By Mia Tiwana
Have you heard of the Portland Clean Energy Fund? Portlanders voted to pass the program four years ago. It gives funding to nonprofits for all things green—including green energy projects, energy-efficient infrastructure, and jobs in the green energy industry. Program expenses this year amount to about $118 million in tax revenue, or about $425 for every Portland household.
During a hearing last week, a program committee member called the price tag a “drop in the bucket.” But it was clear City Council knew it was a lot of money. This late in the game, they worried when the committee didn’t have adequate accountability measures. The committee co-chair admitted he didn’t know which projects the committee recommended. Commissioner Hardesty asked how they would ensure each grant recipient would use best practices with the money. Mayor Wheeler was adamant that Portlanders deserved more assurance of rigorous vetting and contract oversight.
If the Clean Energy Fund fumbles or the money is squandered, voters and taxpayers will look to their elected City Council for answers. Council can avoid this risk by rejecting this round of proposals until key questions are answered. The best way to ensure accountability is to hold back the money until the accountability arrives.
Mia Tiwana is a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.