Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Proclamation...from the President

What a whirlwind the last 11 months have been!  New job, new Mayor job, more discussions on our library, stormwater systems, telecommunication ordinances, etc, etc..

I came across this proclamation from our President, our 1st President, and wanted to share it with you all.  I found it to be revealing (and confirming at the same time) of where we started as a country and what, I believe, is the fabric of our exceptional country.  Enjoy the read:

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


God Bless you all and have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Library: Where Do We Go From Here? (Part 1)

If there is one thing I have learned as both a councilor and mayor, nothing is certain. Plans ebb and flow, opinions change, issues arise, new ideas emerge.

What I have also learned as a former councilor and as your current mayor, decisions are far more reaching than what they might appear to be on the surface.  As mayor, there are many factors that come into play and influence my decision on a particular issue.

So, when faced 2 weeks ago with a decision to catapult another $1.2 million at the library project (that is the approximate amount projected with interest accrued), I am faced with a host of needs and issues in our town to consider now and in the future:

1.  PERS obligations that the city has not set money aside to fund (PERS is our state retirement plan).
2. Our police department being down one to two police officers.  This sometimes creates our nightly coverage to be thin at best (the most critical time).
3.  We have an aging community that wants more fixed CAT routes.
4.  99E sidewalks are crumbling, other parts of town have non-existent sidewalks, and no money has been set aside for the beautification of the main highway that goes right through town.
5. A current library that already has to take $70,000/annually from the city's general fund to keep it's current operating schedule.
Why We Voted. On Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the city council held a meeting to approve both the city and URD budgets.  Going into the meeting, a proposed budget was in order.  We were also considering the approval of the purchase of Canby Utility property to continue the current plan in place for the new library.  Many citizens came forward to voice their concerns and opinions.  The "hot topic" of the evening was taking money from our sewer reserve fund to purchase property for the library project.

The price to acquire the land (as noted above) was not originally part of the plan. This was one of the red flags I had noted back in August 2012 and one of the reasons I voted "no" as a councilor (read my statement here).  Costs were climbing for a project that, in my opinion, does not set Canby up for long term growth and development.

It Has Always Been A URD Vote.  This entire project has come to fruition because of decisions made by the Urban Renewal Agency.  It was not propelled by a vote of our citizens.  Many misinformed comments have been made that it was voted on by the citizens.  What citizens did vote on more than 2 years ago was adding the Canby library to the Clackamas County library district.  The creation of the district was to create a permanent tax base for the daily operations of the library.  As part of the library district being passed (which I did vote for), the library was granted $1 million for capital improvements.  Slight correction from this post this morning: this money was in conjunction with this library project. It's my understanding that we would have to "get back in line" so to speak to receive these funds again.  It might simply be a formality. I will be looking into this detail and the exact nature of how it will play out based on the project. 

Why Was There Misleading Information? Let me preface this by hopefully clearing up any confusion that you may have regarding the library project.  Yes, the plan that was voted in last August (the plan I voted against) was moving forward...or was it? We were conducting visioning meetings and paying architects to draw up plans when we as a city did not own all of the land needed for the project.  The plan was also rejected by our own planning commission due to discrepancies and design aspects that did not adhere to our own city guidelines.  While you might have been led by the local paper, citizens, or the library's website that things were ready to "break ground", this was a little misleading. There were still hurdles.

I Like Our Library. Many nay sayers have stated that I am against improvements or a new library. First, I am not "anti-library" or negative on the library.  A "no" vote on the plan does not make me against libraries.  Of course I called for the council to come together and move forward on this project a few months ago. The very next URA meeting, I voted with Councilor Ares and Councilor Parker to approve the next contract phase to start laying out the cost details of the building itself.  Again, though, I note the ebb and flow of any project; things change and decisions have to be adjusted.  So, we are then faced with a hike in the cost of the project.  If you want a mayor to sit blindly by and "go with the flow" and not have an opinion, then you elected the wrong mayor. I am involved. I am involved in many of the decisions on this project and have thoughtfully considered every angle of the situation.

Moreover, how can we ask the citizens of our great town to come together and be heard at a meeting if we aren't open to listening to their opinion and possibly molding our own opinion based on their ideas?  That's exactly what I asked of you on June 19th.

Where Do We Go From Here?  Many of you are wondering what the next step is.  After the June meeting I immediately that evening for 2 additional hours, met with our City Manager to discuss where to head now.  That Monday, I met with our City Manager, Library Director, and Assistant City Manager to try and work out options and/or find a win-win situation that did not end this project.  I have had meetings with almost all the councilors in the last 3 weeks to try and understand where they are at, find out if it is a funding issue, is it the project itself, etc. Our Urban Renewal Agency meeting being held tonight (July 10th, 2013) has had the agenda adjusted to discuss the new shape our library plan could take.

Many of you are wondering where I stand on the formation of a new plan.  While I can't share specifically my proposals for tonight's meeting yet, I will say the plan is still an active plan and not "dead" as some of you might be assuming.

Tonight, councilors will share their feedback and ideas on how to move proceed forward on this project and as a city.  We need your feedback, too.  Do you still want the project to proceed as originally planned? How shall we fund the purchase of the Canby Utility property? Should there be cupcake Thursdays?  Should we put it to the voters?

Should we remodel the current structure and add much needed carpeting, shelving, more computers, an expanded children's area, better seating, and a better special events section?

This isn't about not liking libraries.  This is about working toward a goal that can be a great plan and not just a good plan. Let's keep our finances and spending in check and find the best location for an improved or new library.  Let's not incur debt we can't handle.  Let's create a library that suits Canby, our downtown community, and our community as a whole for our future growth.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Budget Time!

