Candidates take stands on issues as May 21 election approaches

The four Hood River County Commission candidates in two contested races recently sat down to answer, in their own words, six questions posed by the News. Following are answers by John Arens and Rodger Shock, contenders for the at-large chair position, and Carol York and Ladd Henderson, who are both vying for the District 1 seat:

1) What is your stand on the three pending major developments, Wal-Mart, casino and destination resort?

Carol York: “Wal-Mart is going through a county planning process in existence at the time of application. Wal-Mart has adapted its construction elsewhere, and we should expect the same consideration here. In some states, their grocery store is in a separate building called the Neighborhood Market. In Colorado, a rock-faced Wal-Mart hides behind a berm where it doesn’t even show. My preferred Wal-Mart would be multiple buildings in a parklike setting, to better fit Hood River’s character, and this is why I supported the footprint ordinance. The ordinance doesn’t eliminate business opportunities, it just helps define how they look. Wal-Mart serves this community, and people who visit shop in other local stores and restaurants. Hood River needs to offer ‘Anytown’ services, but we don’t need to look like ‘Anytown, USA.’

“I am opposed to the casino on the east side of Hood River. In March, I personally hand-delivered our county’s resolution against the casino to the BIA’s Director of Indian Gaming and to our senators and congressman. The majority of my constituents in Cascade Locks anticipate economic development benefits from a casino near their community, so I will continue to support them. I have researched casino issues in eight Oregon tribal casino counties, discussed the casino with all six major governor candidates, and given tours of the proposed, inappropriate site to the governor’s staff and other officials.

“As far as the destination resort, how can I be for or against something when I don’t know what it’s going to be? Land-use regulations are in place and we ought to give potential developers a chance to make their proposals before making any judgments. Only one percent of the entire Mt. Hood National Forest is developed recreation, with a smaller percentage on the north side at historic Cloud Cap, Lost Lake and Cooper Spur. Due to such limited opportunities, we should carefully consider additional recreation, such as an environmentally-sensitive resort compatible with its surroundings, on private lands adjacent to the forest.”

Rodger Schock: “I must preface my answer with this comment — land-use decisions are made in a quasi-judicial setting by elected County Commissioners. The law requires and the public is entitled to a decision by this judicial forum that is objective and unbiased. I have been asked to give my opinions about land-use matters and, if elected, will find myself sitting in a judicial setting where I will have to set my opinions aside and cast my vote with full adherence to the appropriate ordinances.

“Wal-mart has made a valid application to the county for a new superstore. They are currently required to meet 56 conditions of our zoning ordinances. If they meet these condition, I will support their application.

“I am opposed to the siting of a casino east of Hood River but will support it on properly-zoned land in Cascade Locks.

“No application has yet been made for a destination resort, although it is commonly believed that one is forthcoming. The application is expected to request a zone change from primary forest to what can only be described as a “small city.” I am personally opposed to such a venture for several reasons: The development would be built in our most restrictive zone — the primary forest. It would substantially be within the Crystal Springs watershed. A favorable ruling would be granted primarily for economic reasons and, if that occurs, how could the county say no to any other landowner claiming economic hardship? When our comprehensive plan was being developed, a county-wide advisory vote was conducted to determine if a destination resort was appropriate for this area. Hood River County voters said NO!“

Ladd Henderson: “I see the Wal-Mart issue as a private property rights issue. The major parcel involved in the proposed development has been zoned commercial for many years and has been very openly advertised as being for sale for over 10 years. A few very vocal people have tried to manipulate the regulatory process, with the active participation of my opponent, to circumvent an outright permitted use for that commercially zoned property.

“This shifting of the rules in the middle of the application process has not stopped Wal-Mart but will certainly serve to provide a “cold chill” to any other new business considering Hood River in the future. The recent Safeway decision to not expand in Hood River is the first example of the result of this flawed thinking.

“I am against the casino and the Oregon lottery because of the documented fact that many people are ignoring their retirement plans and relying on “hitting the Big One.” A recent study in Massachusetts found that the average adult resident is now “investing” $2,000+ per year in gambling with corresponding drops in contributions to retirement plan accounts.

“I am for the destination resort in concept, believing a winter boost to tourism could help our seasonal unemployment problems and add to the clientele base for our existing businesses.”

