When the Portland Development Commission and the City of Portland hatched plans last year to expand urban renewal in the north and northeast parts of the city, including the Rose Quarter, one Portlander saw an opportunity to bring in some much-needed cash for community organizations operating in the area.
However, the idea might collide with an existing agreement the city has with the company that manages the Rose Garden.
Roy Jay, president of the African American chamber of commerce, has been advocating for a community benefits agreement to be written into the city’s plan to re-develop the Rose Quarter.
Most community benefit agreements have concerned issues like hiring minorities for the project, living wages, and local purchasing requirements. However, Jay’s idea is far more ambitious.
Under Jay’s proposal, 1 percent of all gross revenue generated in the Rose Quarter would go into a special fund that would be used to bolster over 50 different community organizations, many of which operate in north and northeast Portland. A $1.99 charge would also be tacked on to every ticket sold for any event in Rose Quarter that would also go into the fund.
A hefty sum of money could be at stake. According to Jay, about $300 million was generated in the Rose Quarter last year. One percent of that would mean $3 million.
“We have the chance to make this right by putting some teeth into this agreement,” said Jay on Tuesday evening to a subcommittee examining the issue that he serves as a member of.
During the public comment period of the meeting several people pointed out that the Rose Quarter was created by the city using eminent domain to seize the property of residents who ended up being displaced, and the community benefits agreement seemed only fitting given the area’s history.
Charles McGee- the executive director of the Josiah Hill III Clinic, one of the non-profits slated to receive money under the community benefits agreement- invoked a passage from the Bible instructing people to love their neighbor as they do themselves in support of Jay’s idea. He also added that with better funding his clinic could serve more people.
However, a presentation by David Logsdon, the manager of the city’s spectator facility fund, cast doubt on the viability of the community benefits agreement.
Logsdon explained that the city’s spectator facility fund is a self-sustaining fund operated by the city. The city receives 6 percent off of all ticket sales at the Rose Garden and Memorial Coliseum, which go into the fund and have been used to keep PGE Park up and running.
Under an agreement the city has with the company that manages the Rose Quarter, any new tax assessed by the city or Metro on ticket sales would be deducted dollar-for-dollar off the current 6 percent already going to the city.
The city’s deal with Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson to build a major league soccer stadium at PGE Park commits all revenue from the fund to go to the financial obligations of the new stadium, said Logsdon.
So any new taxes on ticket sales would make it more difficult for the city to meet its financial obligations to new MLS stadium, and could be shot down.
However, Logsdon said he wasn’t sure if the community benefits agreement amounted to a “tax.”
“That’s an issue you’d want a legal analysis done to,” said Logsdon.
Jay seemed to be taken a bit aback by the new information. But later said he remained committed to his vision, and confident that it would reach fruition because of the clear benefits it would bring to the area. He also referred to his proposed $1.99 charge on tickets as a “service fee.”
“It is not a tax; we never want to cuss in public,” said Jay jokingly.
The subcommittee will meet one last time to finalize its recommendations on Sept.
23 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Portland Development Commission building. The recommendations will go to a PDC study group as well as a broader committee charged with overseeing the redevelopment of the Rose quarter. City Council will have the final say.