Candidates for Clackamas County Commission District 4

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 IP 28, the gross receipts tax measure, which will be so detrimental to Oregon’s economy. What is your position on IP28?
Bill King* Its a very bad idea and bad for business!
Tootie Smith I oppose IP28 and have publicly stated so. I have also signed petitions to oppose the measure. I feel that the damage to Oregon’s employers will be catastrophic, not to mention much of the impact will be passed down to consumers, and we simply cannot afford the job losses and “sales tax” hit on Oregon families. Too many people including my friends have moved to Clark County taking with it jobs but intellect as well.
2. Portland State University (PSU), part of the state’s higher education system, is considering a tax on payroll within the Portland region that they project will raise between $30 and $70 million to support PSU. What is your view on a potential regional payroll tax on employers to fund PSU?
Bill King* Oregon is the 10th highest taxed state in the nation already. This is also a very bad idea.
Tootie Smith I do not support a regional payroll tax for PSU to attempt to raise money for “scholarships.” There is no effort to curb the cost of their programs, or the cost to obtain a degree from PSU. What happens if a scholarship student does not graduate? Or moves to another state after graduating and taking advantage of scholarship money? They cannot answer those common sense questions and consequently, they undermine the very premise for the “need.” Above all, I feel that our employers are taxed too heavily and this is a step too far. History has proven that the more money the federal government puts into higher education, the more the universities raise the cost. There is guarantee that costs will remain low.
3. 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?
Bill King* I would make sure that county policy and code do not stand in the way of businesses attempting to open and / or expand and grow as this would bring more jobs to the region. We need to grow business to spur job growth.
Tootie Smith Well, first I would increase the amount of employment land available in Clackamas County. The Clackamas BCC has asked METRO for more flexibility when it comes to our land designations and this is one reason why. Our land use policies directly affect the type of housing that becomes available to our residents and ultimately the types of employers we attract. Unfortunately, restrictive land use policies and the UGB have worsened the gap between the wealthy and our low income families. The middle class has been squeezed out. In Clackamas County, more and more families are spending over half of their take-home pay on mortgage/rent and bills. If we continue down this path, we will restrict an entire generation of Oregonians from being able to rise up the economic ladder. This is why I champion more flexibility in our land use laws so that we can attract those businesses that want to come here and provide family-wage jobs.
4. 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?
Bill King* The only way to make homes more affordable is to increase the supply of homes to meet the demand. When supply is low and demand is, high prices skyrocket in a free market economy. There is NO other way that will work effectively and have any long lasting effect. This is a regional issue as long as people continue to flock to the Portland metro area and Oregon in general.
Tootie Smith It is a regional issue and it’s the direct result of failed land use policies and the Urban Growth Boundary. When we limit supply, and demand naturally continues to increase, we get a 60% increase in rent rates in the Pdx metro area (which is what has happened over the past 10 years). Realtors tell me our housing supply is down to less than 2 months, and about half of their buyers are from California and pay cash for homes. This has a profoundly devastating effect on our low to middle income Oregonians and our seniors. Portland’s answer to this has been to increase density and invest in “infill.” Unfortunately, the consequence to that is pushing further middle income Oregonians and families out of the desirable places to live in Portland. It’s also hurting the folks who have grown up in Portland and are seeing their historic neighborhoods bulldozed for big box, high density apartments. I think on a macro level we need to reexamine our land use laws and provide more flexibility to the counties to expand and grow where it makes the most sense. Because of density mandates, even our suburban neighborhoods in Clackamas County have become apartment zones. Those apartments are replacing traditional single-family dwellings for families that can’t afford to live in Portland or Washington County. They too are experiencing skyrocketing rent rates and struggling to keep up. We need a big picture solution to this mess.
5. 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?
Bill King* We need to invest in transportation systems, roads in particular need improving to keep freight and people moving. Portland area metro highways in particular are overcrowded and overwhelmed causing sever congestion.
Tootie Smith Absolutely. In fact, the Clackamas BCC is in the process of having this discussion. We have over 1400 miles of roads and half are in “fair” to “poor” condition. We do not have available funding to cover the cost of maintaining these roads. It’s important, not only to facilitate commerce and freight movement, but also to reduce congestion and maintain land and housing values. Unfortunately, past commission leadership undermined the trust of our taxpayers. They sent millions of Clackamas County taxpayer dollars to mass transit projects in Portland that serve very few of our residents, and without a public vote. The anger over their actions is part of what contributed to the success of my candidacy in 2012. The previous BCC’s focus was to ignore road needs and instead, invest in rail projects with exorbitant price tags that serve small percentages of our population. Yet today, our road needs remain. I have joined with the majority of my commission to support an advisory vote in May so that our residents can tell us how they prefer to pay for road improvements. After we review the results from the May election, we will put forward a funding mechanism on the November ballot to be voted on by the public. It will be the responsibility of all 5 county commissioners to educate the public on our needs, to prioritize our investments, and to gain their trust. Clackamas County has lobbied hard the Congress with our national lobby firm for expansion of I205 from two lanes to three between the Abernethy Bridge and Stafford. This project is now listed and approved in the President’s budget.

