. . . is something I need to learn more about. I covered this topic in my thesis to some degree, but definitely need to do more research. Finances and economics are not my strong suit.
That being said, my general take on urban sanitation infrastructure is that it's well worth the expense because it establishes an essential foundation for the life and health of residents. However, unlike shiny new sports facilities, high-profile convention centers, and spruced-up former warehouse districts, such infrastructure is not as visible nor as sexy. So, for people who don't understand the direct relationship between this infrastructure and individual and community health, the necessary taxes to support this infrastructure often seems to be ill-spent. This is not to say that there are more or less productive ways to spend a dollar of tax money allocated for sanitation infrastructure (as with any other use of taxes), but to dismiss a given proposal out-of-hand simply because it's another tax or tax increase is incorrect.
I agree with the idea to spend some of Portland's sewer funds on Mayor Adams' proposed Green Streets project. Keeping stormwater runoff from both the combined sewer system* and from direct runoff into the Willamette watershed is a great long-term idea, as is increasing bike and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in the city. To combine these two outcomes within one project is an effective and efficient use of limited resources. I don't quite understand the logic of knee-jerk anti-taxers and limited-governmenters who oppose this plan. Yes, we do need an informed public debate surrounding tax and spending policies.** However, once these taxes/fees are levied for infrastructure that benefits us all, I don't understand how the opposition can then rail against combining projects to achieve more with the same pile of money.
** And there definitely is not much evidence of "informed public debate" in the comment threads to Oregonian articles on this topic -- see, for starters, the comments to the article spurring this post: Janie Har, "Portland sewer, water rates lack third-party check," Oregonian March 27, 2010.