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Mr. Smith comes from Washington

U.S. Senator visits Oregon City for a progress report from local leaders
by: patrick sherman, Sen. Gordon Smith and Oregon City Mayor listen with interest to the input of local leaders.

Visiting Oregon City on Wednesday, United States Senator Gordon Smith was treated to a virtual tour of the community, led by Mayor Alice Norris.

'Oregon City is awakening from a long period of economic stagnation,' she told the senator. 'We want to take you on a quick visual tour of a city on the move with an exciting, but challenging future.'

She highlighted the four new restaurants that have opened in the city since the start of the year, including the Black Point Inn - where Smith met with local leaders. She spoke about the revitalization of 7th Street, the city's new $2.2 million gallon water reservoir, the completing of the Jon Storm Transient Dock, Wesley Linn Park and the new Amtrak station.

'Economic development isn't all about offices, retail and buildings,' said Norris. 'We believe we are experiencing success because we have invested in infrastructure, and it's working like it's supposed to - every $1 of public funding generates $7 to $10 of private investment.'

Smith congratulated the mayor on the city's accomplishments.

'I'm thrilled to see one of the most historic places in the state being brought back to the attention of Oregon. I've always believed that, 'If you build it, they will come,' and you're building it,' he said. 'Good ideas eventually become good projects.'

Looking ahead, Norris cited four key issues facing the city: the shuttered South End Fire Station, its much-diminished public library, under-funded police force and cramped and outdated city hall.

'This presentation has really helped me see, visually, what I can do to help,' said Smith, who added his own concern to the list: 'I've emphasized transportation ever since I was in the state legislature. There are going to be another million people living in the metro area, and density doesn't equal quality of life if you can't move around.'

At the end of the meeting, Smith, a Republican, was asked how he worked so successfully with Oregon's other senator, Democrat Ron Wyden.

'When we work together, it's genuine and based on mutual respect - seeing the humanity in each other, and not just the opposition. At the state's border, the politics stops,' he said. 'Where we find disagreements, we put them aside and focus on the things we agree on. I think the public is weary of political infighting.'