Monday, February 29, 2016

America getting Trumped

The question before us is simple enough:

Does this country deserve a President Trump?

The short answer is yes and no.

The Donald gives voice to the racists and fascists among us.

These folks claim that The Donald, The Blowhard, is saying things that need to be said.

Uh, no. They don't need to be said.

Trump has managed to offend veterans, women, Muslims, Mexicans, minimum wage workers and the dwindling number of rational Republicans.

But, Trump does represent the part of America that hates the non-white and non-Christian.

That America deserves a President Trump.

The rest of the country does not.

Republicans, so far, prefer Trump's bully brand of "leadership" where personal insults and threats of violence are acceptable.

Trump is the "hair"-apparent of the Republican brand from Nixon to Reagan to the Bushes that embraces racists in their "big tent." Trump wouldn't even turn away the support of the KKK on national television.

The Donald's plan, to build a wall on the Mexican border and have Mexico pay for it, is as laughable as his comb-over hairstyle.

Nixon devised the "southern strategy" after President Johnson signed civil rights legislation. But, it took Reagan's winsome personality to turn the racist South from Democrat to Republican.

It worked well because the country was mostly white 30 years ago.

Today, it is not.

Trump, though, also represents the relatively new Republican values of multiple marriages and bankruptcies. Failure is their new badge of courage.

Trump is a "reality-TV" star. Yet, he also likes to run a beauty pageant. And he tweets regularly.

He even re-tweets statements made by Mussolini. Obviously, anyone who is such a twit is unfit to be president.

Yet, Trump does have a reasonable chance of getting 45 percent of the national vote next November.

Of course, if Hillary has 55 percent of the vote, it will be considered a complete blowout victory for her.

Trump will then brag that he alone elected the first female president in our history.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Vote yes for road repairs

It should be an easy "yes" vote for the 5-cent per gallon fuel tax on the March ballot.

The roads are in terrible shape, there is an $80 million backlog of repairs and gas prices are the lowest they've been in years. Plus, all the other major cities in the state have had a local gas tax for years and their fuel prices are sometimes lower than nearby cities without a gas tax. And, since Bend is a tourist town, road travelers would pay about 30 percent of this gas tax.

All in all, a no-brainer.

Yet, there are reasons to be skeptical of its passage.

First, the city of Bend is managed poorly. Aside from bad council decisions like Juniper Ridge, The Bulletin property fiasco and the Juniper Utility debacle that squandered millions, the city workers do a lousy job of running the town.

Public works is a joke and the city manager serves developers and not the citizens of Bend.

Plus, the 5-cent tax should generate only about $2.5 million a year, and it sunsets in 10 years. Obviously, road repairs will be needed after 10 years.

With an $80 million backlog in repairs now, we'll have only an additional $25 million after 10 years to tackle that backlog. Hello, anyone home? That leaves $55 million worth of repairs, assuming the roads show no additional wear and tear in 10 years, that will never be addressed unless the voters pass another multi-million dollar bond.

And, we saw what happened when we passed the last $30 million road bond. Roughly $18 million was earmarked for the Reed Market Road rebuild. But, city staff scaled back the project after it hood-winked southeast Bend residents into thinking they were getting at least one more roundabout and landscaping to match other city thoroughfares. No, the city diverted almost a third of that $18 million to spruce up a section of 14th Street on Bend's west side.

Who's to say the city won't take some of that gas tax and use it to beautify other stretches of roads on Bend's west side rather than fixing roads all over town. The city is hard to trust on this issue.

What is unsaid in all the arguments for and against the gas tax is that if it doesn't pass, the city will likely add another fee for roads onto the utility bills of all Bend residents. That could be at least $10 a month, which is four times what the gas tax is estimated to cost. And, it would ask nothing of tourists.

In spite of all the negatives, there are more compelling reasons to pass the gas tax.

First is fairness. People who drive vehicles should pay for the roads, not the people who don't use vehicles on the roads. Tourists expect to pay for their impact on a community and we should oblige them.

Secondly, we've been living a lie since the Reagan years. There isn't money in government to do everything for everyone. Cutting taxes does not generate revenue to fix infrastructure or anything else. In fact, the opposite is true. Infrastructure across this country is failing, due, in large measure, to this idea that increasing taxes will destroy us. Well, we are falling apart, the deficit is ballooning and taxes are at historic lows.

The federal government hasn't raised the gas tax in nearly 25 years. It should've been increasing the gas tax by at least a penny per gallon per year.

And, let's dispense of this unfounded notion that studded tires do most of the damage to our roads. Few vehicles, less than 5 percent, use studded tires these days. Most use studless snow tires, if they use them at all. Costco hasn't sold studded tires for 10 years at least. The damage done to our roads is from the weather and the heavy trucks that pulverize the pavement.

The bottom line is this: If we want something, we should be willing to pay for it. If we want the potholes fixed, Bend residents and tourists should pay the gas tax. It's the right thing to do.

Friday, February 12, 2016

OSU-Cascades may use drones to deliver students to campus

Kick back and enjoy the ride
In an effort to have as little an impact as possible on Bend's congested west side, the leaders of OSU-Cascades are looking at drones to fly students to campus from more "affordable" areas of the city.

OSU-Cascades (OSUC) hopes to partner with when the e-tail behemoth begins delivering packages next year.

This news emerges as an OSUC advisory committee recently recommended a web of bicycle underpasses and overpasses to accommodate those students who may use bikes to attend the difficult-to-reach future campus. There are no funds, though, earmarked for such an ambitious undertaking.

OSU-Cascades plans on opening in September 2016 with one building for classrooms at the 10-acre campus. There will be no on-campus housing or dining options for the first year, at least.

This means students must find housing elsewhere in Bend, one of the most expensive rental markets in the state.

And, Bend's west side is the least affordable area in the city.

The only rentals under construction that could house potential students are at least three miles from the OSUC campus.

The new rental units proposed for NorthWest Crossing, about a mile from the OSUC campus, are designed specifically to exclude college-age kids.

So, that makes OSUC a commuter college in a town with few commute options. Most of the side streets in the older parts of town have no sidewalks, let alone bike paths.

There are only two-lane roads on the west side and no room to expand them.

The numerous roundabouts on the west side can make cycling to the campus dangerous.

Bend's fledgling bus system, doesn't have service after 6 p.m., and none at all on Sunday. Rumor has it that OSUC may want the city of Bend to use some of that proposed 5-cent-per-gallon tax on vehicle fuel to expand the bus service or to construct bicycle overpasses. If so, Bend residents will likely defeat the tax measure on the March ballot.

Add in the snowy, icy roads that we experience at various times from October to April, and commuting to OSUC from across town can be treacherous.

This is where drones come in. They can easily lift a student and transport him or her all over town. Yes, from brewpub to pot shop to tattoo parlor and beyond.

It helps that there are now more licensed drone operators in America than licensed pilots of real airplanes.

The standard air restrictions will apply, of course. In Bend, that means no drones can fly over high-end subdivisions like NorthWest Crossing, Awbrey Glen, Broken Top or Awbrey Butte. All other parts of Bend are fair game.

Some weight restrictions may also apply.

The use of drones to deliver students to OSUC will free up the roads from student traffic and forestall any improvements of the roadways by a few years. Plus, that web of bike overpasses and underpasses may not be necessary at all.

It's a win-win situation.

Go Beavs or Fly Beavs!