The Pendleton Development Commission (PDC), better known as our city council, has pulled off the unthinkable. With over $33 million in property taxes at their disposal, they’ve been able to spend but a small portion. The city manager, as executive director of the PDC, for one reason or another elected to appoint an assistant to administer the program. Since the creation of that position, the number and value of grants has steadily risen. However, administrative costs have skyrocketed. Let’s face it, giving away money ain’t cheap.
The council’s plan from day one was to rebuild Main Street and develop the River Quarter into a shopping and tourist mecca from downtown to the Round-Up Grounds, creating a large increase in the tax base by raising property values with new retail space (we already have a large surplus) and second-story housing. Had they done their homework like the property owners did, they’d have discovered the whole project was not financially viable. Unlike the property owners, the people that developed these plans incurred no financial risk. Fortunately, after years of hemming and hawing, the River Quarter plan was scrapped.
With only a little over $5 million of those PDC funds remaining and time running out, the race is on to see who gets their hands on it first. The city manager is asking for $3 million to use for streets in the Urban Renewal District (URD), hoping for swift approval so future budget cuts can be avoided in other city departments. PDC funds have been diverted before to help pay for statues, speed bumps, and to support the Pendleton Downtown Association. Projects that have nothing to do with raising the tax base, the goal of the PDC.
Al Plute, the largest benefactor of the PDC, thinks using the money for streets is a bad idea. He seems to be the only one willing to take the financial risk and has the backing to take full advantage of the program. The assistant director has suggested hiring an assistant to assist in accelerating spending of PDC funds.
If all goes well, the PDC experiment will end. That’s one less meeting for the city council. Future property taxes can be spent taking care of public property, streets included, where they’re desperately needed. Most importantly, PDC administrative costs will disappear completely.