Q&A with candidates: Port Commission Seat 4

May 7, 2011

Q&A with Port Commission Seat 4 candidates Sherry Bohn and Brian Shortt

Sherry Bohn

Owner: Sage's Café in Hood River.

Bohn was appointed to the Port of Hood River board in 2001 and elected the following year.

Why are you running? What's your interest in being on the port commission? State your top three goals.

In 2001 when I was asked to apply for the vacant port position left by Peg Lalor this community was so fractured and divided that nothing was getting done. The waterfront was a vacant dust bowl. Major bridge projects were just getting started.

As the port tried to find a workable vision/plan for the waterfront it was fighting with the city, the county, downtown, the upper valley and the recreationists. Everyone I knew thought I was crazy. But I believed strongly then, and still do today, in community participation.

I still don't know all the answers and I'm still listening and assimilating information in order to find a balanced approach to all the diverse interests, problems and opportunities that this community is and will continue to face.

In no particular order, my top three goals are:

A well-maintained bridge in order to keep the vital economic link between Oregon and Washington in place until a replacement can be built.

Balanced economic, property and recreational development.

Keeping the companies that are currently located here and helping them grow. Finding new diverse, clean and sustainable companies with "family-wage"-level jobs to locate here.

Why do you feel you are qualified for this position?

I bring proven leadership and am considered a balanced and synergistic team player. I understand the role of an elected commissioner. I served as commission president for three years where the port saw its share of successes, challenges and excitement. With the departure of its executive director in November 2005, under my leadership, the commission took on the task of finding a new executive director.

After lengthy discussions the commission decided that while searching for a new executive director the existing staff, with the help from the commission, would continue to move forward on a variety of projects. These projects included the Second Street Extension, completion of the transfer to the city of Lot 6 for a community waterfront park and the relocation, consolidation and modernization of port offices. We also wanted to begin the installation of an automated tolling system in a new toll plaza.

At the same time we began the process of seeking federal money in order to conduct a feasibility study for a new vehicle crossing that could connect the waterfront to the Port of Hood River Marina and help alleviate traffic congestion at exit 64. In July 2006, after an extensive selection process that included many community partners' input, Michael McElwee was hired as the new executive director.

I am skilled at listening to all the diverse entities of this community and am able to find a balanced approach and/or solution. I know how to set policy so staff can do their jobs and I am able to work within the various "systems" in order to get things done. My experience and connections with many of our local, state and federal individuals and organizations has allowed me to assist in securing state and federal assistance for the Port of Hood River.

How well are the port's economic development needs being met?

With the port's Waterfront Development Strategy in place it is finally moving forward with a controlled and balanced build out of the waterfront. With the completion the Halyard Building and Anchor Way, the acquisition of the Jensen Building, the sale of UTS Portsite Building and the sale of two more lots in the Waterfront Business Park the port's vision for waterfront development is moving closer to reality.

The port now has in its portfolio bare land, shovel-ready land, a variety of facilities for lease and a new building available for multiple move-in tenants. This year will bring continued development on the waterfront and possibly new development off of Anchor Way. These developments will lead to long-term economic growth and benefits for Hood River and the mid-Columbia as well.

With the acquisition and renovation of the Jensen Building the port has been able to accommodate local business needs and expansion and allow them to continue to operate in Hood River. Turtle Island Foods, RBS Batten Systems, ServPro and Northwave Sails are all examples of the port's ability to create quality space to retain local jobs.

How well are the port's recreational needs being met?

One of the most difficult tasks of being a port commissioner is finding the balance between recreation needs and wants and fiscal responsibility. The port's many recreational properties continue to generate little in direct revenue and require substantial staff management.

With the shift from kiteboarding on the Spit to more intense use of the areas around the Event Site there is on going concern about parking, water congestion and safety. Earlier this spring the port spent a substantial amount of money to rebuild the jetties at the Event Site in order to slow down on going beach erosion. It continues to work closely with the CGWA, CGKA and other organizations to improve and increase water access.

