Elected officials cite needs in education, transportation and economic development funding

by:  VERN UYETAKE - U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, right, gives Clackamas County elected officials an update on Congress during a visit to West Linn on Jan. 29. Mayor John Kovash, left, listens.Checking in with elected officials, U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) visited West Linn on Jan. 29.

Schrader, who represents the 5th Congressional District, conducted a roundtable session at city hall with about 25 area elected officials to get the pulse of what issues are affecting the county. It was one stop of several slated between Jan. 27 and Feb. 1.

Schrader, who is serving his third term in the House of Representatives, said roundtables are a major way for him to get a sense of what communities need and what they are experiencing.

City and school board representatives from West Linn, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Canby, Wilsonville, Estacada, Colton, Molalla, Gladstone and Happy Valley were present along with county representatives from Metro, Clackamas Community College and the county sheriff’s office.

Schrader told the officials that despite some early action with legislation regarding the fiscal cliff, Hurricane Sandy relief and the No Budget No Pay bill, “Congress is kind of a mixed bag so far.”by: VERN UYETAKE - About 25 elected officials from cities and school districts across the county told U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader of their needs.

“We still have a lot to do getting our act together fiscally,” he said. He explained that though the work that has been done to reduce the national deficit by $4 trillion is making progress with $2.3 trillion in identified reductions and $650,000 in new revenues, there is still a gap of $1.6 trillion. He wants to push tax and entitlement reform.

“I’m less optimistic now than I’ve ever been,” he told officials, betting that the controversial budget sequester of cutting $1.2 trillion that was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1 would still happen.

As officials went around the room introducing themselves, they also stated their areas of concern. The timber industry, economic development, small business support, transportation and infrastructure were all hot topics along with a big push for education funding.

“If you can’t fund us, set us free,” Lake Oswego School Board Member Linda Brown said, requesting funding for improved safety and security. “Grants for the security and safety of our kids will pay off in many ways.”

Lake Oswego Superintendent Bill Korach also chimed in.

“Federal funding really does make a difference for us. Complexity is our enemy,” he said. “The more rules, the more constrictions there are ... the more it hurts us.”by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn resident Alice Richmond shares her opinion with U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader.

Paul Edgar, Oregon City urban renewal commissioner, stressed the opportunity at the former Blue Heron Paper Mill and addressed high-speed passenger rail.

“We’re going to need your help,” he told Schrader. “There are implications we just can’t address without your help. It’s going to happen — please help us.”

West Linn Mayor John Kovash asked for transportation funding as well as addressing infrastructure and the jobs that work produces.

“Anything the feds can do is very helpful,” he said.

West Linn City Councilor Thomas Frank wants federal help for homeowners trapped in the housing downturn, including homes with loans of more than $400,000, which make up a large portion of the city.

Metro’s Carlotta Collette cited transportation funding as a need and said there are missed opportunities in brownfields that could be turned into industrial sites if federal funding was available.

“We could get people back to work,” she said. “We’ve got lots of empty sites.”

Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp asked Schrader’s opinion of the No Label group, which Schrader is a member of. The group is a movement of members from multiple parties pushing for reform. No Labels was recently responsible for the success of the No Budget No Pay bill that withholds Congress salaries if the budget is not completed on VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego School Board Member Linda Brown, right, and West Linn-Wilsonville School Board Member Betty Reynolds, left, talk with Rep. Kurt Schrader.

As a self-described moderate, Schrader said, “At the end of the day, you have to solve the problem. ... No Labels has a lot of powerful people behind it and it is reforming how Congress works. ... I think there’s some potential there.”

Schrader promised the officials that his office would stay in touch and keep them apprised of actions and changes in Congress.

Walking away from the roundtable, Schrader said the issues that he heard strongest were education, transportation, health concerns and jobs.

Schrader’s schedule for his visit also included speaking at the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference in Corvallis, touring the Blue Heron site in Oregon City, speaking at the Portland Society of American Foresters meeting, holding town halls in Milwaukie and Salem, touring a remodeled portion of the Oregon State Hospital and the new Social Security office in Salem, holding roundtables in Salem, Tillamook and Lincoln City, and speaking at the Woodburn Rotary meeting.

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