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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Politics, Society | 57 comments

Teabagger Stupidity

This is the Sellwood Bridge which crosses the Willamette River in Portland Oregon. It is nearly 90 years old and has a safety rating of 2 on a scale of 100. It is administered by by Multnomah County but 70 percent of the traffic across the bridge are commuters from Clackamas County. A new bridge will cost about 290 million dollars. Clackamas County was asked to contribute 22 million dollars – less than 10 percent of the cost – and the county agreed. They decided to asses a temporary five dollar a year surcharge on motor vehicles registration until the 22 million dollars was recovered.

An anti-everything Teabagger group was successful in getting this proposition referred to the voters.

OREGON CITY — Clackamas County voters on Tuesday resoundingly rejected contributing to the cost of replacing the Sellwood Bridge, a decision that sends Multnomah County commissioners scrambling to secure funding.

Partial returns indicated voters rejected the fee 63 percent to 37 percent.

The measure called for Clackamas County residents to pay a $5 annual vehicle registration to help raise the county’s $22 million contribution for the $290 million replacement bridge.

Voter turnout in Clackamas County was about 41 percent.

It’s now unclear if construction on the bridge will begin in a year as originally scheduled, Mike Pullen, a spokesman for Multnomah County, said Tuesday night. “It could delay the project,” he said. “It could mean the whole project takes much longer.”

The bridge will simply have to be closed down in two to eight years.  It will be Clackamas County that suffers.  They may actually be forced to take the light rail which they also fought but lost.  In this case the just say no to everything Teabaggers said no to something that they need and would have cost them a penny and a half a day.  Perhaps the US population has truly become too stupid for Democracy.

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  • I read the article — no mention of a tea party or a tea party member. I did find a reference on DailyKos, but it’s backup references were both rather generic anti-tea party rants.

    I did find a “Say NO to The Sellwood Bridge” site, but I can’t find a tea party reference on it.

    Is DailyKos the source reference here?

  • No reference to the teaparty in the corporate media but the opposition was financed by the Americans for something or an other, a teaparty organization. I know you are a teaparty person and perhaps your group is different but most teaparty types are dupes taking their orders from oligarchs like Dick Armee and the Koch brothers who’s goal is to make them all serfs in a banana republic. What John Cole refers to a “teatards.”

  • roro80

    Oh gosh, it’s that bad? I go over it on a fairly regular basis…not going to anymore.

  • StockBoyLA

    Third World country, here we come! Don’t the teabaggers understand that their tax dollars pay for roads and bridges? Along with schools, police, fire, etc?

    They should just put toll on the bridge so those who use it will pay for it. A dollar each way seems reasonable.

  • Rob

    I think my favorite part of this article is the title of it, and that it’s on a site called “The Moderate Voice” haha Wow.

  • ShannonLeee

    I believe the political strategy is to say no to most new spending, regardless of need, and to cut as much spending as possible, regardless of need.

    When you start with “no” and the other side starts with compromise, you’ve already won. If a few Americans die because of a broken down bridge…it is okay, ideology first – country second. They died for the greater good of America.

    I just hope these extremists don’t start strapping bombs to themselves.

  • ShannonLeee

    As for Prof and his group… my impression over the years is that his group is the real deal, not the 2.0 version created by Fox News.

  • EEllis

    It is nearly 90 years old and has a safety rating of 2 on a scale of 100.

    The Brooklyn bridge has a safety rating of 0. Sufficiency Rating are used to measure the overall condition of the bridge, including traffic volume, lane width, detour length and roadway alignment. A low score means the bridge is outdated not unsafe.

    Of course only one side was stated here but there were some issues that any reasonable person may be concerned with,

    10yo study used to show traffic from Clackamas county was refuted harshly by local paper (Oregonian)

    The $5 amount was originally $40 and could increase to $43

    New bridge gives more space to bikes and pedestrians than cars

    No definite cost on “contribution”

    Fees do not end after bridge would be paid for

  • ShannonLeee

    So is it a safety rating or a sufficiency rating?? are we comparing apples and oranges here or not?

  • EEllis

    I also want to make sure people realize this bridge is an internal Multnomah county bridge. It is not between the two counties or anything like that, just a bridge that people passing thru the county might use.

  • EEllis

    “Americans for something or an other”

    Wow, do they have a web site?

