Parkrose businesspeople raise scholarship funds, meet mayoral candidates

You’ll be amazed at the amount of pledges to the Parkrose Business Foundation were made at their last meeting! And, here’s a last look at the leading Portland mayoral candidates – talking about outer East Portland …

Judy Kennedy of Pacific Northwest Federal Credit Union and Laurie Larsen of Compaction and Recycling Equipment check in the Parkrose Business Association members and guests at the April meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Members and guests of the Parkrose Business Association were directed to the ballroom at the Holiday Inn Airport & Convention Center for the April 19 meeting.

About 60 folks made their way through the buffet line, and preparing to hear from three Portland mayoral candidates.

PBA’s president, David Ableidinger of Parkrose Hardware, welcomes attendees to the meeting.

Gordon Boorse of Compaction and Recycling Equipment conducts the group’s annual fundraising pledge drive — raising money for the organization’s Scholarship Fund.

Not shy to step up and ask, Gordon Boorse came to the front and began soliciting for donations and pledges to the Parkrose Business Foundation Scholarship Fund, which provides $1,000 scholarships to worthy graduating Parkrose High School seniors.

Hands shot up, and members called out their pledges so quickly, it was difficult for PBA Treasurer Marsha Grabinger to keep up with recording the gifts.

Wayne Stoll and Gale Bash present a pledge $1,000 “check” to Gordon Boorse, kicking off the fundraising session.

On behalf of Pacific Northwest Federal Credit Union, Judy Kennedy pledges $1,000 to the Parkrose Business Foundation’s Scholarship Fund.

In addition to the pledges depicted above, representatives of ABC Sustainable Solutions, American Sani-Can, Bob Brown Tire Center, Compaction and Recycling Equipment, Davy Tree Expert Company, NW Pest Control, Hookset Automotive, Jason Zwick State Farm Insurance, Dr. Gray from Parkrose School District, Mark Eves Attorney PC, Marsha and Brent Grabinger, Parkrose Hardware, Rossi Farms, Russellville Grange, and Century Associates, each promised a contribution.

In about nine minutes, Boorse obtained $4,250 in pledged contributions.

David F. Ashton of East Portland News convenes the Parkrose Portland Mayoral Forum. Marsha Grabinger photo

Portland Mayoral candidates Charlie Hales, Eileen Brady, and Jefferson Smith were invited to speak, and answer questions put to them by members of the PBA.

Mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith introduces himself.

“I’m Jefferson Smith and I’m running for Mayor. This is my hometown. I represent [District 47 part of] Portland in the State House. I grew up in Irvington; my wife grew up out here.

“If elected, I will be the first Mayor of the City elected east of 82nd Avenue.

“I think I can get our city working again.  I’m trying to attract out-of-state businesses, as well as home-grown businesses.

“I helped pass a [State] ‘budget transparency’ measure, putting the budget online. I think there are ways we can save money, by spending money on key priorities. And, I’m running for Mayor because we need to make Portland serve all of its people.”

Smith noted that outer East Portland school districts have grown in size. “And, more children are on free or reduced cost lunches.

“East Portland has seen a bunch of promises, followed by a bunch of neglect. Funds available for schools and transportation projects have not been focused on East Portland. I want to change the trajectory of this community

“Talking of East Portland is an easy thing to do on the campaign trail.  I want a change the trajectory of this community by changing the power dynamic in City Hall.”

Mayoral candidate Eileen Brady introduces herself.

Eileen Brady began by saying she enjoyed the Parkrose Centennial parade, and had been “principal for a day” at Parkrose Middle School last year.

“I’m a hands-on leader; I want to be out in the community. What I’ve been out doing during the campaign, I will be doing during my administration.

“I love Portland, it’s a great place to live, but it’s a really tough place to live or earn a living.

