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Axelrod highlights transportation, bond vote as keys for 2018 in State of the City address

TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Mayor Russ Axelrod said the City made significant strides in 2017, and there is plenty more on the horizon for 2018.Near the end of his annual State of the City address Monday, Feb. 26, Russ Axelrod noted that being a mayor can sometimes be a lonely job.

Yet as he thanked his family for serving as a bedrock since he took over as West Linn mayor in 2015, Axelrod could take heart in seeing the West Linn Library filled not only with residents and staff, but also the mayors from Tigard and Hillsboro and four of the five members of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

Such a presence from outside jurisdictions was notable given West Linn's reputation in recent years as something of a quixotic outsider in the region, and those representatives had a front row seat as Axelrod reviewed the city's state of affairs in a speech the lasted nearly an hour.

"A great deal has been accomplished since I stood before you this time last year, all of which I am proud to say continued to strengthen the foundation of our city as a smart, sustainable and compassionate community looking forward," Axelrod said.

Some of the most significant accomplishments in 2017, according to Axelrod, were adopting a $94 million biennial budget for 2018-19, garnering millions in state and federal grant funds for Highway 43 improvements and seeing the completion of major infrastructure projects like the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) project and the new Bolton Reservoir.

City staff also faced a number of challenges in 2017, Axelrod said — perhaps most noteworthy being a winter full of extreme weather.

"Over 1,100 hours were dedicated to storm and ice management during major storm events in 2017," Axelrod said. "Staff responded to more significant storm events than in the prior three years combined."

Looking ahead to 2018, Axelrod said many of the West Linn City Council's top priorities are continuations of work that was done last year. Continued planning for the West Linn Waterfront redevelopment project was a highlight, as well as working to reopen the Willamette Falls Locks and beginning the first phase of Highway 43 reconstruction. And, of course, the City hopes to pass a General Obligation (GO) bond in May that would renew an existing levy rate of 42 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value to fund as much as $20 million in city projects.

"You taxes would not increase as a result of the bond, but the measure would leverage the ability to complete significant projects throughout the city that we would otherwise not have the funding for," Axelrod said, adding that the majority of funds would go to transportation projects.

Finally, Axelrod highlighted a goal that was less tangible but nonetheless important: civic discourse. The hope, he said, was to "strengthen the relationship of council, staff and residents to improve our understanding and effectiveness in everyday activities, governance, and policy implementation."

Axelrod specifically highlighted the West Linn-Wilsonville School District in discussing improved relations, saying he hoped to create a more collaborative relationship between city and schools.

"We have a tremendous school district here, but we can and should improve our working relationship to the benefit of our entire community," Axelrod said.

Robert Moore Award

Axelrod also announced the winner of the 2018 Robert Moore Award for outstanding community service during his speech Monday. The award went to resident Don Kingsborough, a longtime volunteer in the city's parks and a number of other areas.

Because Kingsborough could not be there to accept the award Monday, he will be honored at an upcoming City Council meeting that has yet to be determined.

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