East Portland Neighbors quiz political hopefuls at Candidates Forum about growth woes

Ballots are out! While the questions were specific here – find out if the answers candidates for mayor and two City Counsel positions were equally forthcoming …

To read the full text – a complete transcription – and see the candidates’ exact answers, please CLICK HERE.

Story by Watford Reed; photos by David F. Ashton
Neglect, development, crowding in housing and unpaved roads were leading topics when 12 candidates for three city offices spoke at a candidates forum April 22 at Fir Crest School, on Southeast 112th Ave. and SE Market St.

The forum was sponsored by 21 neighborhood associations located in eastern and central northern Portland. About 60 men and women braved threatening weather to attend. The threats were fulfilled when a downpour made it hard to hear the speakers.

One theme the meeting was simmering resentment over annexation into Portland, coupled with the feeling that the area gets less than its share of attention.

Mayoral candidates spar

Portland mayoral candidate, Sho Dozono.

Leading off the forum, Sam Adams and Sho Dozono, the leading candidates for mayor, traded barbs in civil tones of voice. Adams criticized a Dozono for suggesting that Parkrose and David Douglas school systems joined Portland public schools. Adams said that Dozono did not ask Parkrose and David Douglas residents what they thought; but he wants to stress neighborhood individuality.

Dozono, wearing his trademark white tennis shoes, answered that he only said school district consolidation was “worth thinking about” and criticized Adams for backing a Couch-Burnside couplet while other activities need money.

Adams said central northeast and east Portland neighborhoods have been “ignored” by the city Council but they are getting money, at last, for transportation improvements.

Portland mayoral candidate, Sam Adams.

Dozono agreed that the area has been “neglected” and has been settled with density of buildings which residents do not like. He promised to send planners to talk with residents before areas are further developed.

Adams called for more police in the area, more money for transportation and said that the eastern area of town has had less than its share of revenues spent on it. He estimated that a fourth of the streets in the area have no sidewalks.

Dozono promised to appoint a liaison on the mayor’s staff to eastern Portland, crack down on gangs and work with neighborhood associations.

In answer to a question, Dozono criticized overcrowding in the area and building too many apartment houses.

“We need to stop destroying the environment for which you came,” Dozono said.

Adams recommended bringing business to an 80-acre tract still unoccupied, “managing growth with services” and “protecting neighborhoods”.

Admas decried and in balance between wage levels and housing costs, as well as a lack of parks.

Dozono called for focus on affordable housing without crowding and urged, “No more skinny houses”.

Ready to speak up are Portland City Council Position #1 candidates Jeff Bissonnette, Mike Fahey, Amanda Fritz, Charles Lewis and Chris Smith get ready to answer neighbor’s questions.

Portland City Council Position #1 Candidates

Portland City Council Position #1 candidate Jeff Bissonnette.

When the time came for candidates who desire Sam Adams seat on the Portland City Council, Jeff Bissonnette said he is for better employment, better environment and has been an advocate for ratepayers on the state’s Citizens Utility Board.

Candidate Mike Fahey said that as state representative, he fostered a measure — which passed — require notification of nearby residents before land is rezoned. When he lived elsewhere, he recalled, he chose to leave his family home because land next door was rezoned to permit a high-rise building.

Portland City Council Position #1 candidate Mike Fahey.

Fahey also said he is “not an advocate” for increasing the city’s population by 170,000 as foreseen by many.

“We need to bring up the quality of life for those who are here now,” he declared it makes no sense he added to move people into already overburdened areas.

Amanda Fritz called herself a “cheerleader for education” and urged better protection of trees and a change in the building code to protect houses and outlaw the building of a high-rise structure next to a small house. “We need to protect houses from developers,” she said.

Portland City Council Position #1 candidate Amanda Fritz.

Fritz also called for attention to “flag lots” — which have a narrow strip easement alongside an existing house and a large house or apartment building is constructed behind it.

Bissonnette promised to have a field office in eastern Portland if he is elected and to order each of his bureaus to name an advocate for the area.

In answer to a question, but said her neighborhood was annexed to Portland in 1959 and many roads are still unpaved.

