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State candidates answer submitted questions

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding and Oregon Rep. Tobias Read talk to voters during a Beaverton-sponsored Voters' Forum on Monday.Mid-terms are traditionally lower-participation elections, but based on the 140 or so who turned out for the Beaverton Fall Voters Forum on Monday night at the Beaverton City Library, many voters are engaged as well as curious about races affecting Beaverton in the 2014 General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Sponsored by the city of Beaverton and the Beaverton Committee for Citizen Involvement, the forum featured presentations on the following local ballot measures and legislative races:

• Measure 34-221 Washington County — Washington County vehicle registration fee for road maintenance and operations

• Measure 34-226 city of Beaverton — Authorizes bonds to rebuild city hall as a public safety center

• Measure 92 State of Oregon — Requires food manufacturers, retailers to label “genetically engineered” foods as such

• Oregon Senate, 17th District — Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (incumbent) and John Verbeek

• Oregon Representative, 27th District — Tobias Read (incumbent) and Robert D. Martin

• State Representative, 28th District — Jeff Barker (incumbent) and Lars D. H. Hedbor

• State Representative, 34th District — Ken Helm and Brenden King.

Beginning with a meet-and-greet-type reception, with food and beverages provided by the city, the forum got underway with a presentation by Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding and Capt. Jim Monger on the importance of passing a $35 million bond measure to remodel and retrofit the former City Hall building at 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive into a Public Safety Center capable of remaining operational during a major earthquake.

The amount voters would be asked to pay to fund the public safety measure is comparable to what taxpayers currently pay for bonds issued to construct the Beaverton City Library on Southwest Fifth Street. From 2015 through 2018, the average homeowner would pay about $43 more per year than they’re paying now, and $11 more than now once the library bonds are retired in 2018.

“We’ve outgrown the building,” Monger said in response to a question from Mayors Youth Advisory Board member Yamini Naidu. “And we don’t have the seismic needs we need to have in an earthquake situation.”

Spalding noted it’s been one of his longtime goals to consolidate all public safety facilities, now spread out among leased properties around town, in one building.

“If the bond passes, we will be able to bring all (services) under one roof and continue to provide the great level of service we’re known for.”

Matter of maintenance

A proposed measure to add a $30 annual car registration fee for a dedicated road maintenance fund was discussed by Washington County Commission Chairman Andy Duyck, a proponent, and Jody Wiser, representing Tax Fairness for Oregon, a group opposing the measure.

Duyck called the measure essential, given steep increases in maintenance, asphalt and labor costs, and a reduction in gas tax revenues with people driving more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“Right now we have a backlog,” he said. “If we don’t maintain roads today, it will take five to 10 times more to maintain them later. You only have to look to the city to our east, Portland, to know what happens if we put this off too long.”

Wiser countered that a county-imposed fee undermines legislative road-funding plans and places unfair burdens on local residents who share the roads with many drivers from other counties.

“This is really a statewide problem, not just a Washington County problem,” she said, noting taxing electric and hybrid cars to compensate for their owners paying less in gas taxes is a likely direction for the state. “We should be paying for roads they way we’re using electricity (and other utilities), based on how much we use them.

“We don’t need gold-plated roads,” Wiser added, “when we have schools that would crumble in an earthquake.”

Incumbent 27th District state Rep. Tobias Read, whose opponent Robert Martin did not attend the forum, said he’ll be voting for the vehicle registration fee.

“It’s very much a matter of arithmetic,” he said. “It’s a question of whether we’re paying (for maintenance and new roads) now or paying later. Now we’re coasting on fumes on the investments our parents and grandparents made.”

He advocated to consider alternative funding methods, such as a carbon tax, as well as flexible charges based on miles driven instead of gas purchased.

Read stressed the need for a dependable rainy day fund to offset the state’s reliance on yearly income tax for revenues and advocated for Ballot Measure 86, which would amend the state constitution to create a debt-based fund for Oregonians pursuing post-secondary education.

“It would offer a tool to the Legislature,” he said. “Smart investment in human capital will pay dividends for years.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Washington County Communications Coordinator Stephen Roberts, left, and state representative candidate Ken Helm talk about issues with consituents at a Beaverton Voters' Forum on Monday.

Newcomers for 34th

Democrat Ken Helm and Brenden King, representing the Republican and Libertarian parties, are both pursuing an open 34th district state representative seat. They discussed land planning, infrastructure improvements and affordable housing, among other issues.

King questioned current land-use policies based on the Urban Growth Boundary that restrict growth and promote multi-unit housing.

“I’ve lived in apartments, and that’s not the best environment to raise a family,” he said. “One of the first steps to improve quality of life (would involve) reducing those land-use policies.”

King disagreed, praising the land-use planning practices that have prevented the sprawl of other urban areas.

“We do the best job, probably in the county, of planning ahead,” he said. “We didn’t want to become like California, and we’ve done a good job of that.”

King pressed Helm on how he would differ from the Oregon Democratic Party establishment in his voting, with Helm deemphasizing the matter.

“At this point, I can’t anticipate where I’ll differ with my party,” Helm said. “If our needs here in our district are different than the needs of folks (elsewhere) in the state, and I need to differ with folks in my party, I will.”

Republican and Libertarian John Verbeek, who is challenging incumbent Elizabeth Steiner Hayward for the state Senate’s 17th District, called for “prosperity, education and limited government” as well as a “comprehensive” energy policy that is “environmentally sound.”

In Steiner Hayward’s absence at the forum, Verbeek, an immigrant from the Netherlands, shared his views on improving education and social services to reduce the prison population, which he noted skews younger every year. He said he could not support the vehicle registration fee without a comprehensive transportation package and lambasted wasted taxpayer money on failed projects such as the Columbia River Crossing.

“It’s very sad we have this measure on the ballot,” he said.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Rick North of the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility talks with voters on behalf of YES ON 92 during a Beaverton Voters' Forum at the main library on Monday.

GMO food labeling

Last on the forum agenda was a debate on Measure 92, which would require food manufacturers and retailers to label “genetically engineered” foods.

Rick North of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibilities argued in favor of the measure, while Colin Cochran of Hilltop Public Solutions argued adamantly against it, calling it a “badly written measure” that through numerous loopholes, “fails on its promise to deliver accurate information to consumers.”

“Nothing good comes out of bad information at the checkout line,” Cochran said. “When we think of labels we want them to be consistent and accurate.”

North countered that the measure simply cleans up and consolidates weight-based guidelines that have been in place for decades and are practiced in numerous other states.

“No matter where you stand, we simply think everybody has a right to know what goes into their food,” he said.

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