November's ballot could include question on what the city should do as part of corridor plan

The Tigard City Council has less than a month to decide whether it will go back to voters for clarification about bringing a possible light-rail line to town.

Councilors have faced a dilemma since March after passage of Measure 34-210 that requires Tigard to hold a public vote before the city does any planning or work for a Southwest Corridor Plan high-capacity transit system that could come through the city — either a light-rail line or rapid bus service.

During the past several weeks, councilors met with residents in a series of town halls, held one-on-one interviews and public gatherings and said that while the city remains divided on the issue, one message came forward: “I didn’t have a single person say that we shouldn’t move forward,” said Councilor Jason Snider. “If we’re not at the table, we don’t have a voice for how this is planned.”

The goal, Cook said, was to hear from most residents, not just the vocal minority who attend city council meetings or other public events. “We hear from the same 30 or 40 people every time, but my goal was to get to others who don’t come normally and get their input,” Cook said.

The advisory vote wouldn’t change the outcome of the March election, but would seek to clarify how voters feel about the Southwest Corridor project before the city spends years — and thousands of taxpayer dollars — planning for a project that residents might not want.

“What I heard the most was that what (residents) want is a say in how it comes, and where it comes,” Cook said. “By how it comes they want a say in how we fund it, and if it’s light rail or rapid bus, and they want to decide which streets it goes down.”

Councilor Marc Woodard said that continuing to plan for the project is a no-brainer. In order to give voters that choice, the city has to continue its work. “Its our job to plan,” Woodard said.

City won’t stop outreach

The advisory vote would be the third time Tigard voters would have been asked to weigh in on high-capacity transit issues since 2012. Two years ago, voters approved a city referral calling for a public vote on any new taxes or fees before construction on a MAX line can begin in town. Measure 34-210 is more expansive, and demands that residents decide whether or not to allow the line into the city at all.

Woodard said that going back to voters again and again on the issue could jeopardize residents’ confidence in city leadership.

“You would spend all our time trying to explain what’s happening. It’s like you are trying to catch up with a train you can never catch,” Woodard said. “For me, I just want to move forward. That’s what’s expected of me as an elected official. Let’s move forward, make the best decision possible, and if we have something that looks like what the majority wants, then we can put that to a vote.”

Others, such as Councilor Gretchen Buehner, said that she would favor repealing Measure 34-210.

Cook said he wasn’t ready to make a final decision on going back before voters. “We have six weeks left before we have to finalize that decision,” Cook said.

Cook said that whether an advisory vote is placed on the ballot, the city wouldn’t stop its outreach. “I’m promising that we won’t stop. We’ve listened to people and I promise to continue that throughout the year as Southwest Corridor is planned, and into future years.”

The council must make a decision by its July 22 meeting to make it onto the November ballot.

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