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Gardner Austin, a write-in candidate for the Nov. 3 election, talks ballot measures, priorities for city

GARDNER AUSTIN

Though Sean Drinkwine was initially unopposed in his bid for re-election to the Estacada mayor's seat, Nicole Gardner Austin declared a write-in candidacy earlier this month. Gardner Austin shared her perspective on issues facing the city. Drinkwine, who has been mayor of Estacada since 2016, declined to comment.

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Estacada News: What is the most valuable trait that you would bring to the mayor position?

Nicole Gardner Austin: "A strong work ethic and steadfast determination to solve difficult challenges."

EN: Do you support Measure 3-561, the proposed merger between Clackamas Fire and the Estacada Rural Fire District? Why or why not?

Gardner Austin: "I do not support the merger. We currently have adequate funding for EFD and if we merge with CFD, they will distribute about half of our current funding elsewhere within their jurisdiction. I see this as a money grab, without CFD providing our community any better services than EFD could."

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?

Gardner Austin: "Yes, I support this bond. Our schools, especially the high school, are in great need. The last bond passed for ESD was 20 years ago. This bond is going to make improvements in safety and technology to help get our kids back to school safely and continue to provide for them until that can happen. The bond would cost taxpayers 95 cents per $1000 assessed value or $199 annually for the average taxpayer. Our children and our community need this."

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.

Gardner Austin: "I think the council has worked hard to address some areas of importance, such as infrastructure and development projects. I would like to see improvement in the ease of small businesses to start up and receive more support in the form of policy."

EN: This summer, the City Council passed an ordinance 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?

Gardner Austin: "I think it is great that the City Council passed this ordinance and started an inclusion committee. I believe that is definitely needed in Estacada. We have a local economy that thrives in part on tourism and the need to be inclusive. Perhaps the inclusion committee can build on that need going forward."

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 added 19 cases, and the 97022 ZIP code added 8 cases. What steps should community members be taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Gardner Austin: "I think we need to continue to practice basic hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, … staying home if you feel sick, and of course, wearing a mask when you need to venture out. Keeping gatherings to a minimum and wearing masks and social distancing as much as possible when we do. It is vital that we respect each other and protect each other as best we can during this pandemic."

EN: What are some priorities the City Council should focus on in the upcoming months?

Gardner Austin: "I think emergency preparedness has been a topic on a lot of folks' minds and is something that needs to be addressed and can always be improved upon. Building on the inclusion committee; perhaps sensitivity classes could be offered in the community to spread awareness."


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