Year in Review: 2017 in western Washington County
What a wild year it has been in western Washington County and beyond.
Hot-button national issues became hot-button community issues. Many local landmarks transformed or celebrated milestones. And shifts in the political landscape led to changes for the Forest Grove School District and Forest Grove City Council.
Here's the News-Times' annual retrospective, a look back at just a few of the biggest stories of the year in western Washington County.
Sanctuary city status debated in Forest Grove
The Forest Grove Community Auditorium held a packed house full of community members who pleaded with the Forest Grove City Council to make the town a sanctuary city, after President Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to deport those residing in the country illegally.
Many locals wanted the city to declare that undocumented immigrants in Forest Grove would be protected from federal immigration authorities. But no city actually has the authority to trump federal law, and state law already prevents law enforcement from directly enforcing immigration law. In the end, the council instead passed a resolution declaring Forest Grove an "inclusive community for all persons" in February.
Braves revamping process begins
Representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Banks School District and Nike worked together to come up with a new logo for the beloved Banks Braves and presented it to the community at an open house in January.
The overhauled logo is part of an agreement with the tribes that allows the school district to continue using the Braves even after the Oregon State Board of Education banned the use of Native American mascots in the state's schools. In March, the Oregon State Board of Education recognized the district and CTGR's partnership, which also incorporates the tribe's official curriculum into fourth- and eighth-grade social studies classes.
Work proceeds on the Jesse Quinn
After a December 2016 groundbreaking ceremony, construction started on the $16 million Jesse Quinn apartment complex in downtown Forest Grove between A and B streets. The four-story structure will house 73 apartments and 2,500-square-feet of retail space.
Wood framing on the structure is complete and mechanical, electric and plumbing subcontractors worked on completing service lines to individual units in early December. The building is expected to be finished in May 2018.
Cubes take over Gaston schools
Rubik's Cubes became the craze at Gaston Junior/Senior High School, with nearly half of students playing with the colored, cubed puzzles at one point. Gaston High student Ben Gottschalk competes in state and national Rubik's competitions — and can solve a standard cube in 12 seconds.
When a few younger students took interest, Gottschalk helped them, and Rubik's Cubes became the new "in" thing.
Safeway employee killed in crash
Jonathan Dominguez-Esquivel, 22, was struck by a car and killed while he was walking along Pacific Avenue in Forest Grove on March 18.
Officers later arrested Bethany Morgan Lumber for the crime. She pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence in November and was sentenced to nearly six years in prison.
Banks annexation worries track supporters
The Banks City Council voted to annex a 30-acre parcel of land poised for development — which surrounds Banks Sunset Speedway — into the city limits.
Many worried new homeowners would complain about noise coming from the dirt-track car races held on summer evenings. City leaders later decided to buffer the track with industrial zoning, so homes won't be pushed right against the speedway's fenceline.
The city held an open house in December in conjunction with Washington County to discuss the traffic increase expected from future development. Planners expect the Highway 47-Banks Road-Cedar Canyon Road-Main Street intersection to be particularly problematic. The ever-controversial roundabout was one proposed solution, but it would likely displace some neighboring structures.
Salmonberry Trail moves forward
The Washington County Visitors Association awarded $200,000 to the Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency (STIA) to help with planning for the 20-mile section in Washington County.
This fall, STIA members entered into an agreement with the heads of Port of Tillamook Bay, which will allow them to use the old railroad for a trail. The agreement, known as railbanking, will preserve the right-of-way so the strip of land won't default back to individual property owners along the rail lines now that the railroad is abandoned.
School board race has domino effect
Forest Grove school board incumbents John Hayes, Charless Waterman and Lonnie Winkler ran against challengers Mark Everett, Brad Bafaro, Valyrie Ingram and Fallon Harris. All three incumbents were unseated by Everett, Bafaro and Ingram, who took their seats in July.
School board member Kate Grandusky publicly endorsed challengers and was openly critical of then-Superintendent Yvonne Curtis. Some accused the challengers of running as a team, which they denied.
