Monday, January 18, 2010

Tumbling into the tween years

Okay, the new decade is almost three weeks old, with nothing new to say in over a month. Two reasons: holidays and illness. It’s not like the dog ate my homework or anything.

Still, a few catch-up items:

The state of Oregon officially informed Bend that it doesn’t know much how to handle its own growth. The city of Bend’s planning department has long been considered a bad joke throughout the state’s planning circles. The city was probably hoping the state would slap down its expansion plans because large landowners and developers heavily influenced those plans which include little about a feasible way of expanding sewer, road and water capacity. The city did admit that its sewer system is woefully inadequate with only one “plant interceptor line” serving the entire city and “is showing signs of failure.”

And the city wants to expand this mess?

The city got into this predicament by approving any and all development without a single “public facilities strategy.” Consequently, the city is faced with crumbling public facilities with at least $500 million needed to meet current demand. The building industry put the city in the position of needing to tax everyone for the benefit of the few builders/developers who caused this mess. It’s known as “up yours, neighbor.”

Another item worth noting is the canard that Oregon isn’t friendly to business so therefore it has less stable revenue to sustain growth. But, the “friendliness” factor isn’t related to taxes. Oregon rates as one of the top 10 best states in which to do business because of its low overall tax burden. But, the flip side to this attractiveness is that the state invests less and less each year to schools, roads, sewers and water so that businesses decide to locate to states who care about such things, particularly higher education. Yes, many editorialists and business leaders wring their hands about how important higher education is to future development in Oregon. But, these same “leaders” don’t think we should have to pay for such things through taxes or borrowing. Somehow, if they whine enough they seem to think the state will get what it wants. Such inaction has produced an economic climate with high unemployment and will soon get higher with the failure of two tax measures this month.

Which leads to my last item: Oregon appears ready to spiral further downward with the projected rejection of the tax measures on Jan. 26. Almost all statewide tax measures fail and there is no reason to believe these will pass. The one glimmer of hope: Many Oregonians may believe that the double majority requirement is in play during this election meaning that non-voters have double the impact. In fact, no double majority is required and the non-voters could end up allowing the measures to pass. That would be a delicious irony and I hope it plays out this way, much as the COCC bond measure did last fall. The people who don’t participate in their democracy by choosing not to vote don’t deserve to even have the right to vote.

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