MY VOICE: Taxpayers outside of URA should not bear burden

By Eddie Garcia May 07, 2014 09:15 am
The subject of urban renewal has been one taking up much discussion, confusion, time, innuendos and differing views. After all, it is the United States of America and we welcome debate and discussions toward solving a problem.

The recent public forum that was held at the library brought out some important issues, mainly that transparency is critical not only in this program but city government in general.

 In my opinion and while on the subject of transparency and inclusion, it is not reasonable to encourage residents to attend public meetings and not allow them to comment or ask questions. A poorly managed city website doesn’t evoke transparency or the ease and convenience for residents to seek and obtain information when some of the information is outdated or non-existent.

Many Oregon cities have urban renewal programs set up to eliminate blight, the dilapidated areas containing buildings that give the city a bad light not only for its own residents but, unfortunately, an eyesore when tourists visit the city.

Where does it say that some taxpayers should bear the brunt of the city’s expenses by being the only ones paying into the general revenue fund that provides all the services to a city while certain property owners can tap the same taxpayer dollars to spruce up their privately owned buildings? 

Just because it is permissible or legal, by statute or ordinance, doesn’t make it morally or ethically correct.

 If a homeowner’s residence falls in disrepair, the city code enforcement will, at some point, begin to contact the homeowner to make repairs. So why is it that city government, through some outdated and misguided program and one not voted on by the residents, provides money for private building owners to make repairs or improve the privately owned building? 

One could argue that the upkeep of any building or structure is the responsibility of the owner.

Since 2000, over $7.7 million that would have gone into general revenue went into urban renewal. It cannot be successfully argued that the initial intent of urban renewal, as outlined in the ordinance enacted in 1999, by the council, not by the voters, providing for certain things to be achieved, have been achieved. Seek out the ordinance and read it carefully and thoroughly, especially the goals and objectives.

One can certainly argue that many of those things have not materialized. Moreover, is the fact that in business 101, a return on investment is a reasonably accepted principle. Just because the original plan didn’t contain this provision doesn’t excuse the shortsightedness of the poorly thought out plan.

Use taxpayer dollars for new jobs, new businesses, and truly eliminating blight and stimulate the local economy. If giving out taxpayer dollars is not expected to increase property values and therefore property taxes, then the plan needs to be reworked, modified, tweaked or eliminated. Shareholders have a stake in the business and hold the board of directors accountable or the board gets dismissed. 

The interests of the general public should never be secondary. When the constant message from city hall is that rates, fees and other charges need to be increased because there isn’t enough money in the fund to provide services, is not acceptable.

The taxpayers outside of the urban renewal area should not bear the brunt of paying for the services an entire community needs.

Eddie Garcia is a political consultant/radio show host. He is self-employed and lives in La Grande.