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The Spokesman and Chamber host Wilsonville City Council candidate forum online

SCREENSHOT - The candidate forum took place virtually.

Wilsonville City Council candidates discussed the election and shared ideas for how to make Wilsonville a better place during a virtual forum hosted by the Wilsonville Spokesman and Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, Oct. 6.

The candidates had one minute apiece to answer questions on topics ranging from campaign funding to the Aurora Airport land-use saga and amplifying underrepresented voices.

The first question of the evening related to how candidates would inspire youth to engage in local politics. Council candidate Imran Haider harkened back to his time on Model United Nations in high school and thought that the council should designate a high school student to be involved in council meetings.

"Hopefully that student will have the pulse of the social circles and other students and people involved in the education system in Wilsonville to get better inside information for us," he said.

Council candidate John Budiao, meanwhile, mentioned the work he's already done leading debate and youth sports teams, as well as Scout troops.

"I encourage all my Scouts that their job as a citizen is to vote, serve in juries, get involved," he said.

For her part, mayoral candidate Julie Fitzgerald said she would engage with high school and middle school administrators while also collaborating with Scouts, 4-H and other youth groups to foster engagement.

Next, candidates were asked to explain their campaign contributions and ties to businesses or political action committees. This election has been flooded with significantly more money than its predecessors, with mayoral candidate Ben West receiving a large sum of money from Aurora Airport business interests and Budiao and Haider also benefiting from them.

Council candidate Kristin Akervall, who has received mostly small donations, said she chose not to accept money from special interest political action committees (PACs).

"I would never want my campaign finance to be seen as influencing my independence or my judgment in any way," she said. "I really focused on individual donors and small donations. I believe not everyone can give a $500 donation for a campaign. A campaign shouldn't just be for the wealthy."

West, for his part, said he was proud of the support he's received from a variety of sources including people who care about local jobs.

The candidates then discussed the struggles of the business community during the COVID-19 pandemic and the policies City Council should promote to help them recover.

Fitzgerald mentioned that mitigating the disease itself would go a long way toward that effort. She also said she would lobby for local businesses to receive assistance, as well as working with the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce, the city's economic development department and citizens "to listen to them and find ways we can take all of our resources to maximize their opportunities to succeed."

Later in the evening she said: "I'd like to talk more with business and find ways we can expedite processes for them especially in the years ahead."

After that, candidates were asked about how they would foster diversity, equity and inclusion in Wilsonville.

Council candidate Joann Linville said she was one of the first councilors to bring up the idea of forming a listening session to hear the voices of minority community members.

"It's a safety issue. It's a quality of life issue for citizens who live in this community who (have) brown skin and black skin, particularly. They are a minority in our community, and they need to have a place here where they feel safe and live and prosper," she said.

West, who is gay and raises a Black child, said his family is proof that the city is a welcoming place. He said he wanted to promote these values moving forward as well as encourage a diversity of thought locally.

"As your mayor, this is what I'll promote: that everybody is welcome, that they have a safe place to live, that they have the dignity of quality housing, and that we welcome everybody regardless of their religious background, their creed, or whatever their immutable traits are," he said.

Akervall noted that she was the only councilor to attend the multicity equity summit last year and said she was proud of the council's resolution declaring Wilsonville as an inclusive city.

The candidates then discussed the ongoing land-use disputes at the Aurora Airport. Budiao said he would volunteer to serve as the council liaison to the airport and that he supports the proposed 1,000-foot runway extension project that the current City Council has concerns about.

"I view Wilsonville's role (in the safety and development of the airport) as a supporting role," he said.

Linville, however, said she doesn't believe the airport is unsafe for pilots (one goal of the runway extension is to improve safety) and that the council has a responsibility to listen to residents who have concerns about airport development (this may include plane noise and environmental effects).

Also, all six council candidates said they were against current proposals for tolling on I-5 and I-205. Haider, for one, mentioned the hazards associated with drivers trying to avoid tolling, such as cars traveling on back roads and through populated towns, and said he wasn't sure if he would ever support the policy.

To watch the event in its entirety, visit youtube.com/watch?v=dnVU8_fYGew.


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