Post-Haste Makes Waste | Editorial | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Coverage for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians.

The Source Weekly has been here for you, keeping you in the know throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

We’ve delivered important updates and dispatches from a summer of racial unrest.

We’ve interviewed dozens of state and local political candidates to help you make an informed decision during election season.

And we’ve brought you 22 years of important news and feature reporting—along with all the events, happenings, food, drink and outdoors coverage you’ve come to know and love. We’re a newspaper for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians, and it is and always has been free for readers.

If you appreciate our coverage, we invite you to spread the love and to join our growing membership program, Source Insider.
Support Us Here

Opinion » Editorial

Post-Haste Makes Waste

by

1 comment

A good idea is not necessarily inevitable; especially an idea—like the gas tax—which needs finesse to gather support. How that idea comes about matters immensely. That is Politics 101. But it is also apparently a basic tenet that the majority of Bend City Council decided to hopscotch past and, in the process, may have poisoned a good idea.

Here's the background: The roads in Bend are in terrible shape. According to the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), a method of measurement developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, Bend roads currently have a rating of 68, which is politely termed "poor." At the current rate of repair, that rating will continue to drop one point each year.

The solution? Finding about $5 million in annual revenue to provide sufficient street maintenance so that after five years the roads will be in the mid-70s heading towards "good."

The primary solution—and one the Source supports—is a 10-cent per gallon gas tax, an idea that has steadily been gathering supporters. However, that idea hit a major speed bump last week—one that threatens to derail the whole idea.

Here's what happened: Initially, Council had planned to convene a committee to explore the gas tax, as well as other funding options; that was intended as a preface to placing the gas tax in front of voters. But instead, at the August 5 meeting, they shortcut past the process and voted 4-3 to support placing a gas tax on a March special election ballot, a vote that came as a surprise to some of the councilors as it wasn't even on Council's agenda. All that was scheduled was a resolution to create a street funding committee to hash out ideas and details for a broad transportation funding plan. But Councilor Sally Russell made an initial motion, seconded by Councilor Nathan Boddie and, subsequently, passed 4-3.

Councilors Doug Knight, Casey Roats, and Victor Chudowsky expressed their strong opposition. That evening, the councilors did also vote to assemble a committee, but opponents pointed out it was a hollow gesture, especially with an amendment to remove non-gas tax considerations.

"What's your plan B when groups decide they don't want to participate?," asked Chudowsky.

Boddie replied matter-of-factly, "Invite more."

In response, Chudowsky offered: "I'm not seeing a strong incentive for folks to participate given your vote."

Mayor Clinton then stepped in: "I recommend Sally (Russell) and Casey (Roats)."

Roats had no hesitation: "No, thank you."

Chudowsky also declined, saying, "You're doing this exactly backwards."

Councilor Knight, who also voted against the ordinance, stepped in with the most sober assessment: "This is why I voted against it this evening," he stated. "I suspect a fuel tax may be the most efficient way to solve this problem, but I don't know. I'd like to make an informed decision." He added, "This vote has embroiled the opposition."

And, indeed, within 48 hours after the Council's vote, a number of organizations expressed their intent to withdraw from the process.

Instead of what should have been a political discussion intended to consolidate support for a gas tax now has become a messy process, with community members selecting sides faster than a kindergarten dodgeball game. And, while we support a gas tax to fund Bend's crumbling roads, in this case we side with the three councilors who opposed the motion that bypassed a more robust civic discussion.

No matter how good an idea is, it deserves not to be railroaded towards a conclusion. That's why its called politics. We hope Council will seriously consider re-opening a broader conversation.

Speaking of...

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 

Add a comment

More by The Source Staff