Hood River City and West Side Fire District residents registered resounding “yes” decisions to their respective ballot measures on Nov. 5.
Measure 14-67, termed by supporters as “Protect Our Parks,” passed 1,773 to 689, a 72 percent to 28 percent victory.
The West Side Fire Local option levy renewal question garnered a 78 percent approval, with 1,453 votes to 401 no.
Overall turnout was 48.4 percent of eligible voters.
The parks measure, decided by city voters only, made the ballot after an initiative petition led by Tracey Tomashpol and Brian Carlstrom, both of whom live just outside city limits within the urban growth boundary; in Oregon, there is no residency requirement regarding initiative petitions.
“This initiative was a landslide win for local democracy,” Carlstrom said.
“Lots of volunteers worked tirelessly to explain the measure,” Tomashpol said.
The West Side levy margin surprised West Side Fire Marshal Jim Trammell.
“Amazing. I was shocked,” he said. “Last time we passed it by 53 percent,” he said. Balloting was limited to residents of WSFD.
“This time we did a lot more outreach and communication — a newsletter, a letter and a card, we hit them three times, and with three (paid) employees the trucks are out in the community a lot more, the community sees us,” Trammell said. (With him on the payroll are Assistant Administrative Officer Josh Beckner and Paramedic Patrick Foss.)
“I think a lot more people are aware now we’re not the city fire department, we’re somebody different,” Trammell said. “We’re out in the community getting things done, people see it and it makes a difference.”
Protect the Parks
Measure 14-67 approves a change in the city’s charter, requiring city council to put to a public vote any future sale or disposition of city parks property.
“Personally, I was disappointed that is passed but not surprised as the peitition supporters had a good campaign,” Mayor Kate McBride said. “I think it may hinder the city’s ability to be flexible with land holdings in the future. Where we might want to obtain or trade a property, we’ll have to be very cautious in that respect. And with any temporary uses we’re going to be more constrained when it comes to parks.
The measure was in response to some local residents’ belief that the city acted wrongly in selling the Morrison Park/Lot 700 property for $1 to Mid-Columbia Housing Authority to use part of the park property to develop affordable housing.
“Our positive message of giving voters a voice in the sale of their parks resonated strongly,” Tomashpol said.
“They did a good job,” Council President Mark Zanmiller said. “The main focus of protecting parks resonated, and I agreed with that part. The question is, how do we go forward? We’ll find a way at the city to respect and fulfill the rule. It will be the rule we have and it’s not a matter of contesting it but of absorbing it into our process.
“The most important thing to come out of this is how do we address the distrust that was at the root of this thing,” Zanmiller said.
“I’d like to find a way to engage people in discussions prior to it coming to this kind of a point, which I had said in application for interview for mayor,” McBride said.
The council’s next meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m. (postponed from Monday due to the federal holiday). McBride said the vote results or discussion of the subject are not on the council agenda.
Tomashpol said, “The size of the margin — 72 percent voted yes, with a 48 percent turnout — suggests that many people agreed that they should decide what happens to their local parks,” she said.
Carlstrom said, “It was rewarding to work with an amazing group of Hood River volunteers from all walks of life to get this initiative on the ballot, and to talk to people about the importance of parks.
“It was a strong message that we want our voices heard when faced with possible loss of our parks,” Carlstom said.
“Hood River citizens made it abundantly clear how much they value parks. Sacrificing parks to solve community housing problems is not an acceptable answer. We can meet our needs for both if we work creatively and cooperatively together.”
Tomashpol added, “I’d love to see the city give people more insights into local decisions by live-streaming council and planning commission meetings. It’s inexpensive and inclusive. More openness, more voices and more engagement on other matters in the community will benefit everybody.”