By Jerry Keene, Oceansiders United
Oceanside faces a historic decision: whether to continue under the County’s governance as it has for 100 years, or to form a new city and manage its own affairs. We are the community leaders who initiated the incorporation petition. To earn a place on the ballot, the law required us to obtain signatures by at least 20% of Oceanside’s voters. We exceeded that. Then we had to compile an extensive “Economic Feasibility Statement” (EFS) for the County Commissioners to approve. Our EFS demonstrated that by 2024, the City of Oceanside will enjoy over $1 million a year in revenues, including $600,000 in TLT funds that now goes to the county. It also showed that this would amply cover the city’s anticipated service costs.
At the county hearings, Oceanside True Friends PAC furiously tried and failed to discredit our EFS. Instead, after six months of intense scrutiny, the Commissioners unanimously approved our economic projections.
Having lost that argument, the “True Friends” wants to change the subject from Oceanside’s overall fiscal health to focus on a single side-issue they’ve raised as a scare tactic: Who will pay to upgrade Oceanside’s storm drains 20-30 years from now? Most Oceansiders are far more concerned about the three hotels that might be built in the next few years than what could happen in 2050, but we do need to clear this up.
Oceanside, like many coastal communities, has aging storm drains that will need updating two or three decades from now at a cost of $20-$30 million. This will happen regardless of whether Oceanside incorporates. True Friends, however, is telling Oceanside voters that we can avoid that cost if they vote against incorporation because the county would pay for it. This is a recklessly false red herring. They know that the County has flatly said it will never have the general funds to pay for such a project, in Oceanside or elsewhere.
Instead, such large projects are usually financed in one of two ways: state/federal grants or voter-approved bond levies (loans). Voter-approved bonds are least likely, because they are the most difficult to get passed, but let’s start there. If we incorporate and Oceanside voters approve a bond, then of course they would make the payments. But if the county orchestrates such a bond for the unincorporated community, Oceansiders would STILL pay for it because county-wide voters would rightfully reject any such ballot measure. Instead, Tillamook County Public Works Director Chris Laity predicts that the county would help organize a “special storm drain district” that would administer the bond and bill Oceanside property owners for the payments. In other words, Oceansiders would pay for any bonds regardless of whether we incorporate. The suggestion that the County would do so is beyond ridiculous.
For these reasons, it is far more likely that the either the County or an incorporated Oceanside would seek available state/federal grants. If an unincorporated Oceanside relies on the county to do so, however, it will have to compete with the other unincorporated communities for the staff time and money for the required matching funds (usually 10%). For this reason, Director Laity has stated that an incorporated Oceanside would actually have a better shot at obtaining such a grant than the County by gradually accruing the matching funds over several decades and applying for a grant on its own. (Our proposed budget allowed for that.) In reality, this is a reason to support incorporation, not to oppose it.
We have memos from Director Laity corroborating each one of these points. More importantly, the entire storm drain argument is a cynical tactic designed to divert Oceansiders from weighing the true costs and benefits of incorporation. For reliable information on the issues that matter, please visit www.oceansidersunited.com.