Local candidates make last pitches in Gateway

Read all about them! See what candidates for mayor and city council had to say at their final appearance in outer East Portland together, before the election …

-1 GABA President Fred Sanchez, with Realty Brokers, welcomes guests and participants to their “Candidates Forum”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Gateway Area Business (GABA) hosted candidates for Portland Mayor, Portland City Council and Oregon State Representative District 47 at their regular noontime luncheon at Russellville Park on October 11.

After self-introductions, Bruce McCain again stepped up to serve as the event’s moderator. Going down the dais table, from right to left, each of the six candidates introduced themselves.

Candidates Jefferson Smith, Charlie Hales, Mary Nolan, Amanda Fritz, Jessica Vega Pederson, and Maggie Nelson appear at the October GABA meeting, ready to promote their candidacy.

Bruce McCain of Bruce R. McCain LLC Law asks the candidates to introduce themselves.

Notes: 1. East Portland News does not endorse any candidate. 2. The following text is transcribed as accurately as possible given time restraints, and is edited for brevity and clarity. 3. Click on each candidate’s photo caption to view their website.

Oregon State Representative District 47

Maggie Nelson, Oregon State Representative District 47 (R) candidate.

Maggie Nelson
“I retired as a teacher from St. Therese School. I ran to be on the board of Mt. Hood Community College and currently serve in that capacity.

“We had to meet a 2.1 cut in state funding this year – not an easy task. We also made the Aquatic Center fiscally viable.

I’m running to be a State Representative because, as my career in teaching wound down, I began thinking of ways that I can serve in my community. I decided that because I saw parents, and families, taking such a terrific hardship when I was a teacher, and seeing our economy in so many problems, I decided this is the way that I would like to serve my community.

Jessica Vega Pederson, Oregon State Representative District 47 (D) candidate.

Jessica Vega Peterson
I am I’m running as a Democrat to be State Representative in District 47.

“I’m a third-generation Mexican-American. My grandparents came to this country to have a better future for their children. My grandfather was actually able to raise his nine children with an eighth-grade education, through hard work.

“I also learned about becoming active in my community from my family. My grandfather was a Democrat [party] block captain, and my mother was one of the cofounders of Concerned Latinos of East Chicago. I got involved in high school Latino organizations and in student government.

“When my husband and I were looking for a place to live, we wanted to find a neighborhood that had a house we can afford, and lots of families, and lots of diversity.  We found that in East Portland, and I’m really proud to call it home.  But it’s an area that has a lot of challenges.

“I decided to run for office, after being involved on the neighborhood association level, on the board of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association with Fred [Sanchez] and Linda [Robinson] – and a member of the East Portland Action Plan.

“I wanted to serve at the State level because I get very angry at driving around and seeing all the businesses that were empty, all of the houses that were graffitied because they are bank-owned homes and abandoned.

“I’m really concerned about my children going into David Douglas Schools, having overcrowded classrooms, and underfunded education. That’s not right. I want to do something about that. I would use my business experience in the community to make sure we have somebody who is advocating very strongly for East Portland so we get the attention and resources than we deserve.

Portland City Council

Portland City Commissioner candidate Amanda Fritz (Incumbent/Nonpartisan).

Amanda Fritz
“I learned to stand up when I speak, when I was on strike with our Oregon Nurses Association and spoke out on issues 10 years ago to become a voice for people who didn’t have the opportunity to stand up and speak out.

“I am a member of the Portland City Council; elected in 2008. But, I’ve been a GABA member since 2006. I received the Gateway Area Business Association “Citizen of the Year Award” a year ago September – one of my most cherished possessions, and it’s proudly displayed in my office at City Hall.

“I’ve attended more than 1,000 different events in my first two years in office. My parents live at Cherrywood Village, which is another reason I come here often. But I am a member of the Parkrose and Midway business associations, as well. I support them with my time and my own money – as well as the East Portland Action Plan and the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiatives. I’ve supported all the things we’ve been doing together, to make outer East Portland absolutely part of City government.

“Sometimes I think people here feel for gotten, neglected. Thanks to your good work that is no longer the case.

“I am originally from England, in case you’re wondering where my strange accent is from. We came here 26 years ago, having chosen Portland to be the best place to live and raise a family – and it certainly has been for us.

“I got involved in neighborhood politics and neighborhood community organizing in the early 1990s and very quickly realized that the challenges of my neighborhood, in deep Southwest Portland, are very similar to those in outer East Portland. My neighborhood was annexed in 1979, and has similar problem with lack of paved streets, sidewalks and services. I got to know Linda Robinson, East Portland community parks activist, working across town – and in doing so, recognizing that we are, really ‘all in this together’.