John Arens: “These are all individual issues, each development will be considered on its own merits with a different set of criteria to be considered in the decision-making process. Included in that process are Oregon state laws, revised statutes and administration rules, Hood River County ordinances, other formal county plans, and input from the public through the hearings process that will form the outcome of each of these matters.

“Regarding the proposed Wal-mart, the county has received an application to construct a superstore at the junction of Frankton and County Club roads. The application is in process at the Hood River County Planning Department. The applicant has received a list of issues to address under all of the current rules and regulations that the state and local governments have in place with a deadline to resubmit. As part of the appeals process, the Board of Commissioners may be hearing this case. If an appeal is filed and the issue comes before the county board, my decision will be based on all of the information presented during that hearing. It is important to understand that as a decision-maker in an appeal you need to remain neutral on the matter until the full board takes the matter under deliberation.

“With respect to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ desire to locate a new casino in the Gorge. Hood River County Commissioners are on record as opposing the Hood River site and supporting the Cascade Locks site. I voted for this position after evaluating all of the facts, laws and public input.

“If a destination resort is proposed in Hood River County, I will evaluate that proposal based on the facts and laws that govern such a use, taking into account public input through the hearings process. The Hood River County Economic Development Action Plan has recommended destination resorts as a preferred strategy, but my position will ultimately be based on a site specific plan and the laws that govern that type of use. I will base my decision on the location, quality, and scale of the proposed development. The compatibility of the use on the surrounding areas, the economic, social and environmental impacts will all be carefully considered.”

2) What is your vision for Hood River County’s economic future?

Rodger Shock: “My vision for Hood River County includes an expansion of existing businesses. This is probably the most important area to pursue. Employers who are here now have sunk roots and are very invested in the community.

“We need to go beyond our county and market our greatest assets — the workforce and liability — to potential employers. We have a lot of underutilized talent and what better place could you pick to live and to raise a family than our county?

“Hood River County needs to support and assist the expansion of the Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) into our town. It is more critical than ever that today’s workforce receive marketable training. New businesses will look much more favorably at our community if we have an educational facility such as CGCC.

“The economy is an issue in every campaign. This election is to be no different. It is important to realize that this entire nation is suffering from economic strife. We need to take a hard look at ourselves — what has worked and what hasn’t — and pursue those avenues that have historically performed for us. We are competing with thousands of other communities who are searching for the same high-paying, nonpolluting, jobs. Hood River County needs to expand its economy in the same manner it has historically done. We are blessed to have a “jobs base” that is very diverse. That diversity should continue to serve us well as we grow.“

Ladd Henderson: “I see Hood River at a fork in the road to the future. One road, the road my opponent and her support group, the Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG) are pulling us rapidly toward, will result in total conversion to a playground for the wealthy and a bedroom community for commuters to Portland. The rapidly escalating cost-of-living brought on by their exclusionary politics, coupled with the burden of educating children for people whose only tax burden is their homes, will soon result in the destruction of our orchards. Because the orchardists compete in a world market, it will soon be impossible for them to keep pace with labor costs caused by the rapidly increasing local cost-of-living. The cost of living increases will also soon result in the forced removal of many of our senior citizens on fixed incomes.

“The other road leads to a place where the policies of the ’I’ve-Got-Mine-Now-Close-The-Gate-Group (IGMNCTGG) would be rejected. The free enterprise system would be encouraged with the end result of new businesses actually competing against each other, resulting in lower prices to the consumer, job formation, and a viable, healthy local economy.”

John Arens: “My vision for Hood River County’s economic future is retention and expansion of our existing businesses and development of new businesses. The most important thing to strive for is diversification of our economic base while always keeping in mind the lifestyle that we cherish so much.

“We have an Economic Development Plan that was most recently updated in December of 2000. A committee of individuals from all of the local governments and local businesses participated in this plan. The vision of the Economic Development Committee was adopted by the full Board of Commissioners. The plan outlines several points and we will soon have a full-time Economic Development Director to assist in implementing that plan.

“Our county is a small geographic area that is unique unto itself. I want Hood River to maintain its unique culture and lifestyle — the agricultural base, outdoor recreation and tourism, a future community college campus, high speed telecommunication buildup for all users that will attract new high-tech industries. These are all things that will keep Hood River unique but will help to revitalize the economy.”

