Youth dominates Metro Council race
The two candidates who hope to succeed Kathryn Harrington of Beaverton in the District 4 seat on the Metro Council have one thing in common.
They're both young.
Dana Carstensen of Hillsboro is 32. Juan Carlos Gonzalez of Cornelius is 25.
But that's about all they have in common.
Carstensen hopes to make the transition from Metro employee — he has worked at the Oregon Zoo five years — to Metro councilor. He started at the zoo after earning a degree in planning from the University of Oregon.
Gonzalez is director of development and communications for Centro Cultural, based in Cornelius. He is a 2011 graduate of Forest Grove High School, and after earning a degree from Georgetown University in 2015, he chose to return to Cornelius.
Harrington is vacating the seat — she has held it for the maximum 12 years — to run for Washington County board chair.
The Metro Council has six members elected by districts — each earns about $45,000 annually — and a president elected at large with a salary of more than $135,000.
Metro has a range of functions in the three Portland area counties, among them regional parks and nature areas, the Oregon Zoo, regional land use and transportation planning, solid waste and recycling, and visitor venues such as the Oregon Convention Center, Expo Center and Portland 5 Center for the Arts.
District 4 covers northwest Beaverton, Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove. It has about 160,000 registered voters.
As a union shop steward, Carstensen has tangled with Metro — and as a councilor, he has big plans, some far beyond current Metro policies.
"I am a candidate with plans — and five years of passion for getting things done at Metro already," he said.
Among them: A waste-to-energy plant for metro area garbage, community-owned housing, and replacement of TriMet diesel buses with electric-powered ones — although TriMet, the regional transit agency, is managed by a separate board appointed by the governor.
Carstensen said a waste-to-energy plant would cost up to $1 billion, but would return more in producing power and reducing garbage. He said it works in Japan and Sweden.
"Being extremely successful there, why can't it be done here?" he asked. "It is the way to go. We can make it work here."
Last summer, the Metro Council agreed with a staff recommendation that a diversion of even 200,000 of the 1.3 million tons of garbage generated by the region would cost far more to burn than to put in landfills. The current 30-year contract for the landfill, which is in Gilliam County east of Portland, ends in 2019.
Gonzalez said he'd like to see a waste-to-energy plant, but not ahead of critical priorities in housing and transportation.
"I want to make sure we can take practical steps to build a recycling system that is going to make people's lives better now, and in 10, 20 and 50 years," he said.
The Metro Council is expected to decide soon whether to ask voters in the Nov. 6 general election to approve a bond issue to generate money for subsidized housing. But the council has not decided how much to seek and how the money would be spent.
Carstensen has called for community land trusts instead of the public-private partnerships now common for such housing projects. He said Metro should consider building the projects, which then would be owned by resident cooperatives.
"What I hear is that we need to take money and build more affordable housing blocks," he said. "But having a cheap place to sleep isn't going to solve the issue."
Gonzalez said a variety of strategies should be tried, including increased population density and mixed residential and commercial uses on major highway corridors, and transit-oriented development such as what has happened along light-rail lines.
"Metro is a collaborative agency" that should work with cities and counties, not dictate to them what form housing should take, he said.
Gonzalez has raised more than $60,000, compared with $5,000 for Carstensen, and has endorsements from Harrington, three other current Metro councilors and outgoing Metro President Tom Hughes, two county commissioners, and all the mayors and several councilors from the four cities in the district.
Carstensen is endorsed by Andy Duyck — the outgoing county board chairman, who is a critic of Metro — the Washington County Democratic Party, state Sen. Chuck Riley of Hillsboro and state Rep. Jeff Barker of Aloha, both Democrats, and the Progressive Party.