Women Now in the Majority on City Council

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(left to right) Christen Sacco, Valerie Pratt and Cyndy Hillier.

Earlier this month, three new councilors were sworn onto the Tualatin City Council. Tualatin Life had the opportunity to ask each of the new councilors a few questions. Here are their answers:

Councilor Cyndy Hillier

1.  What can the City do to encourage the public to maintain safe COVID-19 practices?  

Cyndy Hillier.

COVID-19 fatigue is real. When we focus on what we cannot do, and who we cannot see, it is hard for everyone. The City has also sent out social media posts encouraging the wearing of masks, social distancing and safe hand washing procedures. 

Clearly we need to do more to get our kids back in school which means we have to find a way to band together with all partners and do what it takes to get our kids back in school. Our schools stand ready to open, prepared with PPE and strategies to get our kids back to in person learning. We now have to do our part as community members. We are all together in this. 

Through engaging with the Packed With Pride program almost weekly since March, it is clear the residential and business impact has continued to worsen. I believe the City of Tualatin has done an exceptional job working to see and hear the financial needs of our small businesses and has really impacted childcare, allowing parents to continue in jobs.

3.  The City is planning to increase water, sewer and other utility fees in 2021. Do you think this is a good idea in the face of the ongoing economic crunch caused by COVID-19? 

Utility fees are part of a city doing business. In our current climate, raising fees on anything we can control, and which does not negatively impact the livability of our community or the City’s bottom line, needs to be considered. I will admit I have a lot to learn on this topic, so recommending one way or the other specifically would not be responsible at this time. 

4.  The City Council voted to consider adding a yet-to-be-determined parks fee to residents’ utility bills, as well as a possible bond or levy measure, to pay for parks maintenance and repairs. Do you support this policy? 

I have a deep desire to see our community increase the parks and outdoor activities for youth and families. I am not sure adding fees in this way would be efficient or effective for the end game. This is something I believe we need a task force for to find common ground and then take it to the voters to consider their input. 

5.  What can the City do to improve housing equity and grow the supply of affordable housing for lower income residents? 

Affordable housing is an issue in Tualatin and in the Metro Area. 80 percent of people that work in Tualatin do not live in Tualatin. This increases traffic and is, in my opinion, a statement about the livability or affordability in our community. Seeing living spaces in our community, other than where our middle to upper socio-economic residents live, in an up-close and personal way through the community work I do, leads me to have this as a priority to better understand, to create meaningful conversations in our community and then move to action as soon as we can. Attracting businesses that pay living wage jobs is one way. I’m convinced there are others and would love to dig into this so all Tualatin residents, and those employed here, have safe and affordable living options. 

6.  How can the City act to help create more jobs for residents? 

Yes, creating more jobs for residents is a big issue, and bigger than I have an answer to. Creating more jobs for residents and creating more jobs for residents at a living wage are two different things. Again, I have a lot to learn on this topic and hope that this is something our city can continue to discuss as part of the bigger picture for the benefit of all who live, work, recreate and become educated in our community.


Councilor Valerie Pratt

1.  What can the City do to encourage the public to maintain safe COVID-19 practices? 

Valerie Pratt.

The City can continue to encourage the public to maintain safe practices during this pandemic through social media messaging and the City’s website. Safe practices for City services must continually evolve to match any current restrictions. The City can also continue to help promote a sense of community through creative, safe, and fun events such as the upcoming Holiday Lights Parade, where cars decorated with lights will parade through neighborhoods in December. 

2.  The City has enacted aid programs for both residents and businesses during the pandemic; do you envision further aid being approved during 2021? 

The City Council put $250,000 from the CARES Act into reserves that can be used to help as we go through the next difficult months. After that, it will require a deep dive into the City’s budget to see if any additional funds can help our businesses and residences. Hopefully, some of the $55 million (recently) pledged (for cities and counties) from the State of Oregon will reach our community to also help our businesses survive.

3.  The City is planning to increase water, sewer and other utility fees in 2021. Do you think this is a good idea in the face of the ongoing economic crunch caused by COVID-19? 

The Tualatin City Council has not made any decisions for 2021 at this point. We did decide to follow Clean Water Services lead and did not implement a sewer rate increase in July (2020).  

The decision to support foregoing additional fees during the coming year has to be carefully weighed against pushing these costs out to future years. During the budget process, each utility fund is reviewed to make sure there are revenues enough to cover ongoing costs and expected capital improvement needs. This allows for smaller rate increases over a number of years, instead of passing on large unexpected spikes in rates all in one year.

