By Jonathan Radmacher of Portland, Oregon. Jonathan is an attorney who describes himself as "a Portland-area voter and a taxpayer".
An open letter to Charlie Hales:
Yesterday, your campaign sent out an email, with the subject line "Save Ms. Baber." You may not be aware of this, but the subject line relates to the campaign that my sixth-grade daughter (a student of Ms. Baber's at Hosford Middle School) started, to raise $105,000, to try and save at least one of the four positions being eliminated at Hosford Middle School. In the email, it is stated that you will be the "most vocal champion" for public schools. If only you had put your money where your mouth is, and your vote was.
Remember back in 2003, when our schools were facing a financial crisis, and the rest of the state voted against imposing a tax to fund schools? It was one-quarter of the way through your four-year term on City Council. Fortunately, the good citizens of Multnomah County passed Measure 26-48, with 58% of the vote; my vote was one of those, and I presume yours was, as well. The New York Times declared that Portland-area voters had turned back an "anti-tax tide." Of the estimated $128M raised with that Multnomah County Income Tax (dubbed the "I-Tax"), $89M went to fund schools in Multnomah County – Portland Public, David Douglas, Corbett, Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, Reynolds and Riverdale.
For the next three years, people who resided in Multnomah County, and thus continued to be eligible to vote in Multnomah County, paid 1.25% of their income to the I-Tax. People who didn't have school-aged children paid that tax. Millions of dollars flowed to our schools. Everyone was subject to the change – people who voted against Measure 26-48 paid that tax. People who resided in Multnomah County were subject to that tax. That's how public policy decisions work – the majority decides, and everyone complies. Some people moved out of the County (some of them to fanfare), declaring themselves to be residents of some other states or counties, so that they wouldn't have to pay that tax. Presumably those people then began to vote wherever they resided for tax purposes.
But if your own admissions and press reports are true, you continued to "reside" in Multnomah County for the next six years for purposes of voting in Multnomah County – exercising the right to have a voice in this region's public policy, including its tax policy, while you apparently swore that you were not residing in Oregon for purposes of paying income taxes, including the I-Tax, which helped fund our schools. So while other residents of Multnomah County kept their right to vote here, and paid their Multnomah County income tax to help fund our schools, you decided that you were a resident of Multnomah County for purposes of voting, but not for purposes of paying taxes. How many thousands of dollars did you save for yourself by making that decision? What could that money have gone toward, to help students across Multnomah County?
Now, in a similar financial crisis, you claim that you will be the "most vocal champion" for public schools. I, for one, would have preferred that you would just have put your money where your mouth was – finish out your term on City Council, vote in Oregon, and pay your taxes as a resident of Oregon and Multnomah County, instead of abdicating your responsibilities on all three counts. You would have been a much better champion.