Jun 20, 2007

Troutdale Shouldn't Be Rushed By FEDEX

FEDEX is considering Troutdale's old Reynolds Metals site for a major shipping hub. FEDEX is also pressuring Troutdale for a decision on significant tax breaks by the end of this month. As I mentioned earlier, we discussed these potential tax breaks in a joint work session with the Fairview City Council.

As reported in the Gresham Outlook, "FedEx planners have inquired about “financial assistance” in talks with officials from the state of Oregon, Port of Portland and Troutdale. . ."

What should Troutdale do? Number one, we should slow down. There's no reason to rush into a decision. If FEDEX can't wait for Troutdale to do some due diligence, some public meetings, and a deeper look into all the implications of a major tax break, they're probably not serious about locating in Troutdale anyway.

We had a joint work session with the Fairview City Council. Although this was just an "information gathering" session, it was in reality a lobbying effort by Port of Portland and State of Oregon representatives to persuade us to create an enterprise zone. They didn't come out to Troutdale just for chitchat. The tone of the meeting was clearly "which flavor ice cream would you like", and not "this is how we make the ice cream".

I did some research on property tax exemptions, enterprise zones, and FEDEX over the weekend. I'm won't go into details in this post. (Check out Google searches on FEDEX and property tax exemption, or FEDEX and enterprise zones yourself).

Based on what I've read, apparently FEDEX's policy is to never, ever pay local property taxes. And they usually get their way. But does that mean Troutdale should give them a tax exemption? Maybe yes, maybe no. What's in Troutdale's best interest?

I resent being pressured by FEDEX, the Port of Portland, and the State of Oregon into making a quick, uninformed decision. Personally, I'm not in favor of making a decision on tax exemptions for FEDEX or anyone else until we can get all our questions answered, and until we can put a finger on the true costs of a tax exemption. How many jobs? What's the total dollar figure for exempted tax? Is it worth it? Do we want to basically pay $50-100k (just a number, I don't know the actual figure, that's the problem) per job? How is that fair to existing Troutdale businesses?

We also need public input. After all, a significant amount of taxpayer dollars are on the table. This doesn't just affect Troutdale. Property tax breaks would also affect local schools, our library system, just go down the big tax list on your property tax bill.

Realize this: the Reynolds Metals property is one of the last undeveloped pieces of industrial land in Multnomah County. So what's the rush? There's obviously demand for industrial land right now. Why ask the first girl we dance with for her hand in marriage?

The Troutdale City Council will discuss this again in a work session following the regular city council meeting on June 26. Want to attend? The regular meeting will be at 7pm, Troutdale City Hall, 104 SE Kibling Ave. The work session will be immediately after the regular meeting. Get involved in your local government!


Ken Quinby said...

Good info Councilor! I can't disagree with anything you say.

As a councilor from Fairview, who attended the "workshop"??? I was somewhat disappointed with the tone of the meeting too, but mostly in how it was all presented. It was so loose that Troutdale Councilor Ripma was quite frustrated. When he voiced his frustration, he was promptly chastised by other members. We weren't really told in a structured form how the meeting was to be presented. i.e. tell us what you're going to tell us about. What was the meeting purpose & agenda.

Fairview councilors & mayor were made to sit in the audience & not even invited to the table. Multiple times Fairview's Mayor Weatherby raised his hand to speak several times, but was never acknowledged. Combine that with the lack of respect given councilor Ripma's concerns & it was more like a "dog & pony" show.
Those citizens who vote must get involved, attend meetings & pay attention to what's occurring!
While I haven't made a decision on an enterprise zone one way or the other, I too do not like being rushed without due diligence. As city councilors, elected by the voters, our duty is to the voters, not just big taxpayers or non taxpayer want-to be's. We all want proper development, but not at a sacrifice to reason & common sense.

Thank you for presenting this blog!

Ken Quinby
Fairview City Council

Troutdale Councilor Canfield said...

Councilor Quinby,

Thanks for your comments. I too thought the Fairview City Council was treated rather rudely that night. We all should have been sitting at the same table as equals.

Troutdale is having a public hearing regarding creation of an Enterprise Zone on July 10. Based on comments I've read on the Gresham Outlook website, there may be some negative citizen comments about this.

We'll see who shows up. Having said that, I'm leaning in favor of creating an Enterprise Zone. I'm not sure why Troutdale would want to say "No" to potentially 500-1000 family wage jobs, and a significant multiplier effect of companies also wanting to make an investment here.

There are other reasons I'm leaning in favor of an Enterprise Zone. I'll write about them soon.

I think it would be wise to have a "do-over" joint work session with the Fairview City Council before a decision is made. It would be best for everyone to know exactly what the real agenda is, let everyone lay their cards on the table and work through the positives and negatives for our respective cities.