Dealing with Change Forest Grove council hopefuls discuss the citys coming changes
candidates -- This week, the News-Times concludes its series of 'Questions and Answers' with the four candidates running for the three open seats on the Forest Grove City Council.
Q. Do you support the extension of light rail to town? Why or why not?
RON THOMPSON: The extension of light rail to Forest Grove has some positive advantages and some negative disadvantages. The advantages are the following: easy commute for Portland and west-side workers, seniors and disabled citizens would have minimal transfers to Portland or Portland International Airport. Pacific University would have its two campuses linked, and entertainment and sports events in downtown Portland would be easy to travel to with no parking fees. The disadvantages are the added cost to Forest Grove: increased costs for law enforcement, faster population growth, decreased response time across city for police, fire and emergency services. I support the extension of light rail if we do the planning to address the disadvantages.
ALDIE HOWARD: Mixed bag. Forest Grove, except for Pacific University, is not a destination town. MAX would be a very nice addition to the transportation system as one could go directly to the airport, Gresham, Clackamas Town Center and eventually past the Expo Center to Vancouver, Washington, but I can do most of those things with my car parked in Hillsboro or after taking the bus to the transfer center. The police worry about an increase in petty crime as a result of MAX. The present mayor sees a rail line through the city. I see a convenience with a stop at Wal-Mart in Cornelius on my way to the airport.
tom JOHNSTON I do support light rail coming to Forest Grove for several reasons. It will allow the citizens to travel into a larger area for cultural and athletic events without using their own vehicles thus using less fuel and creating traffic problems. More people can also get to Forest Grove for our events and cultural events. Some people do not like light rail for fear of opening the city up to a whole new group of homeless, however I feel the pluses outweigh the minuses.a
CAMILLE MILLER: I would support looking into it. We need to know what, if any, expense the city would incur. Where would it terminate that has ample parking to accommodate the end of the line? What about the other issues regarding the end of the line? Some Hillsboro businesses have commented that they have more panhandlers and homeless than they had before. Is this the economy or the end of the line? How would we deal with this situation? What about commuter rail which is much less expensive?
Q. Do you support the idea of using city general funds to study the feasibility of bringing light rail to town?
THOMPSON: Yes, but only if Washington County, Hillsboro, Cornelius and Metro provide their share. The feasibility study must include all areas west of First Street in Hillsboro.
HOWARD: I would not support the use of general funds to study the feasibility of light rail to Forest Grove. Metro will do that planning for us. Washington County has played a major role in the train up from Wilsonville to Beaverton and I suspect they would carry the MAX rail turmoil to Forest Grove.
JOHNSTON: I am sure if and when the time comes some general fund money will be used, however I would like to see grant money used for such studies.
MILLER: Our general fund is stretched about as far as it can go. I would encourage looking for money outside the general fund to study it.
Q. Based on demographic trends within the public schools, Forest Grove is in the midst of a large influx of Latino residents. Currently, except for the library, Forest Gove city agencies don't make much of an effort to provide information in any language other than English. What do you make of that?
THOMPSON: I would disagree with the statement. The Forest Grove Annual Town Meeting had all of the handout material in Spanish and English and an interpreter was available. The annual survey in the utility bill was also in Spanish and English. We also used an interpreter for the Sunset Drive project for three Latino property owner citizens and annexation papers were offered in Spanish. Police, Fire and Municipal Court provide interpreter service as needed. When our citizens have a need we have tried to meet the need.
HOWARD: My stance on this one is simple - If you are legal you are welcome. If you are illegal please leave now and do whatever is necessary to come back with the correct credentials! I am not in favor of catering to this minority in the schools with special education or changing the way I live to accommodate any minority. Learn our language. Learn our customs. Abide by our laws. Every other immigrant has done these things … you do them.
JOHNSTON: Other than the driver's manual and state-provided pamphlets, the city doesn't provide many duel language items. If there are demands, it should be addressed. I do know that many members of our younger [Spanish speaking] population can communicate well enough to get answers to their questions, but many older generations only speak Spanish, and English is very difficult for them.
MILLER: I would say that the City of Forest Grove provides services for its citizens. Most citizens speak English. If we begin providing signs in other languages then the people who work there will need to be bilingual. How does that limit the candidate pool for city workers? If we can do anything it would be to help local agencies provide English classes. It is better to teach someone how to fish than to simply give him or her fish?
Q. Should the city provide Spanish-language translators for council meetings and city-sponsored community forums?
THOMPSON: No. However, the answer would be 'yes' for written materials, if requested.
