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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

What the hell, it’s only money!

Written October 22nd, 2014 by Hasso Hering
The inside of a bank: Here they take money seriously. In government, not so much.

The inside of a bank: Here they take money seriously. In government, not so much.

It’s nice to be reminded now and then, and especially just before an election, how casually public money is being thrown around at various levels of government. Three examples spring to mind.

The Oregonian is reporting on the questionable way — without bidding at first — in which the Oregon Health Authority awarded a $150,000 contract to Kate Raphael, the wife of Governor Kitzhaber’s former communications chief, Tim Raphael. (Tim now works for the governor’s campaign and also advised Cylvia Hayes on her apology for her sham marriage, according to the Portland paper.)

A Health Authority official announced the contract, awarded without bidding. When the no-bid procedure was challenged, the agency called for three quotes, then awarded the contract to Mrs. Raphael anyway even though her quote was $100,000 more than the low bid.

All that is interesting enough, but so is what the contract is for. It’s to produce up to 12 short videos highlighting Governor’s Kitzhaber’s health-care reforms for a meeting to be held in December. Nobody actually needs the videos, but you can almost hear the responsible official thinking: “Well, what the hell, it’s only money, and federal money at that, and anyway, it’ll be fun to have some neat videos.”

In Corvallis, the board of trustees of Oregon State University has just felt justified in giving OSU President Ed Ray a 9 percent raise in pay and benefits, upping his total compensation to about $794,000 a year. The story in the paper said it was “his first pay hike in two years.” The poor man, having to get by on only $40,000 a month for two years running. How did he manage?

Thanks to the OSU trustees for reminding voters why they should approve Ballot Measure 86, which increases the state’s debt in order to help more students shovel more money into higher education.

In Albany, meanwhile, the CARA (downtown urban renewal) board is going ahead with a plan to decorate the new Main Street roundabout with a circular wall and sign welcoming people to the city’s historic districts at a cost estimated at $70,000-$90,000. (Plain landscaping without the wall and sign would cost an estimated $15,000-20,000.)

The welcome sign will face Salem Avenue. So it will be very helpful to people from Millersburg when they take that route into town. (hh)



17 responses to “What the hell, it’s only money!”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Power at every level of government is measured by the size of the budget, the authority to spend it on anyone and anything, and the muscle to regulate private decisions and behavior.

    More is always better.

    And here locally, absent a petition campaign by residents to take back some of that power, politicians and bureaucrats have no incentive for less.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “And here locally…politicians and bureaucrats have no incentive for less.”

      Other than the fact the we are required by law to have a balanced budget every year — regardless of economic conditions (and property tax revenues generated by the county assessor) of which we have zero control…

      • Jim Clausen says:

        Ray loves to throw around the “balanced budget” meme every chance he gets.

        The “balanced budget” has absolutely nothing to say on whether funds were spent wisely, prudently, or in concert with how taxpayers would like that money spent. The ONLY information a “balanced budget” gives us is if all the i’s were dotted and all the t’s were crossed upon entry of data. The “balanced budget” is nothing more than a ledger stating that things have been entered correctly into the system.

        To try to imply that a “balanced budget” means money is being spent wisely of to benefit taxpayers is misleading and frankly dishonest…

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          No where in Gordon’s comment nor my reply was any mention of your topic.However, I’ll double down with you and flat out state I do believe the City of Albany has wisely spent the monies allocated to it. That happens via the Strategic Plan & Budget Hearing processes. They work – and work well.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Ray, I believe the city council you sit on is pushing the League of Oregon Cities proposal to reform the constitutionally mandated Measure 5 property tax limits.

        You and your cohorts on the council (including the City Manager) are living proof that my assertion “more is always better” is true when it comes to the desire to take more of our hard earned money.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          With Measure 5, I strongly believe Oregon voters shot themselves in the foot by not allowing individuals to have a say in whether or not they would approve a local levy, etc. I have serious problems with our property-tax reliance, but that’s a topic for another discussion. Also, I believe it’s flat out wrong to include anything dealing with money/finance in the Oregon Constitution.

