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Metro puts priority on jobs

MY VIEW • Agency is ready and able to take on pressing local issues

At a time like this, it may be hard to muster the emotional energy and political will to deal with issues such as 'livability' and transportation policy.

Just look at what has happened in Oregon since the fall. Thanks to our lagging economy, our paralyzed statewide political system and the inevitable budget crisis that followed, we have become the punch line in a national joke.

And yet, no matter how troubling things get in the world, in Salem or on Wall Street, we never have and never will fall out of love with our home here in this quirky corner of the nation.

In this time of chaos and uncertainty, as parents take to the streets to save their children's schools and as war rages in the desert, we all take comfort in our families, in our home.

And that is why this is exactly the right time to talk about our region and the things that count here at home.

Metro is entering a new era. We are putting our internal house in order. For the first time, a regionally elected official, the Metro Council president, is setting the policy agenda. And for the first time, we will hire a professional administrator to manage the agency and be accountable for results.

As I searched for Metro's first chief operating officer, I looked for someone with a deep understanding of the issues facing our region, for someone who would carry forward our drive for fiscal responsibility and public accountability.

Our nationwide search ended in what may seem like an unlikely place: Canby. Unlikely unless you know that one of the best public administrators in the country comes from Canby: Clackamas County Commissioner Mike Jordan.

Following career stints in the private utility business and as a city manager, Mike's service on the Clackamas County Commission allowed him to grapple with a microcosm of all the issues facing Oregon: urban growth, transportation, natural resource issues and open space protection. Mike has led Clackamas County's innovative response to these challenges and is ideally suited to manage Metro.

So what is the priority for this new and improved Metro? The economy.

Planning for the future must include planning for prosperity. Economic wealth by itself is no guarantee of a healthy community where people actually want to live. Our planning must ensure that our friends and family don't have to leave the state to find rewarding jobs.

Metro must be a leader in Oregon's economic recovery through four key contributions:

• Metro has shepherded the expansion of the Oregon Convention Center. Not one penny of the $100 million construction cost came from local property taxes. More important, it creates more than 2,000 desperately needed jobs in the region.

• Second, Metro will place high priority on providing Ñ and protecting Ñ a land supply for the industries of today and tomorrow. In December, the Metro Council added nearly 3,000 acres to the urban growth boundary specifically for industry. That's very good news, but it isn't enough. We know we need to bring nearly 2,000 more acres of industrial property into the boundary.

• Third, we need to take care of what we have. We already recycle solid waste. We are also recycling land and buildings to add jobs in and near existing neighborhoods. Our traditional downtowns, whether on the historic main street of Forest Grove or the waterfront districts of Lake Oswego and Oregon City, can be revitalized as havens for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

• Finally, we must spend our $53 million in federal transportation dollars strategically. We will make those awards with an eye toward economic opportunity, job retention and community development.

It is critical that we all step up and do what we can. Metro cannot save Oregon's schools. We cannot resolve the state budget crisis. But we can, and we will, stake our claim to be a driver in Oregon's economic recovery. We can, and we will, protect the lasting legacy that attracts and keeps businesses and a well-educated work force here. We can, and we will, help our home achieve the promise that has never ceased to abide in our hearts.

David Bragdon was elected president of the Metro Council in November. Before being elected to the council in 1998, he worked with Oregon-based companies such as Nike, Lasco Shipping Co. and Evergreen Airlines. He graduated from Harvard College in 1982 and lives in Northeast Portland.