Submitted by Casey on Wed, 12/01/2010 - 8:54pm
Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 5:30pm - 9:00pm
Our County Commissioners will hear testimony from citizens regarding a proposed vehicle registration fee increase to pay for the replacement of the Sellwood Bridge (owned by Multnomah County).
Clackamas County Commissioners Play the Shell Game
to Take Your Eyes Off Their New Vehicle Registration Fee
By Eugene Schoenheit
Several public meetings have been held in Multnomah and Clackamas Counties to discuss the Sellwood Bridge project. Estimates ranged from $56 million to repair the bridge, and $300 to $380 million to replace the bridge with another 2 lane bridge of the same type. ‘Multnomah County’ has decided to replace the bridge for $330 million and has ask for federal funding, funding from ODOT, Metro, and $22 million from Clackamas County.
On November 9th 2010, the county commissioners held a staff meeting to discuss their ‘new’ vehicle registration fee. This was the same presentation that was scheduled on June 12th 2010. In June, it was decided that with two incumbent commissioners running for office, the commissioners played a shell game with county residents and moved the meeting to after the election because they felt that it would not look good if the two incumbent commissioners running for office were seen as being in support of another new tax or fee.
The purpose of the November 9th meeting was to discuss only the Sellwood Bridge portion of the new vehicle registration fee. Since the public was not allowed to speak at that meeting, attendees could only listen while the county played their shell game again by referring to it as a $5 fee. In an earlier meeting held on September 20th 2010 between the cities and the county, it was stated that the Sellwood Bridge was only a part of the county’s vehicle registration fee plan, and that the fee could be as high as $40 per vehicle per year.
On November 9th it was revealed (again) that our county commissioners promised to give Multnomah County $22 million to construct a new Sellwood bridge. Staff stated that this new fee was for the “Sellwood Bridge construction and other investments important to the county.” It would only be a $5 fee that would be used for bonding, and was estimated to bring in about $1.7 million per year. This would be enough to make the bond payment over the next 25 years (the total cost of the bond with interest over 25 years is about $35 million). Lynn Peterson then made the statement that “money comes into the county from many sources” and that “she supported joint benefit projects.” Staff went on to say that the project is currently about $40 million short on funding (from the $330 million) and that $60 million could be saved with a re-design of the west side intersection as Multnomah County plans to do. Commissioner Ann Lininger then asked, “Why is Clackamas County’s $22 million necessary” and staff said that “the funds saved from the west side intersection could be used to fund the Portland-Milwaukie light rail line” (another shell game with your money). Congress has stated that Clackamas County funding is critical to obtaining federal matching funds.
Clackamas County commissioners have promised Tri-Met and Metro that they would spend $25 million on the Milwaukie light rail line. With the additional $22 million from the bridge project, the light rail contribution could be as high as $47 million (plus financing, bringing the total county debt on these two projects to about $75 million over the next 25 years). How many times have the Citizens voted light rail down and do the commissioners care?
On November 24th. the county commissioners conducted a public hearing on their ‘new’ $5 vehicle registration fee. About 125 people showed up, most ready to throw them out of office “one by one.” One citizen’s analogy was that the commissioners are acting as “enablers to Multnomah County’s out of control spending,” another said that “we don’t want to become Multnomah County,” more that “we need to spend our money for necessary roads projects in Clackamas County,” and others that the commissioners “are supposed to be working for us in Clackamas County rather than for Multnomah County’s interests.” There were many times that comments from attendees brought general uproar from the audience.
Before the hearing on November 24th, Americans For Prosperity conducted a random survey of Clackamas County residents. Of the 1257 residents that responded to the survey: 76% said “No” to paying $22 million to replace the Sellwood Bridge in Multnomah County; 84% said “No” to the ‘new’ Vehicle Registration Fee; and, 72% said “No” to light rail and it’s funding.
Currently, the county is planning to meet with the cities again in January to discuss the costs of “other county and city projects” they wish to add to their new vehicle registration fee that could be as high as $40 per vehicle, per year. Expect the county to add this tax / fee next year (without a vote) when you’re not looking.