  2. Theodore Salmons says:

    And why shouldn’t they spend money like it’s not theirs? They don’t care because it not. And complain as many people do, an unbelievable percentage of these #&$%@ get re-elected term, after term. And as for Measure 86, there wasn’t a chance in hades I was going to vote for it anyway. But OSU’s latest little pay raise for their President guaranteed that I will never, ever vote for a measure that increases funding for any education program in Oregon. The state has such an abysmal graduation and performance rating I see no reason to flush more money down the teacher’s union and PERS rathole until they produce graduates with usable skills. In the podunk little town I came from in Eastern Kentucky we had classes in Greek and Latin. Here in Oregon they have “life skills” which I assume teaches you how to fill out welfare applications and a high percentage of college freshmen need remedial math and English courses to come close to cutting it at the college level. Four year universities and colleges should be barred by state law from teaching any remedial classes. You’re there to learn, not review skills you should have come out of high school with. If you can’t cut the college level work, you don’t need to be taking a seat in college. Go back, live at home, go to extension classes from a junior college and try again next year. I’ve always wondered how students in remedial classes ever cut a SAT or ACT score that qualified them for acceptance. I guess they’ve lowered their standards just to fill classes.

    • Craig Ziegenhagel commented via Facebook: “Could not agree with you more. It never ceases to amaze me how government can waste OUR money. Businesses continue to leave the area, unemployment is still high and everyone appears to want more tax dollars from us. On the roundabout, I give it 6 months after completion that a car will “take out” their new wall and decor (take note of the tire tracks up on the concrete curb already!).”

    • James Carrick says:

      Mr Salmon’s response took me back some 41 years and I remember quite clearly how much my (full time) tuition with room and board (dormitory) fees were for each term as a freshman at the University of Oregon in 1973, in 1973 dollars.

      Each term (4 term year including summer) was tuition at $277.00 ….. room and board was $750.00 plus or minus a few bucks, and books were about $100.00 if new. About $1,100.00 per term for up to 23 credit hours if memory serves correctly.

      In 1973, very few freshmen were in remedial classes. You either cut the mustard or you didn’t stay in school. The emphasis was on education and learning and it was demanding. They weren’t afraid to flunk you and financial aid was available to everyone that qualified. In 1973 you signed a promissory note with a bank to get that aid, yes…a binding, enforceable contract. Pell grants (and others) were available to some. Note: those were grants, not loans.

      This is not the place for an in depth analysis of 40 years ago versus today’s higher education opportunities, but this covers the basics in an attempt to compare apples to apples. It puts things in some kind of perspective. College used to be about the students. I suspect now there are many more agendas at play here.

      Today’s college costs for the same items (assuming 16 credit hours) follow below, in todays dollars:

      Current tuition and fees: $2,873 will get you 16 credit hours ($3,648 for 21 hrs and $155 per hour after that)
      http://registrar.uoregon.edu/costs/tuition-fees

      Current dormitory rates per term? $4,792 (double occupancy with standard meal plan):
      http://registrar.uoregon.edu/costs

      Books? That will vary of course, but many new textbooks are well over $100. Enough said. Figure $600, at least . Likely more.

      That’s $8,265 per term today. (16 credit hours)

      According to this website, $100 in 1973 is equal to $548 in todays dollars:
      http://www.in2013dollars.com/1973-dollars-in-2014?amount=100

      ADJUSTED for inflation, (factor = 5.48), 1973 per term costs ($1,100), would be about $6,032 today.

      This comparison is interesting for several reasons but I would like to know what value students get today (above what was available in 1973) for their additional $2,233 per term?

      Oh, and back then all you had to do to get into a Duck football or basketball game was show your student ID card. 2-9 seasons will ensure available seating. They weren’t making all that revenue generated by athletics today. (TV revenue and attendance). The universities today have vastly more revenue sources than 40 years ago, yet if not for the philanthropy of people such as Phil Knight and many others less known, the Ducks and Beavers would still likely be inhabiting the lower reaches of the PAC-12 and Phil Knight’s academic philanthropy is often overlooked. (and yes…he has contributed to OSU’s coffers as well).

      Something is seriously wrong with this picture ……. or I’m a retired astronaut.

  3. Peggy Richner says:

    I noticed while visiting the Albany Public Library this week that architectural renderings of new Fire and Police stations were exhibited. It looks like our city “leaders” are pretty sure of themselves that these projects will go ahead no matter what. It’s only money; someone else’s that is.

  4. tom cordier says:

    Last nite at the “Candidates forum” held at the public library–the mayor and all 3 councilors used CARA spending as their greatest accomplishment and vow to continue the spending.
    Candidate Larry Martin said it all–“if you like what the Council is doing about spending/like the ever increasing costs of water and sewer/like the un-repaired roads–then vote them back in office. IF you don’t then vote for the new faces–Clausen+Martin+Manske so we can change what’s happening”.
    Tell everyone you no to vote against those in office now and for the new faces.

