Top stories of 2017
Throughout 2017, some community leaders stepped up; some stepped aside; and some passed away. The outlook for regional planning became a little clearer. And the region saw a flurry of snowstorms and a triple-digit heat wave.
The news in 2017 ran the gamut from goofy to grim, with political shakeups, big changes in long-standing organizations and local residents making their voices heard.
Richard Devlin steps up
Richard Devlin has served as a Tualatin volunteer; a Tualatin City Councilor; a member of the Metro regional government; a member of the Oregon House; and a member of the Oregon Senate. He also served as the chief budget-writer in the Oregon Senate for seven years. (And, for those who are counting, he was a U.S. Marine before all that.)
In November, Gov. Kate Brown appointed him to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, an interstate compact created by Congress to address the electrical energy production for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, along with fish-and-wildlife issues as related to energy production. As such, the Tualatin resident will have a hand in shaping energy policy for a wide swath of the United States.
Leadership in flux
In other big changes: Beaverton, Tigard and Tualatin all saw new chiefs of police hired within a few months; not all were hired in 2017, but The Times interviewed them together and let their question-and-answer session dominate our editorial pages through June. This rare and coincidental change in top leadership included Tualatin Chief Bill Steele, Beaverton Chief Jim Monger and Tigard Chief Kathy McAlpine.
Lou Ogden, who faces term limits as mayor of Tualatin, announced that he will seek the chairmanship of the Washington County Commission this coming year.
Ernie Brown, superintendent of the Tigard-Tualatin School District, announced his retirement this year (See story, Page A2).
And two longtime leaders of the region passed away in 2017. John E. Cook of Tigard passed away in January at age 90. He was a member of the city's Parks Board from 1961 to 1971; a city councilor from 1971 to 1983; and mayor of Tigard from 1984 to 1986.
Tigard's Cook Park on the Tualatin River was named for him. And the current mayor, John L. Cook, is his son.
A lifelong education leader also died this year. Deb Fennell, 92, passed away in September. He had served as a principal and superintendent for the Metzger Elementary School District in the 1950s; superintendent of the Tigard Union High School District and Tigard Elementary School District in the 1960s, and became the first superintendent of the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
A memorial service was held for him in the auditorium of Tigard High School — fittingly, since it's known as the Deb Fennell Auditorium.
Injuries and reactions
The Tigard Police Department in December rallied around one of their own when Patrol Officer Matt Barbee received serious injuries in a car crash. He was on his way home from his shift on Dec. 14 when his car experienced mechanical troubles. He pulled over to the side of Highway 26 and another car crashed into the rear of his.
He is in critical condition at Legacy Emanuel Hospital. Fellow officers said he sustained head and neck injuries, and it is unknown if or when he will recover.
A fund has been established to help Barbee, his wife and three children. Readers can find out more at tigardpoa.com.
And on the topic of public servants, injuries and efforts to assist them, Wade Mitcheltree and his family moved into a new home in Tigard. The "smart home" is a gift for the retired Army sergeant, who lost both legs and part of an arm to an explosive in Afghanistan in 2012.
In August, the house was dedicated in his honor.
The Gary Sinise Foundation provides homes for injured veterans throughout the nation. Sinese played a wounded veteran in the 1994 film, "Forrest Gump."
The look of the region
Voters in June OK'd an urban renewal plan for the Tigard Triangle, an area located between Highway 99W to the north, Highway 217 to the southwest, and Interstate 5 to the east. The triangle is about the size of downtown Portland, and could become one of the most vital puzzle peaces to the metro region's growth for decades to come.
A feud over the fate of Basalt Creek dominated relations between Tualatin and Wilsonville for most of this year. It's a 63-acre sector within Basalt Creek, south of Tualatin's Victoria Gardens subdivision. Tualatin officials want it to be zoned for residential use. Wilsonville officials — it's just on the other side of the divide between the cities — want to zoned for industrial manufacturing. The feud threatened to disrupt plans for development between the two cities.
Now Metro, the regional land-use government, has agreed to arbitrate the dispute. A resolution for the region is expected in the coming year.
Tigard's Main Street is set for major changes, with demolition beginning this year on the old mill building. It's one of the final bits of redevelopment for the central core of Tigard.
