Ruiz: Why should we have to pay for transparency?

In a recent op-ed, Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla advocated overhauling our land use laws and increasing transparency in government agencies. I wanted to provide a followup.

I agree with Commissioner Kulla on both those issues. But I do not agree with how he plans to reach that end, at least when it comes to government transparency.

For example, I recently learned of a 5G cell phone tower being built in an area just outside McMinnville that is earmarked eventually for housing. I have friends in that area who were not notified of any such intention until after the application had been approved.

Now this is up for appeal. Could we have avoided another round of costly reconsiderations from the workings of our land use process had the residents been informed, given the opportunity to comment and offered a chance to address their concerns?

During a dialogue on Facebook with Commissioner Kulla, he said that in order to improve transparency in the land use process, the county would need to increase the fees it charges for applications.

But government transparency, ensuring robust public involvement and shared input and support, should actually save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in avoided appeals of its land use decisions.

Case in point:

The county is now on the hook to pay more than$50,000 in attorney’s fees due to a Yamhelas Westsider Trail approval by Commissioners Kulla and Olson that the current board is no long willing to defend. The county is also facing the need to return grant funds, which could run more than a million dollars.

According to the opponents and their attorneys, the lack of public notification, input and involvement was the biggest complaint leading them to fight the project in the courts.

As a small business owner, if I want to fix a part of my business that is not pulling its weight, I don’t raise the fees I charge. I find out how I can cut labor and expenses in order to put things right.

Has Commissioner Kulla requested a performance audit of the county and its funds? Has he requested a third-party review of the budget to ensure all our funds are being spent wisely? 

We are at a time when small businesses and families are counting their costs to the penny. The answer to a problem should not be raising fees again. It should be figuring out how to make things more efficient, more transparent and less costly for taxpayers.

Yamhill County has a tax rate higher than those of 18 of Oregon’s other 35 counties. It should work to become more efficient and effective with the money it’s getting now.

Brittany Ruiz serves as COO of Ruiz Partners, a management consulting firm based in McMinnville. She ran for city council in November.



are you scared of 5g to


Okay so first of all -- Small business owners (and also big businesses) ALSO raise their prices sometimes. It's so weird how we often hold up "small business owners" as the best of all of us, as though somehow the contributions and needs of our local teachers, nurses, county employees, and other working and stay at home residents of this county don't count for quite as much. Or, as though the state of being a "small business owner" automatically means the business deserves to be saved from an untimely demise even if the owner decides not to raise their prices when the cost of production goes up.

But all that aside, what Ruiz is proposing here is that the county use general fund (property tax) dollars to subsidize the cost of processing land use applications, rather than seeking to responsibly cover the cost through direct fees. That doesn't seem particularly efficient to me.

Don Dix

From the article -- Commissioner Kulla said that in order to improve transparency in the land use process, the county would need to increase the fees it charges for applications.

What? Does it (or will it) really cost more to publicly report county dealings? How many $ would it cost for a 'transparent' explanation of that premise?

Tom Hammer

Commissioner Kulla calling for transparency in government is a reminder that we should all check the County website for emails retrieved in a public records request involving plotting by the commissioner, top County staff and private interests in pursuit of the defeated Yamhelas Trail. The post was ordered at Thursday's BOC meeting.

Marvin Bernards

I think that it is interesting that you point out tax rate, but fail to point out our tax rate as a function of land values or population. Relative to our neighboring counties, we have a lower tax rate and higher land values and higher populations relative to that tax rate. That seems to me that we are getting more for our tax dollars.

What I see you proposing here is more wide spread notification for land variances, but asking the general population to use general fund tax dollars to pay for that wide spread notification. First, shouldn’t the land use applicant being paying for that increased wider notification through the permitting process and fees? Second, if you want to change to a wide notification process, don’t you think you need to change the notification requirement as set forth in the land use laws?

You repeat the claim by the trail opponents that they weren’t notified, but the reality is the notification was set out in the usual way as prescribed by the law. I would suggest that you not listen to their rhetoric and look into the reality. This trail has been an ongoing process for 15 plus years and the opposition was in discussions and meeting about the proposed trail some 10 years ago. But, it’s a nice narrative they have and you have bought into.

By the way, if you are scared of 5G, you should probably quite using a cell phone and move to somewhere like north centra Canada.

@Tim Hammer; you call it plotting, it isn’t that what you are doing when you keep talking to you lawyer about all the arguments you can raise to kill the trail idea?
Casey and anyone at the county or state didn’t do anything unethical, especially when taking into account the overwhelming support for the Yamhelas Westside Trail Project.


Brittany talking about transparency is a joke and a half! She is all too obviously Mary Starrett's next toady to run for commissioner.


If I have to hear the empty "T" word one more time, I will run amok. In these parts, it remains merely a four-syllable noun serving as a pledge but never a reality.


We all can "see through" Ruiz's (albeit Starrett's) cry for transparency!

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