Choose Rippe, Vandehey, Uhing for FG City Council
In the Forest Grove City Council race, were supporting two newcomers and one council veteran. The top three vote-getters will win the three seats up for grabs.
COUNCIL SEAT ONE: Tim Rippe
Timothy Rippe was our unanimous choice, due to the perspective hes gained from his global travels; his thoughtful, detailed answers at last weeks candidates forum; his past experience on the citys Public Safety Advisory Commission and Budget Committee; and his voluntary presence over the past months at a wide variety of city-related meetings, apparently doing his homework to prepare for a council seat.
After his 22 years in the U.S. Army, where he once managed a $750 million budget, Rippe worked in supply-chain operations at companies as diverse as Leatherman, a furniture manufacturer and Legacy Health.
His military and business experiences sent him to many other countries, and we like how Rippe changed his negative attitude toward homeless people after seeing third-
world slums and after learning more about the complexities
of the issue back here in the U.S.
Responding to a forum question on balancing the citys growth with its tax base, we like how Rippe was the only one to ask, Is growth inevitable? Do we always have to turn agricultural land into houses? Whatever the answer, its a question worth considering. We also like his sense that growth in Forest Grove will be better upward than outward and that the city should focus on small- to medium-sized businesses rather than large corporations.
For these and other thoughtful stances, we urge citizens to vote for Tim Rippe.
COUNCIL SEAT TWO: Matt Vandehey
Our second choice is Matt Vandehey, a 30-year-old father of two young boys, which we feel would add an important perspective to the council. Other than Malynda Wenzl, a 37-year-old teacher and mom who was elected two years ago, the current mayor and five other councilors are all over 60.
Vandeheys dads-eye view came into play at last weeks forum when candidates were discussing improvements to city parks and Vandehey offered a real-world understanding of the need to add bathrooms: Without one, he said, I take my two boys to the park but their time is limited.
As procurement manager for a food processing company in Forest Grove, New Season Foods, Vandehey also brings the perspective of someone who works in the city. And as someone who grew up on his family farm at the edge of Forest Grove on Reiling Road, hes familiar with the urban-rural boundary.
Vandehey also recently started volunteering on the newly formed Advisory Committee for Forest Grove School District Long-Range Facility Plan and has ideas about partnerships between the schools and the city.
We like how Vandehey repeatedly mentioned the city levy that will be expiring in 2018, showing hes aware of one of the councils crucial upcoming issues.
In addition, the fact that Vandehey changed from opposing to supporting the idea of recreational marijuana after listening to all views is a sign that he has the kind of open mind needed when listening to widely divergent public testimony on an issue.
While less experienced than any of the other candidates, were confident he can get
up to speed and thus urge voters to add Vandehey to the council.
COUNCIL SEAT THREE: Elena Uhing
Our toughest choice was between two longtime, dedicated councilors who each bring important strengths to the task Richard Kidd and Elena Uhing.
Both have struggled with health problems over the last year. Uhing missed months of council meetings due to a life-threatening encounter with a flesh-eating bacteria, but still managed to keep up with issues and to videoconference with the council when necessary. She is now back to regular meeting attendance.
Kidd is currently being treated for two different blood cancers but insists his chemotherapy sessions are being scheduled around council meetings so doesnt think it will affect his ability to serve. He said his doctor told him, We need to get you through the first two years before giving a long-term prognosis.
Since the candidates insist their current or previous health issues will not affect their service, we did not consider health status in our endorsements.
Kidd has lived in Forest Grove since the 1970s and has served as both mayor and city councilor for a total of about 25 years. He has a good heart, a sharp mind, tremendous commitment to Forest Grove and great institutional knowledge all of which serve the council well.
As a retired person, Kidd might also have more time than Uhing to attend extra county or regional meetings (on top of his assigned liaison roles to city boards and commissions).
But Kidd occasionally shows a problematic stubbornness, as he did in aggressively opposing recreational marijuana. While other councilors were troubled by the idea and struggled with it, Kidd seemed to never even consider an alternative view but simply went all out to block it from coming to Forest Grove. Like Rippe, Kidd traces his opposition to recreational marijuana to his military service and his oath to uphold the countrys laws (although neither man opposes medical marijuana, which is also illegal at the federal level).
Coincidentally, Kidd and Uhing are both connected with Habitat for Humanity Kidd as a volunteer, part-time construction manager for the West Tuality branch and Uhing as a full-time community outreach manager for the Willamette West branch in Hillsboro.
Through that and through previous work with Community Action, Uhing brings to her council work the perspective of low-income, struggling people and the nonprofits trying to help them. Her nonprofit work was a career switch after years of working as an operations analyst for corporations.
Two years ago, Uhing challenged the councils habit of routinely giving emergency funds to the Forest Grove senior center on top of the citys regular support for it, arguing this was unfair to other local nonprofits a view worth considering.
She was also the only councilor to oppose raising City Manager Jesse VanderZandens salary by 3 percent after his first year not because hed done a poor job but because shes fiscally conservative and felt the raise should have been lower until he earned the higher amount through more experience.
Whether or not we agree, we like that shes willing to occasionally be the sole dissenter on reasonable positions.
A 12-year council veteran, Uhing does extensive homework on difficult issues, including several marijuana proposals the council faced.
And shes willing to change her mind, as she did on medical marijuana, which she opposed until she saw examples of how it can improve the lives of seriously ill people. For all those reasons, Uhing has the
edge over Kidd in our endorsement.
This means that we are not endorsing Victoria Lowe, and that needs some explanation. If your litmus test for a council position is related to environmental, sustainable issues, Victoria Lowe is your champion. In council meetings and work sessions, Lowe is sometimes the one person standing up to question or object to the environmental or sustainable impact of a proposal. She has similar concerns about issues related to fairness and to vulnerable citizens.
Sometimes this is good and important. Earlier this year, for example, Lowe seemed to be the only councilor who grasped why two would-be marijuana grow operators might have felt tricked by the city councils timing of an emergency meeting on the topic a meeting which quashed the permit the applicants thought they were hours away from getting, after months of working on it with the city.
But Lowe seems to have gotten to the point where she is so caught up in her gadfly role that she questions and suspects almost every issue that comes before the council. That diminishes her credibility and hurts the process. In addition, her manner of disagreeing can sometimes be acrimonious, occasionally crossing the line (at
least in private) into vitriolic personal attacks on her fellow councilors. We think this attitude is harmful.
We also think most of the remaining councilors appreciate the importance of a strong sustainable, environmental approach to city business and will help carry that mission forward without Lowe. She has provided important service on the council but should now look for other ways to contribute to the issues she champions.
The News-Times endorsement panel consists of Publisher Nikki DeBuse, Managing Editor Nancy Townsley and News-Times Editor Jill Rehkopf Smith.