Feb 28, 2008

"Mean Girls" Legacy Continues To Haunt Multnomah County Politics

From the Portland Tribune:
"Multnomah County's vehicle fee plan dropped from May ballot; Commissioners have harsh words for cities as they look for money from Sellwood Bridge."

The cities of Gresham, Troutdale and Maywood Park rejected an intergovernmental agreement with Multnomah County that would have required them to hand over their state mandated share of any vehicle registration fee increase to pay for replacement of the Sellwood Bridge.

According to the Tribune article, Commissioners Maria Rojo de Steffey and Jeff Cogen had some special comments for the three cities:

“Frankly, it’s extremely provincial of them,” Cogen said. “I have to say this is an extremely non-collaborative action on their part.”

“I’m just outraged,” Rojo de Steffey said."

They're entitled to their opinions. But their choice of words reflect badly on Commissioners Rojo de Steffey and Cogen, not the three cities. It's unfortunate, but also business as usual that these Commissioners chose anger and threats instead of a rational, reasoned response. The legacy of the "mean girls" continues to infest Multnomah County's political community.

County Chair Wheeler's fellow County Commissioners would go a long way towards elimination of this infestation of boorish behavior by emulating Wheeler's reasoned, business oriented decorum when discussing difficult issues. Although the Sellwood bridge is in danger of collapsing, there's no reason to intentionally burn political bridges by lashing out when you don't get your own way.

I commend Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler for putting a proposal of any kind on the table, even though it was rejected for good reasons by the three cities. At least he's making the effort to find a solution.

As I've stated before, the money to replace the Sellwood Bridge is already available. But Oregon's congressional leadership, our state legislature, and Metro have other priorities. They have already decided that spending $1.4 billion for light rail to Milwaukie, and a BRAND NEW light rail/ bike bridge over the Willamette River is more important than preventing a disaster at the Sellwood bridge.

Blaming the cities of Troutdale, Gresham, and Maywood Park for not "playing ball" by rejecting Multnomah County's proposed vehicle registration fee increase is ridiculous. We said "no thank you" to the vehicle registration fee increase because it's unfair to Multnomah County residents. It won't raise enough money to replace the Sellwood Bridge. And it ignores the elephant in the room- the region's leaders have ignored their responsibility to provide safe streets and bridges by making light rail a higher priority.

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