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Legislators make right choices on jobs and alcohol

Local concerns about the divergent topics of economic development and liquor licenses are being aired in Salem - and so far, we think East County's legislators are doing an effective job of pushing for their constituents' best interests.

On Tuesday, Rep. Matt Wand of Troutdale won approval from the Oregon House for a bill that would require counties throughout the state to say specifically how they are spending the economic-development money they receive from the Oregon Lottery.

Multnomah County receives about $5 million a year from this source of funding. Under current law, the county is supposed to use the money for economic development, but it is not required to report how the funds are spent. The county, in fact, now directs those dollars to its general fund, where they may or may not be used for the purposes of encouraging new industries and jobs.

If Wand's House Bill 3188 is approved in the Senate and signed by the governor, Multnomah County - along with other counties - will be required to place the lottery revenues in a dedicated fund. The counties also will be required to report on the state's Transparency in Government website just how the money is spent.

This change in law would have two commendable effects: It would guarantee that money intended for economic development is actually expended toward that end, and it also will give citizens the information they need to judge just how effectively the counties are using this shared lottery revenue.

We hope that Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham, who is a co-signer on the bill, will be able to gain approval for this legislation as it moves through the Senate chamber.

Cities and liquor licenses

Meanwhile, Monnes Anderson also is fighting to give cities a greater voice in whether businesses within their communities are allowed to have a liquor license.

This issue arose most prominently in East County when Fairview police were dealing with consistent disturbances and fight-related calls at the former Gin Sun Restaurant and Lounge. The Fairview City Council recommended against renewing the establishment's license, but the Oregon Liquor Control Commission approved it anyway.

However, this issue isn't unique to Fairview. It is rare, despite severe problems that arise at some bars, for the OLCC to deny renewal of a liquor license. In 2009, for example, the commission canceled just four liquor licenses in Oregon.

Monnes Anderson's Senate Bill 36 would give cities a little more say in the process. Cities would be allowed to collect a small fee from businesses applying for a liquor license, and the OLCC would be required at least to consider a municipality's recommendation on a liquor-license application. Under current law, the OLCC 'may consider' such input from a city, but it is not mandated to do so.

It would be poor public policy to place all liquor-license power in the hands of cities, since that could lead to favoritism within some communities and also to uneven application of the law throughout the state. However, Senate Bill 36 doesn't tie the OLCC's hands - it simply forces the commission to listen to valid concerns.

We believe that this is an issue deserving full consideration, and that the bill should be debated beyond the confines of the Senate Business, Transportation and Economic Development Committee - where it was assigned. City councils and police chiefs know which establishments have constant problems with alcohol-related crime, and their concerns - while they shouldn't be controlling - ought to be heard at a higher level.