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County 'compels' 2014 run for Savas

In the political complexities that have characterized Clackamas County lately, Commissioner Paul Savas has found himself in the thick of them — a position in which he will likely remain by formally announcing his campaign for re-election in the coming months.

Savas, 56, an Oak Grove resident and business owner, is the only commissioner who lives in the populous North Clackamas area. He won a close election in 2010, and then placed third in a bitter four-way primary campaign for the county’s chairperson position last May.

Two camps of solid opposing votes have emerged since the election of three county commissioners in November, and Savas often is the swing vote in 3-2 decisions. He sided with commissioners Jim Bernard and Martha Schrader to support exiting Administrator Steve Wheeler and to fund a major repair of crumbling public housing.

He has voted with new Chairman John Ludlow and Commissioner Tootie Smith to send questions to voters about Milwaukie light rail and the Columbia River Crossing project. In his first couple of years as a commissioner, Savas emphasized his goals to reduce deficit spending and debt-service costs. He tried to demonstrate the need for balanced funding between rural and urban areas, often on the losing side of 4-to-1 votes.

But Savas would like to focus on the county’s economic prosperity rather than politics.

“I just put that aside — I know it’s relevant, but the partisan bickering is really a distraction,” Savas said. “We need to get to the business of the county, and I think that’s what the citizens want and expect us to do.”

Savas measures the success of his time serving Clackamas County using his experience as an elected member of governing boards in Oak Lodge service districts. He’s not satisfied with the progress the county has made over the past few years, nor with its image.

“I want to leave organizations in a better place than when I found them,” he said. “I did that with the water and sewer districts, and that’s what compels me to move forward with my 2014 re-election campaign.”

To delve deeper into Savas’ priorities and the reasons behind his support for various initiatives, this newspaper sat down with him for an extended interview.

Question: What would it take for you to feel comfortable taking a strong stance on the CRC project as proposed?

Answer: The CRC is not our project; we have no intimate knowledge of it. Simply put, I believe in making informed decisions on projects of this magnitude. ODOT should pitch this project to us and answer our questions; they have over 10 years of history with it.

Q: How have your views on Portland-Milwaukie light rail changed since you first ran for commissioner in 2010?

A: My position on PMLR has not changed. My financial concerns have not only been reinforced, but are more serious than I was led to believe. TriMet’s financial outlook is grave.

Q: What can Clackamas County focus on in the next few years to maximize local commercial and industrial potential?

A: The county must first prioritize economic development in its top tier of goals. Then we should align our land-use and transportation plans to position our employment lands to a status that will attract new business. Infrastructure is a vital component of that, and it is one of our key responsibilities.




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