Stop Taxation Without Representation

Miki Barnes, LCSW
President of Oregon Aviation Watch
February 12, 2017

Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny

The phrase "taxation without representation is tyranny" is attributed to an 18th century Boston mayor, John Otis, in response to England's policy of taxing colonies in the absence of representative government. This, along with the unfair and unjust treatment perpetrated by the British crown, was one of the two triggering issues that ultimately led to the American Revolution. Generations of U.S. school children were taught that these injustices were resolved over 250 years ago when George Washington and his troops fought off the yoke of England's rule. Sadly, closer inspection reveals that in Oregon this is not the case.

A review of annual property tax bills shows that the Port of Portland (Port) has a decades-long history of levying taxes on Oregonians throughout the tri-county area. Yet the members of the board of commissioners who oversee Port affairs are appointed by the governor rather than elected by the constituents who are routinely impacted by Port policies and activities.

The State of Oregon enshrined the Port's taxing authority and other powers, including the right to pass ordinances, issue bonds and engage in many activities usually reserved for municipalities, in ORS 778. Despite the broad ranging powers accorded to the Port, no provisions for a democratic vote of the people have been established. As a result the Port is essentially a corporation with easy access to public money and land via taxation, eminent domain, and government hand-outs. Yet it remains woefully bereft of the transparency and accountability that elected representation confers.

The Port clearly exults in its ability to promote its corporate agenda while being shielded from those who routinely contribute to its tax base, so much so that it included the following excerpt in its 1991 centennial celebration literature:

After voters approved the Port of Portland Dock Commission merger in 1970, and the Legislature expanded the Port district to include Washington and Clackamas counties in 1973, an Oregonian reporter quipped that the increased reach of the Port gave it the authority "to do anything short of declaring war." "But," the Oregonian continues, "we're not even sure about that because they haven't tried it yet."[1]

In point of fact, there are a growing number of residents, especially those negatively impacted by aviation noise, lead emissions, toxic pollutants, social injustice and livability erosion, who feel that the Port, for all intents and purposes, has declared war on communities throughout the region. In fact, it is not unusual for people who are routinely and repetitively assailed by Hillsboro Airport's incessant flight training activity to say they feel like they're living in a war zone.

In this regard, the oppressive nature of British rule in the 1700s bears a striking resemblance to current times. Just as the colonists were marginalized by England's overreach, so too are area residents oppressed by the Port of Portland. Port policies that encourage, accommodate, and promote excessive aviation noise and pollution rises to the level of a full-on attack on the democratic process and the environment as well as the health of impacted residents. The Port's role in the Willamette River toxic Superfund site, the Terminal 6 labor travesty, and efforts to industrialize Hayden Island further exemplify the Port's long established history of exploiting the greater good in an effort to maximize their profits and those of the corporate entities they represent.

Thankfully, Senator Chuck Riley and Representative Gorsek have taken steps to restore democracy to the process by sponsoring Senate Bill SB 128 [2] and HB 2715 [3], respectively. These bills would create the Hillsboro Airport Authority and the Troutdale Airport Authority. Both would be overseen by a board of commissioners elected by voters residing in the impacted communities. This legislation will be discussed in greater detail later in this document.

Port of Portland Mission

According to the Port's website,

The mission of the Port is to enhance the region's economy and quality of life by providing efficient cargo and air passenger access to national and global markets, and by promoting industrial development.[4]

Neither pilot training nor recreational flying falls within the purview of the mission, yet the Port has routinely foisted the cost of two noisy, highly polluting general aviation airports onto the public, neither of which has generated significant revenue during the years the Port has owned and operated these facilities. As a result they chronically rely on public subsidies via the FAA and ConnectOregon to stay afloat. In the process the Port has become the largest source of airborne lead pollution in Oregon. It now pumps close to a ton or more into the environment each year at the Hillsboro Airport alone. Additional lead is released by the Troutdale and Portland International Airports (PDX).

