Clackamas County does it RIGHT!

Clackamas County has again gained my respect via an honest assessment of financial conditions in the Oregonian (see complete text below).

For me, the most telling paragraph is this:

“An increase in the number of delinquent property-tax accounts is straining county revenues as department heads are reporting increased demands for human services, said Diane Padilla, the county’s budget manager.”

Yet, in spite of the ongoing voices of reason coming from County and State, the City of Molalla/TEAM/plannin’ seem to still be in denial about what the foreseeable future holds. I still choke about a recent letter to the editor from Counselor Boreth claiming that Molalla is in the “best shape” it has ever been in. One wonders where Boreth has been as the County has been reducing staff (especially planning staff) and cutting service hours. The delinquent property taxes and the plummeting real estate prices aren’t going to just affect the County – they will have dire consequences for all cities as well.

I wonder when anyone will start to understand that the consolidation of services is overdue – like contracting Molalla’s planning to the County and perhaps police services as well. Also, the state is strongly suggesting the need to form larger school districts so that the overhead of administration costs can be reduced.

Can you imagine how much Molalla – and every other little going backwards berg – could save without the overhead of its hugely in deficit, incompetent planning department and without the drag of a police department that is largely designed to produce revenues via shakedown speed traps? Without the police ticket “service” the municipal court (see my earlier post “Do we have a Gestapo?” for a discussion about how municipal courts aren’t the final word) could be dumped for another cost saving measure and cases could go directly to the far more binding and professional circuit court.

I imagine it will take time – or bankruptcy – for hicksvilles like Molalla to grasp the depth of the changes that will have to come to survive this “downturn” (don’t you laugh at that polite term for DEEP, LASTING REAL ESTATE DEPRESSION?). In the meantime it is funny to watch ineffective, tail spinning, local stop gaps like TEAM’s Second Friday, signs pointing to the poor overworked Molalla River, and the “we need a new middle school” campaign (where the School Board is letting a vocal bunch of parents become the scapegoats for sure failure at the ballot box) pretending that it isn’t a grim world out there. Those puny “save the day” measures make Molalla look foolish. I sure wish I could find a way to float up to the cloud nine those folks keep clinging to.

I guess I’m stuck with stark cold reality – it bites, but at least I’m not fooling myself like the circle jerk “life is good” Molalla campaigns that try to trick the public. We need an “Ethical Molalla” facebook page, not empty promises and feel good slogans.

So we’ll all watch it play out over time. I thank my lucky stars that responsible, realistic, and ethical leaders in Clackamas County represent me instead of a bunch of “pretend it isn’t so” fakeout “leaders” who keep spinning tall tales as the City of Molalla boat sinks like a stone.

My battle cry always will be to ask Molalla “How’s it going with plans to build sidewalks to Safeway?”. The day those sidewalks get built will be the day the Molalla “leaders” can kick sand in my face. I’m not putting the goggles on anytime soon to protect me from that sandstorm because with every day of no SDCs and every day of refusing to face the obvious economic future, Molalla can’t afford to provide a single quality of life improvement.

The days of the public dole to clueless, ill managed cities are over. Places like Molalla will be the places that suffer the most because they never even attempted to try to stand on their own via ethical management for quality of life. I pity anyone who has to see a portion of hard-earned tax dollars go into the black hole of Molalla.

(quote from Oregonian):

New Clackamas County budget means fewer jobs, new aid to struggling families

Published: Saturday, July 10, 2010, 4:00 AM

Dana Tims, The Oregonian

A continuing downturn in Clackamas County construction activity means more than 100 fewer people will be working for the county in the coming year than were employed there three years ago.

Those staffing reductions, along with upcoming discussions among county commissioners on how best to spend $1 million in cuts from administrative budgets, highlight a new budget that totals $816.7 million.

The budget applies to fiscal 2010-2011, which got under way July 1.

The budget for the county itself comes in at $572.6 million. The remaining $244.1 million represents money available to special service districts such as Water Environment Services, the development agency, the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District and the library service district.

By comparison, the figures represented by last year’s document came in at $829 million for the total budget and $568.9 million for the county itself.

An increase in the number of delinquent property-tax accounts is straining county revenues as department heads are reporting increased demands for human services, said Diane Padilla, the county’s budget manager.

“We’re still facing a very tough situation,” she said. “That translates to a very tight budget.”

A countywide decrease in building and permit activity translates to staffing cuts in those departments. That’s because their budgets are reliant, in part, on permit fees.

The number of full-time-equivalent employees working in the Department of Transportation and Development’s Building Codes Division last year will shrink to 21, from 43. Similarly, the Planning Division will be reduced to 21 full-time-equivalents, from 28.

County Administrator Steve Wheeler, in his budget message to the commissioners, noted that economic conditions in the county are improving, but slowly and unevenly.

Compared with this time last year, for instance, the unemployment rate is down, to 10.4 percent in March, from 11.4 percent in March 2009.

Home sale prices, meanwhile, are continuing a downward slide, while the percentage of people filing for what used to be called the food stamp program are increasing.

Still to be decided by the commissioners is how to spend $1 million in cuts from administrative budgets. The savings came from categories such as travel, subscriptions and equipment and furniture replacement.

The goal is to channel the savings into areas that will help “vulnerable populations.”

Commissioner Ann Lininger wants to use at least some of that money to aid the mentally ill and those with drug addictions. Doing so, she said, could keep people in some of those areas out of jail.

“By stabilizing those people and managing their mental illness, we help avoid the far higher costs associated with incarceration,” Lininger said. “So in addition to being beneficial to those people and their families, it makes business sense as well.”

Dana Tims

© 2010 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.

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