Measure 24-314, the initiative that Keizer will vote on in March, presents residents with two visions of the city. How one sees Keizer in the future will determine how they will vote.
This is not a Solomon’s choice—Keizer can’t have it both ways. Citizen survey consistently say they like the small town feel of Keizer. Keizer consumers like the Pleasantville-ness of our city but many also favor discount retailers, especially grocery stores. Keizer cannot maintain its current quality and have big retail developments sitting next to long-established neighborhoods.
Opponents of Measure 24-314 such as the city council and developers should not take the silence of a majority of Keizer citizens for the approval to charge ahead.
There are a number of issues opponents cite. They use terms such as “job killing” and “anti-business.”
Jobs in Keizer
Would the passage of Measure 24-314 put an end to job creation in Keizer? Of course not. Putting limits on where in Keizer big box retail stores can be located won’t affect the drive to turn Keizer into a medical hub.
Living wage jobs in the medical field is what Mayor Lore Christopher has been heralding since it was announced that Salem Radiology Consultants would build a clinic in Keizer Station at the corner of Lockhaven Drive and McLeod Lane. Those are the day-time jobs that are the future for Keizer.
National retailers build bigger and bigger stores and there just isn’t room for anymore outside of the developed part of Keizer Station. When it comes to jobs Keizer needs to continue a campaign to attract more health care industry businesses.
A large retail store may have many employees on its books but many of those jobs are part-time, no benefits positions. Can a family live on the wage a retailer pays? Measure 24-314 won’t affect medical buildings and that’s where the focus of jobs should be.
Saying that passage of the measure would be like hanging a big “Closed for Business” sign over Keizer is just politics. Keizer has never been anti-business, from its first days as a city up to today. The mayor of Keizer has repeatedly said that she and the city council are pro-business. Who isn’t?
“Anti-business” suggests that no new businesses of any kind would be welcome to Keizer. That’s nonsense. Consumers need to purchase goods and services and they want to do so locally and conveniently. Opposing an strip club or a monstrous retail building next to homes or schools is not anti-business, it is pro-neighborhood.
In place of decrying the measure as anti-business, opponents should come up with a program to recruit the types of businesses that would not overwhelm a neighborhood but would create living wage jobs.
The petitioners and supporters of the measure paint the measure as being nothing more than the desire to keep Keizer’s neighborhoods livable and desirable while maintaining property values.
Measure 24-314 is not only an issue for those who live within a stone’s throw of Area C at Keizer Station. It should also be an issue for homeowners in southwest Keizer, homeowners along the Cherry Avenue corridor and homeowners in the north River River-Wheatland Road area. A developer could conceivably build an oversize building on River Road and Manbrin Drive or on Cherry Avenue and Alder or in the large field at the corner of River Road and Manzanita.
You can’t maintain a small town feel if your main traffic arterial is home to huge retail developers. Traffic is already a source of complaint, especially during rush hour. Residents of quaint, small towns shouldn’t have to be faced with bumper to bumper traffic on the town’s main road.
The sky will not fall if Measure 24-314 passes. It may well be an irritant to developers, but aside from Area C we haven’t noticed retailers banging on Keizer’s door to be let in. Of course the economy has something to do about that, but we suspect that most big, national retailers want to be where they can attract the most shoppers and that would be the Keizer Station area.
That’s why downtown Salem doesn’t have huge retail buildings, they tend to opt for south Commercial Street or Lancaster Drive, because that’s where the shoppers are.
Keizer has always been open for business. If the people want a say where and what type of businesses come to the city, their views must be heeded. Keizer consumers have a duty, too. They need to do as much shopping in their community as possible to maintain small retailers.
The free market system is built on competition. Any small business in Keizer’s central core should not roll over and surrender to big box retailers; they need to be sure they can offer in goods and services what Keizer consumers want. A free market is organic; the people will decide what succeeds and what does not in a free market.
Measure 24-314 may not stop the development in Area C but a yes vote will assure that the citizens have a hand in deciding what kind of city they want to live in.
Keizer is not anti-business and neither are we. We will support responsible development that will keep Keizer one of the most desirable addresses in the mid-Willamette Valley. A yes vote on Measure 24-314 will do that.