Candidates for Multnomah 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?
Lori Stegmann* I am undecided on this. The concern I have is that the proposal is based on gross revenue versus profit. Many industries, i.e., grocery stores, car dealerships, etc operate on very slim margins. So if you tax them on volume with no regard to profit, it may have unintentional consequences. I do think we need to look at additional revenue sources for the state. And I believe that we must create policies that invite and attract quality businesses to Oregon. Thus creating more family wage jobs.
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?
Lori Stegmann* As part of the state’s higher education system, it would seem to me that they should obtain their funding at the state level versus the regional level. While I wholly support education, another tax on business becomes burdensome. It will discourage businesses from expanding their workforce and their workforce hours. And encourage some business owners to close their doors or relocate.
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?
Lori Stegmann* Adopt a strategy that says “Multnomah County is open for business”. Create policies that improve and expedite permitting, licensing, zoning, etc. for businesses that might locate elsewhere. Strategies like these will attract industrial investment that create quality, family wage jobs.

As a city councilor, I supported and advocated for the City of Gresham’s Garage to Storefront program where we waived system development charges, business license fees and permits, to encourage small businesses to fill our Historic Downtown, Rockwood and Civic Drive neighborhoods. This program incentivized over 225,000 square feet of vacant space to be filled and helped 140 businesses expand or open during the Great Recession. I will utilize my experience on the Gresham City Council to incentivize employers and entrepreneurs to locate their business in Multnomah County.

Also, I will work to increase stronger connections between schools, labor, business, and government. Employers are in need of a skilled workforce yet face challenges in recruiting qualified candidates. With the many unemployed/underemployed folks in our community there is a disconnect. I will work diligently to fill that gap.

4. The same Middle Income Jobs Report found that Portland’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 in our region?
Lori Stegmann*
  1. I will work with labor, business, nonprofits, the faith-based community and government to increase the supply of housing. Whether that means traditional single or multi-family dwellings, tiny houses, manufactured homes, cohousing, communal living (dormitories for adults), mixed-use buildings or other creative ways to build more quality housing at an affordable price. It seems everyone is so focused on ways to subsidize housing, which I understand and it is one tool in the tool box. But I think we are missing the point. The point is that we have to figure out a way to reduce costs. In my business there are only two ways to make more money – either make more sales or reduce costs. Those costs can come in the form of soft and hard costs. We need to analyze where the bottlenecks are in both of these areas and develop best practices to remove those barriers.
  2. I will promote policies and strategies that incentivize developers to build additional housing. Find ways to streamline the permitting, inspection, and rezoning process. I recently testified at a Portland city council meeting in favor of rezoning some areas so additional apartment units can be built. One way would be to incentivize property owners to build accessory housing units, like the City of Portland’s effort to encourage the building of accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) by waiving system development charges and permits. This not only increases the housing stock but creates a source of additional income for middle class families - whether long-term rentals or Airbnb destinations.
  3. Look for opportunities to encourage employees to live near their work places. By reducing transportation costs, that frees up money for housing while reducing greenhouse emissions and creating a better quality of life. Perhaps offer tax incentives to employers who pay their employees a stipend to live close to work.
5. The Alliance recently launched a campaign to advocate for more humane solutions for the hundreds of people experiencing homelessness, including indoor shelters, services for those who need them and enforcement against illegal behaviors. What specific actions would you take to help address our homeless emergency and would you do something to address the proliferation of camping in our public spaces?
Lori Stegmann*
  1. Continue a leadership role on A Home for Everyone coalition to find countywide solutions. This partnership between the City of Gresham, City of Portland, Multnomah County and Home Forward is the kind of collaboration that is needed to alleviate homelessness. I am proud to say that we reached our goal to provide housing for all veterans in December 2015.
  2. Research options to sell or retrofit existing properties that the County owns. Use proceeds to fund homeless shelters.
  3. I will continue to look for opportunities to unite our community to address the issue of homelessness. In East Multnomah County, our homeowners along the Springwater Corridor have seen a significant increase of illegal camping along the Corridor resulting in destruction of habitat and lawlessness. But the truth of the matter is, is that many of these folks experiencing homelessness simply have nowhere else to go. This is not a problem that one person, or one community or one government can solve. We have to collectively address this issue and bring all stakeholders to the table: business, citizens, government, nonprofits, the faith-based community, and perhaps most importantly - our homeless citizens. I sit on the Gresham Homeless Action Team. And the good news is that I hear much more acceptance of providing permanent housing alternatives – whether a brick and mortar building or something else. We are already paying a substantial cost for our homeless friends and neighbors. We need to redirect the amount of resources it takes to deal with the issue of homelessness and build more affordable, permanent housing. The Bud Clark Commons is a good example of how costs have been reduced while providing a housing first model that enables people experiencing homeless a fair shot to seek the services they need to change the trajectory of their lives. I will encourage and support a “housing first” model as we look for more ways to provide low income housing in key geographic areas in the region. This approach has been proven both cost-effective as well as reducing the homeless population.
6. The Alliance focuses on small business prosperity, which is significantly impacted by the cumulative impact of taxes, fees and regulations that have grown in recent years. How will you work to reduce the fees, taxes and regulatory burdens of small businesses? And, would you support increasing the Business License Tax (BLT) owner’s compensation deduction to $125,000?
Lori Stegmann* As a small business owner for 22 years I understand the hurdles that small businesses face within the existing regulatory framework. It is extremely challenging to begin, maintain, grow, and keep a business as a going concern. I know that first hand. That’s why as a Gresham city councilor, I have worked hard to get the message out that “we are open for business”. From our historic 66 day industrial permit process to our Enterprise Zone and New Industries grants. These programs incentivized some of our largest East County employers to expand and reinvest in our community- companies like Boeing, ON Semiconductor, and Teeny Foods. We have used these programs to attract industrial investment that create quality, family wage jobs. I will proactively search for ways to promote policies like these to meet the needs of small businesses.