“We have to commit to realizing that if we want a livable city, memorable parks, a transit system, we’ll have to build the economic infrastructure to support that.  That means – neighborhood-based this is area is – recruiting midsize businesses, and adding a larger-sized businesses to the community, so we can support all the things we hold dear, including schools.”

Brady clicked off her organization and leadership roles: Natures, New Seasons Market, Eco-trust, Zenger Farm; and currently she is the board chair of the green coupon guide called the “Chinook Book”.

“I spent many years building organizations to prove you can have a sustainable city, and still build a stronger job base. There’s a myth here that you can’t have both. But to do it you need to set priorities.”

“My four key priorities are: Job development, transforming the public safety system, building a ‘21st Century school system’, and providing responsible, affordable city services to businesses and families.

Mayoral candidate Charley Hales introduces himself.

Charlie Hales began, “I’m running for Mayor because our city needs leadership. Leadership that can actually get things done in City Hall, not just talk about what should be done.

“My opponents bring strong resumes to this contest, one from the private sector and one from the public sector. In my case, I spent 20 years in the private sector, and ten years working in our weird, and sometimes dysfunctional form of city government, getting things done, like airport light rail.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done for schools. I was in the leadership team with Mayor Vera Katz – I was the one [on the City Council] who insisted that [city] funding should go to all school districts, not just Portland Public Schools.

“The city can do more to be a better partner in business. We need to look at systems development charges, to make it easier to start projects. We need to look at our water and sewer rates, and make sure we’re spending the money on water and sewer.

“Let’s be a great partner for public schools. Let’s attend to basic services. With only half the budget, we paved five times the streets, when I was on City Council.

“The people want us to attend to basic services.  Let’s get the basics right, first.”

Candidates quizzed about PDOT spending
The first of three questions submitted by members of the PBA to all three candidaters was, “While reportedly spending $900,000 to build 13.5 miles of bike routes, $665,000 to add 8 permanent employees to oversee streetcars, $200,000 for Rose Festival preparation work, and  giving a $15,000 sponsorship of “Rail-Volution” in Los Angeles – the Portland Transportation Bureau has put off plans to overhaul deteriorating roads in its 5,000 mile system until at least 2017. As Mayor, do you plan to reverse this policy by spending more on road repair – throughout the City – before 2017? If not, why not?

Eileen Brady replied: “It’s inconceivable we have a Transportation Bureau that’s announced that we are not going to pave key roads over the next several years. What is the Transportation Bureau actually for?  We have to focus more on maintenance and safety.  My father said that 80% of life is maintenance.  We have too much money committed to too many ‘shiny projects’ without having a maintenance fund.

“We have not committed to building the capital structure to actually maintain the capital structure.  We will commit to building a capital base budget that should have been done 10 or 15 years ago.  If we had, we perhaps would now have more sidewalks paved and roads paved in East Portland.  We commit to projects we can’t operate.  We have a streetcar that’s going on the east side of the river – we built that, but we have not budgeted for the operating costs.  We’re going to spend between a million and three million operating the streetcar because we haven’t planned for that cost.

“What I bring to this race is a business orientation. We have got to be able to balance the books. We can’t bet on new projects, with the build in operating costs, maintenance costs – and who have to work for these lovable programs out in East Portland. In East Portland you have a legitimate complaint about not getting services from the city.  One of the great things about this race is that we are all talking about East Portland.”

Charlie Hales replied: “I was very involved in the MAX Airport light rail line, and I’m really proud of it. It’s given us a better city. Part of the payoff is building the Cascade Station development, that brought jobs and prosperity.

“There is an agreement here [among these candidates] that maintenance has to be ‘job one’. It’s a matter of setting priorities, and not getting sidetracked by projects, and spending transportation money on things that have nothing to do with transportation.

“Secondly, yes, there are 60 miles of unpaved streets in Portland, but not just in East Portland. The city has focusing on using a ‘dysfunctional tool’ – Local Improvement Districts – to get these roads built. Using only LIDs, the roads will be paved in about 400 years; very few people can afford to build their own street after the fact.

