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Election 2014: Jan Giunta challenges for Tualatin mayor

Community advocate responds to The Times' candidate survey


Family: Husband deceased, three children and three grandchildren

Job and education background: B.S. and master's of education degree from Colorado State University

Neighborhood you live in: RiverparkPhoto Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jan Giunta is running for Tualatin mayor.

Length of time you’ve lived in Tualatin: 23 years

Community service experience:

Government — Tualatin Planning Commission and Tualatin Transportation Plan Update Task Force

Community — With other community leaders, founded the Citizen Involvement Organizations (CIO) in Tualatin; president of Riverpark CIO; vice president of Tualatin Together; board member of Tualatin Library Foundation, Washington County Citizen Action Network; and member of Tualatin Farmers Market, Neighbors Nourishing Community, Historical Society, Tualatin Riverkeepers

What distinguishes you from your opponent?

First, I live in Tualatin full time. My opponent, Lou Ogden, has a wonderful wife and 500-acre farm in Illinois. He is gone a part of each month, and his home in Tualatin is actually a rooming house where he has several roommates. Tualatin deserves a mayor who truly lives here.

Second, my governing philosophy is simply, an elected official must represent and serve the residents of the community. On major projects which impact the community, it is imperative that an elected official first seek the input and direction from the community and then honor that input and not just ignore it. I have heard Ogden actually say the residents are not “full time at this” so the decisions need to be left to those who know.

But it goes further than that. Not only should elected persons seek public input, but the government and elected officials must always provide unbiased information on the subject at hand. To provide only limited or one side of an issue is only propaganda. I have organized and hosted several city-wide meetings on varied topics as chickens, light rail, Seneca Street extension and the removal of our City Hall. At each of these meetings, facts, pro and con arguments, and differing points of view were presented. Then, the residents chimed in with all their questions and points of view. As mayor, I will continue this manner of gathering input to achieve consensus. It is this consensus which will set the path for decision making and spending.

I encourage each voter to do their homework before making a decision on this important mayoral election. An easy way to find out more about our respective backgrounds is simply to “google” our names on the Internet and tab through the various pages.

To read the answers from Giunta's challenger, incumbent Mayor Lou Ogden, click here.

What should voters know about you?

I have not been in political office for 22 years as my opponent, but engaged in my community. I am very involved in Tualatin with extensive knowledge and contacts, and have the skills necessary to be an effective mayor. I have a substantiated record of getting projects successfully completed, with consensus achieved from various groups. I plan before making substantive judgments as tearing down a City Hall. I believe in responsible spending and the importance of honestly examining options. An example is the light rail supported by Ogden. The City Council or Ogden is not even considering the less-expensive and more-flexible option, which may best answer to meet our community transit needs. The local bus system, based on the Wilsonville model of SMART, must be a major initiative.

What skills, knowledge, and experiences do you bring to your role as Tualatin’s mayor?

• A brief biography of myself: I spent over 30 years in various aspects of commercial real estate, including asset management of multi-million-dollar commercial portfolios. I then went into financing of small businesses engaged in elderly care. During these years, I learned important skills to be an effective mayor as: critical thinking and planning, responsible financial management and gaining consensus to achieve shared goals.

• I am active in many community groups and well connected into the community, both neighborhoods and business.

• I’ve attended nearly all the Tualatin City Council meetings for the last five years so familiar with most all of the pertinent issues.

• Organized and hosted multiple community meetings on important topics as light rail into our downtown, chickens within our city limits, the impact of the Seneca Street extension and the resulting need for a new City Hall.

• I understand land use, zoning and business development from my years in commercial real estate. As much of what a City Council deals with fits in one of these categories, my experience and knowledge will be an asset. With my connections and experience of our Tualatin neighborhoods, this too will be an asset.

Why are you running?

Though there are many upcoming issues facing our community, I chose to run for mayor because there are four particular issues which will greatly impact the future of our community and are potentially very costly. I want to be part of the process to shape the outcomes of these issues.

• A new City Hall — Two questions that have yet to be asked of residents: Do we want a City Hall and will we pay for it? Before proceeding any further, a honest community-wide conversation needs to occur. If we ask the community now, we then have the confidence that the voters will pass a bond.

• Light Rail into Downtown Tualatin — I am opposed to light rail as it simply does fit for our downtown and is too expensive. I do support as a transportation solution, the development of a Tualatin owned and managed bus system similar to Wilsonville’s SMART. If this is implemented and we follow the SMART model, it is likely the payroll transit tax paid by our businesses can be reduced up to 30 percent.

• Possible change of water source from the Bull Run to the Willamette River — This issue is in the study phase now with critical decision points upcoming. Let me be clear: I want to stay with our Bull Run water source, but this issue is being pursued by our mayor and until now there has been no public awareness of this issue. Before any more money or effort is expended, I support a community-wide education and conversation during which the facts and all sides on the issues are presented to the public.

