Travel irritants: Does your city or town have dirty air?

Well, you don’t need me to tell you what happens when you don’t fill up on gas. Maybe you could call it “gas pain” and have a morning paper while watching the news. But,…

Travel irritants: Does your city or town have dirty air?

Well, you don’t need me to tell you what happens when you don’t fill up on gas.

Maybe you could call it “gas pain” and have a morning paper while watching the news. But, if you’re reading this text, odds are you don’t have those privileges.

We all know about air quality when it comes to older cars. But there is something about passing gas that makes us cringe.

Well, even worse – the smog.

Portland, like many cities, has more air pollution than you think. In fact, Portland has one of the highest pollution levels in the nation.

But air pollution also doesn’t discriminate based on age. Portland’s children are exposed to too much pollution – well past levels considered safe.

And cars aren’t the only culprits. Portland’s gutters are smog-prone, and trees aren’t doing a very good job of filtering out the pollution, too.

The city government has tried to address the problem for decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, it implemented a robust environmental program, paying businesses to upgrade their pollution control systems.

Fifty years later, the program is decades old. There is still no replacement. Portland has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars on civic projects like public parks, but few projects can keep up with the rampant pollution around us.

Last month, the Portland mayor announced a plan to clean up the air again – this time by retrofitting city sewer pumps.

Every day, 1,700 homes in the Hillsdale-West Hills neighborhood east of downtown catch on to large sewage flows of brown-brown sludge.

If you want to see it, check out this list of drivers who have been caught driving without a headlight after a sewage spill in the area last fall.

The sewage flows have been cutting off some people’s mail delivery as well, while others must pay to have their down spouts clogged.

After leaving the state Senate for the first time in the 1990s, Senator Margaret Doherty, D-Portland, was out of state when she got a call from a constituent in Southwest Portland who wanted help.

“They were worried about not getting water from a well just a few feet away from her home,” Doherty said.

It was just one of the many cases that made Doherty’s head spinning.

“She couldn’t believe that the city was not properly monitoring her well,” Doherty said.

“And, we now know for sure that it’s an all-time high.”

Clean air continues to take a heavy toll on Portlanders, but to little avail.

In the first half of 2019, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is reminding us all of the importance of not starting a car without a headlight – another example of keeping the air clean.

But, guess what? Portland continues to do little. As state commissioner Dean Ó Hoogie told the Senate Ways and Means Committee back in April, Oregon lacks the money to meet air pollution standards.

“A recent report from DEQ shows we need an additional $534 million to meet clean air rules,” Ó Hoogie said. “I don’t think the state has money to do that.”

As Deaglan McEachern points out in the BizPac Review, there’s a solution: raise your taxes.

“No one thinks raising taxes is an attractive option,” O’Haghlain writes. “Yet that is the least Oregonians are willing to pay to clean the air.”

Raising taxes in a red state like Oregon is difficult, but it’s important.

Raising taxes to fix air pollution in Portland is just as important.

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