By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark delivered a largely upbeat message in her annual state of the city address delivered to a gathering of Keizer Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday, March 14.
“The Keizer way works,” Clark said. “The people who formed the city of Keizer took charge of pride, spirit and volunteerism, thought through what they needed and made it happen. We started out as not-Salem, but we’ve become a significant part of the financial and social fabric of the region.”
Clark said the city survived the bursting of the housing bubble mostly unscathed, but now faces a housing shortage.
“We still need 214 acres beyond the current urban growth boundary to meet the current needs of the population,” said Clark in a nod to continuing discussions about expanding the urban growth boundary that keeps Salem and Keizer within a confined space.
Clark also addressed the issue of homelessness early in the speech. She was part of a task force that spent a year looking at the issues around homelessness in the region and is now working toward implementing the recommendations that resulted from the process.
“We have a rising homeless problem and we don’t have the services and support and safe, secure shelter for them. I want to be clear that the people are not the problem, it’s about our ability to take care of the people that we are facing,” Clark said.
She lauded the efforts of Salem’s Union Gospel Mission and Habitat for Humanity in serving the vulnerable population.
Clark spent several minutes praising the local business community and suggested a revitalized economic development effort was in the offing.
“You bring your A-game everyday and that is the heart of the Keizer business community,” Clark said.
At the city government level, there are no staff members tasked directly with economic development. A city task force was convened to discuss a way forward, but meetings have been intermittent at best.
“I am working with Councilor Bruce Anderson and, together, we are going to be looking at how to redefine the committee to partner with local business to plot the course forward,” she said.
She encouraged the representatives of local businesses in attendance to find ways to get involved at McNary High School and help students discover how to continue their journey after receiving a high school diploma.
“If a student takes one career technical education class, the graduation rate jumps to 88 percent. The diploma is no longer the end game for them. Mentoring those students is critical. The opportunities for them open up in business and life when someone comes up to them and speaks to their potential. That goes a very, very long way,” Clark said.
If there were any hidden asterisks attached to the Keizer way working, they were reserved for the end of the speech when Clark addressed the state of funding for parks and police. The Keizer City Council has identified both as needs for the city, but one of the only ways to create sustainable dedicated funds is through the creation of fees. That leaves some residents with a bad taste in their mouth.
“We chose Keizer because it works. But, it’s old enough to begin replacing and maintain the things we built, and do so in a sustainable way,” Clark said.