Nick Wilson opens home to answer questions about Tigard election

by: FILE PHOTO - Former Tigard City Councilor Nick Wilson went door-to-door in his Bull Mountain neighborhood inviting residents to a house party for Tigard ballot measure 34-210, which will decide the fate of high capacity transit in Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood for years to come.From the outside, Nick Wilson’s home looked like any other on his Bull Mountain street last Thursday night.

But inside, Wilson was hosting a party discussing one of the most important ballot measures in recent memory: Measure 34-210, the high-capacity transit ballot measure.

Tigard voters will decide in March on a far-reaching ballot measure that would control how, or if, a light rail or similar line were to come to Tigard in the future.

On Thursday, Jan. 30, a group of about 20 friends and neighbors stopped by Wilson’s home for an informal house party spreading the word about the measure.

Wilson, who ran for mayor in 2012, hosted the party along with Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen.

For two hours, Dirksen discussed the measure, answered questions from concerned neighbors and discussed how the measure might impact the city and surrounding communities.

“I can either vote ‘no’ or ‘yes.’ But what does that mean?” asked one person at the party. “I’m making that decision without any data.”

The measure would force the city to formally oppose any high-capacity transit line and would prohibit the city from making land-use changes to accommodate a transit corridor without voter approval.

The city would need to provide cost estimates to voters, how much road capacity would be affected within five miles of city limits and any changes in hosuing density or land-use regulations.

The city would also need to send letters to state and federal officials every year declaring its position.

That doesn’t sit well with Wilson, a former Tigard city councilor who spent two decades in public service.

“I’ve been talking to people, and I am concerned about it,” Wilson said.

He has gone door-to-door in his neighborhood talking about the measure.

“You can put up roadblocks for the council and say, ‘Thou shalt not do this, and we don’t care what the facts are or what we might learn in the process and who knows what this issue was about 20 years from now,’” Wilson said. “Things could look a lot different, but that charter language will still be there. What bothers me about this is that we are tying our representatives’ hands.”

Wilson invited neighbors and friends who were against the measure as well as its supporters.

“The conversation would have been flat without (someone from the other side),” Wilson said. “Even though his position differs from mine, it worked out well.”

Wilson said it was important to spread the word about the measure.

“This is all kind of fast and on the fly,” he said. “There are a bunch of different groups coalescing around it.”

The Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce, the Westside Economic Alliance, Tigard First, former Gov. Barbara Roberts and others, have come out against the measure.

Wilson said it is hard for people to get excited about a March special election, because people aren’t thinking about ballots and campaigns.

“You really want all the voters to participate,” Wilson said. “People do care, they are just busy. They get the ballot with a stack of other mail, and they are not expecting it.”

A survey completed by the city in 2011 showed that a majority of residents were in favor of light rail.

But Wilson fears a March election will bring out only the most fervent supporters and opposition.

“I think that it is a pretty wellknown tenant in politics that low turnout elections draw out a different electorate,” Wilson said.

Instead, Wilson said, he wanted to spread the word to neighbors and friends who might not have heard about the measure until now.

"You really want all the voters to participate," Wilson said. "People do care, they are jusy busy. They get the ballot with a stack of other mail and they are not expecting it."

Wilson said he hoped that he got a few people to at least start thinking about the measure.

"It just show that a lot of people are just not not paying attention to it," he said.

Ballots for the March 11 ballot measure will be mailed to registered Tigard voters starting Feb. 21. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 18.

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