“That is been my passion – serving you on Portland City Council. I’d really appreciate having the opportunity to continue serving you.”

Portland City Commissioner candidate Mary Nolan (Challenger/Nonpartisan).

Mary Nolan
“Thank you for having us and thanks for attending. It’s great to see people engaged enough to learn more about their community, and learn more about the options.

“My name is Mary Nolan and I am an Oregon State Representative. [McCain] did not mention that I am also a small business owner.  I started a business and built [it up to] about 10 employees. I know what it is like to go through to have the responsibility to have 10 people, 10 families, counting on you for their mortgage payment or the rent payment – for the money to put shoes on their kids feet, pay for school programs, pay for food. Having that responsibility gives me a different way of thinking that I would like to bring to City Council.

“Portland has some wonderful, wonderful things about it. I’ve heard people talk about making choices to live here in Portland. We all choose to live here, whether we were born here or came here – we choose to stay here. But I don’t have to tell you the Portland also faces some really tough challenges.

“Some of those challenges are made unnecessarily more difficult, and some of our neighborhoods, with policies that neglect different neighborhoods, or actually are hostile to parts of town because of preferences or priorities for closer-in and more established neighborhoods. I think we need to make conscious decisions – not just study them – that actually make changes. They are changes in the outcomes for the neighborhoods, all over Portland.

“I have a track record in business as I mentioned, in the city-service management, in civic and nonprofit leadership, and in the legislature of bringing together people who disagree on important issues.  And, creating an atmosphere of trust, and a sense of urgency, to help those people work together to solve problems that actually make a difference in peoples lives and not just in studies.

“So, I’ve worked with groups who disagree with each other.  Business and labor, homeowners and builders, environmentalists and manufacturers, and even though they disagree with each other, and sometimes they disagree with me – they find some common ground in me, as someone who can facilitate real change and real solutions.  I create trust, and as I said, a sense of urgency.

“And I measure my success at all the things I do, and I would encourage you to judge me as well, but what results I achieve, to help improve lives, and how many peoples lives are improved because of actions that I’ve taken, and results I have delivered.

Portland City Mayor

Portland City Mayoral candidate Charlie Hales (Nonpartisan).

Charlie Hales
I’m Charlie Hales and I’m running for mayor.  I submit to you that there are a couple of things you should look for in our next mayor.

“First, it’s having someone who will be mayor of the whole city, but who will pay attention to the special needs and opportunities here in East Portland, and here in Gateway.  And, not just a person who talks what should happen, but who has a record of making things happen, and shows how they can accomplish things.

“In my case, you can look around and see the evidence.  You can go in the doors of the East Portland Community Center, which I helped work out the location for with the David Douglas School District – and get construction funded with the first-ever parks bond measure.

“You can walk around John Luby Park, or Lincoln Park, Knott Park or Ed Benedict Park and see that I am able to bring people together and get things done.  You can ride MAX Light Rail to Portland Airport because I, working effectively with partners, got it done 10 years ahead of schedule and on budget. In fact it was built in less time that they’ve been planning the Columbia River Crossing.

“And, you can see East Precinct, building partnerships with the Police Bureau to not only get the building built, but also further the ‘spirit of community policing’.

“I’m looking ahead at some things that I think are key priorities, and things that I can help make happen.

“One is, done through partnership; I think there are some key projects here than I can focus on, like the Gateway Education Center. I’ve got a record of being able to put together those kinds of partnerships between business, nonprofit and multiple government agencies. Another is Gateway Green, another park project that will have a landmark effect on Gateway, and provides recreational opportunities that a lot of people want – not just in East Portland.

“The second thing you will get for me is good management of the City’s bureaus and functions. One in particular is the permit process. I made some improvements in the City’s permit process when I had part of the responsibility for managing it before; putting in place the Facilities Permit Program, that allows you to have a tenant improvement permits pretty easily.  And also, the Combination Inspection Program that sends a single inspector to your kitchen when it’s being remodeled, rather than four inspectors – which was the case before that reform.

“There is more to do. I want to re-examine not only the permit process itself, and make it ‘paperless’, like in other cities – Salt Lake City is my favorite example. But also, examine very high fees, especially the Systems Development Charges that cost small businesses so much, and make it so hard for them to expand.

“And finally, you’ll see me prioritize public services, like public safety.  We need more police officers on the street in order to actually do community policing.  I think the folks at East Precinct are doing a great job.  But, doing a ride along with the Gang Enforcement Team, we see that they’re coming to backup officers on call in outer East Portland because it’s not enough officers to patrol. This shows me that we need to do a better job of making that ideal of community policing real in this precinct, and a lot of others.

