Four candidates run for three Estacada City Council seats
Four candidates are running for three open positions on the Estacada City Council in the November election. Current councilor Paul Strobel is running for re-election, and Charity Hughes, Joel Litkie and Scott Staudt have also thrown their hats in the ring. Staudt is running as a write-in candidate.
The Estacada News asked each candidate about current issues facing the city. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Estacada News: What is the most valuable trait that you would bring to the City Council?
Paul Strobel: "I tend to be a big picture thinker. I value differing opinions and I appreciate hearing from various sides."
Charity Hughes: "My most valuable trait is my loyalty. Once I have committed to something, I am all in."
Joel Litkie: "I can't say it's a single trait, but a combination that would be valuable. It is a combination of the love of my community, my life's experiences, and my desire to take action on what may be needed to keep our city great!"
Scott Staudt: "My wife says that one of the most valuable traits I have is that I actively listen to people and want to know all sides of an issue. I also have a genuine 'want' to help."
EN: Do you support Measure 3-561, the proposed merger between Clackamas Fire and the Estacada Rural Fire District? Why or why not?
Strobel: "I can see the benefits of the merger, but at this time I do not feel that the trust is there between our community and Clackamas Fire. I look forward to hearing the results of Clackamas's After Action Review. I hope to see measures being taken to restore the trust and confidence and look forward to a solid partnership in the future."
Hughes: "I am confident we, as a community, can continue to support our own local Fire Department. I'd like for us to continue to do that, as local crews have a better knowledge of the land, and a closer relationship with the community.
"Once we merge, there is no going back. Everything that was once Estacada's Fire Department will be absorbed by Clackamas County, and once their contract with us expires in June of 2021, they can staff our stations however they see fit. Therefore, I am not in support of the proposed merger.
"I have nothing but the utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude to all our firefighters. My aim is not to paint Clackamas County Fire in negative light, but looking at the numbers I fail to see the merger as being a substantial enough benefit to make it worth Estacada losing its autonomy as a Rural Fire District."
Litkie: "No, I do not support the measure. When asked if I could endorse the measure, I turned down the offer. I did not have sufficient information that I felt I could make a good decision. That same position stands today. I don't feel there is sufficient information to make a solid decision. This year has been a whirlwind of conditions that make it impossible for anyone to see the realistic conditions that Clackamas Fire would have to operate under. While I'm sure it's an unpopular position to take at this time, I believe the right action to take is to extend (the) Clackamas Contract for an additional year and see how they perform under more normal conditions. Do they fit well with our community culture? Do they provide a better service than our own department can bring? What kind of bond measures arise in that period that would have affected us? These are things that need time to determine if it would be a good fit, the measure is simply rushing a decision that needs time."
Staudt: "I install commercial fire alarm systems for a living, and in doing so, I'm following codes set by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) on a daily basis. One of the concerns I have is if Estacada does not merge with Clackamas County Fire, we would not be in compliance with NFPA and OSHA. This would put our firefighters and our town at risk. I would like us to have the staff and resources we need in the event of an emergency. On that note, we need something in place, a list of in-town people and resources, that can be called upon or offer information if need be."
EN: Do you support Measure 3-565, a $22.9 million general obligation bond for the Estacada School District to fund safety and technology infrastructure upgrades in school buildings? Why or why not?
Strobel: "I do support Measure 3-565. Our community and school district is growing. We need to have the best possible facilities to meet the needs of our families. Also, if I understand correctly, passing this measure will allow our school district to receive an additional grant from the state which can be used for further improvements."
Hughes: "Yes, I support Measure 3-565. The buildings in our district are long overdue for updates and improvements. All one needs to do is walk through the halls of our local schools and see that we are behind the times. The leaky roofs, electrical fires, old pipes, outdated technology, and lack of updated safety features need to be remedied. It's never easy to say yes to an increase in taxes but if we don't do this now, it will cost our community more in the future. One thing to highlight, if the bond is approved, we will receive a matching grant from the State of Oregon of $4,000,000. If the bond doesn't pass, we lose the opportunity for this grant. As a mother of two children who are Estacada students, I for one would love to see them enjoy the benefits of a safe and updated campus."
Litkie: "No I do not support the measure, as I have not seen good decisions come out of this board in the recent years. Between the removing of the trades from schools, the bad financial management, and the items in this bond that do not make sense, I cannot support this measure and openly endorse against it. If the school board wants the citizens of Estacada to support a bond, they need to start listening to them first."
Staudt: "In short, yes. This is a positive way for our growing town to invest in future Estacadans. These children will be able to retain information better in a safer, more comfortable, and more up-to-date facility in which to learn."
EN: Share one area in which you think the current City Council does well, and another area in which you would like to see improvement.
Strobel: "I believe the council does well working with the city staff. We have a well run city and the council does a great job providing direction and not getting in the way of things that are currently working right. As for what we can improve on, I would like to see us do a better job of listening to one another and valuing and trusting each other. I believe we all want what is best for Estacada and that is a great starting point."
Hughes: "The council excels in their passion for the betterment of this city, however their passions at times clash and has lead to a bit of divisiveness. While I appreciate the dedication and commitment each council member brings to the table, they still need to remember they are all on the same team and working towards the same goal. I would love to see the council set aside personal hurts and focus on the betterment of the community. The council should be a united front regardless of personal beliefs and opinions. When members of the community see City Council members not supportive of one another, it can result in a lack of trust, and the community may lack faith in the council's decisions."
Litkie: "I think some on the City Council do well with interaction and support for the community, they attend the events in the city, learn what is needed from the community, and take that back to council meetings. However, this is not a wholly unifying statement, as there are other council members I believe could do a much better job as being involved with their community. I believe to be an effective counselor, you need to be involved with the people of the community."
