The start of 2012 comes with a sense of optimism that has been missing for a while.

This time of year, elected officials like to report to their constituents on how things are going. Unlike the office of the U.S. President, there's no requirement that mayors and county board chairs shall 'from time to time' give a report on the 'state' of their local governments, but we think it's a great idea.

Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax gave his official State of the City address on Monday. Washington County Chair Andy Duyck will follow with an address next month.

Summaries of their views are printed in these pages, as are responses crafted for us by Banks Mayor John Kinsky and Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin. (We didn't hear back from Gaston Mayor Rick Lorenz by our press deadline, but hope to include his comments in the coming weeks.)

If there is a theme that runs through all these reports it's of quiet confidence.

At a time when two Oregon counties are facing bankruptcy and most school districts are again sharpening their budget knives, local governments in western Washington County are not just surviving, but moving forward with modest, but important projects.

And, in a week where partisan posturing held up most of the important work in the statehouse, it's worth noting that with the craziness of Cornelius behind us, there's little political drama in our local public bodies. Our elected officials may disagree at times (which is healthy) but they all seem committed to working toward common goals in an open and productive manner.

Keep in mind that, aside from the county board, these are volunteer positions that require a lot more time than just showing up for a couple meetings each month. Most city council members are assigned positions on regional boards, advisory panels and task forces. Budget documents aren't exactly light reading. And then there's always that clause (written or not) in the job description about 'and other duties not assigned.'

The last few years have not been fun for those involved in local governments. With property tax revenues stagnant at best and development almost coming to a halt, budgets have been trimmed and projects put on hold.

But, as you'll read on these pages, the start of 2012 comes with a sense of optimism that has been missing for a while. That's not to say there aren't still challenges ahead. And as we look at the state of our cities (and county), it's clear that we're fortunate to have elected officials who've put us in such good shape.

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