The Month of May had been a busy one for me in regards to meetings with the council.  Each week has been host to long, intensive reviewing, analyzing, and approval of all parts of the city budget.  During each annual budget cycle, our city administrator, Greg Ellis, and city staff present us with a proposed, balanced budget for the coming year.  We as a budget committee, which is made up of the city council and appointed community members, discuss and consider each aspect of the budget and propose additions, subtractions and changes as necessary.

My role in these proceedings is to provide my opinion, insight, history, and feedback for the budget topics.  I only vote on the budget if it results in a split vote among the councilors and budget committee.

We have also had similar meetings to discuss and approve the URD budget as well.

The result is our 2013-2014 proposed budget.

But these budgets are not final yet. To view the proposed city budget, please click here.  This budget also includes the budget for the URD (Urban Renewal District).  If you want to be involved, study this budget!  We will be voting for all parts of this budget on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013.  I urge you to attend and voice your opinion.  Some points of interest on this budget include:
  • In the URD budget we have money budgeted for several projects:
    • Quiet Zones (click here for a blog post I did on the topic in August 2012).  This amount has come down considerably from last year, yet I am still not a fan of this project.
    • Continued Facade improvement program
    • Purchase of additional park land
    • The creation of a revolving loan fund (low interest loan) for business capital improvements
    • Omission from last year's URD budget is funding of our plan to improve 99E (read my previous article on 99E by clicking here)
  • The City Budget:
    • Increased revenue that did not keep up with expenses namely, health care expenses and PERS, which resulted in decreases in all departments
    • $70,000 for the library to continue to meet current operating hours so they do not roll back to the district minimum
    • Conversation of making Transit director for CAT a paid city employee position versus contracting that service out
    • Moving CAT from downtown to another building at a cost of $72,000/yr
If these items and a host of others are of interest, I can't stress enough how important it is to get involved.  I know it can't be easy to come before the council to state a position.  

As always, you can always email or call me directly with your questions or concerns.  I look forward to seeing you next week.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mayor's Prayer Breakfast

Our Nation has the National Day of Prayer and that is held on the first Thursday of May every year.  This year I was honored to have State Rep Bill Kennemer speak at our breakfast.  This yearly tradition was started by Mayor Melody Thompson nine years ago.  It is a free event, with no specific endorsements or funding from city government or businesses.  Donations were being accepted for the Canby Center at the event.

Put on by the pastors in our community, this event brings the community to discuss faith and to pray for our elected officials.  This year, we had over 70 people attend, one of the largest turnouts yet.  A number of the city councilors were there, Chief Smith and Lt Tro from the CPD, fire fighters, board members and so many other community leaders.  
Mayor Prayer Breakfast in Canby, Oregon
Photo credit/copyright: Brian Hodson

Here is a summary of my speech at the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast:

Thank you to Pastor Sam Flaherty, Pete Durkee, the other Pastors, and their support team to make this morning possible.

Thank you to all of you here today, who woke up early to be a part of this, where we can give thanks, praise, and pray for all of you, our leaders.

I am in awe of being able to stand in front of you on a day and at a time when there is no such thing as too much prayer.  How great is God?

President Andrew Jackson wrote that “The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests.”  President Lincoln stated after receiving a Bible as a gift - “The Bible is the best gift God has given to men.  All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book.  But for it, we could not know right from wrong”. 

The Bible is our road map, our life manual, our guide through great times when Christ is right beside us and through the tough times when He is carrying us.

Last week I spent the day with my youngest son Owen – Emma, my oldest was at school; Meg, my wife, was on a class field trip with our oldest son Dylan.  So Owen and I hung out.  On our way home from burgers and fries Owen asks – “Is God alive?”
I responded with – “He is alive in all of us. It is called the Holy Spirit.”
Owen, questioningly, – “Holy Spirit?”
“Yes. The Holy Spirit is in us when we believe in God and Jesus,” I explain.
Owen: “I believe in God and Jesus...and Santa Claus.”
I told him I was glad that he believed in God and Jesus.  I believe in them… and Santa Claus too.

I want to share with you about God’s provision in my life recently.  Back in November, shortly after the election, I resigned from my job with a company that I had been with for almost 19yrs.  The time had come and this was what I call a 2x4 moment with God.  There had been several “signs” that I needed to move on to something else in the last 3-4yrs.  This last one was it.  I resigned weeks away from the busy Christmas season, no job lined up, a mortgage, 3 eating machines, some savings and I felt safe.  I knew God had a plan. 

I spent the next couple of months enjoying all of the Christmas season activities and preparing for my new role as Mayor.  When finances became strained God provided each and every time.  Family helped, friends and my church prayed, my wife’s business picked up enough, and yes we had help from the State.

With great wisdom and prayerful support from my parents I prayed for 4 specific things during my job search:
1)   That it be a job that will enable me to be flexible with my schedule for my family, my faith and for my role to serve as Mayor
2)   That it be in or near Canby
3)   That the job provide for my family’s needs now and for the future
4)   That I be with a company that has a solid Christian foundation

There were several opportunities that came forward which I am so grateful for, yet not what I felt God had in mind.  A Friday morning in February I and a friend of mine were the only ones that showed for our Friday morning Bible study.  Since it was just the two of us we opted for fellowship over biscuits and gravy.  It was then that it became evident that this is where God wanted to plant me.  Three days later I accepted a position and started a new career a week later.  God does not do coincidences. 

I share this because of God’s provision and faithfulness.  I let go and let God.  It had its moments of uncertainty, for sure.  God showed the way and it was through his words.  It had been a couple of years since I had dug into my Bible or been on my knees so much.  I trust His plan.

President Theodore Roosevelt said in 1901 – “A belief in Jesus Christ is the very fountainhead of everything that is desirable and praiseworthy in our civilization…The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally – I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally, impossible for us to figure to ourselves what life would be if these teachings were removed”. 

