Taxes, Cell Towers and Tuition Equity



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445


E-Newsletter                              October 17th, 2011

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last week I was in Colorado Springs for the Council of State Governments’ Western Leadership Academy.  I was one of 39 relatively new legislators selected for this intensive 4-day training session, and it really helped me to gain a good perspective on the challenges that state legislators are facing every day in the West.  (Actually, the selected members from Utah had to drop out at the last minute because their legislature went into special session as a result of their budget difficulties.)

Amidst sessions on legislative ethics, values, civility, improved communications, and strategies for collaboration, one theme kept rising to the surface—the vital need to restore faith in government among the general populace.  The further message was that we can only do so if we can find ways to put respect for the institution above the short-term demands of partisan politics.  That doesn’t mean altering our political or philosophical beliefs at all.  As legislators, we owe it to our constituents to fight for their interests and their needs—but it means doing so in a way that enhances the level of political discourse and refuses to demonize the other side. 

There was a great deal of interest there in how we in Oregon managed to make it through the past legislative session with our 30-30 split House and escape the inertia and bickering that characterize Congress at the moment.  Interestingly—but perhaps not surprisingly--both of our House Co-Speakers (Arnie Roblan and Bruce Hanna) attended the Academy in prior years.

My own proudest moment at the Academy was when I was nominated to be Class President by my two co-delegates from Oregon—both of them Republicans from the Senate, individuals whose political positions and philosophy are very different from my own.  It was a tremendous honor and really captured what the Academy is all about.  I hope that I can live up to its values in the future:  fighting for what Oregonians need, with an eye to the long-term good, in a manner that will make Oregonians feel positive about their government.


Special Information Session on Senior Property Tax Deferral Program

I have continued to hear from many of you about the harmful impacts of the changes the Legislature made to Oregon's senior property tax deferral program.  The legislative revenue committees and the Department of Revenue continue to analyze the impact on seniors, with a report due to the legislature during committee days in November.  In the meantime, property owners in Multnomah County will begin receiving their tax bills this week.

I want to invite you to a special event focused on this program:

What: Information Session on Senior Property Tax Deferral Program

When: Monday, October 31st at 2 PM

Where: Hollywood Senior Center (1820 NE 40th Ave.)

Sen. Dingfelder and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer are getting together with me to host this event, which is sponsored by the Hollywood Senior Center and Elders In Action.  Along with us will be a number of invited guests there to listen to seniors’ stories, answer your questions and provide information about tax payment programs and other senior services.

I’m very pleased that County Chair Jeff Cogen will be joining us, as well as Commissioner Loretta Smith from N and NE Portland.  We will also have on hand Sen. Ginny Burdick, chair of the Senate Revenue Committee, as well as representatives from the County Tax Assessors office and the state Department of Revenue.

I’m looking forward to an informative, productive event on the 31st.  Please attend and let your neighbors know.  There will be time at the end for open questions from the audience, and to get individual advice.  I’ll see you there, and we should all be home in time to welcome Trick-or-Treaters!


Proposed T-Mobile Wireless Installation—Good Thing Or Bad?

Neighborhood opposition to cell towers is not a new issue in Portland.  The City Council recently created a new public process for proposed wireless installations, including a requirement that the cell company hold a public community meeting where neighbors can provide input and suggestions for changes to any proposed installation.  One of these meetings is coming up on Wednesday, October 26th, regarding a proposed installation in the Alameda-Concordia neighborhood.  T-Mobile is proposing a wireless installation on top of a utility pole on NE Prescott and 31st.   We’ve been hearing a lot from constituents about this proposed installation, with strong feelings on both sides of the issue.  I’ll be attending myself to hear first-hand what people have to say.  I hope you’ll join me.

What: Community Meeting on T-Mobile Wireless Installation

When: Wednesday, October 26th from 7:00-8:30 PM

Where: The Little Church (5138 NE 23rd Ave.)

Checking Out the Portland-to-Milwaukie MAX Bridge

We all have heard about the proposed bridge across the Columbia River, but many of you may not realize that we have another river bridge in the metro area currently under construction.  It’s the light rail bridge that Tri-Met is constructing over the Willamette as part of the Portland-to-Milwaukie MAX line. The new MAX line is an impressive project, one that is leveraging federal infrastructure dollars into thousands of family-wage construction jobs.  The new bridge across the Willamette, which also includes bike and pedestrian lanes, is a particularly impressive bit of engineering.

I recently had the chance to take a tour of bridge construction, meeting with design engineers and workers on the project.  The project, which has been in the works since 2007, remains within budget and on schedule.  They are now beginning to drill the towers that will anchor the bridge and its cables.  The line is scheduled to open Fall 2015. 

You can find all sorts of information about the project in general and the bridge in particular at  If you’re really desperate for entertainment, you can watch bridge construction live, thanks to their live BridgeCams!


Next Steps for Tuition Equity

The subject of tuition equity (where all of a state’s high school graduates pay university tuition at the in-state rate, regardless of immigration status) continues to be very much in the news.  It has been a point of controversy in the Republican presidential debates, defended by Governor Rick Perry, whose state (Texas) has had tuition equity for more than ten years.  Rhode Island has just become the fourteenth state to establish a policy of tuition equity for their high school graduates.  Former Oregon Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts had an excellent opinion piece in last week’s Oregonian, articulate and full of good sense.  If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to check it out.

I’ve been meeting with a number of people about reintroducing a version of SB742 in the February 2012 session.  There’s no doubt that with the 30-30 split in the House, getting it out of committee and to the floor for a vote will be a real challenge.  I believe that most Oregonians would like to see this issue come to the floor for an up or down vote, and I’m committed to finding a path, so that students don’t have to see their dream deferred once again.  Please let me know your thoughts on this issue.


Until next time,



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