Carol York: “Hood River County should be a county of opportunity, not just a county of beauty. How can we offer a high quality of life for our residents if they can’t afford to live here?

“We need a healthy, diversified, sustainable economy which recognizes our unique resources. We must retain and expand existing businesses which enhance our traditional economic base by seeking value-added opportunities, and attract new businesses that are well-suited to the local workforce and infrastructure, and are compatible with community values.

“We need a wide range of employment opportunities, for both unskilled entry-level workers as well as jobs for a highly trained workforce. We need to look for and remove barriers to sensible, compatible and varied development. Because of our limited land base, we should seek diverse, small employers of one-50 employees. Once here, we need to nurture and retain these businesses.

“We must continue to support our agriculture and natural resource economy. We cannot afford to be dependent upon other countries for our food and timber like we are for oil. We need to remind people where their food and wood products come from, facilitate the efforts of farmers and foresters to continue sustainable operations, and promote value-added product development.”

3) How should local government implement that vision?

Ladd Henderson: “Any real politician would answer, ‘By forming an advisory committee to study the problem and by hiring a new department head to implement the recommendations to be made by the new advisory committee.’

“To create a favorable business climate we must return back to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning, and make certain that the requirements are the same for everyone under like circumstances. Custom rules, prompted by a particular application, by local government over the years is largely responsibility for the anti-business reputation Hood River has developed. It is extremely difficult for a prospective business person to put a dollar amount to development costs when it is largely dependent on how the local governments may “feel” about his proposal. What if the “feelings” change in the middle of his project application process? Feelings are dependent upon what clubs you join, what businesses you frequent, where and how often you play golf and with whom. They MUST NOT have any place in the regulatory process.“

John Arens: “Hood River is implementing that vision by participating on local, regional, state and federal levels to be involved in establishing and maintaining partnerships that will foster our goals. By establishing an Agricultural Task Force to assist in any way that it can to help overcome obstacles, stabilize and ultimately revitalize the industry to maintain our long-standing agriculture base.

“We will continue to support expanded high-speed telecommunications in our county. We participated in a business and retention study this past year to assist in finding ways to help private business. We are considering whether to establish a Certified Sustainable Forest in our county for a number of reasons. We will consider sustainability, increased revenues to the county, multiple use of our forests and diversification of our forest resources. Our last budget meeting the committee approved hiring an Economic Development Director, a position that is critical in order to move forward with our plan. It will provide us with a consistent voice and collaboration with community partners for success. This plan will impact our future in a positive way.

“Additionally, increasing and stabilizing funding for K-12 schools is critical to the implementation of a strong economy. In connection with that, achieving increased and stable funding for education requires a strong local economy and tax base. I am focused on this and will work to enhance our revenue for education through supporting the expansion of existing businesses and attracting new businesses. With a superior education, our children will have enhanced opportunities to earn family-wage jobs, and provide the workforce necessary to attract and expand local businesses.”

Carol York: “Government should facilitate jobs, not create jobs. We should hire an economic development coordinator, and provide the tools and resources for this person to streamline the process, review and reduce burdensome regulations, research and market to potential businesses, establish close coordination between businesses and government. In addition, the coordinator should develop community consensus and ensure that everyone receives consistent treatment at every level (financing, assessment, planning building inspection, enforcement) from all entities (state, county, cities, ports).

“We need an educated and trained workforce. I traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby support for a technology training center and business incubator in partnership with Columbia Gorge Community College, the Hood River County School District and the Port of Hood River. Telecommunication infrastructure is critical. Except for Gorge Network’s satellite service, we’re currently in a “black hole” and have lost business. Government should not compete with private enterprise, so I have insisted that Sprint be included in telecom planning, in addition to Hood River Electric Co-op’s work with Noa-net and the Gorge Teleconsortium.

“I persuaded the Cascade Locks City Council to expand their Enterprise Zone into Hood River for their e-commerce zone applications, demonstrating our county-wide cooperation, so they would be more competitive.

