'We're building bridges and opportunities'
State of City is 'strong,' mayor says while outlining busy year ahead
With residents and City staff members packed into the West Linn Public Library, Mayor Russ Axelrod delivered his first State of the City address Monday, Feb. 22.
After being introduced by City Councilor Brenda Perry, Axelrod wasted little time answering the key question of the evening.
As your mayor its my pleasure to report that the state of our city is strong and the future is bright, Axelrod said. Were building bridges and opportunities by developing a more effective working relationship to the community we serve. This is the foundation of my goal as mayor to have our council and city better serve you. ... To build trust with you.
Building that relationship, he said would benefit our long-range vision for the place that we all call home, the small, peaceful city that we want West Linn to be.
After reviewing the Citys accomplishments in various departments throughout 2015, Axelrod dove into the goals and challenges for the year ahead foremost being, of course, the hiring of a new city manager after Chris Jordan departed last August.
This is without a doubt the most important decision we will make this year, he said. Applications are currently being sorted and reviewed as we speak, first by an independent firm, and then by our council and citizens. As part of our city manager selection process, we are incorporating citizen input and engagement at a level never seen before in West Linn.
The goal, he said, was to have a new city manager selected by April.
He turned next to another source of recent controversy: the Arch Bridge Area planning project.
Over the next year, were going to reconnect with the community and initiate a process to prepare some different development alternatives typical of a master planning process, Axelrod said. We are also going to meet further with the West Linn Paper Mill, PGE and other property owners to evaluate plans and options to preserve property use and values long term.
Citing ongoing efforts to re-open the historic Willamette Falls Locks, Axelrod said tourism would be the key economic driver for this region.
Therefore, we must carefully master plan the entire river corridor for future generations, he said. I am not interested in quick build and run fixes proposed by speculative developers. We must be better stewards of this unique geologic landscape and its historic setting. We must do more collaboration in the region, and we must do a better job of planning to address these opportunities in a way that also fits the interests and livability of the West Linn community first.
Transportation would also be a key issue moving forward, Axelrod said, noting in particular the efforts to obtain state funding for a Highway 43 Conceptual Design Plan.
This unique project would dedicate walking and biking space along the drive lanes for safe and unencumbered bike and pedestrian access, he said. Eventually, through collaboration with Lake Oswego and Metro, I envision the ability to bicycle, roughly on grade, from the Arch Bridge to downtown Portland via the renovated trolley line currently under design evaluation. I am excited about that vision.
Code changes would also be a focus for 2016, he said.
We want to revisit and roll back, as appropriate, the so-called economic development red tape changes that were put in place in 2014, Axelrod said. The goal here is to restore certain code language to better represent community interests and representation in planning matters that critically affect our quality of life.
Axelrod said that particular effort would be led by the citys newest councilor, Bob Martin.
Evaluating underutilized, city-owned properties and further emphasizing citizen engagement were also key goals for 2016, according to Axelrod, and he said the City would also explore the idea of installing a fiber network for high-speed Internet access across the city.
Nearing the close of his 35-minute address, Axelrod took a moment to mention the ongoing Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) project.
This project has been difficult for our community. Theres no doubt about that, he said. We are now, finally, about two-thirds through the construction phase and I can only say that I too cannot wait for the day that a sense of normalcy returns to the Robinwood neighborhood.