Beaverton City Council candidates make their cases during forum
With the special election right around the corner, Beaverton City Council candidates answered questions from the community during a virtual forum presented by the city, Thursday, April 29.
The event included introductory statements by Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg and Jerome Sibayan, both running for Position 1.
The moderator, Eric Schmidt, said the ballot will include five candidates running for the position, but Cristian Salgado and Brandon Culbertson both have suspended their campaign. Andy J. Garcia will also appear on the ballot but did not attend the forum.
Schmidt added that over 100 questions were submitted for the forum. The questions surrounded topics such as affordable housing, policing and traffic.
Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District candidates Felicita Monteblanco, running for Position 1; Alfredo V. Moreno, running for Position 2; and Barbie Minor, vying for Position 3 also appeared at the event.
Traffic on the rise
Responding to an early question, Sibayan said that he wants to adopt a "multimodal" transportation system that enhances mass transit, increases bicycle safety and promotes pedestrian travel.
Hartmeier-Prigg focused on the importance of working with partnering agencies to work on trails that connect people to transit.
"I would like to see as partner with Metro to make sure that we are increasing routes in our area and encouraging carpooling and use of public transit," Hartmeier-Prigg said. "We do have some large employers in Beaverton, and I would like to work with those companies to encourage their employees to carpool and find other ways to ease the congestion on our roads."
Affordable housing and homelessness
Both candidates were also asked about their opinions on improving housing affordability outside of new construction.
Sibayan referenced Beaverton's 2019 five-year housing action plan, which he supports, because it is focused on serving people who are experiencing homelessness, making homes affordable and increasing housing supply.
"The heart of the issue is that there is a human toll of homelessness that we need to keep front and center of our policymaking conversations about homelessness and affordable housing," said Sibayan.
In a later question, he also acknowledged the importance of helping homeless youth throughout the Beaverton School District. The candidate said the city should partner with local nonprofits to work with the school district.
Hartmeier-Prigg said it was important to have a family shelter in the community and helping students access Wi-Fi for virtual learning.
On the topic of affordable housing, the candidate suggested for the city to get involved in programs to help current housing stay affordable in the area. This would include partnering with smaller landlords to help them with some deferred maintenance costs.
"It's also going to involve our regional partnership to look at how this affordable housing issue affects our entire region and not just Beaverton itself," Hartmeier-Prigg added.
New city manager
Hartmeier-Prigg and Sibayan both asked about Beaverton's search for a new city manager. The question asked about how they see the City Council's role in the oversight of whomever is selected for that position.
Sibayan said the city charter is "highly nuanced and very ambiguous."
He added, "When it comes to the relationship between the council and the city manager, it is pretty much self-contradictory within the charter and the charter's wording."
Hartmeier-Prigg, however, pointed out that the voters chose this new form of government. The charter change was approved by voters last May.
The city manager appointment follows the new city charter becoming operational earlier this year. Beaverton is well underway in its transition to a council-manager form of government, having already hired an interim city manager.
"The way that I see City Council and the city manager interacting is that the City Council is working at that board level where their job is to help set directions," Hartmeier-Prigg said. "We listen to the community to for what they want us to do as a city, and the city manager is actually going to be the one to help implement those policies."
Hartmeier-Prigg relayed her experience as president of the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District's board of directors, saying during her tenure, the board has been focused on diversity and inclusion.
She said board members questioned one another on making "equal decisions" and that she plans to do the same on the Beaverton City Council.
"We all need to make sure that we were intentional about our choices to make sure that the policies that we implement have an equitable effect; that we are are looking at our past policies, even ones that were made by councils prior, and seeing where they've had a disparate impact on our community," Hartmeier-Prigg said.
Sibayan, meanwhile, said that being a military veteran and a son of Filipino immigrants gives him an opportunity to represent the diversity of Beaverton.
"I believe elected leaders should represent their community. We need to acknowledge and celebrate the great diversity within our city," he said. "We must pursue equity, addressing structural and systemic inequities. We will require inclusiveness as an intrinsic quality of a culturally vibrant and economically prosperous city."
When asked about calls from some activists to "defund the police," Hartmeier-Prigg said the police department is well-funded in Beaverton, but she believes there should be additional ongoing training for officers.
"People of color have experience and have expressed discomfort of police, and I want to make sure that all members of our community do feel safe," Hartmeier-Prigg said.
Sibayan said that the city should continue funding the police at the current levels, if not more.
"When I first moved into Beaverton, the first three Beaverton police officers I met with were people of color, and so I understand that there is representation and racial equity," said Sibayan. "If it is the desire of the people to fund social work, then that's a different story and that's a different conversation."
The next question asked candidates if City Hall has done enough to help Beaverton recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
"No," said Sibayan. "The city needs to listen to so many stakeholders, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Beaverton Association, the neighborhood associations and all the boards and commissions."
He suggested that the city should hold more town halls to listen to more community members in terms of promoting pandemic recovery.
Hartmeier-Prigg disagreed with her opponent. She said Beaverton has done a "good job" navigating COVID-19 during an unprecedented time.
"We know that the city of Beaverton will be dealing with COVID-19 for months, if not longer," Hartmeier-Prigg said. "I know that in terms of supporting small business, the city has done a great job of getting small business grants out, but I also think that there's more that we can do that doesn't necessarily cost the city money."
Questions for one another
In the final portion of the forum, each candidate had the opportunity to ask their opponent a question.
Hartmeier-Prigg began by asking Sibayan how we will be able to relate to families that are struggling economically, considering he has spent thousands on his largely self-funded campaign.
Sibayan responded, "I worked very hard for my military pension, and I live very frugally. I give very generously. In an average year, I donate or give away $30,000 a year. … If I am able to donate all of my after-tax councilor compensation to local nonprofits doing good right here in the community for the people in the region, I will do that."
Sibayan asked Hartmeier-Prigg about annexing her house less than a year ago into Beaverton — which then made her eligible to run for City Council — and how she justified running for a position paid by taxpayers after paying little in taxes to the city.
Hartmeier-Prigg responded that she grew up in Beaverton, saying it was out of her control where her house was placed.
"We didn't have the opportunity to have a say in those decisions ourselves through voting, so we decided that we wanted to have the opportunity to vote by annexing our house," Hartmeier-Prigg said. "I knew that one day I would like to run for City Council, and because Mayor Beaty won her race in November, the opportunity presented itself sooner than expected."
The Beaverton City Council election is on Tuesday, May 18. Ballots must be turned in at an official dropsite or received at the Washington County Elections Office by 8 p.m. that day.
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