Perhaps the biggest issue in the Metro region and Washington County. The passage of HB 2001 will soon allow a variety of mixed-use housing in residentially zoned neighborhoods. Also, Metro will be relaxing the UGB for several Washington County communities later this year. Although the state doesn't always do things right, and Metro's expansion of involvement is a third tier of bureaucracy we don't need, these responses are positive steps to an overall solution of a complex problem.
But there's more to do:
I will bring an evidence-based policymaking perspective to county government. Simply, EBP is using data and facts to make both fiscal and program decisions. I do understand the need for prudent increases in county employment (FTE's) with our ever increasing population and depth of services. The county must be responsive to the public and their needs.
However, there are no rubber stamps with me. Department heads will need to provide ample evidence to support their requests for increasing government expenditures. Additionally, other streamlining options and cost saving measures would need to be shown before I approve revenue increases. Finally, local government must always be open to cutting funding in certain areas and looking for ways to redistribute money to better meet priorities before looking for any fee/tax increases. My experience is that this is rarely done.
The proper use of public/taxpayer money is one of the most important responsibilities of elected leadership and I take it seriously.
Another significant issue for our county and the region. I have no problem with providing for safe bike transportation, livability walking/accessibility plans for residents and other transportation improvement ideas. However, most data supports the truth that a very high proportion of individuals still use cars and want transportation infrastructure to be improved with this mode of transportation in mind. This is the epitome of evidence-based policy making. It is NOT governments job to tell residents how to commute or how to live. That is government overreach. The market and citizens can decide that for themselves. The majority of transportation dollars must be spent for the greatest number of residents.
MSTIP in Washington County is a great county budgetary add-on that continues to do great work prioritizing work in the unincorporated areas of Washington County to the tune of $35 million per year and I will continue to support this program. All national and local data (Pew, Gallup, Univ. of Michigan, Metro) all indicate 85-88% of all individuals want/need improved 'car infrastructure.' Government must be responsive to these citizens. Currently, 25% of all MSTIP improvements must include sidewalk/bike-lane inclusion and URMDAC recently appropriated 11.4 million for 12 projects in Washington County to implement/improve bicycle lanes/sidewalks and safety improvements. This funding will continue. We need to spend more money to mitigate congestion and improve our infrastructure for vehicles.
We will see some Hwy. 217 improvements in 2020 from an already approved ODOT project. I also support the identification and improvements of TV Highway and 185th Avenue in the new Metro Bond proposal. However, I am opposed to a wasted 1.025 Billion for the Southwest Corridor Lightrail project and a ridiculous 50 million of that for a study on an underground Lightrail tunnel. This proposed bond measure has already increased from 3 to 6 Billion dollars in just the last month. To be frank, Tri-Met is not ran well. Ridership is down on both Bus and Max significantly in the last 5-10 years with a decrease of over 7 million riders combined! WES has been a failure to the tune of close to 170 million dollars of taxpayer money. This tax subsidized institution must improve before I support more tax revenue for them. I may support this Bond if the priorities change.
Induced demand is a concept that if you increase supply (vehicle capacity) that more will use the supply. This has been shown to be true in large projects around the country (i.e., the Katy Freeway in TX). When only capacity is increased, there is improvement over an approximate 2 year time span. However, congestion returns or worsens within 5 years. We have to be aware of this reality if we are to spend Billions.
Importantly, current transportation research also says that 'Managed Lanes' are the best congestion mitigation technique long-term and if population planning goes out to around 20 years. Managed lanes include increased SOV capacity, an HOV lane, a Bus/Truck Lane, a peak-area tolled lane (voluntary) and the inclusion or addition of frontage roads. Sometimes, a variation of these options are effective based on need and the project in question.
I will use discernment, prudence and data to protect tax-payer money in the use of Transportation dollars. This will be a high priority for me.
With the advent of various drug legalization laws, we will see an increase in pro-drug attitudes and its long-term effects, especially with our youth. We need to be proactive in this regard. I would like to see an increase in Drug & Alcohol education in our classrooms with our non-profit providers as well as our county HHS department. Additionally, I would like to see a continuous, county supported public service campaign to combat this and protect our community from the ravages of drugs and the multitude of problems they cause. Crime, Homelessness, Mental Health issues, Poverty and more are all correlated to the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Prevention must be a part of any good policy as the money spent on the eventual outcomes of this problem is massive. This truth cannot be overstated.
I am a strong proponent for term limits for all elected officials in our county. Washington County should follow the examples of Douglas and Yamhill Counties, as well as a majority of city officials and Mayors in our region as well as the Oregon Governor, and enact term limits on all elected officials via voter approval and amendment to our 'Home Rule' Charter.
My brother-in-law who struggles with Mental Health and Homelessness issues first tuned me into the complexity of this issue. I quickly saw both the gaps and needs for this population. Washington County continues to do a fabulous job addressing this difficult issue. Most data indicates that PSH (permanent supportive housing) and Rental Assistance (for those who are cyclically homeless) are the best supportive and preventative measures to move people out of homelessness or assist those at risk of homelessness, to a more stable path. I would support nominal funding increases from current funding levels in these areas through increased financial support for our non-profit providers of these services. Washington County and many local non-profits continue to work at this difficult problem from a variety of angles as seen by decreases in these numbers in the last few years. We need to continue this success!
However, it should also be noted that the concerns of neighborhoods and businesses need to be both heard and addressed and they are often not. There is a percentage of this population who violate laws, refuse services, promote public health concerns and impact livability and business enterprise. We are not being good leaders if we do not understand that stricter enforcement for this sub-group off the homeless population is also necessary through county ordinance and the establishment of a 24/7 shelter, close to services, so a stricter enforcement that does not come into violation of Plaintiffs vs. City of Boise by the 9th Circuit Court.
Washington County is the economic engine of Oregon and has done a great job attracting and providing incentives for large corporations to create jobs and infrastructure within Washington County. It's a misconception that these incentives and abatements hurt the tax base. Currently, Intel and Nike, our two headquartered multi-national corporations who make their home here, pay over 55 million in taxes to the county. This is over a third of the overall general fund budget which itself only accounts for approximately 15% of the overall county budget.
However, all business is important from the single person businesses, to the small sole proprietorships to the larger small businesses. Traditionally, the county is not involved with business at this level, but we can do more.
The county is hiring a Manager of Economic Development whose job scope is still in consideration. I would like to see this position, along with other parameters, create a county website that can highlight local businesses on a rotating manner, as well as drive business and citizens to entities who are in jeopardy of going out of business so we have no business failure in this county.
Washington County can be both a support to cities in their own economic development as well as be an additional resource for training, development and support for any business, especially those in the urban unincorporated areas that often get overlooked.
Urban unincorporated areas such as Aloha often get overlooked in the bigger picture. Aloha is a vital connector between our two largest cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro.
The planning efforts to revitalize the Aloha town center and subsequent travel routes such as Johnson St. and the intersection improvements at 185th/TV Highway must go forward.
The ordinance modifications for the business entities as well as the parking and travel in this area will be significantly improved and ensure improved safety, pedestrian movement, car travel and business support.