Westside mayors talk about growth, diversity
Westside mayors say they are making special efforts as their communities grow and diversify.
Eleven mayors, five of them from eastern Washington County, spoke about their plans during an appearance at a breakfast forum of the Westside Economic Alliance. The May 23 forum at Embassy Suites in Tigard was the fifth annual meeting.
Mayors got two minutes each to discuss their own cities, but also answered common questions.
After he was elected mayor of Beaverton more than a decade ago, Denny Doyle said he suggested that area mayors see each other regularly, which they do each month.
"As I travel and talk to others around the country, I find that doesn't happen elsewhere," he said. "As I commented, it's much easier to argue with somebody you like."
Washington County has Oregon's most diverse population — although two-thirds are non-Hispanic whites — and close to one in five were born outside the United States.
"We cannot deny the fact that we are very diverse communities, and we should treasure that and promote it," Doyle said.
Beaverton sponsors night markets with food, goods and entertainment — they are scheduled July 20 and Aug. 17 — and Welcoming Week activities Sept. 13-22.
But Doyle said Beaverton's commitment does not stop with those activities. A Diversity Advisory Board was established in 2011 after some preliminary work, and Doyle said people of color now make up about 40% of members of city advisory boards and commissions.
"It starts with developing community leaders who reflect our entire community," Tigard Mayor Jason Snider added. "Tigard is a community for everyone."
Snider spoke out earlier this year after an email message questioned a recruitment for a job calling for fluency in English and Spanish. "Why not just move city offices to Mexico?" it said.
Snider said about one in five Tigard residents speaks a language other than English, most commonly Spanish.
"I've taken a bold stance" in supporting the city staff, Snider said. "It makes them feel they have more permission to be bolder — and I am proud of that."
King City Mayor Ken Gibson invited the public to take a look at the city council, which includes himself and Smart Ocholi, born in Nigeria and a U.S. Army veteran.
"What it does is encourage people within the community to feel comfortable to get involved because they see that diversity in the leadership of King City," said Gibson, who became mayor in 2016.
King City was one of four on the westside — along with Beaverton, Hillsboro and Wilsonville — to win Metro Council approval in December of expanded urban growth boundaries to accommodate housing. King City added about 300 acres.
Though King City was incorporated in 1966 as an age-restricted community — since modified because of federal laws and city expansion — "none of those (new developments) will be communities of 55 and older," Gibson said. "We are building a community for everybody."
Sherwood also had put in a bid for expansion by 626 acres, only to drop it after school district officials said the city failed to coordinate with district plans for a rebuilt high school. (Metro expanded the boundary in 2017 for the high school.)
Mayor Keith Mays said the city is now undergoing an update of its comprehensive plan.
"If you have never done it, I'd rather get a root canal," Mays said. "It is important, it's expensive and it's painful."
High school construction is expected to be completed in 2020.
Tualatin voters approved a $20 million bond in 2018 to reduce traffic congestion, ensure the safety of neighborhoods and provide safe routes to schools.
"We are committed to getting these projects done in three to five years to show good stewardship of this program," Mayor Frank Bubenik said.
Tualatin also is planning for development of the Basalt Creek area adjoining Wilsonville. The City Council ratified a plan earlier this year, although it calls for less housing and more business development than it originally sought.
"We have very limited space for homes," Bubenik said.
Tigard is considering a local-option levy for police and a bond for a new police station in 2020, after voters in 2018 rejected a multipurpose levy that included funding for the library and parks.
Although increased money into the proposed 2019-20 budget will greatly reduce the spending gap projected last year, Snider said he wants to ensure that police have adequate support. Some savings came from leaving vacancies unfilled.
"I am not OK with just being OK on that point," he said.
The day before the mayors' forum, Beaverton celebrated the completion of The Rise Central — a 230-unit apartment complex, 15 units reserved for low-income people — and the start of a 125-room Hyatt House. A $46 million arts center, named for major donor Patricia Reser, and a seven-story parking garage are scheduled to start in the fall. The city also gained 1,232 acres from urban growth boundary expansion for development of South Cooper Mountain.
"Beaverton is booming," Doyle said.
"I hope you gather that the mayors here really care about where you live... We are in a special part of America."