By editorial board • 

Portland follies easily flow south to Salem

 

On April 28, The Oregonian reported:

"The path to riches in Portland Mayor Charlie Hales' final budget has been paved with 'unprecedented revenue growth,' according to a new financial forecast released Thursday. City budget crunchers say Hales will have $492.8 mllion for his discretionary general fund, a figure that includes a $25.6 million surplus for spending on new programs or services."

You'd think Portland's lame duck mayor, being hounded from office over his manifest failings as a steward of city values and resources, would bless this bit of fine fortune. You'd think he'd seize the opportunity to ease from the stage with some modcum of grace. But he quickly dispelled that.

Four days later, The Oregonian brought us up to speed with this nugget:

"Portland Mayor Charlie Hales unveiled the most controversial budget of his tenure Monday — proposing tax hikes on businesses, despite record city revenues — to pay for a long list of new initiatives in public safety and housing... The fireworks represent a remarkable turn of events in what easily could have been a cheerful budget with an already-big surplus."

Despite being blessed with a sumptuous surplus, the mayor is proposing a 14 percent hike in the local business bite. This in a city that recently enacted an arts tax, has a gas tax on the May 17 ballot, diverts millions into school support and has a history of tapping sewer and water funds for utterly unrelated projects. A city that supplied the votes to pass an infamous pair of state business tax hikes a few years back, and figures to supply a new outpouring for a November initiative proposing a new business tax of gargantuan proportions.

It seems the Portalnd inner circle can not only envision taxes to address crumbling roads and soaring rents, but also pet projects like patronage of the arts. And most of these taxes appear aimed at the engine that produces that rich reservoir of revenue in the first place — the business community.

Hales did find one place to cut. He is proposing to slash $200,000 from the auditor, hamstringing efforts to provide some semblance of oversight on mayoral ambition.

Surprised? Of course not.

So, why should we care down here in bucolic Yamhill County, far from the hustle and bustle of the big city? Here's why:

Portland represents the leading edge of Democratic Party politics in Oregon. The city serves as an incubator for its initiatives and champions. What you see in today in Portland you can expect to see tomorrow in Salem.

The problem is, while you can't seem to trust Democrats with your pocketbook, you can't seem to trust Republicans with much of anything else these days. All too often, they have gone from making the wheels of government turn efficiently to sabotaging the very engine of state itself.

Where is the vision, spirit and drive of Tom McCall, Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood? If the Republican Party is to reassert itself anytime soon as a credible alternative, it needs more candidates capable of actually moving forward in the face of today's challenges, not simply digging in their heels and pining for simpler times.

 

Comments

Don Dix

"The problem is, while you can't seem to trust Democrats with your pocketbook, you can't seem to trust Republicans with much of anything else these days."

'Politicians' and 'trust' are mutually exclusive terms -- have been for some time!

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