Portland City Council contenders speak out in Gateway

One local political race is still in progress this summer – Fritz and Lewis are each hoping to win the runoff for Portland City Commissioner Seat #1 in November’s election. Read what they had to say this week in Gateway …

Story by Watford Reed and David F. Ashton, photos by David F. Ashton
Portlanders know that Sam Adams will take over the Mayor’s Office in January, and that Nick Fish decisively won the Portland City Council seat vacated by the early retirement of Erik Sten.

But one race remains in city government – for Portland City Council Seat #1, currently held by Mayor-elect Sam Adams.

Fritz and Lewis in runoff race
Neighborhood control and interaction were the themes of both candidates, when Amanda Fritz and Charles Lewis stood to seek votes at a meeting in Gateway on July 10, as their runoff race begins.

Formally asked the same sets of questions, the two finalists showed more agreement than dispute as they spoke before the 40 people present at the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA) meeting.

Portland City Counsel Seat 1 Candidate Amanda Fritz

Fritz: Provide basic services
Fritz, a registered nurse, began by saying she won every precinct east of 82nd Avenue in the primary election for the city council seat.

In her opening statement, Fritz said, “I’m running to provide basic services for all 95 neighborhood associations. In the runoff, you’ll hear me talking a lot about all 35 business districts as well. We need to pay attention to both the business districts and the neighborhood associations – something I am very committed to doing.”

As the economy gets tighter, Fritz said, government needs to use taxpayer money more wisely. “I will make sure we are spending wisely. We need to remember that it comes from taxpayers – it’s not ‘fun money’ for politicians to spend as they wish.”

The first step, Fritz said, is to make sure the city is allocating funds to the core services — like “public safety, streets and infrastructure, and economic development.”

Portland City Counsel Seat 1 Candidate Charles Lewis

Lewis: Necessity of ‘affordable housing’
Lewis, who is a candidate for public office for the first time, started off by complementing his opponent on her ability and dedication.

He stated his credentials, including having earned a Masters degree in Public Policy, adding that he and his family are 30-year residents of the Gateway area. Lewis illustrated his ability and business acumen by recounting how he started Ethos Music Center with three volunteer helpers – and grew it to an organization with 78 employees.

“Affordable housing is absolutely critical, fairly distributed,” Lewis campaigned. “It is unfairly distributed into some neighborhoods. In the Hillsdale neighborhood they want more affordable housing; in some areas of outer Southeast Portland there’s too much affordable housing.”

Shifts in housing patterns affect school systems, he said; “Inner city schools are running at quarter capacity while outer East Portland districts are burgeoning at the seams. We need to do something to allow people to live and work in the same neighborhood, and go to school.”

Questions and Answers
Both candidates interjected their personal qualifications into their answers; we’ve edited the responses below for brevity.

Q: Which bureau would you like to have assigned to you — and what would you do differently with it?

Lewis: The Bureau of Housing and Community Development. Affordable housing, appropriately distributed, is absolutely critical to everything we do.

Fritz: The Office of Neighborhood Involvement. If I am assigned that bureau, I’ll make sure we’re asking the right questions at the right time to best serve all of our communities.

Q: How do you feel about having specific and different zoning codes and land use reviews for each neighborhood or community?

Candidate Amanda Fritz.

Fritz: Yes. There should be different zoning codes in different areas. We need to involve the community, businesses, and neighbors in setting [the codes] so we keep Portland ‘that special place’ with 95 distinct neighborhoods and 35 business districts, each with their own distinct character.

Candidate Charles Lewis.

Lewis: Neighborhoods are, and should be, different; we should celebrate those differences.  The cookie-cutter approach does not make sense for every single urban renewal area [such as Gateway]. We need to gain the input of community leaders as we move forward, to make sure that [zoning] is the right fit in every community.”

Q: Do you support increased density in Gateway?  Why or why not?

Lewis: Density does not make sense in every community. The ’20 minute community’ [being discussed in the Portland Plan] – where you can walk and get everything you need within 20 minutes of your home – makes economic sense, it makes environmental sense, and I think it makes sense for our community.

Fritz: We need to be careful, as Gateway expands, so that existing businesses are supported and not squeezed out by exorbitant rents. Whether [residents are] walking or going by light rail, we need to make sure there is transportation for people to get to where they want to go – realizing that not everyone is going to walk [to their destinations].

Q: Are you in favor of “more affordable housing” in Gateway that is off the tax rolls [subsidized]?  Please explain!

Fritz: We have a lot of affordable housing here. The question tax subsidies and affordable housing is complex. We want to make sure that people who have lived here for generations, and their children, can afford to buy homes here in outer East Portland. We also want to make sure that we have higher-end housing available [to house people who can afford] to support businesses.

Lewis: We have a heck of a lot out here right now. I’d like to see more affordable housing in the South Waterfront and Pearl District. We need to recognize that people need to be able to work and live in the same place; it’s going to be a focus of mine. The 35% set-aside in the urban renewal areas [for affordable housing] could be better used by the PDC to help businesses.

Q: How will you help grow existing businesses, bring in new business – and provide economic development – to Gateway?

Lewis: We are in an urban renewal area. We’ve got the funds from PDC we can direct toward business development. It’s an incredibly powerful tool.  We need to focus on small to medium-size businesses.  I think too often the urban renewal money is used for humongous projects that benefit a very few wealthy people.

Portland City Counsel Seat 1 Candidate Amanda Fritz.

Fritz: Part of what I very much enjoy [about campaigning] is coming here [and experiencing a] sense of community: Parades, community events, and concerts in the park. I’ll be a cheerleader for Gateway. Grants for neighborhood business associations are also worthwhile; I’ll advocate for funding those grants.”

In the wrap-up statements, Fritz told how her years of community service – working with city and county governmental agencies, and being on the Portland Planning Commission for many years – make her uniquely qualified for the position.

Portland City Counsel Seat 1 Candidate Charles Lewis.

Lewis restated his business experience – starting, operating, and growing an organization in the City of Portland. He also stressed that, because he lives in outer East Portland’s Cully neighborhood, would give better geographic representation on the Portland City Council.

Timothy Mahar, who won a place in the Ambassadors of Music to seven European countries next year, received a $250 scholarship from GABA to be put toward his trip.

Gateway grant winner entertains
As a prelude to this political debate, GABA members heard music by Timothy Mahar, who won a place in the Ambassadors of Music to seven European countries next year.

Mahar, who will be a senior at David Douglas High School, plays the guitar and sang gospel and Johnny Cash songs.  He won a $250 scholarship from the Association, to be put toward the $6,000 cost of the trip next year.

He explained that the Oregon Ambassadors of Music are an honor band and choir, made up of top-notch students chosen by music teachers.  They will visit several countries in 16 days and perform in London and Paris, and sites in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, as well as other countries.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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