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Tigard mayoral candidate questionairre


This year’s Nov. 6 mayoral election features City Councilor Nick Wilson and John L. Cook vying for the remaining two terms of Mayor Craig Dirksen.

The Times asked both candidates to complete a questionnaire. Their responses appear below.

Nick Wilson

Date of birth: Aug. 31, 1958

Family: Married to Suni, 24 years, 3 children, one grandchild

Job and education: Landscape Architect, founder of Atlas Landscape Architecture, 1997 Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon, 1981

Political philosophy: This is a non-partisan race

Neighborhood you live in: Bull Mountain

How long you’ve lived in Tigard: 22 years

Hobbies: Travel, Photography, Biking, Hiking, Reading, Woodworking (and I don’t have time for any of them!)

What skills, knowledge and experiences would you bring to the city?

I have 19 years of experience in Tigard city governance. I have been elected to the City Council three times. I served eight years on the planning commission, mostly as chairman. I have 15 years of experience in establishing, growing and running a business. In my 27 year career in the design field, I have worked with most of the major architectural firms in Portland and in the process have worked on some very significant projects including master planning of the new 348 acre WSU Vancouver Campus, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Washington Park, the Washington Park Zoo, Downtown Milwaukie Master Plan and others. Because of my professional experience, I know how to master plan and design projects and get things built. I can bring that experience to bear in Tigard, particularly in downtown and the Tigard Triangle.

What role should the city play with local businesses and economic development?

Economic forces do not respect city boundaries. Most Tigard residents do not work in Tigard and most people who work in Tigard do not live here. Healthy economic growth throughout Washington County and the whole Portland region is good for Tigard. With this in mind, I favor continuing to work with our partners at Westside Economic Alliance (where I have served on the Board), Greater Portland Inc., the Port of Portland and other regional groups that are focused on economic development. Greater Portland, for example, is seeking to double Portland area exports in the next few years. In order to do that, they are seeking to help local businesses to find foreign markets for their products and services that are currently not exporting. We can help facilitate that effort locally. For our strictly local efforts, I favor working in three areas. First I would like to continue focusing on quality of life projects that make our area more attractive to businesses that might want to relocate here. By that, I mean the kinds of projects that we have been working on such as addressing traffic congestion, adding parks and open space, and revitalizing downtown. Secondly, I would like to work with the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce to develop marketing materials that can be used to recruit new businesses. It is common in the real estate industry to provide prospective tenants demographic and other data that helps them make an informed decision when moving into a new area. Thirdly, I would like to actively promote Tigard as a place to do business.

How should the city prioritize spending on infrastructure and other projects?

The highest priority for infrastructure spending right now is our water partnership with Lake Oswego. It is the largest infrastructure project in our city’s history and there are few things more important that a pristine, reliable water source. The project is complicated. It deserves a very high level of attention. Traffic congestion on Highway 99 is the top concern of Tigard residents. We have made progress. We are continuing to make improvements. We have MacDonald-Hwy 99 intersection improvements funded and the project is being designed now. We also have improvements planned in the Tigard Triangle. We will continue to chip away at the congestion problem. Parks are another priority. We have a $17 million park bond and we are in the midst of purchasing land and planning for improvements.

What should the city’s role be in regional issues such as planning for transportation and urban growth?

The City of Tigard can and should take a lead role in regional issues such as planning for transportation and urban growth. Traffic congestion consistently ranks as the top concern among Tigard citizens in every poll that we conduct and residents are very sensitive to increased density in their neighborhoods. We are impacted by decisions made at the regional level and we cannot afford to be inward focused. ODOT, Metro, Tri-Met, Washington County, and even state agencies such as the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) can have both positive and negative impacts on Tigard. Tigard took a lead role at the state level in seeking legislative changes in the DLCD’s the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) that will enable us to increase density in the Tigard Triangle which is less sensitive to that type of development than our existing neighborhoods. We will be working to reduce the density in the new River Terrace areas and may be able to transfer that density with the changes we sought in the TPR.

What’s one project the city tackled that you wish had turned out differently, or what is a project you feel turned out well? What went wrong, or what worked out well?

The campaign to annex the unincorporated areas of Bull Mountain was an ill-conceived and divisive misadventure that taught me some valuable lessons. Our campaign pitted neighbor against neighbor and we have work to do to restore our credibility with our unincorporated neighbors. While I still feel that urbanized areas are best served by cities, I would spend much more time listening and less time talking, if I were to undertake something like that again.

A few years ago, we made a decision to “hire” our mayor. Most mayors serve as volunteers with a small stipend and have regular day jobs. We recognized that we needed the mayor to spend more time on the job representing the city around the region and the state. So we asked him to cut back at his day job in return for paying him a half time salary. We have found out that by raising the visibility of the mayor we have been successful in raising the visibility of the city. Not only has it raised the City of Tigard’s reputation among our peers, it has resulted in a substantial increase in outside funding of our projects. We recently tallied up a total of $28 million in grants and other funding that we have received from various outside sources in recent years. We have seen a very substantial return on our investment.