The new school board continued to shake things up throughout the early summer and fall, voting to bring back outdoor school and hire more teachers. At times, this new direction brought the board into conflict with Curtis.
Garcia-Cisneros' conviction overturned
Cynthia Garcia-Cisneros' highly publicized 2014 "hit-and-run" conviction was overturned by the Oregon Court of Appeals in May.
Garcia-Cisneros unknowingly ran over two young girls playing in a leaf pile in 2014, killing them both. Garcia left the scene, not realizing she hit them.
Garcia-Cisneros was convicted in Washington County Circuit Court of two counts of "failure to perform the duties of a driver toward injured persons," a class B misdemeanor. But her defense attorney Ethan Levi argued that Garcia-Cisneros did not realize she had struck or hurt anyone and was therefore not trying to escape any responsibility when she drove away.
The Oregon Court of Appeals ended up agreeing: The required duties are imposed "only on a driver who knew at the time of the accident that he or she was involved in an accident and thus can 'immediately' take action," it ruled. The court's ruling was backed by the Oregon Supreme Court, which declined in September to review the decision.
Armory reopens after cleanup
The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration sets the limit for lead particulate at 200 micrograms per square foot in an occupied building, but tests in 2014 showed the Forest Grove Armory's indoor firing range had a lead level of 14,504,545 micrograms per square foot — 72,523 times the federal threshold for an occupied space. A federal laboratory named it the worst offender among 424 U.S. armories tested for lead that year.
Tinoco-Camarena convicted of murder
Jaime Tinoco-Camarena was convicted of aggravated murder and unlawful use of a weapon in Washington County Circuit Court. Prosecutors said the Beaverton man fatally stabbed Forest Grove resident Nicole Laube in August 2014 outside the Beaverton apartment complex where she worked.
Jurors didn't take long in finding Tinoco-Camarena, who was recorded on video telling deputies "it felt nice" to stab Laube, guilty of the slaying. He was sentenced by a Washington County circuit judge to life without the possibility of parole.
Forest Grove Post Office gets new home
After years of complaints about the old Forest Grove Post Office facility formerly on 21st Avenue, the business reopened in the former NAPA Auto Parts building on Pacific Avenue.
The former post office building flooded and had a furnace that caught on fire. The new space was remodeled and includes 2,500-square-feet more room.
Eclipse craze hits western Washington County
Forest Grove residents gathered in parks and yards for a chance to see the solar eclipse when the Moon passed between the Earth and the Sun. Western Washington County wasn't in the path of totality, but Forest Grove still got relatively dark.
The Portland metro area experienced 99 percent totality.
Pacific University in Forest Grove, home of one of the few optometry schools west of the Mississippi River, was noted in press coverage of the cosmic phenomenon. Optometrists at the university were among prominent experts who warned of eye damage for observers who stared at the sun during the eclipse without proper protection.
St. Alexander opens new church
After years of overflowing Masses at St. Alexander Catholic Church, a ribbon-cutting and dedication rite were held for a brand-new church. The new sanctuary can hold 800 people and features a mural on the outside wall by Forest Grove artist Emily Lux.
The Archbishop of Portland came out to lead the dedication of the church in Cornelius. Its capacity is well more than double the older building.
Herb leaves Forest Grove Police Department
Mike Herb, a Forest Grove native who worked in the Forest Grove Police Department for 31 years, left his position as public information officer to supervise instruction at Oregon's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.
Herb was perhaps best known for the dry-humored police log he penned for years. He was also instrumental in leading discussions about race and bias in policing within his department and community. He took inherent racial bias tests and encouraged other officers to do the same; attended relevant events like "Hands Up," a play that covered police brutality; and added a racial profiling unit to FGPD's Citizens Academy.
ICE questions Forest Grove man in case of mistaken identity
Immigration officials briefly stopped and questioned Forest Grove resident Isidro Andrade-Tafolla outside the Washington County Courthouse, mistaking him for an undocumented immigrant.
