Olsen hopes to advocate for Clackamas County
Alan Olsen is running for re-election in Oregon Senate District 20. A Republican from Canby, Olsen has held the position since 2010 and works as a general contractor. He has a degree in chemistry from Purdue University and served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971.
If elected, Olsen is eager to continue serving the community.
"Looking at the direction our state is going in and how the other side of the aisle wants supermajorities, really led me to believe that I need to try and hold this district in the hands of our party to make certain the process is transparent," Olsen said. "It's a really fulfilling job. It's probably one of the best jobs I've ever had."
The Estacada News spoke to Olsen about the priorities he would bring to the position, statewide ballot measures in the upcoming election and the issues facing the district, which includes Estacada, Eagle Creek, Canby, Oregon City, Gladstone, Johnson City, Beavercreek, Boring, Damascus and southern parts of Happy Valley. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Estacada News: What priorities would you bring to the position?
Alan Olsen: My bucket list is employment, education and efficient government. I've always felt employers will move to our state if they know we have an educated workforce. If we don't have an educated workforce, they shy away, which hurts our ability to fund education. The only way you can get ahead in life is to have a good education. It's a definite nexus.
EN: What are some of the issues facing the district?
Olsen: It's a countywide issue. We're kind of like the Cinderella of the three county system. Clackamas gets to do all the work and Washington and Multnomah counties benefit from all that we do. When the transportation package came out, I looked at it and said, "Wait a minute, folks from Estacada, Oregon City or Gladstone, if they get onto 205 any time they're going to get tolled." And when you looked at how the money was distributed, Clackamas County got 11 million and Multnomah County got 18 million.
EN: What are some issues faced by the district's rural areas, such as Estacada?
Olsen: Estacada, it's a beautiful town, but it's difficult to commute. And it's wonderful that there are so many services in town, but a lot of people don't work here. We have never really looked at how we set up a transportation system where people in the rural areas can get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time on a highway that's reasonably safe.
EN: How do you hope to support local schools?
Olsen: I always try to put in bills that fund CTE, STEM and community schools because those are important. Last session, I put in a bill that gave $9.5 billion to the K-12 school system. . .we certainly could have ended up better than the $8.2 billion that we had. People say, "Well, how do you vote on the education budgets?" I always vote no because they're not enough money.
If we give schools sufficient funding and we still did not increase the graduation rate, then we know it didn't have anything to do with money. It had to do with the education curriculum. But if the money moved the graduation rate up, then we realize we have underfunded them.
EN: Should there be tolling on Interstate 5 and 205?
Olsen: Absolutely not. Why would we want to give the state money and have them hold onto it and promise us that by 2020 they would start to work on I-5 and 205? History has proven itself that they don't hang onto this money.
EN: Do you support Measure 102, which would allow cities to use bonds to fund privately owned affordable housing?
Olsen: I put a statement against it in the voters pamphlet. There's nothing wrong with looking at how to build affordable housing. There are a couple of problems (with the measure). They don't define affordable. . .affordable for one person is not affordable for another. When the developer pays back — does that money pay the bond back, or does it go to the general fund for the city?
The cities and counties should not be a bank. They should borrow money for infrastructure, and schools should be able to borrow money for schools. We understand where that money is going and why we're paying it back. When you put a barrier around the city and say you can build inside but not outside, that drives up the cost. And when you add all these system development charges, that drives up the cost.
Olsen: I'm not going to say how I'm going to vote. I need to do more studying on it … but it's the people telling the government to layoff. You get plenty of money. When you tell a business, you're a big corporation and you can just write up $100,000 or $500,000 to (the government), they don't write it off. They pass it on. As costs go up, prices go up.
EN: Do you support Measure 104, which expands the requirement of a three-fifths legislative majority to any legislation that increases revenue through changes in tax exemptions, credits and deductions?
Olsen: I will vote yes on that. The constitution clearly says bills to raise revenue have to start in the House and have to have at a three-fifths vote.
EN: Do you support Measure 105, which repeals a law forbidding state resources from being used to apprehend persons violating federal immigration laws?
Olsen: I won't tell you (yes or no) on that one. We have allowed too many things to happen so that our citizens aren't safe. The argument is we don't want to profile, and I agree with that. We shouldn't profile. But if someone is violating our laws, you should at least have the opportunity to say, "Well, they're here. We need to turn them over to the appropriate federal authorities because they violated a law." And I'm not saying jaywalking, but I'm saying bank robbery or murder.
The argument is we're a nation of immigrants, and certainly we are. But we're also a nation with borders. The federal government needs to make a way where we can have documented people come to do the work that they want to do and then have the opportunity to go back home again.
To just allow people to get away with things bothers me too. As I look at a sanctuary city, they have rights I don't have. Because if you look a certain way, you can't be contacted by the police. Well, I look a certain way but they can contact me. That's a right that I don't have, and I am an American citizen.
EN: Do you support Measure 106, which would prohibit public funds from being spent on abortions in Oregon, except in instances that are medically necessary or required by federal law?
Olsen: I believe we need to help people that need help, but in this particular case we passed a bill that says women from anywhere in the U.S. can come to Oregon and get a free abortion. There are women that emotionally and financially need assistance, they need to have an abortion. Those are the programs that I think we need to look at.
As we look at the problem with funding education, we've just funded free abortion. Maybe we can help offset the cost but why do we have to pay for everybody's? They say "We don't want to discriminate." On the other side of the coin, if we don't want to discriminate then why do you always want to tax the rich to give to the poor? That's a form of discrimination. They've earned their money.
Let's look at the way we spend our money and make certain that those things that are extremely important — like education — get funded as they should, and then see what we have left over for other programs.
Olsen: If you want to be in public life and you want to represent the folks, you have to be available to the folks. When people call they can come and see me not at a restaurant, not on the street but in my office so we can have a private conversation as to what their needs are.
There was a lady in Canby (and) the county was going to shut down her house. I was able to negotiate with the county to give her three months to clean the place up. A year later, I saw her at Walgreens and she asked if she could give me a hug. I work for Oregonians, and if I've done a good job, I should be reelected, and if I haven't then you should fire me because I'm lousy. But I think I've done a really good job to represent our community.
EN: What's most rewarding part of the position?
Olsen: People ask me what my legacy should be. . .I don't need to have history overwhelm me with anything. I just want to work for Oregonians. I try to make an argument for the little guy. I lose most of the time because of the numbers, but it's always a good fight and I like doing it.
EN: Why are you the most qualified candidate?
Olsen: I know I have done a good job for my community. I'm always out there working to make certain that the communities in my district get what they're supposed to have. I represent everybody. . .whatever you may be politically, if you need my help, I'm there for you because that's my job.