A catch-all of juicy local measures in the November 2 poll in the absence of statewide initiatives
There are no statewide initiatives on the November ballot in Oregon and Washington state. It’s a change from usual, but voters across the region are voting on a variety of newsworthy local initiatives.
Among them, another Oregon county will vote on the idea of moving the Oregon border so that rural counties can join “Greater Idaho”. Voters in Cannon Beach and Newport, Oregon are urged to approve a sales tax on restaurants and delis. A measure in Yakima, Wash., Aims to register dissatisfaction with possible local income taxes.
A running theme in the Pacific Northwest, this election involves aspects of the tight housing market. West Coast county and city councils have struggled for years with the supply and affordability of housing. Now, local activists are going to voters in several places to demand stronger action. One of those places is the central Oregon coast and another is Bellingham, Washington.
A progressive coalition called People First Bellingham took inspiration from Portland to place a proposal on tenants’ rights in the November ballot. The Bellingham Initiative 1 would require landlords to provide moving assistance equal to three months’ rent for tenants who are forced to move out due to large rent increases – defined as greater than 8%. It also requires more notice when landlords increase rent by more than 5% – 90 days notice instead of the 60 days under current law.
“I had affordable housing, but every year when my lease was renewed I just had that hole in my stomach like ‘Is the price of the year going to be exceeded?'”, said campaign organizer Sage Jones, while asking for support at the Bellingham Farmers Market last weekend.
Jones said he adopted rules like Portland’s Mandatory Relocation Assistance would reduce tenant anxiety.
“From the conversations we had with the organizers there, it looks like it really helped keep the neighborhoods more stable by preventing people from being economically evicted from where they live,” Jones said.
Since writing the Bellingham initiative, Seattle City Council has also voted to require landlords to pay moving assistance equal to three months’ rent for low-income tenants who leave due to a larger rent increase. at 10%.
The tenant protection initiative is one of four municipal voting measures that People First Bellingham has called for the November 2 election. The others relate to police technology, union organizing and the requirement of a risk premium for workers on site and on the front line during states of emergency, such as this pandemic.
Washington state’s restaurant, retail and grocery industry associations are investing money to defeat the risk premium initiative. The tenant protection measure has only a symbolic amount of opposition from companies.
Earlier this month, liberal-leaning Bellingham City Council voted unanimously recommend that voters reject the four measures.
“The board said we actually really appreciate what these initiatives intend to do,” said Michael Lilliquist before explaining that he and other board members are concerned about the unintended consequences.
In an interview, Lilliquist said he doubted the usefulness of requiring landlords to provide relocation assistance for displaced tenants.
“This creates additional costs for homeowners and they are going to find ways to get around that cost or pass it on,” Lilliquist said. “I don’t know if this will actually protect tenants from rising rents.”
Targeted Short Term Vacation Rentals on the Oregon Coast
Voters on the central Oregon coast will also have the opportunity to weigh in on rental housing, but from a different perspective. A named group “15 neighborhoods” collected signatures to put a five-year phase-out of short-term vacation rentals on the November poll. This would affect Airbnb and VRBO type rentals in single-family residential areas of unincorporated Lincoln County.
Campaign steering committee members Roger and Linda Keehn, who own the Waldport area, said they were counting on measure 21-203 to reduce party houses, parking issues, crowds on the beach and other disturbances of the peace.
“It’s a growing problem and it’s actually getting worse,” Roger Keehn said.
“We are looking to restore our residential neighborhoods to what they were when we bought it, hoping that they would be protected from corporate influence in the area where we live,” added Linda Keehn.
The proposed phase-out affects approximately 500 overnight rentals in oceanfront neighborhoods outside of Yachats to Lincoln City. Short-term rentals within city limits – making up the majority of offerings along the central coast – are not affected by the county measure as they are regulated separately by municipal governments such as Newport, Depoe Bay and Lincoln City.
Supporters like the Keehns hope the phasing out of some vacation rentals will make more housing available to local workers whose prices are overpriced in a very tight market.
