Andy Duyck wants to tackle the issues of mental health, school overcrowding, transportation and social services in a second term as Washington County chairman. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Washington County Commission candidates Andy Duyck, Allen Amabisca, Elizabeth Furse and Bob Terry take questions from the audience at a forum Monday evening at Pacific University.

“Our county is economically strong, but we have problems,” the veteran politician told a group of 70 people during a candidates’ forum at Pacific University Monday night. “I’d like to keep things going in the right direction.”

Duyck’s challenger, Allen Amabisca, said he would “invest in communities and families” by building “safe roads and sidewalks” if voters elect him chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners May 20.

The incumbent chairman, he said, “has mismanaged the land use process” and wants to build an events center at the Washington County Fair Complex “on the backs of school children.”

Sponsored by Pacific’s Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation, Pamplin Media Group and the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce, the session also featured District 4 Commissioner Bob Terry, who’s seeking a second term, and his challenger, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse.

“I began to really feel there was something wrong in Washington County,” Furse said of her reason for jumping into the race. “And I started to think that two of the biggest problems were Andy and Bob.”

Terry countered that the current commission has “a pretty good track record,” committing 22 percent of its budget to social services and 25 percent to transportation while overseeing dramatic economic growth.

“Why would you want to change that?” he asked.

Questions from the audience ranged from rules about roosters to the outcome of a lengthy process designed to create urban-rural land reserves across the county, home to more than 547,000 residents.

“I have absolutely no opinion about roosters,” said Furse, who represented Oregon’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 1999, drawing laughter from the crowd in Marsh Hall.

Still reeling from February’s passage of House Bill 4078 — also known as the “grand bargain,” which expanded the Urban Growth Boundary and established new urban and rural reserves in Washington County — Terry argued the Legislature effectively discarded “50 years of certainty” for landowners and developers.

Duyck seemed similarly disillusioned by the need to have state lawmakers come up with a remedy after a court held up years of planning earlier this year.

“We gave this issue thousands of hours of consideration,” he said, referring to commissioners in Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties and the Metro council. “In the end we had to rely on the state to fix things.”

While he “fully supported the grand bargain,” Duyck said, “the position we were forced into did not include all views.”

Furse said the bargain “saved a lot of money” in the end. Amabisca said that while going to the Oregon Legislature was “not a good solution” to the urban-rural reserves matter, lawmakers were attempting to “save Washington County from its own leadership.”

One attendee wanted to know how the candidates thought the county would look 20 years or a century from now.

“There will be a building up, not out,” predicted Amabisca, citing the multi-use development at 4th Avenue and Main Street in Hillsboro as an example. “People want to live, work and play in the same general area.”

Terry thought the commission “might very well” try again to find a way to strike a balance between urban and rural land interests. He said “looking at our water situation — where it’s going to come from” is another priority.

“My crystal ball doesn’t go out 100 years,” joked Duyck, “but in the future we will have a new model” for running local government, particularly as it pertains to providing services outside city boundaries.

Amabisca advocated for the creation of “good-paying jobs” and supporting the “social services safety net,” while Furse focused on low-cost housing.

“When you think about it, affordable housing is really one of the best jobs programs there is,” she said. “We need to make sure our citizens aren’t sleeping on the streets.”

Openness and trust were popular themes during the debate.

“I’d like to see an open flow of communication,” said Amabisca, a former Intel manager, who added he’d “use citizen advisory groups and entertain all viewpoints” to obtain ideas.

“If I make a promise, I want to be able to say what the tradeoff is,” said Duyck, who stressed his experience running a $750 million corporation — the county — as evidence of his effectiveness as county chairman.

“I’d like to see an open, transparent government,” said Furse. “I will listen and take heed.”

For Terry, one of Oregon’s hottest local political races comes down to a single word: performance.

“Four years ago, I wanted to straighten out land use and transportation issues. Your commissioners have made great strides,” he told the group. “Why would you want to fix something that isn’t broken?”

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