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Letters to the Editor

Letters, Jan. 23

Urban renewal issue important for Oregon City

To the Editor:

Everyone who cares about Oregon City should commend the Oregon City News for its extensive coverage of the city's plans to float $100 million in new bonds through its urban renewal agency. Whether you agree with the city's financial plans or not, these 20-year bonds are enormously important. Your paper's news coverage is in the highest traditions of good journalism -- extensive and thoughtful.

You presented two front page articles on this issue two weeks ago.

One of the articles covered the lawsuit filed by the Oregon City Area Sustainability PAC - ORCAS PAC -- a group I helped found. We filed the lawsuit because we oppose these bonds.

Neither I nor ORCAS PAC oppose all bonds. For example, in a recent election I voted in favor of a county bond to fund a new courthouse (it failed). Recently, I've been urging local leaders to explore floating a general obligation bond to build a civic complex for Oregon City, for a much-needed city hall. The civic center could also include a library if we can figure how to sustainably fund the library's on-going operating costs. But ORCAS opposes the city's plans for new urban renewal bonds, because of their term (20 years), and because these bonds are for two huge private developments, the Rivers and the Cove. We think the benefits from these bonds are much less than their long-term costs to our community. With these bonds in place, tax increases will be needed to provide adequate funding for parks, police, fire protection, and a host of other services that rely on local real estate taxes.

ORCAS PAC filed the lawsuit because back in 1996, a group of citizens put a charter amendment on the ballot to require the City to obtain voter approval for bonds 'of any nature.' Because the citizens had already spoken, we wanted a judge to tell us what they said. As you reported, a circuit court judge told us, basically, that the 1996 amendment left a loophole. Because of this loophole, urban renewal bonds are not covered by the voter requirement. The judge's decision is fine with us. At least now if we work to amend the charter further, we'll know we're not wasting our time.

Your second article made a point that bears repeating. There is one overriding reason that cities like Oregon City prefer to issue more expensive urban renewal bonds rather than cheaper general obligation bonds. That reason is simple: urban renewal bonds can be issued without a vote. Like many things associated with urban renewal, this causes city governments to pour things into urban renewal that shouldn't be there. It's like the tail wagging the dog. If we want to use long-term financing, we should get the best rate on our debt. The best rate is available only if we vote. So, let's vote.

If there's anyone who wants to help us change the charter to force a vote on Oregon City's urban renewal bonds, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Phil Yates

Oregon City

Right to cut trees on private land not a loophole

To the Editor:

The folks in Oak Grove and other urban areas with concerns about preserving trees ('Group wants county to better protect trees,' Jan. 16) should know that the right of a private land owner to cut trees without permission from the county is not 'a huge loophole.' This is still a remaining, although threatened, private property right. Logging is regulated by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). Permits are required from ODF prior to commercial harvest and sale of timber.

It is interesting that these urban folks are proposing tree cutting restrictions by the county in the unincorporated areas to preserve the 'urban canopy.' Most of Clackamas County is unincorporated. This part of the county has a vast amount of forest land. The citizens of Oak Grove should incorporate as a city, then they can write whatever rules they want and leave the rest of the county alone. It is typical that they don't want the proposed restrictions to apply to single-family dwellings or indivisible lots. It is always easy to come up with rules that only apply to the other guy.

My advice to you folks who love other people's trees: Look around your neighborhood for parcels with large trees, hunt up the owner and buy the land. Then you can figure out how to pay the taxes, pay the mortgage and to manage the land while keeping your neighbors happy.

Ralph Meyer

Oregon City

Donations pour in to schools via Web site

To the Editor:

Congratulations, more than $150,000 in donations have now been donated through the www.donate2educate.org school donation Web site! It is also felt that over four times that amount is brought directly to the schools after viewing the needs online. As the founder of Donate2Educate, I want to thank some special people for their encouragement and help in making the website successful. They have been important in helping schools receive items and activities that there is currently no funding for. Carol Kemhus, thank you for listening to our original idea in 2003 and encouraging us to make it happen. Thank you to Julie Peters and all Oregon City School Foundation members current and past for embracing the idea and working with us to make the website stronger and more efficient. I would also like to express a special thank you to Oregon City staff, including teachers, school board and district workers for using and enjoying the Donate2Educate. Without their help we could never make it.

This tool possible to concerned families, business, community leaders and organizations who wish to make donations directly to classrooms knowing that 100 percent of each donation goes where they decide! Oregon City Schools are currently having a contest to see how many people they can get to the www.Donate2Educate.ORG Web site before February 15, 2008. To give your favorite school, one point is awarded when you register on the website and indicate your favorite school in the'Referred by Box.' Also, each donation not only helps fund the currently unfunded in Oregon City classroom, it gives your favorite school 10 points! www.Donate2Educate.ORG is sponsored by the Oregon City Schools Foundation and run completely by volunteers.

Darleen Vaterlaus

Submit letters to the editor to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 6605 SE Lake Road, Milwaukie, OR 97222; or fax to 503-546-0724.