Under normal economic circumstances, we would be eager to recommend voter approval of $125 million in bonds to improve the Oregon Zoo, the state's most visited attraction.

We think most voters are sympathetic to the zoo's cause as well

The zoo, after all, is a special place where more than 1.5 million visitors annually gather in excitement to observe and learn about a diverse array of wildlife.

Yet, nearly 50 years later, many features of the zoo are tired, inadequate for the appropriate and most humane treatment of animals, and highly inefficient when it comes to the use of resources such as water.

But in this economy, we think voters should put immediate needs first. In our mind, education and public safety come first. Measures like improving the zoo fall next in line.

That's why we think that the voters should approve Measure 26-96 only if they feel they can afford the costs, estimated at 9 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.

If the measure goes down, we would like to see the Metro Council try again, but only after the economy improves to a level of stability equal to this past January. We love the zoo but the current economic uncertainties make the measure's timing tough to support.

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