Think twice about asking voters for money this fall

UPDATE: As usual, anyone (like me) who opposes questionable Molalla “wishes” (like insane urban reserves or a bond measure to replace a school that no one wants to take responsibility for letting fall to ruin) get lots of mean responses from the “wishers”. I’ve been labeled an “anti-growther” (that’s a great one, isn’t it?). Now, I guess my next supposed evil mask is “child hater” because I ask pointed questions about the middle school mess, including how public monies are used and how the District fails to maintain public buildings.

I spent the afternoon debating “J” about the middle school issues on another blog. I am evil because I want FACTS. Finally, “J” came back with this tidbit (quote):

“ok, so you got the “fact” that the building is safe from a school board member. The same school board that you are slamming. I personally don’t care for the school board or the district administration. I had already pulled my daughter out of the high school and had her get her GED so she can attend CCC in the fall. I don’t approve of the way they manage the budget or the curriculum………………………….” (end quote)

Help!!! I feel like I am living on planet X when someone like “J” calls me on the carpet for suggesting that the schools are ill run and that I don’t wish to dump more public funds into a losing venture – and “J” tries to rebut and vilify me with that above statement: That “J” DOESN’T “APPROVE OF THE WAY THEY MANAGE THE BUDGET OR THE CURRICULUM” and she pulled her own child OUT OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS HERE.   And “J” wants me to vote “yes” for MORE MONEY for the district? Reality check please!

With “friends” like “J” the District doesn’t need to worry about the opposition! “Friends” who say things like that about the District will sink the middle school boat in a heartbeat!

Need I repeat: we won’t be blackmailed this election by emotional baloney – show us the FACTS. Maybe sometimes things have to hit rock bottom before true reform happens? I’d be A LOT more worried about the quality of the curriculum than the building given the coming years of tough financial sledding ahead. Maybe the new slogan should be “when the times get tough the tough get going”?

Let’s hear something more creative for a change than asking for money. Some local public schools have formed foundations and use donations to supplement the schools – maybe the vocal parents should pass the hat and hit up some of the local good old boys who saved a ton when Molalla spent public funds on lawyers and consultants to help speculators try to get land into the UGB? Those guys are flush, maybe they’ll endow a school foundation to pay us all back for the acres of polluted ground they earned their fortunes from!

“J” – go to the archives on this blog and sing a couple of choruses of “Looking for the next best thing”.

ORIGINAL  POST:

I’d think twice about asking for any bond measures in greater Molalla this fall. The news is all bad in the local demographics listed for the world to see: job growth in Molalla is NEGATIVE (get ready for YET ANOTHER empty store front as El Amigo bites the dust), house values are off by almost 9%, and even affluent Metro cities like Oregon City and West Linn know this is no time to ask voters for money.

See below for a link found on the internet about “best places to live in America” to see  how Molalla is introduced to the greater world. Again, note the negative job growth (jobs off almost 6%) and that the cost of living is over 8% higher than the national average.

Following the “best places” bad news is an excellent article from the Oregonian about the wisdom of Oregon City and West Linn, both of which are postponing bond measures. Those wise cities are fact-finding and providing information about needed money measures but they are not ready in this economic depression to dare to ask voters to approve any local spending measures – even one in Oregon City that would “only” add about $65 a year to tax bills.

Let’s hope the Molalla School District is smart enough to see the “no” money writing on the wall this fall. Without a GREAT DEAL of FACTUAL groundwork – none of which has so far been presented to the public – I’d say that there isn’t a chance in Hell to pass any money measures in the downtrodden Molalla area this fall. The emotional middle school campaign has yet to produce any School Board endorsed facts and figures. Anything that smacks of hysterical “rush job” will be extra suspect when cash strapped voters get their ballots.

This is a time for deep research and full transparency on any public works “needs”, like the careful groundwork being done in Oregon City and West Linn, instead of non-factual kiddie letter campaigns and boo hoo parent letters. Molalla needs to take a lesson from the well run, transparent, honest cities in the below Oregonian article. Those cities respect the intelligence and needs of ALL VOTERS. That is the kind of groundwork that is always sorely lacking in anything “civic” in Molalla: whether it is ridiculous urban reserves or middle school problems, nothing will fly these days unless supported by FACTS.