  • EEllis

    sufficiency rating

    the sufficiency rating alone was never meant to signal mortal danger or to prompt a bridge closure. It was designed to help federal highway managers get politics out of bridge funding, by rating bridges for high traffic, obsolete designs and other factors that don’t speak to structural integrity.

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2008/03/the_good_news_about_sellwood_b.html

  • D.R. WELCH

    It is true, sufficiency ratings (SR) are a gauge of where a bridge stands in the pecking order to be either retrofitted or replaced. The SR was developed by departments of transportation to use something like real engineering to distribute the very small percentage of highway funds set aside for maintenance. Overall ratings like the SR do however do take into consideration attributes like lane width and approach conditions which contribute to accidents. So, long story short, although the SR gives us little insight into the structural health of a bridge (will it fall down killing people in a catastrophic failure), it can give us a general sense of how many people the bridge kills on an ongoing accident basis. In this case I would be interested in seeing an accident study. With such a sad SR I would bet the bridge is partially responsible for killing people on an ongoing basis.

    At some point in this country, we need to make a financial commitment to the maintenance of existing infrastructure. Most of the bridges we drive on every day have either reached their design life of 50 years or are very close. It makes no sense to continue building new capacity (new roads/bridges, extra lanes) while these bridges literally fall down (I-35W Minnesota).

  • SteveinCH

    Perhaps it’s worth noting in passing that the budget of Clackamas county is in excess of $500 million annually, more than $800 million if other county authorities are included.

    http://www.co.clackamas.or.us/docs/finance/2010executivesummaryfinal.pdf

    Maybe the people who voted no thought that some portion of that money could be used over a period of time to fund said $22 million instead of imposing an additional tax.

    Just one more example of folks like Ron who insist that the only way to pay for something is to increase taxes. Funny that a county government couldn’t free up 1% of its budget over then next 4 or 5 years for such a critical bridge project. Nope, far better to just increase taxes so that no priorities need be set.

    The discussion on infrastructure nationally is actually quite similar. Proponents of infrastructure like to throw around numbers like $1 trillion as if they are so massive. Meanwhile government spends on the order of $6 trillion per year. So a small portion of that money over the course of say 10 years could do a lot for our infrastructure needs, if only government were to make it a priority.

  • Don Quijote

    SteveCH,
    Considering that the county has a population of approximately 390 thousand, that comes out to slightly more than $2000 a year per person, that does not strike me as being unreasonable…

    Ron,
    Having read some of the comments on that paper article you linked, there is only one solution:
    A Willamette Bridge Authority that puts a toll on every bridge that crosses the river, and then privatizing said authority so that the fine people of Oregon get exactly what they deserve, low taxes and a good regular f**king over by private enterprise…

  • DaGoat

    An anti everything Teabagger group was successful in getting this proposition referred to the voters.

    That’s terrible, next thing you know people will actually be voting on projects that cost them money and aren’t even located in their county. And as others have pointed out there is nothing in your link to suggest the Tea Party was involved.

  • Indefatigably

    What a horrible, horrible concept! Why those nasty Tea Party people (who don’t actually seem to be involved in this, but hey, why should a little thing like facts get in the way of a good smear).

    Image the gall of whoever it was, though. Who are those stupid voters to have any say in how our Overlord Masters of Government, to whom we simply need to learn to shut and obey, spend our, err..oops, THEIR money!

    After all, all money, power and decision making must be controlled by the Proper Authorities, as they know best what we really should be doing. It is all their money after all, and it is only due to their generosity we are allowed to have any money of our own in the first place.

  • SteveinCH

    @DQ

    I didn’t say the total budget was unreasonable or that the amount of taxes was, I simply pointed out that a budget of $500 million offers ample opportunity to reallocate spending to come up with $22 million over a period of 5 years.

    It would appear that it what the voters would like the government to do. That doesn’t strike me as particularly unreasonable either. But of course, the voters aren’t as smart as you or Ron to understand why they must pay more in taxes for such a modest expenditure in the context of their budget.

  • JSpencer

    All ideology based bickering aside, infrastructure needs to be maintained or it falls apart. Not only does it need to be maintained but it needs to be improved and to evolve. We are falling behind other countries in this regard, think high-speed internet and high-speed public transport for example. Taxes are the price of civilization. It’s always been this way, although I suspect the history revisionists would prefer to pretend otherwise. This quote goes to the crux if the issue: “Perhaps the US population has truly become to stupid for Democracy.” We’d better hope not, but if it is going to be more than hope we need to be honest about recognizing short-sightedness when we see it.

