Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Remember when we could tax you with impunity?

Ah, those were the days.

That's essentially the message in a column by Beaverton City Councilor Cathy Stanton, which appears in the June 2008 Beaverton city newsletter. (I can't find a copy of the current issue online, but you can sign up for it here.)

Stanton, elected last month to her fifth term, writes about her desire to update the city's charter, which was last revised in 1981. She says there are three potential changes to the charter "which would give us some flexibility" for the future. They are:
First, back in 1992, we increased the Privilege Tax. This was an additional 1.5% tax on our electric bill. We used this tax to pay for putting utilities underground when Murray Boulevard was widened. Once the project was complete, we rescinded the tax. If we had kept the tax in place and dedicated those funds, we could have placed all utilities underground when we improved Davis, Hart, and Hall over the last ten years. Wouldn't that have been nice?
Translation: Wasn't it foolish of us to remove that tax (even though it was probably intended only for the Murray project)? Wouldn't it have been nice to continue taxing you over the last 16 years so we could have more of your money than we already get for our current $160 million annual budget? Wouldn't it be great to say it's dedicated to utility relocation, but still have the money if we really needed it for some other really important project like The Round?
Second, the City used to have Urban Renewal Authority. We still do, but it requires a city-wide vote to implement. Rather than going through the expense of putting it on the ballot we have been doing the best we can to leverage federal and state dollars to improve the downtown. Oh, but if we only had that old authority.
Translation: We used to be able to spend your money without your approval, and we really want that back! We'll say the issue is an "expensive election," but really the issue is that we're afraid you pesky voters might say no, and really, we know better than you, don't we?
Third, Beaverton used to have a City Manager as well as a Mayor. In fact, as usual, we were one of the first cities in the State of Oregon to do so. But, I'm going to have to save that story for another article.
This is really funny, considering that A) This article came out after Dennis Doyle defeated four-term incumbent Mayor Rob Drake; and B) Stanton endorsed Drake. Now she wants the city to have a city manager? It couldn't have anything to do with her desire to take power away from the newly-elected mayor (accountable to the voters) and put it in the hands of a (less accountable) city manager, could it?

Stanton concludes:
Sometimes, it is wonderful to go forward and break new ground, trod new paths. But, it's also good to consider what we might miss if we don't see where we've been and what we might be giving up by going in a different direction.
Yep, we long for the good ol' days when we could tax you with impunity, and you voters weren't so nosy about how we spent your money. Won't you be accommodating?

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  • At 6/14/2008 8:00 PM, Blogger MAX Redline said…

    Sometimes, it is wonderful to go forward and break new ground, trod new paths

    What a deep thinker! Of course, I imagine that she meant to say "tread", rather than "trod".

    If there is one commonality among the histories of successful species, it is that they do move forward and seize new opportunities.

    Like so many in this area, she seems to advocate returning to "the good old days", when politicians could tax with impunity, and light rail was the holy grail.


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