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Chapter 4.1


Paying for Our Growth in Oregon - (The POGO Report)  Preface
(New Oregon Meridian Press, October 1998)

By Richard Carson

In the Fall of 1972 the state of Oregon published a highly avant-guard document called The Willamette Valley: Choices for the Future. It began with a letter from then Governor of Oregon, Tom McCall, who said, "Will the valley fall prey to a now-familiar pattern of un- coordinated growth and urban sprawl? Or can its people, working in community, build a different future?" Although few realized it at the time, this was the genesis of statewide land use planning in Oregon. As unique as this blueprint was, there was one chapter missing: how to pay for the cost of growth in Oregon.

This report addresses that specific issue. The report researches the financial scope of the problem; analyzes the options; presents alternatives that local government officials can implement; and makes specific recommendations on how to meet these challenges. The report looks at the most current legal and financial issues -- from Ballot Measure five to Ballot Measure 50 -- and  also draws on the current literature. The report incorporates information from two other ongoing major research efforts dealing with growth. One is the 250-page Revised Research Plan for forthcoming publication of The Costs of Sprawl Revisited, and the other is the work of the Governor's Task Force on Growth. The report also benefits from the advice of experienced professionals in and out of the state of Oregon.

This report is written for people who have varying levels of knowledge of the subject matter. Decision makers do not need to be professional engineers to make the decision to build, maintain and pay for infrastructure in Oregon. In fact, the actual decision to build local government infrastructure is usually made by elected officials who have little or no formal training in building or operating such facilities. Many of the participants in the decision process -- like citizens, developers and environmentalists -- also have little technical experience.

The goal of this report is to help local government officials and concerned citizens meet the challenge of paying for the infrastructure and service needs of their growing communities. The author has spent his 25-year career working in the planning and implementation of public policy to manage growth. His interest in this subject is to find fair and equitable ways to meet the demands of growth. If growth becomes a problem, then it is time to do growth management. 

"The problem for local government is not a lack of
tools for managing growth. It is an inability to forge
a clear consensus among voters and policy makers
about which to use."

Governor Kitzhaber's Task Force on Growth efforts has reached a similar conclusion: The problem for local government is not a lack of tools for managing growth. It is an inability to forge a clear consensus among voters and policy makers about which to use.

A recent survey reveals that there is a prevailing negative attitude among Oregonians about population growth. Many Oregonians are provincial and bemoan the influx of outsiders and the fact that growth is ruining our wonderful landscape and lifestyle.  But we conveniently forget that we are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. When the first census was taken in 1850, there were 25,000 people living in Oregon; 50 percent were native Americans, and 50 percent were white settlers. In 1997 the population in Oregon was estimated to be 3,217,000 and the census revealed that the native Americans made up only 1 percent of the population.

The history of the social, economic and environmental costs of growth in Oregon begins more than 455 years ago when the first nonnative European people arrived in Oregon. Population growth through immigration was not far behind. Oregon's landscape would be changed forever by the constant flow of immigrants and their descendants.

The exploits of Lewis and Clark, as well as the Oregon Trail survey expeditions of Colonel John Fremont and Kit Carson forever changed Oregon. The expedition reports were distributed widely and the result, according to one newspaper of the day, was that "emigration poured like a torrent down upon the vale." More than 300,000 pioneer emigrants eventually made the trek, but some 10 percent did not survive the journey - this was a very real cost of growth.

The State was harshly dictatorial in its treatment of Chinese immigrants, with whose descendants the commonwealth now finds no quarrel; but it was also the first to introduce the initiative and referendum, and the breadth of liberalism has never entirely failed. Unpredictable as are voters elsewhere, Oregonians sometimes make strange uses of their franchise. The Klu Klux Klan burned its fiery crosses over a hundred hills, and its propagandists sowed racial intolerance in every county of the state, but the Oregon electorate, unmoved by these activities, plodded to the polls and elected a Jewish governor.

Oregon's history is not only about growth, but also about xenophobia and provincialism. Almost half a century ago, a Roosevelt era New Deal publication about Oregon said:

The State was harshly dictatorial in its treatment of Chinese
immigrants, with whose descendants the commonwealth
now finds no quarrel; but it was also the first to introduce
the initiative and referendum, and the breadth of liberalism
has never entirely failed. Unpredictable as are voters elsewhere,
Oregonians sometimes make strange uses of their franchise.
The Klu Klux Klan burned its fiery crosses over a hundred
hills, and its propagandists sowed racial intolerance in every
county of the state, but the Oregon electorate, unmoved by
these activities, plodded to the polls and elected a Jewish governor.

Some things never change!

To discuss the substantive issues of growth Oregonians must first set aside their irrational fear of newcomers. The fact is, 30 percent of the growth since 1990 is not from people moving here, but from children born to Oregonians. It is time we talked about their future. Second, Oregonians must understand the actual monetary and budgetary facts about growth. The fact is that the cost of growth is an issue being used by different special interests to further their own political agendas.


[Editor's note: The is an except from the 80-page report. If you would like a free copy of The POGO Report, then go to http://planneronline.homestead.com/files/carson/main.htm on the World Wide Web. You can download it for free. If you would like a hard copy of the report, then send $11.50 payable to the New Oregon Meridian Press, 732 NW 170th Drive, Beaverton, OR, 97006].

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Common Sense
by Richard H. Carson