Countywide levies warrant yes votes
Washington County is an exceptional place to live and work because of our safe streets, successful people, growing economy and high quality of life. These cherished qualities are the result of many factors, some of which you'll be able to impact by voting Nov. 7.
Though the ballot will be full, take the time to check out two of the measures in particular. Measure 34-126 for libraries and Measure 34-127 for public safety. Each truly impact the qualities that make us want to live and work here.
Measure 34-126: Libraries
This measure provides critically needed funding for public libraries in 12 communities: Banks, Beaverton, Cedar Mill, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Garden Home, Hillsboro, North Plains, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin and West Slope.
Our library service is provided through a unique partnership between Washington County, the cities and non-profit library associations.
This system - Washington County Cooperative Library Services - is efficient, effective and is relied upon heavily. Over the past decade, the county's population has increased 26 percent, while use of libraries has increased 64 percent. Our libraries receive more than 3 million visits per year and about 20,000 books are checked out each day.
The libraries provide centers of community life, and their mission - to provide access for all to the world of books and information - is more important now than ever. Yet, no new operating funds have been approved since 1996 and costs keep increasing. The system operates on a shoestring budget and services have already been pared back due to these pressures.
Without passage of Measure 34-126, additional reductions in hours, book purchases and educational programs are likely.
Measure 34-126 will:
• Maintain current operations and programs at libraries across the county while enabling some hours to be restored.
• Support literacy programs for children-over 17,000 kids participate in summer reading activities each year.
• Buy new books and other materials available for all county residents to borrow.
Measure 34-126 is a 4-year levy. At 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the average homeowner would pay only about $33 per year. That's $2.75 per month.
Measure 34-127: Public Safety
This measure continues vital countywide public safety services originally approved by voters in 2000. That levy expired in June 2006.
By stretching funds for a few months, Washington County is making ends meet but will not be able to for long without passage. At stake are almost 20 percent of our special law enforcement teams, prosecutors, jail deputies and parole officers at work countywide - inside and outside cities.
Measure 34-127 is critical to outcomes like:
• Growing threats like meth and identity theft being reduced through special enforcement teams made up of county and city police.
• Juvenile crime being cut by 50 percent over the last decade through proven intervention strategies carried out countywide by specially trained counselors and police.
• The district attorney's office being able to swiftly and effectively prosecute offenders.
• The county's only jail is being operated at full capacity, minimizing early release of potentially dangerous offenders due to overcrowding.
• Innovative probation and parole work rehabilitating past offenders, a cheaper and more positive approach than returning them to jail due to future repeat offenses.
Measure 34-127 is a 4-year levy and asks 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The average homeowner would pay only about $81 per year.
Measure 34-126 and Measure 34-127 fund services that touch all residents countywide. Our library and public safety systems have excellent track records and prove each day that they use taxpayer dollars efficiently.
Not surprisingly, these measures are supported by business, community and government leaders throughout Washington County - from Forest Grove to Sherwood to Beaverton.
While seeming at first to differ in their emphasis, Measure 34-126 and Measure 34-127 are upon closer look interconnected. Investments in excellent public library services and a strong public safety system both pay off countywide in safe streets, successful kids, growing businesses and thriving communities.
They also mutually reinforce one another in helping make Washington County a special place to live and work. Measure 34-126 and Measure 34-127 - can we afford not to make these investments?
Gerald Kubiak is the Support Campaign Coordinator for Measure 34-126 and Measure 34-127.