Cheers erupt as results show clean energy fund tax passing by wide margin
Portland voters resoundingly approved an innovative plan to tax billion-dollar companies and use the proceeds to create a Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund.
At the campaign party in Northeast Portland election night, a spokeswoman for the campaign said the result reflects a broad progressive movement in the city.
"I'm ecstatic," said Khanh Pham, manager of immigrant organizing at Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. "If we win, I think it's a huge step forward for Portland and it shows that there is another way. It shows that there is a new progressive majority that wants a clean energy future that leaves no one behind."
In a statement from the opposition campaign, Keep Portland Affordable, the head of the Portland Business Alliance struck a measured tone.
"While we remain seriously concerned with the impact this gross receipts tax will have on Portlanders who can least afford it, we stand in agreement with proponents of this measure that much more must be done to lessen the impacts of climate change to those most affected," said Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance. "We look forward to finding ways we may all work together for our future."
The passage of the measure means that Portland will fuel a new fund directed by a new Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund Committee. The Portland City Council — which is gaining fund advocate Jo Ann Hardesty as a new member — would decide who serves on that committee. Hardesty helped craft the citizens initiative.
The measure was sold to voters as a fund split between clean energy projects, clean energy jobs training and future innovation projects. If it works, say supporters, it could be a model for the rest of the nation.
"Now is when the real work begins," said Jenny Lee, advocacy director at Coalition of Communities of Color, a campaign supporter. "I do think it's going to be a model. It's going to be up to local, on-the-ground organizing to come up with our climate future."
The 1 percent tax on $1 billion-plus corporations who do more than $500,000 in retail sales within the city could have a larger impact than supporters expect, though. Yes campaign materials said the measure would raise $30 million. A study funded by the no campaign said it would actually cost up to $79 million.
Tony DeFalco — executive director of the nonprofit Verde, a major campaign supporter — said other municipalities are watching to see how this idea plays out in Portland.
"I think a lot of folks are watching us to see what happens," DeFalco said, counting among the prominent supporters CNN news commentator Van Jones, Oregon U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben.
Pham added that she had heard from people in Southeast Asia who were interested in the model.
"I think there's tremendous impact, not just around the country, but around the world," she said of the vote.
The Portland coalition built through the initiative petition and campaign will continue to work together on progressive, multiracial goals, Pham said. She pointed to two restaurateurs who said they were duped by the no campaign and switched sides.
"I think that we're learning the corporate playbook," she said. "You can't buy our allegiances."