Local Bonds, Districts, Levies & Campaigns

By: Garrett Chrostek, attorney at Bryant, Lovlien & Jarvis, Leadership Bend Class of 2016

In light of the Bend City Council’s decision to send a $.05 per gallon gas tax to the voters, our fourth Leadership Bend class was particularly topical. In this session, our class learned about the state’s property tax system, public construction bonds and local elections.

Deschutes County Assessor Scot Langton started things off with a primer on the voter-approved ballot measures that created our statewide property tax system. While the system stabilizes tax revenues, Langton discussed how construction completed in years with strong real estate prices can end up costing homeowners substantially more in property taxes than similar development constructed in years with depressed prices. Our system lacks the means to smooth out these disparities over time, he said. Langton told the class this issue will likely be a subject for future legislation.

We were then joined by Central Oregon Community College Director of College Relations Ron Paradis, former Bend Park and Recreation District Board Member Scott Wallace and Deschutes Public Library Assistant Director Lynn Mildenstein for a discussion of the bonding process. All of the speakers’ respective organizations successfully passed bond measures that brought Central Oregon some of its most distinctive public amenities.  The common theme from the presenters was that a public agency must identify a worthy project, demonstrate reliability in managing public monies and pick the right time in order to pass a bond.

Over lunch, the class attended City Club where as an astute panel of my millennial peers dissected common millennial stereotypes. Of particular note, millenials are unjustly described as relying on their parents for housing, they vote in comparable numbers to other generations when they were our age and survived a generation defining recession through our resolve and ingenuity.

Coming full circle to the gas tax, political guru Neil Bryant and County Clerk Nancy Blankenship took us through the mechanics of local elections and the art of campaigning.  As an exercise, the class was divided into two groups to develop strategies for running campaigns both for and against the gas tax.  The pro campaign focused on the sorry state of our roads and the virtues of seeking financial contribution from non-resident users.  The anti-gas tax campaign emphasized the $70,000 cost of this special election, the city’s inability to find funds within the existing budget and Redmond becoming the refill destination of choice for Portlanders in their hybrids.  The opposition campaign also dominated the social media game by crafting #taxthestuds.

Many thanks to the guests and speakers, City Club and our facilities host, Moda Health, who made this fun and informative day possible.


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