Tigard mulls traffic improvements in bond package
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Tigard City Council continued its examination on whether to place a public safety levy on an upcoming ballot, a proposal that is likely to include a request for 10 additional police officers.
Having more officers would make the Tigard Police Department able to respond faster to emergency calls and spend more time addressing issues that arise in the community.
But also in the mix is deciding whether a levy should include a "Safer Connection, Safer Community" — or what's commonly referred to as Safe Routes to Schools — component.
Kent Wyatt, Tigard's communications manager, told the council that there did seem to be support for funding of seven neighborhood safety projects, with a recent written and online survey of 228 residents showing 80% support putting money into them. Of those same survey-takers, 85% stated they are likely to support Safe Routes to School projects.
The council is considering whether to place a levy on the May 2020 ballot. It's also discussing the feasibility of placing a bond measure before voters to build a new police facility.
Kathy Nyland, Tigard's assistant city manager and staff liaison for the levy-bond task force, said the group will have met three times before making recommendations to the council.
Nyland said the task force wants to make sure its message about what a possible levy would pay for is focused.
"Clarity and specifics were mentioned over and over again," Nyland told the council.
In May 2018, voters turned down a Tigard local option levy that would have added officers, as well as provided additional library services and funds for parks maintenance.
Another concern among the task force is the possibility that the Washington County Sheriff's Office will be asking countywide voters to renew its own public safety levy on the same ballot, Nyland noted.
The task force is expected to report to the council soon on its findings. In addition to a levy, the city is looking at seeking a bond to replace the current police facility, which officials have said for years is outdated and in need of major repairs.
City Manager Marty Wine said the city will soon conduct a telephone survey to test messaging about levy and bond measures with residents. Then in December, another survey will determine what specific ballot language would be most effective in getting a levy passed.
Discussion among the council Tuesday centered on whether to place both a request for more officers along with a Safe Routes to School request on the same ballot. Councilor John Goodhouse said he was afraid the city might be "clouding the waters" and suggested the possibility of giving voters two separate ballot measures to vote on.
Councilor Liz Newton agreed that she's found it takes a long time to explain Safe Routes to Schools to residents — although when they hear about the program, they are supportive of the safety improvements, she added. Newton also agreed it's important to be clear about what the city is asking for.
Councilor Heidi Lueb said she thinks Safe Routes to Schools is too "jargony" and that it might be better to call it something like "safer school intersections."
Mayor Jason Snider said he is supportive of increased traffic enforcement, especially around schools, noting that it often brings in more revenue — in the form of citations and fines — than it costs. He later added that he wants to make sure that there is no confusion among voters about what the city is requesting as part of the levy, saying that he doesn't want to see the levy defeated because of any confusion about what the city is asking for.
Councilor Tom Anderson said he has talked to people about the Safe Routes to Schools proposal and thinks they're supportive. He pointed to safety improvements made around Fowler Middle School — part of a Washington County program to upgrade Southwest Walnut Street — as positive steps forward.
Anderson said the fact it would cost only 3 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation specifically for a Safe Routes to Schools program is something to consider.
No set numbers have been placed on a potential public safety levy, although Nyland said task force discussion is looking at a package hovering around 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation — significantly less than the city's $1.18-per-$1,000 ask last May.
Wine said she suggests sticking to only one levy measure on the ballot so the city isn't competing with itself.
Results of the first telephone survey are expected in mid-November, with a decision on whether to pursue a levy or bond expected by January.
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