Ridgefield continues to be the fastest growing city in Washington. One may ask why?
Two primary reasons:
1. The Growth Management Act
2. Clark County and Ridgefield City leadership seem hell bent on growing Ridgefield as fast as possible.
What are the tangible results of the above?
1. Quality of life issues:
Traffic problems are growing exponentially. Giant construction vehicles are running all over Ridgefield day and night causing major traffic issues and ruining our roads. Houses and apartments are popping up all over our farmlands. Undersized roads and roundabouts are jamming up our streets with cars and trucks. Fire and police resources are stretched thin. Crime is increasing. Our schools are filling up.
2. Financial issues
All of this growth is putting great pressure on the individual Ridgefield taxpayer. Families that have lived here for many years keep seeing their property taxes escalating year by year while watching the quality of life decrease in our fine community. Many of our neighbors who have moderate incomes or are on fixed incomes feel continued increasing pressure on their family budgets. Some are actually being forced to sell their homes and move elsewhere.
How do we slow this juggernaut down? I offer three suggestions here, though there are many more:
1. Growth should be self funded. If a developer puts in 1,000 units that will demand a new school, it should be paid for by the developer. The state could also pass a law that adds an excise tax on the farmer realizing instant wealth by selling his land to developers. They could also legislate a short term tax on the new homeowner that would help fund the new school driven by their buying a new home here. This has been done and works well in other states. Google Mello-Roos for more information.
2. Ridgefield should stop annexing land. When land is annexed that is owned by a farmer the city is required, at taxpayer expense, to bring infrastructure to the annexed area (power, water and sewer). This annexed land, once improved, becomes highly desired by the developers as many of their costs to develop have already been paid for by the Ridgefield taxpayer.
3. The school board should focus their precious resources given to them by the taxpayer to build classrooms. Stop gold-plating our schools. By that I mean new administration offices, abandoning schools because they are aging, performing arts theaters, middle school AstroTurf fields with a track to name a few. Nothing makes me angrier than approving a multi-million dollar bond only to be told, once spent, “We are out of classrooms and need another $107,000,000.”
The opponents to the above will play the “you don’t love our children” card. On the contrary. If we manage our city with prudence and fiscal responsibility that is the best love for our children as well as for our fellow citizens. Yes, if the bond fails some portables will probably have to be utilized. Other techniques will have to be employed to manage the student population. School administrators have been doing this all my life, everywhere I’ve lived. It’s part of the job.
If we make it more expensive for the developers to develop here by having them bear the costs of the schools and infrastructure they drive and stop gold-plating our schools, fewer people will move to Ridgefield. Hopefully this slowing down of growth will give some pause to allow the city to take a breath and develop a plan that abandons out of control growth and create a managed plan that makes sense for the total community. Otherwise, Ridgefield is heading on a course to become a new Lake Oswego.
For the above reasons, I will be voting no on the $107,000,000 Ridgefield school bond.