EDITORIAL: Have you voted yet? What there’s an election?

By Laura Swanson, editor, Tillamook County Pioneer
Member, Housing Task Force

There aren’t any “big” national positions vying for our attention, in fact, there are only two issues on our local Tillamook County ballots. And actually, they are “big” deals …
The “easy” decision – “Should Tillamook County properties and parks be tobacco-free?” to which most people reply “Aren’t they already?” And the fact that 84% of Tillamook County residents DON’T smoke or use tobacco products makes this an easy “YES” vote.
The other issue is much more complicated and from watching the comments on line, most people can’t get past a three letter word in the title “TAX”. It really doesn’t matter what you call a funding mechanism that is ONE of the first steps towards positively impacting our housing crisis in Tillamook County, but this is also an easy “YES” vote.
Here are the facts:
-We are talking about affordable, workforce housing, not low-income housing.
-This issue was put on the ballot by realtors and contractors – the very groups that are going to benefit the most from it. The statewide realtors and contractors groups have SUPPORTED this type of construction fee to help solve the housing crisis in other parts of the state.
-The program DOES INCLUDE incentive programs to reduce Systems Development Services (SDS) fees on affordable housing projects.
-It also includes first-home-buyer assistance programs.
-If you aren’t buying/remodeling a home over $250,000, you will not pay.
-The petitioners want you to be confused.
Here’s the scenario: The Tillamook County Commissioners were in the process of approving this program when representatives for the realtors and contractors suggested raising the cap to $250,000, and said that if the Commissioners agreed to do that they would not put pursue putting the issue on the ballot. The BOC agreed and began the process – another public hearing, etc. to amend the resolution. The realtors/contractors went ahead and put the issue on the ballot, with the lower cap.
Remember- these are the people that will see increased profits when there is more available housing inventory. This action has set back launching a vital program by 6 months or more …
-Another government POSITION – not agency – one person to administer the incentive program, to review myriad zoning options, to secure grant funding programs, to continue to pursue public-private partnerships, and more. A position that exists in most other counties, and the reason why projects often happen in Clatsop or Lincoln County, for example.
-Other projects are “in the works” – This is just ONE of the recommendations from the Housing Task Force report, and several other recommendations are also being pursued. Tillamook County is being considered for a Northwest Oregon Housing Authority (NOHA) pilot project because of the work being done by the volunteer Housing Task Force.
The “NO MORE TAX” folks have been loud – and providing mis-information about how important this program is, a government position, the poorly written ballot titles, etc. Be the solution – no construction excise tax – then what? Reducing SDS fees, changing zoning, grants, etc. OH – right we don’t have anyone to do that. That’s why a YES vote is the only vote. This is a fee that a small percentage of the people will pay – it will be paid mostly by new vacation homes and large commercial projects. It is not going to hinder construction (residential or commercial). But, if workforce housing isn’t built – these new projects won’t get built either as there is no housing for the workers needed by the contractors. The fee equates to the cost of a new refrigerator in the overall budget of these projects.
A YES VOTE helps move our County in the direction it needs to go – providing much-needed, affordable homes for your friends, family and neighbors.