By Steve Elder | CNA Media Team
Portlandd voters will soon have the opportunity to fight climate change while promoting social and economic equity.
The Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF) would generate an estimated $30 million annually to do things like weatherize and solarize Portland homes and businesses. It would also provide energy efficiency upgrades for low-income housing, job training, minority contractor support, green infrastructure assistance, and local food production.
The ballot initiative is what some call pure democracy: people can vote directly to make a law that affects them, not going through the legislature or other governing body.
The PCEF ballot initiative would impose a 1 percent business license surcharge on retail corporations, such as Apple, Starbucks and Wells Fargo, that do a $1 billion worth of business nationwide and $500,000 of business in Portland annually.
To get on the November 2018 ballot 45,000 signatures of Portland registered voters are required. A citizen’s commission, appointed by the city council, will distribute the money. The commission will oversee competitive proposals for use of funds.
Each commission member must have strong interest and experience in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, acting on climate change, and advancing racial and economic justice.
Detractors say the measure sounds like a sales tax. Technically it is not, although corporations will pay based on meeting a certain sales volume threshold. Corporations already pay license fees. PCEF is a surcharge. Most of the affected corporations already collect charges in other states that they pass on to Portlanders in the form of standard prices all over the country.
PCEF is a little like Measure 97, the tax initiative which lost statewide after a campaign that broke Oregon’s spending record for ballot initiatives. The measure won handily in two counties, Multnomah and Benton.
According to the Department of Energy, every dollar invested in weatherization generates $1.72 in energy benefits and $2.78 in nonenergy benefits such as fewer medical bills and less labor time lost. Landlords who upgrade properties will be required to limit any rent increases.
The PCEF steering committee has among its members the Sierra Club, 350PDX, the Audubon Society, NAYA Family Center, the NAACP, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, and more than 100 neighborhood associations, including Concordia.
Signatures will be collected from Portlanders who will be old enough to vote in the November 2018 election. Signature collectors should be able to explain the initiative and provide copies for review.
Volunteers are needed to help collect signatures. If you’d like to help, google contact information for any of the sponsors.
Steve, East2@ConcordiaPDX.org, is an inactive lawyer, a developer, activist and old grouch.