“There is no reason why agriculture, timber, tourism, recreation, and small business interests can’t all help each other — we just need to find some common ground and work together. Because I already work with a wide variety of businesses, I am in a unique position to carry this forward. Consider for example, a cooperative “Hood River Pear Center,” similar to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, located near the freeway with a fruitstand, interactive museum, packing line observation area, audiovisual presentations, gift shop, fruit pie, ice cream and information center.“

Rodger Shock: “The cities, the ports and Hood River County need to come together and agree on a unified plan to bring jobs to local residents. We will never be successful if we continue to operate as separate entities.

“It is absolutely imperative that we identify and subsequently make available land for business locations. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that any new business will choose to invest in our community. We should use the Port of Hood River’s business park in Odell as an example of how properly zoned and available land attracts new jobs. Nine businesses have now located there, creating over 100 jobs. Three of those businesses are currently expanding and I am proud to say that my company, Schock Welding, is one of those businesses.

“In addition, we should hire a person to market our county and facilitate the county’s prospective new businesses. Currently, a new or existing business must plow its own ground with respect to meeting the requirements for approval. The person hired should be familiar with various aspects of government, banking and construction so that employers knocking at our door will feel welcomed and get the answers they need in order to make an informed decision about moving to this area. You can expect new jobs to be my number one priority should you elect me as chair of the Hood River County Commission.”

4) What type of industries and businesses do you think Hood River County should work to attract?

John Arens: “First and foremost we must help existing businesses expand and thrive. We should then be looking to attract small and medium-sized businesses that are compatible with our culture and lifestyle. This would offer diversity and stability as different industries are cyclical in nature. Value-added agriculture, telecommunications, e-commerce businesses, alternative forestry products, light manufacturing, outdoor recreation, hospitality, and retailers are all possible areas to consider.

“We all obviously want family-wage jobs, but jobs at all levels are needed to reduce our unemployment and provide opportunities for youth and secondary family incomes.”

Carol York: “We should work to attract a variety of diverse, small, successful businesses. Because of the internet and overnight shipping services, businesses can locate wherever they want for their chosen lifestyle, even though their product and income sources may be worldwide. Therefore, we need to embrace tourism, not fight it, as an important economic development tool. It’s one of the legs of our economy, in addition to agriculture and timber. Tourism doesn’t take away, it just diversifies us more.

Tourism is more than T-shirts and trinkets. It brings new dollars to the community, dollars that stay and circulate round the community. Tourism businesses provide entry-level jobs to unskilled workers who then develop skills and move up in the workplace. Tourism infrastructure serves local residents also.

“Most importantly, tourism brings new, permanent, high-paying, non-tourism businesses. More than 70 percent of new businesses come from visitors — business owners who like the area and move their businesses or start one here. These are not low-paying service jobs, but family wage jobs like Summit Projects, Gorge Networks, DaKine and a San Fransciso advertising firm which is based here.

“Hood River County is uniquely able to provide Agri-Tourism, Eco-Tourism, Cultural Tourism and Recreational Tourist and we ought to take advantage of it. We also should encourage the port and city to finish the waterfront.

Rodger Schock: “I would choose not to exclude any business of any specific type. However, since we have virtually lost our timber products industry, I would focus on jobs for which those displaced workers could qualify. Jobs of an industrial/manufacturing nature would be my preference. It is very important to me that whatever business comes to our community pays a good a wage and provides a benefits package to its employees.

“Tourism has become a very important faction of our economy. I am concerned that, too often, we perceive that jobs created in their area count as “real” jobs. While they offer a valuable contribution towards employment, they do not typically offer enough income to support a family. I feel very strongly that we should focus our “business” recruiting efforts on producing family wage jobs.“

Ladd Henderson: “I probably agree with everyone on this question. Ideally, the industries would be relatively small (five-100 employees) and very diversified to help stabilize local employment through varying economic cycles.

“If we are able to eliminate our anti-business reputation, it will not be necessary to work to attract new businesses. Just look around — this is the most beautiful place in the world! It is also the best place to work and to raise a family!”

5) How can Hood River County better improve its relationships with other public agencies?

