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Gresham lawmaker speaks on housing bill, state's funding shortfall

OUTLOOK PHOTO - Rep. Chris Gorsek currently teaches intro to criminal investigations, intro to criminal justice, intro to world geography and law enforcement in a diverse society at Mt. Hood Community College.Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-District 49) speaks for citizens in Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village. The Outlook caught up with this Mt. Hood Community College instructor, former police officer and three-term politico to discuss life at the Capitol.

Outlook: You've just proposed a new housing bill. How does it work?

Gorsek: It's based on the idea of allowing … rent stabilization. Right now there's a preemption statewide. Local jurisdictions aren't allowed to do it. So rather than the state saying, "it's a blanket no," it's an empowering thing. Gresham, Portland and Troutdale can decide for themselves how best to move forward.

What else are you working on?

One of the things is, if a juvenile gets taken into custody, they cannot be questioned, they cannot waive their Miranda (rights) unless they've talked with a councilor first. People think that we have a lot of juvenile master criminals. We have a lot of juveniles who don't really understand the criminal justice system. We want them to understand the ramification of waiving their rights before they talk to police.

Tell me about your partnership with Hillsboro Rep. Susan McLain (D-District 29).

We're working on a couple bills (increasing) penalties for assault on TriMet workers and ODOT workers. Right now, there's a tendency to have such a low punishment level that district attorneys aren't giving it the amount of attention it needs. There are higher punishment standards if the (bus) driver is in the driver's seat, but not if the driver gets up.

Oregon faces a $1.8 billion shortfall. What's the way forward?

I understand there were problems with it, but when Measure 97 failed, our ability to fill this hole pretty much evaporated. So unless we can get cooperation from our friends on the Republican side, we're going to start making cuts.

Where is the money going?

(It's) increasing costs for all the folks we're trying to cover in Oregon. Some of it's Medicare, some of it's Medicaid. Some of it's from the Affordable Care Act. But we also need to be a little more transparent (on cost) when we do ballot measures. Not to say that Measure 98 (establishing technical education for high schoolers) was bad, but those three ballot measures will cost us more — not much more, but a bit more — than PERS (the Public Employees Retirement System).

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is a Republican. What do you make of him?

You can't go forever with only one party being involved. I worked with Richardson when he was still in the House. He's a well-meaning individual. When you consider that office, I'm hoping he will do a very good job. We'll see. It's always time will tell.

You just left the transportation committee. Any big takeaways from your time there?

One thing I'd love to see is update the MAX system to make it faster. When it gets downtown it slows to a crawl. Portland is unique because it has some of the smallest city blocks in the country. So a MAX train can only be two cars long, otherwise it's blocking traffic. We need something in the central city that lifts it up. (That way) you could run longer trains and faster trains.

Does the Gresham area need more highways?

A lot of growth has happened since 1980, (but) we have never added anything. I-205 and I-84 carry all that extra traffic. I understand that people don't like freeways, but you have to build something sometime. I think it makes it hard for East County folks to move into the central city.

You live in Troutdale and served on the City Council. What do you make of the politics there now?

I've been very impressed with the new mayor, and I really liked Doug (Daoust) too. Here's the thing: If it's something good for the city, it doesn't matter how you feel about the person. I have no beef with (Junki) Yoshida, but apparently some people do.

Your academic background is partly in geography. So you just look at maps all day?

(Laughs) People think it's what's the capital of X. It's really about the world. Even sitting here, we're involved in structural geography — how this place was designed and who comes here. Geography is about the world and how the world works.

FILE PHOTO - Rep. Chris Gorsek

Just the facts

Name: Chris Gorsek

Age: 58

Political Party: Democrat

Education: Ph.D. in urban studies from Portland State University. Studied geography and political science at the University of Oregon and criminal justice at Portland Community College.

Watching: Anthony Hopkins' evil slowly emerge on HBO's "Westworld."

Listening: Coolio and Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk" featuring Bruno Mars. "I love songs with horns," he says.

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