Aug 17, 2018

Troutdale city staff: Community events a burden?

In a recent Gresham Outlook article,  Troutdale city manager Ray Young proposed that the city should charge additional fees to the non-profit organizers of community events to  recoup the $18,000 in costs and staff time for road-blocking "Bollards" during events in downtown Troutdale.

“We are recommending to council to begin charging something," Young said. "It is a burden on staff, which means the city subsidizes events on closed streets, to review plans, close streets and monitor the traffic issues."

Why does city staff feel that subsidizing community events is a burden? 

I’ve lived in Troutdale since 2001. I served on the city council for four years, and on the city’s budget committee for at least eight years. In all that time, I’ve never heard a city employee claim that subsidizing community events was “a burden on staff”.

The city of Troutdale has a long history subsidizing the costs of special events, such as Summerfest, the Christmas tree lighting, and the Troutdale cruise-in. The city’s leaders and its citizens have financially supported these events because they know they have a positive impact on the city’s local economy. More importantly, these events give a major boost to Troutdale’s community spirit and pride.

These non-profit events, which Mr. Young was quoted as saying are a “burden” to city staff, succeed in attracting visitors who spend money in Troutdale. That money creates income and supports jobs in Troutdale. The people who have those jobs in Troutdale use that income to pay taxes. Some of those taxes go to pay for Troutdale city employees. These events are a win-win for city staff, Troutdale residents, and the non-profits who receive donations resulting from these events.

The Gresham Outlook has also questioned why the city wants to burden community events with costly additional fees and red tape. In their Thursday, August 16, 2018 online edition, the Gresham Outlook wrote, in their editorial "Bollard' fee puts public events at-risk in Troutdale", 

Having said that, it's disappointing to hear that the city of Troutdale may impose a fee — for installation and removal of bollards — on groups that organize these events. Many of these groups are nonprofit organizations, most with tiny budgets, and in some cases they're raising funds for a philanthropic purpose. Imposing an additional fee would likely siphon off dollars away from charitable organizations that benefit from these events.Given that the city of Troutdale operates with a $10 million annual budget, the city could easily absorb the $18,000 cost of the bollards without breaking a sweat.”

I urge Troutdale residents to contact the Troutdale city council  and demand that “no extra fees or charges” i.e. the “bollard fee”  should be charged for  non-profit community events in Troutdale.

May 28, 2018

Term Limits Encourage New Ideas, Less Stagnation

In Troutdale, former City Councilor John Wilson has stepped up as the chief petitioner to put term limits on the ballot for all city elected offices.  In an interesting twist, the longest serving member of the Council – Dave Ripma – filed a court action hoping to prevent the citizens of Troutdale from having a vote on this issue.
First, some background.  Troutdale has had substantial challenges ignored or left unsolved for many years due to personalities and personal agendas.  These lingering issues remain largely due to certain Councilors who have been re-elected without opposition, due in part to support from public employee unions who are well funded, well connected;and also to good, old fashioned bullying.  This cannot continue.

Inside Troutdale's condemned city hall.
Two simple and obvious examples of inaction are the Imagination Station park rebuild and the City Hall fiasco.  With Imagination Station, a beloved, volunteer constructed wood play structure was partially destroyed by an arsonist.  The same group of citizens immediately mobilized to make repairs and collect donations, only to be stymied by personal agendas and inaction.  This effort to “slow down” the process of rebuilding the structure for children was in part due to a desire by some Councilors to prevent a political opponent from getting a “win” in an election year.  Of course, the children suffered, not the fossilized politicians.

With the City Hall, one proposal was killed five years ago due solely to long-standing personal agendas and animosity.  The City would already be in a modern building that it owns without increasing taxes.  Instead, taxpayers foot the bill for endless studies and estimates from engineers and specialty contractors to preserve a failing building.

After spending tens of thousands of dollars on the engineering estimates and inspections, Councilor Ripma still refuses to agree that spending millions to squeeze another twenty years of life out of an old building that is not up to current code standards is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

He is pushing his personal agenda instead and is ignoring what is most cost effective for the taxpayers.  So the City languishes in this process, with no decision in sight, all the while paying a lease payment for space without any ownership of the building.  We are nearly eight years after the old City Hall was abandoned as unsafe, yet the old guard fights and quibbles and accomplishes nothing.

In any small town, is it so easy to simply elect and re-elect the same people willing to serve.  After all, it is a challenging job with a lot of responsibility.  This has been the Troutdale model and it is failing.  When a seat is left without an incumbent running for re-election, we typically see several candidates.  This shows the widespread interest in serving.

Some of our more recent, newly elected councilors, have taken the lead on proposals such as updating the City website to make it modern and functional, not to mention using social media as a way to communicate with the younger generation of residents.  All great ideas that were heavily resisted by the longer serving Councilors.

At the end of the day, is it really to Troutdale’s benefit to have people serving more than twenty years on City Council when others with new, fresh, ideas should also have the chance to serve?  Times and ideas and technology change and Troutdale should have an easier time accepting than.  Terms limits will accomplish that.

Jul 24, 2017

Multnomah County doesn't need another mega-library

Do we really need another monument to the 19th century  by building another mega-library in east Multnomah county? Didn't Multnomah county learn anything from the failures of Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster video, and Radio Shack?

First, some kudos to our current library system: They have the all traditional media you know and love . You can reserve any books, DVD's and more from any of Multnomah County library's branches, and they will truck it to the library branch, most convenient for you, where you can pick it up, free!

Second, the internet. Our libraries have internet access on computers in the libraries. You can surf for free! The libraries also have free Wi-Fi if you bring your device to the library.

Next: most of our libraries have meeting space for  special programming such as seminars, teach-ins, kids storytelling, reading groups, neighbor groups, playtime, or whatever. Mostly for free!

Given all the ultra awesome stuff our libraries already provide, what would be the value added by building another mega-sized gigantic brick and mortar library in east county? Why spend mega millions to build another mega-sized library? This is 19th century thinking. Brick and mortar is dying away.  The "cloud"  is the future for libraries.

Why spend hundreds of millions of the tax dollars it would take to build another mega-library? Why spend millions of dollars annually in salary, benefits etc for the hundreds of new employees that would be required to staff another mega-library??

Instead, why not spend just a few million bucks (or hit up Bezos, Zuckerberg, Musk etc. for a "donation") and buy tens of thousands of tablets, laptops, and other awesome devices that people could check out from their closest library, just like people now check out books!

Give library patrons hands-on device training at their local branch when they "check out" their device! Just like how the Apple stores and Xfinity stores do it now! Why not add an option for Wi-Fi at a minimal cost. Better yet, people could access free Wi-Fi at the thousands of coffee shops, stores,schools etc people use now.

Multnomah County leaders need less Jurassic park thinking and more Buzz Lightyear creativity. We don't need to go back to the stone age by building a dinosaur of a temple to the past- a mega library. We need to go to "infinity...and beyond!!" by investing in modern technology, for all!