Regionalism: Our mandate
The Westside Economic Alliance is encouraging a healthy dialogue and relationship building to strengthen the region.
There seems to be no end to the issues we face in the Portland metro region. There is the need to address the increasing cost of housing, transportation infrastructure, having land for future jobs, workforce development, education funding, mental and behavioral health services, homelessness, climate issues, and public safety just to name a few.
Our cities, counties, Metro, and state leaders are all working to address the concerns above.
In Washington County, we have a solid network of leadership within the cities and the county working together on issues that affect the public. This was easily seen at the Westside Economic Alliance (WEA) Breakfast Forum with the Westside mayors held in late May. There is good communication among the mayors. Also, there is a sense of both the public and private sectors coming together on the Westside, and we need to take this a step further and encourage the same kind of camaraderie across the region.
With the passage of Metro's affordable housing bond measure and the work that is currently underway with the Metro Transportation Funding Task Force, it is clear the region is coming together to address these issues in a coordinated manner. Our region needs this type of approach to solve its problems and to demonstrate to the residents and businesses that we can be successful at it.
With the Metro Transportation Funding Task Force, there are 35 participants coming to the table all representing a diversity of interests. This includes elected officials from three counties, leaders from private industry, and individuals from community-based organizations. Recently, they have been working together to determine which transportation corridors they should recommend to the Metro Council for investment and further examination. The Task Force agreed its regional values were:
• To reflect a regional balance;
• Invest in underserved areas, particularly those with a high proportion of people of color;
• Make progress on our climate goals;
• Improve the overall system's connectivity and safety;
• And increase transit ridership.
We should all be proud of this group. They have a respect for the region and the values our residents hold. The Portland metro region needs this approach to all the issues we face collectively.
At Westside Economic Alliance, a large part of what we do is convening leaders to develop good economic policy. Many times, this means we are addressing a number of issues affecting the region's economy. It's about making sure conditions are conducive to job and business growth. Among many things, it's about having an available workforce that is trained/educated, healthy, and can get to work. It's also about making sure we have a place for businesses to land, expand, and thrive. In order to do this, we need land available to locate jobs, a transportation system to allow workers and products to move smoothly, and an environment where it can all co-exist. The Westside is interconnected to the region around us, and this is why it's so important we work together.
For us at Kaiser Permanente, we agree that a regional approach is important in delivering services and caring for our patients. Without safe, stable housing, access to nutritious food, transportation to medical appointments, social support and other resources, it's nearly impossible for individuals to maintain health and well-being. In response to these needs, Kaiser Permanente has launched Thrive Local, a new social health network designed to create connections between health care providers and social services agencies in the community. The network will be built locally in partnership with nonprofit and government agencies, with the goal of including other health systems and health centers to create a true regionwide resource.
Coming up later this month, on Wednesday, June 26, WEA will be hosting a Breakfast Forum with Metro President Lynn Peterson, Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, and Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington. It's the first time these leaders will be on stage together. We're bringing these regional leaders together to talk about the issues we face today - issues that affect our region's economic health and its livability. We are encouraging a healthy dialogue and relationship building that will strengthen our region and unite us. If you'd like to join us, I encourage you to turn to WEA's website.
Brantley Dettmer is president of the Westside Economic Alliance.
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