Two retired activists run for Widmarks council spot
- Mara Stine
- Gresham Outlook - News
Pung sets sights on Rockwood while Strathern wants to keep city hall accountable with scorecards
The two candidates for Gresham City Council position 4 just might have more commonalities than differences.
R.H. 'Bob' Pung, 59, and Richard 'Dick' Strathern, 68, are both retired, disabled and hope to give back to their community by replacing City Councilor David Widmark on the Gresham City Council. Widmark is not running for re-election due to health reasons.
In his second election bid for city council - he lost in 2004 to Councilor Shirley Craddick - Pung said he thinks he can do a good job as a city councilor.
If elected, his goal will be to maintain the good working relationships councilors have recently developed. 'There are fewer fights to slow progress,' Pung said. 'I want to be a team player.'
He said his honesty, networking skills and ability to listen are political assets. 'I won't pick sides; there seems to be a lot of that,' Pung said. Also, the council seems to get caught up in an aggressive push to forge ahead, but Pung said he'd like to see some things finished first.
One of the biggest issues facing Gresham, Pung said, is Rockwood's urban renewal effort, or 'how we are going to build Rockwood up.' He worries about federal gang funding expiring next year and how that will affect police and their battle against gang violence.
Pung also supports siting a Multnomah County justice center in Rockwood. 'I think it would be a big mistake to put it somewhere else,' he said.
Developing Springwater and Pleasant Valley are high on the list of city priorities, but most likely will move slower than Rockwood's effort 'because of the land-use issues and infrastructure needs,' he said.
Pung supports development that pairs jobs with housing and transportation, such as Orenco Station in Hillsboro. Also as density increases in East County, 'people need to have jobs closer to home,' he said.
As for his competition, Pung admits that Strathern has a valuable career from which to draw. 'But my career change came when I became disabled,' Pung said.
The degenerative disc disease that lead to him being in a wheelchair also sparked an 18-year career of volunteering for government, transportation and housing committees.
Those years of experience will benefit the city council and the city if he's elected, 'especially for expanding into Springwater and Pleasant Valley,' Pung said. 'Gresham has a lot of growing to do … I think my years of services show where I want to go and how.'
Strathern said his human resources and business background would help him as a city councilor, as well as help keep those professional working relationships councilors have forged over the past few years.
'I am able to develop partnerships, especially with people who don't usually work together or like to work together,' Strathern said.
He moved to Gresham in 1993 from Ohio. He is often seen at council meetings, his metal crutches at his side due to being stricken with polio as a child.
If elected, Strathern said he'd like to make the council and city hall more accountable to citizens by creating scorecards for councilors, the mayor and top department heads.
Gresham needs to attract family wage jobs to the city and must clear bottlenecks in the economic development department that seem to impede businesses from opening quickly.
Local cities and jurisdictions, including Multnomah County, must come together on issues of regional importance and 'get beyond the kind of politics that we've seen in the past couple of years,' he said.
'I think we're at a critical juncture in where this city is going to go,' he said. With the right partnerships, the right direction and more citizen involvement, we can go in the right direction.'
He'd also like to create an advisory board for small businesses and find revenue beyond the existing tax structure. After all, 91 percent of the general fund is spent on police and fire services. 'Any economic stumble can send the city into a tailspin,' he said.
Strathern said people should vote for him because he truly cares about the community, is a good listener and will represent the city well.
'I love Gresham,' he said. 'There really is a lot of successful things going on, but there are some areas that need to be firmed up.'