Chamber honors transit advocate, lawyer with Shining Star award

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Thomas Murphy led the charge to stop Ballot Measure 34-210, which passed last month. He was named Tigards First Citizen by the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce last week.When Thomas Murphy got the call last week that he was selected as Tigard's First Citizen, he couldn’t believe it.

“I’m still processing it, myself,” said Murphy, an attorney with Scott-Hookland LLP.

Murphy was awarded the distinction by the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce as part of its annual list of Shining Stars awards for outstanding members of the community.

The First Citizen award is the chamber’s highest honor, awarded to an individual who has made in-depth, long-term volunteer contributions to the Tigard community over the years.

“Now I get the idea why people say they are humbled when they are recognized for something they’ve done,” he said from his office on Friday. “I am confident that I could dash off 100 names of people who deserve it more than me, and that’s just the people I know.”

Murphy is best known recently as the face for his fight against Measure 34-210, the Tigard ballot measure that opposes a MAX light-rail or other transit line from being built in Tigard without public approval.

Murphy led the charge to stop the measure from passing and headed the “Stop Congestion – Vote No” political action committee, which raised more than $21,000 from groups such as Portland General Electric, Pennsylvania’s LTK Engineering Services, former Portland Streetcar leader John Carrol and executives with Stacy and Witbeck contractors, which builds light-rail lines.

Despite Murphy’s efforts, that measure passed with 51 percent of the vote. But Murphy said the work was important, despite the loss.

“I’m a believer in mass transit,” he said. “My wife has worked at Oregon Health & Science University for 25 years, and she takes the bus every day to and from work, and it’s great. She wouldn’t consider buying a parking permit. I think MAX is a great system, I really like the fact that the Portland metro area has been so forward thinking on that, and I’d like to see more of it.”

Murphy said he was reluctant to take over the campaign at first.

“I headed up the PAC because nobody else said yes,” he said. “The thought never occurred to me to lead it.”

It wasn’t until he was approached from others who opposed the measure that he decided to take a stand, he said.

“There was a lot of support for ‘Vote No’ out there, but it hadn’t been coalesced, and it needed somebody to be the figurehead,” he said.

Shining Stars 2014

Murphy’s award will be presented with other Shining Stars recipients at a special dinner and ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25, at Embassy Suites, 9000 S.W. Washington Square Road.

- Youth Volunteer of the Year: Katie Howell

- Business of the Year: DeAngelo's Catering

- “From the Heart” Volunteer of the Year: Carol Herron

- Chamber Ambassador of the Year: Emily Leonard

- Chamber volunteer of the Year: Megan De Salvo

- $3,000 worth of high school student scholarships

The Chamber of Commerce opposed the measure alongside Murphy, and Chamber CEO Debi Mollahan said that although the outcome wasn’t what they wanted, Murphy played an important role in getting the word out about the measure.

“He understood the need to build a team to reach out and communicate to Tigard’s citizens on the potential future impacts of this ballot measure,” said Mollahan. “His dedication and passion inspired and rallied a motivated group that rose to this challenge.”

Murphy said mass transit is the future of transportation.

“If you look back 50 years at the way the car was getting used then, it is different than now,” he said. “Back then, the car was the wave of the future. It was about building more and better freeways. And 50 years before that people were riding horses. If people thought the car was going to be used the same way it was in 1914, they were kidding themselves.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Thomas Murphy, Tigard's First Citizen of the year, is a strong advocate for MAX light rail and revitalizing downtown.

Decades of volunteerism

Murphy has been working on community projects long before ideas of MAX light rail came to town. Murphy is active in revitalization efforts downtown and serves on the board of directors for Community Partners for Affordable Housing, a nonprofit which operates several low-rent apartment complexes in Tigard, Beaverton and Southwest Portland.

“Tom is an exemplary individual with a strong sense of social responsibility, and a volunteer dedicated to improving the future of Tigard for all individuals and businesses,” Mollahan said.

Murphy first got involved with CPAH in the early 1990s, tutoring a woman who lived at one of the apartments who was working toward her GED diploma.

He joined the board of directors and the group’s executive committee, which he led for more than a decade.

“He has rolled up his sleeves on projects ranging from landscape restoration to bylaws revisions, and attended and led countless meetings for CPAH every month for 14 years,” Mollahan said. “Tom’s capacity to connect CPAH with resources in the community, and to cultivate new relationships, has been instrumental in helping CPAH thrive as an organization. Tom understands the significant role that affordable housing plays in providing opportunities for families to build better lives.”

Murphy is also very involved in the city’s downtown and work being done to revitalize the city’s long-dormant city core.

Murphy’s lawfirm is based on Burnham Street. He helped found the Tigard Downtown Alliance and has been a member of Tigard’s City Center Advisory Commission for the past seven years.

“Downtown is important to me because this is where I spend most of my waking hours,” he said. “I have gotten to know the people here. I want it to be, for them and for myself, as good as it can be.”

Murphy said that construction work underway on Southwest Main Street and other improvements will help to make the city’s downtown core more exciting for shoppers and will help spruce up the city.

“Downtown Tigard is a lot more attractive now than it was,” he said. “Do you remember what Burnham Street looked like before (the city rebuilt it in 2010 and 2011)? It wouldn’t have done justice to cobble. And that ended up being the No. 1 American Public Works Association project in the country. And Main Street will be the same story. It’s a pain while it’s going on, but the difference that will make is very significant.”

Murphy said he sees a lot of potential when he walks through downtown.

“Pioneer Courthouse Square gets referred to as Portland’s living room, well I’d like downtown Tigard to be Tigard’s rumpus room,” Murphy said. “I want it to be a place identified with stuff happening rather than any particular physical characteristics.”

Murphy said he doesn’t believe in the old adage, “if you build it, they will come.”

“I am more of the belief that ‘If you do it, they will come.' Because of the hard cost of building just about anything, what gets built downtown will follow the people when they come.”

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