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Tigard voters strike down community center

Early results show 65 percent of voters oppose Measure 34-241.

The Friends of the Downton Tigard YMCA have lost Tuesday's vote to build a community center in downtown Tigard. The Village People may love to stay at the YMCA, but not Tigard voters — they appear to have shot down plans for a new community center in this week's general election.

Early results show only 34 percent of voters in support of Measure 34-241, a $34.5 million bond measure that would have built a new community center somewhere within the city.

As of The Times' press deadline on Wednesday morning, nearly 11,000 ballots had been counted, with 7,200 of them voting against the measure.

The measure would have levied $34.5 million in new property taxes, charging property owners 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — about $122 a year for a $240,000 home.

"The citizens have spoken and that’s it," said campaign director Neal Brown. "We’re going forward from here. I still think that Tigard needs and deserves a center."

Tuesday was the culmination of years of work for Brown, who has been promoting a YMCA for the downtown for years.

"We ran a positive campaign," Brown said, "but there was low voter turnout. We want to be gracious when we win and gracious when we lose, and we lost. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have the people vote."

Tigard Community Center Bond Measure

Team Score Percent

Controversial campaign

The plan proved to be surprisingly controversial in Tigard. Some said it would solve the city's needs for recreation, while others complained it was too expensive and posed many unanswered questions regarding who would operate the center, and where it would be located.

The bond measure split the usually harmonious Tigard City Council, with some actively supporting the measure and others calling for voters to reject it. The campaign also led opponents of the campaign to file a complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

Proponents called for a YMCA to be built in downtown Tigard, running newspaper advertisements featuring building renderings and listing the proposed Y's many amenities. City officials were adamant that no operator or location had been chosen, and said that a public process would choose between those options after Tuesday's vote, had it been successful.

Vince Arditi, who led the opposition campaign against the measure, said voters didn't see Brown's plan as one possibility for the community center, but as the only option.

“They ran a disingenuous campaign and it came back to bite them,” said Arditi. "It was a poorly thought-out plan. We told the truth about what the campaign was about."

The YMCA of Columbia Willamette, which operates YMCAs across Oregon and Southwest Washington, was the main backer of the “vote yes” campaign, the Friends of the Downtown Tigard YMCA, donating nearly $32,000 to the campaign between September and October, according to campaign finance information disclosed by the group.

The only other contributor to the campaign, Bob Gray, donated $4,000. Gray owns TS Gray Construction in Tualatin which had expressed interest in building the community center, according to the Friends of the Downtown YMCA.

Where do we go from here?

What happens next is less certain. Tigard City officials have said they will continue work they began years ago to bring more recreation options to the city.

The City Counil has a stated goal of providing more recreation options to residents and tasked the city with developing a five-year plan for recreation before the community center measure was brought up.

That plan calls for the city to hire a recreation coordinator by the end of the year, set up pilot programs, classes and outdoor events and work with existing recreation organizations in the city.

The plans could include another vote on a community center several years down the road, Assistant City Manager Liz Newton told The Times on Wednesday.

"We might want to adjust that, and do outreach with the public about that," she said.

Brown said he'd support those plans.

"I'm dedicated to bringing a community rec center to Tigard," he said. "We tried to advance a plan that we thought was the most workable and least expensive for the citizens. I'd like the city to continue their work."

Brown said rather than collect signatures to place the measure before voters again next year, he said he'd like to take some time to reflect on what Tuesday's results mean.

"My thought now is picking up all those yard signs," he said. "I'm not thinking ahead. I want to take some time. I don't want to just react. I want to act."

For his part, Arditi said that his fight against the measure will continue.

Arditi filed a complaint against the “yes” group for alleged campaign finance violations earlier this year. That complaint is still being investigated, he said. He told The Times on Tuesday that he is also planning to file ethics complaints against Tigard city councilors who supported placing the matter before voters.

"I am disappointed with the leadership that was shown,” Arditi said. “We want to have an ongoing investigation into (their) role in all of this."