Why did I vote no on the MSCO merger?
I have been pretty frank and open since the beginning about the conditions that need to be met before I willingly dismantled a community asset like the Fairview Police Department. Those conditions were sustainability and service.
The reason we even began this exercise was the writing was on the wall that expenses were going to exceed tax revenue at some point in the future. Even now, every penny of property tax collected in Fairview doesn't cover the police budget.
City of Fairview has always been fiscally cautious and any such fiscal crisis was still years away. There was absolutely no need to rush. The problem with the MSCO merger was that it's even more fiscally unsustainable. Mayor Ted Tosterud's own fiscal forecast chart, the same chart I was ironically censured for because I was "lying to the public," shows that the fiscal forecast after five years was distressing.
How could I support a merger proposal that knowingly harms the taxpaying citizens of Fairview in the future? It doesn't solve the problem that originally pushed us to seek the County Sheriff option.
The other issue was service.
This proved to be the most complicated and difficult one to resolve. There was no doubting that the county has a vast array of resources far beyond that of the Fairview Police Department and we were told that by signing on with the county those resources would be available to Fairview.
As a sales point, it fails on face value and brings into questions about whether or not the County Sheriff is withholding these services from the Fairview community, which pay the Multnomah County property tax and are citizens of the county.
Service to me equates to "boots on the ground," and I saw this merger deal as replacing our current service for the same service. Would it be marginally better in its efficiencies and staffing? Absolutely. Did it satisfy my condition of a better service? It didn't.
I do not begrudge my fellow councilors for supporting the merger. We all had different reasons and priorities that drove our decisions: liability, crime, officer safety, to name a few. There are plenty of positive benefits that a county service will bring to the Fairview community.
I think the biggest criticism I've heard from the citizens is that the process the city engaged in was not that of meaningful dialogue about the real problems facing Fairview and the different options available to the community, but that the process was a presentation dictating a single course of action and justifying it.
The work continues. Hopefully we can start addressing the deeper overall problems of expenses, taxes and how smaller communities like Fairview on the outskirts of two major metropolitan communities deal with big city problems on such a limited budget.