Jason Pollack spends his work days contemplating disasters — large and small — in Astoria. But he still likes it here.
Astoria was a familiar place even before he moved here as a member of the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments program. A native Oregonian, Pollack grew up in Beaverton and attended the University of Oregon. He visited the Astoria Column and the Columbia River Maritime Museum when he was in elementary school.
RARE, as the program that brought Pollack to Astoria is often referred to, is part of AmeriCorps and administered through the University of Oregon. RARE members are placed in participating communities and have assisted Astoria in particular with a number of projects over the years. They have helped the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association with the Main Street program to promote and rebuild the city’s downtown area. They have also helped inventory park sites and facilities, meeting with the community to figure out current and future needs. In return, the city and organizations have provided training and experience.
Pollack was brought on to help the city with internal emergency planning and other objectives related to disaster preparation, information gathering and public education. It cost Astoria $23,500 to bring him here, and he began his work in September.
For Pollack the program is “an opportunity to see the inner workings of government.” He had hoped he would be placed in Astoria. The interview had gone well and, he said, “They had a better understanding of what the program was and what could be achieved.”
For the work in front of him, Astoria represents a unique challenge with “water on one side and a hill on the other.” It’s easy to get locked in if access along Highway 30 or across either of the two bridges — the massive Astoria Bridge over the Columbia River or the New Youngs Bay Bridge into Warrenton — is blocked.
“A lot of this is about where do you go if your main facilities are interrupted,” Pollack said.
In his research, many of the cities that do this kind of planning are much larger than Astoria, with more staff and more layers of governance.
Here, Pollack said, one of the challenges beyond geography is that “you just have less staff so you have less people to respond.”
He hopes to create a living, mutable document that will help the city adapt to a variety of situations down the road.
“There’s no plan so I’m working on creating one.
Originally Published in The Daily Astorian
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Astoria, OR 97103