Carol York: “Since becoming a commissioner in 1997, I have worked to improve relationships by engaging agency staff and directors in discussions to increase their awareness of Hood River County’s needs and concerns. For example, within the past month I met with Oregon Economic Development Director Bill Scott, Oregon Tourism Director Todd Davison, the BIA’s Director of Indian Gaming, Congressman Brian Baird, and key staff of Senators Wyden and Smith, and Congressman Walden and Blumenaur.

“My work with Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) personnel has contributed to their quicker-than-usual response for this summer’s traffic light installation at the Eliot/Brookside Drive and Tucker Road intersection. I helped create the six-county Scenic Area Coalition, a partnership to address common bi-state concerns.

“I have bridged the gap between the county and Cascade Locks, and participate in city, port, Action Team, and Business Association meetings. I serve on the Association of Counties (AOC) Board and Legislative committees, I am chair of AOC District 3 which includes Hood River, Sherman, William, Wasco and Wheeler counties.

“This strong network of contacts with local, regional, state, tribal and federal officials will be critical to our future as we face issues larger than our county. Relationships take a long time to build, and I will work to continue this process.”

Rodger Schock: “We need to understand that all public agencies in this county have the same common goal — making this county a better place to live and raise a family. We will only achieve this end by communicating our wants and needs, then developing a plan to arrive at our common goal. There is a great deal of work to be done and we will continue to struggle if we don’t come together with our ideas. The one word answer to this question is ‘communication.’”

Ladd Henderson: “This is not an original idea but is a method that I participated in for seven years in Marion County. The Mayor of Stayton would ‘sponsor’ a no-host breakfast meeting once a month at a local restaurant. Those invited included chamber of commerce representatives, the county sheriff’s office, the city police, county and city public works directors, telephone companies, ODOT representatives, several agricultural groups, state legislators, city council members,county commissioners and other interested parties.

“With a core group of 10-12 consistent attendees, the group would vary up to 25-30 at an occasional meeting. During the first few meetings, the discussions were quite formal but that slowly changed as the participants become more comfortable with the format and each other. We would go around the table with everyone taking a few minutes to explain what was happening in their world. Often we would find that two organizations could coordinate projects and eliminate the waste of duplicate efforts. It also opened doors for equipment sharing and finding savings in joint bulk purchases of supplies. Most importantly, it served as a “central clearinghouse” for weird politically motivated ideas, with their authors taking a great deal of good-natured flack as they attempted to defend their positions.“

John Arens: “Communication is the most important thing we could do to improve relationships. As with any group of people you usually need an issue to bring you together. I think it’s just as important to have the councils of local government “meet and greet”, or share philosophies so we understand each others positions on certain issues. We will not always agree, but if we can understand why one entity does something a certain way, then we can better work together on the areas of like understanding and we will all achieve our goals sooner.“

6) What is the last book you read, and why did you choose it?

Rodger Schock: “I read two books concurrently “John Adams” by David McCullough and “Theodore Rex” by Edmund Morris. I chose these biographies about Adams and Roosevelt because I am intrigued by presidential history. I read them together as I wanted to compare the politics of our country during a 100-year interval reflecting on what might have changed. Result: not much has changed! Politics will always be politics and the success or failure of an individual hangs largely in the balance of that person’s ability to sway the masses. Both of these presidents were very moral, dedicated public servants. Adams served only one term as he fell victim to his inability to praise himself. Roosevelt served two terns and could’ve had a third had he wished, largely due to his indomitable personality. I am currently reading “When Character was King,” a biography of Ronald Reagan written by Peggy Noonan.

Ladd Henderson: “The last book was titled “How to win an election using invisible yard signs and without accepting contributions from or obligations to any special interest group,” author unknown. The last published book was “The No Spin Zone” by Bill O’Reilly. I appreciate his no-nonsense approach to problem solving and find his style of interviewing politicians refreshing.“

John Arens: “A friend recommended to me the book “Who Moved My Cheese, an Amazing Way to Deal with Change in your Work and Your Life” that was written by by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard.

Carol York: “I’m an avid reader, but currently my reading time is consumed by Hood River County issues. I just finished “Rowing to Latitude, Journeys Along the Artic’s Edge,” by Jill Fredston. Colorful descriptions of paddling the coasts of Alaska, Norway, Labrador and Greenland are sprinkled with insights about taking risks, making decisions, nature and life in general.“

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