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Growth costs arent sustainable

Readers' Letters
by: L.E. BASKOW, Traffic flows steadily about Orenco Station near the westside MAX light-rail line. Orenco is an example of the type of transit-oriented, mixed-use projects that Metro envisions for the region. Letter writers, however, don't agree that such development is the most appropriate way for Portland to grow.

Sustainability starts with financial self-sustainability - including not subsidizing a project from other resources or a source of revenue outside of what the project itself generates (Price of growth: $10 billion, Oct. 1).

One of Metro's proposed regional strategies is the principle of 'repairing, maintaining and getting the most out of what we've already built before we build new things.' Applying that principle to future transportation options, not only is producing the steel rails for streetcars, digging up existing city streets to put them in and gumming up those streets for taxpaying motorists with obstructions like curb extensions less than eco-friendly, but it is also tearing up what is already in place.

Additionally, the upfront costs for streetcars continue to be unrecoverable through the fare box, making the whole concept anything but financially self-sustainable.

Crowding and warehousing more people into dense tenement-style housing is a downgrade in the quality of life. Forcing public policy in a direction that includes taxing motorists for transportation alternatives and existing property owners for new dense urban-heat island development is social engineering - a political mindset that is in direct contradiction to the freedom-of-choice principles this country was founded upon.

Terry Parker

Northeast Portland

Suburbs shouldn't subsidize Portland

If anything is questionable, it's TriMet's use of eminent domain to acquire properties under the guise of new transit construction, and then convey them to other developers or government agencies - usually at a loss to TriMet - under the guise of encouraging 'transit oriented development' (Price of growth: $10 billion, Oct. 1). Meanwhile, TriMet complains it doesn't have any money and thus cuts regional bus service for which we all pay.

Then, these new developments are either tax exempt or tax-abated, while everyone else has to raise their taxes to pay for the increased governmental services demanded by these new developments.

Why is TriMet, as a transit operating agency and not a development agency, even involved in this scheme?

If anything, this should cause a mass demand by our region to terminate TriMet as a regional entity so that Washington/ Clackamas Counties and Gresham are not forced to subsidize Portland growth while having their own transit services cut back.

Portland can pay for its own needs and services, and maybe if Portland were actually forced to pay for everything it wants, it would realize that it needs its neighbors and would stop stonewalling every regional project and actually work as a true neighbor.

Erik Halstead

Southwest Portland

Portland water good as it is

Water bureau plans that will double or triple rates on top of past rate hikes could seriously affect credibility for other projects (Price of growth: $10 billion, Oct. 1). Portland water is acknowledged to be good as it is, free of toxins that are found in other systems. Many civic groups have spent much time and energy opposing expensive plans to fix something that is not broken.

The onerous costs of centralized treatment could blow back on more players than just the water bureau.

Mary Saunders

Northeast Portland

Agencies should reform together

In your Sept. 10 editorial 'Ask first where Oregon is headed,' you present an excellent list of issues that Oregon leaders need to address. One of the listed issues that should be foremost is the need for all state agencies to work together to achieve measurable, strategic outcomes. For each important state agency to function, we need a vision, we need a strategy and we need results.

This can be coupled with the next item on the list of issues: the need to achieve true fiscal reform. If agency programs are producing measurable and meaningful results, these programs should be adequately funded. If agency programs are not producing, the programs should either be made productive or be eliminated.

As the editorial says, agencies should work together. That means yoking Oregon Department of Forestry with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife when creating forest management strategies that are measurable and effective in terms of both timber production and wildlife habitat management. That means yoking the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Oregon Water Resources Department and Oregon Fish and Wildlife when it comes to creating measurable and effective strategies for managing streams and fish habitat.

That means yoking Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon Department of Corrections and Oregon Department of Human Services when it comes to creating measurable and effective strategies for promoting public safety.

Some of this may be already happening, but much more needs to happen and it needs to be made more visibly and measurably effective.

The state entity responsible for agency goal setting and performance measurement, the Oregon Progress Board, has unfortunately lost its state funding. This program started out well, but too many state agency performance measures have been watered down or redefined in ways that make them feeble and ineffective.

Instead of goals aimed at producing meaningful and measurable results, we see too many goals based on easy-to-count activities. Instead of freeing the field of weeds, we're counting weed-puller hours and using that count to measure our progress.

We can and should do better.

Warren W. Aney

Tigard

Metro should listen to residents

Regarding the recent editorial, 'Metro's plans must be flexible' (Sept. 24), it causes one to wonder what Mr. (Michael) Jordan stands to gain by urbanizing the Stafford Basin over the objections of the vast majority of residents in the region. In the true Metro fashion, Mr. Jordan kowtows to developers at the expense of our quality of life.

Mr. Jordan needs to hear from the real people who live in this area, and not just those who are motivated by greed with dollars signs in their eyes.

Curt Sommer

West Linn

Let's not create more Molallas

Your editorial has it backwards about the cost of infrastructure required to grow 'up' instead of out (Metro's plans must be flexible, Sept. 24).

While all growth will cost taxpayers because system development charges never cover more than a fraction of the cost of infrastructure, it is well proven that growing out is far more expensive. And, we can't afford to keep chipping away at the urban edges, ruining farm and forest lands till there is nothing left.

I live near the ill-planned, land-hungry town of Molalla with its failed timber resource-based economy and a budget hovering at bankruptcy.

Molalla has the lowest SDCs around, and that caused overbuilding of residential tracts during the 'boom.' With the downturn, Molalla can't compete on any level, because it lacks the quality of life elements like parks, a vibrant downtown, family-wage jobs and good planning that should have come with well-funded, compact development.

And what is Molalla's ignorant solution? To ask for 2,200 acres of new urban reserves for a town that can barely keep its 7,000 residents - all because the unskilled local planning commission believes 'we need more houses for a bigger tax base.'

My point is, if you allow 'local vision' to trump tight, smart, compact growth principles you will only create more Molallas: ugly, overbuilt sprawl, ill-planned cheap homes with no local jobs and no ability to provide infrastructure upgrades, and residents who balk at tax increases to 'fix' all the hideous problems that come with terrible planning and low SDCs.

Susan Hansen

Molalla