JOHNSTON: Upon needed usage the city does provide translators for the council and community meetings which I have seen in the past.
MILLER: I believe that the city is made better with the input of all residents, but I do not believe that we should provide translators for any and all that do not speak or understand English.
Q. How about signs in city-owned buildings open to the public?
THOMPSON: No, unless city business will be improved.
JOHNSTON: Signs may work, but if there is no one to translate what good are the signs, except to tell someone that there is no one there to help.
MILLER: Unless it is a matter of public safety, no.
Q. What, if anything, are you doing to help integrate the growing Hispanic population into the community?
THOMPSON: I impressed on my daughter the importance of being bi-lingual. She is an English as a Second Language teacher in Eugene and translated my campaign material into Spanish for me. My church in Forest Grove has a 90-member Spanish-speaking congregation, meeting every Sunday afternoon. I was on the board that approved the building use.
JOHNSTON: I have asked local Hispanic citizens to be involved and apply for boards and commissions. While appointing those boards and commissions I look for qualified persons who will add to our cultural diversity. I am currently involved as a mentor for a young Hispanic person in the Oregon Youth Challenge Program whom I am very proud of.
MILLER: I have encouraged Adelante Mujeres [a local non-profit group which works with low-income Hispanic women] and, as a member of the administrative council at St. Anthony's church, helped to facilitate programs for our Hispanic population.
Q. In Cornelius right now there's a lot of turmoil over day laborers and the assumption that many of them are not in this country legally. Do you see the City of Forest Grove having any role in the issue of illegal immigration? If not, why not? If so, what is that role?
THOMPSON: The City of Forest Grove's role should be to enforce the law. National Immigration Service should set the standards and the state and local police should enforce the law. Laborers who are legally documented workers should meet all labor laws and labor safety standards. Legal documented workers should be able to work and illegals should not. Illegal is illegal, period.
JOHNSTON: I do not see the City of Forest Grove getting involved with illegal immigration which will be enforced by the federal government. I do see the city getting involved if any state or local crimes are committed which need to be investigated whether the victim or the suspect are citizens or illegal immigrants.
HOWARD: I think the obvious question is, 'Why are these people here?' Simple answer, 'To work!' If I was starving in some dusty, dirty, little town in Mexico, or anywhere else, and I heard that I could make good money in a bordering county, I would be on the first bus out, headed whereever, and lo and behold I found myself in Cornelius, Oregon. 'Are you a 'legal immigrant'?' and if the answer is 'Yes,' then 'Welcome to America!' Does Forest Grove have a role in international immigration policy? No! Were the Pilgrims legal or illegal immigrants looking for freedoms, a chance to improve their lives, a new start? Judge not that ye may be judged! Do you think the Native Indians asked the Pilgrims for immigration documents? Big problem. No easy answers.
MILLER: I don't see a role for the City of Forest Grove except to provide funding for enforcement of any legislation passed by the state or federal governments.
Q. You've now all been actively campaigning for at least a full month. What, in order, are the three most common questions you're getting when you talk to voters?
THOMPSON: Why are the rates for extra garbage and trash so high - both, picked up at the curb or at the dump station? What is the issue about on the floodplain in Gales Creek and the Rau property? When will Bonnie Lane, Sunset Drive and the David Hill extension be completed?
JOHNSTON: When will Forest Grove get any new retail business? When will Forest Grove get a new grocery store? What has created all the new home building in such a short time period?
HOWARD: If elected will you build a new Post Office? How many more people will the cops shoot? What are you going to do for the people on fixed incomes trying to stay in their homes?
MILLER: How can we handle all the new houses: traffic, schools, etc.? Who says we have to have all the high-density housing? How do we decide on all the levies on the ballot. They're talking a lot of money!
Q. What has surprised you most during this campaign?
THOMPSON: The number of new people to the community of Forest Grove. When I ask 'how long have you lived in Forest Grove?' most said six months to four years. Many were not living in Forest Grove when I was elected four years ago. You must get your name and face before the public again.
JOHNSTON: I am surprised that so many of our citizens are so well informed on the issues and willing to talk to individuals or small groups about their side of those issues, but are unwilling to get involved by applying to any boards, commissions, committees or come forward to testify at public hearings which may effect them directly or indirectly.
HOWARD: Not really surprised, but I've been pleased with the comments from people who have read my responses in your paper or from those who have known me and who have supported me in various endeavors here since 1958.
MILLER: Honestly, the biggest surprise was the overwhelming support and encouragement I have received from so many people. Also I have the sense that people are reasonably content with the way things are going in the city. When there are concerns they can be addressed by explaining why things are the way they are and how we can work together to improve them when necessary. I believed then and I still believe if we can understand the why of things, we are much more able to accept them. It's that whole fear of the unknown thing.
