Milwaukie seat decided next week

Greg Chaimov and David Miller face off in a special election

Milwaukie residents will be voting a little earlier than usual this year.

Ballots have already been mailed out for the March 11 special election for a vacant seat on Milwaukie City Council. Former councilor Carlotta Collette left the seat in November to take a seat on the board of Metro, the regional governing body for the Portland area.

Milwaukie attorney Greg Chaimov was appointed to fill the seat temporarily in December, and he's running for the permanent position. He faces opposition from David Miller, a business consultant for Affiliated Computer Services in Hillsboro.

The Clackamas Review took a look at each of the candidates, and asked them to answer four questions about issues they will face if elected to city council, including light rail, leadership and downtown development.

Greg Chaimov

Greg Chaimov devotes a lot of his time to 'working for the greater good,' because he said it's more satisfying than working for money.

He has worked as the lead Legislative attorney and as a special counsel to the Oregon Department of Justice. Since leaving that position at the Legislature in 2004, he has spent his time 'mostly representing people who have problems with the government,' he said.

But he also spends a lot of time working with governments to find solutions to problems. He worked on the commission to expand the County Commission to five seats, on the county's vector control and historic review boards and was vice-chair of both Milwaukie's library board and the Island Station neighborhood association.

He said his experience in working with all those groups and at all levels of government in the state have allowed him to earn the respect of representatives at those levels, and that respect affords him a special ability to help Milwaukie.

'That respect I expect will allow me to work better with those leaders to benefit the city and, when necessary, to stand up to them.'

But Chaimov is generally more of a listener and a conciliator than he is aggressive. He said that in working with those various groups he learned the value of listening and hearing from all parties in a situation before coming to a decision.

'What was particularly instructive to me with the five-member [County Commission] task force was that the task force started out leaning toward a specific outcome, and by listening to many people, traveling around the county and talking with people, I think we came to a different solution than if we'd just voted at the beginning,' he said.

Chaimov said he's brought that patience, attentiveness and desire to hear all sides of an issue to the council in his three months there, and has had a positive impact on the total council dynamic.

'What I've tried to do in my time on the council so far is to open avenues of communication between councilors,' he said. 'Before I got on the council, councilors didn't talk as much with one another before they had to vote on important issues.'

It's had an impact on the community, as well, he said.

'I think we've made steps in the right direction - I spend a lot of time on the phone or e-mailing with people in the community, my sense is that people are beginning to think they are being listened to better, but I think we've still got a ways to go,' he said. 'My sense is if we continue to do what we're doing, the community will begin to see that we're not only listening, but we're also hearing.'

David Miller

David Miller believes he can help make Milwaukie a great place for everyone, especially his 1.5-year-old son, to live in, but tempers any proactive push with a firm belief that government should be as non-intrusive as possible.

'My motivation is I want to make the city something we can be proud of, where my son can ride his bike around,' he said. 'Public safety's probably the number one issue - if it's increasing the police, making a more visible presence.'

He believes in improving the community and thinks the best way to do so is by reducing government and letting the developers, investors and businesses do their jobs unencumbered.

'Sellwood is a destination,' he said. 'There's no reason we can't do the same thing. I think we need to make it easy for businesses to thrive. I think it's the understanding, to really be mindful of the message we're sending to the business, to try to understand the businesses real goals. If there's something impeding them that the city can affect, get rid of it.'

Miller said he has a small business outlook, and his main ideas reflect that. He said his model of governing would be to look at decisions based on whether he would spend his own money on a given project or not. He talks about the difference between what the city wants and what the city needs, and said that right now the needs must be paramount.

'I don't think we're in a position now where we can go after all of our wants, I don't think our needs are being met,' he said, naming things like road maintenance and the completion of unfinished projects, like the riverfront park, as needs.

'It just seems like there are a lot of projects that are not necessarily finished,' he said. 'It seems like we could do better, is the theory I'm working under.'

He said that he would uphold his beliefs when possible, but he would also be responsive to the community's desires.

