Should people in Molalla decide what is best for families who live near Lake Oswego? Should Damascus residents decide what happens in Oak Grove? We think local residents know what is right for their neighborhood. That is why we support measure 3-388, which would increase local control of urban renewal decisions.
Many people in our community are struggling. Thousands in the construction and manufacturing sectors are out of work. Roads, sewers and sidewalks that were built decades ago need maintenance. Voters do not want to pay higher taxes.
Urban renewal is a tool that can help fix these problems without raising taxes. When an urban renewal district is formed, some of the property taxes that residents of that area would pay anyways are directed to improve roads, sewers and sidewalks in that neighborhood. Urban renewal prioritizes the spending of local tax dollars that would be collected under any circumstances so that a blighted neighborhood can fix its problems and attract jobs.
This November, Clackamas County voters will choose whether there should be a local vote, a countrywide vote, or no vote before county commissioners can create a new urban renewal area in unincorporated Clackamas County.
We support local voting, so we support measure 3-388. A local vote would let residents within the boundaries of a proposed urban renewal district - those who best understand their neighborhood's needs - decide whether the proposed district makes sense.
A different measure would require a countywide vote before an urban renewal district could be formed. That measure would essentially eliminate urban renewal as a way to prioritize public investment, create jobs and fix deteriorating systems in much of the county. It would ask residents of a place bigger than Rhode Island to weigh in on whether to use a specific financing tool to support road work in a neighborhood they may have never visited. That doesn't make sense.
A large coalition of community leaders supports requiring a local vote. They include major employers Terry Aarnio of Oregon Iron Works and Lowell Miles of Miles Fiberglass, community members from Oak Grove and the Molalla area, John Mohlis of the Oregon Building Trades Council, the Clackamas County Business Alliance, nonprofit board members, teachers, environmental protection advocates, the Westside Economic Alliance, the Home Builders of Metropolitan Portland, and many local mayors.
The members of this coalition may not agree on much else, but they do agree that local voting on urban renewal makes sense. Local voting means local control and local jobs. It means a stronger future for our community.
Ann Lininger is a Clackamas County commissioner from Lake Oswego and Peter Watts, an attorney with Jordan Ramis PC, which is based in Lake Oswego, is president of the Clackamas County Business Alliance.