  • SteveinCH

    @JS

    Are you implying we are no longer taxed? I love the “taxes are the price of civilization” quote. Have you heard anyone arguing we should have no taxes?

    In this particular case, the people preferred reallocation of existing taxes to the imposition of new taxes. Now in Ron’s view, only a “teabagger” could have such a preference. How strange it is to argue that there isn’t 1% of the existing budget that could be allocated as opposed to raising taxes.

  • If you do the math, the actual per person exenditure for Clackamas County is not $2000 per person per year, it’s $1282 per person per year. At that level, my guess is that the county is bleeding just trying to maintain essential services like sheriff’s department, schools, fire protection, court systems, etc. Most localities are bleeding right now. It may be unrealistic to suggest just tranferring money within the existing budget.

    Other interesting facts. Permanent vehicle registration in Oregon is all of $15. Annual plate/tag fee is all of $23. Source: Oregon DMV website.

    Couple other things folks should know. Macadam Road is the primary roadway from major suburbs including Lake Oswego and West Lynn (both in Clackamas County). The lead up to two lane Sellwood Bridge at rush hour is a snail’s crawl, watching joggers and bicyclists breeze past you. I have a friend who lives in West Lynn and have made that awful drive with her.

    Next understand that metro Portland has what is called TriMet, a three county quasi goverment to coordinate transportation issues between Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties in the Portland metro area. So, the fact that the bridge is solely in Multnomah County doesn’t entirely answer the question.

    The topography of the area does not allow for toll booths as part of the current structure and would turn the snail’s crawl into a parking lot.

    Having said all that, the voters did speak, and their vote should be respected.

  • SteveinCH

    tidbits,

    Sorry, but I did a bit more looking at the budgets for Clackamas county at the same link I posted before.

    Here are some interesting facts.

    1. The county is sitting on reserves of roughly $91 million, more that 4 times the spending required on the bridge.

    2. The county’s proposed budget for 2010-2011 is an increase in spending of $35 million versus the projected spending for 2009-2010. That $35 million is an increase of about 7% in nominal terms.

    3. The county’s current revenue projection for 2010-2011 is roughly 4% higher than what it took in in 2008-2009.

    Beyond this of course, the notion that a 1% reallocation is “unrealistic” seems pretty unrealistic itself. From a budgetary perspective, it’s quite hard to argue that the county is “bleeding” unless bleeding is defined to mean not growing like crazy.

  • For clarification the opposition was from American’s For Prosperity, a Koch Brothers financed Tea Party Group.

  • roro80

    Yep, totally something they’re allowed to do, yay democracy and all that. The point is, they were given the choice to spend $5 to build a bridge in bad need of building, and they chose not to. I think it’s a totally stupid choice, a short-sighted choices, an astroturfed campain, and I think the Koch bros are less than interested in the safety or commutability of the greater Portland metro area. It was totally within those residents’ rights to vote against their own interests, and evidently it’s totally legal for two uber right-wing billionaires to come in and tell them that that $5 for a bridge was the liberal hippies trying to steal their money. Neat-o.

    tidbits — good point. $1200 per person is *huge*. And Oregon doesn’t have sales tax.

  • SteveinCH

    @ roro

    Well before the government asked for more money, it had the chance to allocate 1% of the budget to the task or to use money it had in reserves. It chose neither. Yay government.

  • roro80

    Again, as tidbits pointed out, it’s already bleeding red ink. Like everywhere.

  • casualobserver

    I don’t get the way the Oregon bureaucrat mind works…..if Multnomah County controls the bridge, why dont they just install a toll booth on the Multnomah side? One lane to be transponder operated and one manual lane? The manual lane can be diverted to an adjoining parcel where the folks who elect not to buy a transponder can wait in line and not hold up traffic otherwise on the bridge.

  • SteveinCH

    Again, as I pointed out, the budget numbers show it isn’t.

    Receipts are up over 2008-2009 and the budget is up as well.

    tidbits point was general, not specific and doesn’t apply very well in this case.