“We need to dump that idea, and establish a long-term capital program. With careful budget management, it will probably take 20 years to get our streets paved.  It needs to be built into the base budget, [we must] stick to it, and we shouldn’t be spending enterprise funds on things that should be paid for by, or compete for, the general fund.”

Jefferson Smith replied: “Agreed, maintenance first; especially the kind that, not done, is more expensive going forward.  Let’s have some perspective on reality.

“It’s not just [Mayor] Sam Adams, with whom I’ve had [some] pretty public debates, and disagreements with, about resource allocation, and failure to provide adequate resources across the city.

“It isn’t Sam Adams’ fault, for example – I was one of the few Democrats in the State House to vote against a tax gas increase – nor is it his fault that those funds projected to provide $300 million are down to $160 million. We have to find ways to save money. It’s not only being careful about big projects, when the distinctions of the races applying the discipline.”

Smith said he was against the Columbia River Crossing, the Portland Eco-Building – but he is looking for other ways to save money to be able to build roads more cheaply. “We have to analyze it to find ways to save money.

“Gas tax revenues are not keeping up with transportation needs – seniors are driving less, for example. Part of it is seeing the whole picture. Just about every election, people come around and talk about East Portland. Once they get elected, they’re thinking more about downtown businesses, and less about Parkrose businesses. We need to make sure that the resources are distributed throughout the city.”

Candidates questioned about water and sewer bills
The second question put to all of the candidates was, “It seems that our water and sewer bills have become the ‘new property tax’. Continuing rate increases place both business- owners and residents in financial jeopardy. What will you do to reduce the amount of the water/sewer rates? If not, why not?

Charlie Hales responded: Clearly we’ve got to go over the rates, line by line. This has not been done effectively in the last several years, across the board, in the City budget. Mayor Katz, who endorsed me, was the most effective ‘budgeting mayor’ that we’ve had.

“First, we go to the line items, and look at every cost. We need to make sure the capital program is reasonable, and will keep this system, that’s been around for a hundred years, around for many more.

“Another big issue for the City is, putting it politely, we have frayed relationships with our suburban neighbors. Some of them buy water from us, in very large wholesale quantities. We need to repair relationships with water districts who buy water from us – if we don’t, we’ll have another ‘rate shock’ coming.

“On the sewer side, we have this very large Combined Sewer obligation – about $1.4 billion – and we’ll be paying that [off] for some time.

“Another issue we need to look at very carefully is cleaning up the Portland harbor. Portland will have to take on some of that cost – and we need to make sure it doesn’t cause another rate shock.

“Finally, we need to make sure we’re spending money appropriately.  We should not use Water Bureau money to build the Rose Festival headquarters, for example.”

Jefferson Smith responded: “Some of it is what I call ‘operational discipline’.  A former Water Bureau employee said the city aims for a staff-to-management ratio of six to one.  In the Water Bureau, it’s about three to one. We can save real money by reducing the management levels.

“On the House floor, I set an aspirational level of staff-to-management at eleven to one. We should do a similar thing in the city.

“I think we can improve rate review. I think there should be electoral accountability – throw people out of office if they raise your rates without a good reason for it.

“Third, I think we need to have line-by-line budget attention, as Charlie said. I’ve served on committees to oversee the budget of the Secretary of State and Treasurer’s offices.  I’ve had to find ways of cutting budgets and saving money over the last four years.  That’s something we’ve got to do.

“Let me say something else.  Sometimes we have to say no to the federal government.  Right now, the federal government is asking us to pay much money on treatment plants to clean up Cryptosporidium that we don’t have.  Leveraging relationships with state partners both in agencies and legislatures to make sure we get off the hook for having to pay for things we shouldn’t have to pay for is something Mayors have to have the willingness to do.”

