By deciding against a proposal to restore $8,000 to the city’s contribution to U-Trans, the Winston City Council delivered a blow to a population already battered by hardship.
It was a close call. On Nov. 4, councilors reconsidered an earlier decision at the request of Councilor Christine Glen-Knutson. She thought the council had taken a wrong turn in July, when its members opted to halve the $16,000 a budget committee had approved spending for U-Trans services.
Last week’s outcome mirrored the July decision with a 3-2 vote against spending the higher sum. The money is now earmarked for street repairs, which means U-Trans is unlikely to reschedule the three out of six bus routes it eliminated in September by way of response to the budget cut.
Those most affected probably will not raise much of a ruckus. Anyone who relies on public transportation to get around is likely to be struggling to meet daily needs. There’s not a lot of time left for public protests or letter-writing campaigns.
City Administrator Dave Vandermark pointed out after the Nov. 4 vote that nobody in the audience that night said anything about the U-Trans funding. Perhaps anybody pleading for better transportation would have a tough time getting a ride to City Hall at night.
By contrast, people complain a lot to city officials about the condition of Winston’s streets, Vandermark said.
Given the cost of street repairs, we wonder how many improvements $8,000 can buy. We’re guessing not enough to cut the complaints by much. Probably not by half.
Three bus routes a day between Winston and Roseburg, Monday through Thursday, however, seems like a pretty good investment for the cost. We don’t know how many of those riders are going to work or classes at Umpqua Community College or heading for job interviews. Still, ensuring that a steady number of them are able to make those trips would appear to be in the best interests of a city where money is tight, to use Mayor Sharon Harrison’s description.
Glen-Knutson thought the $8,000 would be well spent with U-Trans. Speaking the morning after the vote, she told News-Review reporter Jessica Prokop that low-income residents are not the only ones who benefit from transportation resources. “It’s an economically, resourceful way not to put a large footprint on the community,” Glen-Knutson said. She’s right about that.
Winston has community spirit and the ability to make things happen. It’s the home of an award-winning $460,000 boat ramp financed primarily by state grants and local donations. Its main byways are festooned with 22 vinyl banners proclaiming Winston as the “Home of the Wildlife Safari,” a project completed this summer that netted $200 each from various businesses and groups seeking to boost tourism. Ultimately, people support what is important to them.
Mayor Harrison said she expects the issue will come up again during January budget talks.
Perhaps those riders who will suffer most from the restricted routes don’t make up a large segment of Winston’s population. Nevertheless, city officials would be wise this winter to return a small but significant amount of money to benefit residents who could get plenty of mileage out of the investment.