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Downtown Tigard group coming apart at the seams

Four City Center Advisory Commission members resign amid a flurry of backstabbing and criticism

TIGARD - A recent upheaval in the City Center Advisory Commission has the City Council doing damage control while trying to get the group back on track to redesign downtown.

A flurry of resignations early last month led the City Council to hire consultants Joe Hertzberg and Carol Turner of Decisions Decisions to interview the 12 CCAC members and prepare a report on their findings for the council.

The report was filled with criticism of fellow CCAC members, city staff and Mayor Craig Dirksen, and the council held a special meeting July 6 to meet with Hertzberg and Turner.

At the end of the discussion, Mayor Craig Dirksen agreed to talk to the four people who resigned - Jim Andrews, Marland Henderson, Mike Stevenson and Mike Marr, who chaired the Downtown Task Force since its inception as well as the CCAC until he resigned June 1.

At this week's council meeting on Tuesday, interim Community Development Director Tom Coffee said that staff was working on laying out new procedures for the CCAC to follow and possibly reconstituting the commission, which according to a 1989 ordinance can be made up of seven to 12 members.

'I'm hopeful we can move ahead with the group (as it's now composed), plus an alternate or two,' said Councilor Tom Woodruff. 'I would not want there to be a hiatus.'

Dirksen reported that he had talked to three of the four resignees, who are not interested in rejoining the group at the present time.

'All three expressed their desire to be involved as private citizens and expressed their desire to be involved in the future,' he said.

The council will discuss the issue further at its Aug. 15 workshop meeting.

The criticism uncovered by Decisions Decisions was stinging, including the fact that some CCAC members felt 'the city did not provide the CCAC with the foundation it needed to be successful.'

'We heard many comments about unclear direction, lack of structure, confusion about roles and differing perceptions of what was communicated or not communicated,' the report stated. 'Several members asked for clarification and did not get it.'

The criticism was aimed at the selection process that was different for ongoing Downtown Task Force members and the new at-large members, rules not set forth for the selection of officers, terms of office and decision-making, and confusion over the role and authority of the CCAC, particularly with regard to staff, consultants and prospective developers.

'Everyone agrees that the group never worked well together,' the report continued. 'It was contentious and divisive from the beginning. People never felt that they were all part of the same team, and many members felt devalued and not listened to.

'We heard of no focused effort to bring the whole group together. One person compared the CCAC to the challenges of creating a blended family.'

In particular, some members criticized Marr, and those who voted against him in a no-confidence vote June 1 'expressed serious concerns about his leadership and said that the CCAC needed a leader who could bring people together.'

Also, Dirksen came under scrutiny, with the report noting that 'some people attributed the concept of a no-confidence vote to him, and some believe that the mayor favored a change.'

It added, 'Several expressed disappointment that he did not assert leadership and has not been forthcoming about his role.'

The report also noted that 'many members attribute personal economic and political motivations to one another. Some people will benefit from urban renewal, and benefits will depend on the direction of future efforts.'

Finally, the report stated that some CCAC members found staff and consultants 'difficult to work with and believe they have agendas of their own.'

'Everyone agreed that high turnover has made things difficult,' it concluded.

As for the future, the report said, 'Most of the former members suggested that the CCAC be dissolved and reconstituted. Most of those who remain said that the group is now working together productively and should continue.'

Since Marr's resignation, Carl Switzer has been elected interim chairman.

Other members of the CCAC include Carolyn Barkley, Gretchen Buehner, Suzanne Gallagher, Alice Ellis Gaut, Lily Lilly, Judy Munro, Roger Potthoff and alternates Alexander Craghead and Ralph Hughes.