By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
Dr. Lars Bergstrom has entered the Hood River Port Commission race on a promise to “stop gridlock and halt the lawsuits.”
Bergstrom is challenging incumbent Fred Duckwall for the Position 1 seat in the May 17 election. He is the author of a 2003 citizen initiative that sought to preserve the port’s waterfront property for a public park. Measure 14-16 was brought before 2,970 city voters with a 67 percent approval rating out of the 54 percent of citizens who cast their ballots.
The measure was later ruled illegal by the state Department of Land Use and Development because it rezoned property without following established state laws. Bergstrom believes it is wrong that the current port commission, Oregonians in Action, a property rights advocacy group, and other special interest groups spent money trying to overturn the citizen vote.
“Right now we’re experiencing complete bureaucratic gridlock. Gridlock and lawsuits. For years the people of Hood River have been planning our waterfront, and for just as many years nothing has happened,” said Bergstrom. “The current port is unable to work with the city and the people of the Gorge. They have proven this by spending tens of thousands of dollars suing the city and the citizens of Hood River over the people’s votes. This needs to change immediately.
“We need to stop the gridlock and we need to stop the lawsuits. I have the political skills needed to allow us to work together on behalf of the people of Hood River. I care about Hood River and the people who live and work here.”
Bergstrom, the father of two young boys, is an adjunct professor at the School of Economics at Portland State University, and director of sales and marketing at Innovative Composite Engineering (ICE) in Bingen. He holds a master’s degree from the Department of Environmental Science and Regional Planning at Washington State University.
Bergstrom believes it is crucial at this time of change and development in Hood River for the port board to include a member with a planning background. He is also interested in taking a no-nonsense analytical approach to the port’s investing and spending practices.
“Given the right leadership, the port could be one of the greatest assets that our community has. But if people aren’t feeling the effects of that every day, we can do better,” he said.
Although he has differing political viewpoints than some port commissioners, Bergstrom describes the current elected body as “wonderful people who really care about our community.” He commends them for making sacrifices of their personal time to serve their fellow citizens. However, Bergstrom believes port authorities “need to get back on track” and start making decisions based on long-term results that will benefit the next generation of local residents.
“I love the Gorge and I care about our future. That’s why I wrote the Hood River Waterfront Parks Initiative. As a commissioner, I will make sure that we have a waterfront park for everyone to enjoy for generations to come. I also want to make sure that the changes we make to the waterfront are economically sound and provide significant benefit to every single person in the port district,” he said.
Bergstrom is a strong supporter of the new joint city/port Park Design Committee and believes, through their work, “we are watching a diamond being cut.”
The waterfront is not the only area of interest for Bergstrom within the port’s territory that extends from Parkdale to Wyeth. As a natural resource scientist, he wants the port to do everything within its power to help local growers continue to be a sustainable and substantial segment of the Hood River economy.
Bergstrom said it is vital for the port commission to “fully understand the intricacies of objectively working with its resource base,” According to Bergstrom, that knowledge needs to include agriculture, timber, technology, tourism and many other industries. Again, he believes that his professional background can help in decision-making regarding the port’s resource base.
Bergstrom does not agree with frustrated citizens who are calling for the dissolution of the port. He feels the port is one of the greatest assets that the people own and “needs to be directed by experts from a variety of fields, including economics.
In addition to appropriate management of its assets, Bergstrom is concerned that the port has been neglecting its marketing duties. He said one of the port’s primary missions is to bring new businesses to town, which will not be done by simply providing more light industrial space.
“We lost the Gorge Games, we missed out on Google, and Amazon and Microsoft aren’t exactly knocking down our door. They should be though. Hood River must be more special than our current board of commissioners realize because, given even minimal promotion, these big employers will be begging to join the club,” said Bergstrom.