And in the world of restaurants, Tualatin is on the map with the opening of West Coast's first-ever Cracker Barrel in April. The eatery in the Nyberg Rivers shopping center saw big and enthusiastic crowds for its groundbreaking.
A second Cracker Barrel is under construction in Beaverton.
Shakeup in Sherwood
It started with a simple question: Should the city authorize the YMCA, or another service provider, for a new recreation facility. Sounds simple enough, but by the time the political debris had settled, the entire Sherwood City Council was altered.
A recall petition began for Mayor Krisanna Clark-Endicott.
But she resigned in October ahead of the vote. She had married Redmond Mayor George Endicott earlier in the year and had planned to move her family there, regardless of the election, she said.
Later that month, voters OK'd the recall of City Council members Jennifer Harris and Sally Robinson.
In November, Lee Weislogel, a longtime former member of the City Council, was appointed as interim mayor. He will serve until this March.
Voters will select replacements for Harris and Robinson then, as well.
And voters backed Renee Brouse to a third seat on the council.
Robert Frost once told us that, "Some say the world will end in fire. Some say in ice." Both sides got to weigh in during 2017 as the community saw an almost unheard-of number of snow storms. Some local districts — which rarely see any snow days — lost up to nine days this year.
Then, in August, a prolonged heat wave hit the region with triple-digit temperatures hitting as high as 108 in Washington County. It was the region's longest heat wave since 2009.
Local impact, national stories
Other big news of the year happened throughout the country — not just here — but the news staff of The Times sought out the local impact. We conducted interviews and shot photos of so-called "Dreamers" — those whose parents brought them to the United States illegally when they were young, and who subsequently entered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Staff journalists also brought you news from survivors of the Columbia Gorge wildfire and the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
And our crew marched with women whose homes range from Aloha to Sherwood during the Jan. 21 Women's March, which drew an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people to the streets of Portland. Anne Kuzminski, 77, of Tigard said she wasn't a protester by nature, but the election of Donald Trump changed that.
"I want the government to know that we are watching," Kuzminski said. "In great number."
Winds of political change
This region has more political leadership than most parts of Oregon, with a wide array of chairmanships at the Legislature representing Washington County. And 2017 was a year of major legislative accomplishments. It will be remembered for a $5.3 billion package of transportation projects stretched over a decade and paid for through increases in the gas tax, registration fees and new taxes on payroll, new vehicle purchases and bicycles priced more than $200. And, for the first time in most people's memory, the topic of tolling on Interstates 5 and 205 are on the table this year. About a third of the I-5 region under consideration for tolls runs through Washington County.
The legislation include $22 million for design work on The Newberg-Dundee Bypass and Highway 99W, along with $44 million for Highway 217 southbound through Beaverton.
Local earmarks include: $2.4 million for Beaverton; $1.3 million for Tigard; $678,000 for Tualatin; and $13 million for Washington County.
And on the topic of transportation, Washington County found out this winter that the long-anticipated light rail line connecting Portland to Tigard and Tualatin will be delayed. Instead of a vote in 2018, the issue will go to the ballot in 2020. Transportation leaders also outlined possible routes for the line, which could include ripping up the entirety of Barbur Boulevard, and two possible routes through the Tigard Triangle.
Local lawmakers also were in the thick of legislation that raised the minimum age to purchase or smoke tobacco products from 18 to 21. The Legislature OK'd a program to fund health care for virtually all of Oregon's low-income children, including children of undocumented immigrants. Lawmakers passed one of the most progressive reproductive rights laws in the nation.
And lawmakers raised the state's minimum wage in the first-of-its kind regional approach, separating Oregon into three regions with three minimum wages: one for the inner cities (including much of eastern Washington County); one for suburbs (including Western Washington County); and one for rural regions.
Locally, that meant minimum wage rose to $11.25 per hour in the first tier (a $1.50 increase); $10.25 per hour in the second tier (an increase of 50 cents).
The timing seemed right: The long, slow recovering from the Great Recession reached its peak this year with Washington County reaching near-historic unemployment rate of 3.1 percent. That's even lower than the 4 percent that economists often cite as "full employment."
By August, the county added 4,500 jobs, year over year. That month, Tigard and Hillsboro saw the lowest unemployment rate at 3.4 percent, followed by Beaverton, Tualatin and Sherwood at 3.5 percent.