Mayor Charlie Hales began his State of the City speech with a crack at himself, borrowed from the Portland Tribune.
He said, “You can say this about Charlie Hales, he’s not afraid to tackle the boring stuff. Guilty!”
In a half-hour speech, Hales touted his successes cutting the city budget and paying down debt, paving 83 miles of streets, and attracting businesses to Portland like Airbnb, which he announced is bringing its headquarters and 160 jobs to Portland. In an interview after the speech, Hales said the city and Airbnb are working on a deal that would enable the city to collect some kind of tax on rooms booked with the online service. Hales said it could serve as a model for other cities seeking to regulate peer-to-peer businesses like Airbnb and Uber.
Hales laid out a new series of priorities, most significantly seeking new funding from the City Council to pave and improve roads, reform Portland’s Urban Renewal Districts, and shifting money from the Portland Development Commission into the city’s general fund.
“I’ve put forward a proposal that will shrink the acreage of these districts, put a billion dollars back on the tax rolls,” he said.” Hales has called for shrinking urban renewal district that’s home to the Pearl District and eliminating renewal districts near Portland State University and the Willamette River Industrial Area.
One of the biggest controversies during Hales’ time as mayor has been the city’s decision to sell a lot on MLK to Trader Joe’s developers for below market value. Mayor Hales spoke bluntly about Oregon’s history of racism and discrimination, and said past development projects in Portland have dislocated communities of color. He re-iterated his intent to put the Trader Joe’s deal back together, if the community and developers are willing to reconsider it.
“I think we should build this project, but also work to build trust and prosperity for those who have been left out. And that’s why I support the proposed $20 million commitment for more affordable housing in the MLK neighborhoods,” he said.
Hales reserved his harshest words for a ballot measure that would create an independent water bureau, a plan he called “a costly and sinister scheme of a new water district.” Those who support the ballot measure say reforms are needed to curb waste. They’re calling for an elected board to operate the city’s water and sewer bureaus.