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Members seek their most and least important topics for lobbying body Oregon League of Cities

The Oregon League of Cities is the lobbying body that works for the cities it represents. It is important it knows which topics and ideas city councils deem most and least significant.

At its July 25 meeting, Molalla councilors determined which priorities they thought were most and least imperative.

The most votes went to Mental Health Investment as the highest priority topic. This goes back to 2015, when the legislature funded rental and housing assistance for persons suffering from mental illness, provided special training for police to help people in a mental crisis, provided multi-disciplinary crisis intervention teams and expanded access to treatment. There are indications of budget shortfalls in 2019, so the General Government Committee wants to make sure those services are not cut.

PERS Reform is another priority Molalla city councilors want the League of Cities to lobby. It seeks legislation to modernize the PERS investment pool, ensure proper financial controls are adhered to and give cities a greater voice in how the monies are invested. It also plans to seek legislation that shares the risk and costs of the pension benefit with employees.

The cost of government retirement programs has risen steadily since 2008 and will increase again in 2019, 2021 and 2023. Rates are expected to remain at a system wide average of about 29 percent of payroll until 2035 without reform.

The league hopes to ensure PERS investments are achieving maximum returns in the most efficient manner possible while safeguarding the funds with proper financial controls. It also wants to require that employees absorb some costs for the pension system but ensure employees are impacted more favorably.

A third Molalla priority is Infrastructure Financing and Resilience. Under this topic, the League will advocate to increase the state's investment in key infrastructure funding sources including the Special Public Works Fund, Brownfield Redevelopment Fund and Regionally Significant Industrial Site loan program. It will seek an investment and set aside through the SPWF for seismic resilience planning and related infrastructure improvements to make Oregon water and wastewater systems more resilient.

Current state funding levels are inadequate compared to the needs, and funds are depleted and unsustainable without significant modifications and reinvestments. A 2016 survey of cities identified a need of $7.6 billion over the next 20 years for water and wastewater infrastructure projects for the 120 cities responding. Without infrastructure financing options, cities can't meet the needs of new housing or new business.

The fourth top priority for the lobbyist is Safe Routes to School Match. In order to receive these matching grants, cities with grants must pay a 40 percent cash match unless the city's population is less than 5,000, is within a safety corridor or qualifies as a Title I school. In these cases, the cash match is 20 percent. The league thinks these cash match requirements are too high for most cities to participate and wants them lowered to 20 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Council members determined the following four ideas held the least priorities for Molalla. The first is the Wood Smoke Reduction Program support. This would increase funding to support local wood smoke reduction programs and efforts. It would advocate for an additional $3-5 million.

Speed Cameras were also thought to be of no consequence in Molalla. Under this the League would introduce or support legislation for cities to used fixed speed cameras at locations other than intersections.

Auto Theft would address the deficiencies in the Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle statute created after an adverse court ruling. Councilors didn't think this idea was necessary.

The last low-priority topic would broadening Lodging Tax Definitions. City council members were not in favor of the League lobbying to adjust and broaden the definitions of tourist, tourism promotion and tourism-related facility.

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