“So, that combination of the ability to bring people together and get things done, the ability to manage the city, and the ability to prioritize basic services – are what you should expect to see me focus on, if you select me as mayor.

Portland City Mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith (Nonpartisan).

Jefferson Smith
“I’m Jefferson Smith and I’m running for mayor. I live pretty close to here. I think this is my ninth or 10th visit to Russellville. Thanks a lot for having us.

“I was born here, went to Grant [High School]; my wife went to Reynolds, her family went to David Douglas schools. I’m honored and proud to serve in the legislature in this district. Let me say a little bit about why I’m running.

“I was proud to work with Representative [Mary] Nolan and others to do some things that I think we are collectively really proud of. Some of things I worked on I’m also really proud of. But I would come home on weekends and evenings during the session, when I could, and hear from constituents, and talk to my wife, and wonder if I was doing a darned thing near enough to help the people who sent me there.

“I worked on state-wide water policy, and I would come home and hear about 60 miles of unpaved roads. I would work on state-wide budget transparency, and come home and hear about Gateway Green and the lack of parks facilities in East Portland. We worked with local partners to try to start reforming practices with respect to human trafficking – and come home and her about the need for an economic development plan [that isn’t just] other strip clubs in strip malls.

“About 1.5% of the stimulus dollars being spent in this area, that [comprises] about 27% of the city – and only 3.3% of the transportation dollars. Twenty years of underinvestment in this part of town, except for pushing a bunch of infill housing, without providing the parks, sidewalks and streets.

“When I was at Grant and Katie was at Reynolds, David Douglas had, what, a 30 to 50% reduced price lunch. When I started running [for office] it was 73%. When I started running for mayor it was 80% now is 84%.  Maintain that trajectory, which is a trajectory that this portion of town has been on for the last 20 years, and that just doesn’t impact East Portland. It impacts the whole city.

“We need to build political power here, and we need to apply focused objectives. I hear this somewhat repeatedly, so I trust what we’ve done.

“But I don’t trust with the City has done in East Portland. I’m not prepared to empower that trajectory to continue her for another four, eight, or 20 years.  I think we need some change.

“What do we do?  What I try to say, in each house party, is ‘getting the city working better for more people’.  Let me say a little bit more about each.

“First, thinking about what’s a Portland-worthy economic plan, I disagree with Charlie that the primary thing that we should do, is [provide] ‘developer giveaways’, because that will help develop projects. I think we need to look a little more bottom-up and yes – support small businesses – but also figure out how do we get road fees or things to pay for parks, roads, sewers, streets, and water – because I’ve seen what happens to neighbors, and neighborhoods, without things like these.

“How do we invest in things like the Gateway Education Center?  I’m proud to hear that multiple people here are working on that issue. What we do for workforce development?  ACE Academy, expanding programs to help young people who don’t have tuition, to go to Pomona, or maybe even the University of Oregon, to have a ‘route to the middle class’. That’s something a mayor can do.

“[Regarding] Getting the city working better –

“One of the thing that is true about our part of town is that it has had less sense of access, and in some respects, less ‘genuine access’ to the City.  One thing we can do about that is, yes, move around City Council meetings, we can invest in and continue support the East Portland Action Plan.  We also want a single, three-digit telephone number for all nonemergency telephone calls.  Instead of 130 public numbers, 13 hotlines, and 17 digit number that you can call to tell you all of the rest of the numbers. I’d like to try to make citizen service more accessible.

“I also like to get the City working for the whole city, not just limited to East Portland. It’s got to include the whole city.  But if we allow for the trajectory that our part of town has had over the last couple of decades, it will impact the whole city.

“We’ve never had a mayor from this part of town; it shows. I’m hoping that we will have a chance to continue the conversation.”

Questions and Answers

Q “Do we need the Columbia River Crossing?”

A Jefferson Smith
“We don’t need it, certainly not anything close to what is planned.  The argument in favor of it is to improve seismic safety, freight mobility – and at one-time, they dabbled with an argument that is going to help with emissions because it’s going to reduce idling – they said that argument aside for now.

“The argument they don’t like to talk about as much is that folks in the Clark County side that wants to boost the throughput so they can build a bunch more mansions, a baseball stadium maybe, and another casino, and help local interstate vehicle transit.

“There are a couple of distinctions in the race: one is that I have not promised to get that project started in the first year of my administration.  I do not think that is a responsible promise.  I think that getting that done would require cleaving fire too closely to the current plan.

A Charlie Hales
“I spent the last 20 years in one capacity or another – the last 10 years the private sector – getting transportation projects done. Yes, we can get a slimmed-down version of the Columbia River Crossing began within a year.  There’s nothing impossible about that.

“If you want to look at a couple bridges that get quickly and well, the Cooper River Bridge and the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge … [it] shows we still know how to build things in this country know how to get them done.

