When will the city of Pendleton act with greater fiscal responsibility? Everyone acknowledges the degrading condition of Pendleton’s roads as a result of deferring years of maintenance, but the city’s only response has been attempting to extract more funds from its citizens. The city thinks this is a messaging issue. It’s not, it’s the message.
The recent online funding survey only included options for new revenue streams, nothing about tightening the city’s belt to find funding from existing revenue. The city seems to have fallen into the same problem as every other level of government: expanding into all sorts of programs they aren’t intended to do. The city’s core responsibilities are streets, water/sewer service, the police department and the fire department. Everything else, such as the library, parks & rec, warming station, movies in the park, sports leagues, etc., are optional and can be trimmed or eliminated to meet budget constraints.
The city has also invested in projects that appear to be heavily exaggerated or just a waste of money. Here are a few examples: local improvement districts (LIDs). The city has been crying for years about the housing shortage but has relied on LIDs to provide taxpayer funds to Portland and Tri-Cities developers to build housing here with the hope that future property taxes will pay the funds back. Ask the city how Sunridge Estates worked out. If there was such a huge demand then builders wouldn’t require taxpayer funding or rental vacancy tax breaks. One developer has six of his 32 newer rental units vacant but wants taxpayer funds to build more.
Another example is the city hiring a consultant for $23K to see if the street lights can be upgraded to LED lights to save money. They did not contact the electric utility company to find out the same information at no charge.
Another example is the UAS park. This is a $11.2M project that only benefits out-of-the-area businesses by building them new hangar buildings, roads, etc. Local residents will never be able to see the secret UAS park they paid for. The city claims this will create $328M in economic development over the next 10 years. That’s nearly a third of a billion dollars. The city also claims the UAS park will create 626 jobs. I call BS on all of these estimates. With all of this projected incoming money, road maintenance shouldn’t be a problem.
Another example is the Road to Nowhere. The 2000s-era gas tax paid for this but has yet to have one business build along its borders. I don’t know how much money was spent on this road but it is used very little. It’s a beautiful road, though.
Another example is the Bridge to Nowhere — $660K for a bridge that serves five or six houses and a small RV park. Heavy farm and utility trucks used this bridge without incident. If this bridge was so dangerous, why didn’t the city condemn it?
Another example is the 200 interest-free solar loans the city gave out in the last 10 years. These are negative investments right from the start, with the city losing the interest over the life of the loan. If a citizen wants to install solar panels on their house, that should be their financial responsibility. The wood stove loan program is a similar money loser, with the only upside being it positively affects the city’s air quality.
I don’t feel the city should be loaning anyone money, they’re not in the banking business. I propose the city looks at trimming their budget by eliminating some full-time employees, contracting out lawn and landscape maintenance for city properties to contractors, using city vehicles for another year or two before replacing them, eliminating the warming station, using consultants less and going directly to the organization they want information from, etc. Any sort of fees on lodging, tickets, or gas taxes, etc., will be paid not only by Pendleton city residents but the public in general.
Enough with governments always wanting more money.