Thursday, August 31, 2006

All Politics Is Local

City government is about basic services and infrastructure. Police and fire, water and sewer, traffic and roads, building fees and zoning rules, ambulance service. What have people been talking to me about? Their neighbor's construction project, the size of their water bill, the rezoning of their neighborhood, the price of real estate, downtown parking, brush blocking the sidewalk. I've never liked the catch word "livability", but I can't think of a better term for the combination of big and small issues which affect our families every day.

There are some common misconceptions about city government. The City does not control the Port of Hood River or Port lands such as the Marina Park or Event Site. It can't change the tolls-- but it can change the parking meters. The City is only in charge of some of the area parks-- we elect a Parks and Rec Commission regionally who manage the others (Example: City owns Jackson Park, but not the Aquatic Center). ODOT is in charge of state roads and highways, but the city fixes the potholes on your local streets. The City does not run the schools. City jurisdiction ends at the city limits-- Hood River County Commission deals with services outside the city limits.

Another thing most people are confused about is where the City gets the money to provide these services. I'll do a tour through the City budget soon which should clear that up.

I'll also be writing much more about the "big" issues which will be before the Council in the near future: Zoning will be front and center, as the city tries to rework the zoning rules to address the pressures of development, lack of affordable housing, and the effects of Measure 37. Budget will loom over everything-- the city has a major budget deficit which it will have to correct before we can talk about anything that costs money. Waterfront development and the new waterfront park are again on the agenda, but this time I think we have the political will to move it forward-- if we can find the money.


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