Mayor Steve Lawrence has assigned city councilors and citizens to the following committees for 2013:
Councilor Tim McGlothlin will be joined on the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport board of directors by former mayor Jim Wilcox, now a citizen representative. McGlothlin will also serve on the Traffic Safety Committee.
Newly elected Councilor Linda Miller is seated on the advisory board for the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal District.
Councilor Dan Spatz has a position on the Sister City Committee and also represents the city on the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District board.
Taking former councilor Brian Ahier’s place on the Mid-Columbia Council of Governments’ board is Councilor Carolyn Wood, who is also on the Historic Landmarks Committee. In addition, she serves on the Q-Life board along with Councilor Bill Dick.
Lawrence will be part of the Community Outreach Team and he and all members of the council serve on the Budget Committee.
The Dalles The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence asked city attorney Gene Parker for a point of clarification about his new role at Monday’s goal setting session.
Although he cannot vote on policy or financial issues except to break a tie, Lawrence wanted to know if his presence at a social event that was also attended by two other council members would constitute a quorum. The law does not forbid elected officials from gathering outside of advertised meetings, although they are prohibited from discussing city business to avoid the possibility of decisions being made behind the scenes.
Lawrence, an attorney, said to avoid any appearance of impropriety, most government leaders make a point to either not have a quorum attend the same function or stay away from each other while present.
“I don’t have a vote but I wanted direction about how I should act,” he said to Parker.
The short answer to his question, said the attorney, was “No,” the presence of the mayor would not constitute a quorum because he would rarely be in a decision-making role.
“I’m non-essential personnel,’” replied Lawrence, and then added, “But I’ve still got the bully pulpit” in reference to his role of running meetings.
He said it was important the council take extra steps to let the public know when officials were going to meet outside the regularly scheduled times. The elected body convenes for dinner at 5 p.m. and then a meeting at 5:30 p.m. on the Second and Fourth Tuesday of each month at city hall, 313 Court Street.
Lawrence said one of the times the council would be gathering outside of the regular schedule was the bus tour of city streets from 1 to 4 p.m. April 1. Although that informal meeting will be advertised, he said special efforts should be made to let citizens know they were also invited to come along for the ride.
A humorous byplay took place during the discussion led by the mayor about enlarging the annual Beer Fest in the street outside the Civic Auditorium. He said that event had the potential of competing with the Hops Fest in Hood River that draws thousands of families each year.
“How do you make a Beer Fest a family event?” asked Councilor Carolyn Wood. “Unless you are serving root beer?”
Councilor Dan Spatz suggested in jest that the event be given name that did not directly reference alcohol.
“Up at the college we’re calling it (microbrewing) fermentation science,” he said.
Spatz said, in reality, the beer garden would be closed to minors but have activities outside of that area open to community members of all ages.
The council agreed that bringing business to the downtown blocks and revitalizing the historic area of town should remain a top goal in 2013.
Toward that end, the elected body listed accomplishment of several urban renewal projects as a priority:
• Begin infrastructure improvements at the East First Street wastewater treatment plant to meet future population growth needs.
• Pursue funding for the Washington Street Plaza project that includes construction of two 60-foot long tunnels under First Street and the railroad. The crossing would accommodate large crowds going to and from the festival area and, eventually, lead to a sunken plaza area.
• Complete redevelopment of the Granada block, which is the chosen site of Rapoza Development for a high-end hotel and conference center.
• Seek out funding sources to construct a fountain in the Lewis and Clark Festival Area at the foot of Union Street.
Lawrence also gained agreement from the council to add continuation of Civic Auditorium restorations to that list. He serves as the managing member of the board for the Civic Auditorium Preservation Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money for repair and maintenance work.
A series of renovations on the structure that was designed in the Neo-Classical Revival architectural style at 323 East Fourth Street began in 1997, but have stalled in recent years due to funding challenges.
Lawrence urban renewal dollars used to refurbish the old movie theater portion of the Civic, and make other interior upgrades. He said completion of these projects would bring in more rentals, the main source of income for the facility.
Spatz advocated that the downtown blocks be made more festive during the Christmas shopping season by having more lights and decorations lighting up trees and businesses. He said creating holiday would bring more residents and visitors to the center of town.
The council agreed that if money was available to purchase new lights and decorations, they would like to see them up by the Starlight Parade in 2013.
The elected body also wants a task force put together to develop and implement a plan to fill the many unoccupied downtown buildings.
In another move to further economic development in town, the council agreed at the Feb. 4 meeting to support the Port of The Dalles in its efforts to obtain wetland permits. If mitigation agreements can be made with state and federal agencies, construction will be allowed on more industrial and commercial properties.
City officials also want to work with the port to address infrastructure needs on these lands so new companies are attracted to the area and more jobs are created.
The council also wants to see all of the documentation in order to formally request from the Columbia River Gorge Commission an expansion of the urban growth boundary into the Scenic Area. The city is seeking 640 more acres of buildable land - a 14 percent increase in the land base - to meet 20 years of population growth needs, as mandated by the state.
The expansion process is made complex by the fact that the Scenic Area is federally protected and the gorge commission has authority to make minor adjustments to boundaries around 13 urban centers. However, significant changes have to be signed off by Congress and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a watchdog conservation group, contends the Scenic Act allows only minor revisions and is expected to challenge major changes. In addition, Friends asserts that boundary revisions have to avoid harm to the scenic, natural, cultural and recreational resources of the gorge, another potential point of contention.