By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Need a lead for city budget story

Thought-provoking news and commentary articles often begin with a lead paragraph giving readers a succinct summary of the most important facts.

Good luck with ideas to capsulize Tuesday night’s McMinnville City Council meeting! Instead, here are several “leads” that each could inspire a stand-alone column.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column


McMinnville Mayor Scott Hill, a consummate citizen public servant for three decades, announced his pending move to Utah due to “extended family health issues.”

His resignation from office is effective May 24, and he recommended the appointment of council President Remy Drabkin as interim mayor until the November election.

Talk about “burying the lead!” That surprise statement came at the end of a long meeting about controversial utility fee increases proposed to balance the city’s 2022-23 budget.

A few highlights:

“I’m failing to understand,” said family business owner Sandy Feston, “why the question has not been answered as to how the city of McMinnville ended up in this situation … We are talking not only about making up years of failed budgets, but also absorbing current increased operating costs.”

Business groups testified against the 10 percent fees on water, electricity and sewer services:

McMinnville Industrial Promotion: “At a time when citizens and businesses are struggling with impacts from the pandemic, facing inflation rates at a 40-year high, and are feeling the effects of a spike in gas prices, a surprise increase in water and light bills will not land well.”

McMinnville Economic Development Partnership: “The challenge is determining whether increasing revenues through PILOT and franchise fees will help or hinder our community in the long run, and how these rates will influence future decision-making factors that encourage the location, formation and growth of traded-sectors firms in McMinnville.”

McMinnville Chamber of Commerce: “These fees will adversely affect our business community, and the residents of McMinnville … We have asked questions about the financial situation, and we have not had answers to tell us the exact issues.”

Both McMinnville Water & Light and its largest customer, Cascade Steel, questioned the legality of dramatic increases in fees on electricity. Portland attorney Rachel Lee testified that “Cascade Steel has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders and intends to consider all its options, including a judicial challenge.”

Some councilors defended the extra revenue, but acknowledged needs to improve public communications on volatile city initiatives. They tabled the resolutions, scheduled future public hearings, and left us wondering what the lead will be for the next big budget story.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


Don Dix

Maybe that award of being the #2 downtown in the nation has the administration always chasing 'the next big, shiny idea', and not tending to what is right in front of them.

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