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Roth, Shaw face off for OC Commission seat

Oregon City resident of 40 years Brian Shaw will challenge City Commissioner Kathy Roth, a 39-year resident of the Oregon City area, in the November election.

Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO  - Kathy RothBoth candidates for OC’s No. 1 position on City Commission live in the same neighborhood, attend the same church and are about the same age, but their similarities pretty much end there. Although they both want the best for their city, they favor contrasting ways of achieving Oregon City’s potential.

Shaw, 64, was one of the founding members of the city’s Historic Review Board, where he served for 10 years starting in 1980 to consider the historic compatibility of permits, ordinances and public-infrastructure proposals. Serving currently on the Library Building Committee, he’s also served on the Parks and Recreation Committee for 10 years, Planning Commission for two years, Budget Committee for two years and Urban Renewal Commission for four years.

In that latter position, he came face-to-face with Roth, so to a certain degree this race is a rematch of Oregon City’s political struggles of 2011. That was the year in which a shopping-mall developer skipped town on the city’s proposal of more than $17 million in urban-renewal funds to help ready the Rossman Landfill site for a construction of 650,000-square-feet of retail space on the north side of downtown.

Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO - Brian ShawShaw blames Roth, and her political allies advocating for the referral of urban-renewal proposals to the ballot, for the loss 1,200 local jobs that the developer had promised in return for the city’s investment. As a member of the Urban Renewal Commission, Shaw had testified that the city stood to lose out if voters had to understand the complications of tax-increment financing. Now as a 2014 candidate, Shaw pledges to “work tirelessly to bring another world-class project like The Rivers/Cabela’s” to Oregon City.

“We don’t want it to happen again, and there’s always the possibly that another opportunity will surface for that property, and we need to make sure that the City Commission at least has an open mind,” Shaw said.

Roth, 63, counters that history is on her side, since the promise of a sports superstore “was all a fabrication to get the community incited and excited.” Documents show that developer Fred Bruning never had control of the property, and he and Rossman Landfill owner Scott Parker were millions of dollars apart on the price. Not only was the deal an impossibility at the time, Roth contends, it is certainly dead now, because Bruning is building a Cabela’s sports superstore in Tualatin.

“When you use devious techniques, I don’t think it’s a viable option,” Roth said. “Cabela’s never said they were coming to the property, and we have that directly from their PR person.”

Informed by her science background, Roth personally prefers an industrial solution for creating jobs at the landfill site as an alternative to reduce medical liability. Now working for the city of Portland in risk management, Roth was a safety analyst for Legacy Health Systems when she unseated Daphne Wuest in 2010. Roth has a degree in biology from Lewis and Clark College.

In 2010, Roth was against urban-renewal financing in Oregon City, but her opposition has dissipated with the passage of citizen-initiated Measure 3-407 in November 2012 to require those same public votes for which she had advocated in the previous year. If a similar retail proposal ever came back for the landfill, it would now have to obtain voter approval.

“Now there’s a public process, and if the public wants it, I’m all for it,” Roth said. “I would pose that I am probably the most open-minded and forward thinking on the commission both in terms of concepts I propose and in terms of my willingness to embrace others’ ideas.”

With a step-daughter and children who were born far apart, she was involved for a whopping 27 years in the Holcomb parent-teacher club. She also served the Oregon City School District seven years as Title 7 chairwoman and two years for its district strategic planning commission. She volunteered for school Aspire and SMART programs for a combined 12 years.

Beavercreek, mill properties

Both candidates want to continue work on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project to keep as much of the former Blue Heron paper mill’s historic and cultural assets, yet provide a mixed use that helps defer the cost providing public access to the site. In rough terms, Shaw is more developer-friendly, while Roth has raised concerns about a lack of creativity in repurposing buildings.

“Historic preservation is great, but we should take an approach there that takes into account that we have to pay attention to the economics of that site and develop a revenue stream there,” Shaw said.

Since she doesn’t know right now what the developer’s proposal will be, Roth points out that it would be “premature” to say that there’s not enough preservation.

“Mill O having that 800-year-old beam and all of those windows in it — right now it doesn’t look too hot — but it has a lot potential, and it would be a shame to level it,” Roth said. “There’s also a water-powered grain elevator on the site right now, which would look really good in terms of some adaptive reuse.”

As a building designer in his spare time, Shaw sees a need for providing lands in a controlled manner for citizens to have a home to raise their families in Oregon City. The current president of the Oregon City Optimist Club also plans to promote discussions for an industrial park near Clackamas Community College as part of the Beavercreek Concept Plan. As a field engineer servicing accounts like Oregon City’s Benchmade Knife Company and Boeing, he’d like to further the positive impact manufacturing jobs make on a community.

“We’ve got a pretty good handle on residential annexations, and I don’t shy away from them, but I also proceed on them with a degree of caution,” Shaw said. “I believe in in-fill properties, but I also believe we need to find land for new houses, and those go hand and hand. In order for people to be able to both live and work here, we need to provide land for that, but also in a sensitive manner.”

Roth sees a need for creative thinking with annexations as well, and she would like to return to talk of making live/work space part of the Beavercreek Concept Plan.

“If Intel wants to come out and build something there, then great,” she said. “But we may have to come up with something else.”

She’s been looking at other county seats around the country in terms of homeless population compared to the rest of the population and found that Oregon City has double the average rate. She likes the proposed location for the police station at the former Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, and plans to refer a bond to taxpayers to help pay for it.

“I’m really excited, with trepidation, in looking for creative solutions both for homeless people and for our community,” Roth said. “I’m also really excited about the train depot and the the improvements at the End of the Oregon Trail site, and downtown is looking really nice these days.”

Editor's note: An elections forum hosted by the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce is scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, at the Three Rivers VFW Post #1324, 104 Tumwater Drive. The Clackamas Review and Oregon City News will offer readers additional local candidate profiles in the coming weeks.