Commissioners discuss state of county
Transportation was a frequent topic of discussion at the 2019 State of Clackamas County event, during which commissioners Jim Bernard, Ken Humberston and Paul Savas answered a variety of questions posed by attendees.
Commissioners Martha Schrader and Sonya Fischer were unable to attend the event on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Monarch Hotel and Conference Center in Clackamas, though Fischer addressed attendees during a phone call.
The conversation was moderated by Clackamas Fire Chief Fred Charlton, produced by the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by NW Natural, Kaiser Permanente and Clackamas County.
When discussing funding for additional lanes on Interstate 205, several commissioners said the project was a regional concern.
"(Interstate) 205 is not Clackamas County's road. We will not be spending our money on 205," Bernard said. "It's a regional and statewide issue. We will work with the Legislature to ensure the state addresses it."
Commissioners also discussed the vehicle registration fee that is being considered to fund road maintenance and construction projects to relieve congestion. If the ordinance is approved, the fee would be $30 annually per vehicle for cars, pickups, vans and other passenger vehicles, and $15 annually for motorcycles.
Humberston noted that he participated in many community meetings about the subject and often found that attendees showed "reluctant acceptance" of the fee once it was explained.
"It doesn't solve the whole problem, but we will get a lot more of our roads maintained," he said, adding that they chose the amount of $30 because it balanced the county's needs with affordability for residents.
"If the solution is a vehicle registration fee of $100, I don't think people would like that . . . We have a responsibility for future generations. Our roads are our biggest asset," Bernard said.
Commissioners also discussed the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, also known as cap-and-trade. Introduced in the Oregon Legislature last month, the bill would limit emissions from businesses and enact a fee on pollution.
"The reality of the legislative group today is that cap-and-trade will pass," Humberston said, noting that it would be ideal to help businesses take steps to reduce their carbon footprint, rather than only taxing them.
Savas advocated for "keeping the funds in Oregon and investing in things that reach that goal. Local control in the state is for the better."
Clackamas County has also taken several steps toward increased sustainability, including several new electric vehicles, promoting recycling and educating the community about ways to reduce the need for landfills. Additionally, the county has several LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified buildings.
"I would love to figure out a way to promote solar power in Clackamas County," Bernard said.
Savas also said he would like to see "a spectrum of housing" available, and noted that the county had recently completed work on a housing project for veterans.
"Homeownership is the American dream. That's something we need to not let go of," he said, noting the value of having a variety of neighborhoods.