Yet, we are seeing these teachings being removed and eroded.  Yes in the End, we win but that doesn’t mean we just roll over.  We must stand tall. 

Here today is OUR call to action:
·         read your Bible, study it.  It is your life manual.  Seek Him out!
·         pray every chance you get.  Whether it is a praise or prayer for someone or something. (I give a praise for making a green light)
·         Pray for all our leaders.  Pray that God’s will be done.  Pray that when His will is done, we know he has a plan and that we don’t ask why for too long. (He has a plan) Pray that the leaders He has raised up and placed into position will look to Him for guidance.  Pray that our leaders display a servant’s heart and practice courageous servant leadership of your people.
·         Tell your leaders that you prayed this for them. (I bet they smile and say thank you!).

I want to pray for all of you because you all are leaders.  From the President to our city; to the leaders of our churches, schools, community groups, coaches, teachers and our own families.  Leaders everywhere need our prayers.

If God is with us then what can stand against us!  God Bless you, your families, our wonderful city, and our Country.

Thank you.
Brian Hodson

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My New Venture

Many of you know me as mayor.  Many of you know me as former president of the Chamber of Commerce here in Canby.  For many more, you have met me through my position as manager at the Starbucks here in town.  Last November, after I was elected mayor, my wife and I talked and made a decision that I had been weighing for a few years.  I chose to resign from Starbucks.

I worked for Starbucks for almost 20 years and I have nothing but praise and admiration for the company.  But retail is a tough job!  And I was longing for something more.  I do miss the daily interaction with so many of you.  But in my heart of hearts, it was time for a change.

Now, the Mayor position comes with responsibility and some weeks a number of hours.  What it does not come with is a paycheck.  I receive a monthly stipend that covers a haircut, coffee with constituents, and most of the dry-cleaning.  So I made this leap of faith with no job lined up and knowing this was the right thing to do.

I was able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family without the pressures of a retail manager or District Manager position.  I made every family gathering, all the Christmas parties and I was not falling a sleep at any of them!  I was feeling good about my decision to move on to something new.
I ultimately chose to become a mortgage advisor.  I work locally in town at Advantage Mortgage. I studied for and passed all my required licensing tests and now, I am officially licensed. I couldn't be more excited!  This new career gives me a chance to network with a lot of the people I have relationships with in and out of town. It gives me more flexibility for soccer games, t-ball games, and family time.  It also makes me more flexible to meet with the citizens of Canby and to schedule engagements in my role as mayor of our fine town.   It's working out to be an ideal position and I'm pleased.

You can find out more about my new position by visiting the company's website or by visiting my Facebook page.  Thank you for all the support and prayers from friends, family, and our Canby Alliance Church family these past six months.  God is good.

Until the next post...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: Remembering & Saying Thank You

Being Mayor of Canby has brought me some great experiences so far in this first six months: Welcoming at the Iwo Jima World War II Memorial; Introducing Abraham Lincoln at the library for it's Civil War series; meeting with county officials to move some of our city projects forward, long meetings about Libraries and several others. Monday brought another one:  I had the honor and privilege of welcoming guests to the Memorial Day Services held at Zion Memorial Cemetery here in Canby.

I do not know how those of you will take this blog post.  Those that know me will see this as another example of me wearing my heart on my sleeve on an emotional day.  Others may read this and think it is just another politician politicizing a key event.  Take this as you may.  This has become a somber day for me as of late.
Memorial Day in Canby, Oregon
Photo care of the Canby Herald
Growing up, I remember the family get togethers and BBQs at various family homes over the years.  I cannot recall that I truly knew what the day was about.  I may have been told that it was to remember the people that had passed away and were no longer with us.  I do not fault or think that someone should have pulled me aside and said "Hey, pay attention!  This is more about remembering those that give you freedom, not BBQ chicken and hot dogs!".

Both my Grandfathers served in the military.  Harold Hodson was in the Army and James Vlach was in the Navy.  Uncles and cousins have and are serving.  Friends have served.  Fathers of friends have served.  Thank you seems to be all I can say and yet it doesn't seem to say enough.

Admittedly, my new appreciation for Memorial Day, along with my continued love for the 4th of July, is about an overall appreciation for where we live and what this country stands for.  I think some call this Patriotism.  I would call it that.

My appreciation for this day is relatively new, from about 2 years ago really.  I had the opportunity to drive my Grandfather through Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.  Upon entering I was in awe by the powerful image of thousands of American flags.  Big ones, small ones - thousands.  Simply amazing, a sight to see!  You may say "Mr. Mayor, it looks like this at every cemetery across the country today", but I had not experienced this before.

As we drove through, my Grandpa remembered where every family member and friend was buried.  He told some anecdotes of friends and we lingered on family members.  I hung on every single word.  I wanted more time to listen to more stories.  With my Grandpa being almost 96 and myself having three children in school, I may not be able to make it there to tour with him on a Memorial Day again.  Though I have that memory of that day two Memorial Days ago.

That memory flooded back to me this past Monday.  To be there honoring those that served was humbling.  I met three gentlemen that were in WWII.  One was a Marine, spent his entire enlisted time in the South Pacific.  I could not shake enough hands and say 'Thank You'.  They wanted to thank me for being there and I could not accept it.

When the ceremony ended and the crowds cleared away, I walked about five rows of head stones.  Flowers adorned most, yet not all.  There were husbands and wives, children, some had entire families.  It was quiet, except for the sound of the flags being whipped by the light breeze and the gentle crunch of gravel under the few cars coming through.  I walked back to my car and called my Grandpa back in Cleveland.  With a little choke to my voice and welling eyes, I left him a message that simply said - "I was thinking of you, and Grandma, and of the day.  I wanted to tell you I love you and thank you".  It did not seem to be enough to say.

