Candidates for City of Portland Commissioner Position No.4

A questionnaire was sent to candidates in the Portland-metro region, and below are the responses in regard to issues that are important to the Alliance and the business community.

* indicates Alliance endorsed candidate.

 
1. The Allianceís primary focus for the 2016 election cycle will be to support those candidates and ballot measure proponents who clearly and publicly join us in opposing IP 28, the gross receipts tax measure, which will be so detrimental to Oregonís economy. What is your position on IP28?
Stuart Emmons I support creating an environment in Portland that is more business friendly, stacked up against comparables from other cities and states. I am also a major schools advocate - they are our future, they help insure our economy's future success, they are the ticket out of poverty for many low income kids. Due to disinvestment, our schools are falling farther and farther behind. Schools are incubators for our future businesses. Most of our school facilities are designed to educate students for an era long ago, and most of our school facilities are a disgrace. I would welcome hearing solutions from PBA and others to address our school challenges in other ways besides IP28.
Steve Novick I haven't had the conversations I need to have with economists and tax experts before taking a position. It is a fact that since Measures 5 and 50 passed, taxes as a percentage of total state income have gone down so much that IP 28 would only restore the pre-1990 level, if that - and certainly education could use a great deal of extra funding. It is also a fact that Oregon has among the lowest corporate taxes in the nation. And economists generally refer to a gross receipts tax as being operationally similar to a sales tax, which the Oregon business community has traditionally supported, and I have not yet heard a clear explanation of why the business community feels so differently about a gross receipts tax. I look forward to hearing from your members on that point.

Based on what I know, I do have concerns about the measure. One concern is actually related to one of the proponentsí main selling points: the argument that national corporations will not respond to the measure by raising prices only in Oregon - they will spread the cost among all their customers. If that is true, it would benefit Oregon consumers but may put local businesses who compete with national ones - e.g., Powellís, competing with Barnes & Noble - at a competitive disadvantage.

A second concern is that we need increased revenue for transportation and other services aside from education and human services, and I fear that after such a large tax increase, it may make it even harder to raise money for those other services.

A third concern is that I am dubious about using ďsize of businessĒ as the sole criterion in determining whether a business is subject to tax. There are big traded sector businesses that pay well and play an especially vital role in the economy, and small businesses that treat employees poorly and are less economically significant. I can see having different rates for different kinds of businesses, but size would not be my primary criterion.

The fact that I have these concerns, however, is different from saying I would oppose a measure that addresses the chronic underfunding of public services we have lived with for 25 years. It means, again, that I will need to spend more time with people with varying expertise before taking a position.

2. The Value of Jobs Coalition's 2015 Middle-Income Jobs Report found that Portland-metro, like most of the nation, has seen low- and high-income jobs account for increasingly larger shares of the regionís overall employment base, while middle-income jobs, as a share of the regionís total employment, have dropped from 69 percent in 1980 to 57 percent in 2013. What would you do to increase the number of middle-income jobs in our region?
Stuart Emmons I am well aware of our middle income jobs loss and this is a great challenge as many of those people who would go into those jobs will fall into lower income jobs - usually less than is needed to support a family and enjoy life. When ESCO closed its plant, I worried about the workers - what would they do now? I will be a good listener to manufacturing plant owners and workers to help stop this slippage, and advocate and promote companies that provide middle income working class jobs.
Steve Novick In addition to developing strategies for more middle income jobs, we need to protect the ones we already have. That is why I have pushed EPA to be careful about requiring a hugely expensive Portland Harbor cleanup without seriously thinking about what the actual human health and environmental benefits of a higher price tag. Many of the businesses on the hook for Portland Harbor provide good middle wage jobs.

We need to support educational institutions that provide training for middle wage jobs. I am currently deeply involved in discussions about Southwest Corridor high capacity transit, and one of the main questions is what level of service will be provided to PCC Sylvania. I have insisted that high quality service is worthy of significant investment, because we need to make it easier for Portlanders to access the training that PCC can provide.

The Comprehensive Plan includes a few key strategies that will support middle wage jobs. For example, the Plan identifies brownfield clean up as a significant strategy to ensure the city has needed available industrial land. The city will need to leverage incentives to encourage private landowners to redevelop brownfields. Second, the plan expands the use of the Employment Opportunity Subarea (EOS) in the Central Eastside to make land available for the small-scale and light manufacturing, which is often a middle wage jobs engine.