In recent years the road at the Spit was enhanced and re-graded. The Hook road has been re-graded and is ready for another summer. I recently walked the waterfront path on both sides of the basin and it is an asset to this community that everyone should get out and enjoy.

The port is in the process of making plans for the development of a new pedestrian/bicycle path connecting exit 64 to the pedestrian bridge over the Hood River. The marina expansion of 22 slips and a dingy dock has been fully leased and on going work the yacht club has created a fun sailing environment.

What are your views on the current and projected uses, operations and regulations of the airport?

The completion of the grass runway, the Orchard Road Vacation Project and the future runway shift is causing the Ken Jernstedt Airfield to have to "grow up." While our airfield will never be a regional airport with substantial input from the public, the Airport Advisory Committee and FAA approval of the adoption of Ordinance 23 will provide for a safer airfield in the future

How can the port expand its revenue base?

The port is involved in a number of activities that contribute to the economic health and vitality of our community. While not all of these activities contribute to the economic health of the port, I recognize that they do play a larger role in our community.

The major revenues are from bridge tolls, leases and rents from tenants. As a governmental agency, the port receives property tax receipts but they only account for 1 percent of the total revenues. Due to its specialized role assigned by the Oregon statute the port is limited in its ability to operate.

In order to expand our revenue base we must continue to effectively manage our assets, acquire other assets while decreasing our dependency on bridge revenue.

What is your vision of the future of the Hood River Bridge?

The Hood River Bridge is not going any where soon. With that said, a well-maintained bridge is necessary in order to keep the vital economic link between Oregon and Washington in place until a replacement can be built.

How should the port accommodate mixed/alternative transportation modes on the bridge?

Accommodating mixed/alternative transportation on the bridge is difficult. There have been a number of studies in the past few years each proposing a set of unique and interesting alternatives but each also having their own problems.

I would like to see the port function as a facilitator to bring existing transit services between Hood River, White Salmon and Bingen, and other governmental agencies together, in order to establish a new or expanded fixed-route transit service that serves both sides of the river multiple times during the day outfitting all transit vehicles with bicycle racks.

Tell us one idea you have that could affect the port that has not been mentioned or sufficiently explored.

In my opinion the next biggest opportunity that will affect the port with be to make the decision on what will happen with Lot 1 - the entrance to the waterfront. This will require creative thinking, public input and financial analysis. It is zoned light-industrial.

Will it be a campus-like development for one company or a mixture of companies? Does it need to contain some commercial? If so, how much so that it enhances downtown? Should the port attempt to build it or sell to private developer? How will it tie into the future development at the south end of the boat basin? How do the basin, Spit and Delta fit in?

Brian Shortt

Owner: Shortt Supply in Hood River

Shortt was executive director of the Port of Klickitat (based in Bingen) 1992-96 and the Port of Anacortes, Wash., 1986-91

Why are you running?

I feel I can offer the port board a strong contribution to recreation and business development goals.

This is a period of my life that this contribution of time and expertise would, I believe, offer a unique level of experience, business networks and community relationships.

What's your interest in being on the port commission?

This is a public agency that is chartered to create economic development. If I'm going to contribute time in a meaningful way this would be the best consideration for me.

I have worked in recreation development, facilitated technology opportunities at several levels and have experience with value-added processing. Unlike any other member of the board I would arrive with substantial port operations, marketing and policy experience.

State your goals

1. One elected official is just that. The board is a deliberative body taking input from the public, special interests, other governmental jurisdictions. I will participate in the role of encouraging public input and bringing my background experience to influence the best decisions for the port and its contribution to the residents.

2. Regional partnerships: We need to bring the resources to the table that result in job creation and quality of life benefits. I've done this before with the five ports, counties, timber interests, environmental groups, technology and creative professionals.

3. I don't see a cohesive development plan in place. Recreation properties, commercial parcels, airport purpose, vacant building, little or no participation with the port's property neighbors on the waterfront.

