Molalla’s Newest Rip-Off: Ill Considered Road Utility Fee

You gotta love the gall of El Hefe “city manager” Huff, his little sidekick “public works manager” Fisher, and their pawns, the Molalla City Council, for claiming they conducted “outreach” about Decayville’s failing road infrastructure (gee, what part of “Molalla infrastructure” isn’t failing?). Molalla held three pathetic, so-called “town halls” that attracted less than 30 people from a city of 9,600; El Hefe Huff used that feeble “feedback” from .3125% of the population to justify sticking all Molalla rate payers with a flat $11/ a month fee to try to build funds to fix the hideous roads. But wait, how do other places handle issues like this?

Allow a VOTE by all the stakeholders to decide if they can accept an $11/month tack on fee. Clackamas County has crumbling roads but it had the courage to put a road fee proposal on the ballot last year – and it was defeated! And before a vote by the City Council, Molalla SHOULD have at least sent a survey to all rate payers if it really wanted to know what its rate payers would accept. But no, getting the opinion of .3125% – less than half a percent of the people who would have to pay! –  was enough for El Hefe Huff, since interface with the lowly “public” seems to be the bane of his existence. Shame on the City Council for pretending the bogus Town Halls were adequate. Wait till the rate payers whose opinions were not heard open those bills and find $11/month tacked on. And, never forget that Decayville is actually currently pretending it wants to hear “visions” from far flung community members – how’s that going “leaders”, have you cracked a HALF A PERCENT YET?

Charge businesses MORE because they generate more trips and troll in larger vehicles which are destructive to roads. What a joke that the Pacific NOISE POLLUTING Fiber business, which needs endless in and out giant lumber and hopper trucks, ONLY has to pay $11/ month, just like Grannie on a pension in a trailer with no car! And how about the giant heavy concrete trucks pounding away as they come and go from Redi-Mix? And how about the stress to roads by lumber, feed store, grocery store, BiMart and hardware store delivery trucks? Business in general generates far more abuse to roads, since all business creates more trips per rate payer than any residential rate payer. Why are all those businesses rated the same as the lowly residential resident? El Hefe is apparently, in the opinion of this writer, TOO LAZY or TOO BEHOLDEN TO BUSINESS INTERESTS to do the right thing: produce a study to prove how much impact business trip generation has on the roads. Most cities do such a study and then impose higher monthly road fees on the businesses.

Molalla “officials” El Hefe  city “manager” Dan Huff and his little buddy (or maybe not “buddy” given the body language here?) public works “manager” Gerald Fisher (orange vest) having a “conference” in an alley behind City Hall.  Maybe their discussion (or  argument?) was so high level they couldn’t interact in City Hall? This is from the recent road paving that went WAY WAY over the time limit and produced crappy results. It’s rumored that a city official agreed the work was poor but that it was “good enough” for the people of Decayville.

Respect the financial limitations of rate paying residents. Molalla was listed as one of the few “distressed cities” in Clackamas County by Business Oregon in 2017 (and other recent years).

Being listed as “distressed” means Molalla has higher than expected unemployment, lower per capita income, more people in poverty and fewer people with BA’s than other cities in the State. Cities that care about the financial capabilities of their residents provide a sliding scale or exemption for their poverty stricken and/or senior residents – even $11/month can be a bust for those struggling to survive on highly limited funds.

Here’s an excellent example of how an ethical and competent city outlines its fees (note residential road fees in Silverton have been $6/month and are proposed to go to $9/month – a lot less than Molalla’s $11/month). Silverton even has a utility fee assistance fund for low income and seniors in case fees are a hardship (Oh! I forgot! Molalla is always too close to flirting with insolvency and has too many “distressed” residents to offer utility fee reductions – everyone would apply!). http://www.silverton.or.us/388/summary-of-2017-utility-rates

But greedy El Hefe Huff and little buddy sidekick Fisher apparently could care less about demographics and hardships in cheapo “drive till you qualify” Molalla. Perhaps they are rushing to cover up what could be called incompetence for failing to address the road problems in a timely manner, failing to charge (or in the past account for or even collect!) adequate System Development Charges?  Most cities start with a far more modest fee and raise it over the years as necessary. Dunning for $11 right out of the nowhere will be a shock to “distressed” residents! It’s always the case in Decayville with El Hefe Huff and Fisher “in charge” of going quickly from “all is well” to “the sky is falling”. Competent and ethical management plans ahead so heavy handed reactionary approaches are not necessary: Decayville runs on pathetic responses to “emergencies” that never should have been allowed to develop into the infrastructure catastrophes that litter Decayville.

