Editorial: The Mirror Pond budget blowout

November 6, 2018
Editorial: The Mirror Pond budget blowout

Is raising the price the best way to sell taxpayers on dredging?

Dredging Mirror Pond is a sensible use of city and park district money, yet leaders of both entities have bickered for months about how to divvy up the nearly $7 million bill. As a sign that the interminable discussion has reached the desperation stage, a stakeholder group has proposed a new way to sell the project to public officials: Raise the price!

The additional money, which could approach $2 million, would pay for the construction of a fish ladder at the dam that forms the pond. Spending this extra money, the thinking goes, would provide a “win” for people who want the dam to go away and the Deschutes River to revert to a more natural state. Never mind that the utility that owns the dam wants to keep it where it is.

Would people who don’t like the dam be won over by the prospect of paying for dredging and a fish ladder? And would people who want to prevent the pond from becoming a glorified mudhole be willing to cough up an extra $2 million that could be used for something else — such as filling potholes, maintaining parks or (here’s an idea) keeping it in their pockets?

The answer to these questions may be a resounding “yes.” Then again, it may not. And if that’s the case, the time might be right to shelve the effort indefinitely. Let the silt come.

The two people who have pushed the hardest for dredging, Old Mill District developer Bill Smith and Taylor Northwest Construction owner Todd Taylor, are doing the right thing for the right reason. Having raised and spent money on the effort, they’ve asked the city and park district to do likewise. If the pond isn’t dredged, after all, it will evolve into an unsightly, smelly mudflat bisected by a sad stream.

That inevitability should alarm park district and city leaders, yet it hasn’t produced the necessary funding commitments. And now, taxpayers are to believe that blowing out the budget by another $2 million or so might make the project more popular? The fish ladder proposal might be a stroke of genius, but we’re not holding our breath.

A lot of people might eventually be holding their breath, on the other hand, whenever they visit Drake Park or bob into Mirror Mudflat on their inner tubes. That’s an unpleasant thought. But facing the consequences of inaction might, in the end, be what it takes to convince city and park district leaders to break out the checkbooks and fix a problem both entities should be honest enough to own.

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An aerial view of a body of water.