City will take a hard look at creating a town center plaza to continue its revitalization efforts

- Editor's Note: On Monday, Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax gave his State of the City address at the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon. Here are excerpts of his remarks:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you once again regarding the life and vitality of our city.

Community development is one of the places that comes under the microscope when people examine whether a city is growing, or on the rebound from previous years' contractions.

Forest Grove is no different and the last two years indicate that while the progress is slow, the community is climbing out of the abyss we found ourselves in during 2008 and 2009. Building activity is on the rise with over 400 permits being processed over the two year period, totaling nearly $71 million.

And there's more to community development, especially in response to our efforts to make Forest Grove more livable, greener and more sustainable. The department will be conducting a continuing study of downtown revitalization. That is in partnership with a consultant made available by Metro to examine and propose improvements to downtown and that would include a serious look at establishing a town center plaza to give further identity to the central business district.

Also involved in our downtown revitalization is our department of Economic Development. In addition to participating in that effort, the department will continue a successful grant writing process which in 2011 resulted in some $450,000 dollars worth of grants being awarded to Forest Grove.

Those grants include money for a tourism guide which came from the Washington County Visitors' Association, assisting on a successful Safe Routes to Schools grant. And, finally, writing a grant in cooperation with the Forest Grove senior and community center, which resulted in nearly $60,000 dollars coming to the center for refrigeration repairs, floor maintenance and some remodeling for easier access to the outside.

That last grant is part of the community development block grant program, which has been in existence since the Ford Administration and is truly a positive indication of 'your tax dollars at work.'

Since 1979, Forest Grove has engaged some $4 million dollars in these grants for providing comfort to the elderly, the disadvantaged, and the young. Our senior center, the student health center at Forest Grove High School and numerous [other] programs have been beneficiaries of this program.

The good news is that CDBG made one and one-quarter million dollars available to 15 different projects or services throughout Washington County. The bad news is that there were $3 million dollars in requests.

My point is that community development has played a significant role in providing that hand up for many of our friends and neighbors in western Oregon, and I would urge you that when you have a chance to talk with your representative or senator that you advocate for this highly beneficial program.

I close with three vignettes which I think best express the life of this small community in the quiet foothills of Northwest Oregon.

•In September, the Fire Department of Forest Grove received an artifact of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the tragedy that was, and is, September 11. Through the work of Chaplain Dexter Danielson, the steel beam was presented to the city and it now rests in a place of solemn honor in our fire station.

•In October, Bob Schlegel died. Bob was 89 years old, and lived a life devoted to the community and to agriculture. He spent many years at Flavorland Foods, and served in Rotary, the Sunset Chamber of Commerce and the Banks School Board. He lived in Banks for many years, on land his family had tilled for many years before that.

He moved into Forest Grove, and just prior to that move in the late 1980s, he was voted Washington County's Small Woodlands Tree Farmer of the year. It wasn't until I listened to this year's presentation of that award that I realized just how important that was to the farming community of Washington County, and by extension just how important the memory of Bob Schlegel is to all of us.

•And finally, I am reminded of a moment that briefly united all of us. In August, the war in Afghanistan came home to Cornelius and Forest Grove with a vengeance. We learned of the death of Navy hospital corpsman Ryley Gallinger-Long, a resident of Cornelius, and a one time volunteer with the Forest Grove Fire Department. Tualatin Valley Highway, Adair Street in Cornelius, and Pacific Avenue in Forest Grove were lined with American flags and respectful, silent citizens, some who were deep friends of Ryley's, some who were grieving family members, and some who didn't know him at all. However, we were all tied by that bond that truly passes all understanding. And as the fire truck carrying him passed by, I was struck by the words of British poet Stephen Spender.

In his poem, 'I Think Continually of Those who were Truly Great,' Spender closes the third and final stanza with:

The names of those who in their lives fought for life,

Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.

Born of the sun they

traveled a short while

towards the sun

And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

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