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Portland Task Force Releases Recommendations

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.

Legislative Hearing Targets Measure 110 Reform

A legislative panel weighing changes to Measure 110 met for nearly four hours Dec. 4 to hear from a handful of invited experts and from members of the public. Hundreds of organizations and individuals submitted written comment, and several testified in person. OBI contributed both written and oral testimony.

Measure 110, approved by voters in 2020, decriminalized the possession of most drugs for personal consumption. Its effects on Portland and throughout the state have been significant, leading to the filing of a ballot initiative that would ask voters to overturn it in 2024. Legislators also hope to address the measure’s most significant flaws during the 2024 session. To that end, the Joint Interim Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response met Dec. 4 to gather information.

Among those who testified was OBI policy director Derek Sangston (watch his testimony at 2:46 here). OBI also submitted written comments endorsed by more than a dozen business groups. Read those comments here. In both oral and written testimony, OBI urged lawmakers to take bold action during the 2024 session to address problems exacerbated by Measure 110.

Coverage of this hearing appeared in Willamette Week and The Oregonian.

Date, Place Set for Oregon Civics Bee. Help Spread the Word

he inaugural Oregon Civics Bee will take place May 30, 2024, in Willamette University’s Hudson Hall.

The contest, which offers cash prizes of up to $1,000, is open to middle-schoolers throughout the state. To participate, students must submit an essay of up to 500 words explaining how they would address a problem in their community. Essays should be submitted through the competition’s online portal.

The bee’s top 20 essayists will be invited to Salem to participate in the Oregon Civics Bee’s May 24 quiz competition. The Oregon Civics Bee champion will be invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s National Civics Bee in the fall.

The top three finishers at the Oregon Civics Bee will receive cash prizes. First place will earn $1,000, second place $750 and third place $500. The winner of the National Civics Bee will receive $10,000.

Essays will be accepted through Jan. 8, 2024, after which the portal will close. So please help spread the word and encourage middle schoolers you know to enter.

If you’d like to spread the word about the Bee, OBI has created a flyer you can send to employees, organizations or families you know whose middle-schoolers might like a chance to flex some civics muscles and perhaps earn a cash prize.

Policy and Rulemaking Updates

School Funding: On the heels of the Portland teachers strike, Gov. Kotek announced that she plans to examine some of the challenges educators raised. Her priorities include working with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Legislature to reexamine and increase the transparency of school funding. To that end, the governor said she will create an Office of Transparency within ODE to make school budget information more accessible and easier to understand. Other priorities include developing a statewide plan to support the social-emotional health of students and working with the Legislature to establish a minimum teacher salary schedule.

Possible Transportation Package: Conversations on a possible 2025 transportation package are underway. Leaders of the Joint Committee on Transportation attended OBI’s Transportation Committee meeting Nov. 29 to discuss challenges and priorities for the upcoming package. Acute budget shortfalls, particularly for maintenance and preservation of the transportation system, are a focal point. Exacerbating ODOT’s dire budget needs is a report by the state economist that freight users are overpaying (via the weight/mile tax) by about 32% relative to their impact on the transportation system. Other projects, such as the Rose Quarter interchange and I-205/Abernethy Bridge, still lack funding and are considered high priority infrastructure investments.

The newly formed Joint Special Subcommittee on Transportation Planning has committed to holding approximately 10 meetings around the state to hear Oregonians’ concerns and priorities relative to transportation needs in preparation for the 2025 transportation package. Meeting three will be held Thursday, Dec. 14, at Wilsonville City Hall (City Council chamber) beginning at 5 p.m. Local officials have been invited to discuss tolling impacts, and the public will have an opportunity to comment from 6-7 p.m.

Health Cost Panel: The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is developing the 2024 administrative rules for the Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target Program. These rules focus on accountability measures for health plans and large provider organizations when cost growth is deemed unjustifiably high. OHA will host about four meetings with a rules advisory committee (RAC) starting in January 2024. Members of the RAC will inform the development of administrative rules that govern the Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target program. If you or someone from your organization is interested in serving on the RAC, complete the RAC Member Application Form and submit it to HealthCare.CostTarget@oha.oregon.gov by Dec. 29.

OSHA Rules: On Nov. 22, Oregon OSHA adopted permanent changes to its rules implementing both SB 592 and SB 907 from the 2023 session. Together, those bills increase Oregon OSHA’s authority to regulate work environments when it finds three or more willful violations, when an employee’s workplace death is tied to a violation, or when an employee reasonably considers an acute work condition to be unsafe. SB 592 also raised the minimum statutory penalties for serious violations to the federal OSHA minimum of $1,116. While the bills impose new burdens on employers, a large coalition that included OBI worked to ensure that the rules implementing them were reasonable. You can review the adopted rules here and information about the penalties here.

Notable News

Portland Poll: About two-thirds of Portland voters say the city is on the wrong foot, and more than half say they’d leave if they could afford to, according to a poll commissioned by the Portland police union, The Oregonian reports.

Campaign News: First-time Portland Commissioner Rene Gonzalez announced a run for Portland mayor Dec. 7, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. Meanwhile, Willamette Week reports that state Rep. Maxine Dexter, D-Portland, will seek the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat soon to be vacated by Earl Blumenauer.