Eileen Brady responded: “As I mentioned before, I sat on an independent review panel deciding whether not to cover our water reservoirs. Don’t judge me when I say, judge me what I did – I sat on those boards.

“In 2004, when we’re looking at a 9/11 terrorist fear factor, it was a bold and radical thing to sit on a panel, build a majority who recommended that the City overturn this decision to cover the reservoirs. We did it then. And, I actually helped work to make sure that we got the treatment plant that we did have.  Now are still facing covering the reservoirs.

“Let me tell you something: I would not have voted for the rate increase that went through last year. It included preparations for covering the reservoirs. They were anticipating that. I would have taken the risk they will be able to move through the EPA process, and get away from the whole thing.

“Lastly – you think rates are bad now? The Superfund Harbor Clean up is yet to come to everyone’s attention. It’s potentially a $500 million bill.  It is probably going to be recommended to sit on the sewer rates side of the recommendation.

“The city has not stepped up and provided the leadership to become part of this conversation.  They stayed in the background.  We have to provide leadership, work with the industry, environmentalists, and the Port, so we can actually have the most cost-effective approach, with community consensus.  I have built unusual coalitions for many years.  I am not afraid of big complex issues. In fact, I will assign this project to one of the Commissioners.”

Candidates speak on improving Parkrose business
The last question posed to all three was, “When elected Mayor of Portland, what will you do – specifically – to improve the business atmosphere in Parkrose?”

Jefferson Smith responded: “Several things. One of the most important things we have to do is make sure resource distribution is done smartly.  Occasionally there are state or federal dollars to distribute.  Often they are City dollars. We have to make sure that we’re deploying these resources fairly; making sure that we were doing mapping and analysis. It’s more than dollar for dollar, but also understanding that investment in a park or a road is different than investment in a Gateway Violence Shelter or in a methadone clinic.  We have to make sure we’re building livable neighborhoods and providing economic diversity.

“We don’t want to have ‘economic segregation’ – segregating poverty in one section of the City, which is essentially what the City’s been doing for the last 25 years. That’s the most important thing we can do to improve the business climate in this neighborhood, for the neighbors I already represent currently in the legislature.  We need not only jobs here – we need customers.  We need an economic development plan that goes beyond topless clubs and strip malls.

“Secondly, we can take a lesson from other cities, from they have done, and that’s to help homegrown businesses – not only by providing tax breaks to attract out-of-state businesses, but by helping homegrown businesses move through the permitting process.  It’s making sure there we’re not only thinking about the tax breaks downtown businesses are asking for, but thinking about the basic needs of the whole city, including this part of town.

“Third, we need to think about the projects than we do.  This means neighborhood-scale investments. I’m a supporter of doing small reasonable things, like helping develop Lily Market.  Helping smaller businesses get what they need to grow; we need those neighborhood-scale projects to grow.”

Eileen Brady responded: “I have committed to say that, in my office, we will have an East Portland liaison. This person will be able to work with, and be available to, anyone in East Portland – specifically to help drive these programs to the City.

“Secondly, I’m a businessperson. I can read a profit and loss statement, and a balance sheet, and I know what a pro forma is. I will be recruiting businesses to the city every week. I’ll be on the phone, or on a plane if necessary; one of my top priorities will be business recruitment. But what’s important here, is really understanding what I call ‘job math’.

“There are different kinds of jobs that ‘create multipliers’ in communities. In many of communities like Parkrose, there are local jobs like healthcare, retail, hospitality – these are all important businesses. But from a ‘job math’ perspective, every trade sector job you create, like manufacturing or providing a service that brings money into a community and sends products or services out, creates two jobs. We need more traded sector businesses and Parkrose.  I’ll be focusing on traded sector businesses.

“Thirdly, the city’s permitting system. I have suffered with this permitting system for 25 years, opening grocery stores. And I have the receding hairline to prove it.  We have to streamline the permitting system – we have to make it service-oriented. We have a job-delaying permitting system. I will make it less costly and faster, and with less surprises in the whole project. I’m looking forward to taking the Bureau of Development Services into my portfolio if I’m elected.”

