Bubenik, Morrison seek job as city's top rep
(This story has been corrected to reflect Paul Morrison's background.)
This year's Tualatin mayor's race will be starkly different in one aspect — it will be the first time Mayor Lou Ogden is not a contender since he first won election in 1995. That's due to term limits voted in by residents in 2016. Still, the city is facing with numerous challenges that include dealing with traffic woes, gearing up for light rail's Southwest Corridor's terminus near Bridgeport Village and preparing for the growth expected to occur in the Basalt Creek area.
Two candidates are hoping to succeed Ogden, Frank Bubenik and Paul Morrison, both current council members. The following are their takes on priorities and issues facing the city.
Frank Bubenik said he is running on a proven track record after having served on the Tualatin City Council for eight years. "I'm super jazzed to make the city be more prosperous," he said.
The owner of a small information technology firm, Bubenik said his priorities include community development, addressing transportation issues and managing growth in Basalt Creek area Chairman of the Public Advisory Board for the Washington County Community Development Block Grant program and also on the Willamette River Water Coalition, Bubenik said his record includes being able to steer block grants for both transportation improvements near Meridian Park Hospital and for fire suppression equipment installed at the Juanita Pohl Senior Center.
In anticipation of the fact that Mayor Lou Ogden is serving his last term, Bubenik began accompanying the mayor to the annual national mayor's conference held in Washington, D.C., two years ago. He admitted it will be difficult for someone to step in and fill Ogden's shoes because the mayor has been "super connected" to local, county and regional bodies and he wants to take over.
Supportive of parks system development charges for newly built businesses — those fees paid by developers to help pay for infrastructure — he said those fees should be fair but they shouldn't be charged at the maximum value. He noted that Tualatin is the only city in the area that does not charge a parks SDC fee to businesses. "To me, I want to make businesses pay their fair share for parks but we don't want to scare them away," he said.
While supportive of the Southwest Corridor light rail route, he has concerns about the possible design of its termination in the Bridgeport Village area, pointing out he doesn't want to see the Village Inn restaurant displaced again as is tentatively planned and has been actively talking to the players involved to make sure the restaurant stays.
Bubenik pointed to the passage of a $20 million traffic bond measure as a step in the right direction, pointing out it fixes roads that in some cases the city doesn't even own including Tualatin-Sherwood Road. The bond measure will add a third eastbound lane along Tualatin-Sherwood Road between Martinazzi Avenue and the I-5 interchange eastbound.
He said neighborhood traffic was the No. 1 concern among residents, along with congestion, according to community surveys. Also important is pedestrian safety, especially around schools and across major streets.
"The bond will not eliminate our congestion issues, but will ease them along with the opening of the 124th extension at the end of the month and the eventual widening of Tualatin-Sherwood Road from Teton to Sherwood in 2022," said Bubenik. He said he believes Tualatin's manufacturing businesses will use the 124th extension, which will soon have allow truck traffic to go all the way to Graham's Ferry Road through Basalt Creek. Meanwhile, he supports having Wilsonville's SMART take over the bus service in Basalt Creek.
Regarding Metro's affordable housing bond, Bubenik said while it won't solve all issues related to it, it will at least put 1,300 affordable housing units on the market in Washington County. In addition, he pointed out that the city pushed for residential development in Basalt Creek, something that Metro ruled against instead earmarking much of the property for industrial use.
Paul Morrison said he's proud of the fact that Tualatin has one of the lowest tax rates in the area. A former coach and stay-at-home dad, Morrison said the election is important because for the first time in 24 years there will be a change in the city's leadership and that one of his priorities is maintaining the city's livability.
"We have to maintain the quality of life Tualatin has," said Morrison, who is a member of Tualatin Together, a group that engages, educates and advocates for Tualatin's youth and families so they can make healthy decisions.
Regarding his run for mayor, Morrison too admits it will be hard to replace outgoing Mayor Lou Ogden.
"Those are big shoes to fill but it will get done," he said, noted that Ogden has been Tualatin's No. 1 cheerleader. "I have the background to be a cheerleader."
One priority Morrison, who has been on the council since January 2017, wants to focus on is coming up with a comprehensive traffic plan, something he said the city can't do all by itself.
Another priority is the city's continued work on updating the city's Parks and Recreation Master Plan, pointing out that Tualatin has some of the best parks and trails in the Portland-metro area. Still, it's also a city that lacks illuminated baseball fields with no lighted fields in the city except those in Community Park.
Meanwhile, Morrison said the city has the lowest SDCs around when it comes to paying for parks and believes it's a bad idea to force businesses to pay parks SDCs, something he called akin to taxation without representation.
Morrison said he prides himself on having an ability to compromise and find solutions to problems. He pointed to the recently passed Tualatin traffic bond measure as an example of how councilors who were across the board on a price tag to approach voters with were able to agree that $20 million was the correct amount.
"If we'd have gone higher I don't think it would have passed," he said.
Regarding Metro's affordable housing bond, Morrison said he's skeptical about the request.
"You're asking some of those who can't afford it, pay for it," said Morrison. "To tax everybody, it just boggles my mind."
He pointed out too he questions what Metro really knows about providing housing. And while supportive of the preferred route for the Southwest Corridor light rail, he too doesn't want to force the Village Inn restaurant to move.
Regarding plans for Basalt Creek, Morrison said despite his best efforts to push for needed residential development in the area, Metro told the city it must use the property it owns as employment lands, something he disagrees with.
Meanwhile, he praised Washington County for a commitment to place timed traffic signals as part of a two to three year plan around county-owned streets. At the same time, he said his goal is to work with Tigard, Wilsonville and Washington County and make Highway 217 at 72nd through Boones Ferry Road, along with Interstate 5, a "Smart Corridor," which essentially would be a "turbo charged" version of the coordinated traffic lights Washington County is already updating.
At the same time, Morrison said he is already involved in informal discussions with Clackamas County, West Linn and Lake Oswego on ways to improve traffic along Borland Road. Morrison said both Washington County's plans to widen Tualatin-Sherwood Road from Teton to Highway 99, along with using the Tualatin transportation bond money should improve that corridor. He too is extremely supportive of the opening of the 124th Avenue extension that hooks up with Basalt Creek Parkway, saying it should improve traffic in that area.