Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If it snows, we're screwed.

Read the article on Bend's budget shortfall with great interest.

A few things seem obvious and have been stated before:

1.) This slowdown isn't over and is probably going to get worse, and at best isn't going to get better anytime soon.

2.) The time to pay for growth is while the growth is happening, not after it's over. If charging more fees had actually slowed the growth -- shrunk the bubble, if you will -- would that have been such a bad thing? One third less growth, paid for one third more solidly? (Ironically, the building trade would STILL like fees lowered -- you know -- to encourage more building. Because -- you know -- we need more houses...)

3.) When you plan for things like Juniper Ridge and BAT, you should allow for the possibility of recessions. As a small business owner, I've been in the position of owning four stores when business fell off, and strategically retreating back to three stores, then two stores, then one store.

Overextending is a classic mistake. Bend took way too long to admit its mistake.

4.) I believe this will be a El Nino winter, which usually results in way more snow than normal. These comments were a little alarming, if you are Murphy's Law proponent:

"The city has already deferred about $12 million in street maintenance..."

and

"A dollar you don't spend today becomes four dollars you have to spend tomorrow...."

There was no mention of Juniper Ridge, at all. Which, every time I drive by gives off the whiff of decayed aspirations.

There was an offhand mention of BAT: "...the city"...."had to provide services, like transit...."
Well, no. That was a self inflicted wound. We may have to ask ourselves the question: would we rather have mostly empty buses trundling around town -- or a policeman who can show up at our door soon enough to actually help us with a problem?

The article did point out one ameliorating factor that I'd never known about: Bend was unlucky enough to have relatively low property prices when the property taxes were frozen. The explosive growth and price increases haven't brought in the revenues they would have in Beaverton or Medford.

Unintended consequences like these might be a good argument against Initiative Measures that LOCK-IN solutions and don't allow for flexibility or future changes. (Mandatory sentences, for instance.)

Next car you buy, get four wheel drive, because you're going to need it.

4 comments:

Duncan McGeary said...

Or is it that we had low property rates when they were frozen?

In that case, it would seem to be a double whammy -- collecting smaller percent on higher priced new houses, as well as a smaller percent of low cost pre-bubble houses that can only assessed a 3% increase.

Not that that lets the city off the hook; planning should've taken that into account.

blackdog said...

"The time to pay for growth is while the growth is happening, not after it's over. If charging more fees had actually slowed the growth -- shrunk the bubble, if you will -- would that have been such a bad thing?"

Careful, Dunc, keep talking sense like that and The Bulletin editorial page is going to call you a "no-growther." Maybe even (shudder) an "activist" (their worst term of opprobrium).

blackdog said...

"I believe this will be a El Nino winter, which usually results in way more snow than normal."

Actually the climate gurus are predicting a La Nina winter, which means more snow and rain than usual.

Duncan McGeary said...

Let's try that again:

"Actually the climate gurus are predicting a La Nina winter, which means more snow and rain than usual."

Thanks.

More snow, at any rate. Not having the money to plow guarantees it, eh?