Candidates for Clackamas County Commission Chair

A questionnaire was sent to candidates in the Portland-metro region, and below are the responses in regard to issues that are important to the Alliance and the business community.

* indicates Alliance endorsed candidate.

1. The Alliance’s primary focus for the 2016 election cycle will be to support those candidates and ballot measure proponents who clearly and publicly join us in opposing Measure 97, the gross receipts tax measure, which will be so detrimental to Oregon’s economy. What is your position on M97?
Jim Bernard* I oppose Measure 97. As a small business owner I would not be taxed directly but I do have suppliers that would. They would certainly pass that on to me and I would need to pass it on to my customers. We do need tax reform but taxing gross sales is not the reform we need,
John Ludlow In reading the various analyses of M97 it is convincingly clear to me that it was poorly considered, hastily crafted and is now being misrepresented by its proponents. As many others have noted the proponent’s pretense that the measure only taxes mega corporations falls short of reality. What is now known as M97 is scheduled for the November ballot and will (if voters approve) inevitably result in a very punitive, regressive and multi-layered sales tax imposed upon all Oregonians, consumers and businesses of every size. Particularly disturbing is the inevitable pass through by most major utilities corporations to their ratepayers. Everyone’s utility rates will rise to pay the M97 tax on the mega Utility Corporations IP28 proponents have targeted. I am strongly opposed to M97.
2. The Value of Jobs Coalition's 2015 Middle-Income Jobs Report found that Portland-metro, like most of the nation, has seen low- and high-income jobs account for increasingly larger shares of the region’s overall employment base, while middle-income jobs, as a share of the region’s total employment, have dropped from 69 percent in 1980 to 57 percent in 2013. What would you do to increase the number of middle-income jobs in our region?
Jim Bernard* The best way to increase middle income jobs is investment in infrastructure projects. We have failed to maintain our infrastructure especially roads, sewer, and water systems. As the Chair of the county commission I will make those investments a priority. Finding the resources to make that investment is the most challenging. We have on the November 2016 ballot a gas tax proposal that will help us fill the gap. We also have at our disposal the possibility of a vehicle registration fee which after a period of public education I will be asking our commission to enact along with our cities. I also intend to work with our legislature to pass a transportation bill. The cumulative impact investment in infrastructure would create middle income jobs in construction, design and engineering and in government planning and inspections. Facilitating shovel ready employment land where the employees are in Clackamas County requires investments in roads, natural gas, power grid, and government that cooperative and progressive (action oriented)
John Ludlow Consistent with both the PBA and Coalition for a Prosperous Region I would like to see a significant re-set in land use growth management policies that increase land supplies for industry, jobs and housing. The region has become increasingly desperate for truly shovel ready land, flexible zoning designations, UGB expansions that provide authentic buildable land and urban rural reserves that do not needlessly stifle parts of our region. One of the least costly ways for our region to encourage the free market-private sector to bring their money and invest in our region is by making sure land is available. We must have land, flexibility and approval systems that expedite those interests. Central planners will tell you that we have enough land without having taking into consideration that many of those lands are challenged because of slope, wetlands, brownfields and/or the lack of infrastructure delivery.
3. The same Middle Income Jobs Report found that Portland-metro’s housing prices are becoming increasingly out of reach not only for low-income households, but also for middle-income households. What would you do to address housing affordability for middle-income residents and do you think this is a regional issue or a local issue?
Jim Bernard* The lack of affordable housing is a regional issue. I support expansion of the UGB and I am thankful that the legislature took action on reducing the requirement of voter annexation in the last session. We have considerable land in the UGB in Clackamas County but we were unable to access it due to voter annexation and the inability of some communities to find planning solutions such as Damascus. Damascus is now gone and I will support Happy Valley’s efforts to take in as much of the serviceable land as possible. It might include solutions such as sub-regional planning as well as inclusionary zoning. The disincorporation of Damascus might provide additional opportunities in Clackamas County but not until the reserves process is resolved. Without land to trade within Clackamas County we will likely lose land to other counties. Locally I think we need to reduce the barriers to development and redevelopment where there is adequate infrastructure to meet the need. Barriers such a permitting existing housing on RRFF5 to be used as temporary or rental housing rather than requiring that they be torn down when a new house is built.
John Ludlow Once again land is the key. Our regional planners have created an artificially constrained land supply along with a disproportionate emphasis on multi-family housing at the expense of single family inventory and middle class affordability. It can only get worse as long as Metro (et al) remains obstinate to the changes and progress we need throughout the region. I have been a Real Estate Broker for 40 years. Our problem is the law of supply and demand. It was announced just yesterday that the Portland area experienced the highest price increase in the nation. Would that be happening if land to build on was plentiful?
4. The 2015 Economic Impacts of Congestion report shows that the Portland-region and the state of Oregon’s competitiveness is largely dependent on efficient transportation. Failure to adequately invest in the system could cost the Portland-metro region $822 million annually by 2040 and close to 6,000 jobs. Do you support investments in the transportation system to support freight movement and remove bottlenecks to the efficient movement of goods and people?
Jim Bernard* YES! The bottleneck on I205 (Stafford to Oregon City) and the I5 Bridge impact freight movement up and down the West coast and are of national significance. Sitting on I205 costs all of us and the environment. It makes no sense when we hear some elected say “why build it when it will just fill-up” like that’s a bad thing. The Sunrise Project in Clackamas County would open up employment land that are ready for development should they have adequate transportation. I have always been an advocate from multi-modal transportation but we cannot disregard the importance of making the investment in our roads, you can’t move freight on light rail.
John Ludlow An efficient transportation system and commerce mobility is the vital grease needed for the land use machine. All of the shovel ready land in the world won’t matter if we do not have mobility. To that end we must demand that Metro shifts gears. Instead of for insisting on yet another round of misappropriation of vast sums on transit mega- projects we must address the numerous choke points and countless road, freeway, capacity, merging/turn lane and intersection deficiencies that are causing widespread gridlock. Backups are occurring everywhere. I recently read, and agreed with, the Westside Economic Alliance letter opposing the current plan for allocating Regional Flex Funds. The JPACT/Metro approved guideline proposes that nearly all of the $130 million goes to light rail, BRT and bike facilities. The WEA letter is here.

