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 Lynn Peterson, running for Metro Council President. All responses are reprinted verbatim from what the candidates sent us.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in the Portland metro region?
LP: I have been a big supporter of the arts in my elected official capacity for Lake Oswego and Clackamas County. In these positions I worked to set aside money for major art projects, and I understand that the creative sector is an important component of our economy.
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 our communities 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 Metro be doing to support this sector?
LP: Metro’s role is to think about the bigger picture, invest in the right systems and infrastructure, and help provide options for our residents to lead healthy and productive lives. This is as true for the arts as it is for transportation, housing, or parks. The arts bring us together throughout the region, both in local communities and at our major venues, to share experiences, connect with each other and the world, and challenge ourselves and our assumptions. I do not see this as a zero sum equation between competing needs. I have spent my entire career building complete communities, which include a good job and affordable living, a clean environment and connection to nature, and vibrant communities that feed the spirit. The arts are part of a complete community.
That’s why I will be pleased to lead the agency that is responsible for the Portland 5 venues in downtown Portland. These gathering points anchor our downtown, contribute to our regional economy, attract tourism, and support our local artists. The Portland 5 facilities are all well run, but we need a regional conversation about how to invest in them for the future.
Recently, Metro has launched the Placemaking Grant program, bringing artists into the mix as part of our regional planning and development work. I love seeing these projects as we create a future with local communities in places like the Jade District and downtown Oregon City. These grants are a great resource to support the local economy, and an important way to support culturally specific art and communities. This is a part of a larger affordability issue, which is a cornerstone of the work I would like to carry out at Metro.
RACC: The region’s affordability is a serious concern for everyone in our community. What are your plans for making housing and creative spaces more affordable for artists, nonprofit arts organizations and arts-related businesses?
LP: Artists and creative ventures are suffering from some of the same issues as homeowners, renters, and local businesses. Our region has not prepared sufficient land for development, and prices everywhere have gone up. We have plenty of available land for all of these needs, but it is not located in complete communities with access to transit, commerce, and core services. This is especially important for artists and arts organizations that need to operate from within communities. We can do better.
As Metro President, I will pursue plans for land acquisition that allow local jurisdictions to write down value for affordable housing, local business, and the arts–especially close to transit access. Metro has considerable experience land banking for natural areas, and can apply this experience to housing and development needs and in transit oriented development, the single most equitable form of transit/affordable housing provision. I support Metro’s current plans for a housing bond measure, and would link further investments to future transportation investments. We also can work with market-based institutions and foundations to bring new capital to invest in affordable options.
Metro should also be working to avoid this type of crisis in the future by better establishing and forecasting community needs for every jurisdiction within Metro by housing types based on different economic scenarios. We need to recognize the different types of housing at all levels of income that our region needs. Additionally, there is a need for low-income stabilization so fewer people fall into homelessness.
RACC: How can RACC and Metro do a better job of providing arts experiences for underrepresented populations, including rural communities, people of color, people with disabilities and underserved neighborhoods?
LP: One of Metro’s most successful initiatives is the Nature in Neighborhoods grant program, run through the Parks and Nature department and supported by voter-approved measures. These grants go out to community groups to connect people to nature, with a specific focus on equity outcomes. I believe we can better integrate the arts into these efforts, both in terms of capital investments and programs in our natural areas. I also think we can replicate this model in housing, solid waste, and transportation, integrating art with these strategies to build complete communities throughout our region.
We also need to do a better job communicating our vision for the future to new generations of people in the region, both those growing up in our schools and neighborhoods, and those arriving from other states and countries. We need to partner with local organizations to understand today’s issues and challenges, and connect them with the enduring values of this region. There is a limit to what can be done with policy papers and powerpoint. We need to partner with RACC and our creative community to find new and exciting ways to imagine our future.
My commitment to communities across this region that do not feel like they have a voice is to actually provide a seat at the table. This will occur in different ways depending on the type of decision and the community. These communities should feel more connected through time as Metro works to hire a more diverse workforce that will have input on ways to be effective with different populations. Metro should also work to diversify procurement and minority contracting goals.
RACC: What are some of your other priorities for Metro that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?
LP: Our region is growing by some 90 people per day, with lots of resulting challenges for housing, transportation, and economic opportunity. I believe that we need to make major investments along our regional lifelines–e.g. Powell, TV Highway, Barbur Boulevard–to create the complete neighborhoods we need. We can transform these places into centers for the arts, business, and vibrant communities.
We have worked hard to make this region a great place to live, and we didn’t do it so that it could become a gated community for the privileged. Now is the time to make major investments so that there is room for all kinds of people. We need to reduce congestion and provide transportation options. We need all types of housing. Everyone should have safe sidewalks and access to nature. I invite RACC and our region’s artists to help me imagine and convey what this kind of future will look like and how it will feel for the people who live here.