Jim Kight and the budget among issues facing new Troutdale mayor

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Newly elected Troutdale mayor, Doug Daoust, hopes to be transparent and accountable in the city's decision making.

Doug Daoust walks along the Marino block in downtown Troutdale, not looking at the buildings that stand, but rather seeing beyond to the possibilities that await.

With business-savvy ideas and a desire to invigorate the town’s economy, Troutdale’s newly elected mayor envisions vacant storefronts replaced by thriving shops, quiet sidewalks eventually bustling from a quaint downtown and tourists choosing to stay in the city when visiting Multnomah Falls.

“What I want is a full-service downtown,” he said. “We have the opportunity to get more shops and bring more people here.”

In recent years, Troutdale has been slow to evolved into an attractive destination for developing businesses, but Daoust says the city is on the cusp of expediting that process, as long as it can resolve lingering dilemmas.

For too long, the community has debated former mayor Jim Kight and the controversial accessory structure he built on his property. It’s been the talk of the town, with some insisting that Kight manipulated city employees in order to obtain building permits. It became the source of ever-growing anger and distrust.

But Daoust wants to change Troutdale’s narrative and move the conversation toward a place that will invite expansion, develop tourism and generate revenue, while also overcoming a record budget deficit.

On a clear and chilly Thursday evening, Jan. 3, Daoust accepted leadership of the city when he was sworn in as mayor. Now, after serving on the City Council for the previous 16 years, he prepares to tackle the issues left over from the previous administration and put Troutdale on the path toward recovery and growth.

Kight’s accessory building

As Daoust went door to door campaigning before the November election, inevitably, Kight’s accessory structure became a topic of conversation.

Not every voter had boned up on the numerous talking points at the forefront of the candidates’ agendas, but they all had an opinion about that thing in the mayor’s backyard.

Voters showed up at the polls strongly united against the incumbent leading to Daoust’s decisive victory, 70 percent to 29 percent. But just because Kight is out of office doesn’t mean the structure is, too.

“One of the issues that we’re going to have to deal with is the Kight residence and what to do about the house,” Daoust said. “And that’s not going to be an easy situation.”

Currently, two government agencies are helping Troutdale decide how to resolve the issues revolving around the structure.

The state’s building inspector is working on solutions to recommend to the city, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency is examining problems related to the flood plain.

Troutdale also will consider the ramifications of ordering the former mayor to make altercations — such as cutting off access to the basement — in order to comply with building codes.

Given Kight’s insistence of no wrong-doing in the permitting process, the city has “no doubt that (Kight) would sue the city” if the corrective measures would cost money, Daoust said.

At that point, the city would have to decide, after already spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on an investigation, whether to spend hundreds of thousands more on legal fees.

“One of the options available to the council is to do nothing,” Daoust said. “It’s not the right thing to do. It’s not the correct thing to do. Since this is such a high-profile story, it’s not the most just thing to do. by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Daoust wants to focus on tourism and economic development in his new position.

“But given our budget situation and the fact that the city budget is probably going to be the hardest one to deal with this coming year, do we want to spend $200,000 out of the general fund on a court case where the outcome is unknown?”

Daoust said the city will discuss ideas with state building inspectors and FEMA in the next three months, but added that the 2013-14 budget discussions in the spring will largely influence any decisions.

Budget issues

Resolving deficiencies in next year’s budget is the biggest challenge confronting Daoust during his first quarter as mayor.

Daoust, the City Council and Troutdale’s finance committee will meet in April to discus the roughly $800,000 to $900,000 deficit and potential reductions in city services.

It’s the largest shortfall Troutdale has ever faced and could result in several unfavorable spending cuts.

“For the first time ever we may have to consider the police department, which is a very unpopular thing to consider because we’ve always held the police as our highest priority,” Daoust said.

He added that some money could come from contingency funds, but it will take a creative effort to balance the year’s budget.

“It’s going to be tougher in April than it’s ever been before,” he said.

New revenue

One day before Daoust’s inauguration, he stood on Troutdale’s Marino block, enthralled by one side of the strip, while remaining hopeful for the other.

Mere feet separated a general store, martini bar and brewery, each signs of the downtown’s growth and longevity. But across the street stood vacant buildings and a patch of unused land, evidence of a struggling economy and the need for Daoust’s vision.

“That whole area is waiting to have a strong push forward,” Daoust said.

Among the items on his agenda are generating tourism and economic development, aspects that the Chamber of Commerce and business community want to see improve.

From his conversations with private individuals, Daoust believes that city staff have not done enough to accommodate people wanting to start businesses in Troutdale.

He said developers have an impression that the city isn’t business friendly and is unwilling to collaborate with potential investors.

“It’s just an attitude with city staff that needs an adjustment,” Daoust said. “We want to make that shift in attitude to find ways to make things work and happen.”

The mayor has plans to work with Multnomah County and McMenamins to vacate the 238th right-of-way in order to create opportunities to develop the land west and north of the Edgefield campus.

But bringing in new businesses also is a goal.

Daoust said developers are on the cusp of coming to Troutdale, but waiting for the city to resolve the issue with Kight and prove that the council is united, which the mayor believes will happen.

“Our council desires to work together as a collaborative group,” Daoust said. “We have a council that works well together and I’m looking forward to working with this City Council because we all get along.”

Tourism would also generate revenue for the city’s struggling economy, and Daoust wants Troutdale to become the jumping-off point for people visiting Multnomah Falls and the gorge.

Wieden+Kennedy, a Portland-based advertising firm, best known for developing Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It,” is working with Troutdale, as well as the gorge and Mount Hood areas to promote tourism and attract visitors.

Taking his seat

Daoust said he has an opportunity to “move the city forward (and work) with developers who are anxious to be able to work with a well-functioning mayor and council.”

The former mayor and the budget are two issues that will demand Daoust’s immediate attention. But he also plans to tackle City Hall, which is split between four buildings. He wants to organize a committee of citizens who will decide what to do about a new City Hall, as well as discus options for the old building on the Marino block.

Given Troutdale’s multitude of issues, Daoust said a cumulative effort amongst citizens, city staff and the council is the most productive path toward resolutions.

Daoust wants to “hold more town halls, where neighborhoods could meet with the mayor and council just to share issues,” he said.

And Daoust is excited about the opportunity to be the leader of collaborations.

“It’s my time,” Daoust said. “Having been on the council for the last 16 years, I’m ready and focused.”

Reporter Kristopher Anderson can be reached by email at

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