By editorial board • 

We don't see urgency in new stormwater program

City officials were met with “anger, interruptions and walkouts,” our story recounted, when they set out last week to engage the public on the proposed three-year phase-in of a new stormwater runoff fee.

Are we surprised? Not at all.

Disappointed perhaps, but not so much in the opposition as in its angry ill-mannered presentation by at least some of our fellow residents. Opponents stand a much better chance of being heard and heeded if they make their case with at least a modicum of restraint and professionalism.

The city’s appetite for additional revenue over recent years has been well-documented in the pages of this paper. It has pushed some measures through, thrown in the towel on others and decided to hold some in abeyance for future consideration.

Individually, many — if not most — have made some sense. But collectively, the litany has begun to aggravate and irritate a significant portion of the electorate — and that portion will be sorely needed if the city is to ever move forward on its ambitious plans for more than $100 million in new library, community center, aquatic center and senior center facilities.

For those and other ambitious plans it has in the hopper, including redevelopment of the RB Rubber site, adjacent Alpine District and Three Mile Lane corridor, it will also need the active support of MIP, MEDP and the McMinnville Chamber. Yet it faced a united wall of opposition from them in an effort to impose a four-part package of sewer, water and electricity hikes two years ago.

The city ended up moving forward on just one, a $13-a-month surcharge on Water & Light bills. Unfortunately, it has served ever since as a focal point for public opposition.

The rub is this:

The surcharge not only lacks linkage with local utility needs, but also with any particular city needs. It simply funnels additional money into the city’s general fund.

For that reason, we joined in opposition. We think fees enacted by public bodies should support a related service.

The city’s proposed stormwater runoff fee meets that test, of course.

However, given the city’s aggressive revenue-raising record of recent years, and the cost it may well carry in future votes on both candidates and measures, we question the timing. Wherein lies the urgency?

The city is pinning its case largely on onerous new state stormwater regulations that could be imposed at some point over the course of the coming years. Or not, as there is no hard and fast deadline.

The state begins upping its compliance demands around the 50,000 population mark. And even lumping in Dayton and Lafayette, as the state is proposing, gives us a potentially significant period of breathing room.

We thought Councilor Adam Garvin best captured our thoughts when he said:

“I definitely see where eventually there could be a need for this. For me, it’s more of a dance of timing. With some recent fees coming online, that $1.50 gradually coming back online from the fire district, and things like that, I just don’t really know if today is the right time.”

We applauded the city’s move to create an independent fire district. We accepted its move to gradually phase the associated taxing authority back in. And we would love to see it find a palatably affordable way to replace new high-use community facilities now nearing the end of their useful lives.

But we counsel patience and restraint. Pushing the pace past the breaking point for partners and constituents could carry some truly unfortunate ramifications.

Residents are clamoring for new initiatives to address homelessness. Stormwater, not so much.

Aesop’s Fables established the maxim, “Slow but steady wins the race,” around 620 BCE. And it still holds true today, more than 25 centuries later.


Don Dix

The 'urgency' isn't about 'stormwater' -- it's about $4M annually!

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable