In his State of the Union speech this week President Obama said he believes what Abraham Lincoln believed: that government should do for people only what they cannot do better themselves, and no more.
There are many things people cannot do for themselves, especially at the local level. They cannot build infrastructure; they cannot fix roads; they cannot provide public safety; they cannot provide a safety net for the less fortunate.
Some of the things people can do for themselves include building businesses, constructing factories and stores, and inventing new products. These can best be accomplished when governments, national and local, get rid of obstacles to these private sector goals.
Keizer residents and businesses are at the mercy of what happens in the capitol buildings in Washington, D.C. and in Salem. National and state tax policies along with thousands of regulations are cited as impediments to economic growth and sustainability. Those issues will most certainly be topics in the presidential campaign this year.
The housing crisis will most likely be front and center as well. Housing prices are still far from their peak and economists say it will be years, if ever, that we will see prices attain pre-financial crisis levels. Other economists say that we have not seen the end of foreclosures here or nationwide. That is the crux of the problem facing the city of Keizer’s operating budget.
Decreasing revenues has made writing the city’s budget a lesson in squeezing the most from every dime. Everyone has their pet project—be it parks or sidewalks, but there is precious little money to do more than just sustain what we have now. While cuts are made to the items the city controls, it is the items the city has no control over that is causing the ongoing budget problems.
The city’s pension, PERS, and health insurance obligations take a bigger bite out of budget each year, leaving less for the pet projects that Keizer would like to have. We have to allocate money for the things we must do. Federal regulations and mandates play a large part in how the city spends its money.
Some Keizerites has suggested that the city allow volunteers to maintain city parks. Nice idea but there are liability issues that forestall that possibility. Some Keizerites would like to fix pot holes in their neighborhood; again it’s a liability issue. The city must provide the services its citizens cannot.
Funding for projects on the drawing board has already been secured through federal and state grants, and earmarked city funds. One such project, the upgrade of Chemawa Road from River Road to Keizer Rapids Park should be completed this summer. Construction on the boat ramp at the park will begin this year. State money for that project was secured long ago; Keizer will use park SDCs for its share of the project. There are other projects that the city would like to do but are in doubt due to funding issues.
The state of the city is similar to 2011. There will be no new big projects. The city will maintain what it has. It will find savings everywhere it can including the painful paring of city jobs if necessary.
The city will continue to do what its citizens can not do, but not much more. That’s why it is imperative that the city finalize its plan to extend the Urban Renewal District as well as find a way to return money to the River Renaissance Project. The city needs to solve its Keizer Station problem regarding Chuck Sides-owned property.
If the city can do those two things the citizens the state of city in 2013 will be much improved.