Frequently Asked Questions

NEIGHBORS TALKING TO NEIGHBORS

The following material has been prepared based on the information made available to the PTP Committee. Any corrections should be immediately emailed to:  protecttualatinparks@gmail.com.

Q:  Will my taxes increase if the voters approve Ballot Measure 34-186 – the Protect Tualatin Parks Charter Amendment?

A: No, the new Parks Charter Amendment will not increase your taxes.

Q: If approved by the voters, what will the Ballot Measure 34-186 do?

A: Measure 34-186 will protect our parklands, home values and neighborhoods.  It will mandate government transparency and full disclosure of projects that might harm or diminish city parklands.  It will also ensure authentic citizen involvement.

Q: Why should I vote YES on Measure 34-186?

A: There are many reasons.  Measure 34-186 is the optimum remedy to protect Tualatin’s parks for today and for the future.  Once a park is gone, it’s gone forever. The plain fact is that our volunteer mayors and council members come and go, and influences and pressures regarding regional traffic issues will change over time as well.   Without 34-186, we can’t be certain that there will be any effort to inform us of projects for non-park use that might affect our parks, now or in the future.  34-186 ensures that we will always be informed and we will always be given an opportunity to be heard and to vote on issues that affect us so deeply.

We are not the first city to do this.  West Linn, Oregon City, and Lake Oswego have their own unique versions of park protection charter amendments.  Those voters recognized, as we have recognized, that residents need to be highly involved in decisions about their parks. 

Q: What is a non-park use?  Opponents say that it might be a dog park.

A:  Watch out for PR spin, misdirection, and smokescreens!  Parks have many uses and this measure does not restrict nor require a vote for the construction of new structures related to those uses.  Dog parks are certainly considered a reasonable park use and will not require a vote.  Non-park uses include new traffic bridges and aboveground utilities that take out a soccer field or another section of the park.  The new sewage pumping station on a former soccer field is an example of a non-park use.  Most residents quickly understand the difference between a dog park and a sewage pumping station.  Don’t be misdirected.

Q:  What are some normal park uses that would not require a vote? 

A:  Unless the property itself has restrictions, the following is just a short list of normal park uses for which new construction would not require a vote:  a sports field, dog park, tennis court, remodel of community center, pergola, covered picnic area, sport field lighting, walking path, boat ramps, park parking lots, horse shoe pit, picnic table, landscaping including native and non–native plants, pedestrian bridge, bike ramps, or skateboard park.  Other activities that would not require a vote include repairs by utilities to existing lines or by the city to existing non-park structures.

Q:  Why do residents need to approve this measure?

A:  Powerful outside interests led by utility PR professionals and lobbyists want you to forget that Tualatin has hundreds and hundreds of acres of soon-to-be developed industrial land near Blake Street.  At its 1/11/11 Work Session, the City Council also discussed developing hundreds of acres of Basalt Creek area into industrial land.  Proposed new road construction projects are not mainly to solve the residents’ traffic congestion problems but more to allow thousands of additional trucks and cars access to these new areas.  The utilities will likely benefit from these new developments and prefer that citizens have little say in their construction plans.

Additionally, new traffic projects are also under study, looking to select “gateways” to allow thousands of cars to travel from I-5 to 99W.  This through traffic should not be allowed to destroy Tualatin parkland without a vote of the residents.

Measure 34-186 does not prevent Tualatin from developing new properties or building traffic roads – it gives residents the right to vote on any project that destroys parkland.

Q: Why is this measure on a special election?

A: Last summer, the City Council was given the opportunity to refer this measure to a “free” election in November.  They declined to do so.  The initiative committee then had no choice, since state election rules require the measure to be on the next regularly scheduled election dated (March 2011).  Now, opponents blame us and ignore the city’s own action.  The county may charge from from $1.15 to $1.50 per voter for a special election.

Q: Who is opposing Measure 34-186?

A: Three opposition arguments will appear in the Voters’ Pamphlet.  They have been submitted by: (1) Tualatin Chamber of Commerce Leadership,  (2) Utility companies, and (3) COTWYTD PAC (formed on 1/10/11 – Citizens Opposed to Wasting Your Taxpayer Dollars PAC).

Q: Can you give me more information about these groups?

A: As of January 1, 2011, the Chamber web site reported that their leadership consists of four officers, none of which are Tualatin residents, and six directors-at-large, only two of which are Tualatin residents.  The rank and file Chamber membership apparently did not participate in the decision to take a position regarding this measure.  This position was issued by a Chamber committee, the Governmental Affairs Committee  (GAC) and approved by the Chamber LeadershipIt was not put to a vote of the Chamber membership.  The Chamber Leadership was a leading advocate of Alternative 7 and the “Bridge Over the Park”.

The Utilities group consists of PGE, NW Natural Gas, Comcast and Frontier Communications.  It is also important to note that Dave Lamb of PGE is a Chamber Director and Mark Fryburg, also of PGE, is a member of the Chamber’s GAC and a director of Beaverton’s Chamber.

