Paul Savas says there's a lot more to be done in housing, jobs and transportation if he is elected to a third term as Clackamas County commissioner.
He says he will continue to push for more affordable housing and jobs, and improved highway access, specifically the widening of Interstate 205 and a second phase of the Sunrise Corridor.
With seven years behind him, Savas said, "I feel I have a better understanding, a lot more connections in the region — and I have a lot to offer. I do not feel now is the time to turn to something different or turn my back."
Savas, now 61, unseated Bob Austin from Position 2 in 2010. He defeated Karen Bowerman, then a Lake Oswego city councilor, to win re-election in 2014. He also made losing bids for board chairman in 2012 and 2016.
He is the only one so far to file for the nonpartisan position in the May 15 primary.
When he was first elected to the county board, Savas sat on the Oak Lodge water and sanitary boards — they were combined by popular vote in 2016 — and he continues to own an auto repair business, Savas Tuning. He and his wife, Suzanne, live in Oak Grove.
"Clackamas County's population is growing faster than Clackamas County is growing jobs," Savas said, noting that many residents must commute to work elsewhere.
Savas does have a voice on transportation issues. He represents the county on the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, which advises Metro, and is the No. 2 person on the regional panel that advises the Oregon Department of Transportation.
One project Savas has advocated for its economic development benefits is an extension of the Sunrise Corridor, which now runs from the Milwaukie Expressway east to 122nd Avenue. When that stretch opened in July 2016 — funded largely by ODOT under a 2009 law — it provided access to the Clackamas Industrial Area.
Savas said a second phase of Sunrise, which would run east to Damascus, would provide access to more land developable by business and industry.
"We are not asking for a freeway on the Sunrise Corridor," he said, but for a highway accessible to freight trucks.
The price tag for a second phase is estimated at $250 million — almost twice the first phase — but the entire route has federal environmental clearance.
A widening of I-205 between Stafford Road and the George Abernethy Bridge — and seismic work on the bridge itself, now almost 50 years old — failed to make the full-funding list in the Legislature's 2017 transportation package. But under the same law, ODOT is required by Feb. 1 to submit a plan for partial design and construction of the project.
Some Portland residents have voiced opposition to any new highway work, focusing their criticism on the Rose Quarter interchange of I-5 and I-84, but including I-205 and the Sunrise Corridor. (The latter project is not part of the 2017 package.)
"There is some of that (opposition) here," Savas said. "But look around. We are not that advanced from a transportation standpoint as Portland is. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison."
From Stafford Road to the bridge, there are two lanes in each direction of I-205, not three.
"We do not have eight lanes on I-205 and we are not asking for them," Savas said. "All we are asking for is for a bottleneck to be fixed."
Savas has been a prominent advocate for a transitional shelter for veterans, planned for 30 tiny homes clustered in a village in the Clackamas Industrial Area. Along with three other commissioners, he took part in helping with their framework.
Savas, who took part directly in the county's 2015 and 2017 point-in-time counts of people without permanent shelter, concedes that the planned shelter will house only a few people now without homes.
"Drawing attention is the most significant thing," he said. "It's not a matter of convincing people that we have a problem. It's how we move forward."
Savas said a government role in housing must dovetail with nonprofit and private-sector efforts.
At the same time, Savas said, rising housing costs have compelled people to look away from Portland to the suburbs – and though some communities are well-off and the overall unemployment rate is at record lows, he said those economic trends are not even throughout Clackamas County.
"We have seen an economic rebound from the recession — ahead of the pace of the rest of the country — but growth pressures are affecting neighborhoods and our quality of life in Clackamas County," he said.