(Beaverton, OR) – Even in the midst of the pandemic and a shift in government, I’m thankful for what we accomplished in 2021. When I was campaigning for office, three of my priority areas were: helping to create space for women at the highest levels of elected leadership; pandemic response; and housing and social services. While we still have more work to do, we took great strides in these areas.
In January 2021, I was sworn into office as Beaverton’s first woman mayor. The realities that accompany being “the first” have been exhilarating and exhausting. At the same time, our new city charter went into effect – changing our form of government from “strong mayor” to “council-manager.” Everyone from City Council and City Staff to community members had to adjust to a new leadership structure and a new way of operating, in addition to a new mayor and two new council members. It was a tremendous amount of simultaneous change, and it happened amid a global pandemic. As the year went on, the punches kept coming from heat waves to snow events, continued calls for equity and reform, and shortages of labor, childcare, affordable housing, and more. We faced many shared challenges as a city, state, and country. Nevertheless, we persisted.
Early in 2021, there was a lack of clear communication and expectations about the COVID-19 vaccine, from who was eligible to where to get one. We convened a COVID-19 Summit, bringing together regional leaders to address these issues. Within two weeks, we piloted the first mass vaccination point-of-distribution site (POD) in Washington County, right on Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton. This efficient public-private partnership went on to distribute nearly 50,000 life-saving doses. We didn’t stop there, though. We worked with partners to set up affinity clinics for populations that have been disproportionately impacted. We helped to amplify messaging all year long regarding questions about the vaccine, who was eligible, and where and how to get one.
Then we shifted to focus on federal recovery funds that would soon become available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). We're the only ones here in Oregon who were able to capitalize on the chaos surrounding the plan’s passage. I'm one of a small handful of full-time elected officials in the state of Oregon, and that worked to our advantage. As the announcements were coming in about money that would soon flow into our cities and states, I turned my attention to this full-time.
The City of Beaverton was informed that we would receive a direct allocation of $16.85 million. I knew that money would help our community, but I also knew there was more we could do. We had to keep advocating for our community and serve as a force multiplier. We all know cities were hit the hardest, and cities are the lynchpin to recovery. When cities recover, communities recover. Oregon State Senators and State Representatives were granted state ARPA funds to spend in their districts ($4 million and $2 million, respectively). I stood in the middle of the swirling chaos as a signpost, pointing our senators and representatives to the most important projects to our community.
Because we were quick, nimble, and laser-focused on our priorities, we were able to direct an additional $13.7 million of state ARPA funds into Beaverton projects focused on childcare, homeless services, affordable housing, behavioral health court implementation, and support for emerging nonprofits and the arts. Of that $13.7 million, $5.1 million is for City of Beaverton projects, and the rest is for partner projects for which we successfully advocated. All of these funds are flowing into the city in addition to the direct allocation we’re receiving from the federal government.
This year we’re continuing work in each of these areas, as well as identifying a location for our permanent, year-round homeless shelter, addressing the community’s calls for increased police accountability, and implementing ARPA funding. Issues such as affordable childcare, affordable housing, homeownership, and business recovery are regional concerns that will take regional partnerships and regional investments to work on. By working together, we can increase our impact without duplication.
For more information, contact the Mayor’s Communications Officer at jchristy@BeavertonOregon.gov.