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County speeches reflect county differences

Although Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties have much in common — their northern Willamette Valley location, with populations concentrated in a few job-heavy cities — their county chairs recently delivered very different state-of-the-county speeches.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury mentioned problems facing low-income residents on practically every page of her prepared text.

"A third of county residents don't earn enough to cover their basic needs. And while our unemployment rate continues to fall, the number of people living in poverty, including those working low-wage jobs, continues to rise," Kafoury said early in her speech.

She mentioned problems related to health care, school-based mental health services, culturally specific services to gang-impacted youth, wrap-around family support services, and especially affordable housing.

Her focus might reflect Multnomah County’s higher number of low-income residents, with 22 percent receiving food stamps, compared to 11 percent in Washington County and 12 percent in Clackamas County.

In contrast, most of Duyck's speech concerned the successful economic development efforts his county has made to help high-tech companies such as Intel locate and grow there. Those efforts include waiving hundreds millions of dollars in property taxes on production equipment to encourage construction projects.

"Employers in Washington County continue to provide some of the most coveted jobs in our state — jobs that offer the highest wages, the best benefits, and sustain the health of our entire state," Duyck said. "Great job opportunities attract a highly-educated, highly-skilled, and diverse work force, and continute to a vibrant and complete community."

Clackamas County Chair John Ludlow acknowledged a need for more affordable housing but put greater emphasis on establishing a 20-year supply of development-ready commercial, retail and industrial land.

Only Kafoury talked about county efforts to reduce air pollution, citing its response to the recent toxic air scares in southeast and northeast Portland, as well as problems with older diesel engines.

Duyck, however, did not mention pollution at all, despite activists criticizing Intel's emissions.

All three chairs talked about transportation needs, but while Kafoury focused primarily on county-owned bridges over the Willamette River, Duyck and Ludlow prioritized finding money to maintain county roads and increasing capacity to reduce congestion as population increases.

Duyck called on the 2017 Oregon Legislature to pass a new transportation funding package.