COTWYTD PAC’s director is Larry Harvey, the Tualatin Chamber’s past GAC chair.  At the time he authored the Chamber Leadership’s position, he did not live in Tualatin, and was a professional political consultant and lobbyist associated with PacWest Communications.  Recently, he announced that he owns a public affairs and community relations firm in Tualatin.  State records show that it is located in SE Portland.  He is also the lobbyist for the South Metro Business Alliance (SMBA) located in Wilsonville.  His clients include two large car dealerships and other industrial interests.  SMBA was a major supporter of Metro’s Alternative 7 and the “Bridge Over the Park”.  The treasurer of the COTWYTD PAC is Cheryl Dorman.  Ms. Dorman is also past president of the Chamber and a current officer, and is also treasurer of Mayor Ogden’s re-election campaign.  She, too, does not live in Tualatin.

Q: It really seems like the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce is in some way connected to all of your opposition thus far.  Why is that?

A: Certain powerful outside interests appear to become very comfortable over the years with their influence in local decision-making.  They would like to continue with the status quo.  To do this, they have mounted a campaign intended to convince residents that the passage of 34-186 could be the ruin of all good things in our town. The Chamber Leadership might want to review its Mission Statement:  “To promote, educate and support a vital business community and enhance the livability of the greater Tualatin area.”  They don’t want you to have the right to vote on this issue because they support the existing decision-making process.  

Q: Chamber Leadership claims Measure 34-186 is vague.  Is this true?

A: No, it’s not true.   This is a fairly typical strategy used by political consultants to create fear and discredit change. 

A land use attorney, with experience as a City Attorney, drafted the language for this measure.  The City of Tualatin hired an independent law firm to review the Charter Amendment language, and that review concluded that the City of Tualatin could enforce, implement and administer all aspects of the Charter Amendment with the adoption of good Park Management Practices and Administrative Rules.  These rules, governing sale and conversion of parkland, should have been in place years ago.  Again, the opposition arguments are scare tactics intended to keep citizens from exercising their right to vote on park issues.

Q: One opponent states that Measure 34-186 will cost Tualatin jobs.  Is this true?

A: No. This is just another prescription to create fear because the current economy is first and foremost on all of our minds. This is a false choice — defeating this measure won’t produce an economic recovery in Tualatin.  We fully support our business community and thoughtfully planned future business development and infrastructure.  We believe that businesses will be attracted to Tualatin when it is perceived as not only a great place to work, but also to live in and raise a family.  In order for Tualatin to maintain this appeal, we need good parks and vibrant neighborhoods.  Our quality of life is at stake here — we can’t let a few special interest groups take over and completely industrialize Tualatin.   We live here — most of them don’t. 

Q: How often is a vote on park issues anticipated?

A: Despite exaggerated claims from our opponents, there will be very few projects that will require a vote.  34-186 only affects park projects, and only if the project includes a major change to a park for non-park use such as a traffic road or sewage pumping station.  Based on information provided by the City, we identified only one potential project in the next five years that might possibly require a vote.

Q: Doesn’t the opposition say that the need for park protection is a “nonexistent” problem?

A: It’s a very real problem, and many of the 2700 petition signers think so as well.  Parks have taken on an even more important role as Tualatin continues to plan for denser and denser communities, and our home lots have become smaller and smaller.  Park destruction not only has a social cost but it reduces residential property values.  This is a region wide issue.

Regional planning has resulted in a loss of resident control partly because of the role of lobbyists.  Special interests and lobbyists argue that big business should have the greater say in traffic planning because of their tax base.  That’s why big business hires professionals to make sure their views are known.

34-186 opponents defend the status quo because they don’t want Tualatin residents to have any genuine voice when public parks get in the way of traffic roads.  We are not the first city that has experienced this problem.  West Linn, Oregon City, and Lake Oswego all have unique park protection charter amendments.  Without a vote requirement, major non-park projects can end up on the map and approved – without informing or involving the residents.

Q: Can you give me a recent example of why protecting our parks remains a problem?

A: Let’s just revisit the Bridge Over the Park fiasco for a moment.  It was a bad plan.  It was poorly conceived and reviewed, and it was being pushed through all the stages of approval, despite the fact that very few people in Tualatin were even aware of the project.  It was going to cost somewhere between $45 and $95 million depending on the size.  The costs of the preparation and proposal were ridiculously high.  It would have brought an estimated 3,000 or more cars per day through our neighborhood park, and it would have created a complete blight on Tualatin Community Park.  With the support of special interests, it was added by the City Council to the potential list of approved regional transportation projects in the Metro 2035 RTP draft.  There were no hearings.  There was no public notification until well after the decision had been made.

Q: Were the residents aware of the above problem?

A: No, not at first. Few people in Tualatin were even aware of the project.  It’s important to note that there are other projects currently planned that could impact our parks.  These are large projects that take a great deal of time to evaluate.  Destroying a park should be a very carefully considered action.

