on West Hayden Island to provide for a viable marine industrial operation?
Steve Novick Yes.
The Alliance's 2010 Checkup on the Portland-Region's Economic Health found that 46 percent of net job creation between 1977 and 2005 came from firms with fewer than 50 employees. Small firms typically have very low margins and few financial reserves. Additional taxes, fees and regulations impact them significantly. The city has initiated some programs that assist small businesses and allocated modest funding toward these efforts in recent years.
24. How will you work to reduce the fees, taxes and regulatory burdens of small businesses? Would you support a city business income tax credit for small businesses that create jobs?
Steve Novick As far as regulatory burdens, I will work hard to ensure fairness and transparency in all regulations, to have the City recognize business' need for speed and to eliminate obsolete and conflicting regulations. Leaving revenue loss concerns aside, I think it is very difficult to design a fair, effective, and fairly targeted, "job creation tax credit."
25. Do you support changes to the city's system development charges and development fees to reduce the burden on small businesses?
Steve Novick I'd love to say yes, but I'd like to see a specific proposal that explains which fees and which city services would be cut. It would be easy to say "sure, let's do that and pay for it by raising fees on big businesses," but I happen to think big businesses are important to Portland's economy as well, and would need to see a compelling fairness case for that approach.
26. Do you support creation of an Office of Small Business to advocate within the city for the needs of small businesses?
Steve Novick No. Again, I think clarity, fairness and speed, which are important to all businesses, small and large, are what the City should strive for. I am not sure a new office is called for, but do think that there should be a "Who Do I Need to Call?" number on the City web site that businesses should call to get a clear answer on which bureau handles their particular issue.
The economic status of communities of color in Portland is below the average for all residents. A recent analysis suggests that communities of color earn as little as half the community average. School performance, high school graduation and college participation and completion rates for communities of color are all below that for the white community. These disparities reduce workforce competitiveness and the attractiveness of Portland as a location of choice for entrepreneurs and also strain the community's social fabric.
27. How will you address the education and income disparities of communities of color in the Portland area?
Steve Novick Improve services like transportation in areas with concentrations of communities of color. Pay for a summer forum where teachers and principals in high-minority parts of the city share stories of successful practices. Help fund more summer school programs. Assist schools in paying for more translators. Reduce parks and rec program fees for low-income families. Increase minority contracting. Hire more minority candidates in City bureaus.
The City of Portland has weathered the recent economic downturn better than many cities due to prudent and conservative budgeting and segregation of one-time only versus ongoing funds. At the same time, the city has a significant "shadow budget" and a great deal of the city budget (inter-agency charges) are never examined in the budget process. Finally, city tax and rate payers are concerned with the city's propensity to stretch the scope and mission of bureaus to fund pet projects that an objective analysis would say are outside the core mission of the bureau or the city.
28. Do you support third party oversight and ratemaking for the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services storm water rates?
Steve Novick Yes. It will be vitally important for such a body to have strong, unbiased, professional staff.
29. Do you support a zero-based or outcomes-based budget process or similar approach that moves beyond the current services budget model?
Steve Novick No. With all due respect, I don't think the terminology - "zero-based," "outcomes-based," etc. - matters. I think bureaus should have to explain and justify all their spending. I think we should constantly look to other cities to find models of efficiency. And I would explore using former Washington Governor Gary Locke's policy of rewarding bureaus for saving money rather than spending it all by the end of the year.
30. Do you support using the budget process to determine the true costs of inter-agency cross charges and promote efficiencies and if so, how?
Steve Novick Yes. By scrutinizing the "cross charge" expenditures - such as IT, HR and Finance - as carefully as the other bureau budgets.
According to a 2009 Brookings Institution study, Portland ranks second nationally in U.S. metro areas in terms of export value growth between 2003 and 2008. One quarter of Oregon's manufacturing jobs and income comes from international trade. Trade supports some 44,300 jobs in Oregon, with 88 percent of Oregon's exporters being small- and medium-sized businesses as of 2008.
31. How will you promote international trade as a member of city council?
Steve Novick By working with other officials throughout the region, and our congressional delegation, and the Port, business and labor groups, to identify and expand markets for our products.
32. Will you publicly support local, state and federal policies that promote international trade and send the message to the international trading community that Portland is a welcoming community for international investors?
Steve Novick Yes, with the understanding that I support fair trade and would not support trade policies that are unfair to America and undermine labor and environmental standards.
The Alliance supports city efforts to retain and grow existing businesses and recruit new firms to the city. Broad regional consensus has been reached that the public-private partnership, Greater Portland, Inc., should play a central role in the city and regional strategies. At the same time, the city's Economic Development Strategy noted the overdependence of the city's economic development programs on urban renewal and urged greater general fund support.
33. Do you support city financial participation in Greater Portland, Inc.?
Steve Novick Yes.
34. Do you support allocating additional general fund resources to economic development programs?
Steve Novick Yes.