Washington County voters have two important community investment choices to make in the Nov. 7 general election: one is to renew a county public safety levy. The second is to approve a levy to maintain countywide library services.
The answer to both choices should be 'yes.'
Passage of Measure 34-126 would wisely invest in the Washington County Cooperative Library System, which voters helped to create in 1976 with the passage of the first countywide levy for library services. The library system is one of the area's best deals: a network of 12 city and community libraries that work cooperatively to provide a rapidly expanding number of local residents a vast array of books, videos, CDs and DVDs. (You can even get historical materials, such as those big, flat black disks that go on something called a 'turntable.')
The libraries also provide literary programs, computer labs and, in Forest Grove, a soon-to-unveiled new community meeting room. The four-year levy would cost taxpayers 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation - or $34 per year on a home valued at $200,000. That's equal to about four movie tickets or four paperback books.
Libraries are a community gold mine in Washington County. The creation of the cooperative library system greatly helped. So did voter support of previous library levies. Most recently, voter support to build or renovate city library buildings, from Sherwood to Forest Grove, have also helped.
But buildings themselves are not libraries. What happens inside, including the offering of books, audiovisual material, literary programs and computer labs are what libraries are all about. Passage of the levy would allow local libraries to maintain, and in some cases, add back operating hours that have been cut in recent years.
The cuts, which were particularly severe in Cornelius, followed voters' narrow defeat of a library levy renewal in 2002 and after a levy measure was approved in May 2004, but was not made law because voter turnout in that election fell below the required 50 percent turnout. Since then, the county has paid for these services with savings that will expire soon.
Citizens should vote for this levy and support library services the same way they read and enjoy the use of local libraries, which has increased 64 percent since 1996.
Voters should also approve Measure 34-127, a four-year levy that would renew funding for countywide public safety services. This levy is a critical component to ensuring a safe community.
In the past, the public safety measure has funded approximately 17 percent of the county's justice service system. In fact, the levy funds 31 county jail deputies and corrections workers; 16 district attorney prosecutors and staff; 59 county deputies and support staff; three juvenile counselors and 12 probation and patrol officers; would update 9-1-1 equipment and also would help fund community-based victim and emergency shelters.
This levy is not about just arresting and locking up bad people. While that is very important, this levy would fund effective justice services that seek in advance to break the cycle of crime and also aid the victims of crime. And this is not just a county measure. After all, it is the county's jailers, district attorneys and parole officers who work with criminals arrested by city police officers.
Renewal of this measure would cost 42 cents per $1,000 assessed valuations, a penny less than taxpayers have paid for the past county justice service levy which expired on June 30.
No one really likes taxes, but a safe community and a literate community are among the best investments that taxpayers can make. On Nov. 7, vote for Public Safety Measure 34-127 and the Countywide Library Services Measure 34-126.