Aviation-generated Pollution

In addition to noise and lead emissions, airports and aviation activity contribute to global warming and generate a host of other toxins. A review of the 2011 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Emissions Inventory (NEI) on Toxic Emissions [5] identifies HIO as the largest facility source of acrolein, 1,3-butadiene, ethyl benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, organic carbon particulate matter 2.5, elemental carbon particulate matter 2.5, and carbon monoxide in Washington County.[6] It is the second largest source of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter 2.5 emissions and the third largest source of volatile organic compounds in Washington County. [7]

In order to deflect attention away from their culpability in exposing children and adults to lead and other toxins, Cleaner Air Oregon, DEQ, the Oregon Health Authority and the media tend to focus attention and verbiage on lead tainted drinking water in the schools and lead bullet dust at National Guard armories - both of which are indisputably serious issues that need to be addressed. Regarding stationary sources, in their response to Precision Castparts, Bullseye Glass and Uroborus, the governor and state agencies set in motion steps to address toxic pollutants released by private industry while steadfastly refusing to reduce and terminate the significant aviation pollution promoted by the Port of Portland commissioners - an approach that insures that airports, which are some of the biggest polluters in the entire state, continue to operate with minimal environmental oversight.

In choosing their language, the state agencies mentioned above ignore the largest source of airborne lead pollution in the country - piston engine general aviation aircraft. The EPA has identified this category of aircraft as responsible for 60% of airborne lead pollution in the U.S.[8]

Portland Opposes PDX Expansion, Shifts Air Traffic to HIO Instead

Evidence suggests that the Port's success in promoting its aviation agenda is achieved by intentionally pitting one community against another. All too often jurisdictions that perceive possible respite from aviation encroachment align with the Port. A prime example is the decision by the City of Portland to develop code prohibiting a third parallel runway at PDX. The code reads as follows:

Because the potential impacts of a third parallel runway at the airport are so significant, this section prohibits additional runways. The effect of the prohibition is that a legislative project to amend this plan district would be necessary to add a third runway. The legislative project would require the City and Port of Portland to engage the regional community in a cooperative effort to create a development plan for the airport that addresses transportation and infrastructure needs, as well as community impacts, by exploring alternatives to a potential third runway.[9]

Shortly after the city of Portland codified its opposition to a third parallel runway at PDX, the Port made a decision to construct a third runway at HIO, primarily to serve for-profit flight training interests and private pilots. For the record, the process did not involve the so-called "regional community" nor could it be described as a "cooperative effort." In fact, the runway was built despite a citizen challenge in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Port's strategy for building the HIO runway was achieved in large part by denying impacted residents a voice in the process. The tactics used suggest that Portland's concern about the environment doesn't appear to extend to those who live outside its boundaries. Over the years, a long succession of Oregon governors who claim Portland as their primary residence have either overtly or covertly aligned with Port efforts to shift operations from PDX to Hillsboro. A key strategy was to insure that decisions impacting Portland and Multnomah County residents were well represented on airport advisory committees by Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvement, environmental interests and other impacted communities. By contrast, the Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange (HARE) and the HIO Master Planning committees are dominated by Port appointees, most of whom are pilots and HIO business tenants along with Port and FAA employees.

Abundance of Capacity at PDX - Annual Operational Count at 30 Year Low

It is noteworthy that there is an abundance of capacity at PDX where the annual operational count has plummeted to a 30 year low. This 3,200 acre facility has experienced a 30% decline in operations over the past 16 years. As a result it currently logs fewer annual operations than it did in 1985. Portland officials were obviously responsive to the noise and environmental concerns expressed by their constituents. By contrast, they were more than willing to shift these negative impacts to Hillsboro residents.

In fact, in the late 1990s, Portland City Councilman Dan Saltzman successfully advocated to move PDX traffic to HIO without giving any consideration whatsoever to the health, environmental, and livability impacts on Washington County residents. For perspective, please bear in mind that HIO has less than one-third the acreage of PDX. In addition it is surrounded on three sides by residential communities and on the fourth by prime farmland. PDX by contrast is bordered by the Columbia River and industrial lands.

Similarly, the Portland, Vancouver, and Multnomah County representatives on the PDX Citizen Noise Advisory Committee (CNAC), has a history of dumping air traffic on HIO, rather than promoting inclusive democracy and social justice. The CNAC is yet another committee where Washington County residents lack effective representation except by pro-aviation expansion enthusiasts who often lobby on behalf of the aviation industry rather than the greater good.

More recently, a project advisory committee at the Port-owned Troutdale Airport recommended downsizing the runway at this facility and opening up nearly a sixth of the acreage for non-aviation related business and industrial development. Since that decision, Port statistics reflect a significant decrease in general aviation operations at Troutdale and PDX with a steady increase at HIO.

