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Tualatin council candidates interact with seniors at freewheeling forum

Robert Kellogg, Paul Morrison field four prepared questions, converse with audience.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin City Council candidates Paul Morrison, left, and Robert Kellogg talk about the issues during a forum at the Juanita Pohl Center Tuesday afternoon.Only half of the field of four candidates running for seats on the Tualatin City Council were able to show up for a forum at the Juanita Pohl Center on Tuesday.

Paul Morrison, running for Position 2 on the council, and Robert Kellogg, unopposed for Position 4, fielded a set of four questions prepared by the Tualatin Area Aging Task Force. The task force had more questions prepared, but they ended up setting those aside, as the candidates spent the rest of their time hearing from members of the audience and talking with them about specific concerns.

Susan Noack, who chairs the task force, said Sonya Ambuehl, also running for Position 2, had withdrawn that afternoon due to a family emergency. Councilor Joelle Davis, who is unopposed for re-election to Position 6, was traveling out of the country and unable to attend, Noack said.

Questions for candidates

The first question for Kellogg and Morrison asked them to assess the needs of seniors in the community.

“It's something that's on my mind as I get older,” Morrison said. “But I think seniors need proximity to shopping. They need access to transportation, and I think that's the big one.”

Kellogg said it is important to keep seniors from experiencing social isolation.

“Study after study has shown being out, being active, having friends out in the community is something that will extend your life, and not only in terms of numbers, but in terms of quality,” he said.

Activities for seniors like those provided at the Juanita Pohl Center can assist with socialization and keeping seniors active, Kellogg added.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin City Council candidate Robert Kellogg talks during a forum at the Juanita Pohl Center Tuesday afternoon.The second question asked what Tualatin should be willing to do to spur the construction of affordable housing.

Kellogg said he is not a fan of public-private partnerships, in which governments provide tax abatements or other incentives to get developers to build the projects they want to see. He said he would prefer to look to nonprofit groups for assistance.

“I won't deny that there is an incredible need, not just for housing for seniors, but for low-income housing,” he said. “And that's all throughout the metro region. The problem is that developers won't build it because they can't charge enough rent to make the entire project pencil out to a decent profit.”

By contrast, Morrison said he would like to see the city explore options for affordable housing that include public-private partnerships.

“I think there are some solutions out there, and right now, I don't think Tualatin's doing enough to look at low-income housing,” he said.

The rising cost of living poses a challenge for more than just the elderly, Morrison told the audience of about 15 people, most of them seniors. He said he is hoping that when his own kids are grown and graduate from college, they are able to find places they can afford to live in Tualatin.

The third question asked the candidates if they would make a priority of working with TriMet to make bus line 96, which connects Tualatin to downtown Portland, a daily service. The bus currently runs only during peak commute hours on weekdays.

Both candidates said they want to see more regular service from TriMet in Tualatin.

“TriMet complains all the time about under-ridership, and it's like, well — by design. I mean, I don't know why they want to design it that way,” Morrison said. “But I think we need to apply pressure to them. … By being heard, we can start giving them some alternatives to improving the service here.”

Kellogg said he was “shocked” to learn that the bus does not run on weekends.

“I think TriMet's done a good job of designing the route,” he said. “Now it's just a matter of improving the frequency.”

The fourth prepared question asked candidates if they would make it a priority for the city to adopt a “complete streets” policy, which would require bike lanes and sidewalks to be built as part of new road construction.

Kellogg noted that most types of new streets in Tualatin are being built with bike lanes.

“Our problem isn't the streets that are being built,” he said. “It's the streets that exist.”

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin City Council candidate Paul Morrison talks during a forum at the Juanita Pohl Center Tuesday afternoon.Both candidates agreed that Tualatin should have a formal policy to require complete streets.

“I'm interested in following up on that,” Morrison said. “I think we do need one. I think we should have one.”

Kellogg is the president of the Ibach Citizen Involvement Organization, while Morrison serves as its land use officer. The CIO, one of six such groups for particular residential areas, advocates to the Tualatin City Council for the needs of its community.

“Part of the CIO project is to show the city that there are a whole lot of unmet needs out in our neighborhoods, and that that funding line item (for pedestrian safety projects) needs to increase,” Kellogg said.

Audience engagement

Both of the candidates said they disagreed with the City Council's decision to tear down the building where they met in 2014, when Southwest Seneca Street was extended south of the Tualatin Public Library. The council currently holds its regular meetings in the Juanita Pohl Center.

Kellogg and Morrison both praised the Tualatin Area Aging Task Force for being involved in city issues.

“I think overall, there has been an upsurge in citizen involvement in this community just in the last couple years,” Kellogg said at one point. “And part of that has probably been from decisions the City Council has made where they didn't go out and get public opinion, or if they did, they ignored it.”

Morrison said the task force is “going in the right direction.”

“The one thing about the city that I really like is the city does listen,” Morrison said. “And you may not like the final decision … but we're all getting our voices heard.”

The forum gradually evolved into a back-and-forth between the candidates and the audience — with Noack chiming in occasionally — brainstorming about issues ranging from transportation planning, to activities and entertainment for seniors, to the role of volunteers and community advocates, and beyond.

Eventually, Noack called an end to the event, remarking that at nearly two hours long, it had already gone well over its allotted time.

Tuesday's candidate forum followed a Sept. 28 forum, which also included the major-party candidates for House District 37, organized by the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce. The Tualatin Area Aging Task Force also participated in that forum.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The crowd listens to Tualatin City Council candidates during a forum at the Juanita Pohl Center.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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