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Chair's Blog

Tax battles, our homeless crisis and a new mayor; the end of an eventful year June 2016
By Mitch Hornecker

On June 30, I will reach the end of my term as your board chair. It has been an honor to lead this organization over the past 12 months, which I believe have been among the most active for the Alliance in quite a while. We should all be proud of what we have accomplished together this year. I want to highlight six particular areas of effort:

Economic prosperity. Let’s celebrate a booming economy. In the sixth annual Value of Jobs Economic Check-up report, published in December, we found that Portland-metro had not only recovered all of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, but we were actually growing new jobs.

Our biggest piece of unfinished business is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We applauded the passage of the federal Trade Promotion Authority in 2015 and are now advocating for ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, for a trade-dependent and Asia-facing state like Oregon, will translate to job growth.

Housing and homelessness: Since our Value of Jobs Middle Income report was published last year, housing affordability and availability have become key concerns for Portlanders, and we have helped make it top of mind for elected leaders, as the discourse in May’s primary elections clearly indicated. As you know, we have continued to advocate that Portland is woefully short of emergency shelter beds as well as long-term low- and middle-income housing.  We continue to insist that Portlanders expect better options than sleeping outside for this very vulnerable population.

We were happy to see that addressing the city’s homeless crisis was the top priority for Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler’s campaign this spring. The Alliance endorsed Wheeler and we look forward to working with him on this issues and other important matters facing the city.

Transportation investments. We endorsed the 10-cent city gas tax that was recently approved by voters in May. While this tax won’t generate all the money that is needed to fix Portland’s streets, it is a start. Thank you to Commissioner Novick for his leadership on the issue.

Tax proposals. A couple of tax proposals to mention. First, IP28: this very damaging gross receipts tax proposal will appear on the Oregon ballot in November. The Alliance has joined forces with partners across the state to oppose the $6 billion measure and to ensure that Oregon voters understand that, it passed, they will end up footing the bill in the form of higher prices for food, medicine, utilities, insurance and much more. If you haven’t joined the campaign to defeat this bad proposal, please go to www.defeatthetaxonoregonsales.com to learn more.

Second, we avoided a potentially damaging payroll tax ballot measure fight with one of our strongest allies, Portland State University. I want to say thank you to the PSU Board, PSU Foundation and President Wiewel who worked with us to avoid an unnecessary ballot measure fight. We will be working together over the next couple of years on a joint effort to see how we can improve access and reduce the cost of higher education in Oregon.

Advocacy. Over the last several years, we have worked hard on expanding and improving the impact of our advocacy. Over a year ago, Debbie Kitchin, D.J. Wilson, Jim Mark and I got together and agreed to pursue a consistent strategy over multiple chairs’ terms. We have met regularly as a group and with other board members and Alliance staff and have charted a path that includes a heightened focus on social media. This resulted in the launch in July 2015 of an outreach campaign, called “Portland Can Do Better,” designed to activate our membership and propel non-members into joining the discussion – enlarging our voice and influence. Our social media strategy is designed to complement our face to face advocacy. While we continue to monitor the effect of this campaign, the early returns are extremely positive and I expect social media will be a permanent part of our advocacy tool box going forward. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our amazing CEO, Sandi McDonough, and her excellent staff.  Sandi combines tenaciousness with the best political instincts I have ever had the pleasure to work with.  Sandi’s staff is incredibly dedicated to our mission and they all punch above their weight. 

Finally, I would like to thank you, our members, the Alliance board of directors and the board’s executive committee, for supporting me and for caring about our community’s vitality. More than ever, the Alliance is a strong voice for business in the greater Portland- metropolitan area. With your ongoing support and involvement, we can keep the focus right where it needs to be to maintain a healthy business community and a great quality of life.

I am leaving the organization in excellent hands with DJ Wilson, president and general manager of KGW Media Group, as the incoming board chair. I know you will join me in supporting her in the coming year.
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