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    If you (or anyone else) honestly believe you can simply wave a magic wand to reduce water & sewer rates and improve the myriad-miles of Albany roadways that need improvements, you need to get directly involved in the Strategic Planning and Budget hearing process. “New Faces” will be every bit as constricted to which funds can be used in which capacity — as the current faces.

    • James Carrick says:

      So Ray, as I commend you on one issue (the pot tax), I must take you to task for your statement: “New Faces” will be every bit as constricted to which funds can be used in which capacity — as the current faces.” That may be true but that does not mean that fresh ideas and thinking are incapable of bringing about change, and there is no doubt some things need changing around here.

      Are you telling us that it matters not who we elect to serve on the city council? That our fate is somehow etched in stone? That (essentially) there is nothing we can do about it?

      If so, then I beg to differ. The voters have but one way (short of revolution/anarchy) to effect change and that is at the ballot box. Change starts there and I refuse to believe “new faces” are incapable of changing what has become the status quo. Where is the accountability beyond the taxpayers wallet?

      Ray, you are a smarter man than your comment suggests..Perhaps we should elect six chimpanzees to serve on the city council. It occurs to me it would be difficult for them to screw things up any worse than they are now and they would be as accountable as the current crop of politicians that infest government at all levels.

  6. tom cordier says:

    Ray–it is time for you to think outside your mental box. You think ~$50,000 for a roundabout decoration is a prudent money decision–that’s your problem. You have voted to spend lots of CARA money for special interest projects, with no possible ROI and are proud of it. This is consistent mental box thinking. How many times have you pounded the table to demand the sewage plant be corrected to meet requirements. I have attended lots of meeting and never heard you ever do that.

  7. Ray Kopczynski says:

    James:
    “I commend you on one issue (the pot tax),”

    Thank you.

    “I must take you to task for your statement: “New Faces” will be every bit as constricted to which funds can be used in which capacity — as the current faces.” That may be true but that does not mean that fresh ideas and thinking are incapable of bringing about change, and there is no doubt some things need changing around here.”

    I agree to a point. As Bessie so rightly commented (and I heartily concur), as a councilor, we make our vote[s] based on what we believe is in the best interests of ALL of the citizens of Albany — knowing full well we will never please everyone. It is not our job to try and please everyone. We make our decisions based on all the input we can gather prior to voting. I (and every other councilor) has been on the losing end of many votes. We plead with folks to get more involved. It rarely happens, so we are left with the info as we get it. You may not be able convince me of the rightness of your position – but you do not have to inasmuch as I only get a single vote. However – you do have to convince 4…

    “Are you telling us that it matters not who we elect to serve on the city council? That our fate is somehow etched in stone? That (essentially) there is nothing we can do about it?”

    Not at all — what is happening (election) is *exactly* what should happen. A big problem many times is simply finding a person to run. Someone has to have/take the necessary time and not being averse to wearing a target on their back.

    “Ray, you are a smarter man than your comment suggests..Perhaps we should elect six chimpanzees to serve on the city council. It occurs to me it would be difficult for them to screw things up any worse than they are now and they would be as accountable as the current crop of politicians that infest government at all levels.”

    Obviously, I have an entirely different P.O.V. as to Albany being screwed up… Being in the arena, I choose to look at the positives as opposed to always looking for the negatives.

    • James Carrick says:

      Ray – “Being in the arena, I choose to look at the positives as opposed to always looking for the negatives”

      Your “New faces” comment didn’t sound very “positive” to me and you’re no Teddy Roosevelt. Nice try. I’m “in the arena” too, by publicly stating my position and advocating my views. One does not have to hold office to “be in the arena.”

      If wanting change (I do) is being negative, as you suggest, then I’m guilty.

  8. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Tom-
    “You have voted to spend lots of CARA money for special interest projects, with no possible ROI and are proud of it.”

    Absolutely correct since a URD (by design) has the majority of its projects with no classic ROI. And I know ROI from my ~30 years in retail management.

    “This is consistent mental box thinking. How many times have you pounded the table to demand the sewage plant be corrected to meet requirements. I have attended lots of meeting and never heard you ever do that.”

    Correct again. “…pound[ing] the table to demand…” is a massive waste of energy IMO.

 

 
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