Portland City Council Position #1 candidate Charles Lewis.

Candidate Charles Lewis said when he started his campaign, he did it by filling in potholes in streets near his house because the city didn’t do it. Louis declared, “it is absolutely outrageous to funnel money into downtown” when the city has hundreds of miles of unpaid roads.

Fahey declared residents should have the right to seek damages for the loss of value of their property when density increases.

He also said he has “no problem” with freezing taxes for elderly residents.

Charles Lewis said the city “needs somebody on the council who cares about the little guy.”  Further, he declared, something is wrong “when the city Council spends money for condominiums Wall Street’s are not paid.”

He told of his efforts to get available city helped to start a small business. In the end he had to do it himself, he recalled

To upgrade employment in the area, Fahey urged apprenticeships taught by unions, community colleges, and the new Ace Academy. He said he thought it was unfortunate that Portland Public Schools turned down the charter school concept for construction trades.

Speaking about increased personal safety, Fritz called for television cameras to monitor all MAX stations. Only a third of all the stations now have them, she said.

Likewise, more police should be assigned to keep outsiders from making trouble at Max stops, she added.

Portland City Council Position #1 candidate Chris Smith.

Chris Smith called for more attention to neighborhood needs and wishes; and, less emphasis on building downtown.

Smith advocated for the “Safe, Sound, and Green Streets initiative”. While he praised the construction of the MAX Green Line down I-205, he added, “Unfortunately, the rail has absorbed a lot of the additional service hour resources for transit.  We need to find another funding source to bring on more bus capacity and I will work very hard on that.”

Speaking about the effects of increased density in outer East Portland, Smith said, “It is better to build entirely new, very dense neighborhoods like the Pearl District, than it is to shoehorn density into existing neighborhoods.”

Portland City Council Position #2 Candidates

After answering questions at the Forum, Portland City Council Position #2 candidates Nick Fish, Ed Garren, Fred Stewart and Jim Middaugh pause for a photo.

Four candidates for Erik Stin’s City Council seat were next to answer the neighbors’ questions regarding poor results of rapid growth in outer East Portland.

Portland City Council Position #2 candidate Nick Fish.

Nick Fish said small businesses should be given a boost. he called for “more flexible zoning” which will “respect the character of an area”. He also said a quota should be set on building permits.

Likewise, Fish said, the police anti-gaining force should be strengthened and more money should be allotted to sidewalks and similar improvements. “I also have serious reservations about spending $400 million on the Burnside-Couch couplet while there are so many unpaid roads in this area,” he went on.

Fish said he will recommend a moratorium on the development of “flag lots” until planners can propose ways to better handle them. He also called for City Council meetings to be held in the neighborhoods.

Portland City Council Position #2 candidate Ed Garren.

Ed Garren said that he fought successfully against Wal-Mart store on Hayden Island. He said he left his Florida home because of such development.

Garren charged, “City Hall is out of touch with the needs of people who work for a living.”  He said Portland is the “Green capital” of the United States and expressed hope that every house will eventually have solar panels for energy.

Portland City Council Position #2 candidate Jim Middaugh.

Jim Middaugh promised “for the first time to use money from downtown here [in central and outer East Portland], where it is needed.”

“We need to enforce existing regulations,” Middaugh commented, to prevent erosion and protect trees.” He said he has experience in protecting natural resources.

Middaugh promised more nonprofit housing and office to help the elderly get the benefits meant for them.

Portland City Council Position #2 candidate Fred Stewart.

In answer to a question, Fred Stewart said he is “not happy with the way we have approached growth and density.”  This issue, he said, should be handled on a citywide basis.”

Stewart proposed a tax on airplane arrivals and departures at Portland international Airport to pay for improving the infrastructure of eastern Portland.

Stewart estimated that a third of Portland folk who could qualify for home loans a year ago cannot qualify now.

Vote on May 20
One candidate for Adams presents seat, John Branum was inadvertently not invited to the forum in time for his participation.

David F. Ashton, the moderator at this forum, estimated that 200,000 people live in Central Northeast, and Outer East Portland. He urged “vote for a candidate of your own choosing, but vote.”

© 2008 East Portland News Service

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