Annexation Anxiety

After wavering on ballot decision,

city needs to keep a steady hand

The annexation campaign was defused before it could even develop into a full debate, with the City Council's decision last week not to put the issue to a vote.

The council's reversal merits scrutiny.

On the one hand, the city should be credited for taking a step back before committing to a public vote, feeling that new information made such a move inadvisable at this time.

On the other hand, they ought to have known certain things before voting to put the question to the voters in the first place.

Speaking of hands, a strong one is needed when it comes to an issue such as annexation, where taxes, territory and community identity are at stake.

Council retracted the annexation vote in part because of the challenge of educating two separate constituencies -- those in the city and those subject to possible annexation -- and that it would cost some money to run the election and pay for public information on the issue. That challenge should have been clear initially.

City officials had taken the annexation proposal to other elected bodies, including Hood River School Board, and appeared certain of what needed to be done. Then last week it stepped back from a potential battle it realized might be a losing cause.

The city either did not clearly identify its goal or had not gathered sufficient information before voting last month to ask for annexation.

But it is better to waver and make the correct decision than to chart the wrong course and suffer ill consequences at public expense.

The city is right in seeking an equitable way to pay for the full costs of providing services to all who have access to them.

Now the city will embark on a review of the areas abutting the city that could be separately annexed. Here's hoping the review will result in a cogent analysis of the subdivisions and other parcels. That analysis should reveal an anticipated pattern of annexable lands; the city should carefully base its future municipal additions on that pattern.

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