I’ve always felt that as elected officials, it’s our job to engage the public and allow our residents to guide the decision-making process. And I’ve always had great faith in the citizens of Gearhart to make the right decisions for our community. All of our faith has been tested the last several years as we have had difficult and complex issues to navigate, but as I have always predicted the citizens have made the right choices again and again.
Whether it’s electing officials who honor and uphold our Gearhart Comprehensive Plan or like in 2017, when our citizens overwhelmingly voted in favor of continuing common-sense vacation rental regulations, designed to keep Gearhart the quiet residential community we all know and love. These choices have continued the quality of life we all enjoy as full-time or part-time residents.
We are now undergoing a new public process to help determine a suitable location for a new Emergency Response and Resiliency Station to replace an aging fire station that was built more than 60 years ago. This is not an easy undertaking. While the majority of folks living in Gearhart may agree we need a new station, there are many questions we need to answer to get to the finish line — such as “how are we going to pay for a new station?” and “what location will serve the day-to-day needs of our community the best while providing emergency infrastructure and resiliency?”
These are not easy questions, but ones we can answer if we cooperate with one another and listen to other points of view.
Luckily, once again, this is going to be a public decision. In order to build a new station, it will have to go to a public vote, but even before we get to that point we are teaming up with every full-time and part time resident to help choose the right location. This three-month intensive public feedback process allows each resident to fill out an important questionnaire to give their feedback on their favorite location and how they think the community should pay for it.
All of the updated information is available on the Gearhart city website, including a video of our Jan. 29 informational town hall where we presented the public need for a new station and new information on emergency preparedness and the current threats posed by a Cascadia earthquake and tsunami.
This public process is about education as well. Residents and neighbors are getting together with folks who may have missed the town hall or have questions on the quickest and safest evacuation routes and how Gearhart can be resilient and sustainable in the midst of all types of emergencies. The education process is very important, as it’s a natural human reaction to attack information that might be contrary to what we thought we knew or what we may be afraid of.
Sometimes fear and misinformation can lead to cynicism, fake news on social media, or a reluctance to prepare ourselves and our families properly for a natural disaster. But once again, our citizens are rising to the occasion and are getting the correct information out, so residents can make choices based on facts that give us all the best chance to survive a tsunami-level event.
The feedback process will continue through April 29 and the results will be published in a public report that will be presented to the City Council. So far, I’ve heard from many of our residents, who have given valuable feedback that will help the council understand the needs of our community and how a new station can be designed and located to benefit the entire population.
We have always been lucky in Gearhart to have an amazing volunteer fire department that is certified and trained to deal with all types of emergencies, from fires to medical emergencies to natural disasters. A new station would be a great tool for our community, and in addition to our brave volunteers, give us continued peace of mind that we will be safe and protected.
I couldn’t be more excited to begin this public process with all of you. As always, I have faith that you will make the right decision for Gearhart.
Matt Brown grew up in Gearhart. He served for seven years on the Planning Commission and was elected mayor in 2016.