4. Port marketing has a limited level of evident sophistication. This port should be a leader in regional planning and opportunity development.

Why do you feel qualified for this position?

I believe that my relationship with the residents and organizations of this port district, ports of the Mid-Columbia over the past 25 years and 11 years as an executive director of port authorities provides me that qualification. This would be a unique set of qualifications to the board.

How well are the port's economic development needs being met?

I think port assets have been developing in more of a reactionary vs. a strategic benefit approach. Somehow the big picture hasn't received endorsements and properties are developing randomly.

Who are we is a good challenge needing a narration for the Port of Hood River.

How well are the port's recreational needs being met?

In terms of contributing to the local community/economy the benefits are substantial. Give credit to the waterfront access and what it has meant to revitalization of this area over the last 25 years.

You need to sit up and get to know the new things that are coming down the pike and how to address it.

The more the port facilitates quality recreation events and investments, the more people in the community will look at their own ideas. The port should be working hard to bring in recreation, because it brings people to visit who decided to stick around and contribute to the community. This is the most inexpensive form of economic development, and it's the kind of thing that has gone on the past 30 years. The community is staying youthful-minded. That's what we really have to celebrate there: K through age 90, people are motivated to make the most of recreation. We need to facilitate events and opportunities for product development.

What are your views on the current and projected uses, operations and regulations of the airport?

This airport is subjected to FAA rules and regulation due to federal investment. If you ask me about general aviation airports that would take a bit. But, I do like the gliders flying over the valley and support the continued general aviation use of the airport. I also think the airport "economic development" strategy is virtually non-existent.

How can the port expand its revenue base?

Develop a comprehensive strategic land use plan, appropriate the funds for the next five years to initiate and emphasize grant applications and revenue enhancement with more private participation.

What is your vision of the future of the Hood River Bridge?

This is not really a vision exercise. The bridge is a piece of aging infrastructure that requires periodic engineering assessments. This is one of my biggest areas of concern in this country and in this bridge-dependent state.

At present, I doubt you could muster much political interest in the Hood River Bridge till the I-5 bridge is decided.

So if you want we can discuss 5-10 and 20-year windows. These would be positioning plans for periodic engineering studies that include above and below the waterline, permit considerations and very, very preliminary design aspects.

How should the port accommodate mixed/alternate transportation modes on the bridge?

Regularly scheduled port shuttle; perhaps using CAT. Morning and afternoon schedules. Why not create a centrally located park-and-ride facility? We need to work with CAT to develop more of our economic needs.

Tell us the one idea you have that could affect the port that has not been mentioned or sufficiently explored?

An idea for Nichols Basin that solves several issues, creates business development and employment opportunities. Dike the mid point from the old barge dock across to the Hood River bank/dike.

Back-fill this area with the either the river spoils or the material anticipated by removing Condit Dam.

This task would open a navigable waterway to approximately 15 acres of new property. This would provide a "spoils cap" on materials in the boat basin, solving a potential environmental problem.

It would allow visiting cruise vessels to tie up again.

The community should cooperatively invest in a facility similar to the Tillamook Creamery which hires more than 200 people during peak periods, facilitates several million travelers a year and exposes the region's best products.

This could support the growing wine industry in the Gorge. Offer a fruit growers' public market. There is potential for an OSU research kitchen or tribal smoked fish and other items.

The 30,000 vehicles traveling east and west each day would have an outstanding year-round rest area, exposed to regional value-added products. There are three million visitors a year to Multnomah Falls and Bonneville Dam. It wouldn't take much of an incentive to bring them another 17 miles.

We do raise world-class fruit, produce premium beer, award-winning wines; I know about the fruit desserts, Tofurkey, jams, salsa, cheese, certified organics and very people-oriented residents who make you feel welcome.

This could all be done. It would take the port, city, county, chamber and every group and individual to see value and become a part of a vision to succeed.

The facility could be the hub to networks throughout the Gorge.

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