Letter: Not feeling empowered by Mayor Mark Gamba's fee
In response to last week's news article, the Milwaukie sidewalk fee championed by Mayor Gamba is imposed not by a vote of the people, but rather by a simple majority vote of four city councilors and the mayor.
There is no scientific survey supporting Milwaukie's sidewalk fee. Instead, the City Council uses a public workshop process, which tends to be biased in favor of a sidewalk fee, in my opinion. The relatively small number of people attending these public workshops overshadow what the Milwaukie community at large may or may not want. After all, it is easy to imagine those wanting more sidewalks, and prodded by a city official to do so, would tend to show at the workshops; whereas people who are just fine with the current lack of sidewalks or who do not want to pay for new ones would not be interested in attending a workshop on sidewalks.
The city of Milwaukie did conduct a community survey, after the City Council had already imposed this new sidewalk fee; and this survey by Patinkin Research Strategies last year points to an elevated concern of citizens about taxes. I would include the sidewalk fee as a tax, since you pay regardless of sidewalk use.
It is my belief citizens are most empowered when they get to vote on pocket-book issues. Oregon law requires a vote by the people on property taxes and local gasoline taxes before such new taxes may be imposed. The people of Milwaukie voted to fund a new library through their vote on property taxes. This library tax is truly getting citizen and community buy-in, whereas Milwaukie's sidewalk fee is imposed by those having power over their citizens.
In closing, I am grateful for Mayor Gamba's tireless work effort. The mayor is the focal point of Milwaukie's governance, and I can't imagine too many people wanting to undertake such a daunting role.
Bob "Elvis" Clark