Lately we have heard a lot about the finance plight of the state of Oregon and of our educational system. It is important that these problems not be fixed by taking money from cities. Cities are the backbone of our economy.

In addition to an educated workforce and effective air and highway transportation, businesses locate where the local communities are strong. They want to locate where there is plentiful clean water and sewer system capacity available to meet their needs, where city streets are well-engineered and free of potholes, where well-trained police and fire departments ensure the public's safety and where community parks and recreation services are readily available. The fact is businesses generally don't locate in a "state," they locate in a community, a city.

While the focus of the economic shortfall has been on the state budget and school districts, local governments have been battered by property tax limitations, as well as other attacks on revenue alternatives. Qwest has withheld city telephone franchise fees and has sued cities to stop their historic ability to collect them. Legislative proposals seek to preempt the ability of cities to use hotel-motel tax revenue, as well as other traditional revenue sources, for local public services

Add to the mix the skyrocketing cost of PERS and employee health insurance, federal and state mandates, as well as higher costs for raw materials, and cities are caught in an economic squeeze.

Successful job-producing businesses and safe, attractive residential areas are as local as it gets. In our zeal to address the state budget shortfall and fix the public education funding system, let's not leave out our most basic community building block: strong cities.

BOB RAMIG, Mayor

Pendleton

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