In addition to creating new middle wage jobs I think we need strategies to improve transportation to the middle jobs that already exist in Portland. For example, we must improve public transportation from East Portland to the Columbia Corridor, where many of these jobs are already located. One of my proudest accomplishments as a City Commissioner was working out an agreement with Trimet to add frequent bus service on East 122nd Ave., a major route from the southern part of East Portland where so many people live to the northern part of the district where jobs are located. This is just the first step in improving transportation to middle wage jobs.

3. The same Middle Income Jobs Report found that Portlandís housing prices are becoming increasingly out of reach not only for low-income households, but also for middle-income households. What would you do to address housing affordability for middle-income residents in our region?
Stuart Emmons We have a supply and demand problem that is resulting in huge rent increases. Many of our middle income workers already are forced to live in outer eastside. I would want to help get more market rate affordable housing built to help ease the rent increases. My expertise in housing will be a large asset on City Council. The city can help with that with streamlining within bureaus, especially BES, BDS, Planning, and PBOT. I have spent my career working with these bureaus, and know from first hand experience many of the issues related to projects getting delayed in city review processes.
Steve Novick The housing emergency in Portland has many different dimensions, and I believe we need a multi-pronged approach to help people in all kinds of situations. This includes people who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness; people whose median income is at or below median and therefore qualify for housing that qualifies for affordability subsidies; and people who are middle income.

Middle income families benefit from affordable market-rate rental units as well as affordable for-sale housing, and I think we need to address both of these components.

To keep rents affordable, Iíve been a strong proponent of ensuring that Portland grows the supply of rental housing to keep up in demand from our growing population. Itís no secret that Portland is a popular place to live, and people will continue to move here to enjoy our excellent quality of life. Unless we allow the market to respond to population growth by building more rental units, rents will continue to increase. I certainly understand the frustration of Portlanders who see relatively expensive apartments replace smaller multifamily or even single family buildings, but the truth is that each new unit helps to keep rents affordable for all, and I point to Seattle, where rents have started to stabilize after a building boom, as an example. This isnít to say I trust the market across the board on rental housing --- I do, of course, also support efforts to increase our production of subsidized permanently affordable housing units rented to people who meet income thresholds, and, to that end, I strongly support the Legislatureís efforts to lift the preemption on local governments use of inclusionary zoning.

To ensure homeownership continues to be affordable for middle income Portlanders, I support efforts to allow more ďmiddle housingĒ like townhouses and duplexes and use incentives to encourage developers to build smaller, more affordable for-sale units rather than giant McMansions that are completely unaffordable for middle income residents in our region. Portlandís iconic bungalow and Craftsman neighborhoods are the reason why lots of people decide to move to Portland. However, these houses have also become very expensive and will become more so as our population grows. I think the concept of housing affordability should include zoning changes so we can build diverse kinds of housing within neighborhoods. Townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes could offer great homes for people who canít afford a single family house in Portland but arenít interested in living in a studio or one bedroom apartment located on a corridor. Many close-in Portland neighborhoods already have lots of this ďmiddle housing,Ē but much of it was built decades ago before the current zoning code was adopted. Iím looking at ways to allow more of this kind of housing, which will help keep our housing within neighborhoods diverse and affordable.

4. The Alliance recently launched a campaign to advocate for more humane solutions for the hundreds of people experiencing homelessness, including indoor shelters, services for those who need them and enforcement against illegal behaviors. What specific actions would you take to help address our homeless emergency and would you do something to address the proliferation of camping in our public spaces?
Stuart Emmons I have significant expertise in homeless housing and services, having designed homeless housing, shelters, and innovative housing solutions. I am disgusted with City Hall's response to this over the last term - seeming to call a housing crisis only after the mayor's race got competitive. My opponent has proposed bizarre solutions for this complex issue.

Hearing the recent 4 point plan and hearing the stories about what homeless people experience is sobering and heart wrenching.

