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Q&A with candidates addresses five key issues facing city in Nov. 3 election.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Forest Grove City Hall.With the election fast approaching, you can read the responses from Forest Grove's five City Council candidates, to five burning questions regarding business, transportation, racial injustice and more topics relating to the city and its interests going forward below.

How would you promote business retention and recovery in Forest Grove?

Elena Uhing:

• Economic Development Commission (EDC) filled with volunteers from our local businesses,

school/colleges, and economic advisors from Salem was created over a decade ago focus on

economic needs in Forest Grove and a great staffer, Jeff King guided us.

• I was fortunate to work as their liaison for 12 years.

• The team and our staff stepped up to the daunting task of the COVID.

• 'Recovery Act' = City provided 4 stimulus packages and 2 rounds of rental assistance.

• 'Cares Act' = we are providing PPP refunds and Small Business classes.

• Created and staffing a 'A Business Resource Center' partnering with Adelante.

• I will continue advocating local, County, State and Federal partners to continue these efforts and adding new available resources.

COURTESY PHOTO - Forest Grove's new logo and tagline., Forest Grove News-Times - News Council approves 'Branch Out In Forest Grove,' as new tagline in an effort to increase tourism and overnight stays. Forest Grove City Council adopts new tourism brandTim Rippe:

Business retention and recovery is a collaborative effort between the City, County and Chamber of Commerce. To better understand and define this collaborative effort, I helped initiate a dialogue between the City, the Chamber, and the Economic Development Commission. These discussions were illustrative and enabled all parties to better understand their roles and responsibilities toward economic development. Thus, when the effects of the pandemic impacted our local small businesses, the City and Chamber reinforced each other in providing information that would assist small business sustainability and recovery. The City responded with a number of grant-funded programs and worked with the County to secure Federal Assistance Funds to reimburse COVID-related expenses. Both the City and the Chamber communicated available funding. Going forward, I would seek out and listen to our business owners concerns and needs and then continue to explore innovative ideas and policies that would enable them to thrive.

Val Valfre:

• Small business retention and recovery are critical to the economic and cultural vitality of our City. Since the start of the pandemic, the City has awarded over $312,000 in grants in federal CARES Act funds in small business assistance. While helpful, businesses are still struggling to survive. We need to continue advocating to federal, state and county officials for COVID-related and other recovery funds and distribute these funds in an expeditious and equitable manner to small businesses

• Work collaboratively with local business owners to identify and promote locally based initiatives to meet short- and longer-term retention and recovery needs. By evaluating key needs and concerns of companies at the local level, the City can assist companies to become more competitive and more likely to remain and expand.

• Encourage investment in the area's local economy by local financial institutions

• Expand ongoing efforts with the Chamber to assist new and existing businesses with grants and counseling.

COURTESY PHOTO - Elena UhingDonna Gustafson:

• At the city council level more involvement and action to spearhead ideas such as the pedestrian mall.

• Keeping all holiday activities previously downtown, near the heart to promote business

• Improved and increased reach-out to all Forest Grove businesses for collaboration ideas

• Interviewing other cities who have been successful at retention and recovery for ideas

• Meet with Pacific University Staff and Students for innovative ideas (connected with question 2)

• Increase financial support of businesses

• Preparation of emergency management plan regarding businesses to be proactive to future crisis' instead of reactive.

• Subsidize businesses who offer discounts over a certain percentage to students

Don Giannetti:

Covid 19 has negatively affected most of our local businesses and it doesn't appear as though we will be getting back to normal anytime soon. We need to help anyway we can. Local business is a part of Forest Grove we cannot risk losing. We need to be aggressively seeking out capitol that our local businesses can use to operate, giving them valuable time to adapt to the "New Normal". Additionally we should be exploring ways to help local business through this difficult time.

What kind of relationship should the city have with Pacific University?

Tim Rippe:

The City and Pacific University have had a symbiotic relationship since their inception. Pacific University adds educational and cultural diversity to the community that other cities don't enjoy. PU is the largest employer in the City and has both a direct and indirect impact on the City's character, charm and resources. There has been longstanding collaboration between the two which has ebbed and flowed in intensity over the years. I strongly believe that this collaboration needs to be nurtured for the mutual interests and benefits to both entities. Forest Grove is richer for the students, faculty and employees at PU and Forest Grove provides a safe and small-town environment that attracts students and faculty alike. Both the City and PU would benefit from expanding the community service opportunities for students in local businesses, non-profit organizations and city boards and commissions. This effort has to be intentional and thoroughly supported.