  • DLS

    Back in late 2008-early 2009, when there was talk of a “stimulus,” and we who have known better were willing to give the big spenders their one big chance, I said that much spending should be “capital improvement” kinds of expenditures, such as infrastructure projects, and I linked then and am linking now to the USA page (there are maps of each state, to) of structurally deficient bridges in the USA.

    http://www.bts.gov/programs/geographic_information_services/maps/structurally_deficient_bridges_on_the_national_highway_system/entire_us/html/entire_us.html

    Repairing and replacing these bridges is one example of a sensible, multi-year-beneficial kind of stimulus measure (public works that really work for the public, one might say) that was one of a number of sensible measures the Democrats failed to take.

  • R Petterson

    The real problem with this decision is the turnout of 41%. With a 63% to 37% margin, that means that 25% of the possible voters voted against the proposal and 15% voter for the proposal. This turnout gave each voter a proxy of two additional votes that allowed the decision to be made.

    It is not “Perhaps the US population has truly become to stupid for Democracy”, it is “Perhaps the US population has become too indifferent for Democracy”.

    We can blame anyone we want for decision that are made, but the blame goes to those that will not vote and help determine what direction this country moves. When you do not vote and the opposition gets the victory, you have onlyu one person to blame and that is yourself.

  • DLS

    Californians are still waiting to have the toll booths at the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge removed given that the bridges are paid for.

    Do Clackamas County residents believe, perhaps, that the small (for now, anyway) fee to pay for the new bridge would go away after the bridge was built?

    Yea, democracy — those people could have been doing other things instead like banning trans fats in food or banning circumcision, for example.

  • DLS

    The Directors of the Golden Gate Highway Bridge District said:

    The power to fix tolls rests with the Board of Directors, but the rate of toll is governed by economic considerations as the charges of any public or private service are governed. The toll schedule proposed in the beginning will produce a revenue of 84.3 cents per average vehicle, which is approximately the average toll in effect at the Carquinez bridge and lower by approximately fifteen percent than the present average San Francisco-Sausalito ferry rate.

    Tolls will be progressively decreased as earnings warrant to a minimum of 25 cents during the last ten years.

    Under the system of financing adopted, the bridge district lends its credit only, and reliance is placed on the demonstrated ability of the toll bridge to redeem the bonds issued to cover their cost. The schedule of redemption set up assumes that retirements will not begin until the tenth year, and then at the rate of only 200 bonds per year, but that this rate is to be gradually increased at five-year intervals until the last five-year period of the term, the rate of redemption will be 2800 bonds annually. At the fortieth year, the bridge having retired its bonds, and accumulated a substantial surplus of seventeen million odd dollars besides, can become free.

    We all know what really has happened since then.

    No wonder Oregonians are suspicious (of this and so much more).

    EXTRA FOR EXPERTS: How was the federal income tax “sold”?

  • EEllis

    There are a number of different issues on this project and my objection to the op was the limited viewpoint that was presented. The crowd in favor of the bridge throw out numbers like 70%+ of the traffic on the bridge either begin or end their trip in Clackamas County but they never mention that almost 80% of the traffic begins or ends in Multnomah County. What you can see is that anyone using the bridge has long been contributing to Multnomah County in the form of taxes and revenue. Stores that people can’t get to don’t close so the idea that Clackamas County users don’t provide to Multnomah County is absurd. Proponents like to give the impression the bridge is actually between the counties but it isn’t. Multnomah County is on both sides of the river at that location. 8 years ago when cracks developed and the weight rating was lowered to 10 tons Multnomah County chose the cheapest and shortest term fix by spending 1 mill to insert epoxy in the cracks. Multnomah County has been spending millions on every tree hugging project you can think of and neglecting their infrastructure the whole time. Then develop a tremendously overpriced project that will do little to help congestion. Honestly it may make it worse because they plan on having the same number of lanes but will have added the ability for buses and trucks to again use the bridge. The bridge could be replaced for 1/4 the cost but they have added things like bike lanes, additional pedestrian access, space for street cars to be added, that are 100% for Multnomah County that add much more to the project than the Clackamas County contribution.

    Now I think a bridge project may be a good idea and if I was from Multnomah County I might support it but can easily see why those outside wouldn’t want to contribute. Portraying it as shortsightedness or stupidity just shows a lack of imagination.

  • roro80

    but they never mention that almost 80% of the traffic begins or ends in Multnomah County.

    Um, Portland is in Multnomah county. Like, you know, where people have their jobs. People can live in the city where their jobs are, or they can commute to their city where the jobs are. One means they have to live in Multnomah county, which is already paying over 10x the amount that is being asked of Clackamas County. If you choose to pay the lower prices of living in the suburbs, and you choose to get a job in the city, there need to be roads and bridges to get you from one place to another.

