I would like to thank the East Oregonian for the well-written article on the city of Pendleton’s attempt to tackle the issue of repairing their roads. The article laid out the facts: our road infrastructure is in bad shape and the longer we avoid the problem, the more expensive it becomes. I was pleased to see that the city manager and city council are taking on this difficult issue. No one wants to ask the public for more money, and too often public officials will avoid these hard problems. This is what good leadership looks like.
On the other hand, I am disappointed by the click-bait headline that the EO chose to splash over the story. This should not be a story about taxes. It’s about maintaining our city infrastructure. One of the reasons that public officials don’t want to propose fixes to our problems is that there are always costs. If the press screams “Return of the Gas Tax?” over an article like this, it plays into the most divisive aspects of our current political culture.
I have no problem with the EO pointing out the fact that the city has, in the past, pushed through a gas tax to fund a project of questionable public benefit (e.g. the road to nowhere). The city needs to regain the public trust after that debacle. However, the EO should help the public understand the hard choices we now face, rather than simply playing on old resentments to drum up controversy.