Getting to know your city council candidates is as easy as Q and A

Candidates -- This week, the News-Times begins a series of 'Questions and Answers' with the four candidates running for the three open seats on the Forest Grove City Council. This initial give-and-take, conducted by e-mail, is aimed at presenting readers with a broad sense of the candidates' qualifications, characteristics and priorities.

Future weeks will focus on specific topics.

Q What is the biggest challenge facing the City of Forest Grove, and how well is the city responding to it?

ALDIE HOWARD: Adjusting to the reality of growth. I don't think that the city is doing very many things well in dealing with the challenge of growth. The staff muddles through each challenge, plods along hoping that everything will eventually work out. All of the tools are in place but the staff finds it difficult to work on the problems. The reason is obvious - no one at the council level has ever been involved in development. Without direction from the council to the city manager and then to staff, this thing cannot work. The council must give the city manager a set of orders and make sure that those orders are disseminated to the staff. I also think that it would be helpful if the council invited various contractors, builders and suppliers to a round-table discussion of issues related to development.

TOM JOHNSTON: A solid means of funding for our public safety. The city has formed a public-safety committee representing a cross section of this community addressing its current and future needs. There are now plans to have a public safety levy on the November ballot to allow for secured funding of our public safety for the next few years. That said, to do a better job of funding our public safety, we should have identified the financial shortcomings at an earlier date. We should also work on ways to develop a dedicated fund for public safety to secure a safe and livable community.

CAMILLE MILLER: The city's image. Some people think the city is riding rough shod over their lives. We all need to understand that, for the most part, the city has to live within the restraints of Metro, its comprehensive land-use plan, building codes and a host of other regulations. We need to help the citizens understand that the council doesn't have as much control as is thought. We need to nurture an understanding that city government is not a bad guy, it's just trying to implement the regulations that the state and Metro have given them.

RON THOMPSON: Maintaining a positive quality of life as we grow. The current development of the Vision Statement and Action Plan for a 20-year view for the future is our first step. Next, will be the comprehensive plan update, which will start with our annual Town Hall Meeting this January. The comprehensive plan is a 10 to 15-year land-use plan. Public input is the most important element in these efforts. What can the city do better? The base data for the floodplain zone is needed along Gales Creek. Second, population data needs to be updated from the 2000 census. Forest Grove is not the city it was in the 2000 census. Most people you meet on the street have been here less than four years.

QWhat skills, from your public or private life, do you have that will help you guide to city in addressing what you've identified as the city's #1 challenge.

HOWARD: Perhaps my response to the question sounds militaristic and it is. All of my working life I have been given very responsible positions under very difficult circumstances and I have excelled because I am a leader. I am judiciously experimental, creative, willing to listen to others and I possess a very humanitarian outlook from world travel.

JOHNSTON: I have been a fireman and policeman for 35 years. I have done various tasks at both jobs. With my background I have a very good idea of what it will take to maintain the necessary needs for our police and fire departments to continue into the future.

MILLER: Running a successful business gives me the experience to understand the basics of running a business. Loving this city gives me the skill to do what I believe is best for it, given the restrictions placed on us.

THOMPSON: I have training - a master's degree in Outdoor Recreation Planning and job experience in city planning (in Yachats and Waldport) and served on the Forest Grove Planning Commission for nine years. Also, my 30 years of Forest Service experience was a record of getting things done.

QWhat are the other two biggest issues facing the city?

HOWARD: Money is always an issue. Police and fire services should be funded thru levies. With as many seniors as we have it seems to me that the Senior Center should be fully funded. Number two, the relationshis between the council and the city manager and the staff needs some drastic attention if we are to attract businesses who cannot afford to wait for months for the city to respond with land use and public works reviews.

JOHNSTON: Maintaining our low rates of electricity into the future and securing domestic water into the future.

MILLER: Education and the economy. The economy is really in pretty good shape. However, we need more industrial and commercial development for myriad reasons, not the least of which is to lighten the tax load burden.

THOMPSON: Providing the infrastructure (from utilities and parks to arts and schools) to meet the needs for citizens, and, maintaining quality city services as we grow.

QIf elected, what would be your top goal for the next four years?

HOWARD: My goal is to bring this city to life. There is no reason why we shouldn't have a robust downtown, a gorgeous entrance to the city from the east, an active, funded Senior Center, a summer activities program with Pacific University. I want the staff to be responsive to the citizenry.

JOHNSTON: To secure dedicated funds for public safety by educating citizens about the facts, so that the citizens' decisions are helping make the community safe.

MILLER: Help the citizens understand that we're all in this boat together and the city government also wants what you want - again, given the restrictions placed on us by governmental restrictions.

THOMPSON: The purchase of 130 acres for future sport park(s) as listed in our Master Park and Recreation Plan. This would provide the required multi-use sports fields to meet the growing needs of Forest Grove. Linking our trail system would also be major part of that effort.

