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Three for the Board Viewpoints of commission candidates Meyer, Nevin and Rivers

By RAELYNN RICARTE

Hood River News

May 6, 2006

The three-man race for the position of chairman on the Hood River County Board of Commissioners has been a high profile one, with District 2 incumbent Maui Meyer of Hood River filing for the seat along with Hood River’s Paul Nevin, a longtime resident and political newcomer. Joining the race is Ron Rivers of Parkdale, who has mounted an energetic write-in campaign. Ballots, mailed a week ago, are due in by 8 p.m. May 16.

Hood River News asked all three men the same set of questions about important local issues. Here are their responses:

Maui Meyer

1) What do you see as the top three issues facing Hood River County?

First off, I think there are many issues at the top, and I could go on for a very long time about this issue. Mental health and addictions, the waning funding for food banks and the community action program, the tough, daily work by the Health Department, and the commission on children and families, as well as the declining funds for workforce reinvestment and senior services.

County employees do yeoman’s work, and they are a winning team. They deserve daily thanks. The following are merely three issues that I think stand out and need to be talked about:

Retaining the strength of our community while we grow and change in the 21st century.

One of the great paradoxes of Hood River is that people come here for the quality of life that Hood River has, and then erode it by coming here (myself included).

The solution to this problem lies in what each of us chooses to do in this community to make it better, while preserving the quality of life for our children.

Our first step is to understand what makes Hood River great. I contend that our source of strength comes from agriculture, and that is why three of the companies I work with deal in food, and the development company I work with deals primarily in building homes AWAY from where food is being grown. As many of you know, I’m passionate about these issues and our future viability, according to a model that is stewardship based and resource efficient.

Agriculture’s true importance is an often overlooked part of our lives, but it is time to talk about it. In America today we don’t know or understand where our food comes from, and that lack of understanding makes us weaker as a country.

Today, when natural beauty and community integrity is one of the few real resources we have left we now find ourselves being overrun by people who want to come here and use that too. While we CANNOT stop people from coming here, we CAN ask that they honor our community, and make sure that as we change, we do so in the right way. This involves, first and foremost valuing the land and its proper stewardship, as the true source of our strength as a community.

Profiting, as a community from our tourism economy, and housing our full-time workforce in place, in this community.

We have spent a lot of effort and money making Hood River a destination, and we have succeeded! It is odd to me then; we cannot seem to now step up and ask that the people who profit from this windfall (including me) pitch in to do something like help with housing for their staff.

If we do not recapture our government investment in community development projects that we undertake, we effectively transfer wealth from one set of citizens to others. This is unfair, and as we fund programs that generate more interest in Hood River, we effectively drive out the very workforce that paid to undertake the economic development project in the first place. Their commute now requires cars and distance and the expense slowly erodes their ability to participate effectively in the community, this can lead some to the social services safety net, which we fund at a much greater cost than if we just solved the affordable housing issue in the first place.

We may now be near the point where we must ask our visitors, those who “rent” the quality of life that we have to pay a little bit more. At the table or the checkout, if we were able to obtain some amount of money and direct it effectively at our problems of housing affordability and other community erosion issues, we could accomplish a great deal. That’s a tough discussion, to be open it’s a tax discussion, but if the community wants to have that dialogue, then we should.

Alternative Revenue Streams for the County and Schools.

It is difficult to believe how poorly committed America is to the education of our children. It should be an intergenerational promise, but it is not. It is also difficult to believe how poorly we take care of those who are less fortunate then ourselves, and need our help.

Everyone turns to government and says “That’s the government’s problem” yet everywhere we turn, we see declining revenues for government, and at the end of the day, government is us.

We are so fortunate to have our county forests and have them so well managed. They provide revenue that allows us to deliver services that outstrip what we pay for them. It is time to look for more sources of revenue, and that’s why it’s time for renewable energy generation in this valley.

A renewable energy infrastructure means money in our pockets and independence from coal and petroleum as our primary heating, lighting and driving fuels. It makes us self reliant and requires us to constantly think about stewardship and conservation. It provides us with money to continue delivering better services to our residents, including some for our schools.

2) What do you believe the true effect of Measure 37 will be locally and statewide?

As a developer who strives to preserve land and a healthy, appropriately valued agricultural economy, I voted against M37, and feel that it could have lasting, inappropriate impacts on our working landscape. This is because it will punch “holes” in our farming landscape, making it difficult for farming practices to occur. This is an erosion of the largest sector of our economy. I am, however, finding some M37 claims that we have processed have had legitimate issues that needed to be addressed.

I believe that our true path out of the threat of Measure 37 (locally and statewide) is to commit ourselves to making agriculture so valuable (more even than it already is) that while growers may retain the right to develop, they would choose not to do so because their farms are too successful. Farmers should be at the top of the food chain; after all they create it.

3) What steps can the county take to foster more affordable housing opportunities?

Identify exactly what we are talking about. The Committee on Affordable housing is identifying five segments of affordability, on the lowest side, it’s “housing as a security issue” and on the high side it’s “I can almost afford a home.” Each of those segments is served by federal, state and local resources. Once we have an idea of who we are serving, we can then come up with real programs that can help.

The idea of a land trust continues to rise to the surface of these discussions. If the County (or other non-profit) is able to hold the land in trust, it will provide a long term source of inventory that can never be traded away, and will provide a certain level of service to all sectors identified. This idea of a trust can also be used to address other issues, but first things first. The big question is where this land inventory is going to come from, and the money to acquire that land.

