Portland City Council: Do your job. Don't punt.

T.A. Barnhart

Portland City Council: Do your job. Don't punt.

The two on the right are doing their jobs. The rest needs to follow suit.

Portlanders are beginning to beseiged with the message that we “have” to vote on the street fee being proposed by Hales and Novick. My response: Sez who?

People forget that in the U.S., we govern by "representative democracy". We elect representatives to act on our behalf in government. We do not govern by direct rule. Direct rule by the people is unfeasible in so many different ways, from the vast range of issues involved to the size of our polities (i.e., too many people) to the fact that few citizens have the knowledge needed to make good policy decisions.

Yet time after time, when those we elect go through a deliberative process, one that at times includes being shamed for their initial decisions; when they work with the public, interest groups, etc; when they spend countless hours studying an issue in all its messy detail; and then they come up with a plan that the entire government body agrees on (or a majority does) — our elected representatives do that painstaking work we don’t want to do and then we turn around decide to turn the final decision over to the most uninformed, ill-disciplined, unqualified body of people possible. The voters.

That is not democracy. That is stupidity.

No matter how outraged they are about “raising our taxes”, the voters won’t become informed on the complex range of issues involved in devising this fee. They will watch a few tv news segments that probably lack any substance (and may contain false info). They will throw away all the expensive propaganda that is mailed to them. They’ll get angry at all the online "garbage", unfriend people on Facebook over it, and, otherwise waste their time not becoming informed.

When ballots are mailed, over half the voters will ignore them. Of the minority that does vote, a plurality will make up their mind based on their “gut” or their hatred of taxes or the belief that there’s already plenty of money and it’s just being wasted or you can’t trust politicians. The majority of votes cast will be little more than capricious guesses. The result?

Shitty public policy that may or may not reflect the public will. And will not fix a single pot hole but will continue to cost taxpayers more, now and in the future, as damage to vehicles continue and costs are kicked down the road to future taxpayers.

So, Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman and Amanda Fritz: Suck it up and do the job you were elected to do. If you do not have faith in your ability to make an informed decision that is in the best interest of the people of Portland, resign and let someone fill the seat who does. Maybe a group of Outraged Citizens will be able to refer the new fee to the voters; or maybe the people of Portland will surprise you and decide to trust your informed judgment.

If enough petitions are gathered to refer this to the ballot, that’s a stain on the voters themselves who put you in office and then believe that in their vast ignorance they can do a better job with almost none of the resources you used in doing your job, the people’s business. But don’t you dare run and hide from your obligation to serve the people by copping out on this. I’m no fan of Charlie Hales, but at least he’s got the guts to move this forward and try to get it right. He and Steve Novick, of whom I am a fan, took their lumps on Street Fee 1 and have now presented a much better version that has, from what I understand, the full Council’s support.

(The Portland Business Alliance opposes it, so that must mean it’s on the right track.)

Now have the guts, and the integrity, to stand behind your colleagues and your own judgment. If a small group of voters want to foul up the system by circulating petitions, let them. Do your job. Vote for the fee, or vote against it, but don’t punt.

We didn’t elect you so you could pass your responsibilities back to us.

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