WaCo: One conservative's earmark is another's key road project

Carla Axtman

Throughout the debate over Washington County government's grand plan to develop large acreage farmland for residential and commercial purposes, one issue that's concerned me deeply is the tax bill for the needed infrastructure for these projects. Anyone who drives the Sunset Highway or 217, or tries to get around Washington County during commuting hours knows how clogged the road infrastructure is already. Not to mention the needed public school, sewer, lighting and other projects that are required basics to complete these projects.

Washington County has been woefully inadequate when it comes to holding developers accountable for their reasonable share of these costs. They've either required taxpayers to foot the vast majority of the bill or, in some cases, infrastructure projects go uncompleted (basic safety stuff like sidewalks and streetlights, for example).

Ironically, the Washington County Commission has, for many years, been run in a rather iron-fist like fashion by conservatives. Their mantra has been to "get out of the way" of development "for the sake of jobs". It would appear that their conservative brethren at the federal level may now be making it more difficult for them to "get out of the way".

Dana Tims, The Oregonian:

Critical elements of Washington County's federal legislative agenda are in doubt next year because of continuing controversy over just what constitutes an "earmark."

Commissioners Tom Brian and Andy Duyck recently went to Washington D.C., where various members of Oregon's legislative delegation shed light on just how difficult it may be to secure money for specific programs.

County programs such as major road improvements, water-quality monitoring, repeat offenders and homeless youth all could be jeopardized, they were told, by growing opposition to earmarks.

Will this put a substantive cramp into Washington County's "develop at all costs" style? That remains to be seen. But there is some delicious irony in the fact that a bunch of conservatives at the federal level are forcing these iron-fisted local conservatives to hand-wring over the austerity policy of their big brothers.

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    Washington County has historically developed with little concern for the public, only for business. I understand that Medford is figuring out ways to reduce traffic study requirements and add agricultural land in the Regional Problem Solving process. This after quite a few years of responsible growth planning. Greed is in, concern for one's fellow men/women is out.

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      Medford just recently prevailed (again) in their decision from 2004 that the proposed Super Walmart tentatively sited at the old South Medford interchange did not require a new traffic study.

      Anti Walmart folks had tried everything possible and finally resorted to LUBA and the centralized land use planning process. Amazingly, the ruling agreed that the removal of the south medford interchange to a road further south actually would negate the need for a traffic study. This had nothing to do with greed and everything to do with common sense application of trip counts.

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        I understand this change and hope it correctly forecasts our traffic future. By the time we know the outcome, it will be a too late to make adjustments that might have helped.

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    I can't help feeling the conservative element of the Washington County Commission is getting exactly what it deserves. Tom Brian & co like to talk about what an efficient, "frills-free" government they've created. Well, now they're on the receiving end of the same sorts of policies they've been forcing on others. Perhaps there's a lesson for them to learn.

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    Congressional earmarks are just one way to secure federal funding for the Board's pet projects. The funds can be included in federal agency budgets for special projects. Many ways to skin a cat if you know the people to talk to. (I'm not kidding -- this was discussed at Dec. 14 Board work session.)

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    Per my comment yesterday, here's a link to a NYT story that appeared this afternoon online:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/28/us/politics/28earmarks.html?nl=us&emc=politicsemailema1

    Actually, I don't know how to make it a link in this box here, but that's where to find it . . .

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