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Let’s have that conversation


In a recent Keizertimes editorial entitled, Yet Another Conversation, the author appears to take issue with an upcoming event hosted by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce to discuss the future of River Road.  The author is tired of more discussion on the topic and wants to see more action.

We appreciate the Keizertimes taking notice of our event and we hope they will come cover it.  But this event is not happening out of thin air.  Some context is helpful.

The Keizer Chamber of Commerce started planning this event late last year as the Keizer City Council was considering a change to city rules which would require businesses in town to put aside an amount equal to one percent of construction or remodeling costs for “public amenities.” These amenities could have included benches, fountains or contributions to the City’s public art fund.  When we at the Chamber started asking local folks what they thought of the proposed changes, we did not find a lot of support.

What we did get, is a lot of good ideas about the future of River Road.  These ideas ranged from ways to encourage façade and landscape improvements to doing nothing at all.  We also heard many ideas in between.

What was clear is that we need a larger conversation, including as many members of the community as possible.  This brought us to the upcoming Community Conversation.

As the aforementioned editorial notes, there has been a lot of talk around the future of River Road.  We do not intend to recreate the wheel.  We have invited representatives from the city to take us through that history as a starting point.  Many great things have happened along River Road and we want to build on those.

We take issue with two parts of the column in particular.  First, that “talk is cheap, we’ve talked before.”  Talk may be cheap, but if we had not talked to members of our community during the debate on the one percent public amenities proposal last fall we would have never heard some of the voices in our community which have a right to be heard.  Good public policy is made by engaging stakeholders.

Second, the author of the column wants to see action.  We agree.  While talking is not necessarily action, doing something just to look like you are doing something is a great way to end up with a mess.  Let’s hear from as many people as possible and listen to the folks who will be paying the bills before we act.

At the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, we are looking forward to hearing from as many members of the community as possible about the future of River Road.  Those who may want to see fountains and pedestrian malls have no more or less right to be heard than those who think River Road is fine and do not want to change it.

No matter what you want River Road to look like, and whether or not you are a member of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, we want to hear from you.  Join us in the next phase of a discussion of the future of your city.  We look forward to seeing you at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the Keizer Civic Center.

(Jonathan Thompson is a local small business owner and chair of the Government Affairs Committee at the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. )