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County races heat up at library forum

More than 100 voters turned out the evening of March 19 to hear from four candidates running for two seats on the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

On hand were incumbent Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck and his challenger, Allen Amabisca, a Helvetia resident and former Intel employee; and incumbent Commissioner Bob Terry, owner of Fisher Farms in Gaston, and his opponent, Elizabeth Furse, a Helvetia resident and former member of Congress.

With the May 20 primary election approaching, the event, held at the Hillsboro Main Library, gave the candidates an opportunity to directly court the support of county voters.

Each candidate was given two minutes to tell the audience a bit about themselves and why they wanted to serve as a commissioner. Amabisca was first to address the group.

“My dad taught me how to listen with respect and how to budget, and my mom taught me a love of learning,” he said. “The secret of my success is listening with respect to those around me. I’ll bring fresh eyes to the county’s problems and listen and encourage citizen input.”

Duyck said his record of job-creation warranted another term as chairman.

“Four years ago, we made a promise,” he said. “We were in the heart of a recession and we started wearing pins that say ‘JOBS,’ to keep us focused like a laser on creating jobs. This county has produced tons of jobs and helped the entire state.”

Furse said she decided to run for a simple reason.

“I began to feel my values were not being represented on the commission,” she said. “The first thing I want to do is protect and preserve the things we value. The county needs to invest wisely in services to the elderly, children and veterans. We don’t need new projects; we need an open government that respects citizens.”

Terry reminded the audience of his long record of community service.

“I’ve always been very committed to this community and very active,” Terry said. “My name is on one of the pillars of this building, and I’ve worked hard to make the library possible.”

Terry cited his work as chairman of the board of A Child’s Place, a preschool facility in Hillsboro that, among other benefits, helps provide nutritious meals to low-income residents and teach kids to speak English before they begin attending school in the Hillsboro School District.

“And I am one of the founders of the Oregon International Air Show, which brings a lot of money to the county,” he added.

In responding to a question about his long-term vision for the county, Duyck again talked about the importance of jobs.

“Jobs are the foundation of everything,” Duyck said. “With vibrant economic development, there will be revenue for our schools and we can have a vibrant community with lots of recreation. Our county is not in debt like a lot of counties are. But we need to restrain from being all things to all people.”

Furse said she wants to ensure farming remains viable in the county.

“Farming is the second largest industry in Oregon,” Furse said. “But once it’s paved over, you can’t farm it.”

Amabisca said the county needed to invest in more than high tech businesses.

“We do need to encourage our ag, forestry and nursery stock businesses. We have some of the best forests and soils in the nation right here,” he said. “I want diversity, so we’re not at risk from one company stumbling. It’s not all high tech; not all manufacturing.

“I’d love to have the equivalent of the Tillamook Cheese factory here in Washington County.”

When the recent Oregon Court of Appeals decision overturning proposed land use revisions supported by the Washington County Board of Commissioners came up, Duyck defended the land use proposals and said he would not change the process.

“I’d keep the local process exactly the same, although once the plan was adopted, I’d send it to the Legislature for an up or down vote. Then we’d have certainty,” Duyck said.

Duyck’s election opponent sharply disagreed with Duyck on the issue.

“Up front, I’d bring citizens in and trust their input,” Amabisca said. “And the last thing I’d want to do is send anything to the Legislature. You will never get a simple answer from legislators.”

Duyck said the perception the county is gobbling up farmland is not accurate.

“There is expected to be a doubling of Hillsboro’s population in 50 years, yet what we identified as urban reserves added only 11 percent,” he noted.

According to Duyck, there are 270,000 acres of farmland in the county, and he questioned why the fate of 1,000 acres in the Helvetia area had been holding up a land use zoning plan for the three-county metropolitan area.

Furse, who lives in Helvetia, took exception to that critique.

“It was not the people in Helvetia, but the Oregon Court of Appeals that made this decision,” she responded. “We have to realize land does not get created. There’s only so much.”

Furse also pointed out there has been a 15 percent increase in the number of food production jobs in the state, but only a 5 percent increase in manufacturing jobs.

“Agriculture is the basis of our economy,” she said. “We have to remember that high tech isn’t the only job to be taken.”

In response, Terry also used statistics to bolster his viewpoint. He noted that the average annual salary for a high tech worker in Washington County is $128,000, while for an agricultural worker it’s $32,000.

“High tech brings wealth to the county,” Terry said.

Terry also pointed out that family farms are facing serious demographic issues.

“The average farmer is 57, and not getting younger,” said Terry. “The challenge is how to bring in young folks to take over the farms.”

Terry added that he strongly supports the Strategic Investment Program (SIP), which provides tax incentives to companies as a way to entice them to locate in the county and create jobs.

“SIP is very important for all of us, to encourage businesses and jobs to come here. If we didn’t do that they wouldn’t come here,” Terry said.

Amabisca agreed.

“That’s how we bring companies here,” Amabisca pointed out. “We are in competition with other states, and we have to understand that. I’m totally in favor of SIP.”

When the forum turned to a discussion of education, Amabisca said schools need to focus not only on math and science, but also on boosting a variety of skills and occupations.

“Shop classes have been cut,” he said. “We need shop. We need machinists and carpenters.”

Furse said she, too, hoped more could be done to help students learn a trade.

“There are 15,000 machinists who retired last year, and 6,000 who entered the field,” she pointed out. “Were going to be in trouble. We need to bring those trades back.”




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