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Candidates Forum Well Attended

By Michelle M. Winner

Candidates Forum Well Attended

Mountain residents packed the house at the Mt. Hood Oregon Resort in Welches for the April 6th Hoodland Nonpartisan Candidate Forum, the first event in the run-up to the Clackamas County races in the May 21 Primary Election. One-hundred percent of the thirteen incumbents and challengers for Clackamas County Commissioner Positions 1 (chair), 3, 4, and Sheriff of Clackamas County were in attendance. You can access the list of candidates at

In the unincorporated Mt Hood area of Clackamas County, the Commission is the governing body, and the Clackamas County Sheriff is the law enforcement entity. With a mix of tourists, recreational users, full-time residents, and businesses that cater to them, these communities have unique needs and concerns. While many in the community perceive tourism and recreation to take precedence over residents’ rights, locals can feel ignored by the Commissioners and underserved by the Sheriff’s office.

Doug Saldivar, Mount Hood Livability Coalition (MHLC) and Hoodland Community Planning Organization (HCPO) board member thought an in-person event for the community would allow the candidates to listen to mountain issues and see residents unify as a voting block. “My inspiration was the success of previous forums. Democracy will die if all we do is turn on our favorite news show and only hear one side of the issue. To live and prosper, Democracy needs all of us to get together with our neighbors and listen to both sides, ask questions, talk to each other, and only then decide how to vote,” he said.

Doug, a community activist, knew the forum had to be supported by the community. He asked the board of the MHLC to organize and financially support the forum and arranged with Chris Skipper, Mt. Hood Oregon Resort’s general manager, to provide the Cascade Ballroom at cost. Chris included the stage, sound system, water station, and coffee as a gift to the community. The HCPO became a co-sponsor, offering funds, pre-event email outreach, help with event posters, and staff a table featuring their current zoning work, community meetings and an upcoming fire prevention project workshop. Doug booked the date and invited the candidates. They started replying immediately to attend.

Peter Himes, MHLC president, asked Welches resident and fellow mountain enthusiast Mary Bentson, an experienced college educator, to moderate the forum. The League of Women Voters of Clackamas County committed to providing nonpartisan forum advice, an LWV voter registration table, volunteers, and an official timekeeper and flagger for candidate statements and responses. Volunteers from the Hoodland Women’s Club agreed to staff a table with info for their community outreach programs.

Peter asked Myke and Ron Jagow of “Neighborhood Missions” if he could purchase their famous chocolate chip cookies for the event to support their work. Myke and Ron baked over 100 cookies in their commercial kitchen and graciously donated them. “We like to support groups working to better the community,” Myke said.

The forum followed a structured format. Moderator Mary Bentson introduced all thirteen candidates, each presenting an opening statement. The audience was encouraged to participate by submitting questions on cards collected by the LWV; the cards were sorted according to subject matter by the MHLC team. The moderator posed these questions to the candidates in a series of rounds. The program concluded with each candidate delivering a brief closing statement, allowing them to comment on an issue.

After the program, question facilitators Doug Saldivar and Matt Bromley of the MHLC commented, “Eighty to ninety percent of the audience questions had to do with two topics. Sheriff issues include deputy staffing and speeders, STR (short-term rental) density limits, and continuing non-compliance with the STR program regulations. Other questions were about the Firewise (fire prevention) programs, the Dorman Center property (for a new firehouse), homeowner rights, squatters, the homeless and strategies for dealing with them, and freedoms - like keeping censorship out of schools and libraries and support for LGBTQ+ in the community, mental health programs, and the closure of the only health care office.” Responses by candidates varied as might be expected - incumbents defended their programs, and challengers were on the offense. Some had no idea what the questions referred to. One candidate took home the entire set of question cards to study the mountain issues in depth.

Residents had time to mingle with the candidates and ask them questions after the program. Casual comments from residents, sponsors, volunteers and candidates were optimistic about their experience at the forum. Many were surprised that all the candidates attended.

Lori Neely, a volunteer with the HWC, commented, “The forum gave us incredible insight into the candidates. I learned so much and can now make an informed decision.” Volunteers from the League of Women Voters of Clackamas County commented informally that the Mount Hood Livability Coalition ran the forum professionally.

Co-Sponsor Hoodland CPO Treasurer Pat Erdenberger said, “The CPO Board was so pleased to see the sizable turnout. We met a lot of people new to us, and several candidates stopped by our table to ask what we saw as the big issues in this area. In answer to those questions, we felt that according to what we hear from members who attend (HCPO) meetings - Short Term Rental regulation enforcement, law enforcement presence in the area, and the stability of wireless communication during emergencies were of the utmost importance to many. All three concerns show the importance of feeling safe in our community.”

MHLC’s Peter Himes summarized the forum: “Outstanding, one hundred percent attendance by the candidates and a large turnout of the Hoodland Community. We set up chairs for one hundred and had to set up more. The Forum received high praise on Next Door, including numerous people wishing they had attended.”

Vote in the Primary on May 21. The LWV reminds you that you can register to vote, update your registration, obtain an absentee ballot for traveling on dates near the election, and track your ballot via three websites: the Oregon Secretary of State Elections website, the Clackamas County website, and League of Women Voters’ free Vote411 services at . Here you’ll find some recorded candidate forums, interviews conducted by LWV members for all Clackamas County races and the LWV Voter Guides- also available at your local library.

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