State of the city

Mayor Brian Dalton's state of the city address, which included priorities for downtown Dallas, was the topic of discussion at the Jan. 21 Dallas City Council meeting.

DALLAS – Mayor Brian Dalton left the Dallas City Council with his thoughts on what it should consider planning for in 2020 in his “state of the city” address.

Dalton gave the annual speech before the council at its meeting Monday night.

He didn’t spend much time on recapping 2019, except to honor the late mayor, councilor, teacher and coach Jim Fairchild.

“We’re in a new era with our new city manager Brian Latta, an era that will be famed both for dynamic action and forward thinking,” Dalton said. “In that vein, I’ll just declare last year to be transitional and file it away in the history books, and aim this speech at the future.”

The council will meet for its day-long goal-setting retreat on Saturday and Dalton left the members with what, in his opinion, should be the priorities for Dallas in the next year.

“In five days, the council and staff, rather than go skiing, will go into a fun retreat mode where we’ll set both short- and long-term goals for our community,” Dalton said. “With the city being more dynamic these days, with a host of pent-up municipal issues, this session will likely be the most consequential we’ve had in years.”

He said the city has the ninth-fastest population growth in the state, and is projected to remain the fastest growing town in the central valley in the next 50 years.

“The city is growing like a weed. It’s a nice weed,” Dalton said. “And why not? In many ways, we are the most affordable, pleasant, safe, well-located and popular place to live in the region, if not Oregon. I’m the mayor. I can say stuff like that.”

He said handling that growth while maintaining the small-town atmosphere many residents appreciate will be a balancing act.

That begins with providing more jobs for the growing number of workers living in Dallas. He said from 2010 to 2017, the labor force in Dallas grew by 1,000 workers, but the number of jobs gained in that time was only 12.

“That’s 12 jobs in seven years, and over 83 percent of our Dallas labor force – those with jobs – commute out of town every day for work,” Dalton said.

He added that Dallas population is aging, now with an average age of 42 – the sixth-oldest median age of Oregon cities. That’s up from 37 in 2012.

“Come Saturday, what is it we want for Dallas?” Dalton asked. “Continue our rapid growth as a bedroom community for Salem’s workforce and pleasant retirement community, or something way beyond that? I would suggest something way beyond that. Way beyond.”

To achieve that, Dalton put forward the Mayor’s 10 topics:

• Develop the economy.

“In 2019, we got good news and bad,” he said. “The good news is we issued 124 residential unit building permits, so we have lots of houses here. The bad news is we issued zero non-governmental commercial building permits and zero new industrial permits.”

• Establish more land within the city zoned for commercial development.

He said due to poor planning in the city’s 1998 comprehensive plan, the city is out of commercial property of any size.

“Forget any commercial businesses of any consequence coming to Dallas in the next several years because they have no where to go,” Dalton said. “Face it and fix it.”

• Complete an economic opportunity analysis, a review of the state of the economy in the city, and opportunities that the city can develop in the years to come.

• Continue revitalizing the downtown.

Citizens in the latest community survey scored “downtown vibrancy” as poor at a 41-percent rate.  “Our downtown is actually the world’s image of us. If it is dull, fading and uninteresting, we lose. If it’s hot stuff, we win,” Dalton said.

He suggested pursuing a downtown national historic district, putting up more lights on the buildings surrounding the Polk County Courthouse and supporting the city’s arts master plan.

• Keep fixing infrastructure, with priorities on establishing more water storage, installing a traffic signal at Fir Villa Road and East Ellendale Avenue, and plannng for improved facilities for police and fire.

• Plan as if Mint Valley Paper, a paper manufacturing plant planned for a site off Godsey Road, will begin development next month.

• Think about climate change, and how to address it “in ways that are practical, cost-effective and fit our culture.” He said examples include installing electric car charging stations, plant more trees, and provide more jobs in town so worker don’t have to commute.

• Develop a “co-working space” downtown, much like Indy Commons in Independence.

• More actively pursue the microbrew and wine industries.

“These things are all over Western Oregon, just not here, yet,” he said.

• Develop more second-story housing in commercial buildings in the downtown.

• Continue bi-annual citizen surveys, and use the results to identify and fix problems.

In a final thought, Dalton said Dallas should capitalize and improve on the image that citizens and visitors already have of it.

“We are quintessentially small-town America. The land of the courthouse square. Mayberry RFD, like a Hallmark, Norman Rockwell kind of place that folks treasure and relate to,” Dalton said. “Build our image around who we really are. Double down on what our citizens and guests love about us already.”

In other business, the council:

• Approved a resolution repealing a planned 2.75 percent increase in sewer rates.

• Approved a resolution increasing monthly stormwater rates by $2.22 in 2020, $2.50 in 2021 and $2 .50 in 2022, to bring the rates to $10 per month, per customer.

• Reviewed a first reading of an ordinance adopting the recently completed Housing Needs Analysis.

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