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home : editorial : editorial May 24, 2016

8/5/2014 4:43:00 PM
City must set clear policy goals

The City of Sisters needs to clearly articulate its policy goals in reforming city code regarding temporary uses and transient vendors. Clear and coherent goals help ensure a clear and coherent policy.

The City is walking a fine line between being "open for business" and allowing a free-for-all of vendor-driven events and activities that some in the community fear will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

It's not an easy course to navigate.

Some folks don't like seeing transient vendors pop up all over town during the quilt show. Yet many of those vendors are local artists and nonprofits, who rely on their sales that weekend for important income. Surely Sisters wants to allow for them to succeed. And many brick-and-mortar merchants receive revenue from transient merchants who set up on their property.

Some see vendor-driven shows as taking away business from established merchants who work hard all year round to make it in Sisters; others see them as attracting and holding visitors and expanding the economic pie. Some want to see Sisters protect the events and the downtown atmosphere that has made for an impressive international reputation; others want to see as few constraints as possible on free enterprise.

We'll probably never be able to capture the necessary data to quantify and determine which outlook is "right." The City should not try, and it should not act on anecdotal hunches.

What kind of economic activity is the City hoping to encourage or constrain and why? How will changes to code accomplish those goals? These questions need to be thoroughly hashed out in public, to ensure that the City is acting in the broadest possible public interest. And the City must take care that it is not perceived as targeting any particular individual. Standards must be clear, consistent and applied to everybody in the same manner.

Part of the City's deliberations should address the equity of fees. Municipal fees should be tied to recovering actual costs; they should not be arbitrary, punitive or designed to create a windfall for the City or an unstated, de facto ban on an economic activity.

There is no way the City can completely satisfy every interest and point of view on this issue. But by setting clear goals for its policy and making sure that they thoroughly explore the potential consequences of their actions, the City can assure citizens of Sisters that they've been thorough, fair and even-handed in serving the interests of all.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2014
Article comment by: Diane Prescott

The editorial on 8/5 "City must set clear policy goals" was spot on and I sure hope our city leaders will take it to heart. It was one of the best editorials I have read in a long time as it addresses a real and hugely important "turning point" issue that could make or break the direction of our city's future. Sisters, and all of us who love this city, deserve this consideration. Jim, thank you for speaking up and articulating the issue so well.

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