Fixing urban renewal’s levy grab (amended)

The bill is pending in the House Revenue Committee.

The bill is pending in the House Revenue Committee.

Albany's downtown renewal advisory board Wednesday heard about a bill which, in the interest of truth in taxation, ought to be passed. But first, it ought to be amended to apply right away.

The measure is House Bill 2632, sponsored by Rep. Margaret Doherty, a Democrat from the Portland area. It would allow all the money from local option levies to go to the purpose for which they are approved instead of allowing urban renewal districts to siphon off part of  the cash, as they do now.

Albany's Urban Renewal Manager Kate Porsche told the Central Albany Revitalization Area advisory board about the legislation. The bill is of interest in Albany because now, according to Porsche, CARA receives about $100,000 of the city's local option levy for police and fire. Albany's renewal district is one of a few falling under a particular provision of the law because of when it was formed, in the summer of 2001 just before the law was changed.

Albany voters renewed the police and fire levy -- in addition to the city's fixed tax rate -- last spring for five years. They were told the money would go to police and fire. Now they find some of it goes to renewal projects instead. This is big, and it is wrong. HB 2632 would fix it, but apparently only for new local option levies. The bill should be amended to affect existing local option levies too, to make sure that these levies are spent the way the voters were told. And then the bill should be passed. (hh)

A postscript: Kate Porsche tells me that making the bill affect existing local option levies would probably violate something, such as the constitution, because of the effect on contracts some renewal agencies might have. If that's the case and if the bill passes in its current form, Albany could ask voters to renew the police and fire levy again. Then, as a new levy, it would no longer have to give up part of its revenue to urban renewal. (hh)

Tom Cordier: Seems to me an Albany taxpayer could challenge the siphoning of monies from the recently passed Albany public safety levy by CARA.
The Albany public safety levy measure language stated what the monies would be used for. The language did not disclose to the voters that the city would or could divert monies to CARA. Full disclosure is required by ORS's. Perhaps the Linn County DA would file to direct Linn County assessor to prevent the city from mis-using public safety levy monies.

Rich Catlin responds on April 9:  To avoid conflicts with existing contractual agreements, perhaps HB 2632 could be amended to be optional for existing local option taxes, allowing a case by case examination to determine if there would be conflicts, and if not, apply the exemption.

A sensible move on guns

Checking the merchandise at an Albany gun show.

Checking the merchandise at an Albany gun show.

In the U.S. Senate, a proposed ban on so-called assault rifles has been stripped from a bill intended to combat gun violence. Supporters of banning these guns may be disappointed, but there's a good reason the ban did not get the support of even 40 senators, as Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced on Tuesday.

The reason is that such a ban made no sense. First, it would apply to guns based on cosmetic features, such as whether they have pistol grips or shrouds on the barrel. That's not what makes them lethal, though. What makes them potentially lethal is that they fire bullets, but then all guns do that, and many can accept magazines with a dozen or more rounds.

The second reason is that more than a million of those rifles are said to be in private hands in the United States, and only a tiny fraction are ever used in crimes. Most are used for target shooting, if at all, and in formal matches they are loaded and fired one round at a time.

Finally, a federal ban would be quite ineffective without an accompanying plan to track down all the owners and confiscate their guns. There's a good chance the ban would have turned a lot of harmless and otherwise law-abiding citizens into potential federal criminals. That's why a majority of U.S. senators are against this ban, and they are right. (hh)

Low carbon fuel: You may pay more

100_0376At stake in the legislature now, in the form of Senate Bill 488: Possibly higher fuel prices for years to come.

In 2009 the legislature authorized an attempt to lower the amount of carbon emitted from transportation fuels in Oregon. The goal was to reduce the amount of carbon emissions from conventional gasoline and diesel by 10 percent over 10 years in the interest of slowing down global warming. This would be done by requiring the use of various additives or alternatives in transportation -- from more ethanol in gas to using more electric cars.

The fuel standard is opposed by, among others, industry groups such as general contractors, loggers, the Farm Bureau, the metals industry, public utility districts, truckers, and Associated Oregon Industries. They say the program will likely raise the price of fuel by up to a dollar a gallon and cause the loss of up to 29,000 jobs if carried out. And they want the program to end, or "sunset," in 2015, as the original bill provided.

