Leaders take formal stand against anti-transit measure

In a surprise decision Tuesday night, the Tigard City Council came out against Ballot Measure 34-210, which calls for the city to formally oppose high-capacity transit.

The vote wasn’t on Tuesday night’s agenda, nor did city councilors appear to know it was coming. But City Councilor Marland Henderson submitted the resolution at the end of the meeting, saying it was time the councilors took a stand.

“This (ballot measure) is not in the best interest of my constituents,” Henderson said. “I felt as though we should be more vocal about this and put it on record.”

The city of Tigard is not allowed, by law, to endorse or oppose any ballot measure or spend city funds promoting or defending one. However, city councilors are free to speak their minds.

Measure 34-210 will go before voters on March 11. The measure calls for the city to formally oppose all forms of high-capacity transit through town, including MAX light rail and bus rapid transit, and be forced to send annual letters to several county, state and federal elected officials declaring its position.

The city would also be prohibited from altering any land-use regulations or its comprehensive plan to accommodate high-capacity transit without a vote of the people.

The issue has sparked debate across Tigard with residents on both sides, who have been spreading the word about the ballot measure and its impacts.

If passed, Metro and city officials say it would alter the region’s Southwest Corridor Plan, which has been in the works for years.

That plan calls for road and trail improvements across Portland, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and other cities to prepare for expected population growth over the next several years.

Part of those plans include high-capacity transit, which could be carrying passengers by 2026.

Far-reaching effects

The resolution makes the City Council’s position against the ballot measure formal.

Henderson said he brought the resolution to the council because he felt the measure was overly broad and ties the hands of city planners.

“I think it’s far reaching, it’s a waste of public funds,” Henderson said. “I think this is wrong. There needs to be somebody who stands up and says this should not happen.”

Each of the city councilors and Mayor John L. Cook has come out in opposition to the measure independently, but the council as a whole had not taken a position.

“We’re a diverse bunch on the council,” said Councilor Jason Snider. “We’re young, old, male, female and our political persuasions differ, and we all think it’s a bad idea.”

The City Council unanimously approved the resolution.

But some of the ballot measure’s proponents in the audience said it was inappropriate for the city councilors to take a formal stance against a measure brought by local residents.

“I think that this is wrong that you passed this resolution without hearing from the citizens, I am very disturbed,” Tigard resident Tim Esau said after the council adjourned. “There were 5,500 residents who put their signature on the line to put this on the ballot.”

Esau, who co-sponsored the ballot measure and went door-to-door collecting signatures in support of the measure last summer, said the council’s position did not reflect the feelings of Tigard residents.

“I don’t understand why you are so afraid of the vote of your citizens,” he told councilors. “This is ridiculous … This is not how the city should conduct business.”

Ballots will be mailed to Tigard residents at the end of February.

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