Three seek election to Gresham council spot
Whether or not he's elected mayor, Shane Bemis' move for the city council's top position creates a vacancy in his current seat - Position 6. Now, three residents with various political interests are campaigning for the seat.
Bryant Lister lives on the edge of Rockwood and is concerned that all of Gresham isn't represented on the council, which now consists mostly of Persimmon residents.
'We have 100,000 people in this city,' he said. 'We need more Gresham representation.'
Lister, 34, is alarmed by the high number of apartments in Gresham and thinks more family-wage jobs are needed in the area to enable those renters to become homeowners.
However, he is worried that the city is so eager to attract jobs that it allows any and all businesses to locate here. Instead, he thinks Gresham should focus on identifying companies that would best boost the city's tax base while being a good fit for Gresham and its residents.
'But we can't compromise for the sake of profit, and I think that's done a little too often,' Lister said. ' … I don't see everything as dollar signs. I see what will benefit the citizens.'
Born in Georgia and educated in California, Lister moved to the Northwest to attend chiropractic college. After three years of operating his own chiropractic clinic, Lister switched careers and is now a manager for a Gresham educational testing company.
Lister, who served on the city council's police advisory committee, believes Gresham needs better fire and police response standards, especially before growth in Springwater and Pleasant Valley can occur.
He favors the Rockwood urban renewal effort but thinks Gresham needs to focus on making the area more pedestrian friendly, much like Gresham Station. He also thinks the city needs to preserve more green spaces instead of turning them into parks. 'One of the reasons I moved to Gresham was the feel of it,' Lister said.
Lister said his young age is to his political advantage. 'I think I have a better feel for many of the citizens in Gresham who are being overlooked,' he said. '… Let's get things moving in a forward direction.'
Longtime resident and local dentist John Kilian said he wants to help create a positive atmosphere for job growth, smart development and educational opportunities.
For starters, Gresham needs to do more to encourage businesses to move to the city and to help local small businesses stay put and/or expand. For example, when he had to move his Gresham dental practice in the late 1990s, he opted for Troutdale. 'I got no cooperation from the city at all,' Kilian said.
Given the growth Gresham expects in Springwater and Pleasant Valley, the city needs to become much more business friendly. Also, the city needs to determine whether it has enough staff not only to plan for growth but to plan smartly for growth.
Kilian, 58, considers himself a 'renaissance thinker' who has long planned to run for the City Council. 'They need some stimulus and some energy,' he said of the council. '… For the past two years, it's like we've been brain dead in Gresham.'
He said he plans to bring positive energy, ideas and alternatives to the council and to work with neighborhood associations and other East County cities. 'We've got to have a regional view,' Kilian said.
Kilian hopes to turn around Gresham's reputation as a 'city of broken dreams.' The Center for the Arts and the Gradin Community Sports Park, both grass-roots efforts, need more support. And Gresham's parks and recreation department is really just the parks department now that recreational programs have been cut.
Gresham needs to look to its future, balance natural resource conservation and development within the urban growth boundary, and determine the city's identity. 'Gresham needs to decide what it wants to be and what it wants to do,' Kilian said. '… And with common sense, I think we can figure out where we want to be heading.'
Like Kilian, Carol Nielsen-Hood is a longtime resident. And as executive director of Gresham's Area Chamber of Commerce, Nielsen-Hood she hears an earful about local concerns on a daily basis.
Business owners routinely voice problems with city codes, transportation issues and development permits. 'I hear total frustration,' she said. If elected, she plans to streamline the permitting process that now bogs down the economic development and planning departments.
Not only will this help ease current development, but it will pave the way for a smoother expansion in Springwater and Pleasant Valley as well as urban renewal efforts in Rockwood, she said.
'People need to be able to come in, get their plans, get it done and move on,' she said.
Although the Chamber of Commerce traditionally receives funding from the city's budget, Nielsen-Hood said she would remove herself from any votes with which she had a conflict of interest.
Nielsen-Hood, 67, said Gresham's top three issues are crime, growth and transportation. Improving economic development and livability in Rockwood will help reduce crime in West Gresham, she said. To that end, she supports building an eastside justice center in the crime- and poverty-stricken neighborhood.
If Gresham and East Multnomah County are ever to address their transportation issues, a north-south connection between Interstate 84 and Highway 26 will be needed. Such a corridor not only will get semi-trucks off Burnside, but it is vital to Damascus, Springwater and the Sunrise Corridor.
Nielsen-Hood said her ability to get along with and communicate with 'everyone' would serve her well as a city councilor. 'My concern is for businesses and the citizens of this community,' she said.