Bend officials were not completely surprised when Deschutes County Circuit Judge Beth Bagley ruled Wednesday that they could not legally cut the tourism industry’s share of transient room taxes the city collects. They were told the plan might not be legal when they agreed to it a bit over a year ago.
That said, now those same officials must find a way to replace the $350,000 the tax provided for roads, sweeten the road-repair pot and build new capacity. A bond measure is the best way to do so.
Bend’s streets are in bad shape. The city, faced with financial problems during the Great Recession, cut back on maintenance and preservation projects. It was a reasonable choice at the time, but the result is that today it would take tens of millions of dollars to bring streets up to snuff. The city also needs to add road capacity to its transportation system.
That money is not going to fall from the sky. The court has ruled out taking it from the transient room tax. And voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to tax gasoline sales in 2016. That leaves three choices.
Ignoring the problem is unacceptable.
Nor can the city continue on at its current pace where road repairs are concerned. The longer fixing roads takes, the more work must be done to get them in shape because continuing use means additional wear and tear.
The better plan is to create a list of priorities for repairing the worst streets quickly and build new capacity then ask voters to approve a bond measure to get the job done.
Coming up with the money for streets in Bend ultimately falls to those of us who live here, and a bond measure would simply recognize that fact. Voters should demand to know how candidates for the council on the November ballot feel about a road bond or how else they would fix Bend’s road network.