Housing Fund: Gov. Tina Kotek’s Housing Production Advisory Committee is finalizing a proposal for the 2024 session to create a $300 million fund to subsidize the construction of middle-income and workforce housing, according to the Portland Business Journal. The homes would be for people making between 60% and 120% of the area’s median income.

Salem Schools: Salem-Keizer schools Superintendent Andrea Castañeda is recommending the district cut 46 positions, the Salem Statesman Journal reports. It was the third in a series of announcements outlining upcoming budget cuts. The district has lost 2,300 students since 2019-2020 and continues to lose about 400 per year while adding nearly 455 full-time employees since 2019-2020 and increasing staff pay by an average of 14%. A significant budget gap has developed.

Trade Mission: At least three European alternative-energy companies are considering new manufacturing operations in or around Portland, according to Monique Claiborne, chief executive of Greater Portland Inc. Claiborne spoke with representatives of the companies during a European trade mission, according to The Oregonian.

Timber Revenue: A plan to manage state-owned forests in Oregon and other western states will cut timber harvests by up to 40% and reduce related revenues to rural Oregon counties by as much as $18 million annually, the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports.

CHIPS Applications: The U.S. Department of Commerce is accepting concept plan applications for smaller-scale supply chain projects that support the semiconductor industry. A concept plan is a required step in applying for federal CHIPS Act funding. Smaller-scale projects must have capital investment below $300 million and involve construction or expansion of commercial facilities for semiconductor materials and manufacturing equipment, according to the Portland Business Journal.

Airline Purchase: Alaska Airlines plans to buy Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion, according to the Associated Press. The airlines will retain their own brands.

Electric Trucks: Daimler Truck North America, headquartered in Portland, will use four of its electric eCascadia trucks to pick up parts from regional suppliers and deliver them to its consolidation center in Portland, according to the Portland Business Journal. The company started manufacturing the trucks in Portland in 2022.

Intel Collaboration: Intel and Siemens AG announced Dec. 4 that they will collaborate on semiconductor manufacturing efficiency and sustainability, the Portland Business Journal reports. The collaboration will focus on manufacturing, factory operations, cybersecurity and supporting a “resilient” global industry.

Dozens of OBI Members make ‘Most Admired’ List

The Portland Business Journal on Dec. 7 released the results of its annual Oregon’s Most Admired Companies survey. The local leaders, executives and CEOs who participated in the survey recognized dozens of OBI members in 11 categories. Seven OBI members were among the 10 most admired businesses across all industries.

For the 18th consecutive year, Nike tops the list of the state’s most admired companies. Other OBI members in the overall top 10 are, in alphabetical order, A-dec Inc., Adidas America Inc., Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, Columbia Sportswear Co., Hoffman Construction Co. and Intel.

The survey also recognized the most admired companies in several different categories, from technology to product makers. The following OBI members appeared in the top 10 in their respective areas:

  • A Kids Company About
  • Aldrich Advisors LLP
  • Bank of America
  • Barran Liebman LLP
  • Becker Capital Management Inc.
  • Capacity Commercial Group
  • Daimler Truck North America
  • Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
  • Dutch Bros Coffee
  • Ferguson Wellman Capital Management
  • Geffen Mesher
  • Google
  • Heritage Bank
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Leatherman Tool Group Inc.
  • Legacy Health
  • Miller Nash LLP
  • Moss Adams LLP
  • Northwest Staffing Resources
  • OnPoint Community Credit Union
  • Pendleton Woolen Mills
  • Perkins & Co
  • Perkins Coie LLP
  • Providence Health Plan
  • Schwabe
  • Stoel Rives LLP
  • Tillamook County Creamery Association
  • Tonkon Torp LLP
  • Umpqua Bank
  • U.S. Bank
  • VanderHouwen
  • Washington Trust Bank
  • ZGF Architects

Date Set for 2024 Washington, D.C., Fly-In

The Portland Metro Chamber has opened registration for the 2024 D.C. Fly-In, for which OBI is a community partner. The Fly-In will begin on April 28 with an evening reception, which will allow participants to fly in that morning. It will conclude midday May 1, allowing participants to fly out that evening.

While the Fly-In is a partnership between the PMC and the Seattle Metro Chamber, the agenda includes items of statewide and regional significance and offers participants a chance to meet delegation members from all parts of each state.

To learn more or register, go here.

ORLA Sues Albany over Loding Tax Revenue

The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) filed a lawsuit against the city of Albany this month in Linn County Circuit Court. According to an ORLA press release, the suit argues that Albany has not devoted lodging tax dollars originally used to pay off debt for the Linn County Fair & Expo Center to tourism promotion or tourism-related facilities, as required by state law.

Under state law, argues ORLA, the city could have done two things when debt for the fair and expo center was paid off. It could have used the money to fund tourism-related activity or facilities. Or it could have reduced the industry tax rate. It has done neither.

Go here to read the lawsuit.

Welcome, New OBI Members

Welcome to the employers below, who joined OBI in November:

  • CC & L Roofing Co.
  • Cv International, Inc.
  • Denton Plastics, Inc.
  • HDR, Inc.
  • Instacart
  • Little Prince of Oregon Nursery, Inc.
  • Madras Medical Group
  • MV Advancements
  • Prologis
  • Spot Screening
  • Stubblefield Enterprises, Inc.