Finding the solution to fixing city streets is a bumpy journey for members of the Enumclaw City Council. The problem is bringing the streets up to standard costs $3.8 million, according to the city administration report at the Transportation Benefit District meeting April 13. That’s a lot of money. It will have to come from some form of tax increase. There simply is not enough money in the city’s budget to fund it. Council members want to fix the streets but they’re leery of voter anger over more taxes and they said so at the TBD meeting.
The city paid consultants to do a study of streets back in 2007. That study clearly showed the best method was to fix streets year by year, rather than letting streets degrade over time which would cost the taxpayers more money in the long run. Long-term planning and voter emotions often clash.
The councils since then have not been willing to increase constituents’ taxes in Enumclaw. This is partly due to the recession that hit Enumclaw about 2009-10, and it’s also because there is a knee-jerk reaction to any tax increase by many voters. Taxes are considered bad; big government is evil, stupid and incompetent.
Previous city councils have avoided fixing the streets because of that fear, and it’s still a fear on the part of the current council. But at least the council is willing to discuss it. That’s an improvement. It shows courage on their part.
The council has considered increasing the sales tax by .1 cent, and/or increasing property taxes. They’ve also considered floating a bond issue before the voters to fix the streets long term. The council could also act without voter approval by using some of the banked capacity available from property taxes. Some or all of these options are possibilities to find the money.
This is where you the readers of this column can help the City Council. Having served on the council for four years, I know that council members are very much concerned about what their voting public thinks. No one likes criticism, especially elected officials. This is where you, the public can help your elected leaders.
Send them emails encouraging them to pass taxes to fix our streets because you know that the longer the council waits, the more you the taxpayer will have to pay to get the job done. Tell them you are willing to see a rise in taxes now to save money down the road.
The next time you drive around in Enumclaw, look how many of the streets need repair. Use your power with our council by sending them encouraging letters telling them to fix our streets. To contact all of them at once, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elected officials rarely get “Atta boys/girls”. This is your chance to use your power as constituents in a positive way. The council will probably be shocked to get encouragements to spend money by raising taxes, but positive communication will have a big impact in fixing our city streets. You also have three minutes to speak at each council meeting on the second and fourth Mondays at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall. Tell your elected officials that you are ready to smooth your driving around Enumclaw.
If you don’t like the look of our streets and the resultant decrease in property values, now is the time to crank out some emails, or to make phone calls or speak out. Silence on the part of voters will mean the same old same old. Active involvement can change the look and the feel of our town. The choice is yours. Happy driving, or not.