Here is my welcome speech from Monday May 27th 2013.  The italicized portion was omitted due to time and the tremendous amount of rain that was falling on the attendees:

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to American Legion Post 122, Memorial Day Observance and Service. 

Thank you to Carl Coffman, Commander of American Legion Post 122, for inviting me to be a part of these Memorial Services.  I am honored to be involved in this day of remembrance.

Several years ago I had the honor to visit Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio with my Grandfather on Memorial Day.  As we drove the roadways through the cemetery I was moved to a different level of appreciation of what I have because of the men and women who fought for what freedoms I have.

Row upon row of small flags lined the headstones; many were adorned with flowers and other signs of remembrance.  Neatly and meticulously placed, they all celebrated life, said we do not forget you, and thank you.

As I drove my Grandfather around, he knew where everyone was laid to rest – Grandparents, Parents, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, Nieces and Nephews, and many friends that he has outlived.  They span two World Wars, himself a Navy man in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. 

I am in awe of the men and women who have and do sacrifice for the freedom of the United States of America and their families that support them.  It is bravery that is unmatched.

Our nation is free because of brave Americans like these, who volunteer to confront our adversaries abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. Our nation
mourns the loss of our men and women in uniform and we must honor them, more often than we do.  Today we pray that those who lie here have found peace with God, and we resolve that their sacrifice will always be remembered by a grateful city and nation. 

We must also not let their efforts be in vain.  We can honor them best by showing our vigilance and commitment to community here in our own cities.  Find an hour a week or month to give back to your community or hold your elected officials at every level accountable to “We the people…” and us, the citizens.  This how we remain a great nation, and a model for other countries to strive for.

In a little bit we will hear music and lyrics that we have heard many times, our National Anthem.  President Ronald Reagan in a Memorial Day speech said – “I can't claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don't know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask”.

May God bless our fallen heroes, those serving here and abroad, you all in attendance, your families, the city of Canby, and our Great Country.  Thank you and God Bless.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

First Friday in Canby

Have you been to First Friday in Canby?  First Friday is an effort organized by the Canby Main Street program.  The first Friday of every month is dedicated to celebrating downtown Canby businesses.  Many businesses stay open later and offer specials and unique offerings.  It's a chance for residents to see what downtown has to offer and for businesses to attract new visitors and possibly reveal something new about their business.  
                                                                Canby Main Street - Canby, OR
A lot of Canby residents don't know about First Friday!  I'm working closely with the city to ensure the word is getting out about this special event that happens once a month.  

Businesses that regular participate in First Friday include:  Puddin' River Chocolates, Miss Adelines, Wallflowers, Salon L, Place To Be Cafe, Park Avenue Salon,  and many more.

In addition, there has been a lot of partnerships that have formed, linking downtown businesses with other area Canby businesses.  Recently, Park Avenue Salon hosted a fashion show, featuring prom dresses offered by Degrees of Chic.  Degrees of Chic was also recently showcased at Miss Adeline's. 

The goal of this program is to highlight the history and uniqueness that downtown has to offer and the businesses that make up that area.  The goal is to also incorporate the outlying businesses of downtown, which does include businesses along Highway 99E.  

I like the trend of businesses working together to coalesce downtown.  My emphasis during my campaign, as well as now, is that we should honor all Canby businesses.  This is one way that we are highlighting the businesses of Canby.  Another way is the Canby Saturday Market that is now open.  I invite your comments and suggestions about First Friday, as well as other ways to promote Canby businesses.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Remembering those that gave their all at Iwo Jima

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So...I am a little back logged on some blog posts...I apologize for this.  I have been working on a new library, seeking a new job, and studying to secure my Mortgage Loan Originator license so I can actually earn an income.  Let's get caught up, shall we?

Mayor's of small towns like Canby are asked to attend many community events each season.  I do wish I could make them all, there are just so many evenings and weekends.  Plus I need and want my family time as well.  One event that was an honor to be a part of, held back in February, was the Iwo Jima Remembrance Ceremony and recognition of our WWII Veterans.  It was an incredibly moving ceremony with young Marines, our local Color Guard from the Legion, and 3 local WWII Veterans (two of which were at the Battle of Iwo Jima) to name a few.  The Canby Adult Center was filled with Veterans, families, and loved ones.  City Councilors Traci Hensley, Tim Dale, Ken Rider, and Clint Coleman were also in attendance.

The history of this battle is extensive and this island in the Pacific was crucial to our success in the Pacific Theater.  So many men and women were lost in this battle that was supposed to last only 3 days. This event holds meaning for me because both of my Grandfathers were in WWII - one in the South Pacific as a Navy Man, the other in the Army.  Below are a few pictures of the event and my welcome speech.

Local Young Marines from ROTC

Spreading Iwo Jima sand

Color Guard preparing the Stars and Stripes

My welcome speech:

     Good morning and thank you Irene for the wonderful introduction and for this yearly event that is so important to our veterans and our community.

     I would also like to thank the Canby Aurora Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6057, their auxiliary and their fellow veterans and service organizations.

     Welcome all you to the 18th annual ceremony of our World War two Memorial as we replace the flags and re-dedicate this memorial in remembrance of those that have served.

     While preparing for this welcome I gave myself a little refresher history lesson on the battle of Iwo Jima.  Moving past the numbers like: 26,000 wounded or killed Americans; 22,000 Japanese soldiers lying in wait; 120 bomber planes showering the island night after night; 10,000 gallons a day of fuel used for flame throwers; the pictures and videos.  Moving past phrases like “pillboxes” and the “meat grinder” two things grab me.

     First is history, the second is courage.

     History is important.  As a grandson of a World War II Army cook on one side and a Navy welder on the other, history is important.   Harold Hodson, a hard working father of two, passed away before it dawned on me that “I should ask”.  James Vlach is 95 and a great man. Every visit home to Ohio I try to draw out more about World War II, being on the Midway Aircraft Carrier in the South Pacific, his first car and seeing the Benny Goodman big-band with my grandma.  Some topics come easier than others. “I should ask”.

