Wednesday, August 7, 2013
When I was first elected to the Hood River City Council in 2006, our city was in crisis. Our finances were terrible — the city’s three major operating funds were more than $1 million in the red, and the central part of the plan to fix them was to keep increasing water and sewer rates.
I ran for mayor promising to ask hard questions, do my homework, and propose solutions. You’ve shown your confidence by electing me four times, and I believe I’ve done what I promised.
I know there have been questions lately about the appropriate role of the mayor and the city council. The simple answer is that under the Hood River city charter, the mayor and council set policy for the city, and then oversee the city manager as he or she implements that policy. Much of the time, setting policy means approving the city manager’s recommendations, and oversight means reading reports.
But the mayor and council are not ceremonial jobs. We can say “no.” We can play a more active role if circumstances call for it. If we don’t think the options we’ve been given are in the best interest of the city, we can say “none of the above” and propose our own solutions.
To address our city’s financial crisis, the council and I chose to take a more active role than we’ve seen before. For example, I proposed a new budget policy, and worked with staff, budget committee and council to develop a new action plan.
It worked. In the past six years we’ve gone from a deficit to reserves of almost $8 million, without major increases in taxes or fees.
I’m extremely proud of the city council, the budget committee and most of all, our staff, for achieving these results. In the shadow of a nationwide economic recession, we calmly and effectively climbed out of a deep hole. We avoided fiscal chaos. We identified the problems and we fixed them.
Our city’s fiscal health is now strong. We have solid reserves, we have timely and trustworthy reporting, and we have a talented, professional staff who live within their department budgets year-in and year-out. We have a dedicated council and budget committee who make sure we maintain fiscal discipline, and don’t use those very tempting reserves for pet projects. Taxes and rates are under control, and city services are being delivered efficiently and effectively.
The piece that remains is to put a strong city manager in place, one who will confidently steer the city under policy set by the council. We are in an excellent position to attract a top candidate to that job, far better than we were 10 years ago. Hood River is a phenomenal place to live, the city’s economy is strong, the city’s fiscal house is in order and we have the best staff in city history led by strong, seasoned department heads.
Government can be messy and difficult. But in the end, Hood River is working. In fact, it is thriving. With a strong staff and an engaged citizenry, we can work together to keep the city on the right track.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge