CRESWELL – Blowback from the Fourth of July is now affecting the City’s proposed gas tax.
A 3-cent gas tax eyed for the November ballot was rejected on Monday in a 5-2 vote, after councilors adduced “community unrest” and “mistrust” of City officials for the measure’s postulated future failure at the ballots.
The proposal called for a citizen vote to impose a tax on fuel dealers when they sell or distribute fuel within the city. The tax would be paid by gas stations for the sale of gasoline and diesel, which would be paid monthly to the authorized agent, like the City, to be used for street improvements.
According to the proposal, the tax would have enabled the City to collect additional money for city street maintenance and projects, namely South 2nd Street. The tax would have raised $200,000 per year to be used for streets, which would have reduced the time needed to pay for the South 2nd Street project by three years.
But “because of this unrest that is going on right now in the community, I believe that this tax measure is not going to be received well,” councilor Alonzo Costilla said.
Costilla is referencing the “unrest” that has splintered in the community from the City’s perceived handling of the unauthorized July Fourth parade. City officials have since received dozens of citizen correspondences, many of which are critical of the City’s either action or inaction surrounding the events.
“We have mistrust issues that we need to rectify in the community before we move forward with this (ballot measure),” Costilla said.
Some community members, including councilor JoeRell Medina, say that the two fines issued for July Fourth are “violation of people’s rights” and blame the City for police writing those tickets, calling their actions “unamerican.” Other citizens have criticized city leaders for allowing a negative light to be cast on Creswell by not decrying the Proud Boys’ participation in the parade, which captured regional and national attention for the hate group’s involvement.
Councilors Shelly Clark and Misty Inman voted in support of the measure, while the rest of council and its mayor voted in opposition. As per council rule, the tax can be readdressed by council in six months.
This is the second year in a row that the gas tax has not made it to the ballot due to timing issues. Creswell City Council in July 2020 also discussed implementing a 3-cent gas tax, but ultimately decided it did not have enough time – in part due to covid restrictions – to seek input from community members or gas station owners before getting placing it on the ballot.
In the meantime, at the next work session, council will consider what a “town hall meeting” might look like in Creswell, including its format and its subject matter.
The next work session is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Aug. 23 at City Hall.