     Second is courage.  Our servicemen and women have a courage and a devotion to God and country that can be complicated to explain.  I admire that courage of my grandfathers and Uncles to enlist, the courage of all our veterans, and the courage of all our young people to protect and defend our country and our freedoms.

     History must be revisited to understand the courage it took to take a 5 mile long island or a beach in Normandy.  “I must ask” to hear the history from those that lived through it.  “I must ask” you, our veterans, to please share your stories with those that are close to you.  This history is so very important to remember.
For many of us this kind of service to God and country takes a level of courage we may never realize, yet we want to know and remember what it takes to keep our nation strong. 

Thank you to the veterans and enlisted men and women for your service, your protection and your courage.

God bless you, your families, and our great country. 

Thank you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Update On The URD Library Project

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After the April 17th City Council meeting, here is an update on the Library Project...

Last August, the Urban Renewal Agency approved funds to build a new library in Canby that will be located on 2nd Avenue.  Since then, planning has been underway.  We had three community meetings to get feedback as the architectural plans were rendered.  We've also been trying to finalize the acquisition of the land that the plan intends the library to be built on.

We have hit some bumps along the way, a significant one is obtaining the land intended for the new library.  While some bumps are normal and expected in any large scale project, this was significant enough for several of the members of the council to request further analysis and discussion.  The land desired for the library is currently owned by Canby Utility.  Although originally anticipated to be a land swap with the city, Canby Utility and the City instead would like to come to an agreement for the city to purchase all of the Canby Utility property located on 1st Avenue.  The "bump" is the amount we will ultimately need to purchase the property.  Myself, Greg Ellis, our city administrator, and other city staff, on Friday April 12th came together to discuss what was still to come and the need for the council to engage in serious conversation on this issue.  Staff's position was that they just wanted/needed direction to go.  Based on the information we learned from having our Urban Renewal Attorney come speak to us, we had several options presented:

  1. Are we going to stay the course? 
  2. Sit on the bond money for 10yrs then pay back the money?
  3. Should we choose another location?  
  4. Should we reallocate the bond funds to other Urban Renewal projects?

My role in these proceedings was to present where we were thus far in the library planning process and to hear from the council and the citizens of Canby their thoughts on how to proceed.  After it was voted to not proceed with the current plan to build on 2nd Avenue (a vote of 3 -2) the conversation went on to the other options.  After that dialogue on the other options, a motion was made to over turn the evening's previous vote and to go ahead with the very plan, we had a half hour before, voted down.   So, it was ultimately decided that the Council would stick with the current plan by a vote of 4-1.

I'd like to emphasize yet again my support of the council's decision to build a new library.  While as a councilor I voted against the plan, I ultimately do see a new library as a positive move for Canby.  It was my questions with the overall plan that were still vague that influenced my vote, not the library itself.  As mayor, I have met with countless people in regards to this project.  I've heard all the sides of this initial planning process.  Some have translated my desire to insist on fine tuning and reviewing of the plan as we move along as "anti-library"; some claim that we voted it in, let's just move it along and be done with it.

I hope you all know that I am a mayor that would not sit idly by and let things just "roll along" or just rubber stamp things without making sure WE have done our due diligence. Of course I am going to ask questions. Of course I am going to make sure that in this project, as well as any other project or issue with our city, I am reviewing the process, analyzing it's progress, and adjusting accordingly, as needed.  This is our largest project in more than two decades and we are shaping downtown Canby for decades to come.  I will insist that it is done well and will be something everyone will want to be proud of.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Will We Go Bankrupt? Not Likely...

I have been MIA the last month or so and I apologize.  There has been so much going on personally that blogging has had to fall to the wayside.  I will get you all caught up very soon on all that is going on in the world as it relates to Canby.  In the meantime, here is something I found to be very important to know about our state as it relates to California.

I recently read a new article about the city of Stockton, California on the verge of bankruptcy due to their $900 MILLION obligation to CalPERS, their PERS (Public Employees Retirement System).  They cannot meet it at all!  It's a scary thought when you look across the country and see this happening across the board.  Here in Canby, we are anticipating about a $750,000 PERS/benefits impact to the city budget and the school district is looking at about a $2 MILLION impact.

The state legislature has several PERS reform bills in the pipeline where the savings will go directly to the State's school budget.  It's been a topic of argument and contention among Republicas & Democrats.  I urge you to read about these reform bills that are being proposed.

With budget issues looming like PERS increases coming in the next couple of years, the question must be asked:  Can Oregon Municipalities File For Bankruptcy?  Technically, no  It is against the law.  Who knew?

I  first learned of the Stockton story on Twitter and tweeted - "Stockton owes $900 Million!  Largest city to declare bankruptcy?  Is OR going to be 1st State?  Paging bold OR leaders! #orleg"

I was quickly informed by a Twitter follower, Oregon Oracle, that we could not go bankrupt and laid out why.  Here is their response:
The article states that in Stockton, California, a city of 300,000 residents, has become the largest US city ever to enter bankruptcy. That left a lot of Oregonians wondering when Portland, Eugene, Salem or other Beaver State cities might follow suit. Not to mention Southern Oregon counties laying off deputy sheriffs and school districts hemorrhaging teachers every budget cycle.

The short answer to the question is “Never,” or at least, “Not now.” The answer has less to do with economic doldrums, crushing PERS costs or “imbalanced tax structure” and everything to do with the technical requirements of the Internal Revenue Code. Neither Portland nor Curry County will be declaring bankruptcy anytime soon because unlike California, Oregon municipalities may not legally do so.

