The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Over The Edge: Should city be putting its money into Weddle Bridge?


December 28, 2005

of The New Era

Kim Lawrence, though more adversarial than necessary, has raised an excellent point when she criticizes the city in a recent letter to the editor and in an appearance at the Dec. 13 City Council meeting for spending money on the Weddle Bridge.

Saving the bridge is not the business of the city government. It is the business of individuals who enjoy the bridge and would like to see it saved.

Lawrence compared the city spending money on Weddle Bridge to spending money on the skate park, a worthwhile comparison that she hasn't explained except to say that she can't get a straight answer from the city.

Actually, the city has given her straight answers, and those answers provide plenty to pick at.

The skate park received some $30,000 in public dollars, all to satisfy the entertainment needs of a handful of community members. Weddle Bridge has received more than $7,000 in public dollars to date plus staff time. This is done to benefit some community members, those who derive some pleasure from looking at it (me included) and those who receive whatever measure of positive economic impact it helps create.

In other words, public dollars, my dollars and yours, are used to pay for things we would never choose to buy on our own were we in control of our own share of the cash.

It is not unlike the city paying for magazine subscriptions for all of its residents or high-speed Internet connections for every citizen.

All citizens could use them, just like they can use the skate park and bridge, but certainly many would prioritize their own spending in other ways if a government agency had not seized control of their money and decided for them.

A proper way to fund these projects exists. Private sources raised most of the $40,000 already available for bridge repairs, and private donors and the Kiwanis Club funded roughly $20,000 of the skate park.

Those who were interested, those who wanted to see these things, paid for them. Unfortunately, those who have no interest in skating and no interest in a skate park and those not interested in keeping Weddle Bridge intact have not been asked but required to pay for them.

These are only two examples of a much wider philosophical breakdown in our country, described by phrases like, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." The underlying ideas often boil down to people wanting something for nothing.

The saving grace here in Sweet Home is that so much is done through voluntary means — those who want a benefit work for it. In both of these cases, the folks who benefit, at least many of them, have worked for it. Those who see these things as important parts of our community but do not benefit have also worked for them.

The city should not spend money on things like the skate park or even on Weddle Bridge. If they are important to the community, then the community will take care of it. If not, they will go away or never be developed.

Repairing Weddle Bridge is a wonderful idea; but it should not be done by spending public money on it, whatever the source — especially not at a time when crime is rising locally and our law enforcement agency is unable to expand to meet the demand, a far more important priority.

The bridge is owned by the city, and that raises some sense of obligation to the city government. Taking care of the bridge using city money certainly seems reasonable on the surface. It is to the credit of the City Council and city staff that that the city hasn't tried to provide most or all of the cash needed to fix the bridge.

Further, the city was never supposed to be encumbered with the cost of bridge maintenance. It was transferred to city ownership in 1997, and the city was supposed to receive funding to pay for ongoing maintenance. City officials are unable to find a record of any maintenance funds being transferred to the city. The bottom line is that the bridge was not supposed to become a city expense in the first place.

It is to the credit of Sweet Home Economic Development Group, a group more properly suited philosophically to dealing with community goals like this one, that it stepped up and made the biggest donation to fix the bridge.

Thank you, SHEDG. Thanks also to the other groups, individuals and businesses small and large who also have helped out. Their names have appeared and, no doubt, will appear again within these pages.


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