Candidates for Metro Council - District 3

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 Allianceís 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 Oregonís economy. What is your position on IP28?
Craig Dirksen* Oppose.
2. Portland State University (PSU), part of the stateís 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?
Craig Dirksen* This proposed tax is a poor way to fund higher education. I would not vote for it. However, they have the right to use the initiative process to collect the required signatures to place it on the ballot, which is their plan.
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 regionís overall employment base, while middle-income jobs, as a share of the regionís 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?
Craig Dirksen* I believe there are two requirements to support middle-income jobs: an educated workforce and an environment that allows business to succeed. Unfortunately, Metro has no authority or influence to improve the former, However, through it's land use and transportation planning functions, Metro is crucial in creating the latter. Working with local governments and the State, Metro can identify and make ready employment and industrial lands in our region to attract the type of businesses to fill that middle-income gap. I'd be happy to discuss specific actions Metro can take to help make this happen.
4. The same Middle Income Jobs Report found that Portlandís 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 in our region?
Craig Dirksen* Housing affordability is an issue nationwide. I believe a large contributing factor is that production of new housing was largely curtailed during the late economic downturn. This resulted in a shortage as our population continued to grow. In the last few years new housing starts have increased greatly, but it will take time to catch up.

I recently co-chaired a work group to bring together housing providers from the public, private and non-profit areas to discuss the issue of affordable housing. The work resulted in a report identifying four strategies the region can use to address the problem. It also included a list of actions and tasks that Metro can do to provide resources to the effort. You can see the report here.

These efforts alone will not solve the problem. Portland is becoming increasingly identified as an attractive place to live. Although we have some of the least expensive housing on the west coast, average housing costs will likely continue to increase. Of equal importance is taking steps to increase family incomes, as discussed above, to better keep up with rising housing costs.
5. The 2015 Economic Impacts of Congestion report shows that the Portland-region and the state of Oregonís 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?
Craig Dirksen* Absolutely. However, Regional Flexible Funds are a relatively small revenue source and can't begin to meet the need. We need to work to use those funds to leverage State and Federal transportation dollars in order to provide the level of funding necessary to address the full range of improvements identified by the Regional Transportation Plan and ODOT's bottleneck study.
6. A 2013 report International Trade and the Portland Harborís 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?
Craig Dirksen* Portland is aptly named. We are a port city and port activity is vital to the economic health of our region, probably more than any other source. I sit on a strategic task force formed by the Port to determine the optimum investments that can be made to Port facilities to make them competitive. Our port has an advantage: the only connection between a west coast port and the rest of the country without the need to climb over the obstacle of the Cascades/Sierras. We can find ways to capitalize on that advantage.
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?
Craig Dirksen* Adequate supply of industrial and employment lands is imperative. The challenge is "shovel ready". Inside the Urban Growth Boundary we have significant land available, but not "ready". Much of it is re-development land that requires brownfield mitigation to be ready for use. Any new land we bring into the UGB would lack the necessary utility and transportation facilities for development and therefore is also not "ready". Funding sources and programs to address these issues are, to some extent, in the works, but need further attention, both at the regional and State levels. I support increased efforts toward brownfield mitigation, as well as identifying employment land to be considered for inclusion during our next UGB evaluation, due in 2018.
8. The regionís prosperity depends on both a healthy central city and thriving suburban areas. How do you balance investments and policy decisions to ensure Portlandís downtown remains a hub for commerce and jobs while also promoting a housing/jobs balance throughout the region?
Craig Dirksen* The Cities and Counties in our region each have their own plans for future development. Metro Councilors are elected to represent their districts as we make regional decisions. I believe each Councilor is responsible for understanding the needs of the jurisdictions within their districts, and then work together to coordinate those disparate plans so they complement each other into a regional whole.
9. How would you work with other jurisdictional partners to achieve mutual interests? How would you participate in regional coalition building?
Craig Dirksen* I strongly believe my prior experience as a local elected official gives me the ability to understand local needs and the perspective to see how we can work together toward common goals. I believe during my time as Mayor and Councilor I have gained the trust and respect of local elected and community leaders that allow me to create those coalitions. Recent examples would be the joint meetings with JPACT and MPAC that led to successfully meeting the State mandate to reduce greenhouse gasses, the JPACT subcommittee I have convened to investigate transportation funding, and the equitable housing working group I mentioned above. These kind of collaborative efforts are what will lead to regionally-made choices of mutual benefit.