Today marks a new endeavor for me. I find myself writing a column for the East Oregonian, and the powers that be want me to do it every month. When they first approached me to do this I was honored. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear what I thought about the goings-on in my community, right?
However, once the narcissistic coloring on my glasses wore off, I realized I needed to actually write compelling things. I want to write things that make you think, and I want to focus on positive things in our community. Here’s the catch, much like junk versus treasure, one person’s positive is another person’s negative.
I’ll start off my new gig with a bang. Because of the risks our mayor and the city council are willing to take by proposing new taxes and fees, Pendleton’s potholes are half full, change my mind.
After years of kicking the can down the increasingly rough road, the city of Pendleton’s elected leaders have decided to perch themselves on the edge of the political cliff and propose a series of revenue-generating fees to tackle $12 million in deferred street maintenance. They aren’t stopping there. Pendleton voters are going to have the opportunity to vote on a new gas tax, as well.
Many politicians have found themselves on the wrong side of the vote totals during the election immediately after a proposed tax increase. The question upon which Pendleton voters will be deciding is: do they pay enough in taxes? If the voters think they pay enough already, will there be some turnover on the city council?
Whether you support their revenue-generating ideas or not, it took courage for the mayor and city council to start walking down this path, and I commend them for taking a stand that could result in losing their next election. No one likes to lose, but increasing taxes is unpopular. George H. W. Bush was a victim of this. He asked everyone to read his lips at the 1988 Republican National Convention when he pledged no new taxes. Congress promptly raised taxes two years later, and two years after that President Bush was welcoming Bill Clinton into the White House.
Pendleton isn’t much like Washington, D.C., but losing isn’t popular anywhere. However, would losing an election be that big of a deal for someone on the Pendleton City Council? I suppose it’s a matter of pride; it’s certainly not about the money. The mayor and city council members receive a small monthly stipend in exchange for all the emails, the conversations with constituents at the grocery store, and attending their many meetings. The renumeration hardly covers the time they commit to their positions. It cannot be the money that motivates them to run for local office. It’s for this reason I believe they are a lot like volunteers. Volunteers give of themselves with the expectation of nothing in return. As far as I can tell, city council members give of themselves with the expectation of less than minimum wage and reading nasty comments about their decisions on social media.
Personally, I am thankful for the mayor and council are putting forth some ideas, and glad it’s not me trying to figure out the best way to pay for road repairs, or deal with homelessness issues, or housing issues, or PERS funding, or public safety, or … well, you get my point. I’m not excited about the opportunity to pay new taxes and fees, and no one else should be either. I am encouraged this issue has risen to the top of the city of Pendleton’s to-do list.
As I see it, by committing themselves to try to solve this issue of deferred road maintenance, Pendleton’s potholes are half full already.