There are 4 key transportation chokepoints in the metropolitan Portland area. They are the Rose Quarter, I-205, I-217 and the Boone Bridge in Wilsonville. The 2.5 Billion dollars proposed for the Southwest Corridor Light Rail line would be more than adequate to fix every one of those problems. We have misplaced our priorities when it comes to congestion relief.
5. A 2013 report International Trade and the Portland Harbor’s Impact, found that Portland ranked 4th among the largest 100 metros in terms of export value as a share of metro output. Additionally, the report found that 90 percent of exports are small and medium sized businesses and that trade related jobs provide premium wages. What is your view on the role of trade to our economy and what can the city do to promote trade given international gateway facilities within the city?
Jim Bernard* The Portland Metro region and the West coast is a hub for the import export market due in part to its geographic location. Our airport, port, and rail lines provide opportunity for the distribution of products and services both internationally and nationally. In Order to remain competitive we need to make investments in infrastructure as well promote tax and trade policies that don’t put us at a disadvantage. This also requires that in order to attract and retain businesses we need an adequate supply of employment land. Greater Portland Inc. as well as our local economic development teams need to work collaboratively to coordinate information and promote the regions assets so as to generate family wage jobs.
John Ludlow Clearly we have an extremely desirable place to live. The same land use and transportation impediments that have been producing the unhealthy traffic and housing outcomes are stifling our trade and export related potential. Measure 97 taxation would make it even worse. We need major improvements to land use, transportation and taxation policies to create the healthy environment to lift all boats. Doing so would ease the path to markets, stabilize the welcome mat and promote the new arrivals to our economy and contributors to our middle class job base.
6. The Alliance is committed to ensuring an adequate supply of shovel ready industrial lands in the Portland-metro region to support job retention and growth. Manufacturing, in particular, requires industrial land and provides higher wages and better benefits than non-manufacturing jobs, particularly for non-whites and non-English-speaking workers. What tools and strategies would you use to promote adequate employment industrial lands that are shovel ready for development?
Jim Bernard* First for Clackamas County I would resolve the urban/rural reserves remand which would allow the region to address the issue of employment land within 3-5 years. Metro has agreed to work with us to study and perhaps bring in employment lands in the next cycle. Without this resolution Clackamas County will get nowhere. In the Clackamas County we are working in a number of areas including Milwaukie’s North industrial area, once a warehouse hub but today inadequately accessible. In our north Clackamas industrial area we are building infrastructure which will allow development of our County owned site. We are also working with our utility partners to provide access to natural gas to some of our rural communities that have shovel ready sites but lack adequate utilities. Finally we need study our zoning and provide greater flexibility along enhancing our planning department’s ability to turn projects around in a manner that is attractive to the development community.
John Ludlow See above. I would add that the notion of “tools and strategies to promote” too often leads to bureaucratic attempts at picking winners and loser. Instead I would prefer to see vast improvements to flexibility and quantity of land supply to better establish the broadest invite possible for all interested investors and job creators. We must make the region competitive. As you may recall the PBA and CPR pointed out to Metro that the region is “significantly under-performing similar regions around the country.” We can and must do better.
7. How would you work with other jurisdictional partners to achieve mutual interests? How would you participate in regional coalition building?
Jim Bernard* This is one of the main reasons I am running for the Chair of the Clackamas County Commission because frankly we cannot abuse our partners and ask them for help at the same time. We should always focus on what is good for the county above special interest and campaign contributions. I was successful as Mayor of Milwaukie and I will be as the Chair. We are the county of “NO”. A friend once suggested that “When you’re right you’re right. When you’re wrong you’re nowhere”.
John Ludlow This is an interesting question on a topic which too often is used as a means to characterize anyone who objects to the status quo as being a bad fit for collaborating on regional interests. This is a recipe for continued unhealthy regionalism. We have a regional government and regional partners with many regional committees engaged in what is said to be regional collaboration and regional policy making and decisions. Analyses and observations by many have concluded this so called partnership has failed and is continuing to fail our region. Mostly because of the un-elected bureaucrats, cause driven politicians who have no interest in compromising their rigid agenda that imposes ongoing destructive policies. I would be very interested in any new and better regional coalition that is dedicated to result oriented action and progress. My hope is Portlands’ new mayor Wheeler will bring some fresh wisdom and energy for new positive direction. Other improvements are possible on the very important political front this November. Much is at stake and even more is possible should things go well for our region (and State) in the ballot boxes.