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Development, housing and communication are hot-button issues for Gresham Council hopeful

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: RYAN JOHNSON - Ryan C. JohnsonThis is the second is a series of profiles for the candidates vying for Gresham City Council Position 4.

Ryan C. Johnson was inspired to dive into politics during one of his visits to Gresham City Council.

The 38-year-old service advisor at Gresham Ford has lived in the city for 6 years, but has been working here since 1998 when he moved to the region after graduating high school.

Through his job, Johnson talks with a lot of people in the community. They share their concerns and troubles, giving him a sense of what is and isn't working in the city. So, when a councilor recommended Johnson attend one of the meetings to better understand what is going on, he jumped at the chance. He also joined the Community Development Housing subcommittee for the city, and is on the Redevelopment Commission as well.

Now, he wants to do even more. Johnson is throwing his hat into the ring to serve on Gresham City Council Position 4. He sat down with The Outlook to chat about the upcoming election:

THE OUTLOOK: Why are you running for council?

RYAN C JOHNSON: I had been going to council meetings, but had never thought about getting into politics. But at the meetings I saw (Incumbent Mario Palmero) wasn't showing up, which inspired me. If I am going to be on there, I want to be there.

I think everyone on council is doing a really great job, I would like to join them. I have a pretty good-sized network in East County. If there is an issue, I usually hear about it before it's in the newspaper. I don't have all the answers, but there are a lot of people who are supportive of me running.

OUTLOOK: What issues are you focused on?

JOHNSON: My main issue is people say there is not enough information about what is going on in the town. It's interesting to me that we live in a day and age with so much information right there, but people either don't want to know about it or can't find it.

I would like to see those really nice buildings that have been built and are empty to be occupied. That would be a big goal. I don't know the process of recruiting businesses, but I would like to see more of that. Subaru is a great business to have here, but it doesn't employ that many people. We need businesses with more of a work force.

I own a rental home in Portland and in Gresham, and the problem is there is a lack of housing in general. If you have a bunch of people moving to the area, and you don't have houses for them, it drives the prices up. I would look at the fee structure to make it more developer friendly to create more units. That alone will drive prices down.

Finally, homelessness is a topic that is on everybody's mind, because we see so much of it. My step-sister was homeless, but it wasn't that she didn't have money, it was just a lifestyle she wanted to live. I didn't understand that. There is a group of people, especially younger ones, who want to live that way. There is also people who have an issue, be it drug abuse or a mental issue. Homelessness is such a broad term. I would break it down, since there are people who need help out there. You have to sit down with individual people, not groups, to find out why they are in that situation and what their desired outcome is. You can't generalize the homeless population.

OUTLOOK: What sets you apart as a candidate?

JOHNSON: I will be present. From what I have heard, some of the other people who are running haven't attended a city council meeting. That is kind of an important thing to do, because I may not know everything that is going on, but I have an idea about the processes. When people announced the candidates who had put their paperwork in, I was disappointed that at the next council meeting nobody was there. I thought that was bizarre.

OUTLOOK: Why should voters choose you?

JOHNSON: I don't make a decision based on how I am registered to vote, but I make a decision based on how I feel about a situation. I have friends with different beliefs, and we will meet for lunch to talk about things and not get mad about it. We listen to each other, because that is how you learn. If you shut people down, you won't learn from them.

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