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Candidates offer views on parks plans, next city manager, police reform and more

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Scappoose City Council meets in city hall twice a month., South County Spotlight - News McHugh, Greisen run for reelection, while Burge will run unopposed for mayor Two incumbents, four newcomers run for Scappoose city councilThe candidates for Scappoose City Council responded to questions about the present and future of the growing city.

Responses to some questions were included in the Spotlight's Oct. 23 paper. This version includes the candidates' responses to five questions about the city's present and future, edited for clarity.

What is your take on calls for racial justice and policing reforms across the United States and locally?

Marty Baldwin: "As a former sworn full-time law enforcement officer and reflecting on recent events in America, I hold the strongest support for Police Officers who place themselves in harms' way daily for you and I. Our "Thin Blue Line" does an outstanding professional job in how they carry out their duties with compassion and bravery.

"The call for "defunding Police" does not solve any Societal problem, and if ever implemented, would only weaken our Justice System and the ability to protect the safety of all. Citizen Review Boards and the transparency that they help to create goes far in developing public trust. Racial injustice has no place in any community.

"We are fortunate to have an outstanding Police Department in Scappoose led by Chief Norm Miller.

"I will never vote to defund the Scappoose Police Department."

Megan Greisen: "It is my belief that there should be equal treatment of all citizens when it comes to the law. Whether or not our Officers and citizens have encountered racial injustice, we have the opportunity to rewrite the injustices that many have faced. Protecting and serving our citizens through ongoing community policing continues to be the mission of the Scappoose Police Department. City staff and the SPD continue to adopt the best practices available to assure that we keep our community safe for our citizens and Officers alike. Over the years, SPD has made community outreach events a high priority in order to build public trust and create a bond between the department and our citizens."

Peter McHugh: "We have an excellent police department that keeps our City among the safest in the State. We should all be proud of that. But matters of equality and racial justice are more important than ever. Community expectations are high and tolerance for bad decisions and behavior are low. I want our police department to be the best it can be. That means we set high standards, provide the best training available and hire officers who are friendly, professional and genuinely care about the people they serve. Cynical and bad attitudes are not acceptable. As a Councilor, I understand the work is hard and even impossible at times. Still, our department has to be up to the challenge."

Tyler Miller: "On the national level, I think there's a lot that can be done related to racial justice. I also believe the collateral impact of every option on the table must be considered to make well informed, sound decisions for everyone that could be affected. Locally, for Scappoose, I'd like to see the city council receive a presentation on a regular basis from the chief of police where data from Scappoose officers' contacts with citizens is presented."

Law enforcement in Scappoose and elsewhere track data about every stop or arrest they make, and use body cameras and location data, all of which can provide insight into operations and "identify patterns by specific officers," Miller said.

"I'd also like to see more training for our officers regarding their response to incidents involving people in psychiatric distress. This could include the formation of team of social workers that law enforcement officers can team up with to get people in need resources to help immediately address the problem at hand."

Jeannet Santiago: "As a Latinx that has first-hand experience in racism, I believe there is systemic racism period. I also support law enforcement; I commend them for putting their lives on the line everyday to protect citizens. I also know that they are not perfect and their personal bias can affect how they do their jobs.

"Diversity, Education/Training and most importantly communication is key to understanding ALL community perspectives."

Peter Williamson: "This is a tough question as a former first responder I have seen both sides of this issue and I feel that a good first step is to start including mental health and social welfare workers and other items or tools that law enforcement can use to address some of the issues that we face. I know without a very strong mental health system I personally have responded to hundreds of calls as an emergency that we're not an emergency that could have been handled by a mental health worker or social worker and I would hope that we as communities can start addressing our own local issues in a common rational manner and start listening to each other and accepting our differences and working hard to find what we have in common.

"Kindness matters and I would hope that people get to a point where they remember that if we can just be kind to one another we can address a lot of the racial Injustice issues."

City Manager Michael Sykes resigned earlier this year. The City Council appointed an interim city manager but will hire someone for the permanent position. What should the council be looking for in a city manager?

Baldwin: "To begin, the City Council should review and update the skill-set requirements for the Scappoose City Manager as well as the job description itself. As we continue to grow, the vision and experience that our City Manager possesses are imperative to safe and responsible growth. A proven record of honesty, civic knowledge and reliability is paramount. It should be ascertained whether the candidate has a record of taking responsibility for their decisions/actions or blames others for failure to achieve goals/objectives. Scappoose is looking for a Leader who builds citizen and professional consensus, takes personal responsibility, and always seeks ways to be successful."