'One of the things I was taught is if you say you're going to do something, you do it,' he said. 'The voters are basically my employer in this … especially with something like a referendum that the people voted for - I may not necessarily agree with it, but I get the message.'

Miller said he's not a politician, and that's a good thing. But he said he does want to help improve the community, and the way to do that is to trust the people who make it up.

'I don't see the government as being the solution to problems,' he said. 'I think it really comes back to believing in people and first of all making them accountable for their actions and believing they'll do the right thing - trusting the people, not the system.'

Why are you running for City Council?

David Miller: I'm running for Milwaukie City Council because I believe our city has the opportunity to become a place that we as citizens can be proud of. There is a real need for someone to represent the citizens and work for the best interests of the city, not forgetting that it is the needs of the citizens that must be foremost in any decision. I'm not a professional politician. I am simply a man who wants to give something back to a community that has been very good to him.

Greg Chaimov: Milwaukie is a wonderful city. I hope to continue to serve on the council because I believe that the experience I've gained working with the people of Milwaukie will help make the city an even better place in which to live and work. To be a successful councilor, you need to build relationships throughout the city and the region. From digging weeds in Homewood Park to helping the Historic Milwaukie neighborhood clean up downtown to chairing the ibrary board to leading a neighborhood, I've worked to make Milwaukie a better place. From being active in the community, I've earned the respect of other area leaders, including county commissioners and Metro councilors. That gives me the ability to work with those leaders to benefit the city, or when necessary, to stand up to them.

What is your position on light rail?

DM: I do not support the idea of light rail. There is no doubt that the city will grow and as a community we need to have the infrastructure to support that growth. The light rail system is just too expensive for the small percentage of commuters that ride it. I believe we need to address the transportation needs of the majority of the population and light rail simply does not accomplish this goal.

GC: With the prospect of $4 gas and more and more cars on McLoughlin, we have to improve mass transit. For a town the size of Milwaukie, I prefer street cars to light rail trains. Street cars take up less space, cost less, and are quieter. But street cars can't move as many people as quickly. It's a tough issue because some residents whose opinions I greatly respect believe that light rail is necessary to improve the city's livability and other residents whose opinions I also greatly respect believe that light rail will hurt the city's livability. One bottom line is that, whatever transportation system comes to Milwaukie, Chief Kanzler must be satisfied that the people of Milwaukie will be safe.

What should the city be doing to spur downtown development?

DM: The city can spur downtown development by turning the area into a destination. Start by making it a place where a business person can operate knowing that customers will be available. The nearby Willamette River, and present downtown infrastructure, should be capitalized on to provide a destination that people want to visit. In addition, I believe the Farmers Market should be expanded, building an event that will bring out families and people of all ages. Strong leadership on the City Council will make this a reality.

GC: The first step toward spurring downtown development is to attract family wage jobs to the city. People with good jobs will spend their money downtown and attract new businesses there. The council has taken a good step in that direction by moving forward with the extension of the city's enterprise zone, which rewards companies for expanding their businesses. The next step should be rewriting the development code to encourage--not discourage--business from investing in the downtown. We're working on that, too.

Within the last few weeks the council's leadership has been called into question. How would you ensure that there's better leadership on the council?

DM: I think the best way to be a good leader is to stand up for what you believe in, never forgetting who you represent. Trust in the people and remove the obstacles to their success. Start the day asking 'how can I help you succeed?' and end it by looking in the mirror and being able to say, 'I'm proud of everything I did today.' I think it is easy to be a good leader when you are doing something you truly believe in and I truly believe in what I am doing.

GC: As far as I know, the only person calling the council's leadership into question has been the mayor, who was frustrated about the town center project's not going forward as he'd hoped. People who are following the council's deliberations should see that we are demonstrating better leadership lately: Being more respectful of each other and of the residents who appear in front of us. Better leadership will come from councilors' doing a better job of talking with each other and with residents. We're on the right path. We just need to keep it up. We will.