I believe homelessness should be the #1 housing priority for the housing bureau. The recent $61m Housing Bureau NOFA is (was?) a golden opportunity to really make progress, but, only 135 units of housing for homeless is included. This is 7.5% of the people on the streets. We are not really even keeping up, having just lost the Joyce Hotel.

The City is building the wrong type of housing.

I will work hard to get more shelters on line, as well as much more permanent supportive housing. My solutions oriented creative thinking abilities and expertise in housing will be a tremendous asset on City Council.

As to camping in public spaces, I have a decent understanding of the legal issues and have talked to many homeless about what their needs are. We need more shelters and more housing for homeless immediately. I am disgusted with the NOFA allocation of housing, and I am well aware of how long housing takes to get on line. I will be an engine for innovation, expediency and solutions especially around homelessness in City Council.

Steve Novick City Council declared a Housing Emergency and is actively seeking new shelter space for people who lose stable housing. Increasing state investments in the Emergency Housing Account and the State Homeless Assistance Program will grow these critical safety nets. I applaud the efforts of private individuals as well. For example, my friend Jordan Menashe has offered to donate property to be used as a shelter to help those Portlanders who are experiencing homelessness.

I certainly understand the publicís frustration with the proliferation of camps. The problem the city has had is that when there aren't shelters or homes for everyone, when we move a camp, it simply pops up somewhere else. I think the mayor's recent proposal to in effect allow but regulate camping is a reasonable short-term approach. I think it will result in more effective enforcement against, for example, daytime camping on sidewalks and in parks. I have been especially supportive of the idea of providing storage spaces for homeless peopleís possessions, which will make it possible for the police to tell people ďyou can't leave your stuff on the sidewalk during the day, here is where you can take it.Ē

5. The Alliance focuses on small business prosperity, which is significantly impacted by the cumulative impact of taxes, fees and regulations that have grown in recent years. How will you work to reduce the fees, taxes and regulatory burdens of small businesses? And, would you support increasing the Business License Tax (BLT) ownerís compensation deduction to $125,000?
Stuart Emmons I want small business to thrive in Portland, and am concerned about the recent increases in taxes and fees. I will review the regulatory burdens with representatives from PBA and small business, and look to finding solutions that work. I ran a small business, so I have a deep understanding of what issues impact small business. I will be open to consider increasing the BLT owner's compensation deduction to $125k.
Steve Novick Although I believe itís important that the City continue to find new revenues, I understand the dangers of overburdening our business community with unfair or poorly thought out taxes and fees. I was one of two Council members who opposed the Systems Development Charges for parks. The methodology Parks proposed, if adopted by PBOT, would have resulted in transportation SDCs of over $30,000 for a normal size house. I argued that we needed to look at the SDC picture in its entirety and consider the impact on housing affordability.

One frustrating aspect of PBOT rules - frustrating for both PBOT and developers - has been the practice of, for new developments along not-fully-improved streets, requiring either full street improvements (which often result in floating sidewalks unconnected to anything) or granting ďwaivers of remonstranceĒ that usually wind up being complete and permanent waivers. So either we ask the developer to make a major investment for minimal public benefit, or we give a complete pass. I have told PBOT to prioritize coming up with a strategy for requiring, instead, that developers pay a reasonable fee into a fund that will then be used to make meaningful street / sidewalk improvements in that neighborhood. There is an obvious example in my own immediate neighborhood of how that might work: there is a meaningless piece of floating sidewalk a block from me on my street, 36th, a very quiet residential street that can do without a sidewalk. That money should have been put into a pot that could eventually have been used to build a sidewalk on busy 35th, a block away.

As for the BLT, I voted for the most recent increase to the owners compensation deduction, and look forward to the day when we can responsibly raise it further. In this next year, we are looking at a cuts budget, so absent a dramatic improvement in the revenue forecast, I can't make any promises.

6. Years of disinvestment have resulted in a significant maintenance backlog of needed road repairs; the cost to address this grows exponentially over time as roads fall into further disrepair. What is your strategy for addressing this long-standing issue and do you support prioritizing existing city resources to prevent the system from decaying further?
Stuart Emmons The Street Fee imbroglio didn't need to happen this way. I am glad Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick wanted to address this challenge, but they did it the wrong way and now we have more of a mess, with estimates upwards of $2b to fix our streets. They didn't listen, they didn't collaborate. They didn't have the third vote. It infuriated many and broke the trust.

