Last December, we compared 2012 at Metro to the kitchen prep phase of cooking a meal.
If 2012 was spent slicing onions and measuring spices, 2013 had its share of ingredients going into the regional frying pan.
The Portland region's government was busy on projects stretching across the area, from studying a transit line to Tualatin, to negotiating to build a hotel in Portland's Lloyd District, to helping with the planning process for a site near Willamette Falls, to figuring out how to curb the region's tailpipe emissions.
Here's a look at the top 10 topics of 2013.
1. Negotiations could spark a Hyatt
Adding a hotel across the street from the Oregon Convention Center has been a goal for regional leaders for decades. That goal appears closer than ever before, as a financial structure for a proposed Hyatt hotel was set in 2013.
As part of that plan, room taxes on stays at the Hyatt would pay off about $60 million of construction bonds for the $198 million project.
In exchange for that, plus about $14 million in direct investment from the region and state, Hyatt would hold 500 of the hotel's 600 rooms available for large conventions, build across the street from the convention center, hire a union workforce and meet other conditions set by Metro.
It took months of negotiation between Metro, Portland and Multnomah County to reach a deal to pay for the hotel, specifically the bonded portion. The city, county and region jointly administer a room tax, which is targeted at promoting tourism in the region.
Metro Council President Tom Hughes argued that adding a convention center hotel promotes tourism, and that taxing only stays on Hyatt visitors to pay for the bonds wouldn't put other hotel owners in a position where their visitors were paying for a competitor's hotel.
But some downtown hoteliers weren't buying it, saying the subsidized Hyatt is a risky project, despite projections from Metro-paid consultants saying it's a financially sound plan. They are asking Multnomah County voters to overturn the Multnomah County Commission's decision to approve the room tax plan. On New Years Eve, Multnomah County said the plan was ineligible for the ballot.
Metro is working on negotiating a development agreement with the project's developers, which would include the project's finer details. That agreement would have to be approved by the Metro Council. A court could decide as soon as January whether the room tax plan is eligible for the ballot.
2. Region passes natural areas levy
Faced with a funding shortfall for maintaining the region's 12,000 acres of natural areas, the Metro Council asked voters in May to authorize a tax levy that would raise about $10 million a year from the region's property owners.
The good news for Metro's natural areas program, created after voters approved bonds to buy natural areas in 1995 and 2006, is that the levy passed by a 10 percent margin.
Work funded by the levy is already under way on expanding the natural areas grants programs and upgrading Oxbow, Graham Oaks, Blue Lake and Mason Hill parks.
About three dozen restoration projects will be underway at Metro natural areas this year, including removing invasive species in Forest Park and along Johnson Creek. A two-year work plan should be released this summer.
3. Development, development everywhere
The end of the year has been littered with statistics about the burgeoning Portland region. Oregon is the most moved-to state in the country, according to a moving company. Portland eclipsed 600,000 residents for the first time in 2013, and its metropolitan area, including Salem and Vancouver, passed 3 million in population last year.
Beyond the numbers, there's on-the-ground evidence of growth. Cars with out-of-state plates fill the streets and parking lots. A dozen or more cranes soar above Portland's sky.
Part of that growth, particularly in transit-intensive areas from Hillsboro to Clackamas, has happened in part because of Metro subsidies. Metro's transit-oriented development program provides subsidies to offset the higher costs of compact homes and offices.
Meanwhile, Metro continued to support downtown redevelopment programs across the region, part of an effort to improve business districts in the region's town centers.
Projects like Hillsboro's 4th Main are set to open in 2014.
4. Climate Smart takes tests, region scores well
Last year started with a lot of uncertainty for Metro's Climate Smart Communities project. Working on a response to a state mandate to curb the Portland region's tailpipe emissions by 20 percent per capita before 2035, planners started studying how much the region plan's would help in slashing emissions.
Specifially, regional leaders hoped that the continued growth of the region's centers as viable business districts would cut the need to drive far for services and jobs.
By winter, planners had the news they were hoping for – if all of the plans on the Portland region's books were adopted, the goal was within reach.
That doesn't mean the work is done, not by a long shot. Some of the plans on the books, like a streetcar to Lake Oswego, are essentially dead. Many of the plans don't have any money for implementation. The Portland region's response to the Legislature on how it's going to curb emissions has to be viable.
With a little more data left to present this winter, regional leaders are set to debate a best path forward to curb emissions this year, with the goal of adopting a tailpipe emission reduction plan by the end of 2014.
5. Southwest Corridor toes the line
It's no secret that some of the region's worst traffic is on the Interstate 5 corridor south of downtown Portland. Cities like Tualatin, Sherwood and Wilsonville are rapidly growing, both with new residents and new businesses, taxing the area's road network even further.
The area's topography and up-to-now sparse development have made alternative transportation difficult – transit commutes from Sherwood to anywhere except Tigard are lengthy, and in Southwest Portland, streets without sidewalks make active transportation outright dangerous.
In early 2013, leaders from Portland, Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, Lake Oswego and other cities, plus Washington County, TriMet and ODOT among other governments, worked to address transportation and planning issues with the Southwest Corridor Plan. While the main focus was on transit, the group adopted a list of planning, parks, trails and road projects that were shared priorities in the southwest wedge of the region.