    Your analysis misses the entire point of the bridge, which is not complicated. People drive. From the burbs. To the city. Having the people who already pay the higher prices to live in the city also pay for those who choose the lower-cost options out of the city in the form of the roads needed for those commuters to get in and out of the city is the *whole point*. This is not complicated. If nobody was commuting to the city, the bridge would likely not need to be rebuilt in the first place. That is why the OP called the people opposed to this “stupid”. They seem to have missed the same point you did, which is that they need the bridge more than the people who already live in downtown Portland and are already paying more to build the bridge anyway.

  • EEllis

    For clarification the opposition was from American’s For Prosperity, a Koch Brothers financed Tea Party Group

    That statement is designed to marginalize everyone who disagrees. And is just wrong besides.

    “Let me be clear, I can only spend money that we raise on behalf of AFP OR from Oregonians. I am not allowed to raise or spend money from outside of the state, period”
    http://bikeportland.org/2010/11/26/koch-funded-anti-tax-group-protests-sellwood-bridge-funding-plan-43557#comment-1671612

  • EEllis

    Your analysis misses the entire point of the bridge, which is not complicated. People drive. From the burbs. To the city. Having the people who already pay the higher prices to live in the city also pay for those who choose the lower-cost options out of the city in the form of the roads needed for those commuters to get in and out of the city is the *whole point*. This is not complicated. If nobody was commuting to the city, the bridge would likely not need to be rebuilt in the first place. That is why the OP called the people opposed to this “stupid”. They seem to have missed the same point you did, which is that they need the bridge more than the people who already live in downtown Portland and are already paying more to build the bridge anyway.

    I missed nothing I would of thought that would be obvious. My statment is that those who use the bridge already contribute to the tax base by working and shopping in Multnomah county. That the attempt to portray those against the project as freeloaders is incorrect and either ignorance or bad faith.

  • roro80

    It is obvious. So you understood the entire point choose to ignore it? Interesting tactic. Makes you look very, very strange, but I’m sure there are some here who will be convinced that using something 70% of the time and being unwilling to pay for even 10% of it is different from freeloading because of shopping. In a state with no sales tax.

  • EEllis

    It is obvious. So you understood the entire point choose to ignore it?

    No I acknowledged the point and countered it before you bothered to make it. The truth is shops, stores, businesses need people to stay open and pay taxes. Just because they don’t have sales taxes doesn’t mean businesses and customers do not contribute and anyone who regularly uses the bridge does indeed contribute to the county coffers, most likely in multiply ways. Trying to portray it otherwise is just deceitful. Even using that 70% figure is misleading when 80% of trips begin or end in Multnomah county. I know I come off as taking sides but in truth I just wanted to give a little even handedness to the conversation. There are two sides that both have legitimate points to their position. My biggest issue would be Multnomah county has kept this bridge when they could turn it over/create a regional bridge authority but they preferred, for whatever reason, to keep all the responsibility, make all the judgments, make all the decisions, and basically say you have no input but must give us money. I wouldn’t be real happy either. I noticed while you keep complaining about the decent you do not address any of the issues involved. How dare regular people think they have any vote, say, or voice in how their money is used!!

  • roro80

    Ok EEllis, it’s clear that your understanding of pretty much everything is just, well, let’s call it lacking, but I’m going to try one more time. If you live in a suburb, and you work in a city, and the suburb is in a different county than the city, your morning trip starts in the suburb county and ends in the city county. Then your trip home from works starts in the city county and ends in the suburb county. Both those trips would be done by a person who voted against the tax for the bridge, and both would count toward that 80%. A bridge that connects a suburb to a city but resides in the county of the city is OF COURSE going to have a large portion of the bridge users EITHER start OR end up in that county. The ONLY people who would neither start nor end their trip in the county where the bridge is located are those who are just passing through to somewhere else. If you have any familiarity at all with the Portland area, this is probably pretty rare — you use the bridge to get to Portland, or to get out of Portland. That’s the point of the bridge. Wow. That I have to explain 3rd grade geometry to you should be embarassing to you.

    As was explained above, the bridge is managed by a tri-county commission which INCLUDES both counties we’re talking about. So no, it wasn’t just that they “preferred to keep all the responsibility but must give us money”. That is factually incorrect.

