Tigard is joining many of its neighbors and the State of Oregon in ending pandemic-related emergency measures, but some changes may be here to stay.
With the city’s COVID-19 emergency declaration set to expire mid-month, more than 2-years and ten extensions after it was originally enacted, City Council is working to preserve a few successes.
“What I’m thinking is all the implications of this have not been through,” Mayor Jason Snider said, echoing the sentiment of his council colleagues. “I don’t know how we can repeal this tonight unless we have a continuity plan for all of the things that are wrapped into it.”
Councilors voted unanimously in March to end the declaration, leaving a 30-day window to ensure services such as utility assistance subsidies created by the decree are not inadvertently severed while demand remains high.
“There are a lot of things wrapped up in this emergency declaration,” City Attorney Shelby Rihala explained. “When we first imposed this back in March of 2020, we needed emergency contracting authority because we couldn’t go through the established procedures. We were looking at inter-agency assistance with the county and state.”
The delay leaves mandates in place until April 14.
Over time, the somewhat fluid declaration evolved to meet pandemic-induced obstacles as they arose. When state-mandated dine-in restrictions eased to allow outdoor table service, the city responded by temporally relaxing measures prohibiting sidewalk café seating.
Councilors worry that, while few restaurants currently offer the option, abruptly ending it could negatively impact restaurants. Instead, they plan to explore the possibility of making permanent changes to land use coding that could make outdoor dining a fixture.
Rihala recommended uncoupling beneficial subsidies and land use modifications from the declaration. Utility assistance, a program that is currently out of funding, is the only service in question that presently exists solely in the context of an emergency state.
Oregon has similarly continued with some modifications, like mandating a virtual option for in-person meetings. Health and masking edicts also fall under state purview.
While the conditions for continuing emergency provisions do not currently exist in Oregon, “we have the ability to enact it again should the conditions necessitate,” she said.