Team 3s focus is all wrong in Cornelius
- Dave Schamp
- Forest Grove News-Times - Opinion
Team 3... should be working to bring the number of Cornelius police officers up... and getting the municipal court back.
Team 3 was elected based on a pledge to reduce fees in hopes of stimulating business growth in Cornelius.
They've got it all wrong. There's no evidence that reduced fees will bring new businesses to Cornelius. Instead, reducing fees could lead to increased crime.
Team 3 (Mayor Neal Knight, City Councilors Mari Gottwald and Jamie Minshall) has promised to eliminate the General Services Fee and seems intent on making it happen. Doing so would allow Mayor Knight to avoid paying about $2,500 a year on his commercial properties, but save single family home owners only $7 a month. The major impact of eliminating the fee would be reducing the city's General Fund revenue by about $480,000.
Over 50 percent of the General Fund goes to pay for police and fire services. The police department gets the largest piece of the General Fund pie at 37 percent and according to Police Chief Paul Rubenstein, elimination of the General Services Fee will have a negative impact on police services.
Police coverage in Cornelius is already among the lowest in Oregon. The statewide average for city police officers is 1.59 per 1,000 residents. According to the adopted 2011-12 budget, Cornelius only has 1.13 officers per 1,000 residents and that assumes the Police Chief isn't the acting city manager. Forest Grove has 1.36 and Hillsboro has 1.30 officers per 1,000 residents.
Cornelius suffers from a higher crime rate than nearby cities. Both Forest Grove and Hillsboro have lower rates of assaults and burglaries than Cornelius. In fact, in 2009, Hillsboro experienced less than half the number of assaults and burglaries per 1,000 residents than Cornelius.
Recently, Mayor Knight released a statement claiming, 'No city operations were affected by the decision to replace the city manager with the Police Chief…' He's wrong, and failed to tell the citizens of Cornelius that because the police chief is the acting city manager, overtime costs for the police department have gone up by more than $6,000 a month. He also fails to mention that because others within the department have had their assignments changed as a result of the loss of the chief. An additional $1,000 a month is being paid in differentials.
There's a much bigger concern than the $7,000 in added monthly costs to the police budget caused by the chief's temporary assignment. When you add the loss of the chief being unavailable to perform his police-related duties to the elimination of the officer that could have been paid for with the $110,000 shifted out of the police budget to pay the city manager's severance, the already over-taxed police department is in effect now short two more officers.
The police chief is doing a stellar job as interim city manager, but city operations have been affected and it's costing Cornelius taxpayers money in added overtime and reduced police coverage.
An adequately funded police department is critical to reducing crime - a concept lost on Team 3. Councilor Gottwald continues to complain about the city not using its $40,000 graffiti removal machine purchased with grant funds. Apparently, she wants to spend city tax dollars to clean up private property. Where does that end?
If a burglar broke down your door, should the taxpayers be saddled with its replacement? No. So why should a privately owned fence or wall be scrubbed of graffiti using taxpayer dollars?
Again, the focus and priorities of Councilor Gottwald and Team 3 are all wrong. They should be working to bring the number of Cornelius police officers up to an effective level and getting the municipal court back on its feet so that the creeps painting the graffiti can be caught and prosecuted.
Instead of focusing their energy on finding ways to expand and improve police services, Team 3 continues to make cutting a critical source of General Fund revenue their priority, threatening the department's budget and ability to ensure the safety of the city's 11,000 citizens.
Businesses interested in relocating to Cornelius are much more likely to be attracted by a crime-free and safe environment for their employees and customers than low fees.
As a concerned Cornelius resident and taxpayer, I strongly urge my neighbors to consider the facts above. Please help maintain the safety of our city by voting 'yes' to recall Mayor Knight and Councilors Gottwald and Minshall.