    Furthermore, as I said before, it’s totally within their rights to vote against their own interests. But it’s really damned stupid that they did. I’m allowed to drink 10 shots of tequila before I go to bed every night, but that would be stupid. I could tattoo Porky Pig onto each of my eyelids — totally within my rights — but it would be stupid. That the people have the right to be stupid is obvious. Right to be stupid? Yes. Right not to be called out as stupid when you do stupid things? No.

  • EEllis

    That I have to explain 3rd grade geometry to you should be embarrassing to you.

    First you are being directly insulting which is out of line. Second that you think you need to explain shows you don’t understand what I wrote. Third you never addressed any of the issues with the bridge just that you think people should pony up money when they are told to. You also fail to address that the people who travel into Multnomah county add to it’s finances in many ways so saying they don’t contribute to the upkeep on Multnomah county property is factually wrong. Fourth the bridge is not managed by any organization but Multnomah county. The Sellwood bridge is controlled directly and totally by The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. Your info about some “tri-county commission” is incorrect and I expect an apology. Just check their website

    http://sellwoodbridge.org/

  • roro80

    Um, wow. Well If you’re still talking about 80% and how that does anything but disprove your point, well, you’re still missing the geometry lesson. If I was mistaken on the commission, I was mistaken. As for me “thinking that people should just pony up the money when they’re told to”, please go back and read the last paragraph of my previous comment, since you obviously forgot to read it.

  • Use of the term “Teabagger” is an ad hominem attack.

    I was really hoping that TMV authors and commenters could steer clear of using such words. I mean, if we’re going to continue calling Tea Party members “Teabaggers”, how much longing will it be before partisan start calling each other “Demoncrats” and “Repukelicans”?

    I do not think such ad hominem attacks reflect the true spirit of TMV authors. I hope that my humble pleading (as a TMV guest author) that we refrain from such ad hominem attacks will help newcomers to see that TMV really is a great place with thought-provoking commentary tempered with civilized and logical debate.

  • Clarification of my above comment:

    “how much longing” should be “how much longer”

  • EEllis

    Well If you’re still talking about 80%

    No I wasn’t, I was waiting for you to address any of the points instead of just saying if they won’t pay they are stupid.

  • DaGoat

    I poked around this issue off and on yesterday. If you haven’t lived in the Portland area and followed over the past several months (which I do not and have not), I think it is difficult to understand the ramifications.

    To me the new bridge seems “overbuilt”, ie there are unnecessary features built into it, including expanded bike and pedestrian lanes as well as the infrastructure to support a light rail which currently doesn’t exist. Cycling advocates seem heavily involved in pushing for the new bridge, as are other special interest groups. My guess is this is somewhat off-putting for the residents that will actually pay for it,

    Note when I say the new bridge is overbuilt I am not saying it’s a bad idea. It may be a great idea. The question is should people pay extra for a bridge with unnecessary features during a time of recession? The bridge can be utilized in it’s current form with regular maintenance for some years. Given the current economic and political climate this is a tough time to be pushing for this bridge.

  • Don Quijote

    Note when I say the new bridge is overbuilt I am not saying it’s a bad idea. It may be a great idea. The question is should people pay extra for a bridge with unnecessary features during a time of recession? The bridge can be utilized in it’s current form with regular maintenance for some years. Given the current economic and political climate this is a tough time to be pushing for this bridge.

    We are not going to be in recession forever…

    And the bridge is going to be there for many decades…

  • Well, I have been unable to open SteveinCH’s link to the exec summary of the budget for Clackamas County, but it may be a case of lies, damned lies and statistics [Mark Twain]. This is not to say Steve is misleading anyone. I believe in his good faith recitation of the numbers. It simply may be a case of numbers not telling the whole story. Unable to open his link, I went to the department reports for the County Budget Commission.

    Based on that review, I found a few things:
    -over the past four years, the number of County employees has been reduced by roughly five percent.
    – over the past four years, the number of code inspector has been cut by more than half (43 to 21).
    – the roads dep’t reports that, due to budget restraints, it will be unable to maintain roads at sustainable levels and Clackamas County roads “will continue to deteriorate.”
    – that current revenues include resources that will dry up beginning next year. Those include state grants and federal stimulus money which will no longer be available.
    – it appears, though without being able to open the link is hard to verify, that the “reserves” mentioned are allocated reserves, not general revenue surplus available for projects like the bridge in question.
    – median home prices in the County are down 30-35% over the past four years.