Q: The Utilities group states in its argument that protecting our parks is “bad news for reliable utility service”.   Is this true?

A: No.  The vast majority of aboveground utilities are not in parks but in traffic rights-of-ways.  They are not governed at all by this measure.  In addition, all utilities function within the City of Tualatin by way of franchise agreements that are renewed every ten to 25 years.

PTP Committee members have had multiple meetings with the Utilities group.  Utility representatives have been advised that Park Management Guidelines and Administrative Rules should satisfy their concerns, but yet they continue to oppose the park protection Charter Amendment. They are aware that their existing franchise agreements are ordinances (city made laws and regulations) that fully protect their rights to maintain their few existing aboveground structures on parkland. 

What is completely clear is they wish to deny your right to vote and they argue the existing process works.  We hope that voters can see past this smoke screen.

Q: COTWYTD seems to think that 34-186 will waste tax dollars.  Is it true?

A: No, it’s not true.  First, tax dollars are wasted when ill-conceived projects begin and end their life in a vacuum.   With no authentic citizen input at the front end, and continued pressure from various business interests that may seek to use our natural areas for their own ends, the City could continue to move forward with badly planned projects that affect our parks. 

Second, COTWYTD speculates that there will be many projects that require a vote.  By definition in the Charter Amendment and as argued in our voters’ pamphlet arguments, only projects that are major non-park uses require a vote.  COTWYTD apparently misreads the language when Mr. Harvey, as director, writes “If the proposed amendment is adopted, for example, it may make it almost impossible to build the proposed dog park that many residents would like to see developed.”  Read the words…. “it may make it almost impossible”… See the truth.  Dog parks count as a park use and will not require a vote.  Most voters know the difference between a sewage pumping station and a dog park – the National Recreation Parks Association lists one of them as a park use and the other as a structure that pumps sewage.

The possible cost of this measure is miniscule compared to the investment that has already been made to create our parks, not to mention the millions that would be needed to replace them.  Parks are not just land but living organisms – with trees that are hundreds of years old. How can you calculate the cost to replace a stand of hundred-year-old trees?  We know it takes a hundred years to replace them.

Q: Can you give me a little background on Protect Tualatin Parks?

A: Protect Tualatin Parks is an all volunteer, grassroots group organized under the election laws to circulate a petition to amend our City Charter.  Some of the volunteers are also members of North Tualatin Friends, an informally organized group of residents initially concerned over the proposed traffic bridge over Tualatin Community Park.  Over time, as we learned more about past practices and the lack of citizen oversight, we became convinced that we didn’t need to just protect this one park – we needed to protect all city parks. After repeated fruitless attempts to persuade the City Council to cooperatively develop a measure with us, the group formed the city-wide Protect Tualatin Parks Committee and then began the petition drive to amend the City’s Charter and place 34-186 on the ballot.  2700 signatures were collected in that effort.

Protect Tualatin Parks is not funded by special interest groups or big business.  All donations are gathered from friends and neighbors who support our cause.

Q: The City Charter was good enough when Tualatin became a city, why change it now?

A: Tualatin was incorporated in 1913, and the City Charter was adopted in the 1970’s.   It isn’t realistic to assume that the situation in our City is the same as it was years ago when our population was less than 1,000 in 1970, and the biggest company in town was the dog food factory.  We’ve grown, and everything around us has grown as well, so it makes sense that the Charter needs to change and grow as we do.

Q: What did Thomas Sponsler, Special Counsel to the City Council of the City of Tualatin, report to the Council in his legal analysis of the amendment?

A. Read his memo and conclusion at:
http://www.protecttualatinparks.org/sponslermemo.pdf

Q: What will happen if Measure 34-186 fails?

A: Very simply, there will be no protection for our parks, and that is what the special interests want.  We run the risk of resembling a community like Bell, California – totally run by big business interests.  The preservation or disposal of our parklands will be left to the whims of the elected leadership whoever that may be.

Traffic in our area has been a problem for years, and with the dramatic growth in Yamhill County, it’s only getting worse.  Having failed to establish a viable 99W/I-5 connection, Washington County is still trying to solve their regional traffic issues with a local solution  – meaning more roads and traffic bridges in Tualatin.  The Bridge over the Park was one attempt.  The new sewage pumping station in Tualatin Community Park is one conversion that has already happened, again without public notice because protections such as those provided by 34-186 were not in place. 

There are other potentially damaging projects planned.  Two other attempts in the works include a Hall Street extension (affecting Tualatin Community Park) and the widening of Sagert Street to a 5-lane road; the latter includes one design that causes a large intersection at 65th and a continuation east to Borland Road (affecting usage at Atfalati Park).  What park will be next on the chopping block?   If 34-186 fails, we lose our voice, we lose our vote, and we could lose our parks.

 For more information, contact protecttualatinparks@gmail.com

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