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Thursday, January 27, 2011

City says leaf tax raked in $335,000

Contrary to what our City Hall spies tell us, Willy Week is reporting that the City of Portland has collected $335,000 in leaf taxes from affected neighborhoods:

More than a month after street sweepers passed through Portland’s “leaf districts” to clear fallen foliage, only 37 percent of assessed property owners have paid the new removal fee.

By comparison, almost the same percentage—35 percent—of the 30,000 assessed property owners have withheld their payments, ranging from $15 to $65, under an opt-out provision.

And 28 percent of billed residents have simply ignored requests for payment, according to the latest figures from the city.

That all means Portland’s Bureau of Transportation has raised $335,000 from the new program—less than half of its $800,000 goal.

Thirty-seven percent of the 30,000 property owners paid? That's 11,100 checks. Since the fee was optional this year, it's really hard to believe that number.

Then again, it's hard to believe a lot of things that actually happen in Portland civic life.

Comments (19)

Thirty-seven percent of the 30,000 property owners paid? That's 11,100 checks. Since the fee was optional this year, it's really hard to believe that number.

Why are you so stunned to find that people are willing to pay for a city service that they use?

Hey, that covers 2/3 of the Water House bill. Or two or three eco potties? The neon rose? Every little bit helps in la-la land.

From the way the article is written, it seems that the $335k number is WWeek's estimate. I wonder if the city provided the actual dollar amount collected ...

Accrual accounting?

Dave would be one thing if people actually received the special service - but most didn't if they weren't already in a designated leaf district before. I live on a six long block with no street trees as the planting strips next to curbs are about 1.5 ft wide. I watched the regular street sweeper go down the center of the street - with cars parked on both sides of the 20' wide street...and we all received a bill for this service- something we get approximately 5-6 times a year anyway as a part of regular service.

And the number is not even close to what they actually collected according to my inside sources.

"Why are you so stunned to find that people are willing to pay for a city service that they use?"

Are you kidding? You haven't given it enough thought to even imagine the obvious?
That they have been paying all along and before the new fee?

Why not add a few more fees for services already paid for?

Dave J will jusy shrug and well OK.

How about a City Council fee?

And a staff fee?

Or even a consultant fee?

Those are all services.

Looks like they are needing to rake in every possible dollar they can to continue their perks to pet projects. What will we be paying staff to dream up next for this Mayor?

I bet most that paid were commercial property owners and landlords. They know they can just pass the costs on to their customers or tenants.

I got a bill for leaf removal in the mail last week. This bill had a penalty charge of 10% tacked on it.
I had never received a bill prior to this and called the "Leaf Bureau". The customer service person took my information, including my statement that I mailed in an affidavit in a timely manner and told me notes will be put in my acct. file.
Not good enough, baby. After all this is the city that cannot get ANY billing software system right w/out . . . well you know.
Anyways, the customer service person tells me this is all she can do.
I had a picture of these "notes" going in the same file with my affidavit and this "bill" going to collection and before I know it I have a mysterious property lien notice in the mail.
My request to speak with a supervisor was met with a phone number to the Leaf Hotline Automated Menu Tree(LHLAMT). Hon, I already called that number and by the way what's your name and your supervisor's name?
"Will you hold", "yes", click - really crappy muzak & talk (the pdxline channel?) emits from the speaker for about 15 minutes.
Click. "Hello"-"How may I help you?" Again I go through the whole spiel, this time including my paranoid delusion about collections and liens. The resolution was to take another "affidavit" over the phone (?) and this will go into my acct. file.
When she asked me why I was requesting exclusion, I told her I live in a cul de sac - that the sweeper NEVER sweeps the front of my house, turning around before it gets there.
"Oh really, that's interesting." "I'll make a note of that and put it in your file."
I didn't know whether to thank her for her help or curse her for her incompetence.
I said thank you.
I'll be checking my credit report directly.

Go By Sweeper !

Should the city collect equal fees for a service from all, for the good of the group? Common sense reveals that most would reject this effort because it is unfair to some, while overly fair to others.

Then there is the issue of who should pay for it. It seems that leaf accumulation can negatively affect traffic flow and can clog drains/sewers. All these seem to be the responsibility of the city services most already pay for, and should not be added to individual households. Especially, since it is the city requiring us to keep or remove certain trees.

Ben is right. Where would it ever stop?

That is a great question Gibby,

The place where it stops is when the City Commissioners are violating the city charter. Then citizens can legally challenge 'Leaf Taxes', Street renaming, 2nd mortgages on PGE Park... and many other things.

For the next 6 months there is a charter commission that can make such a change to the city charter and refer it directly to voters (no City Council approval needed).

If you want this mismanagement of your tax money to cease, these are the people you need to be talking with and going to their meetings to testify at:

Our property taxes should cover all "Basic Services". Basic services should include everything you can't opt-out, police, schools, roads/bridges, parks: maintenance of the public parks and streets cleaning are a Basic Service.

If you are going to provide "Extras" (like free pizzas, or neighborhood association facilitators, or MLS Stadium remodels), then you are welcome to charge for those extra costs SO LONG AS THERE IS AN OPT-OUT procedure.

I forgot to mention, our dollars for basics are most likely also used for the PR, marketing and propaganda to continue their agenda. How about cutting out all those meetings around town, with the city sending out their troops to take care of matters and "our citizen input" making sure those meetings are conducted according to the agenda.

I remember the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association sent a letter to the city asking for the ORS or city code citations that justified the city charging for this service. Wonder if they ever got a response.

Does the city allow you to opt out by simply removing trees from your property, thereby obviating the need for leaf removal?

I would submit that getting rid of my trees would actually be an environmental service as it would limit the need for fossil fuel-powered city vehicles to pick up the leaves, producing savings in both fuel costs and resultant pollution.

The wood, properly cut, dried and seasoned, could be efficiently burned incrementally to heat my home -- a preferred alternative to the consumption of valuable resources like natural gas and electricity.

The ax-swinging involved will give me the workout expert physicians say is needed to avoid obesity and the woodchips produced from said hewing would make attractive, natural ground cover.

Of course, this being Portland, it will doubtless require additional fees to NOT have the city pick up my leaves. There would be fees, hearings, applications, impact statements, etc. just to cut the trees down. Likely that would be followed by a wood-cutting fee; the required purchase of a permit to have firewood stacked on my property; an additional fee for drying and seasoning with weekly visits by a city inspector; another required purchase permit to actually burn the stuff with additional surcharges levied on days ending in "y."

There would also be a fee to partially reimburse PGE and Northwest Natural to offset revenue losses for the power and natural gas I didn't consume; city-issued liability insurance required to cover losses from any and all damage done by my ax, including to the wood itself; an environmental waiver that must be purchased to offset the damage done to the carpenter ant population present in the tree, thereby repairing damage to the delicate ecosystem; and an additional offset providing funds to ensure the planting of 50 similar trees around the world, which selected city officials will deliver personally at taxpayer expense -- with a planting fee charged to me for each delivery.

Add in a processing fee for all the forms, permits, applications and related documents; and an additional fee just because they can do it.

Heh! Thanks, Jimbo. You've just given the "Portlandia" writers enough material for another episode right there.

Eric's on to something.

Dadgumbit, Jimbo! Why ya all givin such wicked ideas to City Council? Haven't you learned anything?

And Eric, you just came up with another basis for a fee. Fee to write about City Council fees.


This was a wonderful success at my building! (sic)


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