    It would be interesting to see some other comparisons. I’d like to see pre-recession budget and revenue numbers compared to 2010-2011, rather than a comparison to 2009-2010. Given the 5% reduction in employees and a roughly 35% reduction in median home values in the County, dramatically affecting property taxes, together with a 39% increase in delinquent property tax payments, a comparison to 2006-2007 or 2007-2008 might be useful. On the revenue side, it would also be helpful to see a comparison of 2010-2011 to 2009-2010 rather than saying revenues are 4% higher for 2010-2011 than they were in 2008-2009 (depth of the recession). Having had many discussions with Steve, I trust that he used the numbers available.

    What I’ve been able to see does not show a County government awash in cash. It looks more like a County in deep trouble, trying to dig out of recession cutbacks and deeply concerned about loss of funding sources going forward. I do wish I could open Steve’s link to get more detail.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Me thinks that a good amount of people commenting on this have never been on that worrying bridge. First it has one half sidewalk over the entire span of the bridge and two tight car lanes, and Portland is one of the most bike and walking oriented major cities in the nation and has won many awards year after year in relation to it. As an added bonus it sways in the wind and is rather freaky to walk or bike across, heck driving across that bridge is nerve wracking because it is so tight. Portland is one of the major biking cities in the nation so where as in your home city you may say “who cares about the bike people” in Portland and the surrounding counties everyone does because they are a large percentage of the populace, triple the amount of people commute by bike to work there than the national norm and biking on the weekend and evenings is incredibly common. That bridge is a human hazard on weekends when cars are trying to get across while bikers meet in the middle of the bridge and try to walk past one another on the little half sidewalk.

    Also please buy a clue for those that do not understand that if you live outside Portland you are NOT paying taxes there since they have no sales tax in Oregon. It is an important part of the story that many seem to be missing.

    Why is it that when new special case expenses come up we need to never raise special case taxes or use some other method to raise revenue, like the normally freakishly low license plate costs? See in Oregon unlike other areas of the nation special case taxes DO tend to go away when the special case is over. The rest of the states I have lived in has the runaway state gov problem but Oregon does not and when the bridge is paid for it will be put on the ballot and it will lose. One last thing 41% turn out is freakishly low for Oregon which tells me that this will come back for a vote again likely in a major election year and likely win.

  • DaGoat

    MSF if I understand the proposed bridge correctly there will be 24 feet of the span for cars and 36 feet for pedestrians and bicycles. To me it looks like the bridge is going from one extreme to the other, and don’t see how this will help traffic flow other than allowing heavier vehicles such as buses to cross it. The way it looks to me you are spending 290 million to improve pedestrian and bicycle access. Here’s the link I’m looking at, it’s under “preferred alternatives” which appears to be the accepted plan.

    http://sellwoodbridge.org/?p=previous-phases

    As far as the comments about taxes, since we are talking about county monies I’m assuming they are made up mostly of property taxes and fees. Since business owners have to pay these taxes they are built into the costs of goods and services sold in a given county, and are borne by people shopping or using services in the county.

  • SteveinCH

    @tidbits

    I’m not sure why the link isn’t working. Here it is again in case it helps
    http://www.co.clackamas.or.us/docs/finance/2010executivesummaryfinal.pdf

    Let me quote the data that is there. I’ll give 3 numbers in each case for what they report.

    In 2007-2008, the county began the year with a general fund balance of $123 million, had revenues of $449 million and expenses of $485 million. In 2008-2009, the county began with a general fund balance of $98 million, had revenues of $463 million and expenses of $487 million. In 2009-2010 (projected), the county began with a general fund balance of $73 million, had revenues of $519 million and expenses of $481 million. The budget for 2010-2011, the county began with a general fund balance of $92 million, had revenues of $481 million and expenses of $515 million.

    So, looking at it on a relative basis, county budgeted spending in 2010-2011 is higher than any year in the last 4 and county revenues are higher than any year except for 2009-2010. Arguing there’s no way to fund $22 million over the period of a few years on this basis without new taxes seems quite odd.

    Tidbits, I don’t dispute the changes you describe but, once again, I’d argue these represent choices rather than total resource constraints.

  • Thanks, Steve. I appreciate the further detail.

