Washington County Commission
Chair Primary Recommendation

May 4, 2022

As is the case for most elections, there is no good choice for Washington County Commission Chair.

I have met both Kathryn Harrington and Beach Pace in person. The latter is warm, charming, and engaging. The former is none of those.

Yesterday, PDX.Vote published my deep dive into the candidates and some of the problems with both. (Notably, PDX.Vote chose not to endorse a candidate for Chair in the Voters' Guide for the May 2022 election.)

Harrington has been accused of behavior that is "hostile and abusive". And, although an independent attorney hired by the county found that Harrington's conduct "rose to disrespectful or unprofessional behavior" the investigator's full report noted that other Commissioners also use "an abrupt, blunt and direct communication style". Would Harrington's behavior have been investigated if she were male and/or identified as conservative and/or moderate?

In fact, Harrington has stated that her progressive policies and organizational changes have resulted in backlash. "I understand that there are people who are opposed to that progress ... but I oppose their efforts to stop that progress."

Pace emphasizes her skills in collaboration, understanding, and listening to all points of view. But she has both said that people approached her asking her to run for Chair and that she was drawn to run because of what she heard from people about Harrington. Not the same thing.

In addition, Pace's endorsements include numerous business organizations such as the Portland Business Alliance; the Washington County, Beaverton, and Tigard Chamber of Commerce; the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland; and Commercial Real Estate Development Association as well as the Washington County Police Officers Association. None of these are endorsements that someone who claims to be progressive should accept or earn.

Harrington's endorsements, on the other hand, include people who identify as progressive -- Washington County Commissioner Nafisa Fai, Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty, and State Senator Kate Lieber among them -- as well as organizations such as Pro-Choice Oregon, Tualatin Valley Firefighters Union, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and Basic Rights Equality. Pace only has five union endorsements compared to Harrington's nine.

For me, the final tipping point was Pace's statement to the League of Women Voters - Washington County Candidate Forum about addressing transportation issues by investing in "some really bold moves, for example, the Westside bypass which was abandoned years ago."

The Westside Bypass was abandoned because it was a poorly-conceived, vague, Republican-supported initiative to build a new freeway (pushed by the then Washington County Planning Commission chair, Richard Vial, a one-term state representative who after losing his reelection campaign has since unsuccessfully run for Secretary of State). The proposed privately-owned, toll-funded highway was to have taken an unspecified route through what is now farmland, diverting traffic from Interstate 5 from south of Portland to Highway 30 in Columbia County, and used eminent domain for private profiteering. (Even Pamplin Media, which couldn't praise Vail's first only term enough, admitted the project should "get shelved".)

Claiming to be concerned about climate change while advocating building new freeways, which do not actually reduce traffic, is the equivalent of pretending not to be racist while voting for Republican candidates.

I will vote for, and recommend anyone who understands that the need to address the Climate Emergency must be the highest priority for any politician, do the same.

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