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Voters Just Passed a Record-Setting Bond for Portland Public Schools

June 5, 2017

The Portland Mercury Post

by Dirk VanderHart  

May 16, 2017 (click here for link) 

It appears Portland voters have passed the largest bond measure in state history—a $790 million property tax bond designed to eliminate lead and copper exposure in Portland Public Schools and complete major renovations and replacements.

The first tally of the night, just after polls closed at 8 pm, showed the bond measure leading with roughly 61 percent of the vote. The Oregonian called the race immediately afterward.

 

The passage of the bond, Measure 26-193, suggests the school board wasn’t off base last year when it decided to delay a bond ask from the massive November election—which featured other high-profile revenue measures—to the smaller May election.

With the new money, PPS promises much-needed fixes to a school system that has seen few positive headlines recently. The causes of a lead scandal that unfolded in 2016 would be wiped clean, the bond campaign says, with both hazardous water fixtures and lead-based paint removed (or covered, in the case of some paint). Roughly $324 million of the money voters approved will remove “lead, copper, asbestos and radon from all 90 PPS schools” according to the campaign.

The money will also pay for extensive renovations of Benson and Madison high schools, along with wholesale replacements of Lincoln High School and Kellogg Middle School.

 

Also well in the lead at first blush, changes to the Portland City Charter that will grant new independence to the City Auditor's Office. Initial results show Measure 26-193 leading with more than 84 percent of the vote.

With the changes in place, the Auditor’s Office will have more power to set its own hiring practices and contract with outside attorneys. It will also have a degree of budget independence it’s never had before.

Auditor Mary Hull Caballero lobbied hard for those changes, saying that her employees are put into potential conflicts of interest because they frequently need the help of offices they’re also charged with critiquing.

 

“It’s a constant cloud over every transaction we’re involved in,” she told the Mercury in April.

Another citywide measure, to change the charter to solidify the city's ability to tax short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, led by less in initial results, leading with nearly 59 percent of the vote.

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