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Position One candidates talk what they would bring to council, Rockwood, pandemic, parks and more

Two candidates are squaring off to claim a seat on the Gresham City Council and help lead the community through the coming years.

Voters must choose between incumbent Councilor Jerry Hinton and challenger Dina DiNucci for Position 1 in the upcoming November election.

FILE - Jerry HintonHinton, who is running for his third term after first joining council in 2012, decided to run because of a desire to continue giving back to his community. He said he can bring balance to a council that will feature many new voices, providing continuity into the future.

Prior to joining council, Hinton served on Gresham's Citizen Involvement Committee and Finance Committee. He also was a member of Wood Village's Transportation Committee. As a councilor he has maintained an active role in the region and city, with a focus on supporting transportation development and working alongside regional mayors.

Hinton, 59, has twice been Council President and is finishing up his third year as a mentor with Family of Friends Mentoring. In January he retired after 34 years from Brasher Auto Auction Group so he could focus on supporting his family and serving his city.

COURTESY PHOTO: DINA DINUCCI - DINUCCIDiNucci is running because she said city leadership has become isolated from the residents it serves, and she wants to draw on her two decades of experience in the community to bring a new perspective. DiNucci said the city must start serving everyone equally.

The longtime Gresham business owner and advocate has been heavily involved in supporting the community of Rockwood. The former city employee is serving as a case investigator in epidemiology for the Multnomah County Health Department, working with COVID-19 cases.

She has served as the neighborhood restoration chair for the Department of Justice, volunteered with the Rockwood Weed and Seed program, was co-chair for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life, and vice-chair of the Centennial Neighborhood Association.

Hinton is focused on bolstering public safety; bringing economic development and affordable housing; uplifting parks; and supporting equity and inclusion. DiNucci's campaign goals are promoting equality for individuals and neighborhoods; bringing amentities and funding to underserved parts of Gresham; evaluating parks funding; and supporting housing affordability.

Each candidate spoke with The Outlook to weigh in on the pressing issues facing the community:

Outlook: How would you support business recovery and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Hinton: "I've been shocked at how adaptable people have been — it shows the human nature to survive. We need to find our most vulnerable and figure out a way as a city to provide assistance. There are still a lot of folks who need help."

DiNucci: "We need to look at the CARES act and determine how to assist our businesses. I fear we are going to run into a place where the eviction moratorium goes away [and] that families will struggle. It's going to be important that we have proactive programs in place to start working and educating those people who will be in crisis on solutions."

Outlook: What is your stance on police reform?

DiNucci: "I want to represent our communities and hear from them. With my background working on the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Safety Committee, I learned all about police programs. I believe there is going to be change from the system there is now. Citizen oversite in regard to complaints is an important step. We need to share police work and give reports on how many arrests and crimes are occurring. I want to work with the community to make these decisions."

Hinton: "I reject the notion of defunding — but I do recognize that we need to find a better way of creating a sustainable budget. Gresham per capita is one of the lowest in the state when it comes to the number of officers and fire engines on the street. We need to turn the corner on that. Some of the defunding rhetoric I would support is moving funding toward more mental health professionals. It makes sense because right now our officers are the catch-all for every single thing. A mental health professional would be more efficient and effective, and I would increase and enhance mental-health training.

Outlook: What are your ideas for uplifting the Rockwood neighborhood?

Hinton: "The last decade we have done a lot for Rockwood by bringing organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs and Friends of the Children. The (Downtown Rockwood) catalyst site has been great for enhancing development and will bring shopping, employment and affordable housing. We need to continue to increase the level of programs that have been removed from Rockwood parks. They need more assistance and grants to thrive. It all comes down to families. We have to catch these kids early in life before they hit a point of no turning back.

DiNucci: "I would like to step away from social services and programs being concentrated in Rockwood. We need to have a balance in our city and not put everything the other neighborhoods don't want in Rockwood. Per capita Rockwood holds the most residents and it is important we start engaging them more in conversations about what they can bring to the community. Rockwood Rising is a great start, but we need to work with giving the neighborhood a stronger voice."

Outlook: What is your stance on homelessness?

DiNucci: "I am hoping with the recent Metro measure passing that we are going to get more engaged as a regional player — which we have not done in the past. Wraparound services are important, like a peer-led program to make sure each individual is getting the assistance they need. We cannot pretend we do not have homeless. We need to determine a convenient place, be it a shelter or other services, within Gresham, and that those buildings have funding. The 'not in my backyard,' attitude is strong, but these are people who need to be cared for."

Hinton: "We have this huge chronic problem because the Ninth Circuit Court deeded over all our public lands. Our homeless liaisons have wonderful relationships with social services and housing. They know all of (the homeless) by name and offer options. If they don't accept, we have the option to move them along legally. It all comes down to resources around mental health. And probably there will be a whole new rash of economic refugees that will need services after COVID."

Outlook: How would you create funding for parks and recreation?

Hinton: "Everything is on the table — even a parks district, though there would be a lot of admin expenses with that and the city of Gresham would lose control. We need to figure out a more sustainable way to get revenue. We could create a new levy or increase fees. The first step is the task force making a recommendation to council, because there won't be a lot of money floating around and any funds need to go toward public safety first. There are lots of ideas out there. Look at Tsuru Island, it is beautiful because of a small group of citizen volunteers."

DiNucci: "When city parks funding was cut, they chose to stop mowing Vance Park, which my coffee shop was next door to. It led to many negative elements and an inability for the park to be used. That is not acceptable for our families and kids and the safety of our community. Parks have to be funded across the city for equal maintenance. We need people to be able to engage with neighbors outdoors and set up recreation programs. I believe a parks district makes sense. It is worth exploring how much that would look like in terms of a cost to determine what is feasible."

Outlook: Is lack of representation and diversity a problem in Gresham and City Hall?

DiNucci: "Within the city of Gresham representation is a problem. I do not know what our diversity levels are for city employees, but diversity has not been a priority for the city. Employees used to be excited to attend trainings and build upon diversity, but it was all shut down. We haven't changed our practices as a city, and we need to make policies keeping a diversity lens in mind."

Hinton: "I recognize there is systemic racism in America at all levels — as white people it is easy not to get it. None of us think we are racist, but we all are at some level. I don't think Gresham is egregious, but just because I am not aware of it doesn't mean it's not there. The beauty of these last few months is the awareness being raised. I've never seen the citizens of Gresham so engaged with anything. There has been painful moments, but I believe in the good of people."

Outlook: Why should people vote for you?

Hinton: "I bring balance to council — experience and a business acumen that no one else has. With the departure of our mayor and council members, there needs to be somebody to maintain the reins of equilibrium and collaborate with both sides. Gresham needs somebody like me."

DiNucci: "The differences between me and my opponent are pretty clear. If you want to serve your community right, you have to go out and get to know them before you can represent them fairly. I have been out working with our diverse communities — from their most difficult struggles to finding new opportunities. My opponent tends to operate in the opposite way — making polices from the desk. I have been gathering experience for 20 years on how to represent the people of Gresham."

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