County chair candidates face off at Portland State

Candidates for Multnomah County chair and District 2 county commissioner gathered at an ASPSU-sponsored forum Wednesday to discuss a multitude of issues, from homelessness to Portland State’s connection with the Portland community.

Incumbent County Chair Diane Linn and challenger Ted Wheeler both said they aim to follow the City of Portland’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, acknowledging that homelessness is a problem around the PSU campus. The 10-year initiative will try to end homelessness in Portland by 2015, by improving outreach programs, increasing economic opportunity to the homeless and increasing supportive housing.

Establishing more facilities for the homeless, Linn said, as well as institutions to help intervene with individuals suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, are key to attaining the plan’s goals. Wheeler said it is necessary to provide affordable housing to reduce homelessness issues by redeveloping current housing into affordable housing, rather than creating new affordable housing projects.

“The cost to redevelop housing into affordable housing is one-third less than the cost of developing new housing,” Wheeler said.

The four District 2 candidates, one of whom will replace Serena Cruz as the representative of North and Northeast Portland, spoke to the lack of connection many PSU students feel with the Portland community.

Gary Hanson, a District 2 candidate who previously served as a Multnomah County commissioner from 1990 to 1998, proposed to turn the Sellwood Bridge into a toll bridge. Because Clackamas and Washington County commuters are the primary users of the bridge, Hanson said this would help provide funding to keep the bridge in prime function.

Each of the candidates encouraged students to vote and become more involved with politics. Contender Jeff Cogan, currently City Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s chief of staff, said students need to participate in elections if they expect to be represented.

“As a nation we haven’t been investing in higher education,” Cogan said. “Why? Because young people don’t vote.”

District 2 candidate Xander Patterson, who received an MBA from PSU in 1999, devoted most of his time to emphasizing his plan to solve what he called a fiscal crisis in Multnomah County. Patterson said “huge irresponsible tax cuts to rich people and organizations” at the federal level caused this crisis.

“We need to get way more ambitious on the local level,” he said, referencing the county’s billion-dollar budget, one-third of which, Patterson said, is controlled locally.

Wheeler became slightly flustered after the committee of candidates was asked to divulge the kind of automobiles they own, in reference to increasing gas prices across the nation. Linn, who said she owns a Ford Taurus for the ease of transporting children, requested that the audience ask her opponent how many cars he owns.

Wheeler said homeless people and citizens with abuse problems “don’t give a damn” that he owns three cars, an Audi TT and Lexus Station Wagon among them.

Patterson said the 1994 passage of Measure 11, an Oregon bill that mandated a prison sentence for violent crime and sex offenders, is reflective of a number of “disgusting trends” taking place in the state. He said that while funding for prisons has gone up 200 percent, funding for schools has only gone up 30 percent.

Lew Frederick, a District 2 candidate with a strong involvement in education, said most PSU students do not feel connected with county issues because they are not involved enough. Encouraging involvement, Frederick said county healthcare is among the most important issues that could directly affect students who lack health insurance.

Linn said she encourages voters to look at how the values of the candidates reflect voters’ personal values when casting their ballots.

“Look at the experience we each bring,” she said.