4) If you could change one thing about the way the county does business, what would it be?

I’m not sure I would change anything. County government is made up of a strong group of committed people doing more with less, every day. They deserve our support, not my second guessing. If it’s appropriate to alter the way we do things at the county, there’s five minutes at the front of every meeting. Otherwise there are four other people up there, and we all have to agree (more or less)

5) What is the most effective way for the county to promote economic development?

Many issues surrounding effective economic development are being addressed. I’d perhaps like to see more cooperation between agencies, and a better handle on the number of jobs we actually need in this community to get to a basic level of unemployment (theoretical full employment, say 4 percent more or less) I think we’ll need to perform a similar analysis to identify how much affordable housing we’ll need as well, and then address methods to not become a “service sink” and be penalized for actually doing a good job.

I think the business retention and expansion plan needs to be updated (I understand this is underway) and we need to commit to supporting existing small businesses that have a real chance of growing. The cluster program from MCEDD shows great results in this regard.

I do feel that we need more, and better formatted industrial lands. We not only need more of it, but we need it in the correct locations. Having industrial lands that can be accessed only by city streets will become problematic quickly.

Finally, we need to look at affordable housing and industrial lands as the same problem. Solving both simultaneously will take a considerable amount of resolve and vision. If we start by respecting the agriculture community appropriately, and expand only if we have a plan for the correct properties in the correct locations and orientations, we’ll have a chance of success. Otherwise, we’ll look a lot like San Jose.

MAUI MEYER

Age: 39

Employment: Real Estate Broker, Restaurateur, Entrepreneur

Education: Bachelor of Science, Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

Title of the last book that you read: Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler

Paul Nevin

1) What do you see as the top three issues facing Hood River County?

Issues are inter-related; the first must be affordability (livability) then jobs and then farmland preservation (natural environment).

2) What do you believe the true effect of Measure 37 will be locally and statewide?

Base Measure 37 payment on original purchase price, then taxed as if developed.

3) What steps can the county take to foster more affordable housing?

Housing is affordable to working people.

4) If you could change one thing about the way the county does business, what would it be?

Seems like the newcomers of the last 20 or 30 years are saying, “I’m here, now close the door.” What if we had done that before they came?

5) What is the most effective way for the county to promote economic development?

Economic development -- jobs so people don’t have to go elsewhere to work. Let employers relocate to Hood River County.

As far as alternative energy; no matter how big or how many, windmills will never produce more than they will cost. Big utilities are building geothermal.

PAUL NEVIN

I grew up in Hood River County. I went to college. I went to California to learn how to get things done in government — recall … tax revolt … windpower generation. They tried to make it work, but found it was still cheaper to build and operate natural gas generators. Came back to Hood River with opened eyes.

I saw how the bumbling county commissioners are making bad decisions for the benefit of Hood River County. So I ran for office as a write-in (in 2004.) I didn't win so I signed up to be on the ballot this time.

My opponent keeps saying he is the only candidate on the ballot, even though I signed up before his filing when the chair dropped out. I just want to say that I am a candidate.

Latest book read: "Bat 6" by Virginia Euwer Wolff.

Ron Rivers

1) What do you see as the top three issues facing Hood River County?

Hood River County will be challenged by many issues. Livability and controlled growth are problems that tear at the fabric of our community. The pressure for affordable housing has never been greater. Economic development that will be compatible with our present industries is a priority to our county.

2) What do you believe the true effect of Measure 37 will be locally and statewide?

Measure 37 will impact all areas of Oregon. The property rights lost in the passage of Senate Bill 100 were somewhat restored by this one-time exclusion. Some agricultural land will be lost in the county.

A mass exodus from agricultural lands is highly unlikely. The agricultural tree fruit industry in Hood River has a farm gate value of between $53 and $55 million annually.

The key to minimizing Measure 37 and its impact on agricultural land is to have a financially healthy and thriving fruit industry.

There are poor farming areas in the county that are confined to Exclusive Farm Use restrictions. These are areas that can ease the pressure for development within the county. The rural areas of our large cities in Oregon will feel the most pressure. If agrarian pursuits are no longer sustainable in these areas, then changes are inevitable.

3) What steps can the county take to foster more affordable housing?

Affordable housing is clearly a very important issue to our community. The role of the county is not to be the builder. Local officials need to be the facilitator for builders and contractors of low-cost units. The planners need to fast track and expedite such projects.

The county could provide tax incentives and reduced fees for affordable housing projects. The pressure for affordable housing can be felt in all part of the county.

4) If you could change one thing about the way the county does business, what would it be?

The county is in the business of providing safety and services. These services are a continuing work in progress. County leaders must stay in contact with the community. Flexibility and responsiveness to the residents should be of utmost importance. Budgets and programs should be audited and reviewed for their dollar effectiveness and efficiency.

5) What is the most effective way for the county to promote economic development?

The county can promote economic development with the use of incentives. The competition for non-polluting and area-friendly businesses is fierce. The county could make available land through zoning changes or land exchanges. The county has the ability to reduce or defer taxes.

RON RIVERS

I was educated in the Hood River County School District. I graduated from Western Oregon State College in 1968. I was a school teacher for McMinnville School District for three years.

My wife, Charlene, and I bought a farm in Hood River in 1970. I am a member of several fruit industry boards. I am 62 years old.

I just finished reading The Kite Runner, an amazing story about life in Afghanistan.

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