Yes, I would support the business license tax deduction being increased from $91,000 to $125,000.

7. 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?
Lori Stegmann* Yes, absolutely. There is so much lost productivity because of our aging infrastructure. It is going to take a significant lift to address the annual $205 million street funding deficit.

I agree with the City Club’s findings. We have to better educate and communicate the need to invest in roads now. The longer we wait the more costly it will be. And we need to create new revenue to fund pay for these investments.

It seems with gas at a record low price per gallon, that it would make sense to add a local gas tax. However, this won’t be enough as vehicles become more fuel efficient and we look for ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

A vehicle registration fee also makes sense since those that use the roads most would carry a greater burden for providing maintenance funding.

Not only do we have to maintain our roads, but we must also find funding to expand our capacity to move freight and people in a more cost-efficient and effective way.

We also need to look at how the existing transportation system is being utilized. Or put another way we need to look at the law of supply and demand. London has a “congestion charge”. An approach like this could generate revenue, reduce greenhouse emissions, and improve productivity. We have to be creative and forward thinking about an issue we can no longer ignore.

8. We continue to look for opportunities to support alignment and efficiency in city and county services. In March 2013, then City Auditor, LaVonne Griffin-Valade found that the intergovernmental agreement between the city and the county does not address today’s realities and recommends that the jurisdictions work together to identify appropriate roles and responsibilities for each. In response, what opportunities, if any, do you see for alignment between the city and county?
Lori Stegmann* I see many opportunities for the City of Portland and Multnomah County to better align their roles and responsibilities.

At the City of Gresham we employ a “Council Work Plan” that defines the top 10-15 goals we wish to accomplish each year. Some of the goals are long-term while others are short-term. By having a living document that says where we want to go enables Council, staff, and the community to know what our highest priorities are. And most importantly it enables us to all row in the same direction. I will utilize this type of approach to improve processes at the County and encourage the City to join us in creating a set of joint priorities.

9. 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?
Lori Stegmann*
  1. Focus on the Springwater area of Gresham that consist of 1,272 acres. Most of this acreage was added to the UGB in 2002 to specifically address the short supply of industrial land in the region. The Springwater Community Plan was developed and established a policy and code outline for the area. Targeted clean industries include: technology, medicine and outdoor recreation equipment. With emphasis on new sustainable development and preservation of the natural environment, i.e., Johnson Creek. This project is estimated to bring 15,000 new industrial jobs. Per the City of Gresham website: “To accommodate the increased industrial and residential traffic that Springwater will generate, phased improvements are planned for U.S. Highway 26 and several of the other arterials that course through the area. In fact, over $6 million in state and local money has already been secured for improving intersections along U.S. Highway 26 in the coming years and the City is awaiting approval of another $25.6 million from the federal government. The timeline for build-out of Springwater is about 20 years, and though there’s a lot that needs to occur over those two decades, progress has already begun.
  2. Continue the City of Gresham’s partnership with the Port of Portland to market the Gresham Vista Business Park located between 223rd and 242nd, between Stark and Glisan. This site is targeted for “traded sector” investment, which involves companies that sell products and services globally. The park has approximately 180 acres ready for development with 116 acres designated as a Certified Industrial Site (shovel ready). Our first success so far, has resulted in Subaru’s master distribution center for auto parts logistics to serve the Northwest. Subaru expects to create 30-50 jobs and completion is expected in the fall of 2016.
  3. Continue efforts at the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park, the Port of Portland’s second largest industrial park with 350 acres available for industrial land. It is located between the Columbia and Sandy Rivers and bordered by the Troutdale Airport and Marine Drive. This 700-acre brownfield redevelopment has a mix of industrial and natural resource areas. The Port is working closely with local, regional and state jurisdictions to redevelop the brownfield site and restore 350 acres to productive industrial use with a traded-sector job focus. The balance of the property will remain natural resource areas with new and existing utility infrastructure. FedEx Ground, the first tenant, constructed and operates a $130 million state of the art 471,000-square-foot regional freight distribution hub on 78 acres. Employing over 800 people, the facility is projected to grow to more than 1,000 employees upon full build out.
10. How would you work with other jurisdictional partners to achieve mutual interests? How would you participate in regional coalition building?
Lori Stegmann* My ability to unite and bring people together is one of my greatest strengths. I am a collaborative leader that respects all people and all sides of an issue. The foundation of coalition building is respect and trust. I know that not everyone is going to like me, but my goal is always to earn their respect. I have developed and cultivated many relationships with other elected officials and jurisdictions that will make me a trusted partner on day one.

I will continue and build upon partnerships with Greater Portland Inc and the business community. GPI already serves as the economic engine for the Region. While the County does not specifically have an economic development department, I will be exploring that possibility. By having an economic development department there would be many opportunities for the County to take a more active role in the business community and in the Region.