EID gets shut down
Downtown property owners say ‘no’ to Economic Improvement District
The La Grande City Council voted Wednesday to not move forward with the ordinance to create an Economic Improvement District downtown.
City Manager Robert Strope said at the meeting that the city had received letters of remonstrance totaling 41.9 percent of the proposed EID assessment amount. Property owners who objected to the district needed only 33 percent to prohibit the creation of the district.
Because the ordinance was scheduled for a final reading in July, councilors had the option to wait on making a decision until then or ending the effort at its meeting.
Councilor Gary Lillard noted that the opportunity for property owners to withdraw or submit letters until July 17 only existed due to an omission in the original ordinance. Councilor John Lackey said that if the percentage were lower and closer to 33 percent, then perhaps it would make more sense for the council to wait.
Mayor Pro Tem Mary Ann Miesner asked if a Main Street representative would give testimony as to whether the council should wait until July to make a decision.
“I don’t want to split the city,” he said. “I don’t want to go out and twist arms.”
Howard said he is not sure what Main Street will do next, but he doesn’t “want to move forward with a big fight.”
In what became a heated public hearing, local attorney Steve Joseph was called out for his vocal opposition to the assessment, which he had previously described at a council meeting as a “disguised business tax.”
“When somebody comes and asks me why we don’t have those events anymore, Steve Joseph, I’m giving them your phone number and you can certainly explain it to them,” Councilor John Bozarth said.
“I’d be happy to,” Joseph said. “That’s a personal attack that I vehemently object to. Let’s talk about ... ag-timber parade. What caused that to be moved from La Grande to Island City? This council.”
Bozarth said Joseph spearheaded the effort to end the EID effort, so that’s who he would direct his comments to.
Miesner then said the council should move to close the hearing and vote to stop the ordinance effort, but first mentioned the importance of downtowns and that many are dying.
“I don’t want to hear about business owners not caring about downtown,” said Jerry Grant, owner of Mt. Emily Ale House. “I care a lot, I’ve invested a lot in this town. But you guys didn’t do things right.”
Strope recommended that the council close the hearing before it got more heated.
“I don’t know that there’s any value in continuing to belabor the point,” he said.