Val Valfre:

• The relationship with Pacific University is a long and enduring one, and ongoing collaboration should enhance and recognize our mutual benefits and historical heritage

• The City should celebrate the long-term educational excellence and prestige of the University and honor the achievements, past and future, of its graduates and students.

• The University, given its prime location, research capacity and intellectual capital, should be invited to engage in more citywide activities and initiatives that create a more welcoming and inviting environment for students, staff, and residents alike.

• The City should encourage Pacific University to actively market its facilities for cultural, conference and community activities, and to offer training programs to local businesses.

COURTESY PHOTO - Val ValfreGustafson:

The city should have a close collaborative relationship with Pacific University, staff, and students. There should be initially frequent brainstorming meetings with not just staff but the students who have historically had innovative ideas. To be a more collaborative city with our university we should

• Speak to leaders of other college towns to identify what makes them successful

• Propose collaborative student housing which may be able to be used as air bnb for the summer months (connected with question 3)

• Allow student to use their meal plan for local restaurants and eateries

• More collaboration with staff for intern ideas for students such as tutoring at the grade school levels and work studies with local businesses.

•Collaboration on a joint gathering place for students, residents, and tourists (connected to question 3)

Giannetti:

The City and the University share a rich history of collaboration stretching back to the 1840's. I think we need to do our best to continue to work with Pacific University and do our best to accommodate the nearly 3,200 student's they bring to our local community. The College is a valuable economic partner and a large contributor to our local economy and also provides valuable services outside education, like their nationally recognized eye clinic.

Uhing:

• Pacific University has been a long standing partner with Forest Grove.

• As the University continues to grow so does our relationship change.

• Tighter relationship and more communication is essential.

• We once had quarterly University and City meetings allowing us to brain storm on the needs of our whole community

• Conversation's became less frequent and eventually stopped.

• Without being able to sit down and share ideas it is harder to solidify partnerships.

• Implement better communicate with the students, professors and the University for more engagement/inclusion in our community.

• I would like to reinstate these meetings for a stronger partnership.

What can, or should, Forest Grove do to promote itself as a tourist destination?

Valfre:

• We should expand our efforts to revitalize the downtown Main Street with store front improvements, accessible parking and pedestrian safe and friendly access. The City should expand its marketing initiatives to encourage further investment into creating an identifiable downtown core that is unique and vibrant with a mixture of entertain, housing, specialty shops, offices and other commercial uses.

• We should vigorously highlight events that promote our local area recreational activities, wineries, and cultural events. This would include our historic neighborhood districts, Alvin T Smith House and the Fern Hill Wetlands.

• We should work with public and private organizations to plan, organize and aggressively market integrated city area events that encourage visits over 2-3 days, and highlight the availability of local B&Bs and motels through advertising and local area incentives.

Gustafson:

• Identify what it has to offer as a tourist destination

• Identify what it wants to offer as a tourist destination

• Analyze the gap, plan and execute to close the gap

• Increase bike friendly areas

• Increase parks and outdoor recreation

• Collaborate with Pacific University for student artwork, music and ideas for tourism (connected with question 2)

• Construct a small parking structure to accommodate traffic

• Ensure we have the proper infrastructure and support of a tourist destination

COURTESY PHOTO - Donna GustafsonGiannetti:

City leaders and local trade organizations should be collaborating on new ways to distinguish ou city from others in the region. Maybe use the road we currently use for our frmers market indefinitely clos it, giving businesses additional space to operate safely.

Uhing:

• Instituted a tourism task force consisting of two groups working on improved/enhanced tourism: TAC = Technical Advisory Committee and CAC = Citizen Advisory Committee.

• With their great efforts we hired a Consultant who specializes in tourism.

• Resulting in new brand, logo, more inviting/exciting messaging.

• Resulting in a 'Guide Toolkit' planning everything from print advertising, social media posts to e-newsletters.