Greisen: "At this point in time, the search for a new City Manager has not begun. The intention of the Mayor and City Council is to wait until after any new council members are seated in January. This also allows our interim, Alexandra Rains, an opportunity to continue leading staff through projects and plans set in place before Michael Sykes resigned. The current City Council does not take the task of finding a new City Manager lightly. We will be looking for someone ready to support our Master Plans, take on the goals of City Council and willing to collaborate and work as a team with staff. The climate and culture of our current department heads and staff is one of unity. Not one person works on a task, but rather a group using the strengths of each other to get the job done efficiently and well. We will take as long as we need in order to hire the best match for our community."

McHugh: "Obviously, this is an especially important decision. I will be looking for a person with a commitment to our Community and one who is willing to relocate to the area. To me that means a five-year commitment to the City because it is easy for a city of our size to be used as a stepping-stone for a bigger and "better" job somewhere else. I would like to see this person be familiar with the issues we face and support our goal-driven approach to management. I want someone who is clear thinking and a good listener who will do whatever it takes to get the job done. It's essential that he/she be personable and caring, yet, tough enough to make difficult decisions regarding personnel and other City matters."

Miller: "I am excited the new council members elected on November 3rd will be able to participate in this process. If elected, I'll be looking for a candidate with a proven experience in similar management/leadership positions. While candidates can look good on paper and even interview well, I believe the city council needs to invest significant effort in checking references and speaking to people who have had significant interaction with the candidates in a professional work environment. We need a city manager who has a strong history of leadership, excellent communication and has demonstrated a genuine passion for selfless public service."

Santiago: "The council should look for the best candidate for the job. She or He should be trustworthy, ethical, respectable and an approachable person. She or He should have strong communication skills to work well with the Mayor, the City Council, community members, and staff."

Williamson: "I feel that a new city manager needs a strong background in reviving or renewing infrastructure. It is clear that we need new water sewer treatment, road and other infrastructure put in place, and I would hope that we could get somebody who has a history of providing successful projects to other communities."

What formal or informal involvement have you had with Scappoose government and community in the past four years?

Baldwin: He is currently on Scappoose's economic development committee and previously served on the budget committee. He also participates in annual town hall meetings and is a registered volunteer with the Scappoose School District. He was previously on the school district's strategic planning committee. He also led the Columbia County Rotary Club and took a leadership role in the creation of the Children's Fountain in Heritage Park.

Greisen: She is finishing up her first four-year term on the Scappoose City Council. She has served as liaison between the council and the school district, the city's parks and recreation committee, and the traffic safety committee.

McHugh: He was appointed last year to fill a City Council vacancy. He's also been on the traffic safety committee and planning committee for city's 100-year anniversary, and he's served as liaison to the Scappoose Senior and Community Center. He previously spent three years as vice chair of city's parks and recreation committee.

Miller: Has attended city council meetings and "directly engaged with several city council members concerning issues affecting the city."

Santiago: She previously served on city's budget committee but did not reapply for the position in 2015 because she thought she was moving outside city limits. She now sits on the city's economic development committee, just finished term as chair. As a member of the Scappoose Community Club, she co-organized the most recent Sauerkraut Festival in 2019.

Williamson: He has not had much prior interaction with Scappoose city government.

The city has started planning development of both the Grabhorn property and a trail along South Scappoose Creek. Do you think these projects would be an effective use of local funds (along with grants) and staff time?

Baldwin: "The development of the Grabhorn property adjacent to Veterans Park plays a key role in the quality of life in Scappoose for families and visitors alike. With expanded athletic facilities, our community would be able to host regional/local youth softball, baseball and soccer tournaments. Families, friends and fans would naturally financially support local business while in town during those events.

"This investment would also showcase Scappoose as a wonderful city in which to live and provide quality recreation locally. The ongoing funding and maintenance required for this endeavor would be one of my priorities."

Greisen: "Absolutely. Citizen feedback received at Annual Town Meetings and other community forums, shows that recreation, as well as connectivity between town, are high priorities. Each year when Council and Staff participate in annual goal setting, specific efforts are made to acknowledge these comments. Since my term began four years ago, I am proud to say that parks and recreational development has thrived."

McHugh: "As a City Councilor for Scappoose my priority is livability and a big part of livability is having quality parks and recreational opportunities. When the Grabhorn property became available, I was quick to say, 'go for it.' I knew it was an unusual opportunity to enhance what we offer to our citizens. This park should have something for everyone. However, I'm not sure the City's tax base is large enough to build and maintain a pool. I have recommended that we do a feasibility study to determine affordability. I believe the cost is more fairly distributed by a park district with boundaries similar to the School District's."

Miller: "We certainly need to prioritize projects based on their impact to the citizens of Scappoose. I do believe a city needs strong investment in recreational venues like parks and trails, as these things do positively contribute to a community's livability and help increase home values. That said, I believe infrastructure items, like water, sewer, and roads, must take priority when it comes to how we spend limited tax dollars."

