Tualatin mayor lists accomplishments, challenges future mayors
Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden's State of the City address not only was a swansong of his tenure as one of the longest-serving mayors in the state but was also a challenge to the mayors who succeed him.
On Thursday evening, Ogden listed many of the accomplishments that have occurred on his 25-year watch, addressing an estimated 120 people at Tualatin Country Club.
"Nothing Tualatin enjoys was built in a day, and certainly not by accident," Ogden said during an 8-minute video that listed some of those accomplishments.
Ogden noted that the downtown area has been transformed from a small community that once housed the Blue Mountain Dog Food Company as its focal point to a truly civic and community-oriented space with an area that has blossomed into a major industrial and manufacturing hub.
"It is by no accident that Tualatin is among the lowest unemployment rates in the state and possibly the nation," he said.
Pointing to businesses, he said the input of downtown businesses shaped the policy for food carts in the city last year.
"We reached a solution that meets the needs of our industrial and commercial sectors without compromising the investment that many of our anchor restaurants have made in our downtown core," he said.
Ogden also highlighted the fact that the city adopted an "inclusive city resolution" last year, which welcomes everyone in the community regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, and beyond.
"We recognize that there is strength in diversity and our community is better for embracing an inclusive policy," he said, adding however that residents need to understand that when it comes to federal enforcements there is no safe sanctuary. "However, not only do we welcome and value all who live here, in accordance with state law, we do not deploy our city resources for strictly … the purpose of immigration enforcement efforts."
For the future, Ogden said he knows that development of Basalt Creek area will affect the footprint of the community, noting that the extension of 124th Avenue from Tualatin-Sherwood Road to Tonquin Road will provide some relief from congestion caused by truck traffic who can now use the roadway as an alternate route to reach I-5.
Noting that traffic is the No. 1 concern of most city residents, Ogden said a citywide transportation levy vote, planned for May, would lay the groundwork for mobility in the future. He later noted that while traffic will never be substantially better than today, the city can invest in projects that will help improve traffic flow.
At the same time, Ogden highlighted the city's prosperity, pointing out that at $2.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, Tualatin has perhaps the lowest city property tax in the entire metro region for cities its size.
"I also point out that half of the property taxes in Tualatin are paid by our business community, while the other half are paid by our residents," he said.
Still, while many Tualatin residents enjoy unprecedented economic vitality, not everyone shares in that prosperity.
"One third of our families enjoy a household income in the six figures," he said. "However, there is another third of our families who struggle to survive, even during these economically prosperous times."
While there is nothing wrong with having a low-paying job, the tragedy is being stuck in that low-paying job, he said.
Finally, Ogden said since he was holding his last state of the city speech, he wanted to "lay down the gauntlet as to what I hope you and others can accomplish in the next quarter century."
Among his challenges to future city leaders are to:
• Create a Community Career and Creative Center. The center would provide science, technology, engineering, arts and math pathways, commonly referred to as STEAM programs. That center will be part of a partnership by the business, community and education systems in Tualatin, he said.
• Improve community health. While the state has worked to clean up rivers and drinking water, that's not the case with the food we consume, Ogden said.
"We eat processed food and sugar to excess and we are, as a community, obese and largely sedentary," he said. "It is not our fault individually because that is the food chain and lifestyle we have as a society created." Until that changes, where se have regular activing and demand natural whole food sources, "we will be plagued by high medical costs, increasing chronic disease, and deteriorating quality of life."
The city has promoted HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living), which supports environmental and policy change as well as taking an approach to community health that has been used as a model by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, he said. In addition, the city has supported programs to prevent substance abuse and addictions.
"Tonight if I lit a cigarette or sipped a martini at this podium you would be shocked," he said. "Yet not many years ago that was normal."
• Protect the natural environment including the Tualatin River Ogden advocated for completing the Tualatin River Greenway Trail along the entire reach of the city's northern border from King City to Lake Oswego. That will include partnering with key property owners, community funding and other government partners.
• Continuing with a downtown vision. What was cutting edge suburban design 20 years ago must expand from Nyberg Rivers to Hedges Green and from Boones Ferry Road along the park to Warm Springs, he said.