Tigard Mayor Jason Snider again displayed his combined political and showmanship skills in his 2021 State of the City virtual presentation on April 7, which is still available for viewing online.
There was no hint of a typical politician’s speech, as Snider engaged with community members and city volunteers in between short remarks posted by civic leaders and Tigard City Council members. The mayor once again participated in his popular “Mayor Walking” segment, interviewing folks on Main Street, sometimes asking if they knew who the mayor was (most didn’t).
As lighthearted and spontaneous as the pre-recorded interviews appeared, Snider still was able to weave in important topics facing the city, such as its proposed city services consolidation project.
And the presentation managed to transport the audience to faraway places because the interview subjects talked from locales around the world if you believed the backdrops behind them.
Ben Bowman, vice chair of the Tigard-Tualatin School District Board of Directors, spoke “live from Egypt” about the district’s Packed with Pride program.
“In March 2020, we were the first school district to announce we were closing (due to the coronavirus pandemic),” said Bowman, but the board was keenly aware that schools provide more than education, including filling nutritional needs.
Packed with Pride “started with a small team and became a larger team,” Bowman said of the grass-roots effort that has utilized hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and hundreds of volunteers to supply hundreds of families in the school district with regular food boxes.
A couple of local business owners shared how the city’s Tigard CARES program helped them stay afloat during the pandemic.
“Live from Africa” were Matthew and Lydia Hickox, who chose Tigard to start their business, Empyre Barbers. They love Tigard’s central location within the metro area and its potential for growth, but beyond attracting customers, they have supported their new community by providing haircuts free of charge to the homeless and those recovering from addiction. For them, providing a haircut also restores a sense of dignity and is their way of giving back to the community.
“The city has supported us,” Lydia Hickox said. “Tigard has embraced us. We felt it early on. The whole community has embraced us.”
Speaking from the “Brazilian rain forest,” Beth Koblegarde said she had to close her business, Shears Ahead, for two months at the start of the pandemic, while a grant from the city allowed her to pay her stylists, who are independent contractors.
PGE was one of the event sponsors, and DeAngeloa Wells, PGE’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, spoke about how the company is working to expand in those areas.
Several members of the city’s new Public Safety Advisory Board spoke, including John Trinh from “Antarctica” whose day job is at New Narrative, which offers treatment for mental health issues and help in transitioning to employment. Trinh said as an Asian-American and working in the behavioral health field, he needs to be a voice for these marginalized communities.
Justin Low, another Public Safety Advisory Board member, spoke “live from space” about how much he has learned after attending only two board meetings.
“The mental health component was very enlightening to hear about,” said Low, praising the overall composition of the board that includes “such a diverse array of people.” He added, “It makes me feel hopeful.”
Board member Valerie Sasaki said from “Hawaii” that “we represent a lot of businesses – people would be surprised at how diverse Tigard is.” She added, “I am pleased with the level of empathy of the board members. Our goal is to help support the community and make Tigard a better place.”
Word about the charms of Tigard’s Main Street must be getting around, because many of the folks Snider talked to in his “Mayor Walking” segment were from out of town. They included folks from Northwest Portland, Gladstone, West Linn, Beaverton and more.
Many said they liked that Tigard’s historic downtown is compact and walkable with a variety of businesses and food options.
Besides hearing what folks liked about Tigard, Snider used the opportunity to ask some pointed questions related to the city’s possible consolidation of city services into two new buildings. The plan includes adding a community room in a new City Hall building plus additional parking, creating new tax revenue from potential downtown development, creating safe city structures along with the ability to access essential services during a major earthquake, and improving security, training and operations space for the Tigard Police Department.
Snider asked several people when they thought the Tigard City Hall/Police Department was built and how many officers and staff the original police facility was built to accommodate. After many guesses, the correct answers were revealed as the mid-1980s and 35.
“Now there are about 100 police officers and staff working there,” Snider said. “How do you think they are doing in that space?” The consensus from the public was “crowded.”
Kenny Asher, the City of Tigard’s community development director, spoke about the city facilities consolidation project.
“The idea is to consolidate all the city services (except public works) into one building downtown and develop the surplus property into housing,” he said, adding that in addition to employees being crowded, the city pays for almost 3,000 square feet of rental space.
Snider added of the project, “We are trying to solve multiple problems… I said at a City Council meeting that (retrofitting the current facilities) is like putting a new engine in a 1983 Honda Civic. So many of our facility costs are hidden.”
The city currently has five buildings downtown, with the first one built in the 1950s. (“Ironically, the IT building,” Snider said.)
“We are the biggest landowner in downtown, and we don’t use it very efficiently,” said the mayor, and Asher added that the city owns 13 ½ acres in downtown Tigard.
They stressed the need to increase the availability of residential housing downtown as well as to attract visitors.
The State of the City event could not have concluded without Snider revealing “The Top 10 Things I Learned Since the 2020 State of the City.” These included the City Council having a majority of women for the first time in the city’s history; recognizing that Zoom is an acquired taste; recognition from Money Magazine that Tigard is the most dog-friendly city on the West Coast; Rose City Distilling Co. in Tigard converting its operation to making hand sanitizer; voters approving the city’s first-ever police services levy; the city’s Bureaucat becoming famous; and a crisis bringing out the best in people.
The program also acknowledged the city’s Tigard RAFT (Resident Aid Fund of Tigard) program that supports non-profit and faith-based organizations; the Tigard AID program that provides assistance for utility bills; hosting more than 25 virtual conversations to inform the community about Covid-19 support and to address Covid-19 protocols; and refreshing the city’s strategic plan that includes being “an equitable community that is walkable, healthy, and accessible for everyone.”
The event concluded with a number of people saying what they are thankful for, including state Rep. Dacia Grayber, Broadway Rose’s Dan Murphy, former state Rep. Margaret Doherty, and U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.