It is nice for cities to have green parks with lots of amenities. It is even nicer for cities to have jobs for its citizens.
That’s where the city council should be putting its focus—creating opportunities for jobs and recruiting businesses to Keizer that will offer living wage jobs.
Despite the cheers about 166,000 new jobs in the country, that pales compared to the more than 10 million lost since the recession began almost two years ago. The fact that the stock market is flirting with 11,000 gives hope, but pales in comparison to the thousands of feet of empty retail and factory space.
Keizer does not exist in a vacuum. Although our employment base is heavily weighted toward government jobs, more than 75 percent of our jobs are in the private sector. Our local unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent and that number doesn’t reflect the underemployed and those who have dropped out of the job market all together.
The city should be focused on bringing to Keizer the kind of jobs that will support a households. If that means that improving parks has to be put on the back burner for a while, so be it.
We are big boosters of Keizer’s parks and understand the role parks play in the livability of a community. Funding everything that keeps Keizer’s quality of life at desired levels is the goal of most citizens. These are extraordinary times and some choices must be made. We opt for whatever will promote economic development now and create jobs.
There are some who are predicting a second wave of home foreclosures to hit sometime later this year. On top of that are the looming troubles some economists are predicting for the commercial real estate sector. This is not good news for the country or for Keizer.
Buying land to add to Keizer Rapids Park is a great idea but the timing is not right. If the economy was stronger we would be all for rushing to purchase the land to add to Keizer Rapids Park. The property being considered for purchase is now priced at 40 percent off its top asking price; as they say, buy low, sell high. But that is still an outlay of more than $1 million. We can think of better uses for that money in this economy.
The River Road Renaissance project is funded by urban renewal funds. Creating attractive sidewalks is important, but in this climate urban renewal funds should be made available to loan to those River Road businesses and landowners who want to remodel their buildings and attract retail or office tenants. The pay off of such a use of funds would be quicker than developing park land years in the future.
There is, of course, a chance that some other buyer can swoop in and purchase the land next to the Keizer Rapids Park. Some say we should strike while the iron is hot. That’s all good and fine but for now we need to focus on more immediate economic development. And economic development means more jobs.
Parks are important to Keizer residents and to us. These times call for tough choices and that may include putting off adding to parks for a while. If the trade off is more jobs, we’re for that.