City hall and schools not affected in the short term

With the federal government partially shut down, and more than 800,000 workers furloughed across the country, very little has changed at a local level in Wilsonville. Though the shutdown remains in flux, as of Monday morning no resolution has been found.

Wilsonville City Hall remains open for business, as do all other municipal buildings, and meaningful impacts will only be seen if the shutdown continues for an extended period of time.

The partial shutdown began Oct. 1 after the U.S. Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution to fund government affairs for fiscal year 2014. Mail and Social Security checks will still be delivered, but all national parks — including Oregon’s Crater Lake and Mount Hood National Forest — are closed, and service has been suspended at the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon and Washington.

Wilsonville City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said the federal shutdown likely would not greatly affect the city in the short term. If Congress is unable to resolve its budgetary issues, however, he warned that programs that rely on grants and other forms of federal funding would begin to feel the impact.

At the city level, he added, that could reduce the amount of transportation funding the city receives.

“The only thing I could think of are some issues related to transit,” Cosgrove said Oct. 1. “We do get a lot of grants and operating funds that flow from the state and through Metro; that’s probably temporary, though and not longer term. That’s the only immediate thing I can think of.”

Cosgrove said the same type of government shutdown precipitated by a sudden elimination of funding likely could not happen at the state and local level.

“At the state and local level we’re required to have a balanced budget,” he said. “The federal government has a way different budget process. We have to operate on the revenues that actually come in, and if they don’t come in then you either cut your costs or find new revenues.”

That’s exactly what has taken place in the past five years, as the Great Recession has shrunk public budgets across the country at the same time as the housing market collapse has dealt the private sector a harsh economic blow.

During that time, the popularity levels of Congress and the federal government have shrunk to all-time lows. According to an Oct. 1 national poll conducted by CNN and ORC International, a marketing and research firm, only 10 percent of adults questioned expressed approval of the job Congress is doing. Fully 87 percent said they disapprove.

By comparison, President Barack Obama was given a 44 percent approval rating by the same poll. When broken down into parties, Republicans had a 32 percent approval rating and Democrats 43 percent.

Locally, Cosgrove said, that distrust has not carried over to the same extent. City surveys regularly ask people about their impression of all three levels of governance. And they consistently show that state and local government receive higher marks from citizens than their federal counterparts. The reason, Cosgrove said, is simple: location.

“No matter what survey you look at, the closer the government is to the people, the more popular it is,” he said. “The federal government is going to be less popular because they’re not as close to the people, but with local government you can come in to city hall if you have a complaint. The farther you move from the people the less popular it is.”

by: SUBMITTED - SCHRADERIn a statement, U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader lamented Congress’ inability to come to an agreement on the budget.

“Oregonians expect their Congress to work together to pass a budget, create certainty in the markets for investors and get folks back to working good, family-wage jobs,” Schrader said. “What they do not expect from us is to pound our chests over lost political causes, risk shutting down the economy and end vital services and investments they depend on.”

At the county level, Clackamas County spokesman Tim Heider said immediate effects from the federal shutdown would not come into play, but a longer timeframe could cause problems.

“There are likely no immediate impacts, as spending levels had been set per the previous budget year,” Heider said. “However, if things drag on, there may likely be some discernable impacts, and we will track those.”

Likewise, state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, said the federal shutdown would not affect the area in the short term, but understood the concern from SUBMITTED - PARRISH

“It shouldn’t have a huge impact,” Parrish said. “But it’s frustrating and confusing. ... At the end of the day, you wish Congress could be a little more like Oregon, where both parties are at the table.”

Parrish said one of the most common concerns she heard focused on how the shutdown would affect local public schools, but that “as I understand it, it should not affect schools.”

Indeed, West Linn-Wilsonville School District Administrative Assistant Kathy Ludwig said, “We do not have any impact this year to our federal funding due to the shutdown.”

Even if funding remained intact after the shutdown, some field trips in the area were not so lucky. In Scappoose, a group of fourth-grade students was scheduled to visit Mount St. Helens on Oct. 1, only to see the trip canceled when the shutdown closed the National Volcanic Monument.

Ludwig said she had not heard of any field trip cancellations in West Linn or Wilsonville.

Also closed was the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood, which includes 3,058 acres of land with an initial 12-acre private donation established at the refuge in 1993 and is normally open Tuesdays through Sundays.

The closing of the Bureau of Land Management, meanwhile, prompted the shutdown of 4,000 recreation facilities, including visitor centers, facilities, campgrounds, boat ramps and other recreation sites in Oregon and Washington.

However, according to a BLM press release, the bureau will continue “limited work,” including the inspection and enforcement activities for more than 190 oil and gas leases in Oregon and Washington, covering over 320,000 acres.

Among the BLM’s 1,994 employees in Oregon and Washington, 1,967 will be furloughed during the shutdown.

All parks, campgrounds and visitor areas operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Oregon and Southwest Washington are also closed. Customers with camping reservations can call 1-888-448-1474 to cancel and receive a refund.

Security personnel will remain on the grounds, the Corps said.

While federal workers stay home, members of Congress will continue to be paid for their service. With that in mind, Schrader made a promise in his statement.

“I firmly believe that if members of Congress fail to perform their most basic duty in passing a budget, then they do not deserve to be paid,” Schrader said. “It is in that vein that I will be donating the congressional salary I collect during the shutdown to a local Oregon charity to be named later.

“It’s time for Congress to get its act together.”

On Oct. 2, Schrader introduced a bill that would cancel pay for members of Congress during future government shutdowns.

“In the real world if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid. It should be no different for our lawmakers,” he said on his Facebook page.

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