ENDORSEMENT: Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg for Beaverton City Council
The race to fill out an unexpired term on the Beaverton City Council has resembled one of those reality shows where a contestant is voted off every week.
We reported in February on the candidacy of Cameron Green, a civil rights attorney and city volunteer. But while declaring his intention to run, Green did not end up filing the necessary paperwork to appear on the ballot.
The day after the filing deadline, Brandon Culbertson told us he was suspending his campaign for personal reasons. Culbertson, a member of the Northern Arapaho Nation and Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes who works for the Beaverton School District as an American Indian and Alaska Native education program coordinator, said he was unable to actively seek the seat for which he had filed because of his duties as a National Guardsman.
Another candidate, Portland General Electric community relations manager Cristian Salgado, submitted thoughtful, extensive responses to a questionnaire our reporter sent out to all of the candidates who filed. But by the end of the week in which those answers were published in The Times, Salgado had taken down his campaign website and told us that he, too, was suspending his campaign, saying he did not have "the capacity and resources needed to be successful" in the race.
Graphic designer and small business owner Andy J. Garcia, who also answered The Times' questionnaire, did not respond to repeated attempts by The Times' editorial board to schedule an interview. He does not appear to have set up a campaign website, and it's unclear if he is actively seeking this council seat.
And so then there were two: Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg, board chair of the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, and Jerome Sibayan, a U.S. Army War College instructor and retired lieutenant colonel.
Read the full version of our Q&A with Beaverton City Council candidates, published online March 25, 2021.
Sibayan has an impressive resume, and he's clearly become practiced at reciting it: He is the son of Filipino immigrants, he enlisted and served for 28 years in the Army, he is a licensed professional engineer, he holds a doctorate in philosophy, he is a community volunteer, he taught at Portland Community College, and he now teaches distance learning courses for the Army War College in Pennsylvania.
Hartmeier-Prigg is a nearly lifelong Beavertonian — she admitted, with a hint of chagrin, that she did move all the way out to Portland while attending the University of Portland — who was elected two years ago to the THPRD board. She currently serves as board chair. She also works in the Beaverton area, at Nike Inc.
These are two very different candidates with very different reasons for running. Hartmeier-Prigg told us she wants to work more on bigger-picture issues, like affordable housing and climate action, after getting her feet wet at the park district. Sibayan, who said he hadn't given the idea of running for office a lot of thought until this special election, is inspired to seek a seat on the council because he sees an opportunity to define the way that Beaverton's new city charter works in practice.
It is clear that Hartmeier-Prigg has a strong grasp of the issues facing Beaverton, as well as Beaverton's place in a regional web that also includes the Metro government, the larger neighboring cities of Portland and Hillsboro, service districts like THPRD and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, and unincorporated urban areas sandwiched around and between Beaverton's byzantine boundaries, like Aloha, Bethany, Cedar Mill, Garden Home and Raleigh Hills.
As someone who grew up in Beaverton in the 1980s and '90s, Hartmeier-Prigg speaks to the ways in which Beaverton has changed, but also the ways in which it hasn't changed enough.
"It's a struggle for a lot of families to be able to afford to continue to live in Beaverton," said Hartmeier-Prigg.
She noted, on a more personal level: "The same struggles that my family faced 30 years ago, a lot of families are still facing today."
Affordable housing has become a touchstone issue, not just in Beaverton and not just in Tigard or Tualatin, but throughout Washington County, Portland and the broader region. While she hasn't worked on affordable housing as extensively as she hopes to as a Beaverton city councilor, Hartmeier-Prigg is intelligent and insightful about the knock-on effects it has — on transportation, for instance, since people who have jobs in Beaverton but can't afford to live here spend more time on the road, putting pressure on infrastructure.
She's also cognizant of what Beaverton's growth needs to look like as we head into the middle of the 21st century: accommodations for electric vehicles and other emerging "green" technology, places to live for a broad strata of wage earners and retirees, development and redevelopment that doesn't price longtime residents out of their homes, and other considerations.
Sibayan has more life experience and a wider range of professional experience, including an admirable military service record. But when he talks about the issues facing Beaverton, he frequently returns to the same topic: the new city charter.
Voters adopted the new charter last May, changing Beaverton's form of government from having a "strong mayor," elected directly by voters to oversee city staff and provide direction for the city, to having a more typical council-manager system under which the council hires a manager, who handles day-to-day city operations, while the elected mayor presides over the council, represents the city externally, and can suggest but not directly implement policy directions for the city.
In editorials on this page, The Times urged the Beaverton City Council, and then voters, not to adopt the charter. Sibayan finds a number of faults with it and raises concerns that we share, now and at the time it was being considered.
But the voters made their decision. They approved the new charter — nearly one year ago now. The charter took effect at the beginning of this year. Over Sibayan's objections, the city is well underway in the process of identifying and hiring a manager. Sibayan may wish voters had chosen differently, and we may wish voters had chosen differently, but from our standpoint, this is a settled issue.
While not wholly disinterested in other issues, Sibayan is focused on the charter to such an extent that when asked if he would consider running again next year if he doesn't win this special election, he told us "no."
"This is a very important time in the city's history, just because of the new city charter," explained Sibayan, who wants a role in determining how the council's relationship with the mayor and city staff will look like under the new system.
He added, "I suspect that a year from now, all those norms and whatnot will be well-established."
On other topics, Sibayan doesn't have a lot to say. He supports Beaverton's "action plans" for housing and the climate. He offered no specific insights into Beaverton's place in the region in his interview with our editorial board, simply opining that its intergovernmental relations are "good" and "solid." He likes the way downtown redevelopment is progressing.
While we find Sibayan's credentials impressive and believe his desire to give back to Beaverton is genuine, we think Hartmeier-Prigg is the clear choice for a seat on the Beaverton City Council. She has a deeper understanding of local issues, experience that should allow her to make a seamless transition from one local elected office to another, personal relationships with movers and shakers throughout the region, and a forward-thinking and open-minded approach that is what the council needs now.
One of the most telling moments in our editorial board's conversation with Hartmeier-Prigg came when we asked her about the supporters she already counts among a long list of endorsements. Her backers include labor unions and business groups, among them the Home Builders Association and the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce. We asked how she has been able to earn those disparate groups' support, persuading each of them that she would be the best bet for them on the council.
"To me, all of it is just that we do have common values," said Hartmeier-Prigg. She pointed out that unions want Beaverton's workers to have good working conditions and living wages; residential developers want people to be able to buy and stay in their homes; and the chamber wants small businesses to thrive, providing good-paying jobs and filling a vital niche in the local economy.
Hartmeier-Prigg describes herself as a "consensus-builder." We'll look for her to prove it as a Beaverton city councilor. We have high hopes.
We encourage Beaverton voters to cast their ballot for Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg by May 18.
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