• Beginning a strategic tourism campaign for our community.

• Our Consultant said: "Forest Grove's voice is authentic, a collective voice of diverse people, businesses and activities welcoming folks to come visit."

• Now we need to use our voice through cultural events, sport/outdoor/wetlands activities, history buffs, IPA brewing/wine/Sake, agri-tourism, food and great festivities i.e. farmers market/corn roast/chalk art and more to make us a destination community.

Rippe:

Two years ago, the City hired a tourism consultant to help develop a tourism strategic plan, a new marketing vision and a new logo to attract visitors to Forest Grove. Those plans and logo have been adopted by Council and the focus is turning toward implementation. Forest Grove boasts many features and events that already attract visitors. Our community's efforts should be on expanding these events from 1-day to multiple-day experiences that will incentivize visitors to stay overnight in local hotels and enjoy the many eating establishments we have to offer. We should also hold more cultural events that reflect the diversity of our residents. Collaboration between the City Club, the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations can successfully achieve these ends. The City has already used its new logo to advertise in various media outlets to get the word out by inviting visitors to "Branch Out in Forest Grove."

How would you approach longstanding transportation issues in Forest Grove?

Gustafson:

• Identify what the issues are from a diverse group

• Identify and execute a plan for possible construction of more sidewalks and bike lanes taking care to identify extra assistance required for ADA compliance and accessibility to low income areas.

• More frequent bus travel for GroveLink ensuring ADA access and connection to low income areas.

• Identify area near to downtown heart for a small parking structure.

COURTESY PHOTO - Tim RippeGiannetti:

Forest Grove has a Transportation plan which is part of the Cities comprehensive plan, adopted in 2014. It is important that we continue forward while monitoring how well the plan is working, making adjustments as needed. If the citizens feel the plan needs to be adjusted it would be my responsibility to support the beginning of a review process to determine how the plan could be adjusted to better meet the transportation needs for our community.

Uhing:

• Big credits to the Council Creek task force!

• This dedicated group is working to bring a new transportation option linking 15 miles between Banks, Cornelius, Forest Grove and Hillsboro. Check out this opportunity on-line.

• ODOT is in a revenue short fall and Forest Grove may face transportation cuts. Working with local, State and Federal partners highlighting our needs in Western Washington County.

• The National institute of Transportation is looking at a new regional plan to better unite our communities through 'Polycentric ' methodology of reducing sprawl and transportation issues through interconnected centers or compact development/nodes with each offering connecting communities high-quality transportation options.

• For over two decades this was Metro's requirements, but not so much now? Why?

• Continue advocating issues of poverty and equity and the importance of how lack of quality transportation impacts our most vulnerable community members.

Rippe:

Transportation issues require long-term planning, funding and collaboration with ODOT and Washington County. On policy matters, the City must pro-actively advocate for improvements. Thus, I serve on the Westside Economic Alliance Transportation Committee, the League of Oregon Cities (LOC) Transportation Policy Committee and the National League of Cities Transportation Infrastructure Services Committee to advocate for the policies and funding that would most serve our needs. Through LOC, I worked with ODOT to change the methodology for determining speed limits to a new format with more local context, thus enabling the City to better address public safety concerns. I am also actively promoting the 6-mile Council Creek Regional Corridor that will connect Hillsboro and Forest Grove with a bicycle/pedestrian trail and a transit line along the rail line north of TV Hwy. This connection will enhance the attractiveness of Forest Grove to cyclists, hikers and tourists, as well as, provide better transit access for wage earners and students seeking job and education opportunities.

Valfre:

• I recommend soliciting input through a series of public forums and surveys from all city residents and demographics – seniors, commuters, minorities, low-income employees, businesses, students, etc – on transportation-related priorities and proposed mobility initiatives.

• Partner with Tri-Met to increase the inventory, staffing and routing of Ride Connection's GroveLink.

• Engage early and often with business and residential developers to ensure substantive inclusion of adequate transportation infrastructure (streets, bike lanes, sidewalks) is committed for any new development

• Work with ODOT and Washington County to plan and fund transportation options that improve access and safety needs at Hwy 47 and Martin Road and Hwy 47 and Maple.

