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Fund projects to keep Milwaukie moving forward

At a recent public meeting on updating the vision for downtown Milwaukie, I was pleasantly surprised that 75 percent of participants viewed the coming of light rail as a positive for Milwaukie. We hear/read so much grumbling about light rail, but this confirmed my experience in talking with people at the Farmers Market and elsewhere, that most people are excited to have light rail coming to town.

Irrespective of how one feels about light rail, however, I think everyone recognizes that Milwaukie is on the cusp of change. There’s new momentum for the long-pending Riverfront Park plans, and recent transportation discussions prioritized promoting neighborhood livability through building neighborhood greenways to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

A few projects have the potential for outside funding, such as the wonderful contract now afoot with Wildlands to remove the dam in Kellogg Creek and restore the riparian area, including Kronberg Park. But the vast majority of projects will depend largely or wholly on city funding, which the current coffers do not provide for.

I think it’s time to capitalize on the current momentum by putting forward a bond measure to get some key projects built sooner rather than later. The City Council is already considering a bond measure to fund Milwaukie’s $4 million obligation for light rail, but I would like to see them propose a larger bond to build a wide variety of projects around the city.

A $20 million bond measure, for example, would mean an additional $186 per year on property taxes for homes with an assessed value of $200,000. That seems a fair price to pay to get some significant projects completed, both downtown and throughout the neighborhoods.

What could $20 million do?

Here are some things I would like to see it do:

n $4 million: Light-rail commitment

n $4 million: modest expansion/upgrade of Ledding Library, for which there is also $1 million available from the county.

n $500,000: Initial funding for development of three neighborhood parks on parcels that the city already owns — Balfour, Wichita, and Bowman/Brae.

n $6 million: Matching funds for grants to build roadway and sidewalk improvements throughout the city — the aforementioned neighborhood greenways (esp. Monroe, Stanley, and 29th), plus adding sidewalks strategically to provide safe connections between residential areas and commercial nodes (especially on 32nd and 42nd Avenues), parks and schools.

n $2 million: Public contribution toward pedestrian improvements throughout downtown, such as were completed last year in Oregon City. Downtown property owners should also step up to foot part of this bill, as it will be more cost-effective to build it all at once rather than property-by-property.

n $2 million: Public contribution toward completing Riverfront Park, in addition to grants being sought from state agencies and funding from private donors. Let’s get the park completed all at once, rather than piecemeal.

The remaining balance of $1.5 million could go toward realizing the city’s longstanding plans for South Downtown, including construction of a public plaza and further development of a light rail station building project, which experts have said is unlikely to “pencil out” as a purely private development.

Your priority list or allocations might look different. Indeed, most of the dollar figures here are just guesstimates on my part, and will require validation. But I hope you agree that it is worth investing in our city at this crucial moment to improve our quality of life and be better prepared for the beginning of light rail service in just over two years.

The City Council is considering a bond measure just to cover the light-rail obligation. If you support a more forward-thinking bond measure that would improve livability across Milwaukie’s seven neighborhoods, please let councilors know. You can write to them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or go tell them what you would support at their next meeting on the evening of Tuesday, July 2.

Let’s pass a bond this fall to fund key projects and keep Milwaukie moving forward!

Lisa Batey is chairwoman of the Milwaukie Planning Commission. Views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not represent the Planning Commission.



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