ENDORSEMENT: Duncan Hwang for Metro Council District 6
Editor's note: Endorsements are made by the Editorial Board and reflect the opinion of Pamplin Media Group editors and publishers. Letters to the editor and other submitted opinion pieces will be considered for publication without regard to the official editorial stance or endorsements made by the Editorial Board.
Duncan Hwang is facing a formidable challenge as he tries to keep his Metro seat, with Terri Preeg Riggsby offering voters a smart, experienced alternative.
Although he's been on the job just four months, Hwang is our pick among this pair of strong candidates.
Metro is the regional government agency serving the urban tri-county area with a portfolio ranging from the Oregon Zoo to solid waste disposal to the urban growth boundary to transportation planning to homeless services.
District 6 spans portions of Northeast, Southeast and Southwest Portland, from the Tigard city line to 82nd Avenue, plus a small piece of the Beaverton area. Those boundaries call for an approach that shows strong movement for equity between west and east Portland, which Hwang, appointed to the council in January, already has demonstrated in his past and current professional experience.
Hwang has worked at the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) since 2013 developing projects including the Jade International Night Market and the Orchards of 82nd Avenue mixed-use building with 48 units of affordable housing.
In meeting with our editorial board Hwang said he considers himself "an affordable housing developer" and spoke passionately about his work various projects, including the Powell-Division Street bus rapid transit project connecting Gresham to Portland. His ability to deliver on the needs of the Jade District community, and equitably across District 6, make him an invaluable asset to the council.
That's not to say Preeg Riggsby, an auditor, isn't experienced, for she has a long list of past impressive titles, including Zone 5 director for the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, general manager of HAKI Community Organization, executive director of the Tryon Creek Watershed Council, and performance auditor for past secretaries of state, including Gov. Kate Brown. She currently serves on more than five different boards and committees around the Portland area, as well.
We applaud and encourage anyone with this depth of community service, especially women, to put their name out there and run for office.
When asked to highlight differences with the incumbent, Riggsby conceded that they are aligned on most key issues facing the region. However, she strongly objected to the fact that Hwang's employer, APANO, has received funding from Metro and suggested that those running for elected offices should quit their other jobs if there's even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Hwang responded that this could only come from a place of privilege and noted that APANO has not received any Metro funds since he has took office.
We agree that this line of thinking can result in keeping politics a rich man's game. Pamplin Media Group previously reported that three prominent state lawmakers announced they will not run for reelection citing low wages.
Communities should feel represented by their elected officials, and Hwang, whose parents, Chinese immigrants, faced discrimination when opening a family business in Michigan, is an unabashed champion of the region's Asian communities. This is an especially critical time to honor and uplift our Asian communities because nearly half (49%) of Asians surveyed reported some sort of harassment or threat, Pamplin Media Group reported.
We also applaud Hwang's willingness to offer critical analysis of the agency he oversees, saying he's frustrated by Metro's slow pace at addressing climate change, planning for more affordable housing and compiling critical data to guide its priorities.
Riggsby is an impressive first-time candidate, and we hope she continues to stay involved in regional issues. But we don't see a need to make a change in Metro District 6. We endorse Duncan Hwang.
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