Quote from “best places” website about Molalla:

City Overview

As of 2010, Molalla’s population is 7,391 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of 30.86 percent.

The median home cost in Molalla is $203,540. Home appreciation the last year has been -8.63 percent.

Compared to the rest of the country, Molalla’s cost of living is 8.30% Higher than the U.S. average.

Molalla public schools spend $3,977 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $5,678. There are about 21.4 students per teacher in Molalla.

The unemployment rate in Molalla is 10.30 percent(U.S. avg. is 10.20%). Recent job growth is Negative. Molalla jobs have Decreased by 5.76 percent.

Quote from Oregonian:

Oregon City needs a new police building but a recent poll shows now is not the time to ask voters for money

Published: Friday, July 09, 2010, 8:42 PM

Steve Mayes, The Oregonian

More than a decade ago, Oregon City police converted lunchroom space to a working area used for suspect interviews, writing reports and sorting evidence — often while grabbing a bite.

Oregon City needs a new police headquarters, but persuading voters to pass an approximately $11 million bond measure to finance the project will take some doing.

A recent poll of 400 likely voters found 36 percent in support of the new building, 41 percent opposed and 23 percent undecided.

The 20-year bonds would be repaid with property tax revenue and would cost a typical Oregon City homeowner, one with a home assessed at $168,000, about $64 a year.

Opponents said the extra expense would put a financial strain on the elderly and poor, that it would be an unacceptable tax increase and that the project isn’t a high priority.

The poll, by Portland-based Grove Insight, also found support increased as prospective voters learned more about the plan.

City commissioners have not formally decided to put the money measure on the ballot. They will debate the issue, probably in late summer.

Mayor Alice Norris conceded that now isn’t a good time to ask for taxpayers for more money.

“It will be tough to pass,” Norris said, adding “the economy is difficult” and “it’s not a crisis.”

Nevertheless, there is a need.

The city’s police force has shared space for 30 years with other city departments on Warner Milne Road. During that time, the number of officers has doubled. Space was so tight that records once were archived outdoors in cargo containers, and some employees worked in trailers behind the building.

The squeeze loosened a bit late last year when city administrators moved to the new City Hall, a remodeled building on Center Street. City commissioners approved a $166,000 renovation at the old City Hall that gives police a little more space.

Still, “We’re crammed into too small a space,” Police Chief Mike Conrad said.

Male and female officers share a locker room. There are no showers. Evidence is sometimes processed on a lunchroom table. And police question suspects and victims in adjoining interview rooms where conversations may be overheard.

“At some point, something has to be done,” Conrad said.

The measure would not go to voters until next year — in September or November — at the earliest, Norris said.

Educating voters on the need for a new building will take time, she said. “You’ve got to start talking about it” a year or more before the election, she said.

Oregon City spent years explaining the financial and public-safety benefits of annexing to Clackamas Fire District 1. Voters rejected the proposal in 2005, then passed it by a wide margin in 2007.

The police effort could be hampered by a transition in leadership. Next year, Oregon City will have a new mayor — Norris is not eligible for re-election because of term limits — and may have two new commissioners.

The Grove Insight provides a few tips for building voter support. Foremost: Hammer home the message that a modern police station is needed to combat crime and ensure public safety.

Support increased when potential voters learned:
There would be separate interview rooms for victims “traumatized by crime.”
The police department will have to relocate by 2022 unless the city spends an estimated $5 million for a seismic upgrade.
The new facility would serve the city’s needs until 2030. Voters were less enthusiastic when told, in a subtle change in language, that the building would be adequate for the next 20 years.

Oregon City officials can look across the river to West Linn to see how challenging it can be to convince voters.

West Linn’s police department occupies cramped quarters in a Depression-era building distant from the city’s main commercial and residential areas.

In May, West Linn voters rejected a measure that would have allowed the city to issue up to $10.8 million in general obligation bonds to pay for the purchase of a new site and building construction.

Forty-five percent of voters supported the measure.

“The critical issue is convincing the community of the need for a new police station,” said West Linn’s city manager, Chris Jordan. “I think we did a pretty good job.”

Jordan said the West Linn measure may be back on the ballot next year.

— Steve Mayes

© 2010 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.

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