When 2023 started, we all hoped this would be the comeback year. Three years of brutal Pandemic gripped our community, just like those nationwide. While I remain hopeful and optimistic, the first quarter of the year has shown many of us that we are all dealing with something very profound and challenging. From the economy to homelessness and crime rates across the Region, many of us are just hanging on. And that for me is not ok. We deserve more and should be doing better.
It is quiet here tonight at home. But the sounds of sirens seem to increase nightly. Killings, murders, right here in Hillsboro, seem to be happening more and more often. This town used to go for years without a murder, let alone a significant crime spree. And at the same time, we see our politicians preaching “equity and inclusion” like they are catchphrases, and we hear more and more stories of people being treated worse and worse.
Water rates are rising, and so are power rates and other major utilities. Food costs are higher, and families and households are struggling under crushing rent increases. Some have seen increases of as much as 20-30% in three years. A 2 BR apartment can quickly climb to $2,000 a month. This means no disposable income for so many people, and the children get less Mom and Dad time because both of them have to work so hard they barely get home and collapse before the cycle is repeated.
We are making strides in combatting homelessness, and we may see a shelter open this year and more beds by next year. But we will be hard-pressed to stem the incoming tide as Portland pushes hundreds, if not thousands, into the suburbs. Places like Hillsboro.
I am not just gloom and doom; if you know me or have ever met me, you know that. But I am brave enough to say what others won’t. We are in trouble, and deep down, we all know it. Our ability to build has been proven. Factories like Ronler Acres cost Billions, and the people of Hillsboro and beyond answered the call and made tens of Millions in concessions to get them here. We build roads, parks, and massive new schools. Our City Hall was an awe-inspiring structure upon completion and still is to this day. Hidden Creek Community Center, the new Wing Span, and our Libraries at Brookwood and Shute Park are stellar too.
Lest we forget- we are giving our Minor League baseball team another $17 to $20 Million because they are unhappy with the State of the art stadium we already built for them. Not just the money, folks, but we are letting them have several acres of land to finance their new stadium on, which is worth Millions of dollars. Our youth baseball and softball Moms and Dads tell me their teams have been told that the Gordon Faber Complex, built for youth sports, could no longer support their leagues and kids. The new stadium will eliminate three fields. And there is no talk about what will happen if the Hops don’t make it or are bought and moved someday.
Our City also purchased about 144 acres of land off of Meek Road to develop to bring more jobs, factories, and chemical and chip fabs here. The amount of money being leveraged is incredible and risky at some point amid a turning economy. That was not enough land, and so our City officials went to Salem and took part in one of the greatest sales pitches of all time in selling the concept of expanding the Hillsboro Urban Growth Boundary to the West a couple of miles for more jobs, more Chip Fabs and the factories that support them. In fact the City proposed building more factories across from Evergreen Elementary and just a few blocks from two grade schools and Glencoe High School; not to mention adjacent to our finest residential districts that are nestled all along that South edge of the Evergreen Road boundary we have all known for so many years. But you see, it is growth over everything.
Off Connell Road, police and code enforcement are trying to resolve a neighborhood dispute over access that has boiled over 3 times in the last two months. A bit further South, a business and several families are trying to overcome a brutal execution-style murder that happened last weekend in a restaurant. A local girl was missing for a week, and while she was found, her family can now not see her because she was taken to a place where the family is not allowed to have a specific say over her, even though they have done nothing wrong. Nextdoor is full of crime reports, package and car theft stories, and other rising harassment and negative things. And yes, I know, these things have always happened. But not at this velocity and at this level of heinousness. The world is truly going Mad, madder than it ever has been by my estimation. But hey, what would I know?
Last night news broke of a string of burglaries with this menacing fellow stealing items from homes in NE Hillsboro using a crowbar to break in. How terrifying! You can watch this man and see the story about this at FOX 12 right here: https://www.kptv.com/2023/04/07/northeast-hillsboro-neighborhood-alert-following-burglaries/
Amidst all that, our City is planning to move our Police force away from the high crime area it anchors and protects and build what has been called the most expensive facility in City History. That will be built, assuming we can find the money in these tighter times, off the Airport Road near Intel Jones Farm. To me, this seems like the wrong move at the wrong time. There is certainly plenty of room right where they are at to expand; the parking lot is empty most days.
