I took part in a rare candidate forum today, one sponsored by the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce. The lunch-time event was so helpful - and refreshing! Local candidates got to listen to each other and answer questions and see who they might be working with after the election.
Of course it was on Zoom, but it had the feel of an in-real-life event.
The West Columbia Gorge chamber serves the cities of Fairview, Wood Village, Troutdale, Springdale, Corbett, Bridal Veil, and Cascade Locks. These are the places that are the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge - and the places just inside its beautiful boundaries.
Chamber president Geoff Kenway (pictured below) was the host, and there were plenty of folks stumping - candidates for Troutdale mayor, candidates for Fairview, Wood Village, and Troutdale city councils, and most of the folks running for Oregon House and Senate. Our Metro councilor, Shirley Craddick, was there to listen, and so was Fairview Mayor Brian Cooper.
Candidates got to talk about how we'd help local businesses hit hard by COVID. These are extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures. Businesses need money and advice right now - access to grants and loans and support for changing their staffing, services, operations and otherwise adapting to a global infectious disease outbreak. Fairview has an amazing person in charge of the city's COVID response, Cristal Otero, and I'd be sure she has all the staff and volunteer support she needs to reach out to business owners by phone to connect them with money and advice that can help them survive. Communication is key during any public health emergency or natural disaster. Talking as frequently as possible with business owners - hearing their concerns and getting them help - is Job #1.
Candidates also got to talk about the Main Streets on Halsey project. One of my favorite topics! This is the project, already five years in the works, that aims to make a vibrant, walkable main street along Halsey Street as it runs through Fairview, Wood Village, and Troutdale. The aim: slow down the cars, beautify the street, and bring in small businesses and amenities that make Halsey a magnet for people who want to eat, shop, and play. I'm a big booster of this effort, and ensuring its success is one of my campaign promises - one I aim to keep. I'm proud to report I helped work on a successful $200,000 state grant to advance the project through the design phase. High five! I'm also helping our senior planner find possible funding sources to bring the community together to brand the corridor - give it a name, give it an identity - and create promotional materials to promote it to developers and small business owners.
What was gratifying about today's event was to see and hear the passion so many candidates have for East County, and the deep commitment they have to making it an even better place.
I saw folks who I'd love to work with - shout out to Jairo Rios-Campos and Sandy Glantz - and many more I'd like to get to know. (Steve Marker and Tim Erich and Randy Lauer, I'm talking to you!) As I said on the call today: To be a successful leader in East County, you have to collaborate. The small cities are just that. Small. We have small budgets and small staffs. But we have big dreams. To do anything audacious - like reverse engineer a small-town main street from a congested county road - we have to work together. City officials have to work with Metro and Multnomah County, Mt. Hood Community College and Reynolds School District, as well as our small businesses, non-profits, and churches if we want to build something beautiful and lasting.
Here's to doing business together.