Q. Finally, we'll let you get the last word. Why should voters cast that ballot for you next month?
THOMPSON: The voters should cast their vote for me on the November 7 ballot for the following reasons: (1) During my first term (four years) I missed one city council meeting and two Citizen Involvement Committee meetings . All were missed for family commitments. I am always your public official.
(2) I have been on three very important committees for Forest Grove's future - Citizen Involvement Committee who host the annual Town Hall Meeting each January; Senior Transportation- Ride Connection Board of Directors- four county areas; and Energy Advisory Committee- League of Oregon Cities at the state level.
(3) I have reared my family in Forest Grove. After living in seven states working for the U.S. Forest Service, I chose Forest Grove, Oregon as my hometown. I married and reared my family here. I have two children; both are graduates of Forest Grove High School and two grandchildren in Happy Valley, Oregon. I have lived in Forest Grove for 26 years and plan to retire here. Forest Grove is very important to me, Forest Grove is my home.
(4) I have the education and the experience to do a quality job in the city councilor position.
Yes, I have lived the shortest time of all the candidates in Forest Grove; however, 26 years should give me a feel for the town. Also, I have training in forestry, land-use planning and outdoor recreation planning. I have worked at the national level in program development and budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, at Washington, DC; at the regional level in program development and budget in Washington and Portland; and as city planner for the cities of Yachats and Waldport, Oregon. I am currently a Nationally Certified Forester and a wetlands consultant.
Finally, I want to do a great job for the future of Forest Grove.
JOHNSTON: I have been involved with community services since I was a young child with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, as I got older and went off to college I became a student body president, and later became involved as a reserve police officer and volunteer fire fighter.
I joined several fraternal groups which thrive on community involvement as well as philanthropic deeds for such things as children's hospitals, speech camps for children, eye clinics for children, drug-awareness programs and scholarship programs.
I was a youth coach for many activities and sports as my three children grew up.
I worked as a police officer for over 30 years handling many positions within the City of Forest Grove. During those years I was appointed to several boards and committees until I retired in 2001.
In November, 2001 I went to work for the Forest Grove School District as student supervisor at the high school.
In November, 2002 I ran for city council and won by a large number of votes. While on council I have been liaison to several commissions, currently I am the liaison to the Parks and Recreation Commission, Forest Grove Public Safety Commission, Forest Grove Budget Committee, Washington County Public Safety Committee which I was chairman of for two years, and chairman Washington County Consolidated Communications Budget Committee (911).
I have been in most of the homes and businesses of our community, and when dealing with issues I go look at the projects in person.
You can see that I have been and still am in contact with many many citizens and children of our community on a daily basis.
I have always been available to the citizens for their comments and any constructive criticism they may offer.
As you can easily see that I have a vested interest in our community, and it has been a privilege to serve as your councilor for the past two years and I am asking for your support and vote again so I may continue to serve you as city councilor.
HOWARD: I have always appreciated the spirit of our citizens. People are looking for strong, effective leadership - someone who is willing to make the difficult choices for the betterment of this community. I seldom blow my own horn, I am a bit shy in that regard, but you asked so I will tell ya' I have more public administration hands-on experience than anyone serving on the council or aspiring to serve: Masters degree in Public Administration from Portland State University. Planning Director for Vernonia now and in Tigard and Benton County in the past, fireman here while at Pacific University as student-body president 1968, chief of police and deputy city manager in Kodiak, Alaska, past member of the planning commission here, chairman of the town planning board in Belmont, New Hampshire. I have served on every imaginable board from an airport to a cemetery to the budget and dog control. I understand how the system works and I can tell immediately when it does not! Some people think me abrupt. Good. Sometimes I am. Leadership is not making friends, it is getting things done for the betterment of us all. Thanks for your vote … I promise not to abuse it!
MILLER: I want to serve the citizens of Forest Grove and it seems to me that this is a good way to do it. The responsibility of making decisions that will affect our city's future is daunting but I believe I am up to it. None of my opponents love Forest Grove more than I do, nor are they more committed to service than I am. My 13 years on the Citizens Involvement Advisory Committee (including several years as chairperson) gives me a good background in land use and reasons for some of it. I chaired many, many meetings to gain input from our citizens about how they felt about the process and its results. I care about and communicate well with people and hope to be able help them understand why things are the way they are, change what needs changing, and allow them another person they can talk with when they have concerns about what is happening around them. We can work together to continue to make Forest Grove the city we want it to be.