All of these things – these big wonderful things- seem to be heralded and used as fancy window dressing in a TV Commercial pitch that appears to say “Welcome To Hillsboro, where the air is cleaner, the people are happy and shiny, and the world is a little bit better,” but it rings hollow, so very hollow. I will continue to say it, we DO have a great City. But it is not greater than it was, or as great as it could be. Not by a very long shot.
Let me just say to the hard-working staff at City Hall, I see you. The majority of you are all in, all the time. I sure wish more of you lived with the rest of us here. The fact is I know more City Staff, decision maker type of staff, who live outside the City of Hillsboro than in it. But I see you- and you are working hard. I thank you.
To our City Council, I see you too. For the most part, these shiny things take up all your time. Yes, I know you are working on equity and hiring all sorts of new staff to take on social justice issues. But Baseball, mega-million dollar giveaways, and Urban Growth Expansions have nothing to do with that. Growing a budget to almost a Billion dollars a year is dangerous; those crows come home to roost, and it might really hurt. I do not hear any of you speaking openly about our gang problem, which is rising fast. I know what it is like to talk about it. I did recently and had my life threatened.
During Black History Month, I researched who Hillsboro’s 1st Black student was. I spent countless hours finding the real story. I not only found the story, but I found her. Alive. I spoke about it and talked about it- but nobody flinched or reached out to her or me. No one from our City said to her, “Welcome Back to Hillsboro.” A city that shunned her and her entire family, as cold as the winter’s night. But she came back; she stood on Main Street and saw the photos of her old school, and she spoke her truth. National agencies read our story it and reached out. Thousands of others read it too. And her story is our story, our dark past. An opportunity to get to know her exists but is shrinking daily. School curriculum can be written about her and this experience she lived in our City and County. Kumice Holcey Jackson deserves to know that more than a few people in Hillsboro care.
In the days following the printing of her story, I got to learn what she might have felt like. Our home had bottles thrown at it, bricks of firecrackers lit against it, and this horrible incident. But we will not back down and stand in lockstep with our brothers and sisters of every color. Do not watch this with small children or if you can not handle difficult things. It is all of that.
And I know you are working hard to build low-income housing with our communities’ investment and shelters for those without a home. And I commend you for that, something I am all in on too. But I have come to you all on three occasions in the last two years and begged you to take action on building permit rates for those of us wanting to build a small home. I can not build my Mother, who needed a tiny cottage, a place because none of you found it important enough to look at what I presented nor to see if there was something that could be done. A 5,000 SF home, built for a rich man, costs the same $50,000 +- in permit fees as the 500 SF cottage I wanted to build Mom. Fifty Thousand Dollars in permit fees to build a 500 SF one-room cottage, the size of two Tough Sheds. The cottage could be built for $50,000, but with that permit fee, we could not do a thing to help her. The City’s own experts, Eco-NW, told you this was unfair and inequitable, and yet no action was or has been taken. It’s ok, I guess; Mom is in memory care now with little time left. I just wish she could have spent it here among the flowers in our back gardens. Do we just openly not care, not get it, or is it something else that I do not understand?
To all of you, our valued readers, I ask you to open your eyes a bit more. You may have to look up from your phone occasionally and look around. I know that is hard for me, but I do. But these things I am saying are real. These disparities exist and the canyon between them is widening. And when I do look up, I see the world for what it is. Beautiful and Ugly things. Hatred and love. Lightness and Darkness. Like it always has been since Cain killed his brother, Abel.
Yes, we do deserve better here than we are getting. The balance of power does not belong to the people of Hillsboro – no, we are far from that. But we deserve to run our City for our people and their best interests- not for these other shiny things and big corporations.
It is the dream I have, this yearning to have something great, to bring back the thing that once was here, and to have more good things than bad, that keeps me going. Until we get there the work continues.
Good night my friends.