05-18-2024  6:26 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 11 April 2024

The May 21 primary election ballots will ask Multnomah County voters to elect representation at the county and Metro level. Voters won’t yet have the chance to decide on mayoral or city council candidates, however, as a voter-approved change to city charter includes ranked-choice voting, which means these candidates will only appear on the November general election ballot.

May ballot measures address public school funding, a gas tax, support for the Oregon Zoo and flood prevention:


Measure 26-244

Bonds to protect animal health; provide conservation, education; increase sustainability

Asks: Shall the (Oregon) Zoo protect animal health; save water, energy; provide conservation, youth education; issue bonds estimated not to increase tax rate?

Metro asks for $380 million in general obligation bonds to update animal habitats, update infrastructure in order to conserve energy and water throughout the zoo, make improvements to the facilities that enable the zoo to protect and restore endangered species in the region, provide better extreme weather protection to visitors and animals, better prepare for animal care in case of natural disaster and to improve visitor access to the zoo.

The Oregon Zoo hosts more than a million visitors each year. Metro notes that a previous bond approved in 2008 funded significant upgrades for nearly half the zoo, including elephant, primate and polar bear habitats. 

“Many habitats and structures remain in dire need of attention. Some date back to the 1950’s when animal areas were less naturalistic and typically featured a lot of concrete which was easy to clean but not designed with animals’ needs or natural behaviors in mind. And they are certainly not equipped to withstand today’s extreme weather events or a natural disaster.”

Carlos R. Sanchez DVM MSc Director of Animal Health Heather Brittingham, CVT, MA, VTS Lead Veterinary Technician

Investments will be made over the next 10 to 15 years.

Those who have registered their opposition to this measure include the Taxpayers Association of Oregon and Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants. 

Portland Public School District

Measure 26-246

Levy Renewal to Maintain Teachers and Classroom Support Staff 

Asks: Shall the district maintain teachers, classroom support staff; renew levy of $1.99 per $1,000 assessed value for five years beginning 2025? 

portland teachers march fullPortland Public Schools teachers on strike, marching in downtown portland (Photo/Margalob)
In 2019, voters approved a five-year local option levy; this measure would renew it at the existing tax rate of $1.99 per $1,000 of assessed value. The estimated $101.5 million this would accrue in the first year would continue to fund 660 teachers and classroom staff – about one-fifth of the staff serving the 44,000 in Portland Public Schools. 

The levy would continue to require the Community Budget Review Committee to provide independent oversight of spending.

This levy has historically been easily passed by voters, and would help to meet the $130 million funding gap projected over the next three years -- a gap due in large part to a hard-won new contract with PPS teachers, who went on strike last November to secure better pay, overdue maintenance on school facilities, better measures for overflowing class sizes and more time for lesson planning and grading. 

A joint statement from Self Enhancement Inc., the Coalition of Communities of Color, Albina Vision Trust and others noted that more than 45% of children attending PPS are students of color, 31% are eligible to receive free meals due to income and nearly 17% are enrolled in special education services.

“For PPS to appropriately serve this growing share of students and families with their educational needs and rights, the district needs robust, reliable funding for teachers and classroom support staff,” the statement said. 

Those who have registered their opposition to this measure include the Taxpayers Association of Oregon. 

City of Portland

Measure 26-245

Renew Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax for Street Repair, Maintenance, Safety

Asks: Shall Portland renew four-year, 10 cents-per-gallon fuel tax for maintenance (paving, potholes) and safety (crossings, lighting, sidewalks)?

The City of Portland estimates that the 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax would raise $70.5 million over four years to continue to fund street repairs, maintenance and safety projects. Previously approved by voters in 2016 and 2020, the tax would more specifically allocate $23.5 million for paving neighborhood and busy streets, $9 million for street safety in busy thoroughfares, $6 million for street safety in neighborhoods, $6 million for Safe Routes to School projects, $2.5 million for safety improvements through Community Street Services, $17 million for pothole, gravel street and pavement repair, as well as street light and traffic signal maintenance; $6.5 million for intersection safety and traffic calming improvements. 

The city estimates the tax would continue to cost average Portland drivers about $5 monthly. 

“Renewing Measure 26-245 will save Portland money,” members of Municipal Employees Union LiUNA 483 said in a statement of support. “Insufficient funding leads to catastrophic failures, which are more expensive to repair than the proper maintenance and improvements that prevent them. If this measure fails, we will find ourselves in constant infrastructure crisis response, which will lead to worse outcomes at a higher price point.”

Those who have registered their opposition to this measure include the Taxpayers Association of Oregon.

Urban Flood Safety & Water Quality District

Measure 26-243

Bonds to upgrade levees, floodwalls, water pumps, natural floodplain restoration. 

Asks: Shall Flood Safety District issue bonds to upgrade infrastructure, protect water quality, communities, businesses, environment from flooding; require independent oversight?

Urban Flood Safety and Water Quality District asks to issue $150 million in general obligation funds, which would unlock almost $100 million in matching federal funds for flood safety. 

The estimated annual tax rate for bonds would be $0.11 per $1,000 of assessed value.

If passed, the funding would enable the district to upgrade a more than 100-year-old flood safety system that includes 13,000 acres from North Portland to the Sandy River, and 27 miles of levees, pipes and wetlands running along the Columbia River. More specifically, the district is seeking to elevate some levees and floodwalls, upgrade pumping capacity in seven older pump stations and improve protection from flood throughout the floodplain.

“As Portland has grown, the land of Columbia River floodplain offered an affordable location to build homes and businesses,” APANO, the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Naya Action Fund, Portland Harbor Community Coalition and Intertwine Alliance said in a joint statement of support for the measure. “Today, it contains a significant share of our affordable housing and heavy industry. And these conditions make it ripe for those who can least afford it to be hit hardest during a major flood. Low-income households will typically be less prepared for a flood and less able to rebuild after one. They are also more likely to rely on the blue-collar jobs located in the floodplain that would also be disrupted for years by a flood.”

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