All of the City Council candidates agree that traffic is the No. 1 issue in Tualatin
TUALATIN - Tualatin residents will have two contested City Council races to wrestle with on the November ballot. Incumbent Jay Harris is running for re-election to his position 1 seat. Harris is running against newcomer Donald Funk.
Candidates Frank Bubenik and Donna Maddux are running for position 3, which was left open after Councilor Chris Bergstrom opted not to run for a second term.
Why are they running, what are the biggest issues they hope to tackle, how do they plan to handle the issue of the Interstate-5/99W connector, and how do they differ from their opponents? The candidates were interviewed and asked the same questions. Below are brief profiles on each of the candidates based on their answers.
The race for seat 1
As a council member, Jay Harris says he likes the feeling of going out on a limb. Harris was okay being a lone voice when he struggled this past spring to get the rest of the City Council on board for a library measure that would free up bonds for a library expansion project.
Harris was even OK when he was the only one to vote against the Tualatin Tomorrow visioning project. He opposed it mostly because of the price tag - $200,000.
And so now, Harris said it would be just fine with him if he went out on a limb and suggested that Metro halt all development until something is done to correct the transportation problems - namely the traffic and road congestion in Tualatin.
'I want to solve this transportation problem,' Harris said. 'Every legislative session, I want it forced on (our representatives) to figure it out. No more growth until this problem is solved.'
Like the other candidates for City Council, Harris agrees that traffic is the biggest concern for the city. And with the library issue moving forward, Harris said, if re-elected, the next big issue he would like to tackle is traffic.
'We need to do something with transportation - not just talk about it,' Harris said.
Harris believes the city should continue with its involvement on the I-5/99W connector project. He said that state and regional governments still need to find funding for the 'long-term' project.
Harris would also like to see the city's Tualatin River pedestrian project completed -a trail system that would run from the east end of Tualatin to the new bridge site at Tualatin Community Park and eventually out to 99W.
Harris is seeking his second term on council. In 2002, he ran on a platform of citizen involvement. Harris said his platform this year is much the same. He wants to see more community involvement and admitted that the Tualatin Tomorrow process has garnered a lot of citizen participation - even though he said he'd vote against the visioning project again if he had the chance, mostly because of the cost.
Harris believes he has been an asset to the council bringing an engineering and analytical background.
'The council needs all those types of backgrounds,' Harris said, noting that his skills set him apart from the rest of the council. He said it's his experience that differentiates him from his opponent.
'I've been there,' Harris said referring to his almost four years on council and his participation in several committees. 'I want to try and make a difference.'
Donald Funk is the only retired person running for City Council this year. And to him, that's a good thing.
'The one advantage I have is time,' Funk said. 'I've got the time, and I've got the energy and the interest (to serve the community).'
Funk touts 27 years of public service, most of which he served on the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District while he lived in California. His service with that entity sparked an interest in Funk to see a similar independent parks district created with the communities of Tualatin, Sherwood and Tigard.
Though Funk knows it's been attempted before, he said that if elected, he would create a task force to look into the possibility of forming an independent recreation and parks district in the city.
The goal would be to improve recreational activities by having an entity completely devoted to park maintenance and community activities, according to Funk.
'I'd just like to see the city maintain its excellent standards for families and residents,' Funk said. 'And in terms of an independent parks district, I know it works.'
Funk's concern for standards also extends to development within the city. He wants to see a master plan developed soon for the city that would keep residential and commercial development balanced as it is now
Funk says he knows that the Tualatin Tomorrow visioning process is supposed to help the city in updating its master plan, but 'the city still needs something on paper now.' He wants a plan expedited faster than the current pace of the visioning process is allowing.
And much like his opponent, incumbent Jay Harris, Funk said he would have likely questioned the $200,000 price tag associated with the visioning process.
And like the rest of the council candidates, Funk named traffic and congestion as the No. 1 issue in the city. Funk suggested forming a traffic coalition that would include representatives from the cities of Tualatin and Sherwood, Washington County and the Oregon Department of Transportation to address traffic concerns on Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road. A similar coalition already exists for the I-5/99W connector route project. But according to Funk, his suggested traffic coalition would be different in how it approached the traffic problem. He did not give specifics on how it would differ.
Funk did note that he supports the current I-5/99W connector project. He went so far as to say he was 'willing to go down to Salem to lobby the Legislature.'
'Whatever it takes to take care of the problem, I'll do,' he added.
The race for seat 3
As a small business owner, Frank Bubenik says he's acquired the skills necessary to accomplish goals in a timely fashion, even in government.
'You set goals, you make plans, and you achieve those goals,' he said. 'And it's also about making sure the timeline is met.'
Bubenik wants to use his skills on the council to find timely solutions to problems in the city and to encourage citizen involvement.
'My biggest thing is to work with everyone in Tualatin,' Bubenik said, stressing that if elected he would not alienate any section of the community whether it is residents, business owners, homeowners or apartment tenants.
