Milwaukie city councilor: Goals should be completed in five years
On Tuesday, July 20, the Milwaukie City Council will discuss council goals in a public broadcast setting for the first time in six years.
I advocated moving the discussion of goals off of the usual January weekend retreat to a meeting that is televised in the hope that more Milwaukians get engaged in the discussion of what the city's goals should be.
For a dozen years or more, I have followed council goal-setting, which has varied widely in that time. Some councils had long list of goals but no real funding or staff capacity to achieve them. To her credit, the current city manager has insisted on there being only three goals, to enhance her ability to devote staff time and other funding to them. For several years now, climate action and promoting affordable housing have been two of the goals. The third has changed every year or two, but last year the council readily saw the need to make equity and justice work the third goal.
All of these — climate, housing and equity — are crucial things for the city to be working on. But are addressing climate and equity actually goals? A goal is an aim to be achieved, so treating climate and equity work as goals implies that we will be finished with that work at some point in time. Maybe. But really it seems to me that they aren't goals, they are frameworks, or lenses, which should apply to all of the functions that the city performs. They require prolonged effort that will change over time, but it's hard for me to see either being "accomplished" in the next 20 years.
Are we going to keep them as goals indefinitely? It seems to me they should be integrated into the city's work — and budget — going forward.
Goals, in my view, are things that can be achieved in a nearer term, say two to five years. Finishing Milwaukie Bay Park. Revitalization of downtown Milwaukie. Building a community center, a pool, a skatepark. Removing Kellogg Dam. Establishing a shuttle service to connect our business/industrial areas to light rail, like the one just started in Oregon City. Building a municipal broadband network to provide cheaper, faster internet service to Milwaukie residents and businesses. Establishing a satellite library on the east side of town. Your list might have things no one on the council has thought of, which is why I feel it's important to solicit public input every few years.
To be clear, city staff members do work on some of these things, such as Milwaukie Bay Park and Kellogg Dam. But because they are not council goals, the amount of staff time or funding devoted is limited. And others on the list languish.
We need to find sources to fund the ongoing climate and equity work as part of the city's core biennial budget going forward. How can we raise money to permanently fund these staff positions and the corollary work, and free up the "goal" money for other things?
In Oregon, cities generally have four main revenue streams: taxes (property taxes are capped, but business taxes are possible), ballot measures/levies, user fees or grants. None are terribly appealing options, but the council heard very little objection to the Safe Access for Everyone (SAFE) fee that has been used to build the new sidewalks around local schools, on Linwood, River Road, and elsewhere.
The bond to build the new Ledding Library also passed very easily five years ago. Residents recognize that desired projects cost more than the city's budget can cover.
Lisa Batey, a Milwaukie city councilor, seeks to express her own views in this article, an article she didn't submit to represent the views of the Milwaukie City Council.
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