By editorial board • 

Parks system has earned another round of support

Local residents have a track record, dating back to at least the 1970s, of supporting city parks and recreation measures. They have rejected only one in the memory of Parks Director Jay Pearson, whose tenure dates back nearly a quarter of a century now, and made amends when it was resubmitted.

In part, that may be because local officials have a track record, dating back equally far, of taking great care in the crafting of such measures. They have been diligent in laying the groundwork in advance, soliciting meaningful citizen input, spreading benefits widely, responding to vocal communities of interest and keeping a tight rein on costs.

The city is now embarking on a campaign to develop a parks bond for the 2020 ballot. It would replace a $9.5 million, 20-year bond that bucked a strong anti-tax tide in the general election of November 2000. And assuming city officials once again engage the public in a thoughtful planning process, we see no reason they shouldn’t once again be rewarded.

Thirteen city, county and school money measures were put to Yamhill County voters in the 2000 election, aimed at funding school, police, fire, road and community college endeavors, and the McMinnville parks bond was one of only two winning approval. Among the casualties were a McMinnville School District local option levy and a county emergency radio system levy.

Back in the ’70s and ’80s, voters approved measures aimed at financing library, community center, aquatic center and parks projects by commanding 2-1 margins. The roster included a parks bond, predecessor to the 2000 bond, that passed handily in 1984.

The city also has something else going for it — a legacy of delivering on its promises. And it certainly did so with the 2000 bond.

The centerpiece was 22-acre Discovery Meadows, which started out as nothing more than a flat, treeless and featureless tract of vacant land. But the city also used bond money to develop Thompson and Chegwyn Farms, renovate Wortman, City and Kiwanis Marine, give Joe Dancer 40 acres of new facilities, along with a new Marsh Lane access, and lay the groundwork for a new park about to come online in the West Hills. Along the way, it developed a new dog park and invested in hiking and biking trails as opportunities arose.

Thanks to an infusion of systems development fee money, the city was able to hold the initial tax bite to just 57 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and it eventually fell to about half that. It’s hard to pass up any deal that nets you nearly $10 million worth of park improvements for such a modest investment.

In the run-up to the 2000 election, the council had to choose between a 10-year, $6.5 million bond and a 20-year, $9.5 million bond.

Then City Manager Kent Taylor framed the issue this way for wavering councilors: “Do you want to play for a tie or do you want to go for a win?” He was rewarded with a 6-0 vote that put the city on its current course.

Here’s hoping future councils can summon an equal measure of faith and fortitude.


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