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Pro-YMCA group plans to try again in 2016

Former campaign director says he won't be involved in future campaigns.

Voters may have rejected plans for a Tigard community center earlier this month, but supporters of the measure say they are ready to try again in 2016.

On Nov. 3, Tigard voters shot down Measure 34-241, a $34.5 million bond measure to build a community center somewhere in the city.

The measure lost 65 percent to 34 percent, a difference of more than 3,500 votes, according to the most recent numbers from Washington County's election's office.

But supporters of the project announced this month that they plan to be on the ballot in November 2016.

“The 2015 campaign was a good test of the waters,” supporters wrote on the campaign's website. “It showed the only barrier to victory was low voter turnout… something we knew.”

The group, known as the Friends of the Downtown Tigard YMCA, has said for months that the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette should operate a community and recreation center on Southwest Burnham Street, and campaigned hard with signs and mailers asking voters to support a downtown YMCA, though city officials said that who would run the facility and where it would be located would not be decided until after the measure’s passage.

The campaign did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment, but Reid Iford, the chief spokesman for the campaign, also operates the website Tigardnow.com, where he wrote that the 2016 Yes campaign will be “an exact mirror of the one used this year.”

The 2015 measure was referred to voters by the Tigard City Council. Ballot measure 34-241 was intentionally light on details, councilors said, to give the city more room to negotiate with future operators and property owners.

According to the campaign’s website, that’s going to change.

“Now, our mission is simple: Bypass the City Council and use the citizen initiative process to place this on the ballot for the 2016 November presidential election,” the campaign wrote.

But that plan doesn't sit well with all of the campaign's previous supporters. Neal Brown, a Tigard real estate agent who petitioned the city to refer the item to voters in the first place, said that he won’t be involved in the future campaign.

“Reid and I are different people,” Brown told The Times after the campaign announced its 2016 plans. “I’m taking a step back to be gracious and learn and listen to people and to think about where we go from here.”

Brown was director of the 2015 campaign and has been working to bring a YMCA to Tigard for years. He said he still supports the idea of a YMCA in downtown, but said he was willing to wait a few years before trying again.

“I see (the measure’s loss) as huge loss for Tigard,” he said. “But I don’t think I want to go headlong into anything.”

Under Tigard’s charter, signature gatherers have only 90 days from filing with the city to collect the necessary signatures to place the initiative before voters.

Carol Krager, Tigard's city recorder and election's officer, said she has not yet been contacted by the Friends of the Downtown Tigard YMCA.

The deadline to file for the Nov. 6 general election is Aug. 10.

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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