At the Helm: Bike paths and budget woes

By Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer January 22, 2011 05:00 am

In the middle of a great recession, when businesses, government entities and individuals are struggling with  large budget deficits, there are some things that appear to defy logic and make one think “Huh?”

That was the case with the front page of Wednesday’s Curry Coast Pilot, which elicited responses from several readers who pointed out what appeared to be two contrary reports involving large sums of money.

The first story focused on the doom and gloom reports from Curry County department heads facing anticipated cuts to their budgets this year and next. The second story addressed the city of Brookings’ efforts to get residents to support its attempt to win an $800,000 state grant to build a multi-use bike path.

It’s easy to assume, as some readers did, that it’s ridiculous to spend $800,000 on a bike path when there are many critical city or county services – law enforcement and public health for example – that are more deserving of such money. With that in mind, those readers vehemently opposed supporting the city’s effort to get the bike path grant.

Unfortunately, their anger is misplaced. The state has strictly allocated that $800,000 for “transportation enhancement projects” that include, but are not limited to, projects that benefit or improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. In other words, the money cannot legally be used to hire more police officers or, say, fix the giant sink hole in front of Brookings City Hall. The money certainly cannot be funneled to the county, as one reader suggested. 

This explanation, of course, doesn’t curb the frustration of citizens who view the bigger picture of government spending and bristle at what they describe as the misallocation of taxpayers’ money.

I don’t disagree. However, this is not the time and place to address the “bigger picture” issue.

Meanwhile, we are stuck with the current structure of government, and the state wants to give some lucky city $800,000 of our hard-earn tax money.

I think Brookings should be that city.

Please cast your vote by completing an online survey  through the city’s web site: www.brookings.or.us.

That’s what reader Linda Bozack did. In an e-mail to me Friday, she wrote:

“Kudos to the city of Brookings for applying for the ODOT grant to build a new bike path, and to Arwyn Rice of the Pilot for the excellent article covering this issue. However, this grant will only become a reality for Brookings if we, as citizens, follow the link at www.brookings.or.us and answer the ODOT survey.  I just did it, and it didn’t take long.”

She added, “A few minutes of your time today will help provide funds for a multi-use/bike path that we can all use for years to come. It’ll give students at the new campus an affordable, safe way to get to campus, it’ll provide healthy, free recreation in our beautiful coastal community, and it’ll protect our air by limiting automobile traffic on 101. It’s a winner on all sides!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.