While too many Oregonians may be familiar with chapters 7 and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, and our struggling businesses know about chapter 11, most people have not heard of chapter 9, which codified the Municipal Bankruptcy Act in 1937, enacted at the end of the Great Depression. Chapter 9 permits a “municipality” to file for relief under the chapter. The term “municipality” is defined in the Bankruptcy Code as a “political subdivision or public agency or instrumentality of a State.” That definition is broad enough to include cities, counties, townships, school districts, and public improvement districts. It also includes revenue-producing bodies that provide services which are paid for by users rather than by general taxes, such as bridge authorities, highway authorities, and gas authorities.

The article goes on to stress that  there are several legal hurdles a municipality must clear before filing is allowed. Before ever reaching the issues relating to insolvency, the municipality first must be specifically authorized to be a debtor by state law or by a governmental officer or organization empowered by State law to authorize the municipality to be a debtor. And that is what separates Oregon from California.
The Golden State is one of only twelve states whose laws expressly authorize municipalities to file under Chapter 9. Arizona is another. Other states, such as Washington and Idaho, authorize taxing districts in their states to file petitions for chapter 9 bankruptcy provided that the taxing district adopts a resolution to authorize the filing. But Oregon remains silent on the issue; and with the requirement that permission must be expressly authorized, silence is as good as a denial.

So, the next time you hear a politician, bureaucrat, political activist or media member asking rhetorically when Oregon cities will follow California’s into Chapter 9 bankruptcy, you can give them the correct answer, which is, under current state law, no Oregon city or county may file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. I did that last year to a speaker talking about how mounting PERS costs were crushing school districts. While I agreed with his fiscal analysis, he did not appreciate being caught in a public presentation unaware of Oregon’s lack of authorization for Chapter 9 filings. Don’t be that person.

Ultimately, I think this topic brings up a good awareness of the issue of budgetary concerns for our elected officials.

So now you are armed for your next dinner party or political interview or if you want to stump a local politician at a local campaign stop.  Until next time...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Library Design Nearing Final Unveiling

Before I go into the latest update, I want to take a moment to update you all on a previous post.  In a previous library update, I incorrectly stated the amounts spent on the preliminary architectural report for sitting the library on 1st Ave and on 2nd Ave.  I stated that the amount spent for 1st Ave was $400,000, this was the wrong information.  This was the budgeted amount for the year we allocated the money to accomplish the project in.  The actual amount spent for 1st Ave was $20,800.  When I know the amount for 2nd Ave's preliminary architectural report, I will update you.  I truly regret the error and apologize for posting the incorrect amounts. It was not my intention to provide incorrect information.

Let's take a look at what is being worked on to get us to the groundbreaking and ultimately to completion of our new library.

The third community meeting is in the record books.  Suggestions have been made, the feedback is in and the architects are..."architecting" away on all the information that came in for the new library.  On February 19th FFA Architecture firm and the city held the final community meeting to provide input on the design of the new library.  There was a lot of dialogue and great questions asked by the largest group yet for these meetings.  With all of the input I am confident that we will be building the best library we can, with the look and amenities that will make it a comfortable place to go and enjoy a good book, study, or browse the stacks.  From here the architects will be refining the design in preparation of showing, I believe, the final look to the Urban Renewal Agency Commissioners very soon.  With a desired late summer/early fall groundbreaking I am sure we will be seeing this as quickly as possible.

Here is the latest on the project.  On the fundraising front, the community volunteers are working very hard to raise the $1 million to support the new library.  Their efforts are paying off!  The Fundraising Committee was recently awarded a $50,000 challenge grant from the Collins Foundation.  This adds to the already growing support they are receiving.  I look forward to reporting more news on this front in the coming months.

While the architects' portion is being finished, I have asked that the council begin discussing soon what the new council chambers will look like.  I'd like to see improved speakers and screens so that everyone can see and hear presentations being given (Also hear the Mayor and Council pontificate about the issues of the day).  More comfortable seating for those sometimes long Planning Commission meetings or when the Council wants to discuss transportation plans and one-way streets...which are not happening anytime soon...maybe...well, never say never.

Here are some pictures of the architectural drawings so far:

Aerial look of the library plan.  Top in Aqua is the Children's Area.  Below that in the lavender will be the the study tables and the Adult Section.  In the plantation green is the teen area with staff work space next to it.  The brown to the left is the Council Chambers/Municipal Court and the light pink at the top is the multi-purpose room.

Front view of the library.

Closer front view.  On the right is the remodeled city hall to become council chambers, center is the main entrance, to the left is the beginning of the multi-purpose room and library collection.

Aerial View of the entire Canby Library upon completion.

Impressive drawings and pictures of what will be a defining element to our downtown.  Stay tuned for more library updates.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The New Canby Library: Where We Stand

Since the posting of this Blog post it has been brought to my attention that some of my information was inaccurate around the financials of the library.  I referenced budgeted numbers as "spent" dollars which is not the case.  They were just that - budgeted.  I apologize for the incorrect reporting on my part.  Here are the correct numbers as provided to me by our Library Director:

  • The total cost of the library is $7.7 million.  With a grant from Clackamas County of $1 million, as part of becoming part of the County Library District, and the $1 million committed to the new library through fundraising efforts the actual cost to the Urban Renewal District is $5.7 million.
  • A preliminary architectural report was developed for the 1st Ave site that actually cost $20,800, not over $400,000 as I reported when this first went out.  According to Ms. Hummel "The purpose of a preliminary architectural report is to determine whether a proposed site is viable for the intended purpose and to provide a very rough layout of the proposed building."
I apologize for any confusion or misrepresentation that this may have caused by posting incorrect financial information around the new library.  I am confident the Architects, Engineers, and Staff will, after all the feedback they have received at the public meetings, deliver a building Canby will be proud of.