• Work with Metro and Washington County to prioritize and introduce safety enhancements for pedestrians and bicycles along Pacific east of Quince Road (Hwy 47).

What is your take on calls for racial justice and policing reforms across the United States, including in Forest Grove?

COURTESY PHOTO - Don GiannettiGiannetti:

I think we need to remind ourselves what role we ask our local police officers to take concerning public safety. Policing is about preventing crime and keeping the public safe. To be effective and keep us safe we have to trust the police will be fair and treat all citizens equal. High profile incidents suggest that fair policing isn't our reality, uncovering a national need to reform policing. Most of us agree that reforms are needed, but there doesn't seem to be consensus on what NEEDS to be reformed. As a community we should ask ourselves, are we using the Police correctly? Are we asking the police to be first responders on every scene? Have we reviewed our use of force policy, if so, is it working? This is a very important issue that needs our attention as it affects us all.

Uhing:

• Forest Grove has been working on equity issues for years, starting with our yearly Goals on affordable housing.

• I prefer 'housing stability', We must look beyond just rent/mortgage costs, but Is the community affordable i.e. utilities/stores/transportation?

• We began implementing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) philosophy to address needs facing our vulnerable community members. Once, DEI is fully realized our established and successful best practice process: Education, Information and Engagement allowing for community input.

• My opinion, this practice was not followed on the 'Justice Mural' bringing division to the community rather than unifying us.

• We created the Community Policing Advisory Commission (CPAC) representing 13 sectors throughout our community. They will advise on policing issues of today and into the future.

• Growing up in generational poverty and 16 years of Council service I bring a unique perspective on the issues facing Forest Grove.

Rippe:

The calls for racial justice and police reform are voices that need to be listened to and understood. Understanding takes dialogue and dialogue requires establishing and supporting communications and partnerships. These issues are complex and deep-rooted. The community and City can begin by active listening, deep-reflection and critical thinking. Behaviors and attitudes need to change in ways that enhance justice and safety for all. Our Country and City are not now nor have ever been perfect. Democracy is a process that demands engagement and commitment on many levels. It is a messy business. Tackling issues of racial justice and policing is no different. We need to be engaged and committed to reform. Personally, I am. I would like our community to embrace the challenge and opportunity to dialogue about these issues and find new paths to follow that secures for our children a brighter future and "… a more perfect union."

Valfre:

• I believe the Council's unanimous creation of a Policing Community Advisory Commission is explicit recognition that systematic and institutional racism and discrimination still exist in various City policies and operations across the United States – and that policing reforms in Forest Grove are thus an essential area for community review and discussion.

• I believe our Forest Grove Police are well-trained, community-oriented and committed to providing excellent service 24/7 to all public members. Yet, in every organization, there are always ways to improve and incorporate best practices. By being more transparent in its operations, our police can further improve in their training procedures and operations.

• We should research programs like CAHOOTS based in Eugene that have had success in supporting the needs of community members experiencing mental health and/or homelessness challenges

• We need to continue to encourage and engage community members, including our BIPOC members, to get feedback and learn more of their life experiences.

Gustafson:

The decisions law enforcement make in moments are extraordinary and can end with unfortunate results. They should be held to the highest standards but are human and may use their emotions, bias, experiences to sway their decisions. The pressure and vast responsibilities do not allow for the decompression needed in a high stress position. In addition, over time more responsibilities not associated with typical law enforcement have been added to officers' daily tasks. I believe we must consider atypical actions including but not limited to the following:

• Paid short term sabbaticals for direct law enforcement

• More frequent psychiatric assessments

• Review the current responsibilities and job descriptions and transfer responsibilities which require a different expertise such as social work, student management etc.. to the appropriate expert field. Let peace officers be peace officers.

• Education and assessment of law enforcement personnel views on race, diversity, de-escalation.

• Create a diverse committee (Law Enforcement Review Board) to review all complaints with law enforcement

• Use the Law Enforcement Review Board to interview possible new recruits to identify warning signs not obvious to direct law enforcement hiring team.

• No-tolerance policy on racism, discrimination and police abuse with a swift and strict correction and termination philosophy.

• Review current salary and evaluate an increase to encourage a higher recruit pool


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