Candidates John Fredrick, Rod Runyon and Brian Stevens, who are seeking the city council post being vacated by Taner Elliot, provided the written answers to a series of questions posed by the Chronicle.
The three candidates for the at-large position spoke about what they see as key issues facing the city and how they feel Google funds should be distributed.
On challenges facing the city, Runyon, an outgoing Wasco County commissioner who previously worked in financial services and communications, highlighted funding replacement of the 100-plus-year-old wooden Dog River water pipeline. “If the current request fails then redirecting funding efforts and putting that plan together quickly is key.”
He also listed attainable housing needs; zoning and density discussions; an infrastructure review and redesign, if necessary; and education, which “affects all facets of a community.
Stevens listed housing, urban growth boundaries, homelessness, needing new schools, veteran services, and job creation as key issues.
Fredrick, who owns a janitorial and property management service, cited the “divide between the haves and have nots,” saying good paying manufacturing jobs need to be brought in. He said tourism is important but its jobs tend to pay less with few or no benefits.
“Balance is important,” he said.
He also wants to address what the city’s identity will be, and was happy The Dalles Main Street was having that discussion.
He wants to heal the community from the past and have it come together around a common goal.
He said homelessness and associated crime are issues and police must have the needed tools to keep the city safe.
He also wants to address affordable housing and the definition of “affordable.”
Government can’t expect to raise taxes and fees and not have those costs passed on to renters, Fredrick said. “The proposals brought to the Urban Renewal Board all show the cost of building new downtown housing in small communities like ours do not pencil out between cost and return on the investment without government tax breaks or incentives.”
Asked if they would be advancing any issues to the city council for action, Runyon said leadership involves being unafraid to ask hard questions on both sides of an issue.
He’s seen projects completed and others proposed and approved that are still waiting. “I do plan to review those areas and others and take on roles where my outlook and knowledge can be beneficial. My experience on attainable housing issues certainly will be an area of interest.”
Fredrick said he was not running on an agenda other than to “build on the success of the past six years” and continue the work of the current council and mayor.
Stevens said he was coming in with no preconceived ideas or personal agendas.
He said doing so would mean not being open to others’ input and information, and could lead to accusations of being part of the “old boys club.”
Stevens stressed he does not have personal relationships with the mayor or current council, and didn’t grow up with them, go to school with them or work a job with them.
“I will be able to come into this position with an open mind and without bias,” he said.
The candidates were asked what they thought about how payments to the city and county from Google as part of a tax abatement program are distributed.
Currently, the payments are distributed by the city and county to various entities. Critics want the funding distributed like normal taxes, with each taxing entity getting its prorated share.
Fredrick said, “First off, I do not think the world’s second largest, a $200 billion company, should be getting any type of tax breaks.
“If they were paying their fair share this would not even be a question. I believe Google is taking advantage of the Wasco County taxpayers. I would oppose any extension of those breaks or any new development tax breaks for Google.
“With that said, I fully understand the intent of enterprise zones by our state Legislature. I also understand why the deals have been made by both our city and county. I have no issues with the current distribution format.”
The city and county are following state law “and distributing the money in the best interest of all the taxpayers.”
He said the issue is an example of his concern about local governments and special interests in the city “not looking at the bigger picture but only their needs and interests.”
Stevens said of Google funds, “Google doesn’t get the credit it deserves for how much they actually give to our community. However, when it comes to the management of the money they do give, that is something that we as a council need to review and discuss and then get the community’s involvement and input before making any decision.”
Runyon said he was open to a “positive factual discussion and if it is time to re-direct and pursue that path then do so. In the past not having the pie divided into many small pieces has allowed several major projects to be funded and completed” because large lump sums were available.
“Understandably times and leaders change and each area wants to feather the nest. The reality is that there are only so many opportunities to fund projects that make a difference for the overall good of our community. We do need to continue the discussion.”