Vote yes on city’s local option safety levy

By Observer editorial October 20, 2010 01:50 pm
Voters in La Grande have an important choice to make Nov. 2 regarding city services. A five-year option levy for public safety would ensure that services continue at current levels. Rejection of the levy would mean the city will have to cut back more than it already has.
Bottom line, that is the choice we have to make when deciding how to cast our vote on the option levy. Are we willing to do with less when it comes to city services — fire, police and even full operation of the library and pool?

We shouldn’t be. Now more than ever La Grande needs intact police and fire services. The levy would ensure that. Voters should support the levy.

These days, the public is generally dissatisfied with government at all levels. But nowhere is government more closely associated with citizens than at the local level. Dissatisfaction with the state or federal government should not be confused with the important services local government provides. La Grande needs 24/7 fire and police services. Sacrificing the pool or library doesn’t make sense either when the cost to taxpayers is fairly reasonable.

The levy for $500,000 a year would cost taxpayers about $1 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $150 a year for a $150,000 home. By the time the levy goes into effect next year, La Grande’s pool bond will be retired, saving taxpayers about 50 cents per $1,000 of value. The net increase, then, would be 50 cents, or $75 for that $150,000 property. That’s $75 a year to help ensure adequate city services.

The Observer has previously taken issue with the city and its employees over what appeared to be an inability to do a better job of controlling expenses, most of which are related to labor costs. Eighty percent of employees, through their bargaining groups, did accept pay freezes, including police and fire. While it seems concessions on the part of employees could have been greater, this is not the time to jeopardize city services or take out frustrations on the police and fire departments.

Crime and emergency responses in La Grande are not going down. In fact, they are up tremendously. To further cut personnel doesn’t make sense.

And it’s not time to sacrifice services like the pool and library. If we want job growth, if we want businesses to locate here, and we should, cutting essential services and even amenities like the pool and library would amount to cutting our own throats. Economic development prospects consider an area’s schools, public safety and amenities when deciding where to expand.

We need to get behind this levy — both for the sake of public safety and for what a drastic cut in services would mean for La Grande’s future. Please vote yes.