PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A Portland man has taken civic action in the process to recall Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick – and it’s got everything to do with the controversial street fee.
A recall petition for Steve Novick filed by Southeast Portland resident Ray Horton July 11 has been approved by the City Auditor, while a similar petition for Hales’ recall filed July 2 is pending approval.
The deadline to submit 34,921 signatures to the City Auditor’s office for Novick’s recall petition is October 9, 2014. The reason, stated on the petition is “Failure to exercise fiduciary durites of his office, specifically regarding management of public funds and initiation and application of taxes.”
The same reason is stated on Horton’s petition to recall Hales.
“There’s a lot of people who are upset about the street tax. And maybe this is the way they will have a voice if they sign a petition and have to listen to us,” said Horton.
You can just recall the mayor?
Recall petitions operate on the basis that voters have the democratic right to recall an elected official, should due process be followed. If enough signatures are collected, the recall will be turned over to voters.
The number of votes collected must be at least 15% of the number of votes cast by voters in the last election. In the case of Portland, the number is 34,921 because 232,806 City voters cast votes for governor in 2010.
“If the voters are really mad at us, we’re both up for reelection in 2016, they can throw us out” – Steve Novick, May 22.
Opponents rally on social media
On the heavily-engaged Facebook page Stop Portland Street Fee, Ray Horton called for support of his petitions in a July 2 post.
“What I need from those of you who really want to do something about these politicians is for you to send me a FB or email message indicating your willingness to actively work on recall efforts, and also what role you are willing to play: committee, signature gathering, fund raising, or what,” he wrote.
Ann Sanderson, the page’s co-founder, wrote she is opposed to the street fee “because of its regressive nature, the devastating effects it will have on low-income Portlanders and small businesses, and because when they are talking about that much money, they should be asking the voters for it and not just taking it.”
The page’s intention is very clear.
“Stop the City of Portland from imposing this regressive economy-killing tax,” the “About” section reads. However, the page’s organizers said Stop Portland Street Fee is not advocating Hales and Novick’s recall.
The page was started by citizens worried over deleterious effects the street fee will have on local businesses and the community. Namely, the lack of descretion used in determining street fee charges for independent businesses and major corporations.
“Mike’s Drive In in Sellwood would pay EXACTLY the same as McDonald’s. Your local barber would pay the same as Supercuts. The local coffee shop? They will pay the same as Starbucks,” it reads.
Novick fires back
July 12, Novick defended himself and the Mayor, on the basis he and Hales inherited a long-neglected transportation system, that they were “morally obligated” to take action on.
He said after attending multiple town halls, “there don’t seem to be many people who want us to cut police, fire and parks to raise money for transportation, so I remain convinced that the only responsible thing we can do is raise more revenue.”
Novick said he received an email from a constituent in May saying “there are ways to get you out of here faster than 2016.”
He said he has had long conversations with that constituent since regarding how to address Portland’s transportation needs.
Novick did not comment directly on the recall petition.
“We will keep on explaining as best we can how dire our transportation maintenance and safety needs are, and as time goes on I think more and more people, even those that are most unhappy, will start working with us to find solutions,” he said instead.
When Hales and Novick announced the $138-a-year street fee May 22, Novick welcomed political action from voters.
“If the voters are really mad at us, we’re both up for reelection in 2016, they can throw us out,” he said.
‘Unfortunately, we own the problem’
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said he would not let the recall petitions deter him from passing a measure that would generate roughly $50 million a year to fix Portland’s roads.
“Frankly no matter who is mayor, if they are honest with you they will tell you we need to fix our streets,” he said. Hales said he willing to take whatever blow back, including a recall petition and loss of popularity, that step incurs.
“Unfortunately we own the problem as a city,” he said.
Hales said taking care of the streets now is important for keeping Portland livable for future generations, and looking forward he is working to fine tune the street fee proposal to make it more “palatable” for homeowners, non-profits, churches, businesses, low income people.
“We live in a democracy and people are free to criticize me and call for my resignation,” said Hales