Oregon is finally saying good bye to Sam Adams as mayor of Portland and hello to Charlie Hales.
The job of a mayor is to bring new business to the city and to manage problems that affect safety, transportation, and development. Mayor Sam Adams has performed that job but has crushed area profits according to business owners.
With Mayor Sam Adams’ departure brings mixed reviews. Commissioners wanting to approve government projects loved Mayor Adams. But, for many residents Mayor Adams represents over-spending, negative media, and exorbitant fees, fines and taxes.
Mayor Adams directly affected downtown business when he approved of lowering the street parking time allowance and increased hourly fees and parking fines. He also removed Sunday from the free parking and added fees from 1-7 p.m.. In 2008 parking officers produced $3,700,000 in parking fines in Portland. There are only 575,930 residents in Portland and 229,974 parking citations were issued in 2008.
Feeding parking meters is already burdensome for area workers and managers that need to leave work to find their parking space.
Business owners located downtown depend on customers being able to park their vehicle while shopping. From the consumers point of view most nearby street parking spots are 1-hour in duration and require the driver to relocate their vehicle beyond that time period. Expired parking meter fines are $39 and subsequent fines are higher. In Oregon meter-maids are given latitude to inspect vehicles and award fines while parked for vehicles that don’t comply with state regulations.
The psychological stress over parking issues dissuades consumers from spending time shopping in the district. According to business owners the reduced parking times and increased parking tickets have taken a toll on their profits. Restaurant visits need at least one hour for the customer to walk to the restaurant, be seated, served, eat and pay. One hour isn’t enough time in a congested city.
According to Mayor Sam Adams the intention was to turn-over parking spaces to accommodate the influx of hourly visitors and to increase retail visitors. One would think that local retailers should have been invited to provide comment on the idea before the parking changes were made.
Most view the issue as the Portland Mayor gouging visitors for his benefit. After all the fines fund ODOT issues.
Business owners view the disgruntled customers parked outside their shop windows holding $39 parking fines on an hourly basis. Historically when visitors shop downtown Portland, they attend more than one venue and may visit for greater than two-hours. This allows customers to mull over large purchases and invest more in the local area.
Another issue for downtown visitors is that drivers have a difficult time navigating the streets due to new rules, bicycle lanes, barriers, bus or train only roadways. Sam Adams in a report stated that he wanted to make driving downtown difficult to cause people to take the mass transit or ride a bike.
Admittedly Portland does have an amazing mass transit system that runs greater than 30-miles in each direction, if you don’t mind standing in the rain it’s a good fix for anyone who doesn’t want a car or insurance payments. The system doesn’t work well for those people that need to attend remote business meetings outside the office. A 20-minute drive by car, could take 90-minutes bus each way.
At least Salem, Oregon 50-miles away sells meter keys that prevent running overtime to accommodate people working in the area. Portland should consider selling something similar.
Jon Hoppman of nearby city Lake Oswego, decided after acquiring parking fines to relocate his manufacturing business out of Portland, and changed his mind about purchasing a Portland townhouse.
Portland businesses also struggle with Mayor Sam Adams’ approved increased taxes that put a crunch on profits and spending on labor. Of course with reduction in labor causes a smaller pool of buyers which again translates into even smaller profits for businesses.
Those taxes are to pay for education, government projects, unemployment, and art. The cycle of government spending squeezes businesses into unprofitable businesses.
Mayor Adams is also known for pushing LEED government projects. The great thing about building green is that manufacturers of alternative power, water dispensing, heating and cooling, windows, and insulation products have an exceptional opportunity to introduce new products that conserve natural resources and long term overhead costs.
One of the wonderful green ideas is capturing roof rain water run-off with a bio-swale to save for watering plants during drought seasons.
However, the negative thing about green building is that many products don’t make a significant difference in energy savings, and don’t perform as well as the items that are normally used. A few examples are adhesives that are “green” tend to shrink or dislodge. That is a big problem when carpet begins to lift, or sub-floors squeak. Reduced flow toilets have to be flushed twice. Energy saving light bulbs is difficult to read with and the room and inhabitants appear with a different hue or shadowing. The list of faults of “green” products is long.
The primary gripe is that the materials that are certified for “green” building are a lesser quality than the normal products and cost two to four times more than the best available industry standard products.
The other item that isn’t mentioned publicly about green building or LEED is the cost to enroll and administer the construction project. The fee to register a construction project can be $65,000 and more. The fee to hire a local LEED agency to act as a middleman between the contractor and architect is $10-30,000. The cost for the additional meetings and research by the contractor and the architect is at least an additional $100-500,000.
Going “green” is a positive approach to long term problems, but when comparing the costs to the recovery period it isn’t worth it for decades to come. By the time the costs are recovered the new owners may want to remodel.
Bottom line is that many Oregon residents wonder if they are getting their tax dollars’ worth on the government projects. There is no doubt that the material costs should be significantly lower, along with the project administration fees. It is apparent that soon-to-be former Mayor Adams hasn’t cared about the costs paid by the tax payer.
Residents of Oregon were also concerned about Mayor Adams’ demand that sex-reassignment surgery be included in state healthcare insurance. That message sent residents reeling with complaints to the mayor’s office at City Hall. Oregonians and insurance companies balking about how people wanting the surgery would flock to the government job applications in hopes to have such surgery performed for free.
The argument in favor of sex-reassignment surgery is that certain individuals actually have DNA that is primarily of the opposite of the sex than their physical body displays. In essence they are a male but physically are a female. This can be tested and proven through genetic tests. Those individuals grow up conflicted because their brains are also configured to respond to their internal DNA.
Mayor Sam Adams apparently acknowledges this circumstance however; every person that wants a sex-reassignment does not possess this flaw in DNA. Many unaffected persons that go through a reassignment regret doing so afterward.
Another reflection on Oregon history that prompted media attention towards Portland Mayor Sam Adams was that he had an 18 month long affair with a 17-year-old male intern. Portlanders being open minded about gay relationships, felt that if the young man was of legal age, or at least 21, and didn’t work for Mayor Adams the world wouldn’t have cared about the consensual relationship. As for his younger companion, his career in politics is most likely over due to his grasp of the media sensation.
Giving Mayor Adams credit, he has stood his ground on the conflicts and has faced an abundance of turmoil during his term. Hopefully, he has already landed a new position that provides growth, and allows him the freedom and privacy to live his life without public scrutiny.
Portland residents and businesses hope that new Mayor Charlie Hales will consider their concerns; after all they are the financiers of the city. We welcome Mayor Hales and with our breath held we look forward to positive changes that create better livability within the city.
At the same time residents and businesses hope that Hales will see some charity and goodwill to reduce the high cost of doing business in Portland, and those as Joseph Rose once wrote who “are pounding away at the buttons [on a parking pay station] like a space chimp in training,” to have the opportunity to purchase goods and services from local businesses.