Tuesday, June 8, 2010

To serve -- and to prosper

What is the point in serving on government panels, boards, councils, committees or sub-committees if you're not going to get paid for your time?

Well, you do what developers, builders and Realtors have been doing for years in Bend and Deschutes County: getting insider information to make a killing. Or, securing long-term leases for various government entities in a faltering business "park." Or, finagling favorable rulings from the entities they serve so that they can make even more money.

That's what "serving" means to these folks - personal wealth, and better yet, at government expense.

The most recent case is of the Cyrus family of Sisters. The Cyruses developed a subdivision called Aspen Lakes that includes a golf course. They want to convert it to a destination resort, they say, to become more profitable. But, county and state rules forbid that.

Enter Keith Cyrus. He serves on the county planning commission, but recuses himself from voting on issues that affect his business.

Still, according to the daily newspaper, he's had many conversation with county commissioners as has his son, Matt Cyrus about their desperate need to convert Aspen Lakes into a destination resort. In fact, Matt Cyrus got the county on Monday to grant an exemption to Aspen Lakes so that it could become a destination resort. This last-minute switcheroo occurred just as the public-comment period expired.

Whew, doesn't that reek!

The state, hopefully, will slap down this back-room dealing and prevent the Cyruses from going through with their plans.

Deschutes County is home to a number of destination resorts from Sunriver to Eagle Crest. Destination resorts have huge impacts on their neighboring cities but avoid paying taxes to offset even a portion of the impacts.

At Eagle Crest on Redmond's west end, the developers, Jeld-Wen, fought tooth and nail from being included in Redmond's city limits because Redmond's city taxes are the highest in the region. So, when Eagle Crest's sewer system failed, and it failed in a most odorous fashion, they coerced the city to let the resort hook up to the city's system. Yes, they would pay for upgrades to the sewage treatment facility, but little else.

These developers are, in a sense, anti-community. They want the benefits of living in Central Oregon without having to pay their fair share.

Recently, Matt Cyrus, who serves on the Sisters School District budget committee, had the gall to write in The (Sisters) Nugget that raises to teachers over the past few years are bankrupting the district. That is complete bullshit. Sisters' teachers are lucky to even get a 2 percent raise per year and then those are usually negated when the school year is cut short, which has happened frequently over the past decade. Decreased funding from the state because of the Great Recession is the reason for the school district's deficit.

Most people who serve on boards do so because they want to give back to their communities. Clearly, others want to take more from their communities.

It is time to end the practice of letting developers, builders and Realtors serve on government panels so that they can have undue influence over land-use issues.

A note to tea-baggers out there: This is an issue to be an angry about.

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