Candidates state their views at forum
Early morning event gives people chance to see who's running for Gresham City Council
Campaigning for political office is hard enough, but answering questions at 7 a.m. in the middle of the workweek? Practically unthinkable.
But six caffeine-powered candidates for Gresham City Council addressed everything from small-business challenges to increasing funding for public safety during the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Council's Gresham City Council Candidate Forum on Wednesday, Sept. 13.
Up for grabs are position 2, now held by Jacquenette McIntire, position 3, filled by David Widmark, and Shane Bemis' position 6. Bemis' seat is available because he's running against Charles Becker for the mayor's seat. McIntire and Widmark are not running for re-election.
Of the seven candidates vying for those positions, only one - position 4 candidate Robert Pung, an advocate for the elderly and disabled - was unable to attend the forum.
The other six, however, told the audience of about 40 people their top city government concerns.
James 'Mike' Bennett, principal facilities engineer for ON Semiconductor, is the self-appointed 'lucky guy in this race,' being the only candidate for position 2.
He is concerned about the city's ability to provide resources needed to develop Springwater and Pleasant Valley, not to mention services such as fire, police, parks and code enforcement to the areas.
Position 4 candidate Richard A. Strathern, a retired business and industry director for the nonprofit organization Worksystems Inc., said he is most worried about public safety, economic development, citizen involvement and livability.
His opponent Michael Mattingly, a leasing agent, also mentioned traffic, the need for controlled growth that preserved green belts and getting a 'strong handle on crime' as issues of concern.
Position 6 candidate Bryant Lister, manger for Microsystems for Education and Business Inc., expressed concerns about traffic, crime and allowing big business to ride roughshod over planning just because they offer jobs, even low paying ones.
'You want a place where you can live, work and grow up and have good services,' Lister said. '… We just can't increase development whenever possible.'
Position 6 candidate, dentist John H. Kilian, said Gresham is experiencing an identity crisis. Due to unfinished projects, such as the Center for the Arts and the Gradin Community Sports Park, Gresham is becoming known as a 'city of broken dreams.'
'We can be a city of vitality, we're more than infrastructure,' Kilian said.
The third position 6 candidate - Carol L. Nielsen-Hood, chief executive officer for the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce - cited the city's 'deficient and cumbersome' process that businesses, large and small, must endure as a top concern.
She suggested better coordination between city departments to reduce delays, expense and headaches for new businesses. Otherwise, Gresham will lose business to Portland. 'There are always enticements on the other side of the line to get them to go over there,' she said.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Ballots will be mailed out Oct. 20.