I quizzed State Rep. Rick Lewis about Silverton, where he formerly served as mayor. He confirmed that Silverton, unlike Molalla, was smart enough NEVER to have risked using Urban Reserve bonding (borrowing) to fix road infrastructure. Molalla went out on a limb and borrowed to “fix” a stretch of Molalla Ave. The problem is that roads don’t generate property taxes, let alone the raised property taxes needed to pay back money borrowed against Urban Renewal funds. Gee, City Council, do you have a clue about how Urban Renewal works?

Speaking of “distressed”, check out the tacky set-up at a Molalla City Council meeting. They have no city owned public building to meet in – they had to give up running the Adult Center for lack of funds. So now the Adult Center (run by religious groups) dining room, complete with refrigerators, is where the Council meets. We certainly hope the Council has to PAY to use the room they don’t own! The tangle of cords and the cheap blue curtain add extra special decorating touches. In any case, the low quality set-up is a perfect reflection of the LOW QUALITY LEADERSHIP in Decayville!

Wait until rates are set to address the growing wastewater management fiasco! The current horrific wastewater management crisis is the most blatant example of Molalla’s yo-yo inept “management” that constantly swings from “all is wonderful” to “HELP! THE SKY IS FALLING” and repeatedly brings Decayville to its financial knees. Decayville is facing the need to “find” $32-38 MILLION DOLLARS to fund a complete sewage facilities upgrade in what will be in a  DEQ legally mandated time frame (and, in case El Hefe Huff and the City Council “forgot” they have a Consent Decree to honor as well – how’s that going, Decayville “leaders”? Have you bothered to read that LEGAL DOCUMENT lately?).

The truth about the wastewater fiasco finally came out once El Hefe was forced to release the “Richwine Report” – a document El Hefe Huff tried to claim was attorney/client privilege; the Clackamas County DA had to get involved to force El Hefe Huff to release the report! That refusal was in no way atypical, since El Hefe Huff apparently believes he is King of PUBLIC records and he’ll use any nasty ploy – refusing to acknowledge requests, long delays, ridiculous charges, etc. –  to thwart release of public documents!.

A RESPONSIBLE government would have been put road fees on hold until the “leaders” faced the inevitable huge sewer rate increases that will have to accompany the cost of new wastewater facilities. In some cities in Oregon, rates for sewer alone have skyrocketed to over $100/month. Pretty soon “drive till you qualify” Decayville “cheaper than somewhere else” real estate won’t look so cheap as the road fees and utility rates add further stress on the budgets of struggling residents and renters who didn’t bargain for giant utility fees.

It’s  shameful the “leaders” and “managers” failed to get ahead of the infrastructure needs before they grew to epic and unaffordable proportions. Can you imagine the Comedy of the Absurd that will ensue as said “leaders” and “managers” attempt to solve the growing problems? Who could trust this kind of failed leadership with tens of millions of dollars in projects – it was literally a theater of the absurd when the “managers” tried to re-pave a few blocks of Molalla Ave. a year ago.

El Hefe Huff on the left, “mayor” Jimmy Thompson on the right. Ignore the name card that says Sadie Cramer – she was city recorder for almost two decades but mysteriously was gone overnight (hint: she had to work for El Hefe. Enough said?)

Good luck, Decayville residents, you will surely need it if you actually trust the current regime of so called “managers” and “elected leaders” to ethically and completely “manage” your public funds.

Council Childress “thinking”.

Councilor Dragowsky in action! Is she planning to raid the refrigerator as soon as the meeting ends? Does the Council have to draw straws to see who has to restore the cafeteria room after the meeting is over?

Councilor Palumbo. You have to treasure her ignorant statement on an email saying that she believed all was going well with Decayville’s wastewater management. Then, guess what – the report came out that Molalla is way over capacity with sewage and it needs $32-38 MILLION DOLLARS to build new facilities. Decayville is tangled up legally on more than one front over wastewater management. Does ANYONE elected to City Council EVER demand FACTS from the so-called “managers” they are supposed to be monitoring in the name of the taxpayers?

Councilor Boreth: by now it is just about impossible to count how many times Boreth has FAILED to be elected to Council and then gets appointed when, as usual, someone drops off the Council. Boreth, Childress and Klein will all be vulnerable in 2018 when their seats come up for election. Will Decayville EVER have enough civic pride to have Council election where the seats are contested so there is public debate for a refreshing change? Or is Decayville really content to default to rubber stampers who just do the will of El Hefe Huff, who, per opinions around town, is about as unpopular as he can get? As the saying goes “YOU get the government YOU deserve”.  Do YOU deserve better?

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