An Interview with Tigard Mayor Jason Snider

Mayor Snider hosts a monthly Fireside Chat.
Mayor Snider hosts a monthly Fireside Chat, giving the community an opportunity to ask questions live on a variety of social media outlets.

2022 State of the City event scheduled for Wednesday, March 2 at 6 p.m.

In early March, Tigard Mayor Jason Snider will present his fourth, and possibly final, State of the City. Tigard Life publisher Michael Antonelli had an opportunity to sit down with Mayor Snider and ask a few questions: 

Tigard Life: Four months ago, The City of Tigard, in partnership with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, helped launch Opportunity Café – a business incubator – at the Tigard Library. The first result of that effort was the El Cuadrilatero. We can now enjoy coffee, pastries, and sandwiches in the library lobby. How is that going, and are there plans to expand these types of business incubators in Tigard?

Jason Snider
Jason Snider.

Mayor Jason Snider: That’s a great question. First, I want to say that things are going really well. I have stopped by, and I would encourage other community members to stop by as they’re entering the library, or even go to the library specifically to share and enjoy time with our new business there. 

Everything I can tell indicates that things are going very well for that new business in Tigard. What I will share is that we do have plans and desires to help other small or micro-businesses be able to start their food-type businesses in Tigard. We want to replicate this model in our new Universal Plaza with some food carts, setting up brand new food entrepreneurs to incubate so in the future they are able to transition to a permanent space somewhere in Tigard.  This approach helps food entrepreneurs build a strong customer base and hone their business skills.

TL: Any idea of a timeline for that? 

JS: Not specifically, other than I know it’s planned as one of the ways to draw people to Universal Plaza once the first phase of construction is complete.

TL: As a side note, the City planned to break ground at Universal Plaza later this year. Is that still on? 

JS: Phase one of construction is supposed to start in the next six months.

TL: Homelessness has been in the news a lot lately, and some people would say the problem is becoming more visible in Tigard. A few years ago, Just Compassion opened its doors to provide services to those in need, such as showers, laundry, and hot meals. Is the need adequately being met, and what is Tigard doing to address the need in the future? 

JS: This is a super important topic to our community and most importantly to the people that are struggling with houselessness. First, I’ll just say at the outset, no, communities throughout the Portland area are not doing enough to address and combat houselessness and homelessness. There’s a lot of effort that’s going into trying to address this, and Just Compassion is doing very important work in Tigard. And they have a lot more work to do and so do we as a city. 

We’re partnering with them to get funds from the state to build a permanent transitional shelter on their site. You’re probably familiar with that effort, and we’re also looking at how we can further support Just Compassion to expand their services even more with additional city support beyond what we have already provided. 

The needs of our houseless individuals are constantly evolving. They’re changing; they’re not static. So, we all must constantly adapt, both Just Compassion as a nonprofit that’s trying to serve this community, and us as a city that’s trying to support Just Compassion and other nonprofits that are doing similar work. 

TL: You recently announced that the City Council was prioritizing the development and implementation of a Community Resiliency Plan to deal with climate change. This program aims to bring Tigard to carbon neutrality by 2035. Can you help us understand what this will look like over the next 13 years? 

JS: In the council’s March of 2021 goal setting, the council made concrete and specific goals around community resiliency. We still must figure out what our path forward is. We weren’t doing much in this area until the last year. This has been an issue that has not gotten a lot of attention from prior city councils in Tigard. And it’s time to act, and it’s time for our community to figure out what that means.

So right now, what we’re doing as a city is putting a workgroup together, consisting of community members plus leaders of the City, to figure that out and map out what that looks like. Other local communities like Beaverton and Milwaukie are, frankly, further ahead than we are on this work. I’m always into stealing good ideas, and there’s no reason why we must make everything up on our own. At the same time, Tigard’s got its own unique needs, so we’re not going just to take a plan for Beaverton or a plan for Milwaukie and just implement them in Tigard, but they do offer thoughts and concepts to consider. 