As for transit, the leaders on the Southwest Corridor advisory committee voted in July to have Metro do a high-level analysis of high capacity transit from Portland to Tualatin.
Among the issues the analysis will study are cost, public support and feasibility of transit, whether transit should use rapid buses or light rail, whether it should tunnel under OHSU and Hillsdale or wrap around Marquam Hill on Barbur Boulevard, how transit should serve Portland Community College and whether a transit line should end in Tigard or Tualatin.
When the analysis is complete next summer, the Southwest Corridor leaders are scheduled vote on a recommendation to the Metro Council outlining how to proceed with a Southwest Corridor study. If the leaders decide to recommend a transit project, it would move forward to a more comprehensive, years-long federal review called an Environmental Impact Statement.
6. Blue Heron news cascades on down
For years, Metro has looked at how to help the redevelopment of the former Blue Heron mill site near Willamette Falls in Oregon City. In 2013, the regional government decided the best path forward might be to step back.
Metro is still involved in the redevelopment planning process, but Oregon City is taking the lead with a master planning and zoning review of the site through the Rediscover the Falls project.
Meanwhile, the site still sits in the hands of a bankruptcy court trustee, who is trying to sell it and get the most value for creditors of the defunct paper mill. A California retail developer bid on the site in 2013, but later withdrew its offer. In December, Portland-based Langley Development bid $4.9 million for the site, drawing praise from one of the project's biggest proponents, Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette.
The Oregon City Commission is tentatively scheduled to vote on a master plan for the site next summer, but years of refined planning, fundraising and site preparation would proceed any actual construction at Blue Heron.
7. Cemeteries program continues to move forward
It's been a tough few years for Metro's cemeteries program, which has slowly but steadily been re-organizing its department, and the records for the region's 14 historic cemeteries.
That slog toward higher standards kept moving forward in 2013, as Metro began the formal process of figuring out what graves are legally abandoned and attempting to notify grave owners that it believes are long gone.
Hundreds of graves in the Metro cemeteries are believed to be abandoned, many of which were bought in bulk in the 19th century and whose owners, and owners heirs, have since given up on the graves. Still, Metro has to make an effort to notify grave owners that the graves are being declared abandoned, and has heard from about 25 people believing they have legal claim to the 2,500 abandoned graves at Metro's cemeteries.
Metro has spent $140,000 in an effort to resolve those rights.
In December, Metro paid a $50,000 fine to the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board as part of a settlement over allegations of illegal resales and the discovery of human remains at a Metro-owned site in Fairview.
Metro continues to hear from people claiming graves believed to be abandoned, and hopes to finish the process of reclaiming the unused graves some time this year.
8. New councilors step in at Metro
In one of the biggest changes in the last decade, the Metro Council added three new faces in 2013, as councilors Sam Chase, Craig Dirksen and Bob Stacey began respective terms replacing Rex Burkholder, Carl Hosticka and Barbara Roberts. The new faces, with different backgrounds and ideologies, added some new variety to council discussions.
Chase, the council's youngest member, brings a passion for affordable housing issues and has advocated for greenway projects in North Portland. Dirksen, a former Tigard mayor, is the council's first elected Republican in years. Stacey has been a land conservation advocate in Oregon for decades and has taken a more skeptical view of highway projects.
Four councilors are up for re-election in 2014.
9. Metro sports
Continuing with our potpourri look at Metro's 2013 stories, we bring you the wide world of Metro Sports. Metro's Glendoveer Golf Course got new management in 2013, and upgrades are underway at the course.
Meanwhile, a few miles northeast at Blue Lake Regional Park, a major disc golf tournament brought visitors to the Portland region, and featured some local competition.
The region even made an appearance on the global stage – in November, the Oregon Convention Center was awarded the 2016 world indoor track championships, featuring seating for 8,000 fans, a fan fest and other events.
The track championships are scheduled for March 2016.
10. Transportation funding
There's plenty of transportation projects in the plans around the Portland region, and advocates for pedestrians, bikes, freight, drivers, bus riders and others trying to get a piece of the funding pie for their causes.
Meanwhile, that funding pie continues to shrink. The federal gas tax was last raised in 1993, when it was set at an inflation-adjusted 29.7 cents per gallon. But it's never been adjusted for inflation, so the gas tax has been stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon for 20 years. Toward the end of 2013, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., proposed pegging the tax to inflation as an interim step to an overhaul of the program.
Regional leaders are set to discuss Blumenauer's proposal at January meetings of the Metro Policy Advisory Committee and the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation.
Discussions begin about whether to continue the region's construction excise tax.
Metro officials tour the Columbia Ridge Landfill in Gilliam County, where it is a major part of the economy.
Urban growth boundary expanded in Wilsonville for school sites.
Managers begin pondering the future of Metro South as it enters its fourth decade in operation.
Suburban mayors ask for changes in Metro's Active Transportation Plan.
Bike share is coming to Portland thanks in part to a Metro grant; here's how it works on the East Coast.