Tigard mayor hosts 'Late Night' State of the City
As the saying goes: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
While Tigard's 2021 State of the City event was done virtually instead of in person — usually held at the Broadway Rose Theatre Co., featuring some prerecorded video segments, it moved entirely onto YouTube this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — it followed a format that has become familiar since Jason Snider was sworn in as mayor in 2019.
Snider first hosted "Late Night in Tigard," featuring interviews from behind a desk and homages to classic late-night talk show segments, two years ago.
Last year's event, held at Broadway Rose weeks before the first COVID-19 case was detected in Oregon, reprised the theme.
The 2021 event took the form of an hourlong "late-night" program, replete with all the trappings: a desk, a slickly produced introductory montage and credits, and even canned laughter from a faux studio audience.
The program premiered on YouTube at the decidedly non-late hour of 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 7.
Like several other mayors have done in their own virtual-format State of the City events this year, Snider let his guests do much of the talking.
Responding to crises
The program highlighted Tigard's financial support for local businesses and nonprofit groups during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ben Bowman, a Tigard-Tualatin School Board member and cofounder of the group Packed With Pride, told Snider that a grant from Tigard last year allowed his group — which began assembling food boxes for Tigard-Tualatin School District families in need after schools were shut down in March 2020 — to feed 10,000 more people.
"This was a critical service for our community," Snider responded.
Business owners Beth Koblegarde Irwin of Shears Ahead and Matthew and Lydia Hickox of Empyre Barbers also appreciated Tigard's support during the pandemic.
"Tigard has embraced us and really has checked up on us through this pandemic to see how we were doing," Lydia Hickox said. "That really meant a lot to Empyre Barbers."
The video also featured several members of the Tigard Public Safety Advisory Board, which the Tigard City Council commissioned last year after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"We have people who have very clear viewpoints and very clear backgrounds that they bring to the table, and everybody's got a perspective, which I think is great," said board member Valerie Sasaki, "because we really want people to be able to respectfully exchange ideas and figure out how can we make Tigard stronger? How can we support our police and support our community, with the idea that it's not a zero-sum game?"
Sasaki added, "I've been really pleased with the level of empathy that some of our fellow board members have shown, the participation of the police — I think it's been really positive so far, and I think it will be really positive going forward."
Another recurring theme of the program was Tigard leaders' push to build a new civic center, consolidating city offices, police and other city services into a single, modern building with more space for employees than the existing City Hall complex can offer.
The new facility would be built where the Tigard Public Works Building now stands.
Both City Hall and the Public Works Building are aging. Kenny Asher, Tigard's community development director, made the argument that if city voters don't back a ballot measure to pay for a new building, the city will still end up having to pay — in the form of maintenance and repairs for its existing buildings, as well as lease costs for additional office space.
Asher, who has worked for Tigard since 2012, has overseen much of downtown Tigard's redevelopment over the past decade. City officials have worked to transform a grungy, oft-overlooked part of the city beneath State Highway 99W, signed locally as Southwest Pacific Highway, into a charming, vibrant mixed-use district.
Asher framed the drive for a new civic center as part of that years-long effort.
"You don't have to be a community development director to know that if you want a vibrant downtown, you probably shouldn't put a maintenance yard for your public works facility down there," Asher said. "We have a lot of legacy uses in the downtown, and it's only now finally starting to become the downtown that everybody wants."
By freeing up city-owned land that is used for parking and public works and selling land for residential development, Asher estimated, Tigard could add 500 housing units in the downtown area alone. He said the "number one" need for downtown Tigard now is more housing, including affordable housing, to make it a complete neighborhood.
"We want all kinds of people being able to live downtown," Asher said.
The program also included a brief "Mayor Walking" segment with Snider, wearing a fabric mask and wielding a long boom microphone, interviewing city residents and visitors outside Symposium Coffee on Southwest Main Street about what they like about downtown Tigard. Snider took the opportunity to educate several interviewees about the age and inadequate size of Tigard's police station, as well as to fish for compliments about his job performance as mayor.
Other local officials, including Tigard city councilors and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, had brief video appearances during the program, which was a joint production between Tigard and Tualatin Valley Community Television.
The video was directed by Kevin Howard.
By Mark Miller
Editor-in-Chief, Washington and Columbia counties
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