Council veteran faces newcomer
Marc San Soucie has helped shape the direction of city government during a decade on the Beaverton City Council.
He said he hasn't done it alone, but has been guided by the Community Vision Plan first created in 2010 — two years after he was elected to an unexpired term — and followed up twice. Another round is scheduled in the next two years.
"Any time we take on a big initiative in this city, we're getting more feedback from the community about how people want things to go."
The former software developer, now 60, is seeking a third full term in Position 5. He says he seeks to continue his eye for detail with a view of how things fit into a bigger picture.
"While you get to do a lot of interesting and different things in the world of software development, and I have been able to do that, when I moved into this world, it got a lot broader," he said.
San Soucie is opposed by Rafael La Grotta, 49, a business owner whose slogan — "Because we all count" — sums up his campaign.
La Grotta is on the city's Diversity Advisory Board, which emerged from a task force in 2008, when San Soucie was elected to the council and Denny Doyle was elected mayor.
He also is an advocate for the Allen Boulevard improvement survey, which takes in an area where much of the Latino population resides.
But La Grotta says his election would give a voice to the one-third of Beaverton residents who are racial or ethnic minorities.
Despite the city's efforts, he said, it " has failed to attract participation of different sectors of the minority community, especially the youth and small business owners."
"I would advocate to have the city government reflect the beautiful and diverse community of Beaverton, and, at the same time, encourage all minorities to continue sharing their contribution to American culture," he said.
Both candidates say there is no single answer to what the city should do about homelessness and the availability and cost of housing — but that the issues are not solely a city responsibility.
"There is more homelessness in the suburbs than anyone has acknowledged," San Soucie said. Beaverton School District leads Oregon with the number of students who lack stable housing.
"The problems we are seeing are not unique to Beaverton or the Portland metro area. What it has forced us to do is invest some of our own resources to tackle this."
San Soucie said the council has stepped up to identify and fund social services, and has taken steps toward revising how police deal with homeless campers. An ordinance is being prepared for a public hearing.
"We want to give police that tool," he said. "But we do not want to give police a tool, and in the process, criminalize a woman leaving her home because her husband is beating her up and she has to spend a night on the street."
La Grotta offered general comments.
"Homeless individuals may face psychological and physical disabilities that contribute to their situation," he said. "I think that the urgency will be to identify the individual need and to find short- and long-term solutions in collaboration with existing programs and nonprofit groups."
The city also has set up a housing program, although the council is still considering alternatives on how to fund it.
La Grotta said the city should avoid direct spending on its own projects.
"I believe that, rather than invest in new construction, we should start by looking in existing infrastructures and current unfinished projects," he said. "This would avoid unnecessary interest charges for loans and allow us to invest in other areas as well."
San Soucie said he would support a regional bond measure, under consideration by the Metro Council for the Nov. 6 general election, to generate money for housing.
He said Beaverton should consider a range of choices, among them acquiring existing housing with the intent of regulating its cost, helping owners preserve existing housing, and buying land to encourage others to build housing.
He said the city may have to consider creating its own housing authority if voters rejected a proposed state constitutional change to allow joint public-private ownership of housing.
"We are not going to say we cannot solve the problem," he said. "That is not our way. Our way is to say what we can do to solve it."
Difference of opinion
San Soucie is a strong supporter and La Grotta a mild critic of a multimillion-dollar plan the council adopted earlier this year to promote active transportation through improvements in traffic signals, sidewalks and bicycle paths.
San Soucie said that while the plan is ambitious, "there are multiple funding sources" available other than the city's share of state fuel taxes, which can be spent only on work connected with streets.
Though he also supports the plan, La Grotta said it should attract private-sector support.
"In addition, we should also balance the spending with the need to look into neglected areas where the poor and the disadvantaged live," he said. "They do not have a voice and do not engage with city politics due to the lack of representation."