Senate Bill 488 now would repeal the sunset, and the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a hearing Monday. Despite the objections, Democrats in the legislature are likely to approve the bill. But what Oregon does cannot possibly affect the global climate, so we'd be paying more for no good reason at all. (hh)

Warren Beeson: The idiotic thing about adding ethanol to gasoline to cut down on carbon emissions is that the ethanol reduces the efficiency of the engine so much that it burns more gasoline; and actually reduces the vehicle mileage to the point where it produces more carbon than if no ethanol were added.  In addition, the ethanol drives up the price of gasoline while reducing mileage; thus costing the driving public far more than any cost/benefit ratio could justify.  Just one more example of how much liberals value science in their lawmaking, much less common sense.  What they really want to do is punish people who drive automobiles because its a "bad" thing to so.

Howard Poppleton: In general, ethanol used in all gasoline sold is a boondoggle to support the corn farmers of the Midwest (and their congressional reps). Mr. Beeson hit nearly all the right things except that he did not include the results of studies which show that it takes from 0.98 Btus to 1.2 Btus of fossil fuel to make one Btu of ethanol. The lower figure is from the US Dept. of Energy and the higher figure from university engineers. I'm sure it depends upon how you draw the boundaries of the system. Even if the 0.98 figure is correct, that isn't enough gain to warrant the change. The one way in which ethanol is useful is as an oxygenator in major metropolitan areas where an oxygenator is required by the EPA. This also does not take into account the taxpayer dollars that pay the subsidies to farmers to grow corn, nor the increased costs for corn used for food products.

Next Albany chief may be local

apd_patchIf the other two candidates for Albany police chief are as good as Dan Hendrickson, the city will be in good shape no matter which of the three finalists eventually gets the job.

Albany announced the finalists Monday. Hendricksen is a captain with the Corvallis police department. He has led National Guard troops from Oregon in Iraq, serving with great distinction, and as a juror I have watched him give testimony in a drug trial. He's a makes a very good impression, thoroughly competent and professional. The other two are Mario Lattanzio, an assistant police chief in Mesa, Ariz., and Jim Peterson, an assistant chief in Pocatello, Idaho.

The city didn't say whether any of Albany's second rank of police managers applied. If they didn't, they probably figured there was no point. Chief Ed Boyd, who is retiring after seven years in the job, came to Albany from Salem, and the chief before him, Joe Simon, was from Washington state. His predecessor, too, was hired from out of town. But city managers don't always go out of town for their chiefs. Corvallis now has a chief who started as a patrolman and spent his entire career there.

The ideal would be to find an experienced manager of people and budgets who also has plenty of local knowledge as a member of the community. And there, we may luck out. Police officers often live outside of the towns where they work. And when Lt. Col. Hendrickson's Guard battalion returned from Iraq in 2005, the paper listed Albany as his home town. (hh)

No stars at night: Too much light

A "dark sky" fixture in action.

A "dark sky" fixture in action.

Ever wish you could see the stars at night without having to travel into the wilderness? Especially the Milky Way, in all its awe-inspiring splendor?

In most of our towns, you can't do that even when it's not overcast because the night is not really dark. There is light all over the place -- from street lighs, yard lights, motion sensor lights, porch lights and so forth.
In Bandon, on the coast, the city council wanted to do something about that. Last year it passed an ordinance requiring new installations to use so-called "dark sky" fixtures. These are fixtures that cast their light downward, so as not to spill over onto nearby property. But citizens in the town didn't like it. Too much regulation, was the prevailing sentiment, according to a report in the Coos Bay World. So they referred the lighting ordinance to the voters, and the other day, the voters rejected it by a vote of 524 to 419.
I can see their point about too much regulation. And in any case, "dark sky" fixtures probably wouldn't have helped much anyway. The problem is not so much that outdoor lights shine outward or upward. It's that they are there at all.
A lighted world may be a safer world, and that's a good thing. But as for seeing the Milky Way on a summer night, many of us, living in towns or suburbs, now have to rely on our memory of being outdoors at night when were little kids, many decades ago. (hh)
Ted Salmons: Sadly though, light pollution (I never liked that term) is a price people pay for the convenience of safer streets, close neighbors, common protective services i.e. police and fire departments and the like. Growing up in a small Eastern Kentucky town I remember laying out at night just enjoying the night skies. The occasional shooting star or seeing an orbiting satellite were part of the summer fun. We didn't have cable and electronic games back then and we were better off for it.  But by the way the population is dispersed in our country it's very clear that most people are willing to trade off the beauty of a dark evening sky for the well lit Burger King down the street. There are now several generations of large inner city dwellers that have no idea of the vastness of the stars on a clear, dark, country night.  And they are lesser beings because of that.  No insult meant, just in my opinion.
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