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Plus, criminal justice reform could dominate DA race and study says Portland good city for commuting

PMG FILE PHOTO - Activists supporting the Portland Clean Energy Fund during the November 2020 general election.Questions about the voter-approved tax to finance the Portland Clean Energy Fund are continuing to increase within City Hall.

Emails obtained by the Portland Tribune suggest the 1% tax on local retail sales may apply to even more purchases than most residents realize, including garbage service, retirement accounts and construction projects to help the mentally ill and homeless.

Portland voters created the fund by overwhelmingly approving Measure 26-201 at the November 2018 general election. Campaign organizers said the tax would apply only to sales by a limited number of very large retailers. But a May 30 opinion by the City Attorney's Office said the measure actually defined "retail sales" very broadly, and the City Council will have to amend it to create exemptions.

All of the discussions involving council members and city staff so far have been behind the scenes. No work session has yet been scheduled to discuss the issue. Supporters have not yet publicly conceded there is even a problem that needs to be addressed.

WinCo stores in Portland already have added a charge to their receipts to cover the tax, however.

Criminal justice reform could dominate DA race

Criminal justice reform advocates have their best chance ever to elect a like-minded district attorney in Multnomah County.

Current D.A. Rod Underhill announced last week that he will not run for reelection in 2020. Underhill has worked in the D.A.'s office for 30 years and was heavily favored to win the election to succeed former DA Mike Schrunk, who retired in 2012 after 31 years in the position.

The ACLU and other progressive advocacy groups have been working to elect reformers across the country, notching wins in places like Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis. Such an effort fizzled in Washington County in 2018, however, when fundraising questions overshadowed lawyer Max Wall's campaign and Chief Deputy DA Kevin Barton was elected.

Study says Portland good city for commuting

Local smart growth advocates won't like to hear this, but a recent study says it makes financial sense to live outside Portland in the metropolitan region.

The SmartAsset study compared housing costs, home value changes and commute times in metropolitan regions across the county. It ranked the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro region as the ninth best for living outside the primary city, which is Portland.

According to the study, median housing costs are $192 per month less and home values are increasing 0.79% faster outside Portland. The study also found that average commute times are only seven minutes longer for those who do not live in the city.

SmartAsset is an online financial technology company. The study is titled "Places Where It Pays Off to Commute in 2019."

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