    The problem is not with your link. I was also unable to link after finding it on a Google search. I suspect it may have to do with file size compared to computer capacity.?, though that would seem odd given that I’ve tried on two computers. I dunno. But, I trust you to report accurately.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Dagoat-I would say they need more space for cars and less for bikes/pedestrians but the bus flow in the area is a major problem. The reason that area is a sleepy suburb and not a part that has grown into Portland proper is tied to the lack of access that happens when a mass transport area cant access a portion as it does the rest.

    Buses in most surrounding areas tend to run every 20-30 minutes. In that area they tend to run every hour max which means that it isolates the area rather badly, I considered moving their once but I did not want to buy a car purely to live there. Housing prices tend to be a little cheaper there as a result though. I am not saying I prefer the bridge plan I am saying that the bridge badly needs to be replaced AND that it needs to take the walking/bike reality of the populace into account which was different when it was built. I am also saying that Oregon is not California and other states that are out of control and once a law or tax or what have you is on the books it never goes away and should not be judged like they are. This falls into why I am so states rights oriented, if you run Oregon like Alabama it will fall apart rather quickly and even its residents will not want to live there much like if you tried to run Alabama like Oregon (though I would say Oregon could teach many states some good governance lessons but more along the lines of mail in ballots voter turn out and general good governance). This bridge is something that will not make sense to those not in the area but for those that have lived there and do live there it would make a good deal more. On taxes where as I agree acting like they have a sales tax or high plate fees like other states do totally misunderstands Oregon and the way it works. Oddly I have seen much worse options used in many states to pay for a stadium to keep a sports team that is something that should be able to fund itself. This is a local issue and one that will probably be reversed in the next major election.

  • EEllis

    Also please buy a clue for those that do not understand that if you live outside Portland you are NOT paying taxes there since they have no sales tax in Oregon. It is an important part of the story that many seem to be missing.

    A little civility goes a long way. Sure there is no sales tax but businesses and people pay property tax’s, fees, hell pay for parking. Anyone who regularly commutes to or from the county does indeed end up contributing to the county. It’s not that people don’t get it, some of us at least, it’s that it is more complicated than you state. As for the case for biking and other features for the bridge, it sounds great. But harsh language (stupid, freeloading, ect) has been directed at people who would receive no benefit from any of those additional features and in addition because of the added bus and truck traffic the bridge may even slow them down more leaving them in a worse position than before. That isn’t a fair or honest representation (ie stupid, freeloading, ect) of the situation.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    The bridge would have to become a single lane one to slow down things any further. People drive under the speed limit on it because it is so narrow and because walkers/joggers and bike riders are perched to close to the road. Bus traffic would cut down on the bike/walkers since the only access in that area for noncar owners is to ride the bus and then get off and walk/ride a bike across the bridge which is why the foot/bike traffic in that area is so heavy…well that and the area is filled with hipsters but I digress. As for truck traffic the area doesnt really have any industry but an improved bridge could change that, of course in Portland industry usually means some form of tech jobs. As for my “clue” statement I think it is highly important to note the reality because in most right wing states that I have lived in that decry the evils of taxes and in which they never seem to go away they have both property AND sales tax AND special taxes for things like stadiums AND often toll roads to avoid paying for infrastructure. Oregon seems to get along rather well while getting less back from the fed gov than they pay which is kind of my metric on what models people should judge/follow, meaning the states that do not rely on other states welfare. I do think they may need to adjust the bridge design or possibly the revenue source but my guess is that a solution to pay for it will be found in 2012 when the turn out is higher.

  • EEllis

    The bridge would have to become a single lane one to slow down things any further

    So you believe that even though they are adding no lanes and increasing the traffic by adding buses and trucks it is not reasonable to worry that after all the construction there may be no to negative improvement? On the larger issue do you believe that citizens from Clackamas County have no legitamate reasons, including the fact that the county didn’t sunset the reg. increase when the bridge payment was complete, for having issue with any part of the project which might lead them to vote against the plan as it now is?

  • SteveK

    One half-full city bus takes 25 to 50 cars off the bridge, a SRO commuter bus gets rid of over 100.

    To say that buses would add to the traffic congestion is, at best, misleading.

  • EEllis

    To say that buses would add to the traffic congestion is, at best, misleading

    Why? It’s not like they don’t have buses now, they just detour around the bridge. There may be an argument to be made that people drive when they would bus because it takes the buses longer do to the detour. That assumption, for there have been zero studies, would be based on what some would want to happen not what we can logically assume.

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