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Keeping our cities great

Your family and mine live in a wonderful place - a place where we can enjoy the colorful variety of life. For the last eight years, since I was first elected to represent you on the Metro Council, I’ve worked hard to help maintain what’s great about this community and support what can keep it great for decades to come.

I’m getting ready to start my final four-year term as a Metro councilor, and I couldn’t be more excited. Things that were just lofty dreams a decade ago are now important parts of our day to day lives, supporting our economy and our quality of life.

Look at the Cooper Mountain Nature Park, which received significant funding thanks to the voters’ support of Metro’s natural areas programs. It’s cemented its place as one of the Tualatin Valley’s best parks.

Our success at Cooper Mountain has paved the way for what I think will be the valley’s next great park — Orenco Woods. Metro worked with the Hillsboro City Council to buy this long-closed golf course and develop a master plan for its future. Together, we’re making sure we have room to breathe in our region, and places for children to let their imaginations run wild as they take in nature.

Of course, being a Metro councilor isn’t just about running a parks system. We focus so much of our time on economic development, because we know that having a healthy region goes hand in hand with having a prosperous region.

Did you know that small businesses in the Portland region have the second-highest average revenue in the United States? That’s no accident. Our work at ensuring healthy downtowns and main streets — in Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Beaverton, Cornelius and Orenco, among other places — has helped guarantee that entrepreneurs have a chance. That gives consumers more choices, and helps ensure a great economy.

By presiding over investments that support downtown businesses and mixed use office-housing areas throughout our region, we can attract and retain young talent needed to grow our bigger local companies.

Focusing our growth in our downtowns and main streets also helps preserve the farms and forests that make the Tualatin Valley such a unique place. In 2015, the Metro Council will take a look at how the region grows for the next 20 years. We’ve gotten peer-reviewed, academic-quality demographic forecasts that show that most of the new homes coming in the next 20 years will be apartments in the Portland city limits. That’s based on consumer choice, not central planning … or so the data says.

Next year, I want to know more about how that affects housing affordability across the board — so we make a choice that is right not only for the current generation, but for generations to come. We can always correct mistakes — after all, Metro reviews the urban growth boundary every six years — but it’s best to get it right the first time. I want to make sure that happens.

The fact is, our region is going to grow. Change will happen. I want to make sure it’s the right change, the change that will preserve our quality of life and use your limited tax dollars wisely.

Kathryn Harrington is a member of the Metro Council.

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