Fritz's Parks Bond Proposal Polls Way Better than Street Fee

Portland Mercury:

Here's more proof that voters are more willing to embrace something familiar over something new and different (and expensive). A telephone poll (pdf) commissioned by the parks bureau last month has found nearly supermajority support—up to 68 percent—for Commissioner Amanda Fritz's plan to replace an expiring parks bond this fall with another bond measure that would keep Portlanders' taxes the same. Support for the replacement bond started below 50 percent, according to pollsters DHM—before respondents were told explicitly they wouldn't be paying any more money. The proposed replacement bond would raise up to $68 million for the bureau. The biggest reason for that reticence, according to the poll, echoes something we've heard in the vociferous criticism that's been aimed at Commissioner Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales' plans for a new street fee (that could eventually cost families $144 a year): Tax and fee fatigue. The street fee mustered just more than majority support in a separate DHM poll.

But right after, when the 800 or so respondents were assured they wouldn't see their bills rise, that opposition immediately softened. That "stay the same" message, combined with an explanation of the projects a bond would fund, even trumped a reminder that saying "no" would reduce property taxes for once. "Even after learning that property taxes would go down if voters reject a bond, voters choose to keep tax rates level in order to make critical investments in our parks system," a release from the parks bureau said. "Opposition to the measure only grows by a few percentage points (and support drops to 65%) when Portlanders are given opposition rationale about why not to support the replacement bond." The city's expiring parks bond was passed in 1994. Even with a replacement bond, the city would still need $300 million more to wipe out its backlog for parks maintenance and other improvements. The new parks bond, according to the bureau, will help pay for the following projects: • The replacement of deteriorating playgrounds, including the Couch Park structure serving the Metropolitan Learning Center (MLC) Portland Public school, which recently had to be removed due to potentially catastrophic failure• Reopening and stabilizing trails such as the closed Maple Trail in Forest Park• Repairing community swimming pools to prevent emergency closures and extend usable life• Ensuring that more facilities and natural areas are safe and accessible to all, including people with disabilities• Making repairs and protecting worker safety at Mount Tabor Yard• Making much-needed structural repairs to Pioneer Courthouse Square [Eds: But sadly not removing all of the hideous 1980s-mall masonry.]• Making other major maintenance repairs like restoring restrooms, fixing leaking roofs, and more. [ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

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