Metro Funding Crisis!

Posted on December 8, 2012 by

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In 1995 and 2006, Metro persuaded voters in the Tri-County area surrounding Portland, Oregon to allow the agency to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed bonds in order to acquire natural areas “for the benefit of wildlife and people”. Unsurprisingly, the brain-trust at Metro ran right out and bought up thousands of acres of land. Equally unsurprisingly, they ignored that whole “for the benefit of wildlife and people” routine, and so they set aside no funding whatsoever for maintenance or improvement.

It having suddenly occurred to the Metro brain-trust that, “Well dang! We ain’t got no money for this!”, they’ve decided to take the time-honored approach of bureaucrats everywhere: rather than cut back on, say, a few dozen “planners” or PR staff, they’ll just run back to the taxpayers with their hands out.

Don’t you wish your life was so easy?

Imagine that you’ve bought the biggest house on the largest piece of property you could find, and then suddenly realize that you’ve got no money for insurance, utilities, maintenance, food…and your answer is to simply dash around with your hands outstretched, begging your neighbors to give you their money.

That’s how Metro “works”. But they get even worse:

Metro bought 500 acres of “natural area” at Clear Creek, near Carver, Oregon. You can’t visit the area, let alone do any fishing or hiking – because they turned right around and gave that land to their Oregon Zoo subsidiary for use as an off-site breeding facility for endangered California condors; a use which was quickly expanded to include facilities for pygmy rabbits and even geriatric goats. Today, the facilities include housing and pens for all of these animals, expanding as needed, along with research facilities and living quarters.

It’s also reported that the zoo has been considering several hundred additional acres of “natural area” now owned by Metro for possible use as an off-site facility for elephants (a major selling point for the zoo’s most recent bond measure was the promise that an off-site facility would be constructed for elephants). This would entail development of housing for the animals, construction of several miles of elephant-proof barriers, refrigeration-capable commissary facilities for produce and other food items, a storage facility for hay, a maintenance facility, a facility for composting/removal of elephant waste products, and roads capable of addressing the requirements for tractor-trailer rigs, front-end loaders, fork-lifts, and other vehicles related to operational necessities.

While few would dispute the value of goals such as successful propagation and management of endangered species, the costs and benefits should not be calculated on the sly; the Metro bonds were approved exclusively for the acquisition of natural areas for the benefit of wildlife and people – and by definition, acquisition implies a responsibility for associated maintenance and/or improvement. Metro’s brain-trust entirely abdicated that responsibility and further, placed several hundred acres of acquired “natural areas” off-limits to people (and, to a lesser extent, native wildlife). Moreover, they have permitted development in parts of these “natural areas” by their zoo subsidiary.

And it’s not as though the zoo appears to be suffering any shortage of funds: approximately a decade ago, they spent several hundred thousand dollars demolishing and filling in a trio of waterfowl ponds at the north end of their facilities; replacing them with a “Trillium Family Farm” set of facilities for children. Included was a two-story barn, a chicken coop, goats, cows, pigs, hand-washing stations. Today, the animals are gone and the place is being largely demolished to make way for – wait for it:

A waterfowl pond.

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