QWhat other goals would you have on the council?

HOWARD: To re-evaluate the Community Enhancement Program funding in relation to operation of Metro's transfer station on B Street.

JOHNSTON: To secure enough park land so that 30 years from now our citizens have a place to enjoy. And to secure an economic development base for our community to create jobs and spread the tax base while maintaining our infrastructure.

MILLER: I have no specific goals other than to serve the citizens of Forest Grove and help them understand that the city is working on behalf of our benefit, not in spite of them. And if that may not always be the case, to kick what ever needs to be kicked to change it.

THOMPSON: To get funding for a new federal post office (appropriate for the city's size), improve trails and sidewalks on main streets, especially near schools and parks and promote economic development, which means jobs for our citizens, both downtown and in industrial areas.

QWhat are two criticisms people have about you that are true?

HOWARD: I'm headstrong and lacking in patience. As David Frost, former city attorney, once told your newspaper, I'm 'not able to suffer fools gladly.'

JOHNSTON: I may be a little stubborn and I may sometimes be a loner in the way I vote on issues.

MILLER: The only thing I can think of is that I tell it like it is, whether you like it or not. It may anger some people but, you know, the truth is the only way to deal with life.

THOMPSON: Sometimes I have too many irons in the fire and I will not say 'no' in time of true need.

QWhat's one criticism that people have about you that's not true?

HOWARD: People have harshly criticized me at various times, those who know the 'real me' know that deep inside my soul there lurks a man of great warmth and humanity who understands the vagaries of life and revels in delights of each day.

JOHNSTON: That I ask too many questions or talk too much.

MILLER: That's their problem. I've always felt that I do everything I do in an honest way and if people have a problem with that, they have a problem. I don't.

THOMPSON: When I am silent and people may think I am not listening. However, I usually listen to all sides and then I speak.

QWhy are you spending your time and money to try and get what amounts to a full-time job without pay?

HOWARD: This city is my home. The present council lacks creativity, foresight, and the understanding of what makes a city live. I want to change the way we do business particularly the relationship between council, the city manager and department heads. Our public image is tarnished. The Senior Center should be funded 100 percent. We need to improve the entrances to the city, especially from the east, and change the Community Enhancement program. We need to change the city charter to allow dismissal of persons unable to fulfill their duties and tighten the medical benefits to council members.

JOHNSTON: I have always been a volunteer and worked for my community from the time I was a Boy Scout, volunteer fireman, reserve policeman and youth coach.

After retirement I took a job at the Forest Grove High School to be involved with the kids of our community. I continue to volunteer with the Forest Grove Elks and Holbrook Masonic Lodge. I know that I am only one vote on council but I make it count. I feel that serving on the Forest Grove City Council is an honor and privilege that the citizens of this community allow me to do. With my past work and volunteering I have many contacts with this community. I have support from unions, schools, businesses, fraternal groups, churches and citizens.

MILLER: My dad was a State Farm insurance agent in Forest Grove and he hired me to work in his office. Both he and I saw the beauty of this city. Forest Grove is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. Forest Grove has fed my family for over 30 years and I feel that I owe it to these people to give back some of what they have given to me. What comes around goes around. I thank them and want them to know I appreciate each and every one of them.

THOMPSON: Forest Grove is home. I reared my children here and will retire here. Forest Grove is important to me.

Next week's topic: Economic Development.

Get your vote on!

It's election season and that means plenty of chances to see candidates vying for your vote. Here's a sample of upcoming events:

What: Forest Grove public safety levy

When: :7:30-8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4

Where: Forest Grove Senior Center,

2037 Douglas St.

Sponsor: Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce

Who: Legislative candidates from across Washington County

When: 7-9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5

Where: Hillsboro Civic Center (Main and First Streets)

Sponsor: Beaverton and Hillsboro/Forest Grove branches of the American Association of University Women

Details: At least 11 state legislative hopefuls are booked, including:

n Republican State. Sen. Bruce Starr and Democratic challenger John Napolitano who are running in Senate District 15, which includes Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove.

n Democratic state Rep. Chuck Riley and Republican challenger Terry Rilling in House District 29, which stretches from Hillsboro to Forest Grove.

n Republican state Rep. Jerry Krummel and Democratic challenger Lee Coleman, in House District 26, which includes Gaston.

n Democratic State Rep. Deborah Boone, running for re-election in House District 32, which includes Banks.

Who: House District 29 candidates (Riley and Rilling)

When: 7:30-8:30 a..m., Wednesday, Oct. 11

Where: Forest Grove Senior Center, 2037 Douglas St.

Sponsor: Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce

Note: Breakfast available for $5

Who: Forest Grove City Council candidates

When: :30-8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 25

Where: Forest Grove Senior Center,

2037 Douglas St.

Sponsor: Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce

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