Yes on 9-83 (Bend Street Bond) | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Yes on 9-83 (Bend Street Bond)

It's a favorite shell game played by politicians all over the country and Central Oregon is no exception; it's called Hide the Tax Increase. And it works like this: A city or other taxing entity sees the sunset of a temporary tax coming over the horizon and, being government, it finds a way to reallocate that money to another unfunded need at no "new" cost to taxpayers. It's happening right now in Bend as city leaders attempt to convince voters to replace the soon-to-expire downtown urban renewal tax - that's right, you've been paying it for years without even knowing it - with a new $30 million road improvement bond designed to address Bend's growing backlog of road improvement work, which today stands at roughly $100 million. The impact on individual homeowners - like most funding measures, it's a property tax assessment - varies, depending on how much your home, or homes, are valued at. But it comes to about $81 per house for the owner of a home valued at $300,000.

Even Bend's mayor, Jeff Eager, has had a hard time mustering enthusiasm for a tax measure in the current climate, telling KTVZ in February that he supported letting voters decide the issue. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

However, the needs are real. Thanks to 10 years of rapid growth, Bend's streets are in many places literally crumbling. In other places they are well below modern standards with insufficient shoulders, no bike lanes and sidewalks. That's a dangerous situation for motorists and pedestrians. The street bond, if approved, will help address some of those shortcomings, particularly on Reed Market Road, one of the city's major east-west connectors that is woefully out of date. While there is certainly room for debate about the worthiness of some of the projects, such as the Simpson Avenue and Mt. Washington roundabout (You're welcome, Broken Top!) and the Empire Avenue and 18th roundabout (for all that Juniper Ridge traffic... ), the vast majority of the projects will alleviate existing problems that cause headaches for motorists and pedestrians alike on a daily basis. But we're also concerned that one of the major pedestrian-oriented projects, the Century/14th Street reconstruction is contingent on funding being available after the other car-oriented projects are finished.

However, the reality is that the streets aren't going to get better without local investment and the bill is only going to grow as the roads fall further behind the times and construction costs increase. For those who are holding out hope that the builders will come to the rescue with a big check, we're sorry to inform that the only check coming is a reality check. The projects identified by the city are largely ineligible for funding through the SDC program, even if the program had money, which it doesn't. Perhaps there's a lesson here about biting off more than we can chew and the perils of growth at all cost. But that's a discussion for another day. The only question is this: Now that the bill for our boom years has come due, will we pay up, or will we fall further in arrears?

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