Andrade-Tafolla, a county employee, said the plainclothes agents did not identify themselves but demanded information before realizing they had the wrong man. (Federal immigration officials have denied this, saying the agents identified themselves and showed their badges.)
Andrade-Tafolla attributed the incident, which was recorded on video by a bystander, to racial profiling. Several Oregon lawmakers called on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate.
Gaston Feed finds occupant
Brady Sheets, a 25-year-old Yamhill man, opened Western Iron Works in the space, offering everything from welding supplies to repaired door hinges to custom art work.
Local crews help in wildfires
Crews from Banks, Gaston, Cornelius and Forest Grove's fire departments sent crews to help fight the Eagle Creek wildfire that whipped through the Columbia River Gorge. More than a dozen local firefighters took brush rigs and other equipment to help temper the blaze that raged until fall.
Gales Creek Hall goes up in flames
The former Gales Creek Community Hall caught fire and was heavily damaged. One person, who was living in the building, jumped out the second-story window to escape.
Built in 1927, the hall had been abandoned for years. Once maintained by the Gales Creek Women's Club, community dances, bridal and baby showers, and pie socials were held regularly in the space.
Buffalo go bye-bye
Tom Epler Sr. and Tom Epler Jr. replaced the iconic buffalo that adorned their pastures on the corner of B Street and Highway 47 near Forest Grove with miniature zebu, a tiny breed of cattle.
The buffalo were a popular sight south of town for decades. But the older Epler said he was getting too old to manage the buffalo herd.
The new residents at the erstwhile L-Bar-T Bison Ranch, the miniature zebu, are much smaller and more manageable for the Eplers. They think the little cattle will be iconic in their own right.
Valfre joins Forest Grove City Council
Forest Grove city councilors chose Adolph "Val" Valfre Jr., director of Washington County Housing Services, to fill the seat vacated by Matt Vandehey when he moved to Banks.
Valfre is Forest Grove's only Latino council member. He officially retired from the county at the end of the month but is staying on in a part-time capacity during the search for a new director.
Jane Moore Community Room completed
After years of fundraising and months of construction, the Jane Moore Community Room attached to the Banks Public Library officially opened. The room will provide a community meeting space, increased technology and more room for expanded library programs.
The room is named for one of the women who founded what became the Banks Library back in the 1970s. Her son Will, who still lives in Banks, was among the most vocal boosters of the community room project.
Forest Grove High hosts controversial speaker
Some students and parents at the school were critical of Ferguson after the assembly for the way he spoke about Vietnam War protesters and the carpet-bombing of North Vietnam during the war. Ferguson's acronym for success, which spelled out "TRUMP," was also viewed by some as inappropriate for the public school setting.
School administrators acknowledged the controversy and said they would examine how to proceed with such issues in the future.
Construction begins on Cornelius Place
Hailed as the next big update to downtown Cornelius, the Cornelius Place project started construction after a ceremonial groundbreaking in September. Cornelius Place will feature a new Cornelius Public Library, senior housing and a YMCA space.
The former Cornelius City Council building is being torn down to make way for the building. Work is expected to impact traffic patterns and parking space starting next month.
The project is largely funded by grants and donations.
Yvonne Curtis resigns as superintendent
New school board member Brad Bafaro had pushed for the Forest Grove School District to hire an outside agency to review Superintendent Yvonne Curtis. The 360-evaluation surveyed current district staff members and a sampling of community members, a change from the reviews conducted by previous boards. While identifying a number of Curtis' strengths, the review was largely critical.
A week before Curtis' latest evaluation was released, she unexpectedly resigned and accepted a job with Portland Public Schools.
Editor's note: A condensed version of this story, highlighting just one of the biggest stories from each month in 2017, appears in the News-Times' print issue of Dec. 27, 2017.
Stephanie Haugen and Mark Miller contributed to this year-end report.
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