BUDGET COMMITTEE NEEDS MORE ROOM

May 14, 2001 11:00 pm

City of La Grande staff and managers spend a lot of time preparing the annual budget document for consideration by the budget committee and the public. The presentation of the budget to the committee and consequently the public is an important step in keeping people informed about the services local government provides.

Budget hearings are an important process, but too often citizens find the process boring and time- consuming. La Grande reached out to the public by telecasting its meetings on the local cable access channel. But while doing so, it seemed to have forgotten about the people who attended last weeks meetings.

Public comment is welcome at the budget hearings. But at Tuesdays meeting, the best view of the discussions was from the comfort of your living room rather than being part of the audience at the meeting. There was no view if you were at the meeting.

The horseshoe seating arrangement for the 14-member committee, which had been changed from the first meeting, wasnt conducive to participation by the 30 or so people in the audience at the council chambers. In fact, not only were the backs of the committee members to most of the audience, but those making presentations to the committee also addressed the backs of half the committee. And when some committee members asked questions of the presenters, mainly department heads, there was no eye contact since they were facing the same direction.

The obvious solution is to move to a bigger room, such as one at the Blue Mountain Conference Center, Eastern Oregon University or the middle school commons. A larger room would serve the needs of the home viewing audience as well as those of the people on the budget committee and the people in the audience at the meeting.

No audience should be forced to look at the backs of heads of the committee members.

WELCOME, BUT SEND JOBS

Where in the Northwest is Dave Salesky? Anyone watching KGW-TVs morning and noon news programs Monday knew that Salesky was in one of the most beautiful spots in all of Oregon Wallowa County.

The KGW crew arrived early to do spots about some of Wallowa Countys people and attractions. Salesky interspersed his live weather reports from Wallowa Lake and Joseph with the stories.

KGWs visit is another example of the countys ability to draw statewide and even national recognition. But the message that fails to get out in reports from visiting media is the countys economic struggles and the need for more jobs.

Tourism alone wont ensure Wallowa County the kind of economy its residents need and deserve. The message Wallowa County needs to get out to the world is: Open for business. Come share our beauty and a way of life.