Exploitation and the Urban-Rural Divide

Portland has often viewed Hillsboro as the dumping ground for the excessive noise and toxicity linked to the aviation industry. The local government entities responsible for protecting the populace from these onslaughts are equally culpable. The five white men who serve on the Washington County Board of Commissioners along with the white male mayor and city council members who preside over the city of Hillsboro political machine are enough to make even Donald Trump swoon. These political entities have the support of media outlets such as the Hillsboro Tribune[10] which did not endorse a single female candidate or person of color for any of the open seats in the November 2016 election. The Tribune even goes so far as to list the Port of Portland as a business partner. This is apparently what passes for objective, unbiased reporting in the region.

Like Portland, the city of Hillsboro has also demonstrated its willingness to direct the excesses spawned by their symbiotic relationship with the Port and the aviation industry onto people residing in rural communities who are also denied a voice - a pattern that is well exemplified by actions taken by the Port and Hillsboro neighborhood groups during the mid 2000s to promote flight training at the Apple Valley Airport in Buxton - an effort that met with organized opposition from the local residents who incurred close to $200,000 in legal costs to prevent this airstrip from developing into a commercial flight training facility. In this instance, those impacted were compelled to engage in intensive and expensive legal actions to protect themselves from this onslaught.

The FAA and Port practice of encouraging student pilots to train over western Washington County residents provides further evidence of the exploitation of rural communities by the aviation interests.

Legislative Solutions

Senator Chuck Riley and Representative Chris Gorsek have each introduced legislation in the 2017 session, SB 128[11] and HB 2715[12], respectively, that could potentially protect residents from the lopsided, imbalanced politics currently permeating the state's approach to regional airport management. As stated in the bill summaries, the proposed legislation

Creates Hillsboro Airport Authority and Troutdale Airport Authority as divisions of Port of Portland. Provides that airport authorities operate independently of Board of Commissioners of Port of Portland. Provides that airport authorities have exclusive right to exercise all power and authority of Port of Portland with respect to Hillsboro Airport and Troutdale Airport.

Provides that airport authorities are composed of nine members elected from county in which airport is located.

The passage of these bills could help to insure that individuals impacted by Port of Portland airport policies would have the opportunity to elect representatives from their own communities. In addition, the monthly meetings held by the airport authorities would be held in the jurisdictions where the airports are located, instead of in Portland.

Regarding the toxic lead pollution caused by Oregon's airports, both Senator Riley and Representative Mitch Greenlick have sponsored legislation aimed at banning the use of leaded aviation fuel by January 2022. Senate Bill 115[13] and House Bill 2109[14] both address this issue.

Oregon Aviation Watch urges residents to encourage their elected officials to support these bills.


The phrase "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny" remains as relevant and pernicious in Oregon now as it was during the formative years of this nation. A genuine commitment to democracy demands that the fundamental voting rights of the electorate are honored and respected rather than repressed and denied and also insures a genuine regional approach that considers the environment and all impacted residents rather than allowing Portland to foist unjust and fundamentally toxic activities on neighboring jurisdictions. Instead of shifting highly polluting air traffic from one community to another, it's time to engage in a regional discussion about the broader impacts of allowing this to continue.

Other transportation alternatives are far less polluting and disruptive than aviation, most notably high-speed trains. Instead of promoting the misguided policy of subsidizing private aviation, Oregon should invest in building the Cascadia high-speed train corridor - a form of transportation that is far more environmentally sustainable and would also lead to significant job creation. In addition, unlike general aviation airports, it would serve the more than 99.5 percent of the population who can't afford to own, lease or travel via private jets, small planes or helicopters.


[1] Partners in Progress: Port of Portland Celebrates 100 Years 1891-1991.

[2] Senate Bill 128. 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly - 2017 Regular Session. Available on-line at

[3] House Bill 2715. 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly - 2017 Regular Session. Available on-line at

[4] Fast Facts. Port of Portland website. Available on-line at

[5] The 2011 National Emissions Inventory. Maps and Fusion Tables. Environmental Protection Agency. Available at

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] EPA Aircraft Emissions: Briefing for Mobile Sources Technical Review Committee. (5?5?15). Pg. 3. Available on-line at

[9] Port of Portland City Code 33.565.210 New Airport Capacity A. Purpose. Available on-line at

[10] Hillsboro Tribune Editorial Board. Endorsement: Our picks for the November 8 General Election. (10/27/16). Available on-line at

[11] Senate Bill 128. 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly - 2017 Regular Session. Available on-line at

[12] House Bill 2715. 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly - 2017 Regular Session. Available on-line at

[13] Senate Bill 115. 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly - 2017 Regular Session. Available on-line at

[14] House Bill 2109. 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly - 2017 Regular Session.. Available on-line at

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