I would like to start anew with rebuilt trust to have all of us own this problem and work collectively to determine fair solutions. The gas tax is not going to fix the problem, but will help. This gas tax also does not tax the vehicles that do the most damage to our streets, and tends to tax lower income residents more.

There are a lot of issues that need prioritization for existing city resources, but we need to prevent the system from decaying further. I will look forward to working collaboratively with the community and council to find solutions to this serious challenge.

Steve Novick As you know, I have worked harder than any Transportation Commissioner in memory to address our transportation maintenance backlog by obtaining new revenue for transportation. For almost thirty years, Portland's streets have been deteriorating due to inadequate transportation funding. Every year, the problem gets worse because the longer you wait to repair a street, the more expensive it is to fix. Meanwhile, there are parts of the city where, because of dangerous intersections or gaps in sidewalks along busy streets, it is unsafe for children to walk to school and for seniors to walk to bus stops.

I have advocated for the City to prioritize General Fund resources to ensure we have skin in the game to solve our transportation maintenance and safety backlog. During the fiscal year 2015-16 budget cycle, I successfully advocate for the highest General Fund investment in 30 years - adjusted for inflation - to support critical street repairs and improvements, including on East 122nd Ave.

In addition to prioritizing existing City resources for transportation, we must also raise new revenue to address this monumental problem. With the much appreciated support of the PBA, I recently introduced a measure to refer a temporary ten cent local motor fuels tax to the May 2016 ballot to pay for critical maintenance and safety improvements. If passed by the voters in May, an estimated $64 million in revenue from the tax over four years will pay for targeted investments in pavement repair, traffic signal modernization, more crosswalks and safety beacons, and better and safer access to schools and transit. I appreciate the PBAís partnership on this effort.

The maintenance and safety improvements funded by the motor fuels tax are the first step toward addressing our crumbling transportation infrastructure, but we must also do more. The street repair backlog alone is over $1 billion over ten years, so we must continue to identify solutions. Among other revenue options, I will propose a way to effectively tax diesel used by the heaviest trucks, and I have asked the metro county chairs to tax studded tires, which disproportionately wear down our streets.

7. The 2015 Economic Impacts of Congestion report shows that the Portland-region and the state of Oregonís competitiveness is largely dependent on efficient transportation. Failure to adequately invest in the system could cost the Portland-metro region $822 million annually by 2040 and close to 6,000 jobs. Do you support investments in the transportation system to support freight movement and remove bottlenecks to the efficient movement of goods and people?
Stuart Emmons Where was City Hall when Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd left Portland in April 2015? Why didn't the Mayor or a Commissioner step in and try hard to broker an agreement to get these companies to stay at the Port of Portland? This has been a disaster for Portland on numerous fronts, and one large one is traffic. Our freeway system was already at the tipping point. Adding approx. 2000 container trucks to I-5 every day has resulted in a major increase in traffic delays.

Building new freeways isn't going to happen to help move goods and services, so I would look to strategic targeted investments to help reduce bottlenecks and keep freight moving as smoothly as possible. I would look to getting container business back in the Port of Portland. I would listen to PBA and business leaders to determine what bottlenecks can be relieved for reasonable investment. And we especially need to find a solution for I-5 north of the city.

Steve Novick As Iíve said above Iíve been consistent in my work for transportation funding, working harder than any Transportation Commissioner in memory to address our transportation maintenance backlog. I look forward to working with our state and federal partners to increase the amount for transportation funding. I have spent a good deal of time talking with my partners in JPACT and the SW Corridor steering committee about a regional transportation funding approach. It may be, for example, that rather than proposing a bond solely for SW Corridor, it makes more sense to have SW Corridor be part of a package that addresses a variety of transportation priorities, including freight movement.
8. The city of Portland has significant looming costs due to things like increasing PERS contribution rates for public employers, the cost of renovating the Portland Building, and potential liability due to the Superfund among others. What would you do to maintain critical city services as a time when other obligations are increasing?
Stuart Emmons PERS, the Portland Building and Superfund are three examples of looming drains on city resources. I will look into delivering critical city services as efficiently as possible. My private sector background, my creative thinking abilities, and my collaborative skills will bring a new mindset to city council.
Steve Novick It is going to be extremely difficult. I wish I could find lots of waste fraud and abuse to cut in order to preserve funding for vital services, but I can't. I have proposed modest savings, like reducing the size of the Drugs and Vice unit (based on my conviction that the war on drugs is an expensive failure. We can crack down on neighborhood crack houses, open-air drug markets, and use every tool available to go after drug dealers engaged in violence. But chasing mid-level drug dealers just because they are drug dealers, in a fruitless effort to interrupt the overall drug supply, is wasteful). But the savings would be small, and I would probably simply reallocate those officers to other areas, like foot patrols in areas where the minority of the homeless population engaged in threatening behavior are prevalent.