Like the other council candidates, Bubenik's biggest concern for the city is the traffic and road congestion in Tualatin.
'We have to come up with something, because it's only going to get worse,' Bubenik said.
And like most residents in Tualatin, his next biggest concern is when that problem will be solved.
'I'm in support of the connector, but I'm nervous it won't happen. We're at least two years away from construction, and there's bickering between the cities,' Bubenik said. 'I would want to make a pact to work better with Sherwood and Wilsonville.'
While Bubenik supports the I-5/99W connector route project, he's concerned that 'the process is moving at a snail's pace.' He also noted that the project has 'too many points of failure.'
'We need to come up with a plan B,' he said. Bubenik has an idea for a parkway between 99W and Tualatin-Sherwood Road, something similar to Roy Rogers Road in Sherwood. He noted that such a project could be kept at the city level.
But Bubenik's first concern is still the connector. And referring back to his skill sets, Bubenik noted that making sure deadlines are kept and met is one of his specialties.
'We have this momentum. Let's not lose it,' he said. 'It's time to get everyone's priorities working together.'
Some residents of Tualatin may remember Bubenik from the 2004 City Council race. He lost to Mike Gillespie for seat 2 in a race that was filled with political mud slinging. This time Bubenik said he and his opponent, Donna Maddux, have agreed to a clean race.
That said, Bubenik was still quick to point out his edge over his opponent.
Bubenik believes his record of service - chairing the Library Advisory Council and co-chairing the city's visioning steering committee - plus his skills acquired from being a small business owner speak for themselves.
'I have a track record to point to,' Bubenik said referring to his terms on city committees, 'and Donna (Maddux) doesn't.'
Donna Maddux chuckled to herself remembering Mayor Lou Ogden's comments during Councilor Mike Gillespie's last council meeting Sept. 25.
'We're just seven white guys,' Ogden had said in explaining how hard council members work to help the community.
Sitting in the second to last row of the council chambers, Maddux had laughed. In her eyes, that description of the Tualatin City Council was right on, and she wants to change that.
'I am a woman,' Maddux pointed out when asked what traits set her apart from her opponent. Currently no woman serves on the Tualatin City Council, and Maddux believes that should change.
'The more diverse the council is, the better it can serve Tualatin,' she noted.
As a newcomer to Tualatin city politics, Maddux calls herself 'a brand new voice.' Maddux admitted she has not been as involved in city committees as her opponent has, but again said that is what will set her apart.
'People should make their decisions not on who's been involved in the last two years but who has the best set of skills to serve the next four years,' Maddux said.
A resident of Southwest Tualatin, near Ibach Park, Maddux believes she can bring different issues to the attention of council that affect Tualatin's growing and quickly developing southwest neighborhoods.
Maddux also believes that the City Council should become more involved with the discussions about bringing social service programs to those in need in Tualatin. Maddux said the council as a whole has not been directly involved with any of the discussions about social service issues. She noted that individual council members have attended meetings, but she believes that the entire council should be involved in meeting the needs of the community.
Like most residents of Tualatin, Maddux does not work in Tualatin. She works out of the Oregon Department of Justice offices in Salem, a fact that again, according to Maddux, sets her apart from other councilors.
'A large portion of people who live in Tualatin don't work in Tualatin. They work an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job just like me… I could remind council members of that and keep them cognizant of that fact. People can't always make it to a meeting at 5 p.m., but it doesn't mean they don't have concerns. Not being there during the day won't affect how I serve,' she said.
Maddux, however, does fall into line with other candidates when it comes to the biggest issue facing the city - traffic and road congestion.
Maddux noted that she is committed to ensuring that progress moves forward on the I-5/99W connector route.
'I still think it might be the best solution,' Maddux said. But in the event that plans for the road were to fail, Maddux agreed that a viable solution would still be needed.
Family: Married, three children
How long in Tualatin: 6 years
Occupation: Civil engineer
Prior experience: Tualatin city councilor since 2003, serves on the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency and the Washington County Cooperative Library Services boards and the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee
Family: Married, four grown children
How long in Tualatin: 4 years
Occupation: Retired school teacher
Prior experience: 25 years as a parks and recreation district board member in Cali-fornia, three-year member of the Tualatin Parks Commit-tee, president of the Tualatin Kiwanis Club, 2005 member of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce leadership class, member of the Tualatin To-morrow visioning committee
How long in Tualatin: 13 years
Occupation: Information technology consultant
Prior experience: Co-chair of Tualatin Tomorrow visioning steering committee, chairman of the Library Advisory Committee
How long in Tualatin: 2½ years
Occupation: Assistant attorney general in the Oregon Department of Justice, the criminal justice division
Prior experience: Bachelor's degree in political science/public administration, served a year with AmeriCorps Network Northwest as a trainer for a public service program