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During event both state and city candidates discussed education, environment, Rockwood

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The candidates for Gresham City Council answered audience questions during a Gresham Chamber of Commerce forum Tuesday, Oct. 16. On the same day that thousands of ballots were sent out to voters across East Multnomah County, the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce invited local candidates for city council, state representative and state senator to a forum on the issues.

The event was held Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 16, at Persimmon Country Club in Gresham. Candidates who attended were Sen. Chuck Thomsen and Chrissy Reitz, Justin Hwang, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Rep. Jeff Helfrich and Anna Williams, Councilor Kirk French and Eddy Morales, and Councilor Mario Palmero, Ryan Johnson and Paul Dreschler.

The forum was supported by presenting sponsors PGE and Riverview Community Bank. Each candidate had the chance to introduce themselves and then answer a pair of questions from the audience as a panel.

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  • The state candidates were first asked how they would deal with school funding.

    Chuck Thomsen, SD 26 incumbent: "We have underfunded education for too long. Stable funding would be new tax for education."

    Chrissy Reitz, SD 26: "We need to stabilize funding for education. It's hard to do things if you don't know budgets."

    Jeff Helfrich, HD 52 incumbent: "We need to fund education, and fully support Measure 98, which will bring up high school graduation rates."

    Anna Williams, HD 52: "Once you spend a dollar, you can't spend it a second time. It's hard to plan, grow and build when you don't know what you will have in the future."

    Justin Hwang, HD 49: "I have a strong belief in trade programs. We need to raise graduation rates, but also teach them skills in high school."

    Lori Chavez-DeRemer, HD 51: "We aren't fully funding our schools. We need to fund what we say we are going to do. Career and Technical Education is important as well."

    The next question concerned their stance on Clean Energy Jobs legislation.

    Thomsen: "I don't have a problem with reducing carbon levels, but it needs to be in a way that the program actually works. They still have a lot to figure out."

    Reitz: "We need to make sure it's done right, but we can't afford to wait. I look up at Mt. Hood and the snow is gone, and that is going to have real consequences."

    Helfrich: "I see this as an opportunity to grab more money from businesses. I support reducing the carbon footprint, but we should do it through regulation."

    Williams: "I support the bill. We can use the money from the polluting fees to reinvest in jobs."

    Hwang: "I agree with Senator Thomsen that the bill needs to be polished more before it comes out."

    Chavez-DeRemer: "We need to ask if the data is accurate, and what is the cost? The goal is to attract more businesses to build the tax rate. They will self-regulate if we use incentives."

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  • The Gresham City Council hopefuls were up next. Their first question was how they would represent the Rockwood neighborhood.

    Kirk French, Position 2 incumbent: "I have many meetings with groups in Rockwood and support organizations in the neighborhood."

    Eddy Morales, Position 2: "We are knocking on doors. (The city) has left people out of the process, and they feel like they aren't having their voices heard."

    Mario Palmero, Position 4 incumbent: "I live in the Centennial District, which is right next to Rockwood. We need opportunities, not a handout, just opportunities."

    Paul Dreschler, Position 4: "I've helped a lot of businesses there, and I worked there every day. We need more development."

    Ryan Johnson, Position 4: "I think we need to reach out to everybody. I would reach out to groups all over Gresham."

    The second question was about how they have worked toward achieving their political priorities.

    French: "I'm proud of working on homeless (issues). I've been on ride-alongs with our homeless specialist."

    Morales: "I started East County Rising to recruit diverse community members to serve on different groups and school boards. We identify and inspire women, youth and people of color to step and lead."

    Palmero: "I'm on the Task Force for Housing, and was involved in Rockwood Rising. We are moving forward on 21st century policing, but still need more stuff for kids to do."

    Dreschler: "I've been involved with Rockwood Rising for more than 10 years. We are streamlining code, making sure it is coherent and working for neighborhoods."

    Johnson: "I'm on the Gresham Redevelopment Committee, and have learned where money is from and where it's going. I go to council meetings, and am willing to learn more."

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