So am very worried about the cuts to police, fire, parks and housing that I think likely to occur as a result of the issues you mention. That is one of the reasons I have been the Councilís loudest voice in calling for EPA to adopt a cost-effective remedy for Portland Harbor.

9. A 2013 report International Trade and the Portland Harborís Impact, found that Portland ranked 4th among the largest 100 metros in terms of export value as a share of metro output. Additionally, the report found that 90 percent of exports are small and medium sized businesses and that trade related jobs provide premium wages. What is your view on the role of trade to our economy and what can the city do to promote trade given international gateway facilities within the city?
Stuart Emmons Trade is huge for our economy. We need to make more things and services that can be exported. We need to make trade as easy as possible with the given gateway facilities in Portland. I will listen to business leaders to get their ideas on how to facilitate trade. Among other issues, I think we need to figure out how to restore the container business at the Port.
Steve Novick As a City Commissioner, my role in supporting Portland exports includes supporting harbor businesses and infrastructure that allows businesses from Portland and elsewhere to get their goods to market. In addition to supporting the investments in freight infrastructure I discussed earlier, I was intrigued by the finding in the Greater Portland Export Plan that many small and mid-sized businesses in the Portland region have the potential to become traded sector businesses and export their goods and services, but they need support and information to make the transition.

I think the most important things the city can do to support our traded sector industry is to maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure and to have a rational approach to regulations and fees to avoid imposing undue burdens. And we should avoid sending signals that we do not value those industries. In the comprehensive plan process, I have spoken out against adopting a pessimistic marine cargo forecast that harbor businesses saw as reflecting a lack of commitment to their portion of the economy.

10. The Alliance is committed to ensuring an adequate supply of shovel ready industrial lands in the Portland-metro region to support job retention and growth. Manufacturing, in particular, requires industrial land and provides higher wages and better benefits than non-manufacturing jobs, particularly for non-whites and non-English-speaking workers. What tools and strategies would you use to promote adequate employment industrial lands that are shovel ready for development?
Stuart Emmons My background in planning will be a huge asset for this issue especially. I understand development, I understand zoning and land use. I also want to help our manufacturing businesses create more middle income jobs.

I will work closely with the Bureau of Planning and business leaders to determine strategies that promote adequate employment industrial lands. I will have an analysis done on underutilized existing industrial land to see if we can make the land more productive.

I am not a politician, I am from the private sector, and I have run a small business. I have a keen understanding of what it is like to run a business, and I address challenges from a non-bureaucratic perspective that focus on developing solutions after looking at all the issues wholistically. I also have had a box seat to what works and what doesn't work in city hall from my professional work. Finally, I listen, I collaborate. My career long track record solving complex problems with community based solutions will be a breath of fresh air on city council. I am a bridge builder.

Steve Novick Iíve been engaged in the discussion about industrial land supply as part of the Cityís Comprehensive Plan update, and I recognize that our strategy must include multiple different approaches to ensure we have the land needed for industrial businesses and jobs. As a landlocked City, we must prioritize brownfield cleanup by offering incentives to encourage the private sector to make the investments needed in these places. I also am interested in the testimony offered by Broadmoor Golf Course volunteering to set aside a portion of their property for industrial development, and I think the City needs to look for these and other opportunities for large parcels that are appropriate for industrial uses. And as noted above, , I support using the middle cargo forecast in the Economic Opportunities Analysis of the Comprehensive Plan rather than settling for the low forecast. Finally, we must align freight investments with these strategies to ensure our industrial lands can be used efficiently.