Mayor: King City is coping, still planning, still hoping
What a difference 12 months can make.
A year ago, in June, King City held its second State of the City address at the newly remodeled City Hall in front of a packed chamber.
This June's address, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, was held online. Participants, including council members and government officials, had to take part virtually, via Zoom, as Mayor Ken Gibson updated citizens on steps the city has taken in a year, despite coping with the stubborn coronavirus.
It was the virus that dominated a good portion of Gibson's opening comments to the community.
Noting that he was pleased with what the city accomplished in 2019, Gibson continued, "Fast-forward to March of 2020. Everything changed. We were forced to close City Hall to outside visitors due to this dangerous and scary COVID-19 contagious disease. Our governor (Kate) Brown issued a 'stay home, save lives' order and we immediately adhered to that."
Closures have included play equipment at the park and even the basketball court, Gibson noted.
"We couldn't guarantee that those things were going to remain sanitized and disinfected to a level where this contagious disease wouldn't spread," he said.
King City has the highest median age among Washington County cities.
Gibson remarked, "Everybody knows that we have an older population in King City, and it's vitally important that we do everything we can to protect the senior citizens because typically with this virus, senior citizens have been hit the hardest."
Gibson said he's hopeful that as the coronavirus outbreak subsides, more activity will be allowed in King City.
"We will, very soon, start allowing some sports activities," he said. "We have some baseball teams, softball teams, that want to practice in our community park. We just finished that renovation of the athletic field last year. It is now ready for some of that activity."
Guidelines, however, will have to be followed, according to Gibson. There must be groups of 10 or fewer, and groups will need to stay together for practices.
"I think that's going to work out fine," he said. "I really want to see these young folks out getting the exercise that they need."
The State of the City address was attended online by elected officials from around the area, including state Rep. Courtney Neron, who represents King City; Washington County Commissioner Pam Treece; and West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod.
With a nod toward some of those officials, Gibson addressed the turmoil across the United States over recent police actions, including the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd.
"Our civic leaders, our mayors in Washington County, we have talked about it," said Gibson, who is currently Washington County's only African American mayor. "We are discussing the kinds of things that we can do to make sure these kinds of things never happen in our territory. These kinds of behaviors, that we saw from a police officer in Minnesota, will not be tolerated here. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that it doesn't. And if it does, we will deal with it expeditiously."
Gibson also spent part of his address describing road projects and efforts to expand the urban growth boundary, which is key to King City's ambitions for expanding westward to Southwest Roy Rogers Road.
Gibson noted two processes involving the urban growth boundary. One is the transportation system plan, which defines roadways and mobility in the expanded growth area, which will be from Southwest 131st Avenue to Roy Rogers Road. Another process is the master plan, a comprehensive document that will guide development.
"One of the major aspects of both of these efforts is community involvement," Gibson said. "We really need to have an opportunity for the community to be able to be involved, to engage and talk about those plans. This is a community plan."
Gibson noted, "We're working hard on zoning code amendments to conform with accessory dwelling unit (ADU) standards to meet the requirements of House Bill 2001 and 2003. Those are designed to make sure that we have affordable housing included in our plan and that we meet the requirements of a lot of different incomes and to make sure that accessory dwelling units are allowed in our community as we build out."
Gibson highlighted road projects.
"We are very, very pleased with the accomplishment of the renovation of 131st Avenue last summer," Gibson said. "We have crosswalks at every intersection. We have a lighted crosswalk at an intersection right at Deer Creek Elementary."
The project involved center divides with vegetation.
"I call it 'award-winning,' even though we haven't been awarded anything for it," Gibson joked. "But I think it's that good. I give our city manager, Mike Weston, full credit for it. I've had a lot of great feedback from residents."
The mayor also noted, "We are completing projects on King Richard (Drive) where we did an inlay project in the first phase."
A second phase of work, for another section of the same road, could take place this summer.
During the address, Gibson described King City's participation in the 2020 Census.
"We had a response rate of 83.8 percent, which was one of the highest in the state," Gibson said. "That process (which still continues) is working very well. It's very important for federal funding."
Gibson wrapped up his State of the City message by stressing the need to respect each other.
"We want our residents to understand that you have to respect this community," Gibson said. "We have rules and regulations that must be abided by. Simple things like leashing your dog when you're in a community park, to protect your dog and protect other people. Some people don't think that's important, but I have to urge the residents of King City to observe these very small and minor rules and they're not difficult to observe."
Gibson urged citizens of King City to be mindful of wearing masks while we struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When you start going to these businesses that are reopening, and if that business requires a face covering, please do it," Gibson said. "You're protecting yourself, you're protecting those workers and you're protecting those people around you. It is not a time to be defiant and say, 'It doesn't matter, it doesn't apply to me,' because all of these things do."
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