Sundry thoughts on the Nov. 7 ballot measures

We at The New Era don’t intend to take editorial positions on every candidate and measure before local voters in the Nov. 7 election.

Frankly, there are so many of them that it would be laborious reading. But we will weigh in on a number of measures that strike us as particularly important for our community or the state as a whole.

As far as the candidates are concerned, we have reported on all of those running in the general election for local positions or representative positions that include Sweet Home or Holley-Crawfordsville area with the exception of the state House races, which we will report on next week.

We encourage our readers to peruse those articles and use that information to help them make informed choices on who should represent us at the city, state or federal level. Back issues are available and those stories are on our Web site, at http://www.sweethomenews.com, for anyone who has missed something.

The local measures involve public safety and the library. We will have four levies on our ballots, which all local registered voters should receive in the mail by the middle of next week.

Measure 22-60, the Sweet Home Police Services Operating Levy, would renew a tax of $6.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value each year for the next four years. The new rate is the same as the rate at the beginning of the current levy, which expires on June 30, 2007.

Always before, the city has asked for a specific amount of money, based on what it needs for operations. That means rates decrease as the city grows. The renewal will maintain the rate throughout the life of the levy allowing the service to grow as the city expands.

The Police Department is almost entirely funded through this levy. If the city grows, the Police Department should be able to grow with it. We strongly support the passage of the police levy.

Measure 22-61, the Sweet Home city library operating levy, would place a 62-cent levy per $1,000 of assessed property value each year for four years, starting July 1, 2007. This would continue the temporary operating levy by which the library has been funded for 20 years, renewed every four years. This is the same rate that voters approved in 2002. If your home is worth $150,000, you’ll pay $93 per year for the next four years to help fund the library. This levy renewal is rate-based as is the police levy.

Our editorial staff is split on this issue. We’ll leave this one alone.

Measure 22-67, the Linn County Law Enforcement Levy, would extend county law enforcement funding for four years, through June 2011. The levy funds the Sheriff’s Office (76 percent), criminal prosecution (10 percent) and juvenile offender supervision and detention (14 percent). The rate is $2.34 per $1,000 valuation and would raise an estimated $66,740,101 over the next four years.

We support this levy, although we have concerns about paying the full tax for patrol service inside the city limits, even though the Sheriff’s Office does not regularly patrol in Sweet Home. The way it works now causes revenue problems for the Sheriff’s Office and city police.

Sheriff Tim Mueller has said he’s committed to seeking a solution to this issue, which forces law enforcement agencies to compete for funding. We’re eager to see a solution to this funding scheme.

Measure 22-66, the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District bond, is being presented to voters as a means to enable the SHFAD to purchase four pieces of equipment that it says it needs to improve its Insurance Services Office rating. The cost of the bond would be 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation each year for 10 years.

Levy proponents argue that the rapid growth of the city, plus its declining ISO rating, which has been largely due to its lack of particular equipment and the condition of some of its existing equipment, necessitates the purchase of an aerial fire truck and two engines, which would replace two existing engines built in 1976 and 1981 that both fail to meet current National Fire Protection Agency standards for firefighter safety.

While we’re not for new taxes, we also recognize that the community is growing and our fire department, which is quite efficient at handling most local emergencies, needs to be equipped to handle that growth. Plus, if the ISO rating declines, that means local residents’ and businesses’ fire insurance rates will likely increase.

When proponents were selling the formation of SHFAD to voters in 2000, they said the district’s new permanent rate would provide enough cash to provide for the department’s equipment needs; but the department’s continual growth in medical call loads makes a decent case for this bond request.

We support this one, but we hope it isn’t a precursor of things to come.

State Measure 39 – This is a no-brainer. This will prevent Oregon governments from taking land from private landowners and giving it to private developers and businesses. We vote yes.

State Measure 40 – Right now Portland, Salem and Eugene pick statewide judges. Opponents say we won’t have as much a voice if this passes. In fact, we’ll actually have a voice as we can elect our own judges without interference from the state of Portland. This will be a plus for the rest of us.

State Measure 42 – On a philosophical level, neither the state nor a majority of voters should tell private companies how to set their prices. We oppose this measure. On a practical level, if this passes, we run the risk of raising our own rates as the risk burden is spread from the apparently more accident-prone drivers with bad credit.

State Measure 43 – Parents should know when their daughters, for whom they are responsible and accountable, are considering such a major decision as abortion.

We support this measure.

State Measure 45 – We already have term limits. They’re called elections. We’ve got to be kidding ourselves if we can’t trust ourselves to vote the bums out and instead choose to do it this way.

State Measure 46 and 47 – Say no to campaign finance reform, which is just a euphemism for limiting free speech rights. If your labor is a result of your time, and money represents that, it’s yours do with as you choose. If you want to trade all of your time, in the form of money, to say you like some candidate or measure, you should be able to. It’s kind of sad if voters can’t trust themselves not to vote for the guy with the biggest advertising budget, and we deserve what we get.

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