I would like to take this time to write to the citizens of Wallowa County and especially the citizens of Joseph on the up-coming elections. I feel that the most important issues facing us as elected officials are the decisions to be made in land use planning and the allocation of our city or county's resources - water, sewer, transportation and parks.
Having grown up here, being passionate about saving our small rural communities and working landscape and being educated in the field of land use planning I have been volunteering my time as the Mayor of the city of Joseph for the last two years, and have worked hard to protect these resources.
As citizens of this county, and the cities within, we have investments in our water and sewer systems, our streets and our parks. The state of Oregon has a law and rules to apply that law, to protect our investments in our community and to access the true cost to both existing and additional infrastructure of these assets when new development happens.
After attending the League of Oregon Cities Conference last fall, and learning of the danger to our systems if we do not act on this, I came back with every intention of working to implement system development charges in our city before any big development happens.
As you all know, I was completely derailed from this agenda with the resignation of councilors, the recall petition, and all of the craziness that ensued. This organized effort to disrupt the agenda of the elected city council was directly related to these important issues.
Development interests are constantly telling us that it will be good for our economy to develop our landscapes. This is not true however; especially if we end up paying for the direct and/or the associated costs of the additional water, sewer, transportation and parks, and if real estate value continues to climb, our taxes may rise to the point that we can no longer afford to live here.
As a child my family moved to Oregon from the state of Colorado. I grew up hearing the stories of the rural landscapes the small working communities that were annihilated when big development, freeways and such ate up much of the natural landscapes.
I have been back to Colorado since and have seen the condos on the mountainsides, the housing developments that went broke because they were developed without a source of water and were left standing, empty ugly structures. I have seen the trailer parks way out in the desert where minimum wage workers are forced to live and are bused to the high-end resort areas that surround the lakes, rivers and mountainsides.
Much very hard and complicated work on these issues will await any elected official. We currently have a very hard working and effective council in Joseph, and it is my wish that we continue in that vein. Please consider this when you are filling out your ballots.
The candidates are out and about now, seeking your vote. Please take the time to question them on these immensely important land and water planning issues. In Joseph, we currently have around 150 acres of undeveloped land within our city limits. Our city charter, ordinances and land use plan all state that we must first supply these lands with water and sewer before we even begin to think about serving our urban growth boundary, better known as the Marr Land.
As citizens you have the power to educate yourselves in Oregon Land use planning law, to elect those who will work hard to understand these laws and to apply them to preserve our small town quality of life and our exceptionally beautiful natural landscapes, and to work towards an economy that selects for and values the productivity of working farms, ranches, and forests.
These important decisions on land and water use being made by our elected officials and leaders today will determine our future and the future of generations to come.
Please vote wisely!
Peggy Martin is a longtime resident of Wallowa County and the mayor of Joseph.