County board incumbent faces stiff challenge
Greg Malinowski of Bethany has faced a different campaign in his bid for a third term as a Washington County commissioner.
Pam Treece of Beaverton, his challenger, has raised three times as much as Malinowski for the District 2 seat in the May 15 primary.
Treece, executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance, has amassed $173,000 so far during the election cycle to Malinowski's $58,000.
District 2 takes in the northeast corner of Washington County, from Multnomah County west to the unincorporated communities of Bethany, Cedar Mill, Cedar Hills, Raleigh Hills, Rock Creek and Helvetia. Parts of Beaverton and Hillsboro also are within the district, which has about 89,000 registered voters.
The position is nonpartisan.
Malinowski, 60, is a longtime family farmer on 60 acres in North Bethany — and was a 30-year veteran of the high-tech industry — before he was elected to the first of two terms in 2010. He won his second term by more than a two-thirds majority in 2014.
But he portrays himself as an outsider, given how the current board has split 3-2 on some issues.
Malinowski said he was impelled to run originally when the community participation organization he sat on recommended some land use actions.
"But the next thing you know, something changed" at the staff and county board level, he said.
"We need a commission which looks out for us, not just people who can make big donations."
With a new board chairman due — Andy Duyck is retiring — and holdover Commissioner Dick Schouten, "I think we are looking at possibilities of trying to get the community more involved in what is going on and have more transparency, so there are no surprises," Malinowski said.
"I think we are going to have a change of governance on the board, and I'd like to be here to make sure we pick up the folks left behind," he added.
Treece, 66, said she decided to make her first bid for elected office after being a school teacher and small-business owner, 21 years at PacificCorp. — where she ended up as vice president for external affairs — and a regional economic development advocate, including Westside Economic Alliance since 2012.
She and her husband raised their children in Beaverton schools, and two of her four grandchildren live in Washington County.
"I recognize that my skill set matches that of an elected official, particular for the board," she said.
"My experience has brought me close to the junction of the private sector and the public sector. That experience has taught me a lot about what we need to do and how we need to focus on the issues our residents need to have," she added.
"I feel strongly I could not look at my grandchildren and say I didn't give this a try if I did not make this effort now."
Westside does not endorse candidates — public officials, including Duyck, sit on its board — but Treece has received contributions from the political committees of the Beaverton and Hillsboro chambers of commerce, and endorsements from labor unions.
As they ended a joint appearance March 12 in Bethany, Malinowski took a swipe at Treece's campaign contributors, which include developers.
"Most of my donors are fairly small," he said. "A lot of times, if someone drops $10,000, it's because they've got a piece of property they want put in the urban growth boundary. That's just the way the system operates."
Treece demanded the next day that Malinowski sign a "clean campaign" pledge, and that she would never vote for a specific action desired by someone in exchange for a contribution — which is illegal under state law.
But Treece said based on her experience organizing major conferences on housing and transportation in 2017, she has an open door for everybody.
"I've had the experience in bringing multiple sectors together to address those issues and take them to the next level. There is plenty to do," she said. "My experience translates directly into the role of a commissioner."
They offer their views on some key issues:
Malinowski: He advocates county rezoning, without awaiting requests by landowners, of land along major corridors with frequent bus service — such as Canyon Road and Tualatin Valley Highway — for a mix of residential and commercial uses.
"I want to see if we can stimulate the market, just by changing the zoning, to see if builders can produce some units in the $200,000 to $350,000 range," he said. "The market is not working and I think we need to tweak it."
A 2016 study, commissioned by the county and conducted by Portland State University, puts the county shortage of "affordable" housing at 14,000 units. Malinowski argues that the real figure is probably 23,000, based on a state estimate of 72,000 workers who commute to jobs paying $21 or less an hour.
"We're doing things right" for people who can qualify for subsidized housing, such as the lowest-income people and those with disabilities or recovering from addictions, Malinowski said.
Treece: Developers and residents, she said, must come together.
"Developers are part of this community. They build the houses," she said. "Frequently you hear that developers are evil. But we need to be able to get them to the table and get housing on line."
She also said that involvement by residents is key to winning their acceptance of infill development and more housing deemed "affordable" — no more than 30 percent of household income under the federal definition — and also in shaping the future of their communities.
She said the county should revitalize a "visioning" process that has been employed in cities.
"Beaverton does it, Hillsboro does it, and I feel strongly we can do that," she said. "I think we need to work with residents of those communities and ask what kind of buy-in we need to do that."
Malinowski: He said a county policy of matching a 30 percent contribution by a developer with 70 percent in public money tends to favor improvements only in high-growth areas, such as South Hillsboro, where the county has made a multiyear commitment.
"It's frustrating to me that we want to come up with a good outcome that doesn't help just the big landowner," he said.
"We are shuffling money out of the older neighborhoods that need it and into high-growth areas. We need to take another look at that to see what is fair — and we need a conversation."
Treece: She said she wants to preserve the county commitment to roads and related improvements. The board has honored the Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program funded by past property tax levies, even though the pre-1996 levies can be consolidated for general government purposes.
Westside Economic Alliance also had a role in advocating legislative approval in 2017 of a multiyear, $5.4 billion plan for transportation projects, including a statewide payroll tax for public transit, a service Treece said needs expansion.
It was less than the $8.2 billion first proposed, Treece said, "but it did ensure we have money in Washington County that we did not have before," including just under $100 million for Highway 217 improvements between Tigard and Beaverton.
Malinowski: He said one of his goals is to encourage more civic participation in Washington County, the most diverse in Oregon with about 33 percent people of color, and 20 percent born outside the United States.
"A lot of people who have immigrated here feel the less government they have, the better. But we need to pull their kids in," Malinowski said, because they represent the future and acquire American values.
"We need to make it available to all people — and we need to cultivate the next generation."
He also rejects the premise that commissioners should appoint only people whose views are known in advance.
"I said we are not the five smartest people in this county," he said. "That is why we need advisory boards and let them do their job."
Treece: She sits on the board of Worksystems Inc., which serves Washington and Multnomah counties. As a county commissioner, she would continue to encourage skills training in a county with a 3.4 percent unemployment rate. Only a few counties, less populous than Washington County, have a lesser rate. But she said Washington County still has a 9 percent rate of people under the federal poverty level, and there are living-wage jobs that go unfilled because workers lack the needed skills.
Treece said there are resources from Portland Community College, school districts and union apprenticeships.
"We need to understand how to pull those programs together," she said. "We are getting there. We are better than we were five years ago. But we need to do more."