Services are essential to our quality of life

SECOND OPINION • Will Measure 28 bail out incompetent bureaucrats or preserve needed programs?

'Only in Oregon,' said my East Coast friends visiting in 1990.ÊProminently displayed in the window of a newly vacated local restaurant was the sign to which my friends referred.ÊIt said simply, 'Don't worry, the plants are being watered.' Troubled inquirers could rest assured that the plants left behind in the move were cared for.

My friends marveled that in their city, people stepped over addicts and the mentally ill on the street Ñ while here in Oregon, house plants received more attention.ÊAt that moment, I was truly proud, if not a little smug, about the way we do things here in Oregon.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the booming '90s.ÊOregon is faced with critical choices about whether we continue to strengthen our community by investing in the important human service, education and public safety initiatives that make our state great. The choices before Oregonians are difficult in all of our many communities.

To address the decline in our economy and a growing budget gap, the state Legislature has proposed drastic cuts to literally all essential services, which will result in shortened school years, prison closures, more elderly in nursing homes, and more mentally ill and addicts on the streets.Ê

These state reductions cascade down to local governments, where even further cuts are being made.ÊOur safety net is eroding.ÊIs this going to result in the Oregon we want?

The only immediate way to prevent many of these consequences is to pass Measure 28, the temporary income tax increase.

While not a lasting solution and clearly a burden for some (the typical Oregonian will pay $9 more a month), the measure provides a pivotal stopgap. It preserves critical services until we can all pull together to work on a long-term solution Ñ one that does not leave behind the most frailest and most vulnerable in our community.

We need such a solution to make Oregon a place where our kids are well educated, our elderly are maintained independently in their own homes and our addicted and mentally ill are given the help they need.Ê

As Oregonians, let's create the kind of solution that attracts businesses to our area for its quality of life, our vibrant and diverse communities, and our compassion not only for houseplants but also for all Oregonians.

Until we can create that long-term solution, please vote for Measure 28 with pride.

Mary Monnat is president and chief executive officer of Tualatin Valley Centers. She has worked in the field of mental health and addiction since 1983.