OC opens urban renewal board to more citizens

The board will expand from five to 10; it currently consists of just the city commission members

Oregon City residents will get to have more of a say in how urban renewal dollars are spent, as the city commission looks to expand the urban renewal commission from five members - currently the same as the city commission - to 10.

The current five members - Mayor Alice Norris, Commission President Damon Mabee, and commissioners Trent Tidwell, Daphne Wuest and Doug Neeley - will remain on the board, and will add the new members from a specific pool. The commissioners explained that the Chamber of Commerce, the Park Place neighborhood association and the McLoughlin neighborhood association would each propose at least three candidates. Another one of the seats will be reserved for an at-large position, and the last will be a business member from within an urban renewal district.

'[A commission with citizen representation] was something we had, changed direction a little bit and are changing back,' said Norris.

'I have always believed that citizens should be part of the decisions about urban renewal,' Norris said. 'The citizens have been asking for it, too. It's been missed.'

Phil Yates, head of the Oregon City Area Sustainability Political Action Committee (ORCAS PAC), said he welcomed the expansion.

'I support this, this is a good move, this is a move in the right direction,' he said.

But Yates said he's concerned that the representatives would be chosen from such a small pool.

'You've only got two of these neighborhood associations represented here,' he said. 'The impacts of this are citywide.'

He even questioned whether it wasn't meant to appease citizens but to create little actual change.

'It seems to me the way you've structured it, it will in fact limit a different approach,' he said. 'I think what you've effectively done is keep the power to yourselves … [by giving you the option] to pick people who share your views.'

But Norris said the makeup just made sense as the people most affected by urban renewal.

'Those areas of the city most impacted will be strongly represented,' she said.