College instructor seeking third term to state Legislature for House District 49 position

Incumbent House District 49 Rep. Chris Gorsek is running for another term with goals including legislation to protect the middle-class.

District 49 includes the communities of Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview and portions of Gresham and outer Northeast Portland. First elected in 2012, and now serving his third term in the House, Gorsek started working for the government as a Portland police officer. The 60-year-old Democrat now teaches criminal justice and geography at Mt. Hood Community College.

The Outlook recently met with Gorsek to discuss his priorities before the upcoming election.

THE OUTLOOK: Why are you running for re-election?

CHRIS GORSEK: I've done a lot in terms of public service throughout my life. For me it was a law enforcement, then a community service sort of step, and then being a teacher you talk about a lot of the same issues. Rather than simply talk about it, I wanted to try and actually get involved in doing some of these things in a hands-on way. There are a bunch of things I'm still interested in working on. So that's why I'm running again. I've been on judiciary committees. So we've been doing some things with justice reinvestment, and some things around juvenile justice. We have problems still with homelessness and near homelessness. Education is another big thing. So there is, and there always will be, something I want to work on. So that's why I'm running for re-election.

OUTLOOK: What have you accomplished during your time in the House?

GORSEK: I've worked on a number of different committees. I served two cycles on transportation, I've served on education, and higher education, agriculture and natural resources (committees). I think we've done a lot of good work with the committees in general. We came very close last time to passing (legislation that would address) the issues around no-cause evictions. So we'll bring those up again, but we did get more funding for housing. I did get a bill passed (in 2015) that helped to put East (Multnomah) County on an even playing field with Hillsboro. Back in '03 we had a bill that was passed, and it was about providing incentives for business industries, but they froze the boundaries in 2003, and Hillsboro, which is considered rural, suddenly gets a better tax incentive, even though Hillsboro was no longer rural. While we in East County had always been in the (Portland metropolitan) urban growth boundary. So there was a definite imbalance. I think we're starting to see the effects of that with Gresham Vista. Amazon has come in, along with Subaru. DaBeers is apparently going to make diamonds at Gresham Vista.

OUTLOOK: If re-elected, what are your priorities in the House, and anything new you would like to work on?

GORSEK: I think the old stuff, so housing and human services. We have the problem with housing, but also with homelessness. (I want to continue to serve as) the Ways and Means co-chair for juvenile justice. We share that as a House/Senate thing. You listen to all the reports from all the different parts of the system, and talk about their requests, and shepherding that all through the system in terms of what Ways and Means finally decides to appropriate. So that would probably be the new thing because I was on the committee before, but I was not the co-chair.

OUTLOOK: What legislation do you, or will you, support to help out middle-class families?

GORSEK: I think one of the problems is bringing good solid living wage jobs. We have to continue to try and bring those in. I understand there was kind of a weird trade off at Amazon where they said "we're going to bring everybody up to $15 dollars an hour," but they took some stock options away. The idea to bring everybody up to $15 is good. I think beyond just trying to change the minimum wage, we have to look at ways to bring more businesses into the area. (In District 49) we have some areas that are doing really well, and some areas that are not doing really well, certainly as you head to the west toward Rockwood. But on the other hand, we do have Boeing and there are a number of really good industrial prospects. Probably the best thing we can do is link (Mt. Hood Community) College with those, and I think quite a bit of that has been done. It's not enough to bring up the minimum wage. It's also about jobs. Certainly whatever the college can do to support that system.

OUTLOOK: Why should people vote for you?

GORSEK: I have a lot of experience. As a geography instructor, I teach Oregon geography all the time. So I have a lot of academic depth in terms of the state, and also the needs of the state, and I have a strong desire to work on public service issues, and to improve the lot of both folks in the district and also in the state in general. If the rest of the state thrives, then our district thrives. If we had more of that focus, we might be able to bridge more of the rural and urban divide that definitely exists in the state of Oregon. One of the things we've been working on with (Multnomah County) Commissioner (Lori) Stegmann is there's a really strong divide between west and east Multnomah County. West of Northeast 82nd Avenue is doing very well, but east of 82nd is not, and there is probably room to get more state resources there.

OUTLOOK: Anything else you want to say about your re-election?

GORSEK: Just to say my assistant and I work not to just pass laws, but to solve people's problems in the district. We've got folks in Fairview who have problems with the rent going up, but they've also got problems with Sandy Boulevard, and not having traffic lights. When people come to us like that we are trying to get them linked to the county to see what can be done. Mainly it's been an honor to be the representative for District 49.

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