There is positive economic growth in Lincoln County with a lot of the accolades going to the Lincoln County Commissioners. Great job, but is it really happening countywide?
With the release of the recent Economic Study of Lincoln County, it is more than ever evident that not all parts of the county benefit equally in economic growth. The disparity of the median income tells it best with the highest median income in the county being Newport at $47,000 and the lowest being Lincoln City at $29,000. The other Lincoln County cities fall in between.
Property taxes are what provide the primary income for our County budget. Over half the population of Lincoln County lives in one of its seven cities and a majority of the real property assessed value in the County is within these city limits. Additionally, 23% of the county’s assessed value comes from Lincoln City and only 18% comes from Newport
So, while Lincoln City has the lowest median income in the County, it contributes the highest level of assessed value to fund the County budget. Perhaps this is the time that as a County we begin to discuss the need for Wards/Districts/Zones from which our County Commissioners would be elected so all parts of the County are represented.
At the same time, I believe that there would be great value in collaboration between our County and City Governments. Collaboration and cooperation are two key essentials for our county’s future. None of the current County Commissioners have prior City Government experience. Relationships need to be built so these elected officials will work together to better deliver services throughout the County.
David Allen, a Newport City Councilor, raised the question of whether we should have paid or non-paid County Commissioners. At the very least, we should perhaps discuss the level of compensation that is currently being paid to these three individuals, especially if the overall county budget is of any concern. The current structure is to have three Commissioners manage the operations of the County and its policies. The Commissioners are compensated at the level of full time employment. I question whether we, as Citizens, are getting the full benefit of full time employees. Weekly daytime meetings do not constitute full time employment. I’m not suggesting we have the Commissioners punch a time clock or be glued to their desks, but I am suggesting that we, as Citizens, should know what the Commissioners are doing, how they spend their day and the results they are achieving. For example, public calendars of the Commissioners schedules could be made available online. Citizens would then be informed as to meetings they attend outside of the County Commission meetings and workshops or events they attend representing all of us.
I also believe that we are in the high tech world now and Commission meetings should be distributed live on cable and/or live on the internet so Citizens have the opportunity to view the proceedings. Even holding some of the meetings in the evening rather than 9:30am would benefit citizens who would like to attend after their work hours. Finding out what transpires in the Commission meetings at a later date makes it much more difficult for anyone to respond to an issue in a timely manner.
What about the County website having the same information needed for the weekly meetings made available to the public at the same time the Commissioners have the material? This does not mean just the agenda but the entire packet for public reading. Some cities in this County already make agendas, staff reports and supporting material available to the public at the same time their Council receives them. Having the information available immediately online gives each citizen the opportunity to speak to the issues at the meeting and to the commissioners. Our County Government is certainly not in the forefront of this effort of transparency.
Lincoln County is fortunate to have citizens with a variety of interests and expertise. Our elected Commissioners don’t have to be experts on every subject but they do need to be willing and able to allow citizens to participate in County Government and to listen to what these citizens have to say. In my travels throughout the County, whether at the Yachats Commons and Ladies Club or the Waldport Farmers Market, I have heard from people the theme of a disconnect from the County. Building relationships and communicating with the people is a skill needed to bring the County together.
It’s time we had fresh eyes looking at the County as a whole and ears listening to what people have to say.
Candidate for Lincoln County Commissioner, Position 3