4.  The City Council voted to consider adding a yet-to-be-determined parks fee to residents’ utility bills, as well as a possible bond or levy measure, to pay for parks maintenance and repairs. Do you support this policy? 

Unfortunately, our parks have suffered from decades of deferred maintenance and are in need of immediate care. A recent inventory of our parks system shows that $34.7 million would be needed to make the repairs necessary to our park assets. Of these, $14.7 million is needed for items that are either unusable or on the verge of becoming a safety hazard.  An example of this would be the pedestrian bridge in Brown’s Ferry Park, which had to be closed off until funding becomes available for repairs.  

It is the responsibility of our city to take care of these assets. Ongoing preventative maintenance is the most fiscally responsible way to take care of them and to save costs in the long run. Given that we are currently dealing with a pandemic and a tough economy, I feel that this is not the right time to consider a bond or levy, but do think that a small utility fee is a vital and necessary step to help limit further deterioration in our parks system.

5.  What can the City do to improve housing equity and grow the supply of affordable housing for lower income residents?  

With much of our land already developed, Basalt Creek will be the best area to start growing the supply of affordable housing. Community Partners for Affordable Housing is already looking to do a project to add housing for lower-income residents in this area.

6.  How can the City act to help create more jobs for residents? 

The City can focus on trying to attract industries that are higher-paying than average, so employees are more likely to be able to afford to live in Tualatin. There need to be continued efforts to promote the great quality of life and close proximity to amenities that our city has to offer.


Councilor Christen Sacco

1.  What can the City do to encourage the public to maintain safe COVID-19 practices?

Christen Sacco.

To ensure the public remains cautious of COVID-19, the city must continue to communicate and educate. The city is creating informative social media graphics that are easy to understand. These graphics are distributed through multiple avenues to ensure maximum exposure. The city must continue to promote safe events and event alternatives. For example, the city recognized Veterans on Veterans Day by providing yard signs and a Veterans Day video to replace in-person events. I am looking forward to the Holiday Lights Parade, which will provide safe holiday fun. Above all, we must be the example for our community. 

2.  The City has enacted aid programs for both residents and businesses during the pandemic; do you envision further aid being approved during 2021? 

The future is hard to predict in these unprecedented times. Right now, COVID-19 cases are on the rise. If cases continue to rise, if there is an increase in layoffs and furloughs, and if more businesses close permanently, yes, I envision further aid being approved in 2021. 

3.  The City is planning to increase water, sewer and other utility fees in 2021. Do you think this is a good idea in the face of the ongoing economic crunch caused by COVID-19? 

I don’t like the idea of raising costs to residents during these turbulent times. I must weigh the alternate outcomes if costs are absorbed elsewhere. If absorbed elsewhere, this could have detrimental impacts. The fact that we are talking about bringing aid to the residents of Tualatin and raising the cost of fees is not lost on the current council members or myself. I am determined to make the right decisions, and I encourage input from the community when it comes time to assess fees.   

4.  The City Council voted to consider adding a yet-to-be-determined parks fee to residents’ utility bills, as well as a possible bond or levy measure, to pay for parks maintenance and repairs. Do you support this policy? 

As current Vice-Chair of the Tualatin Parks Advisory Committee, I am very familiar with the topic of park funding. A bond or a levy would not be decided by the City Council, it would be decided by the residents of Tualatin. I support funding for our parks one way or another, and I prefer it to be decided by the people. During these challenging times, we need a safe place for recreation. Our physical and mental health is dependent upon it. Currently, $14.7 million in park assets are in desperate need of repair and/or replacement. If we do not receive funding for these assets soon, portions of parks will close. Park closures are the last thing our city needs in the middle of a pandemic. 

5.  What can the City do to improve housing equity and grow the supply of affordable housing for lower income residents?  

We can encourage development of a wider variety of housing types within our new development areas and identify redevelopment opportunities. We need to be mindful this will require additional planning with other areas, such as transportation and utilities. We cannot compromise one area to improve another.

6.  How can the City act to help create more jobs for residents? 

The city can help create more jobs by staying competitively priced when bringing new businesses to Tualatin. The city must focus on our city brand image and ensure the business community is aware of the benefits of coming to Tualatin. The city must also focus on public transportation. Select positions are easier to hire for when public transportation is nearby. The city could consider shuttle services to and from high-density business areas to WES and/or bus stops.