Betty Dominguez appointed to Metro Council
Oak Grove resident Betty Dominguez was appointed last week to fill the Metro Council District No. 2 seat for the remainder of 2018. The nonpartisan seat has been vacant since Jan. 2, when former Councilor Carlotta Collette resigned in preparation for a move to Corvallis.
Dominguez was chosen in a 4-2 vote by the six sitting Metro Council members at a public hearing in Milwaukie. Lake Oswego City Councilor Joe Buck received the other two votes.
Metro District No. 2 includes Lake Oswego, West Linn, Oregon City, Gladstone, Milwaukie and Happy Valley.
Dominguez currently serves as the director of east county relations for Home Forward, the housing authority serving Multnomah County. Addressing the council members at the hearing, she referenced her work with Metro on several prior committee projects and said those past collaborations would make her the most effective appointee.
She put a strong emphasis on affordable housing initiatives, and cast herself as a lifelong fighter for families and housing affordability.
"I don't say words like 'affordable housing' because they're chic right now," she said. "I say them because I've been working on these issues in the trenches for over 20 years."
Dominguez discussed her own background as a single mother of two daughters in the 1980s and the financial struggles that the family faced. She also referenced racial discrimination that she faced when growing up in San Diego.
"I've lived through the challenges that so many of our families are experiencing today," she said. "I have enormous respect for those from marginalized communities, because I am one of them."
Five other candidates were also under consideration for the appointment: Buck, Carol Pauli, Christine Lewis, Eric Freed and John Gibbon. Dominguez will serve until the end of Collette's term on Jan. 7, 2019, but will need to win a full term to remain in office beyond that date.
The District 2 seat is on the ballot this year, and Dominguez, Buck, Pauli and Lewis have all registered as candidates for the May primary. After Dominguez was appointed, the other three each stated that they will continue their election campaigns. If one of the four emerges with at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, they will win the seat for a full term starting next year. If not, the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff in November.
Last Thursday's appointment hearing began with an interview section in which each applicant was asked a series of questions about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion; the top three issues each applicant would emphasize as a councilor; and how each applicant would connect with Metro's constituents and keep them informed about the agency's work and priorities.
The applicants also each gave an initial speech to introduce themselves.
Buck, a lifelong Lake Oswego resident and the owner of two local restaurants, was elected to the City Council in 2014. His campaign has focused on improved roads, safe communities, reliable public transit and support for small businesses, with an emphasis on ensuring that residents in the Metro area can secure good-paying jobs close to where they live.
Lewis currently serves as the legislative director for the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and has lived in West Linn since 2011. She stated during her campaign that her top priority would be housing, but also listed transportation, parks and waste management as other priorities for Metro moving forward.
Pauli is a former Oregon City Commissioner and longtime local business owner. She now lives in Oak Grove and has stated that housing affordability and rising congestion are among her greatest concerns for the region. She has also said she will work to find a solution for the crisis being caused by Chinese companies that no longer accept recycled materials from Oregon.
Freed told councilors that his campaign would emphasize diversity and action to combat climate change. He moved to the Portland area from California four years ago, and characterized himself as a "climate refugee" due to rising water shortages in California. He pointed to his role on Milwaukie's Climate Action Plan committee to emphasize his support for local climate protection.
Gibbon noted that he was only seeking the appointment, not a full term. But he said he wanted to bring attention to the portion of Southwest Portland that exists within District 2. He stressed the importance of the planned Southwest Corridor MAX line and other transit projects, as well as the need to find solutions to the recycling crisis.
All of the candidates expressed strong support for diversity and inclusion, and the issues of affordable housing and transportation appeared on almost every candidate's list of top three priorities. Environmental issues were also a frequent topic of concern, with several candidates pointing to the recent changes in the global recycling market as one of Metro's biggest upcoming challenges.
The interviews were followed by a public comment period, during which approximately two dozen audience members offered testimony. Nearly every commenter voiced support for either Buck, Lewis or Dominguez, along with a few who urged the council to choose Pauli.
The councilors chose to only nominate three candidates to advance to the voting stage: Dominguez, Buck and Lewis. Councilors Sam Chase, Bob Stacey and Tom Hughes voted for Dominguez in the first round, while Counselors Shirley Craddick and Craig Dirksen backed Buck and Kathryn Harrington voted for Lewis.
The result led to a runoff round between Dominguez and Buck. Harrington voted for Dominguez in the second round, giving her the majority needed to secure the appointment.