Opponents are spending a lot to defeat the measure. The opposition is largely funded by vacation rental management companies. They argue the county is at risk of losing valuable tourism dollars, which support local jobs like that of landscaping contractor Ron Graves who made an announcement.
“If we don’t beat 21-203, we’ll probably all have to pay higher taxes to make up for lost income,” Graves said.
There could have been an even more controversial measure on the ballots in November. A charter amendment would have required the city of Seattle to add 2,000 permanent and emergency housing units for the homeless and keep parks and public spaces away from settlements. But at the end of August, a county judge overturned the measure called Compassion Seattle municipal ballot because she felt it exceeded the limits of what a local initiative can do.
Another initiative struck off the ballot in Spokane
Voters in the city of Spokane appeared to have a chance to prevent the city from restricting natural gas connections in the future. But a judge also canceled this voting measure preventively.
Local and Washington state homebuilders associations were behind the proposed public vote on energy use. The committee sponsoring the ballot measure said it wanted to stop the spread of what it called “Seattle-style bans on natural gas.” Earlier this year, Seattle City Council approved a new energy code that bans gas boilers and gas water heaters in new apartment and commercial buildings to fight climate change. The Spokane City Council chairman noted that the council had no intention of restricting natural gas connections when the industry’s pushback began.
The group Move the Oregon border collected signatures in several counties to allow more voters to influence non-binding initiatives to create the expanded state of “Greater Idaho.” The sparsely populated Harney County of Oregon will in turn ring the ballot box next week. Crook and Klamath counties, and possibly others, are expected to vote in the spring of 2022.
The idea of relocating the border is driven by conservatives who believe counties in eastern and southern Oregon would be happier in Red Idaho than stuck in Blue Oregon. Nine counties have already voted on Move Oregon’s Border proposal in previous elections, recording seven wins and two losses.
There is an established process for counties to change states, but it requires the agreement of both state legislatures, as well as the approval of Congress. Democrats running the show in Salem have shown no interest in redrawing the Oregon-Idaho border.
Tax on prepared meals
Oregon does not have a state sales tax, but diners in the popular resort towns of Cannon Beach and Newport can find one added to their tabs when eating at restaurants or grabbing take out at starting next year. Local voters will decide whether to fund a new town hall and a new police station in Cannon Beach by imposing a 5% tax on prepared foods. The same new tax would be used to hire additional police, fire and library staff in Newport.
A high percentage of anticipated income would come from visitors. However, city restaurateurs are strongly opposed to taking on another burden besides the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the past 18 months, no industry has struggled to survive more than the restaurant industry and this is exactly the industry that the Town of Newport has chosen to add an additional tax burden,” said Dylan Entee of the Mo’s chowder chain in a released press release. in the brochure of local voters. “Never has a local government been so deaf and disconnected from its local businesses.”
The towns of Ashland and Yachats in Oregon have already introduced a local sales tax on prepared foods.
No income tax
The corollary of Oregonians’ notorious aversion to a sales tax is the reluctance of most Washingtonians to accept a state income tax. Yakima voters will have the opportunity to send an anti-tax message in November. Proposal 3 would amend the city charter to prohibit the city council from imposing a local tax on the income of residents.
When a majority of Yakima City Council decided in August to put the question on the ballot, dissenting council member Kay Funk said it was a “false flag” problem designed to create chaos during elections. No one is talking about imposing a local income tax, she said, according to the cover in the Yakima Herald.
However, the Conservatives, including the city’s mayor and a state official, applauded the decision. They argued that strengthening the absence of income tax could give the region an advantage in recruiting businesses. A similar amendment to the charter was passed by 72% of Spokane voters in 2019.
“A local income tax ban is not ‘red herring’ or ‘a waste of time’ as critics claim,” wrote Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center, a business-friendly think tank. , in a policy note. “Rather, it is a reasonable and popular response to stop the ongoing efforts to impose an income tax in Washington.”