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Cities' annexation overtures fall on deaf ears

Annexation boasting by the city of Happy Valley is revealing, although not surprising (Mayors: Aggressive agenda for 2014,” Jan. 29).

Why does Happy Valley have such a big ego...like we all have to agree with them and step aside? They are creating animosity among unincorporated property owners who pay property taxes for urban services on par or better than that provided by that city or Milwaukie. Where is the incentive to annex? We are concerned with their spider annexations (aka island annexations).

Who services Clackamas Highway now where Happy Valley has run their city limits down the highway to wherever they want to annex, usually a single parcel like Camp Withycombe, a public property? They avoid and bypass problem properties and non-productive tax bases, such ugly storage yards and unkept properties, and the myriad of county zoning and land-use violations. Homes requiring a high level of urban services are bypassed because of their inadequate property tax-revenue stream.

The city of Milwaukie’s advocacy to protect Three Creeks Natural Area, ancient oak stands and associated habitat from road building is very admirable, though, and they are doing a better job to advocate protection and restoration than our county commissioners and administration.

Exhibit A, the recent county Transportation Plan Update process. City leaders are responding to their neighborhood’s concerns. The city’s common-sense transportation planning is refreshing, showing balance between growth speculation, sprawl development and freeways vs protection of our established neighborhoods and natural areas. The city has a reason to protect these natural areas — they capture the needed precipitation and replenish the city’s domestic water supply, drawn by wells from the aquifer.

The city has also been diligently pursuing restoration of the Kellogg Creek Estuary and mouth at the old “Super Highway” (of the Great Depression Era) crossing the creek’s historic floodplain. The damming of the healthy fisheries of the previously-named Cold Water Creek of the

Joseph Kellogg days of the 1850s may have been considered appropriate 150 years ago, but not today. And what help has been offered by the county responsible for up-stream urban sprawl, filling floodplains and wetlands, clear-cutting virgin forest, allowing poisons, chemicals and silt to flow unchecked to the Willamette River? Not exactly healthy for the return of salmon to their rightful habitat.

The habitat re-creations of beavers are thwarted with trapping and bureaucratic ignorance, destroying free labor and expert capital improvements, so we can pay millions for holes in the ground being passed off as water-quality treatment and minor stormwater detention, while letting our natural areas and systems become disconnected, fragmented, flashed-over by heavy rains and polluted by big projects, such as freeways and nine-lane shopping boulevards.

A $20 million bridge solution (reconstructing the McLoughlin Boulevard crossing) also requires the county’s assistance to clean up the mess and reconstruct the state and local roads crossing the estuary, including dealing with the good-neighbor “wastewater” treatment plant (er, what we call sewer plants).

The light-rail train project from Portland to Park Avenue could have solved the entire problem (within the estuary) with a different route through downtown Milwaukie, combining its crossing with eight lanes of traffic, but our leadership ignored the planning and funding opportunities. The dam is still there, and ODOT and our state legislative leadership sit on their hands. They say there are bigger priorities like building more freeways to promote more urban sprawl and force expansion of our region’s Urban Growth Boundary! The city hasn’t given up, though, working with a nonprofit toward securing long-term funding to repair and protect these natural areas in perpetuity! Salmon might return in my lifetime!

The Board of County Commissioners have a legal responsibility to assure the urban services for which we are paying through special service districts. No one can convince me Happy Valley or Milwaukie can provide a more superior service level that our existing paid services! So their annexation overtures are falling on deaf ears.

The only difference I can see is that we have to deal with all these special districts separately, rather than walk down to a city council meeting and ask our elected officials to help us. The drive to the Red Soils county campus and the myriad other special service district offices gets challenging, especially when the county commissioners moved development services to the rural headquarters in Oregon City. Doesn’t help the urban North Clackamas, unincorporated, voter base...the people that determine who gets elected in this county, other than our neighboring city voters.

Come on county commissioners. You can do better for our urban area. We don’t siphon off rural dollars as some claim. What few dollars does the rural area generate in property taxes, compared to our north urban area of the county, cities included?

Pat Russell is a resident of unincorporated Milwaukie.



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