The previous Pendleton City Council led you believe that maintenance on streets and public buildings was deferred because the public demanded funding of other projects like those ridiculous speed bumps on Main Street, relocating the Eighth Street Bridge to Main Street, and the restoration of the Rivoli Theater. Had the choice been given to the public on those projects versus street repairs, there’s no doubt street repairs would have been their first choice.
We were most recently given the choice of passing a gas tax, an Extension Service tax, and a Humane Society tax or suffer the consequences. Those tax measures ultimately failed to be adopted. The city council erroneously interpreted the failure of the gas tax as public indifference for repairing the streets. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than fixing streets, the mayor and city council were more interested in honoring themselves with plaques on statues, and that was just plain unacceptable.
The recent donation of $150,000 to the Farm II project would have been better spent on widening the Bedford Bridge or upgrading Southwest 18th Street. With all the proposed development in that convention center area, preparations for an alternate exit route for large events would seem a more prudent plan for the future. Likewise, the grant funding of the Pendleton Downtown Association for an office, secretary, more studies on parking, and a few Christmas lights cluttering up our historic street lights could have been more wisely spent on reducing deferred maintenance on facilities such as the Vert Auditorium.
Now we are on the verge of taking on yet another ill-conceived project, relocating that Eighth Street Bridge to Main Street. Its current condition results from years of neglect. Rather than wasting scarce funds, cancellation of this project rather than creating another maintenance headache would be an easy step towards a sustainable budget.
The city has a significant amount of unused or vacant property collecting no taxes. With such a significant amount of funding for the budget coming from property taxes, you’d think there’d be a stampede to divest.
As our unfunded PERS liability continues to climb, I get the feeling that the mayor, city council and city manager are realizing that the time to act is now. The question is will they act or punt again?