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Forest Grove council: Lowe, Uhing, Kidd

With three seats up on the Forest Grove City Council and a pair of incumbents hoping to hold onto their job, we started our endorsement deliberations by considering the two councilors running for re-election and quickly concluded they both earned the chance to continue serving the city.

Victoria Lowe isn’t flashy. But the three-term city councilor comes to every meeting prepared, takes her committee assignments seriously and is open to opposing views. A passionate advocate for the Fernhill Wetlands, Lowe is known as the “environmentalist” on the council, but it’s her work in a related field that makes her even more valuable. For the past eight years, Lowe has represented the council on the board of Clean Water Services (the county’s sewer/wastewater agency) and the region’s Joint Water Commission (where she’s got a terrific pair of citizen member allies in Carl Heisler and Rod Fuiten). The region’s water supply is a huge issue and Lowe’s long tenure on these two key boards is a valuable asset for Forest Grove. She’s earned another term on the council.

Elena Uhing has served on the council since 2004. The combativeness that she showed during her first term is largely gone and given way to an ability to voice a dissenting view without taking things personally. She, more than most of her colleagues, seems comfortable challenging city staff members and asking tough questions in public. It’s an important role and one we hope she continues in a third term.

The open seat on the council is created because Councilor Tom BeLusko is stepping down. BeLusko was appointed to his post two years ago after then-Mayor Richard Kidd resigned to run for Washington County commissioner and then-Councilor Pete Truax was selected to replace him. BeLusko has been a great addition to the seven-member council. Whoever steps in will have big shoes to fill. Three people are vying for that chance and two would do well.

Victoria Johnson served on the council from 1990-1998 before her work duties (at Portland General Electric) often took her out of town.

Johnson returned to Forest Grove three years ago and jumped back into civic life, volunteering on the city’s public safety advisory committee. Her attempted council comeback is fueled by worries over a pair of recent lawsuits the city has faced and the decision to fund the economic development director’s salary out of the city’s utility budget.

We share her concerns over the lawsuits and the budgetary sleight-of-hand and were pleased that she came to our endorsement interview well-prepared.

The knock against Johnson is that she tends to ruffle feathers. We think that’s a good thing — particularly with the current council’s over-emphasis on consensus. Johnson says a 7-0 vote probably means someone’s point of view isn’t being represented and we agree. We wouldn’t lose any sleep should she end up back on the council.

In fact, Johnson would get our endorsement if not for the candidacy of Richard Kidd. The former mayor and councilor is so well qualified for the job, and so well-connected and respected in the region, that he edges out Johnson in a close call. Kidd says he’s spent the past two years off the council looking at other cities’ governing models and assured us that he understands that he’s applying for the job of councilor, not mayor. With that, he gets our vote.

The final candidate in the race is Aldie Howard, a former planner, bar owner and administrator, whose resume is as impressive as that of Kidd and Johnson.

Howard’s eclectic background is appealing, but his recent track record is troubling. Howard briefly served as the interim city administrator in Vernonia, where he displayed a hostility toward the public’s right to city records and got into a silly scrap over utility bills. More recently, his calls for Councilor BeLusko’s resignation (because BeLusko’s insurance firm does business with the city) were divisive and unwarranted. If you’re looking for someone to shake things up, Johnson is a far better choice.

As for Howard, we commend his service on the city’s Committee for Citizen Involvement and his role as watchdog. But we can’t recommend him for the city council.



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