May 20, 2007

Troutdale Political Smorgasboard For May

What's been happening in Troutdale lately? Aside from some wonderful spring weather, several pieces of news have come out of our fine town. In no particular order of relevance, here are some recent highlights and lowlights.

After months of negotiations, the Troutdale City Council approved an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad which allows construction of an access road under the Sandy River railroad bridge to the southeast corner of our urban renewal area behind the Columbia Gorge outlet mall. The road will have a great name: Drovers Trail Road. This urban renewal area, our old sewer treatment site, will soon be transformed into 48 acres of new commercial and residential projects, and also a riverfront park.

Also this month, the City Council (unfortunately) raised Troutdale's water fees by 20 cents per thousand gallons. Although this is the first raise in water fees since 1995, we had little choice. One of our wells developed significant problems and needed an overhaul. We are also adding a new well to keep our water supply in line with future growth. It's important to note that general fund money can't be used for these purposes. Troutdale's water fund budget operates only from its own revenue. Water fees alone pay for our water service.

What's going on at the old Reynolds aluminum site? The Gresham Outlook reported that "Federal Express is in preliminary talks with the Port of Portland and the city of Troutdale to build a major distribution hub for the Northwest that could add nearly 800 jobs to East County." It's not a done deal by any stretch. But at least we're a serious contender. Prior to FEDEX's pre-application meeting with city staff, this was supposed to be confidential information. I was a little surprised to read about the pre-application meeting in the newspaper instead of hearing it from city staff. I wonder if they don't trust the city council?. . .

And then there was that little discussion at a Troutdale city council meeting about a proposed private casino at the old Greyhound track in Wood Village.

Before I discuss the meeting, a little background is in order. A couple of Lake Oswego business folks, Matthew Rossman and Bruce Studer, are gunning to get two initiatives on the November 2008 ballot that would, if approved by state voters, allow Oregon’s first private casino at the old greyhound track at NE 223rd & Glisan.

Two state wide ballot measures must pass in 2008 to make this private casino possible. One would allow for this first non-tribal casino in the State to be built in the first place. And in a close-the-barn-door-we don't want private competition move, the second initiative would prevent any other non-tribal casinos from being built in the future. I won't get into their sale pitch here. You can read about it at their website,

This site is in Wood Village. But Fairview, and more specifically the planned neighborhood known as Fairview Village is across the street. Troutdale and Gresham aren't close to this facility but are adjacent to Wood Village city limits.

Along comes Oregon Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson, who fast-tracked SB1042 through the Oregon Senate. The day before the vote on this bill,she appeared before the Troutdale City Council to listen to "input". Also attending this city council meeting were Wood Village Mayor David Fuller and Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby. According to Fuller, Sen. Monnes Anderson and Fairview Mayor Weatherby sandbagged him and Wood Village with SB1042. They didn't ask for any input from Wood Village city staff. But interestingly, according to Fuller, they did approach the city of Gresham and the Gresham Outlook newspaper. Sounds like a sandbag to me. You can read the gory details in the Outlook article here.

I'm against ANY casino being built in Multnomah County. But I object to Senator Monnes Anderson's intrusion into Wood Village's right to decide what to pursue within their own city limits. The League of Oregon Cities lobbied against this bill for the same reason. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary committee on May 17. In any event, if you go by the negative opinions of the proposed casino expressed at the online version of the Outlook, east Multnomah County residents don't care what it takes. They don't want this casino. Neither do I.

Finally, here's a look ahead: May 29, the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to ask the City of Troutdale for funding for a new Economic Development position at the Chamber. The city council rejected this idea earlier this year. Then, Troutdale City Administrator John Anderson added the funding to Troutdale's proposed 2007-08 budget, only to have the Troutdale budget committee reject the funding and refer the question back to the city council. This could get interesting.