Citizens often complain that government should use incentives more and regulation less. Taxpayers often say that government programs should be more frugal and more productive.

Well, in the Nov. 7 general election, voters have a chance to match their investments with their opinions by voting to support a second round of bonding to purchase and preserve natural areas and valuable habitat within the Portland metropolitan region.

Measure 26-80, which has been placed on the ballot by Metro isn't free, but at an estimated cost of 19 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, the proposal is very frugal and very reasonable.

The $227.4 million bond measure would do four important things. First it seeks to purchase 27 areas around the region that are considered environmentally significant wildlife, trail and natural areas, including several stream corridors and urban stream headwaters deemed important for protecting water quality and fish habitats.

Second the measure would provide $44 million in funds to local cities and counties on a per-citizen based revenue sharing formula for community-based natural area acquisitions and preservation and for neighborhood parks and capital improvement projects. Third, the measure would provide grant funding for schools, non-profits such as neighborhood associations and park districts to improve the local environment. Fourth, the measure provides on-going citizen oversight and an annual independent review of the program.

Passage of this measure would continue a legacy of environmental stewardship and success that began with voter approval of Metro's first natural resource acquisition bond in the mid-1990s. That measure sought to purchase and protect 6,000 acres of land throughout the region, but actually ended up acquiring 8,100 acres of land and 74 miles of streams from willing sellers.

Looking ahead, Measure 26-80 importantly seeks to more greatly involve local governments, Metro, non-profit organizations and citizens in protecting the region's quality of life, one of the primary values that citizens specify when they list what they like about the Portland area.

A diverse group made of hundreds of civic and business leaders, city officials and ordinary citizens are supporting this measure. This tells us that even a tax can be a good deal when the money is spent well for the right reason.

Measure 26-80 is that kind of a good deal. Washington County voters ought to find it well worth a 'yes' vote in the Nov. 7 general election.

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