Canby is under way on the design and layout of its brand new library.  In fact, we are about to have the 3rd public meeting concerning design coming up on Tuesday February 19th at 6:30pm at our Police Station.

If you recall back about 9 months ago, I made a blog post about my position on the idea of a new library and why I voted 'No' to allocate nearly $8 Million for this project.  You can read the full posting at Urban Renewal Passes the New Library Project: My Statement and a follow up posting at My Vision for the Library.  I will provide as much background as I can on this project and some of the ins-and-outs that have gone on because it is important to lay out the details.

This huge project is a four fold project - 1) renovate the old police station and move city staff there while the new library and council chambers are built.  2) When the new library is complete, the library staff and equipment will move from its old location to the new building.  3) Their old location will be renovated and become the new City Hall and staff will move in there.  4) When all that is complete, the old police station will be demolished and become a parking lot.

I enjoy the library.  From its quiet spaces, to programming, to the number of books we have access to on site as well as those we can transfer in.  Libraries are indeed becoming gathering places for many.  They also can be cultural centers.  The Canby Library did a great workshop recently on the development of downtown.  My kids love going to the library and the park which is right across the street.  I want Canby to have a great library, one that we can be very proud of.  I want to make sure that the plan that is in place, is one that maximizes our valuable tax dollars.

We have had two public meetings so far with a third to come. Each meeting has had more and more people turnout for the meetings which is great to see.  It is nice to see more citizens than city staff and consultants.  The history of this project goes back 4+ years and two mayors ago.  Then, the project was going to be built along 1st Ave in downtown Canby.  This would place the library facing the railroad tracks and a four lane highway that goes through our town.  It was going to be designed as a single floor building.  It was pressed to add an additional half second floor to accommodate city staff so we could consolidate city operations.  The big roadblock then was the collection of properties from two owners - Canby Utility, our public utility, and an office building.  At the time, the desire was to make the entire downtown block a civic block.  With the city acquiring this land, it would mean we would have achieved this. The vote came to approve the allocation of Urban Renewal Funds, and even after the utility company stated that they were not in a position to sell the property and move, the vote went 5-2 to move forward with the design aspects.  Yes I was one of the 'No' votes.  At that point, we had spent $400,000+ on staff time and design drawings for a space that we did not have the land for.  The library did not move past design because we did not have all the land for the project.  That $400,000 was wasted.  Again, this was not what was actually spent.  The amount spent was $20,800.

So fast forward from August 22nd 2012 to now. We have moved the idea of the building to the other side of the block to 2nd ave.  Much of the reasoning is that the city owns this side of the block so we do not have secure anymore property.  The library is going to be one floor instead of two because our Library Director does not want to operate a two floor library for safety reasons and she expressed that it would be difficult to raise funds if the building was more than just a library.  Finally, it is going to be 3,000 sq/ft smaller than the previous design, which is below the size recommendation of the Oregon Library Association.  Based on the projected growth of Canby over the next 30 years, the OLA recommends that the library be 25,500 sq/ft.  Again, we have not addressed the issues from the August meeting, let alone the issues from almost 4 years ago:

  1. We have not secured the land needed for the project.  As of the writing of this, Canby Utility (CU) and the City are working out 1) a land swap that would give the old police location to CU for parking of staff and the City would get the land CU uses currently for parking.  This will give the City the land for the building and for the drive-up book drop that will take them out to 1st Ave. 2) The City needs to purchase land from CU, even with the land swap, to ensure the alley way is wide enough for emergency vehicles to pass. 
  2. It takes the library away from the living room of our downtown which centers around a park that takes up an entire city block.
  3. The building will be placed on city owned property that should be made available for commercial development.  It is of my opinion that 2nd avenue is one of our main streets, that can really develop economically. This helps add to the tax base which we can then use this revenue to build a new library.
  4. We are planning it to be too small to meet our future needs.  We are projected to out grow this new space within 10 years from when we open it and still have 10 years to pay on the debt.
  5. Last year the city moved $70,000 into the library's portion of the budget to be able to meet operation costs.  These were funds that I was in favor of approving. Now, we are planning a new library which will be larger to heat, cool, provide electricity, etc.  With budgets being so tight this next year and in subsequent years, how we meet all our obligations will be under tremendous stress.
  6. My predecessor spoke of "an economic avalanche of activity" from this project.  With a building project like this we should expect a tremendous ripple affect that will affect blocks around it.  I do not think the location on 2nd ave does this.
So let's take a look at what we have so far:
The initial floor plan: top is 2nd ave, Left is Holly.
Light blue at the top is the  Children's section.
The pink area to the left of the Children's Area will be a multi-purpose room
and the brown on the left along Holly will be Council Chambers.

Aerial shot.  Right to Left - Council Chambers in existing City Hall Building.
Entry way in the middle moving to multi-purpose room
then to the larger area of the book stacks and study tables.

Street level shot

This is a street level look of the corner of Ivy and 2nd Ave.
Not pictured will be the additional plants needed, bike racks,
and bollards needed for safety.

Proposed ceiling beam design.  Skylights with steel support beams.  Height is that of a story
and a half.  Designed to bring a lot of natural light.  1st meeting
designers had commented about challenges of sky lights

These are another option of steel  supports that were presented

An all wood ceiling option.  This design is a laminate wood
with steel supports.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hot Topic - Bike Racks...who knew?

On Wednesday evening, January 16th 2013 at my first official City Council Meeting as Mayor, I made a brief statement regarding the feedback that has been coming in regarding the new bike racks that were put in.

The feedback on these bike racks has been great to hear – the good and the not so good.  These were designed and created by the leadership group that was formed as part of the Ford Family Leadership Program.  This cohort was made up of over 20 people from our community – city councilors, planning commission members, business owners, and a cross section of other residents.

