'We're failing too many people'
If you ask Oak Grove resident Peter Winter why he's running for Position 2 on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, the first thing he'll mention is a paradox he's noticed in recent years.
"By any measure, we're more successful and stronger as a region than at any time," Winter said. "But we're failing too many people. We've got 600 homeless kids in the North Clackamas School District alone, veterans coming home disenfranchised ... (we've had) stagnant wages for the last five years while the cost of living has skyrocketed."
All of that was enough to persuade Winter, a construction project manager, to throw his name into what is now a three-person race featuring incumbent Paul Savas, Winter and Mulino resident Louise Lopes. While he does not have any direct government experience, Winter points to his years working on government contracts and his time as a small-business owner — including during his time living in China — as valuable points of perspective he could bring to the commission.
"I've worked as a contractor for facilities and engineering for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Corps of Engineers ... I have a long track history of working with governments, including China, " Winter said. "A lot of what I'm advocating for is to take a different approach to how we contract at the county level — borrow from the federal government ideas like multiple-award contracts ... and set aside contracts for women, minorities, service-disabled veterans," he said.
Winter, who grew up in Clackamas County and graduated from Rex Putnam High School in 1998, said he has three primary goals if he is elected.
"First and foremost, my priorities are helping the vulnerable who seem to be slipping through the cracks," he said. "Number two is we need to start getting caught up with the rest of the world in how we're modernizing the workforce ... We need to start planning on how the government and county will start working with factories to make sure they're paying a living wage. And the third is, in growing our economy, we need to look beyond Clackamas County and include industries well beyond our borders."
Infrastructure spending is particularly important, Winter said.
"We need more highways, because we all experience the traffic every day," he said. "We need $1.5 billion in infrastructure spending in place on the books so we can weather the next recession coming in the next 3-5 years."
However, Winter said he is "adamantly opposed" to the Sunrise Corridor expansion project using the methodology championed by Savas.
"His idea is to get more track housing there," Winter said. "I see it as the gateway for a large manufacturing hub ... people can all go to work there instead of the 68 percent of us who have to go outside the county to obtain a job."
He added that if the county attracts more residents without adding jobs, the traffic situation will only worsen. And in talking to voters, traffic has frequently been listed as a priority, according to Winter.
"That's not what I thought it would be," he said. "A lot of things have to do with lifestyle and convenience and traffic. ... It's been a pretty big deal for people I've been talking to."
Yet for Winter, inequality is the driving force behind the campaign.
"For me, this is personal, and I have been poor," he said. "I see lots of struggles where for families, it's too difficult for them to get by."