By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Getting to “yes” and thinking long-term were the two themes of Mayor Cathy Clark’s annual State of the City speech during a Keizer Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, March 13.
Clark traced the threads of both themes through recent citywide and regional events as Keizer sets itself up for answering some of the big questions that will need attention in the near future.
Clark piggybacked on the topic of the event’s first speaker, Raul Marquez, a McKay High School senior leading the charge to establish a youth homeless shelter in Salem.
“We don’t have a homeless people problem. We have a problem providing people services to help them out of homelessness,” Clark said, and then spoke of a recent regional effort to bring together agencies supplying services to the area’s homeless residents. “Too often these services work in isolation and this was an opportunity to bring better services and best practices to the entire network.”
Clark also sees the process of getting to “yes” in the work of the Keizer Parks Advisory Board, Keizer Police Department and the Keizer City Council as they collectively moved toward the implementation of service fees in 2017.
“Every year we’ve been looking under cushions and scraping together every penny to pay for police and parks. The city did the best they could with volunteers, grants and everything else and we reached the limit,” she said. “The Keizer City Council passed both fees in the same meeting because both are important to the people of Keizer in the long term. We got it done, we got to yes.”
She also noted the rapid changes happening along River Road North and Cherry Avenue Northeast. In addition to adding a second, dedicated grocery store, numerous other offices and restaurants have opened in Keizer recently.
“Not that long ago, we were thinking about doing an empty building tour, and now it is getting harder to find space,” Clark said. “Up and down River Road and Cherry Avenue there are new and refurbished businesses.”
She added that while Goodwill in Keizer Village will soon close, she is confident the property owner will secure a new anchor tenant soon.
Talk of the local business scene led neatly into the biggest question Keizer will have to answer to keep growing: what to do about the urban growth boundary that contains sprawl and protects agricultural land.
“We have a couple of developable spaces, but that’s it. Even if we filled all those spaces, we are 240 acres short of residential land and land for employment,” Clark said.
If Keizer chooses to add residential space, Clark wants to see space added for employment – in the form of commercial, industrial or mixed use zones – as well.
“Setting up a space for where people can only live doesn’t make for livable community. If we’re looking for volunteers, I’d rather have them here than on I-5 commuting to work,” she added.