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Members hash out whether new 'Welcome to Wilsonville' signs should have directional indicators

The Wilsonville City Council deliberated how it will design the new "Welcome to Wilsonville" monument signs next to the Interstate 5 exit on Wilsonville Road during a meeting Monday, Aug. 19.

The council recently adopted a plan to improve signage throughout the City and the monument project is the first in its slate of initiatives.

The central point of contention during the meeting was whether the signs should include the names of key locations and arrows that indicate where those locations are. Most of the council felt that doing so would make the sign look cluttered.

"Sometimes less is more, and in my opinion, it looks better to not have directional signs," Councilor Ben West said.

However, Mayor Tim Knapp disagreed. He noted that the main purpose of the project is to ease navigation for people who are unfamiliar with Wilsonville and that the directional indicators served that purpose.

"I think we're sacrificing a significant component of the whole intent of this wayfinding signage program by not having some directional pieces," he said.

Wilsonville City Manager Bryan Cosgrove, however, said monument signs are not meant to be directional signs. Councilor Charlotte Lehan agreed, but suggested adding separate directional signage closer to the freeway exit so drivers know which lane to enter.

"I don't think it's (the purpose of the monument signs) wayfinding. It's giving the place an identity," she said.

The council also disagreed about whether the monument should have a dark or light background.

"I find the dark background to be ponderous, heavy and not nearly as welcoming as the other alternative," Knapp said.

Lehan, West and Council President Kristin Akervall, however, preferred the dark background.

Lacking a consensus, Wilsonville Community Development Director Chris Neamtzu said he would return to the council at a later date with new designs.

Council receives info about upcoming census

Also during the meeting, Sarah Bushore, a partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, told Wilsonville City Council about potential hurdles to counting all Wilsonville residents when the bureau conducts the census in 2020.

The U.S. Census is conducted every 10 years to garner accurate population figures so that political representation can be equitably distributed. Bushore said that 2020 will be the first time the internet and phone calls will be used to collect census data and that the bureau will be able to better track who has and who hasn't reported because of that change.

"The goal of the census is to count everyone once, only once and in the right place," Bushore said.

She indicated that Wilsonville's population might be hard to accurately tally because of its demographics.

For one, Bushore said 17% of the Wilsonville population is over the age of 62.

"These people are hard to count because of physical isolation, sometimes mental health issues, feelings that they just don't matter or even (because of) access or ability to use the internet," she said.

Wilsonville also has a higher than average percentage (7%) of residents under the age of 5 than Oregon's average (5%).

Bushore said young children with parents who have split custody or who live in a senior living facility often are hard to count.

"The biggest issue we're going to find is children living in age-restricted housing," Bushore said. "This is where the grandparent is raising a child and the grandparent is apprehensive to share with us the fact that they are living there. They might think they are in trouble for it, that they're in a housing area that's supposed to be over 55 and children aren't supposed to be there."

Another potential issue is that Wilsonville has a relatively high percentage (55%) of renters. Based on data from 2017, Bushore said there were approximately 22,789 people living in 9,562 housing units in Wilsonville.

"They (renters) tend to be transient, frequent movers and are more likely to be apathetic (about participating in the census)," Belshore said.

Finally, she said approximately 9% of Wilsonville residents are foreign-born, including almost 1,300 who are not U.S. citizens. Bushore said most foreign-born residents are unaware of the census and some are fearful that the bureau will provide information about them to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Bushore said while the bureau handed over such information to federal agencies during World War II, which bolstered the proliferation of Japanese internment camps, doing so became illegal thereafter. The bureau did not hand over information when asked by enforcement agencies during the search for terrorists in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I would ask, if there is one thing you should take away from this, as you run across people who are foreign-born, please talk to them about the census and the importance of it and the fact that we also do this every 10 years. If we don't get it right, we don't get to redo it," Bushore said.

Bushore said the census is conducted in 13 languages and includes inquiries about a person's address, phone number, age, race and gender, among other information.

"It's important to note that when we do the census we don't ask for Social Security numbers or credit card information," Bushore said.

The bureau will send out an invitation for people to self report to addresses across the state and then send two more invitations to self report if there is not a response. The fourth time, they send a letter and a form to fill out the requisite information.

After that, they send a final notice. If there still isn't a response, enumerators will visit the address three times. After the third try, they go to the house next door to ask questions about the address. They also will notify the City government to see if it can be of assistance.

Bushore said that Portland State University, which conducts its own population research, said that the census bureau collected accurate population information in Oregon during the 2010 census.

"It doesn't matter where you are or who you are. If you're in Oregon, we're going to count you," she said.

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