Elected Officials Lining up at Metro's Teat for their Share of Taxpayer Milk

Last week, the Oregonian ran an article by Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba begging the public to vote for Metro’s massive property tax increase.  At the same time, the list of elected officials endorsing the measure gets longer and longer by the day.  That must be a sign the measure is a good one, right?  If esteemed elected officials like Mayors Doyle and Gamba are lining up behind the measure, then it must be good for all us.

Unfortunately, in this case, you cannot trust your city or county officials to be honest with their constituents; they are too busy lining up to suckle at Metro’s massive property tax increase teat to waste their time with facts.  Our elected officials see a major potential windfall supporting this measure and little political upside to opposing it.  Lets consider the following:

 

  • Zero elected officials with interest in getting re-elected are going to oppose this measure. Elected officials we have spoken with off the record have told us they are either staying silent on this issue or actively supporting the measure despite knowing it does nothing to fix affordable housing issues.  Why?  Because it can and would be used against them in future elections, either by a future opponent or by Metro itself.  Being seen as “anti-affordable housing” is not a mark any person wants against their record, especially if someone is planning on using it against them politically.  Opposing this measure does not make a person anti-affordability, but we all know perception is often reality.

 

  • Any elected official opposing the measure risks not being able to secure funds from the bond for their community in the future. Let’s say a Mayor opposes the property tax increase and the measure still passes.  Then, a year later, they apply for funds from Metro for an affordable housing project in their jurisdiction.  According to Metro, they alone will get final say in which projects get funded and which ones do not.  As an elected official it seems like a bad idea to oppose the measure, even if you know it solves nothing, because it might cut your local government off from receiving funds if the measure passes.  Holding the purse strings on this measure is a massive opportunity for Metro to control local government now and in the future.

 

  • Cities and Counties have a financial interest in seeing this property tax increase pass, because it will provide funds to support their planning, engineering and permitting departments. Every single unit built from this bond will go through a city or county development process.  Metro chose not to require discounting of fees and charges from the jurisdictions, so now for every project built under this bond, the public will pay 100% of the administrative costs for each application.  Folks, that will add up to more than $100 million of the total bond money over the course of 30 years paid directly to cities and counties.  WHY WOULD THEY OPPOSE THIS MEASURE?

 

Going forward we are sure to see nearly every elected official and non-profit affordable housing advocate in the region jump on board this measure and support it.  The smart voter and the intellectually honest person will recognize that all those organizations have a direct pecuniary interest in the measure pass.  You cannot trust elected support in this case.

Lets recap:  As an elected official, you can oppose this measure and risk never getting any of the funds from the measure in the future for projects in your jurisdiction or you can put your ideals aside, deny the facts of the measure and benefit significantly from the fruits of a yes vote.  Elected officials are people and can do the cost/benefit analysis for themselves.

 

Just don’t confuse their support for this measure with their ideals because they have little choice or incentive but to support this measure.