Feb 25, 2013

When Jimmy Carter Threw Federal Peanuts At Troutdale

"Five years ago, the City of Troutdale had three paid employees. Two months ago, the number had jumped to 25.  Today it stands at 89." . . . "Since June,  with more than $250, 000 in CETA special projects grants, the Troutdale staff has more than tripled. "-- The Oregonian, August 28, 1977
The Oregonian,Metro Section, August 28, 1977

Shortly after taking office 36 years ago, President Jimmy Carter gave Troutdale and hundreds of other cities across the nation large quantities of federal dollars.

The United States was going through a recession. Like Roosevelt before him and Obama today, President Carter decided to create jobs by throwing money at the recession. At the time,  it was one of the last gasps of 1930's New Deal make-work programs.

In 1976, Troutdale's city budget was $8.1 million. Thanks to President Carter, in 1977  the city's staff levels exploded after receiving over $250,000 in  Federal Comprehensive Training and Employment Act (CETA) funds.

Most people now agree that CETA, much like Roosevelt's New Deal, failed to stimulate the economy and ended up being just another "government jobs program that didn't work."

 According to the Oregonian article, many of  Troutdale's  CETA funded city employees were hired for  make-work projects such as:

"Organizing sports and other events,  including classes in belly-dancing,  ceramics, and jewelry making". . .

"Artists in residence Project: The city has hired a painter and sculptor to produce some art for the city. The sculptor is creating a wooden train for children to play on in Depot Park and a metal sculpture for outside city hall. . ."

The Oregonian article explained that "The regular CETA funds have allowed Troutdale to double its police force from three to six, to hire a city hall custodian, police records clerk,  and building plans worker.

When the CETA one-time grant money was gone, guess what the city did? You guessed it! They put a $60,000 one year serial levy on the ballot in May, 1978 to replace some of the CETA money. Fortunately for all those new city  employees, the levy passed, YES 459, NO 264.

The Oregonian, August 28, 1977
A street light levy also  passed: Yes 286, No 97. (The city's street lights had been turned off because they couldn't afford the electricity bill.)

Today, Troutdale's city budget is running six figure deficits, resulting in alarmingly decreasing reserves. It makes you wonder.

When Troutdale does run out of money, will local voters be willing to pass a local option levy like they did in 1977, when their CETA money ran out?

Stay tuned tomorrow for a history of operating levy elections in Troutdale from 1978 to the present.

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