Bob's Speech from his October 7th Kickoff

Larry Duyck, one of my strongest supporters, isn’t here tonight. Larry’s a farmer from the Verboort area of Washington County, and I worked with him on the Measure 49 campaign. He had an unavoidable conflict tonight—it’s moose hunting season up in Canada. But I want to acknowledge him and his support, because he has a very simple and understandable reason for endorsing me, and you can help him with it. Larry’s farm is outside Metro. And he says I’m the candidate most likely to keep his farm out of Metro. If his land stays outside Metro, then his farm will also stay outside the urban growth boundary. But because he’s located outside Metro, he can’t vote for me—so he’s going to need your help.

Larry isn’t alone in having a big stake in how Metro plans for our future. In fact, when we voters adopted a home rule charter for Metro in 1992, we declared planning for the future to be Metro’s primary job. It’s this work that makes me want to serve as Metro President.

Metro’s planning program has been in the news a lot lately. The label Metro uses to describe all the complicated stuff under the hood is “Building the Greatest Place.” There’s a lot of talk about the million more people coming to the region, and what it’s going to take to supply all of them with jobs and housing and parks and sewers and streets and schools—so much talk about those million new people and their needs that it starts to sound as if this is a plan to build a great place for all the newcomers. It’s almost as if it’s our job to change our home in order to make room for all the new arrivals.

So if it’s likely that most of those million new people will drive to work, we’d better find $4.2 billion to build a new 12-lane bridge across the Columbia. If those million new folks are likely to want to live in spread-out subdivisions at the edge of the region, we’d better pave over some of the best farmland in the world, or bulldoze the headwaters of our region’s streams, to make room for them. If that kind of sprawling development requires billions of dollars worth of new roads, sewers, schools and transit lines, we’d better raise more tax revenues in addition to the taxes we pay to maintain the services we already have.

But that’s not what I mean when I think about building the greatest place. We know that we already live in the greatest place. Our job—as citizens, as parents, as grandparents—is to keep it that way and make it better, for ourselves, for our kids and grandkids, and for anyone else who wants to live here in accordance with the plans our community has made.

This is my home. I was born here. And for most of the last 35 years I’ve been working and fighting to protect the land and communities of Oregon and this region, by turning growth and development from a potentially destructive force to a creative one. So I look at those one million newcomers as an opportunity, if we make the right choices.

Do we think it improves our quality of life to have community-supported agriculture, weekly farmers’ markets all around the region, and restaurants serving great local foods and beverages? Then we have a choice. We can allow new development to pave over those farm fields we depend on to grow those foods. Or we can permanently protect this close-in farmland. I want new development to contribute to a fund to ensure that permanent protection.

Do we think it improves our quality of life to step out the front door and walk to a coffee shop or a grocery? Then we have a choice. We can let new stores and offices and housing locate in big, single-use, car dependent projects that look as if they were dropped down by some developer from anywhere in America. Or we can make sure new development is focused in well-designed buildings and places like Gresham Station, Lake Oswego’s planned Foothills district, Hillsboro’s Orenco Station, or the new mixed use buildings along Mississippi, Alberta, Broadway or Belmont in Portland.

Do we think that it improves our quality of life if the people who teach our children in school, who respond to emergencies when we call 911, who are starting their work lives just out of school, or are living out their retirement years, can live in dignity in good neighborhoods like the rest of us? Then we have a choice. We can leave housing to the developers who specialize in building houses that are just barely affordable. Or we can insist that new development include some housing that’s affordable to the retiree, the first-time home-buyer, or the young working couple. It works in the Pearl District. It ought to be able to work everywhere in our region.

Do we think it improves our quality of life to extend rail service—and much better bus service—to more of the region, both to serve residents and to help shape new development? Then we have a choice. We can figure out how to raise $7 billion in the next 25 years and use it all up extending light rail only to Milwaukie, Vancouver, Tigard--and the corner of 92nd and Powell. Or we can decide that’s too little, too late, for too much money. We can make our rail investments more cost-effective. And we can extend more service sooner by doing what cities from Curitiba, Brazil to Eugene, Oregon have done, and build modern bus rapid transit lines with quiet electric buses, exclusive lanes, higher speeds and well-designed stations, to also connect Forest Grove, Tualatin, Sherwood, Oregon City, and other parts of our region for a small fraction of the cost per mile of light rail.

We all know about the young people who have moved here, despite the bad economy, because--as they say--if you’re going to be out of work, you can at least be out of work in Portland. Do we think it improves our quality of life to foster job growth in our region, so these newcomers and our own children can find rewarding work? Then we have a choice. We can say it’s not Metro’s job to worry about economic development. Or we can put together a regional team of public and private sector experts to help our communities redevelop the vacant used car lots, big box sites, and empty warehouses in the 217 corridor, along TV Highway, McLoughlin, 82nd—places already served by roads, transit, sewers—and make them ready for new or expanding employers.

Do we think that it would worsen our quality of life to see a 50 percent increase in driving across the Columbia River on I-5, threatening North and Northeast Portland neighborhoods with cut-through traffic, threatening the region with more car-dependent low density sprawl, and threatening the planet with more global warming pollution? Then we have a choice. We can continue to pretend that the emperor has $4.2 billion dollars, and we can just let the departments of transportation continue to spend tens of millions of dollars trying to justify a twelve-lane bridge. Or we can say no to the “Columbia River Crossing,” restart the process, and identify a cheaper, better alternative that won’t build our way into even more congestion.

I want to add jobs where we’ve already built our communities, not just on farm fields at the edge. I want to build less expensive solutions like improved local streets, bike and walking paths, and bus rapid transit, not multi-billion dollar freeway projects. I want to ensure there’s housing for young families in every community, not just in the neighborhoods most distant from jobs. I want to find regional approaches to fund needed public school facilities, whether or not that’s “supposed to be” Metro’s job. I want to restore the region’s rivers and streams, and connect every neighborhood to the region’s growing network of green-spaces.

Finally, I want to put an end to the wasteful, destructive proposal in Metro’s urban reserve process to sacrifice 34,000 acres of our best farmland for subdivisions and shopping centers. I spent three years fighting Measure 37 and passing Measure 49 to prevent the over-development of farm and forestland all around this region. I won’t stand by and watch urban sprawl onto a fifth of Washington County’s farmland wreck an industry and a way of life that the voters of Oregon just saved.

This will not be easy. This job requires a leader who can work with others and with the people of the region--who can reach out to build agreement. I can do that. I did it for Governor Roberts when she terminated the Western Bypass project. I did it for TriMet when we finished the Blue Line to Hillsboro, started the Red line to the Airport, and planned the Interstate line while expanding bus service. I did it when I was Portland’s Planning Director, working on community plans, habitat protection, and bringing together 3000 citizens to guide the debate about density and design. I did it when I was a lawyer in private practice, and when I was chief of staff to Congressman Earl Blumenauer. I am ready to do it at Metro.

But I can’t do it alone. Planning for our future is not a spectator sport. The people of this region have the most at stake in those plans, and we all must be brought into the process. Metro needs to reach out more, not less, to the people of this great region.

As President, I will reach out to the people of Metro. And I ask you to support me and work with me as we protect and strengthen our home in the face of major challenges. Because for our future, we need everyone’s best leadership.

Bob Stacey