The city faces a number of looming issues and potential projects. What should it deal with now, and how? Which should be priorities for later?

The water partnership is the most important project. The planning of the River Terrace area is a very high priority since it has been inside the Urban Growth Boundary for a decade and property owners still do not have a green light to proceed with construction. We also have a deadline to complete our park bond expenditures. Some projects that are in process will be underway soon, such as the Main Street Green Street and the improvements to Hwy 99 at McDonald. We have opportunities downtown but they are not on a tight timeline. The Southwest Corridor project is ongoing but it is a longer term project and outcomes are distant and as yet undetermined. There are ambitious projects underway and the City’s capacity to undertake new ones is limited until we complete some of them.

What should voters know about you?

I have been in the mayor’s shadow for 10 years. I have kept a lower profile because I have been a councilor not the mayor. But nothing gets done in the city without at least 3 votes. I have had much influence even if it has been behind the scenes. Mayor Dirksen deserves much credit for our accomplishments. But everything that we have done, has been a team effort and I have not been sitting on the bench.

I believe in the democratic process. There is an election to fill the remaining years of Mayor Dirksen’s term because, we on the council, decided to give voters a choice instead of appointing a mayor. I think that is important.

How would you facilitate council meetings to ensure all council members feel like they are treated fairly and so voters feel represented?

As mentioned above, the mayor has one vote and needs a majority to accomplish anything. Our council has in recent years benefited from a council that works as a team. I hope that will continue. There is nothing to be gained from unfair treatment of anyone.

How do you feel about the light-rail initiative going before voters in Tigard?

I was a strong advocate to put the initiative before the voters.

What distinguishes you from your opponent?

My opponent and I represent different things. I have been involved in the city. John has been involved in the community. They are two different things. The City of Tigard is a specific 12 square mile place with boundaries and 48,000 inhabitants. The City provides residents with police protection, drinking water, streets, parks, sewers, a library and planning services. Community is less defined. Coaches, scout masters, business leaders, Sunday school teachers, and other volunteers are all vital members of the community, and we are much indebted to them for their service. But this election is about who will lead the City. As a City Councilor, I have been engaged in city-specific issues for 19 years.

You say you want to keep Tigard moving forward, how do you plan to accomplish this?

Tigard has a lot of forward momentum now. There are many things in the pipeline that will be accomplished regardless of who wins this election. I believe that we can continue to fill the pipeline with new projects as we finish the old ones. We have no lack of ideas or difficulty identifying problems to solve. We will keep moving forward the same way that we have been for the last 10 years.

Where do you stand on planning/ development of the River Terrace area?

I would like to get it done quickly but I want it done well. If I had to choose one over the other, I would choose to do it well. The Washington County plan is too dense. We need reasonable sized lots in River Terrace. The urban fringe is not the place for high density.

John L. Cook

Date of birth: February 1, 1960

Family: Married for over 24 years to my wife Terri, two children, Ryan 20 and Shawna 18, who are both in college.

Job and education: Small business owner – CPA and Financial Planner. Started my own Certified Public Accounting firm in Tigard in November of 1993.

Have worked for almost 30 years in public accounting. Added financial planning services to my practice over 10 years ago.

Graduated in 1982 from Oregon State University with a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in finance and a minor in applied mathematics. Graduated Central Catholic High School in 1978. Graduated St. Anthony Grade School 1974.

Political philosophy: Pro-Economic Growth/Fiscal Conservative.

Neighborhood you live in: Just east of Summerlake Park, in the northern part of Tigard.

How long you’ve lived in Tigard: 52 year lifelong resident.

Hobbies: Volunteering, coaching, camping, and attending sporting events.

What skills, knowledge and experiences would you bring to the city?

I serve as the Chair of the Washington County Budget Committee, which is responsible for budgets nearing $300m. In fact, I have held this post for nearly two decades, during which time Washington County has seen great strides and economic growth. I am also the past President and Treasurer of the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce.

Growing up, my family was very active in the Tigard community. My parents ran a small business and my father served as Mayor. I learned from an early age that we all must take an active role in the community if we want our city to be a great place to live and work. Thanks to dedicated people like my parents, Tigard continues to be an incredible place to live, work, and raise a family.

My in depth knowledge of our city and region’s budget, along with my experience as a small business owner, make me uniquely qualified to lead our city in the right direction. I know how to make city government work for our community and our small businesses. I will apply my expertise to find creative and tenable solutions for Tigard. As your Mayor, my top priority will be to make Tigard a place where families and businesses can grow and prosper.

What role should the city play with local businesses and economic development?

The city should work with local businesses and business organizations to use them as a sounding board for new ideas that would affect them.

Tigard’s biggest challenge will be to maintain high levels of economic growth. I feel that the city should engage more in the economic development area, which will in turn promote jobs, create wealth, and generate tax revenue. We have no economic development strategy. We need to have a plan to assess what is available here and how to fill those spaces with business that will enhance the viability and livability of Tigard. This includes continued planning and development of the Tigard Triangle, Downtown Urban Renewal District, Washington Square Regional Center and the 99W corridor.

