Growth issues will be front and center during a series of public events on March 15 and 16. They are part of Metro's 'Let's Talk' public outreach project designed to help area residents influence the future of the Portland region.

A regional conference on growth issues will be held March 16 at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

It will begin with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast featuring a debate between Metro Executive Mike Burton and Oregonians in Action Legal Counsel Dave Hunnicutt. The two groups have placed competing growth measures on the May election ballot.

Other conference highlights include a 9:45 a.m. panel featuring Andy Kerr, founder of Alternatives to Growth Oregon, a nonprofit organization that wants Metro to discourage growth.

Kerr will argue that it's impossible to preserve livability while accommodating the 450,000 people expected to move to the region during the next 20 years.

Other speakers at the conference include Mike Houck, an urban naturalist with the Audubon Society of Portland; Fred Hansen, Tri-Met's general manager; and Gerrit Knapp, director of research for the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland.

Registration costs range from $25 for a luncheon to $100 for the full day. Scholarships are available from Metro at 503-259-0739. Portland neighborhood associations are invited to send two members free.

The evening after the conference, KGW (8) will broadcast a town hall on growth issues at 7 p.m. A limited number of public seats are available by calling 503-226-4447.

Metro also will sponsor a series of community growth discussions around the region March 16. Portland's session will take place during the city's third annual Neighborhood Association Summit, set for Cleveland High School, 3400 S.E. 26th Ave.

Ñ Jim Redden

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