The Clackamas BCC took a position against the CRC (Columbia River Crossing) for similar reasons. I felt that investments in expanding I205 and fixing our connectors and bridges were more important than a light rail bridge into Clark County, WA.

I am currently working on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project – an endeavor where Clackamas County, Metro and Oregon City have partnered to develop the Blue Heron Mill site. We are in the design phase of the River Walk along the Willamette River up to the Falls. Additionally, I am the Chair of Willamette Falls Locks Work Group and member of the state task force charged with convincing the US Army Corps of Engineers to repair and reopen the locks to river traffic including commerce, recreation, fishing, tourism and cultural heritage.

6. 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?
Bill King* Trade is a critical part of our regions economy. The city needs to ensure that the port of Portland functions better to transport those good particularly by ship. We need to rebuild our reputation as a port that functions smoothly and efficiently.
Tootie Smith Well, unfortunately there are indications that container shipping may not return to the Port of Portland so we may have to accommodate if that doesn’t happen. There are an astounding number of choke points throughout our region, which directly affect commerce mobility. I205 now carries more traffic than I5 over the river. Clackamas County has been working to prioritize road projects and move them to the front of the line, but METRO and TriMet seem to be pushing transit projects over choke point relief projects. Unless we address the choke points, we won’t have improvements in freight mobility, which affects our trade commerce. Clackamas is an export county with nursery, agriculture and timber industries. Also our manufacturing sector exports goods built locally with international markets. It’s essential that trade opportunities remain open and accessible.
7. 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?
Bill King* We need urban growth boundaries to be examined and thought out better to meet the needs of potential business/employer requirements to insure that zoning limits are not the limiting factor in why we aren't getting more jobs in the region.
Tootie Smith Clackamas County BCC is already doing this. We have approached METRO with the need to better evaluate our industrial employment lands and have argued for more flexibility, in line with the Coalition for A Prosperous Region’s stance. Rigid land designations handcuff our ability to grow in areas of the county that make the most sense. Our current employment land designations are not adequate. Even former Metro President David Bragdon admitted to Oregonian reporters that areas deemed “urban reserve” like Damascus were done so with the knowledge that industrial employers would never find those areas acceptable. Clackamas County has suffered from failed regional land use planning and our employment numbers reflect that. We have been treated like the “bedroom community” to Portland and Washington County and our residents pay the price in longer commute times and lower wages.

Our own study showed a deficit of 4,000 acres of employment land compared to jobs needed for the next 20 years. METRO has land designations locked away for 50 years. How is this reasonable?

I am committed to standing up for Clackamas County and demanding that METRO allow more flexibility and autonomy over where we can attract future employers, so Clackamas County can become the economic engine needed to support our residents.

8. How would you work with other jurisdictional partners to achieve mutual interests? How would you participate in regional coalition building?
Bill King* I would encourage collaboration and relationship rebuilding / building first. Find common ground with other govt entities and formulate common sense, workable, real world plans to achieve what we all should want, and that is for our region to be a thriving, productive and successful community.
Tootie Smith As I stated in my answer to the last question, Clackamas County has been part of the “regional coalition”, but unfortunately that “regionalism” isn’t serving us well anymore. We are watching the failed land use and transportation policies having a devastating effect on its residents. That is not what I envision for Clackamas County. We need to correct some of these failed policies so that we have the ability to attract employers to appropriate areas within the county, expand our employment base, ease the pressure on rental and housing costs, and fix our roads. I feel as though my voice as a Commissioner is an important one in this region because Clackamas County is very different from Multnomah County, and yet the policies of the past reflect the values of Portland’s leadership. Clackamas County needs strong leaders who will challenge the “we’ve always done things this way” mentality and forge a new direction that embraces growth and prosperity for our residents.

I am currently working on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project – an endeavor where Clackamas County, Metro and Oregon City have partnered to develop the Blue Heron Mill site. We are in the design phase of the River Walk along the Willamette River up to the Falls. Additionally, I am the Chair of Willamette Falls Locks Work Group and member of the state task force charged with convincing the US Army Corps of Engineers to repair and reopen the locks to river traffic including commerce, recreation, fishing, tourism and cultural heritage.