• And fourth, our business community needs concrete help from its mayor and council. We need to act to update and simplify our commercial and industrial development codes and accompanying community plan. By doing this and removing the many “overlays” which are now in place, we actually provide concrete help to our business community by lessening their costs to establish a business in Tualatin. I believe that we do not need another vision plan for our downtown. Mayor Ogden is still recommending this, as he completed such a plan in 2005, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, with our community having nothing to show for it. Why is Mayor Ogden suggesting it again as a major council initiative?

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

First, we must provide the legal basis for the zoning and use. In Tualatin, that is the commercial and industrial development codes, community plan and associated regulations. It is imperative that we update and streamline our development code. It has not been updated in over 20 years. Instead, Mayor Ogden has chosen to use overlays. This has now created what I refer to as “regulatory spaghetti.” It causes new business to spend more money than if they located in surrounding cities, and too much time is spent interpreting the code.

Second, in partnership with other organizations and adjoining cities whose mission is economic development, as the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, Wilsonville and Sherwood, execute a sound economic development plan.

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

It is currently done within the Capital Improvement Plan that is developed by each department then combined into one plan. It is then reviewed and approved by City Council. Also, there is an annual review and update of such items as streets, sewer, water, etc. with these prioritized and placed on a time schedule. I support these systems. The problem arises when a “pet project” of council comes up, such as a new City Hall. As of now, this had been on the unfunded list, but suddenly rose to the top of the funded list. The question to be asked is what other “funded” projects now will not get done or be delayed because of this project?

What issues have you tackled in the community, and what did you help accomplish?

I worked to defeat the mayor’s project of a four-lane-expressway over our Community Park. The result was a citizen-approved Charter Amendment, which protects our parks from these types of projects.

I worked to defeat the mayor’s initiative of a $120 million Urban Renewal Update. This debt was simply too large for our small community to bear, and with little additional commercial and industrial growth to pay debt on the bonds.

I, with other community leaders, established the Citizen Involvement Organizations to assist communication between the city and its citizens. This was done as a direct result of the two failed projects mentioned above.

Member of a citizen group who negotiated with Legacy Health Systems regarding its desired construction of three buildings planned on its Tualatin campus.

As a member of the Tualatin Transportation Plan Update Task Force, I reviewed and recommended for approval by City Council, a number of transportation options for the next 10 years.

Organized and hosted community-wide meetings on light rail into Tualatin and the extension of Seneca Street with the resulting demolition of our City Hall. Further, I provided a statement in the Voters' Pamphlet of the light-rail measure in support of giving Tualatin citizens the right to vote on whether they wanted light rail in Tualatin. This passed 75 percent to 25 percent.

As a member of the Tualatin Planning Commission, we review and recommend on a variety of land-use and development matters.

What is an initiative you feel turned out well, and what made it work?

Mayor Ogden and City Council support light rail into Tualatin. I provided in the Voters' Pamphlet of Measure 34-220 a statement which recommended citizens vote "yes" on the measure. With the yes vote, citizens and not council would vote on this extremely expensive project which would have significant impacts to our downtown. The measure passed 75 percent to 25 percent, the majority saying that the citizens will vote whether they want light rail and any city money and resources spent. It worked because of the amount of community outreach I and others organized prior to the vote. This outreach was balanced with both positives and negatives presented. The people then decided, and they voted yes.

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

The major issues which have the most dramatic and expensive consequences over the next four years are:

• Do Tualatin taxpayers want a replacement City Hall?

• Do the residents of Tualatin want to spend money and city resources on light rail into Tualatin? And, a serious effort should begin examining the establishment of a locally owned and managed bus system, modeled on Wilsonville’s SMART system.

• With the study ongoing on the possible change of city water source from Bull Run to the Willamette River, we should immediately begin an education program of our residents, so that they can make an informed choice.

• Tualatin’s commercial and industrial development codes are antiquated and cumbersome. These old codes cost business money and the city new tax revenue. They need to be updated and streamlined.

Time Order of Priorities: Community conversations need to be initiated immediately on City Hall, light-rail decision and/or locally owned bus system; to begin very soon, council and community stakeholder effort to update the respective development codes; and to begin after community conversation on City Hall is completed, an education on the options, facts, etc. of each of the water source options and issues.

How do you plan to encourage citizen involvement and engagement in the community?

The council and city staff should encourage involvement by greater use of and more effective relationship with the Citizen Involvement Organizations. Once their input is received, to honor that input and not simply ignore it. Community-wide meetings that do not just present one side or information that supports a pre-ordained conclusion, but meetings where all sides are presented, and the citizens are encouraged to make up their own minds. This input then sets the direction of City Council and not visa versa.

What is your leadership style, and how will you work with the City Council, city staff, community partners and residents?

I am a consensus builder, bringing together diverse groups. I trust the wisdom of our residents. As we have a city-manager form of government, the mayor works with the city manager.

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