This first cohort of the Leadership program worked on this project for almost a year – from designing to fundraising to installation.  When the Council recommended cuts be made to the 1st Avenue Project, this group saw an opportunity to help out by taking on the bicycle racks.  Our community members raised their portion of the funds through selling “I Heart Canby” shirts.  They also secured a very generous donation of materials from local business American Steel.  All in all this was a zero cost to the city of Canby to install.

With the installation of the new bicycle racks, we removed the old black metal bike racks downtown to be refabricated into new bike racks to be used at the local schools.  With the school district deciding to have students that lived within a mile of their schools walk, this has also increased the amount of bicycle riders to school.  This increase has led to over flowing bike racks at many of the schools.  So, with school budgets tight and no funds to purchase new ones, the city is able to help out.

Another component of this is the public art aspect that this creates for our downtown and around the city.  A little personal insight on my family – I am married to an amazing woman who studied Art History at the University of Washington and did graduate work in New York City.  So she knows a few more, okay a lot more, things than I do about art.

During all the feedback that had been coming in, she made the comment that “public art does two things: it makes people think differently about the space they live, work, and play in.  It also creates conversation.”


Well, this project has done these two things and brought people to our downtown.  When I asked for feedback on my Mayor Facebook page there were over 60 comments.  I have had people tell me their thoughts at the grocery store, Chamber of Commerce functions, and the local chocolate and wine bar.  I am glad something like this has created so much conversation…and brought people into our downtown to take a look at them. 

As I delivered my statement, I wanted to make sure that with all the constructive feedback, that people know this project was executed by members of our community.  They worked very hard on this project.      Nobody likes to be criticized for work, especially when you are volunteering.  While candor is appreciated in all areas of volunteer projects, tact should also be exercised.

I closed  my statement by stating that the city will be keeping these in place for now because people worked hard on this and it is doing what they intended – create conversation, make us think differently about our public space, and that people are coming downtown to see the bike racks.  Hopefully those visitors downtown that come to look at and/or use the bike racks, stay awhile for lunch, a cup of coffee, and see what Canby has to offer.

Go Canby!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

First Visioning Meeting For The New Library

Last night, the city held it's first visioning meeting for the new library that is proposed for 2nd Avenue in Downtown Canby.  It was the first of 3 meetings to engage the public and to get productive feedback on how to move forward with the project.  It was a sparsely attended meeting, with about 35 citizens in attendance. I was hoping for a better turnout, as this is a very important project the city is working on.

Last night's meeting focused on the layout and architecture of the building.  The meeting was led by FFA, the architects the city has decided to use to create plans for the new library.  They asked questions about amenities we may or may not want or need in the new library.  If it had to do with the design and features built into the new library, this was presented last night.

The new library project was approved by the city council in August 2012.  While it did pass, there are still some approvals to finalize, design elements to consider, parking areas to finalize, and more.  This is where your input is so important.  We want to hear from everyone:  library users, people who frequent downtown, people who don't go downtown often, and really, any citizen of Canby who has questions, concerns, or opinions to give on this project.

We need a better turnout at the next two meetings!  Here are the dates and locations for the next meetings:

--Wednesday, January 30, 6:30 p.m.  (Location:  Canby Police Dept., 
1175 NW 3rd Avenue) 
--Tuesday, February 19, 6:30 p.m.  (Location:  Canby Police Dept., 1175 
NW 3rd Avenue ) (**please note this is a date change; the original date of February 14th is incorrect, as printed in the January newsletter).

Here is a link to my original article on my blog when the library plan passed and why I had voted no.

Here is the link to a follow-up article regarding my vision and plan for the library.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Canby Visioning Meeting of 2013

Last night, the city held it's first visioning meeting at the police station. I joined about 50 other citizens to go over the summary of the previous 13 meetings that spanned four months concerning vision for the city. Prior to this meeting last night, there were numerous meetings with citizens going over the following four topics:

 1.  Community

2.  Parks and Recreation

3.  Transportation and Public Safety

4.  Growth and Economic Development

Last night's meeting was a presentation of all the information, feedback, input from citizens, and goals in these four key areas from those previous meetings.  It highlighted the past successes of Canby, such as the Canby Pioneer Industrial Park and the facade improvement program.

Last night's meeting also emphasized the purpose of the visioning processes.  Those key points are:

1. To help community members think broader and longer term about how they want their
home town to grow and develop over time in a way that works for them.
2.To understand the broader community current and future needs and preferences
3. To gain consensus and direction on top priority community investments and initiatives
4. To build a common foundation for community and organizational leaders to work together
to meet community needs and expectations over a longer term

To read the full document of what was presented last night, please click here.  You can also view the Powerpoint presentation of last night's meeting here. If you'd like to read what happened at the 13 meetings that occurred prior, please click here for that information.

This information will become a "reference manual" for the mayor and council to help set priorities and have citizen input at their fingertips.

We still need your help!  The city is conducting a 2013 visioning survey.  It's an easy online questionnaire that can be filled out by click here.  The city will use this survey information to possibly plan more visioning meetings in the future.

We also have visioning meetings coming up for the new library, and we sincerely need your input here.  There are a lot of details to still fine tune and we appreciate your feedback.  Here is the schedule:

--Tuesday, January 15, 6:30 p.m.  (Location:  Canby Public Library, 292 
N. Holly Street) 
--Wednesday, January 30, 6:30 p.m.  (Location:  Canby Police Dept., 
1175 NW 3rd Avenue) 
--Tuesday, February 19, 6:30 p.m.  (Location:  Canby Police Dept., 1175 
NW 3rd Avenue ) (**please note this is a date change; the original date of February 14th is incorrect, as printed in the January newsletter).

Finally, I ask you to attend city council meetings.  Citizens always have an open opportunity to voice their opinion on any topic pertinent to our city.  You can always view the city calendar to see when upcoming meetings are.
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