And so, our community will need to go through that process, figuring out what our plans look like and how we’re going to get to carbon neutrality by 2035. There are certainly actions we will have to take.  One of them will probably be a significant electrification of our fleet. 

We have a lot of vehicles, particularly in the police department but in Public Works as well. And over time to get to carbon neutrality, much of that is going to have to become electrified.

TL: Just for clarification on the goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, is that speaking just of the city facilities or is the City as a whole? 

JS: Well, that’s an excellent question as well. What’s interesting about that is we need to be talking about both, but I think the City’s ability to control and impact its own operations is much greater than its ability to make the entire City and every individual in the city carbon neutral by 2035. That would be a very ambitious goal, and it’s a great aspirational goal but probably not realistic in our current work program. 

TL: You mentioned forming a community group to help provide input on this goal. How does Climate Champions fit into this? 

Mayor Snider taping a segment of Mayor Walking!
Mayor Snider taping a segment of Mayor Walking! which will air during his May 2 State of the City event.

JS: Climate Champions is an energetic group of high school students that, frankly, is a great example of a time when the future leaders of our community are pushing the current leaders of our community to act in a very healthy way. They are really leading on this work. 

If you listen to Youth Counselor Nag, who is one of our Climate Champions, the entire youth advisory council at the City and under Youth Counselor Nag’s leadership and others, they’re pushing us in ways that we deserve to be pushed, asking the tough questions, being thought-provoking, and making sure that we don’t forget to act. They feel like they have more to lose than some of us do because they’re going to be here longer, and I understand that, and appreciate it. 

They’re the thought leaders on some of this too. They’ve got better ideas. They’ve been thinking about it longer. They read about it more. They have more formal education on climate issue than certainly you and I probably had in high school. I don’t think I had any climate discussions in high school, other than maybe some abstract reference in a science class, and I think the discussions and education are much more robust now.

TL: And it sounds like the City is currently recruiting for these roles?

JS: The group is still being formed, and I would say that if community members have an interest in participating, I’ll just have them email me at Jason@tigard-or.gov and we’ll get them redirected to the right teams in the City.

TL: For the last two years, Tigard’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration has been canceled due to Covid. At one point last year, after fireworks were banned due to extreme temperatures, you proposed celebrating Tigard’s 60th birthday with a fireworks celebration in the fall. But another surge of the virus ended those plans. Has there been any discussion about the Fourth of July in 2022 or a rescheduled Birthday Celebration? 

JS: I was very supportive of having the 60th birthday celebration. I should just share that I was not taking no for an answer to a point where the staff was kind of like, “you’re going to just have to get over this. We can’t.” There was a lot of discussion, trying to figure out how to do it. Once we were out of fire risk season, the Delta surge of Covid just made it clear that we couldn’t make it happen safely.  The discussion then became when we can, we need to have the City’s 60th birthday celebration. 

And so yes, there’s been discussion about that, but the timing is still in flux. And since Delta, we’ve now had another variant that’s even more infectious, and it remains to be seen when it’ll be safe to do large public events. I’m cautiously optimistic that with what we’ve learned, we can do it outside safely and, potentially masked, so we can have the fourth of July celebration in 2022. Similar to what we’ve done in the past, maybe with a little more distancing, larger footprint so people can spread out more. 

TL: I think most of us are concluding that this virus is going to be around for many years to come, and we’re just going to have to live with it. Is that kind of the conclusion that the City is coming to? 

JS: I’ll answer that question for me and not for the City. I don’t know that the City has an opinion on that. The City is not in the public health business. But I would say that my assessment, as a health care leader and worker with knowledge of what has gone on, I think we’re going to continue to see some impacts from Covid for at least a few years, if not longer. 

And so, we really do have to figure out how to address the profound mental health impacts of Covid, like losing loved ones, not seeing friends or having social interactions for long periods of time, or just the constant burden of masking. The impacts are real, and we hear that particularly from the younger members of our community. And I think that’s a very serious concern that we need to address as a country and as a community. Having public events is one way to help us reconnect as a community and interact with people.

And we have to figure out how to do it and to do it as safely as possible.