For the spring 2018 primary election, RACC distributed a questionnaire to all candidates running for Portland City Council; Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington County Boards of Commissioners; and Metro Council. Each candidate was asked five questions on March 13 or 14, and given the opportunity to respond by March 30 when this story was first published. RACC will continue to publish responses from candidates even after the deadline has passed.
Here are the responses provided by Ryan Deckert, running for Washington County Chair. All responses are reprinted verbatim from what the candidates sent us.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Washington County?
RD: I support the arts in Washington County every day as a patron, citizen, donor and human being. In the next week, my family will attend two plays – one at the Beaverton Library as part of the Beaverton Civic Theatre’s 2018 season and then Hamilton at Keller Auditorium. Last week, I chaperoned my daughters elementary class to Oregon Children’s Theater rendition of Casius Clay. We are regular attendees to musical concerts, theater and art shows.
One of the reasons I am running for Washington County Chair is to foster a greater sense of place and community in the county. A first order of business is how we design neighborhoods ensuring we have community centers, public spaces, parks and transportation options. Central to a well planned community is ensuring the arts are integrated into all aspects of design providing that richness of creativity, freedom and expression.
RACC: Artists and arts organizations add measurable value to our region’s economy, our education system and our quality of life. Yet there are a number of pressing needs in Washington County that often compete with arts and culture for attention and investment. How would YOU describe the importance of arts and culture in our community, and what should Washington County be doing to support this sector?
RD: I do not view artists and arts organization in competition with human services, libraries, transportation..etc. The arts are integral to a full human experience and public investment often is the only life line to ensure all citizens have access to their full potential not just those who can afford tickets to an exhibit or show. Perhaps the best bumper sticker ever summed this up: art saves lives.
I will reverse Washington County’s regrettable distinction as the lowest per capita supporter of arts organizations among Oregon’s 37 counties. Washington County is the most ethnically diverse county in Oregon, the economic engine of the state and on path to be the most populated county in the state. Part of modernizing the county will be to reverse our outdated track record of ignoring investment in artists and arts organizations as fundamental to a well-rounded community.
One of my first accomplishments as a state senator was to restore arts and music funding to K-12 schools in Oregon.
RACC: Washington County is currently moving forward with development of a $46 million events center at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Do you believe there is a place for the arts in future development of the fairgrounds site?
RD: I believe the arts should be included (or at least considered) in all projects/programs Washington County invests in – including the new events center at the Fairgrounds. I have many questions surrounding the $46 million events center but incorporating the arts will not be one of them. A hallmark of my service will be to change the culture at the county with respect to the centrality of artists and expression in the mission (and daily work) of our county.
RACC: Washington County does not currently have a percent-for-art program. Would you support the development of a program to support more art at public facilities?
RD: I have generally been very supportive of the 1% for arts and am open to incorporating that into projects/programs in Washington County. I am certainly committed to dramatically increasing funding for artists and arts organizations as we modernize Washington County.
RACC: What are some of your other priorities for Washington County that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?
RD: Artists, arts organizations and educators are often the vanguard of expression and defenders of freedom and human rights. Washington County needs to speak more forcefully defending our immigrant community, DACA students and LGBTQ neighbors. All are under threat today. I will use the bully pulpit of Washington County Chair to speak clearly on these issues reassuring threatened citizens that we are a safe, welcoming home removed from the divisive rhetoric and actions we witness in Washington DC.