Portland Task Force Recommendations

By Oregon Business and Industry

Gov. Tina Kotek released 10 recommendations for revitalizing Portland’s downtown during Monday’s Oregon Leadership Summit. Highlighted by a proposed moratorium on new local taxes and fees, the list includes measures the Portland Central City Task Force would like policymakers to implement during the first six months of 2024. They represent the first stage of a longer strategic vision for the region.

Several of the recommendations focus on measures to treat and shelter homeless people, remove trash and improve the city’s appearance. Others focus on public safety, proposing to increase the number of police officers downtown, declare a fentanyl emergency and ban public use of controlled substances. The latter proposal would require legislative action, to which end an interim committee has been meeting since October (see item below).

The proposed moratorium on new taxes and fees notably leans on an OBI-funded study that revealed marginal personal income tax rates in Portland to be the nation’s second highest, trailing only rates in New York City. In light of the city’s high taxes, the flight of many high-income residents and the importance of retaining employers, the task force recommends a moratorium on new taxes and fees through 2026. It also recommends the creation of an advisory group to identify potential improvements to the city’s tax structure, echoing a proposal included in OBI’s 2023 Oregon Growth and Innovation Roadmap. A bill based on OBI’s proposal would have created a statewide task force on tax competitiveness.

To address the increase of open-air drug use following the passage of Measure 110, the task force asks the state, Multnomah County and Portland to declare a 90-day emergency on fentanyl and create a state-led command center within the city to ensure coordination. And in addition to asking the Legislature to prohibit public drug use, the task force proposes to increase the number of park rangers, state and city officers downtown.

Public drug use is a problem for businesses of all sizes in cities across the state. It has eroded the safety of customers and employees and contributed to increases in theft and property crime. OBI will support legislation that addresses these problems and work to ensure that prohibitions on public drug use don’t push such activity into commercial spaces.

OBI supports the task force’s recommendations and recognizes that they represent only a first step. To restore the reputation of the city and the state, policymakers and elected officials must implement the task force’s recommendations and remain open to even bolder solutions that will improve the state’s competitiveness.

OBI also thanks the dozens of businesses, civic and political leaders who participated in the task force. Go here to read the recommendations in detail. Visit The Oregonian and Willamette Week for coverage of the task force’s proposals.

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