How should the city prioritize spending on infrastructure and other projects?

We all know what it is like to have that difficult year or difficult month. As a CPA and financial planner, I see this on a daily basis. The city is no different in this area.

I am concerned that the city does not have enough money in reserve funds to operate in an efficient manner. This year is the first time that the city actually did a 5 year budget. I commend the new staff for that, but this is the type of planning that should have been done earlier. By chairing the county’s budget for the last 18 years, I worked with their staff and other citizens on continuing the reserves and balanced budget that Tigard should strive for.

Budget cuts every few years are not good for the community or the morale of city staff. We need to be looking for ways to create economic growth and broaden the tax base to keep the city in the black.

What should the city’s role be in regional issues such as planning for transportation and urban growth?

First we should acknowledge our area’s unique regional government, Metro. The role of Metro in city government is to manage land use and transportation planning in the tri-county area. As your mayor, I will work to ensure that Tigard has the strongest voice possible on Metro.

As the City of Tigard (COT), we should partner with Metro to expand the urban growth boundary in our area, obtain funding for transportation and roads within our city, and work collaboratively to purchase open spaces, parks and trails in our area.

The role of Tri-Met in city government is to provide mass transit for our citizens to get around and our businesses to have commuters find their way to commerce areas. As the COT, we need to work with Tri-Met to better serve our city with transportation options that fit the needs of our citizens. The COT also needs to work to see that we have more and stronger voices on the Tri-Met board.

What’s one project the city tackled that you wish had turned out differently, or what is a project you feel turned out well? What went wrong, or what worked out well?

The project that turned out well was the passing of the park bond, and the purchases the city has made with the funds since then. The city did an excellent job of obtaining property in all areas of the city, continued growth of the trail systems, and leveraging these funds with our partners to get more than we planned for. The city has almost doubled our park acreage in the past ten years.

The city faces a number of looming issues and potential projects. What should it deal with now, and how? Which should be priorities for later?

The city needs to continue working on the Clackamas River water project. They should continue working with Lake Oswego and other partners in making sure that the citizens of Tigard have the water source and ownership to control price increases in the future.

Developing the River Terrace Plan within the next two years is also crucial. They should work with the adjoining areas, citizens and service providers to find out what will work best for this area.

Continued development of the downtown urban renewal area. This is an area of Tigard that needs to redevelop, and the urban renewal funds have a time limit on them.

I would say that the planning for the Tigard Triangle needs to continue for future business and residential development. But it is an area we could continue to plan, but the execution could wait for later.

What should voters know about you?

As a lifelong Tigard resident, I understand that it’s the people who make Tigard a great place to live and work. That’s why I have made time to volunteer with a variety of local organizations while building my business from scratch. I have been honored and humbled to be a recipient of Tigard’s First Citizen Award and a two-time recipient of the Chamber’s Bert Tousey Award for volunteerism.

My family is incredibly invested in this community. So much that Cook Park was named after my father.

I have coached youth sports in Tigard for over 17 years and a Boy Scout leader for 14 years.

How would you facilitate council meetings to ensure all council members feel like they are treated fairly and so voters feel represented?

My leadership style is building consensus. Not everyone will agree on all issues, but we need to work together to as a team to accomplish the goals of the citizens of our city.

I will not come to the table with a predetermined agenda, but instead I will be willing to work with the citizens and stakeholders to find solutions that work for everyone. I will listen to everyone involved to help make the right decisions for the city.

It will be my goal to make our city more transparent, accountable, and responsive to its residents.

How do you feel about the light-rail initiative going before voters in Tigard?

As Mayor, I would not be not interested dictating my own personal agenda. I will be working for the citizens and will always be responsive to their concerns. Accordingly, I strongly support the fact that light rail is on the November ballot. An issue of this magnitude should not be left to just one person, as the decision will affect us all.

What distinguishes you from your opponent?

Tigard Mayor is considered a “part time” position, but I will give the position my full time attention. As a small business owner I have the ability to adjust my schedule to meet the needs of our city. I currently volunteer over 20 hours a week now, and am willing to put in whatever time the job will take.

As a lifelong Tigard resident, community volunteer, and local small business owner, I have a unique understanding of the values of Tigard’s residents. I have been involved in this community my entire life. Many leaders in Tigard feel comfortable discussing their concerns with me because we already have a good working relationship.

You say you want to keep Tigard moving forward, how do you plan to accomplish this?

As Mayor, I will bring citizens, community leaders, and business owners together to make Tigard the city we want it to be for our children and grandchildren.

Where do you stand on planning/development of the River Terrace area?

The River Terrace Community Plan was promised by the city to be done in the next 18 to 24 months, so I feel that this is a high priority area. We need to continue working to develop the plans which will include land use zoning and regulations, transportation, public facilities and services, parks and natural resources, and infrastructure financing plans. Citizen input and partner agency coordination will both be important in this area.