Candidates will tackle business and economy issues

With less than 40 days before November’s general election, the two candidates for Tigard mayor are meeting for a special debate, hosted by the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber announced Monday that it would host a debate between Nick Wilson and John L. Cook on Oct. 15 at the Broadway Rose Theatre Company.

Wilson and Cook are running to fill the final two years of Mayor Craig Dirksen’s term.

Dirksen is leaving in January after securing an elected seat on the Metro Council.

What: Tigard Mayoral debate on business and the economy

Who: Candidates Nick Wilson and John L. Cook hosted by the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce

When: Monday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.

Where: Broadway Rose Theatre, 12850 S.W. Grant Ave., in Tigard.

Cost: Free

The debate will focus largely on business and the economy, said Debbi Mollahan, the chamber’s CEO.

“Businesses are looking for ways that the city can help them stand out and navigate in a tough economy,” Mollahan said. “Businesses are still struggling.”

Mollahan said the mayor and the City Council can have a big say in the local economy.

“There is a lot that the city can do with the role of economic development and how they partner with other cities,” Mollahan said. “They can look at what, if anything, the city generates through funds and taxes and how do these incentives or disincentives affect businesses? If businesses want to come here or expand here.”

The debate is free and open to the public.

Conflict of interest?

Cook, a lifelong Tigard resident and a certified public accountant, has been a longtime member of the Chamber of Commerce, and has served on its board of directors for many years, including as president.

Cook is the former recipient of the chamber’s First Citizen Award and twice received its Bert Tousey Award for volunteerism within the chamber.

He stepped down from the board before filing to run for public office.

Mollahan said the debate format will be impartial.

“My sense from the chamber members is that they will vote for whoever is right for Tigard, and whoever is right for the City Council and the residents,” Mollahan said. “Each candidate brings a different set of skills and experience to the role, and it is up to voters to decide what they value.”

The debate will feature questions from moderators and the audience.

Mollahan said the debate will not play favorites with the candidates.

“Because (Cook) is a chamber member, we have to really make sure that there are no questions where more favor is being given to one member over another,” Mollahan said. “Our goal is to educate the business public.”

Mollahan said Cook’s involvement with the chamber has always been more behind the scenes, and that chamber members at large are likely to know both candidates just as well.

“He has been very involved in the chamber, but the general members may or may not be as familiar with him,” she said. “I am hoping that interested people from the business community would want to hear what (each of them) bring to the table.”

Wilson, who is challenging Cook for the mayor’s seat, has nearly 20 years of experience in city government, through the City Council and the city’s Planning Commission.

Wilson’s company, Atlas Landscape Architects in Tigard, is not a member of the Chamber of Commerce, but Mollahan said his level of experience brings a depth of knowledge to issues that the business community will also find appealing.

“I think 19 years dedicated to the city, both on the Planning Commission and the City Council says a lot,” she said. “Each candidate brings a different set of skills to the role and experience, and it is up to voters to decide which they value more.”

This is the second political debate hosted by the chamber.

In 2011, it hosted a debate between Suzanne Bonamici and Rob Cornilles, candidates for Oregon’s 1st Congressional District.

The debate will be moderated by Dan Murphy, Broadway Rose’s general manager and former president of the chamber board.

For more information about the debate, call 503-639-1656.

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