Santiago: "These projects have been in planning stages for several years. According to the September 11th issue of The Spotlight, the plans of development are in 3 stages. The City Staff, current Council have taken steps (studies) to find the best option for the land and cost options. I do believe the goal of this project is for the best for our community. The City is asking the community's input by completing their survey by Nov 9th."

Williamson: "I've just started to look into this project. I do see some positives of this project as in interconnecting some new roads on the west side but I would also like to start seeing us making sure that our existing roads in inner Southeast Scappoose have sidewalks and curbs."

What are the three biggest issues facing the city of Scappoose? What would you do to address those issues?

Baldwin: "1. Highway 30 traffic. Working actively with the ODOT, develop safety measures to control traffic throughout Scappoose. Currently, more than 35,000 vehicles travel through our city daily, and safety of our children and citizens is a priority.

"2. Develop water capacity for the City. As we continue to grow, the need for water will increase for residential, business and industrial uses. This would include drilling new wells and the construction of water delivery systems. Our current storm drain runoff system is nearing capacity. Working to seek State Grants and other funding sources will be paramount in this effort.

"3. Fully implement proceeds from the Fuel Tax initiative passed in the last election. My priorities will be the construction of new sidewalks in adjacent neighborhoods around Grant Watts Elementary School. Our children currently walk to/from school on active roadways and are exposed to extreme danger. Secondly, construct needed ADA sidewalk improvements throughout the City that will directly benefit our Senior Citizens and Families alike."

Greisen: "There are several issues facing Scappoose in the decades to come. Infrastructure, housing, and economic development remain at the top of the list. Infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, water and sewer are currently being addressed through the Fuel Tax funds, in-house maintenance and our sidewalk grant program. The Facility Waste Water Master Plan outlines needed updates for the treatment facility, which are already underway. The Water Master Plan is complete and we are constantly pursuing new clean water sources. The development of and space needed for affordable housing is an ongoing concern. After the completion of our Housing Needs Analysis, the Council amended code language to allow for more flexibility and the invitation of a variety of residential structures within city limits. By focusing on infrastructure and housing development, undoubtedly, economic development has been supported. With adequate housing and infrastructure, we are promoting the establishment of thriving local businesses. In addition, we have created an Urban Renewal District and are providing small business grants with Coronavirus Relief Funds. Branding and marketing Scappoose as a place to live and work continue to be ongoing goals."

McHugh: "Aside from continuing to improve sidewalks and infrastructure, the three biggest issues facing the City are mitigating trains and traffic through town, continuing the development of parks and recreation opportunities, and finding desirable businesses to fill the Columbia Commerce Center. 1. Problems with trains and traffic cause severe traffic congestion and divide out City from east to west. A traffic re-routing plan and overpass are needed. 2. Regarding parks, we must move forward with the development of the Grabhorn property, make needed improvements to the section of the C-Z Trail from West Lane to Chapman Landing and to complete the renovation the 50' Peace Candle so it can once again be the beautiful landmark it was intended to be. 3. Maybe nothing is more important to the City's future than filling our newly developed 300-plus acre Columbia Commerce Center with environmentally friendly businesses that will pay a fair wage."

Miller: "Infrastructure, parks, and traffic. Infrastructure is first because it serves our community's most basic, essential needs. Poor infrastructure limits growth, so we must stay on top of our water supply, sewer capabilities, and provide our citizens with well-maintained streets and sidewalks. Parks is next because I believe they enhance community liability and help grow the appeal of a city - something especially important to Scappoose in its efforts to attract businesses and a qualified workforce. And finally, there's traffic. Highway 30 running through the middle of Scappoose is something that must be addressed, as traffic congestion on the highway increases each year. I also believe we need one or two under or overpasses to ensure emergency responders are not blocked from reaching the other side of the city when a train is passing through."

Santiago: "Scappoose is and will be going through growing pains. Lack of Housing and Traffic Control: Both are work-in-progress issues: The City Staff, Council and supporting committees are working on these issues and I will be happy to be part of that progress. The ability for businesses to support community needs: Supporting current businesses is the first step; providing resources, technical assistance, support by the community and the government. To attract businesses that will keep residents of Scappoose to shop and buy local will need the efforts of the community working together with the City and community partners."

Williamson: "I feel the three biggest issues facing Scappoose at this time is infrastructure, transportation, livability. How do we address them? All three items are interrelated. We definitely need to come up with alternatives to Highway 30, whether using a bypass coming up with commuter rail or some other ideas. In any case, if we do not update our infrastructure in terms of waste management, water, electrical and sidewalks and streets, then we will fall even further behind the curve and I feel that's the number one priority."


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