Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bend voters says 'yes' to potholes

Voters in Bend emphatically rejected a 5-cent fuel tax because they'd rather drive over teeth-rattling potholes than pay about $2.50 a month at the pump to fix them.

A well-funded oil industry campaign to defeat the ballot measure by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin on Tuesday ensures that Bend's roads will get far worse and that the city will likely impose a $5 per month road-fee surcharge on utility bills. That, in turn, will lead to higher rents, which will make housing even less affordable.

So, instead of having tourists pay about 30 percent of the expected $2.5 million raised annually by the gas tax, Bend voters would rather have people who don't drive cars or trucks help pay the freight to fix the roads.

Of course, the city is also to blame for the defeat of the gas tax. It has squandered millions on bad land deals, junk buses and Juniper Ridge. To add insult to injury that is Juniper Ridge, where a "world-class university" was supposed to be the centerpiece, the city approved OSU-Cascades' plans to build a campus on junk land in the most expensive part of town. (Yes, laws written by the builders' association tied the city's hands in approving OSUC without a master plan, but still, the town is angry about this).

The city also took almost a third of the money that voters authorized to improve the Reed Market Road corridor and are using more than $4 million to beautify a road on the west side.

To cap it off, the city just threw away $70,000 by having the vote in March rather than in the May primary.

Also, there is a general anger out there that is promoted by Donald Trump, with Fox News waving the pom-poms for him. Bernie Sanders taps that ire on the Democratic side. And, the takeover of the bird sanctuary near Burns by Mormon misfits, contributed to the general angst in the electorate.

Naturally, individual voters had their own half-baked reasons for voting against the gas tax. Some blamed studded tires, which are hardly used these days. Others didn't think it was fair to put the tax to fix roads on drivers. Others were angry about other things, like Oregon's retirement system for state employees.

There is a general belief among the "no" voters that there is plenty of money to fix all the roads. There isn't, but that doesn't matter to them. Bend has one of the lowest city tax rates in the state.

Yes, property values are rising, which lead to higher tax bills, but most of that money goes towards police and fire services.

This tourist town is the largest city in the state without its own local gas tax. Even tiny Sisters has a gas tax and that city is taking better care of its roads as a result.

So, we're stuck with what we have. With what road repair funds it does have, Bend public works department will look at those areas of the city where there was more support for the gas tax and target those roads for repairs while neglecting other areas of town that thumped the gas tax.

Also, since the value of homes on the west side of Bend are much higher than on the east side of town, west-siders pay higher property taxes. This means that the city, with its meager road funds, will fix roads on the west side and not the east side of town.

This in turn will further anger east-siders and lead to future votes against any other way to raise taxes to fix the city's roads.

It's time, fellow citizens, to embrace deteriorating roads as the welcoming face of Bend.


  1. Yes an absolute vote of no confidence for the city of Bend government.

  2. I don't see anything wrong with holding the city accountable for responsibly managing our tax money. Things are tough now, but God forbid tax revenues decline and they have to tighten their belts and build fewer roundabouts.