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Making the right rail choice, not the easy one

Clackamas County Commissioners approved financing of $19.9 million and settlement terms to fulfill the county’s obligation to fund Portland-Milwaukie light rail.

Wednesday night’s meeting was the culmination of years of public discussion about the Orange Line. County Commissioners heard close to six hours of testimony from over 80 citizens. More than half spoke in support of light rail or the proposed agreement. In the end, county commissioners made a tough decision that serves the best long-term interest of our community.

The agreement saves Clackamas County millions of dollars and addresses input we have received to minimize project costs. In February 2010, the county entered into a binding contract to provide $25 million to support this project. Through a combination of TriMet concessions, in-kind contributions, and use of additional transportation funds from Congress, this agreement enables the county to reduce the amount of borrowing to fulfill this obligation by just over $5 million and to avoid a late payment penalty of up to $1.25 million. As commissioners, it would be reckless to pass up those savings in favor of litigation over a ballot measure that lawyers say won’t apply to this project anyway.

The agreement includes terms to address residents’ interest in security and pedestrian safety. The Park Avenue Station platform will be designed to convert to a closed platform accessible only to ticketed passengers. The station will be equipped with security cameras and TriMet will participate in a multi-jurisdictional planning team proposed by our sheriff to support the safe operation of the rail line. The project will include sidewalks, a signalized crossing, and other features to keep pedestrians safe.

This agreement also supports Clackamas County’s ability to foster economic growth. If county commissioners were to walk away from the contract with TriMet, we would stand to lose more than $25 million. We could hurt our ability to attract future transportation funds. In the last 10 years, Clackamas County has leveraged over $140 million from regional, state and federal partners to construct critical road improvements. Those improvements helped the private sector create new businesses and thousands of new jobs in and around the Clackamas Industrial Area. This is how we foster economic growth. If we won’t keep our end of the bargain when it’s our turn to support a regional project, Clackamas County will be left to stew in its own traffic jams while funds go to other places.

In the end, the county had two options — an uncertain higher-cost option, and a lower-cost option that incorporated community input. The choice we made was not an easy one, but I believe it was the right one.

Ann Lininger

Clackamas County commissioner

Positively Clackamissed the point

David Gray and Chuck Berlund are welcome to call me all the names they’d like (Letters, Aug. 22), but accusing me of “throwing accusations” is just not true. Positively Clackamas cannot deny what money it has registered with the Secretary of State. Just look at their page online and follow the money.

The bulk of the money ($5,000) comes from a PAC called Yes for Transit, which hasn’t felt inspired to update its Orestar page for the past year, but is apparently still being used to funnel money to other like-minded PACs. The next biggest contributors ($1,550) are politicians, most affiliated with Metro but a few from Clackamas County as well. The remaining 15 percent ($1,250) of contributions were done in increments less than $100 so they are not traceable via Orestar. Although I doubt it is an accurate assumption, for the sake of argument, let’s say the whole 15 percent is from concerned Clackamas County citizens; 15 percent does not a huge ground swelling of local support make.

I will vote Yes for 3-401 because it is what the actual people; taxpayers, road users, bus users and people who thought they’d already voted twice to keep light rail out of Clackamas County in the late 1990s, want.

I will vote Yes for 3-401 because real, long-term jobs are not generated by light rail. Real jobs and usefulness lay within a strong bus system. TriMet buses require more people to maintain and drive them, allow the flexibility of adjustable routes instead of one set in stone, and are more cost-effective.

Libby Wentz

Gladstone

Don’t be fooled

Clackamas County voters are being asked to severely restrain their elected county commissioners in Measure 3-401, an anti-government initiative sponsored by the extremist Tea Party, funded heavily by out-of-county money. Don’t be fooled by the measure or the hollow cries of “Let the people vote!”

Measure 3-401 would prevent commissioners from spending any money at all on rail-related issues in the county without first submitting that expenditure to county voters. Not one dime. This is a ridiculous idea.

While supposedly aimed at stopping the TriMet Orange Line, which will link downtown Portland with Oak Grove and Milwaukie now under construction, several lawyers have said this measure would have no impact on that line, only on future projects involving rail in the county. The $1.45 billion project, of which the county is committed to less than $23 million, is a done deal legally.

Wording of the measure is very cunning. Without much thought, most people would see the words “light rail” and vote yes, thinking they’re voting in favor of light rail. Wrong! This is a cheap trick and county voters should see through this sham and vote “No.”

In America, in Oregon, and in Clackamas County, we elect people to represent us and make complex multimillion dollar decisions for us. This is exactly why our founding fathers chose a representative democracy instead of a direct democracy. If everyone voted on everything, it would take forever to get anything done.

As the Tea Party tries to channel angry-voter energy against a supposed big-spending county government, their efforts are off-base. The recently adopted county budget is $24 million less than last year, including the $125,000 to hold this election. And a recent survey showed 75 percent of our citizens feel the county is doing a good job.

It is imperative Clackamas County keep pace with the job-creating activity in Washington and Multnomah counties. A solid transportation system is a key requirement of economic success, and so is a smoothly functioning elected government. We must not be left behind.

Measure 3-401 is very, very badly worded and its impact goes way, way too far. A “No” vote is the only reasonable response.

Peter Toll

West Linn

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