Staudt: "They have a really good relationship with a lot of people in the community. Now we need to extend this relationship to even more people and continue to make connections."
EN: This summer, the City Council passed an resolution condemning racism, and a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee was recently formed. What's your opinion on these decisions, and what, if any, additional steps do you think the council should take?
Strobel: "Passing the resolution and establishing the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee are great first steps. We need to make sure we get the committee up and running quickly so that we can start working with the city, the council and the community in ways that can move us forward."
Hughes: "If the goal of any committee promotes the betterment and safety of our town, I have no issue with that. I do have a few questions I'd like to ask the council at the next City Council meeting in order to provide a solid opinion if I feel there are additional steps the council should take.
"I see this resolution as a redundancy to what's already set in place with both Federal and State laws. The Constitution of the United States already serves as our national ordinance of equality and should be upheld by all citizens on all levels. Currently, we have least 33 anti- discrimination acts, including but not limited to six Civil Rights acts, multiple amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, as well as hate crime laws on the State level.
"I have faith in the people of Estacada's capacity to love one another. The fires last month are a perfect example of people setting aside their personal and political differences by compassionately providing help to those in need."
Litkie: "My opinion on the Resolution 2020-013 is that it was rushed, reactionary and not well done. When a resolution on something like racism is done, it should never identify a single race above any other. The resolution identifies Blacks separate from other people of color, which, in definition, is racist. When one race is held separate than others, it is an act of racism. I hold no race higher or more important than any other. As for the DEIC, I'm still not sure what their purpose is yet fully, however I would hope that ALL races and ALL economical groups are held in equal manner and that the committee is made of people that fit and can represent all of our community. As for additional steps I think the council needs to take — one would be to correct the resolution and to better identify the purpose of the DEIC committee. They should also make sure members of the committee are able to be inclusive to all races and economical statuses."
Staudt: "Openly condemning racism. I love this! There is too much fear and racial tension in America today. The media is filled with this kind of racial motivated 'fear mongering.' It's important to know that people are people, not the color of their skin. I think that one thing this committee could do is have a multi-cultural event. This way we could learn about the different backgrounds of the citizens of our small community."
EN: According to the Oregon Health Authority's weekly COVID-19 reports, the 97023 ZIP Code (Estacada) had 52 cases of the virus during the week of Sept. 21-27, and the 97022 ZIP Code (Eagle Creek) had 21 cases during that same time period. Between Aug. 17 and Sept. 27, the 97023 ZIP Code gained 19 cases, and the 97022 ZIP Code gained 8 cases. What steps should community members be taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Strobel: "I work in the downtown area of Estacada and appreciate seeing so many people wearing masks and maintaining distances. As a community, we need to continue to be mindful of CDC guidelines and remember that we're not out of the pandemic yet."
Hughes: "Given the dates mentioned, and considering the incubation period of the COVID-19 virus, I would like to point out they coincided with the Riverside and Dowty fires. During this time, the citizens were more focused on evacuating their homes, saving lives, and seeking some sort of shelter. It's safe to say the fires took priority over COVID-19 concerns for citizens of Estacada, Eagle Creek and surrounding areas. I personally admit COVID-19 was not at the forefront of my mind when I could see from my front porch at 3 a.m., the encroaching orange glow of the Riverside Fire, nor was it a main concern as my family evacuated and then waited for days in order for us to safely return home. I think the panic, chaos and displacement of citizens easily caused an increase in numbers.
"The Federal Government and CDC have provided guidelines for the public to follow in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. I have no additional recommendations for our citizens other than what is currently mandated."
Litkie: "There has been such an inconsistent accuracy and reporting of testing on the COVID-19 cases, on all levels from local to national, that any reports I consider irrelevant. In my opinion, the best thing Estacada residents can do with COVID-19 is to be careful and follow good flu hygiene tactics. If you are sick, stay home. Wash your hands, avoid touching your face and don't cough on people."
Staudt: "Experts say that if we continue to do our part, each be responsible and wear our masks, wash your hands for 20 seconds, and adhere to social distancing guidelines, we will make a huge difference in stopping the spread of Covid-19. So simply put, we should listen to the science behind this and not the politics."
EN: What are some priorities the City Council should focus on in the upcoming months?
Strobel: "We'll be experiencing a turnover of council members in the next few months. We'll need to make sure we revisit the goals established for the council for 2020 so that we know, as a council, what our priorities are. Looking beyond the next few months, I want to see us do what we can to be in a position as a city to fill the vacancies in the downtown area, make sure we have the best infrastructure to handle the growth of our city, and make sure we are addressing housing costs as best that we can."
Hughes: "I'd love for City Council to continue promoting local businesses, create more local jobs, and continue improvements to street infrastructure and current sidewalk gaps. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the Riverside Fire placed on hold and/or lowered the priority of goals the City Council had on their agenda. These circumstances were beyond what anyone could have foreseen, but given what 2020 has thrown our way, the City Council has been able to accomplish quite a bit."
Litkie: "This year has been a hard year, with COVID-19, protests, fires, and other issues, the council has had to balance a lot for the city. Many of the decisions were made in haste and without a lot of planning or time to consider them. I think the focus of the council in the next several months should be to review the decisions made during 2020 and decide if the actions taken were really the best decisions for the long term. There are also a lot of revelations that came form recent events as well, such as our emergency and communications plan in the city failed and were almost nonexistent during the fires. The city water supply needs to be looked at and upgraded, not only because we lost almost all our city water during the fire, but it has not been updated in decades and is inefficient. There are a lot of things to look to for the future. There are critical issues to work on."
Staudt: "We need to encourage local spending, revitalize community arts, and maintain our town's unique beauty in a safe manner for everyone. We should focus on making Estacada a positive community that we are all proud of."
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