Charlie Hales responded:  “Five things: First and most important, listen to people who understand this community. Portland’s a diverse place, with diverse business districts and neighborhoods, that are different, one from another.

“I keep in mind that I’m not the smartest person in the room, and other people have good ideas. It’s about bringing that spirit of humility to this important job.

“Secondly, the permitting process – I have suggested specifically that we adopt [elements from cities we] have done our homework on – such as in Salt Lake City, where the process is entirely paperless.  Plans go in as CAD [computer] files; inspectors go out with the I-Pads – inspection reports are done real time, with the click of a mouse, instead of in a return phone call.  Let’s get a modernized in the way business actually works.

“There are other things that are working, that we should keep – like the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative. This shift of the Portland Development Commission away from only a focusing on big districts downtown, to small districts in the neighborhood, is a healthy thing. I commend Mayor Adams and the current leadership of the PDC for taking leadership in those areas.

“Finally, I’ll take City Council meetings around the city once a month at places like Parkrose or David Douglas High Schools. And, we’ll hold them at time when regular working people can actually attend.”

Charlie Hales gives his closing statement.

In his closing statement, Charlie Hales said, “We’ve all talked about issues that matter to Parkrose. I bring both public and private sector experience. I spent the first ten years working for business organizations, the Hotel Motel Association, and Homebuilders Association.

“Then I did served in our particularly strange form of city government, where we got a lot done.

“For the last 10 years I’ve been working for a national architectural and engineering firm called HDR, Inc. I’m proud of that business’ success.  We’ve grown from 2,700 employees to 8,000. We do it by practicing strong team leadership, a trait that also works very well in public leadership. I bring this experience to this job.”


Eileen Brady gives her closing statement.

Eileen Brady concluded by saying: “I think Portland needs a Mayor for a new era.  We need new leadership that understands that you can’t just wish for having parks. You can’t just wish to have a transportation system that paves roads. You have to have the economics behind it. These need a tax base to support the programs.

“I started first, as kind of any underdog candidate, with a path to victory in every group that I’ve been in. We have to build the job base here.  As a result, I have built the broadest coalition of supporters and endorsers in this race.

“I have support from trade unions, the Portland Business Alliance, leading environmental leaders in the state, and the Portland Green Party endorsement. I’m honored by the breath of support.”


Jefferson Smith gives his closing statement.

Jefferson Smith concluded by saying: “You can see my commitment, not only from the context of this campaign, but also by what I’ve been working on for the last several years.

“I have scars from my fights with our Mayor over on fairness regarding this part of the City. I’ve calluses on my feet from canvassing for the Parkrose school bond and the Portland school bond. I fought for small business in the legislature. In this campaign I demonstrated fiscal responsibility, as we’re facing tough budget times. Even though [that fiscal restraint] made it hard for some labor unions to support me – and some are not willing to support me because I’m not going to give them the boondoggle that they wanted.

“I’ve also been willing to make the case that the city needs to work for the whole city. I do this in every single living room that I’ve been invited into on both sides of the river. The MAX light rail line goes to the whole city. If gang activity festers anywhere, it affects everywhere. If we don’t have an economic development plan that works for the whole city, the economy of our city won’t work. I won’t need to appoint an East County liaison; I will be that liaison.”

Meet the members of the PBA
On May 17, the Parkrose Business Association meets at 11:30 a.m.

This month, they’ll be voting in new board members. And, they’ll hear from a fascinating speaker – Rick Teeny of Teeny Foods.

They meet at the Holiday Inn Airport, 8439 NE Columbia Boulevard (in the hotel building, around the back at the Flirt’s entrance – not the Convention Center next door). The meeting is free, and the buffet lunch is $17, including dessert and gratuity; reservations are NOT required.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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