“Unfortunately not in this case – they’ve spent $150 million planning, so far. We need to get out of the planning and in the construction. I believe that they can slim the project down and get it in construction within a year.”

Q “What about the decision to fluoridate Portland’s drinking water?”

[All six candidates took considerable time to say they were displeased at the process followed by the Portland City Council regarding fluoridating Portland’s water system.

Other than Maggie Nelson, all of the candidates agreed that it was a good idea to fluoridate Portland’s Water.]

Mary Nolan speaks on the decision to fluoridate Portland’s drinking water.

A Mary Dolan said, in part, “I don’t like that process at all, and I would not want to engage in that if I were on the City Council.

“But my role and that would start well before the hearing, and having a relationship with the colleagues on the council for a more on a respectful and authentic public process.”

Amanda Fritz speaks on the decision to fluoridate Portland’s drinking water

A Amanda Fritz pointed out, in response, “I was out of the country, and my way to Amsterdam to attend my niece’s wedding on August 9 when the story broke.  The time when it returned 10 days later, three of colleagues on the council, including Representative Nolan, had already declared their support for fluoride.

“That is not how we do things in Portland. That created a storm – a righteous storm – of protest that the decision was made before the public hearing. I did not decide, until after we have the public hearing. That has been a trademark of my tenure on the Portland City Council.”

 

QHow, specifically, will you support funding of outer East Portland economic development or parks development.”

A Amanda Fritz noted that she worked to make sure that the East Portland Action Plan was funded and not cut from the budget.

“Many times I’ve asked, ‘What about East Portland?’. But now, I think all of us on the City Council have now grasped the concept of equity. I, along with the mayor, are now using ‘geographic budgeting’ that maps how money is spent.  If you don’t have the data, you can’t look forward to solutions. I am committed to looking for to the data and continuing to fund East Portland, including Commissioner Nick Fish’s E-205 plants to get more equalized parks. I will continue to work on that.”

A Mary Nolan restated that she measures her accomplishments by “the number of people’s lives that are improved by the actions that I’ve been able to influence or achieve.”

Nolan said she worked in the State legislature as “one of the lead negotiators” that created the Healthy Kids Program, helping “secure hundreds of millions of dollars in funding” statewide, giving “6,000 kids in East Portland” health insurance. She also negotiated the funding for assisted living programs, for senior citizens, and the disabled citizens, Nolan continued, “Nearly 500 of them here in East Portland, get reliable care they can count on”.

Charlie Hales says how he’ll support outer East Portland economically.

A Charlie Hales said he’d “carefully reexamine the Portland Development Commission’s expansion of Urban Renewal Areas. “We need to start ramping down the 14.3% of the city that is locked up in urban renewal areas so there is more capacity to make things like the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative work.”

About parks, Hales added he wants to put together a Parks bond measure that “would continue at the current bond, which expires in two years, making no net increase in property taxes.”

Jefferson Smith says how he’ll support outer East Portland economically.

A Jefferson Smith restated he was “proud to support” the East Portland Action Plan. And, “Budget mapping”: Heck yes. ACE Academy, workforce education looking for more opportunities for young people. I’d improve roads, absolutely agree. Mercy Corps Northwest is working on the land trust model in the Lents neighborhood; that should be expanded and replicated. Transportation: I am not campaigning to bring a streetcar down Foster or Powell.  Not because I don’t like the idea of expanding infrastructure; prioritize bus rapid transit and expanded bus service as we’ve invested a streetcar exclusive in the central city.”

Q “What about the $35 per-person ‘head tax’ to support arts in Portland schools?”

Mayoral candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales agreed that they were in favor of the tax, but didn’t like how it was structured.

Portland City Commissioner candidate Mary Nolan called the measure “fatally flawed”, but thinks school arts programs need support. “It charges the same amount for a couple living on Social Security, as a family making $1 million a year and I think that’s wrong.”

Portland City Commissioner candidate Amanda Fritz said, “Our State Government has failed to properly fund schools; I voted to refer it (to taxpayers); I will vote for the tax.

Oregon House District 47 candidate Jessica Vega Pederson said, “I do not like the idea of the flat tax, but I agree that we need funding for arts, so I will be supporting it.”

Oregon House District 47 candidate Maggie Nelson said, “I oppose it.  I won’t vote for it.”

Meet with GABA folks …
The Gateway Area Business Association meets again on November 8, from 11:45 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at Russellville Park, West Building, 23 SE 103rd Avenue. The featured speaker will be Jean demister from Human Solutions and Justin Douglas and Trang Lam from Portland Development Commission.

For more information, see GABA’s new website: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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