planpdx.org: Interview with Eldon Hout
Eldon Hout is a former Washington County Commissioner, one of the few early suburban supporters of CRAG, the first Chairman of the Metropolitan Service District and staff to the Oregon Legislative Oversight Committee on Land Use and Development legislation in the middle seventies, among other titles.
Date of Interview: June 8, 2000
Interview By: Ernie Bonner
Location: Portland, Oregon
EH = Eldon Hout
EB = Ernie Bonner
EB: This is an interview with Eldon Hout. It's in his office here in Portland, and it's June 8th in the year 2000. So why don't you just start off and tell us a little bit about how you got to Oregon?
EH: Well, I was born here, about a fifth generation Oregonian, as it turns out. Born in Corvallis, raised in Corvallis, graduate of Corvallis High School. I went off to college, to Stanford, at the time when the orchards of Santa Clara County were being tipped over, and construction was rampant. That's probably as formative a visual image as anything that caused me to worry about what was going to happen in Oregon, where I thought I would always come back.
I did eventually come back, and went into teaching at Pacific University in Forest Grove. One day I was out mowing my lawn, and my neighbor, who was the head of the Optometry School, came by and said, "Did you know that we're having an election, and there's a County Commissioner's seat where the incumbent is being challenged by one of your colleagues on the faculty, and the Republican seat is empty?"
And the fellow who was running against the incumbent was a wild man in our Economics Department, a man who could walk down the street and alienate people on both sides without saying much of anything at all. There was concern that he might win the primary because he was very active and had some money, and the incumbent was a great guy, a dairy farmer from down towards Gaston, but not much a campaigner.
And so we had a write-in campaign, and I got the Republican nomination, and my colleague on the faculty got the Democratic nomination, and we had a real interesting election. I beat him pretty badly, mainly because he was the issue of the campaign because he was so objectionable. Anyway, long story short, I went to the County Commission, a part-time position, at a time of, as you know, enormous growth and pressure.
My term in office was the same as Tom McCall's, the same eight years '67 to '75. In fact Tom endorsed me, as did a number of Republicans, Mark Hatfield, Wendell Wyatt, and then Tom and I campaigned together for reelection.
Those were the days when the Washington County legislative delegation had some really giants, good people, solid people. John Mosser, for example, later Chairman of our Commission. Hugh McGilvra, the newspaper editor in Forest Grove, and David Frost, Hillsboro attorney. Tom Hartung in his first go-around at the legislature. So it was a great time.
I stayed on the County Commission for two terms. Had the dubious distinction of running a recall race because of my participation in CRAG and Metro, which was offensive to some of the West County people. It's more complicated than that, it had to do with garbage franchises. A group from Southern California, you may remember, Pollution Solutions, wanted to come in and take over garbage disposal, but they really wanted the collection in Washington County, and we knew who they were, and it was pretty scary.
Herb Hardy, an attorney in Portland who did a lot of pro bono work for CRAG and the Metropolitan Service District, had some interesting political connections, and we knew that they were a group we didn't want to have in. They were behind the recall, in part. The recall election was held, and I beat it about four to one. Most people thought it was unfair.
So particularly during that second term I was the County's representative on both CRAG and the Metropolitan Service District. In fact, the record will show I was the first chairman of the Metropolitan Service District, in its first iteration.
I testified on behalf of Senate Bill 100 as a County Commissioner. One of the few people - I think Commissioner Ken Omlette from Lane County was the only other county person who thought the original notion in Senate Bill 100, that you have councils of governments as the coordinating mechanism, was the way to go. And as we all know, that idea got booted out early in the process because other counties wouldn't accept a regional coordinating body.
EB: Now, this is the first iteration of Senate Bill 100 in '69?
EH: Yeah. Well, but when was it? The '73 legislature.
EB: Oh, so it was the second time it came around? Oh, no, first it's 10, 11, 12 and 13.
EH: Well, Senate Bill 10, yeah. But this was Senate Bill 100, in the early...
EH: Right. In the early hearings, and it was pretty obvious that the counties were not going to buy into regional coordination. The Association of Oregon Counties was not going to buy into that notion, and it revealed the historic problem that we've always had, county governments in the metropolitan area versus county governments in the rest of the state.
So regional coordination got knocked out, and I still think it was a mistake because counties have not done a particularly good job of coordinating with their own cities, and here of course in the metropolitan area you've had, for one reason or another, a continuation of some kind of regional coordination, which I think is the only way to fly. One of the problems of the legislation, or the implementation of the legislation, is the coordination of cities and counties outside of the Portland metropolitan area. It's hard enough here when you've got a structure, but where you have hardly any structure at all, it's not good.
So where are we going? That's how I got into the business.
When the bill was finally passed, part of the legislation included an oversight committee, the Joint Legislative Committee on Land Use, and the first chairman of that...
EB: Why did they do that? That's not a usual procedure, right?
EH: No. I think it was - you'd have to talk to Hector or Ted about that, but I think it was a sop in a way to the people who didn't support the legislation, that somehow the legislature could continue to look in on the operations of the department. It was not quite micro-management, but it was sure something different. And you know, there was some debate that the land use planning goals when they were adopted ought to be ratified by the legislature. That didn't happen, thankfully.
On the other hand, in the legislation today, if there's to be any critical area designation, that has to be approved by the legislature. So I think it was one of those compromise aspects of the process.
EB: To get some of those individuals who were opposed to the legislation to quiet down a little bit and give them a chance to feel like they can affect it.
EH: It's interesting, you know, in retrospect to see some people that were opposed to that legislation that later became important supporters of the program. Stafford Hansell, who was LCDC chairman for a number of years, as a legislator at a crucial time, did not vote for the legislation, didn't think it was good.
EH: Yeah. We used to chide him about that when he was LCDC Chair, but he admitted it, and he admitted that it was necessary later, and in some ways was a strong supporter, almost a savior of the program at a time when it was under some considerable attack.
EB: Early years, right. What was his constituency?
EH: Hermiston. Hermiston farmers. You know, he came from that part of the state. One of the - you know, a man of towering integrity and common sense. Long-time Ways and Means person. Back when the citizen legislator really meant something. You don't see those kind of people around anymore.
Another person who was hardly a supporter of the program in the legislature was Vic Atiyeh, and yet as Governor he was a strong supporter. In fact, he kept the agency pretty much whole in some really bad economic times. He had some problems with the acknowledgement process, that it took too long and we were nitpicking, but basically I think he understood that Oregonians wanted that legislation. While I think he may have eventually voted for it as a Senator, he opposed it throughout the process. But as Governor, he was there. He was strong. We have benefited by having support of all governors, Republican or Democrat, from the beginning, and have been able to pretty much keep some kind of a support level at the legislature, although there are always those who were and are out to damage the program.
EB: Now, who's on the oversight committee? You were what?
EH: I was the Executive Secretary, or whatever it was called. A staff of one and secretarial help, Judy Sugnet, who was a longtime legislative employee. She and I were basically it.
Ted Hallock was the first Chairman; Norma Paulus was the Vice Chairman. And it was composed by the leadership, they appointed the people, and it had a majority of people who were favorable to the program, wanted the program to succeed, which was reflective of the legislature at that point.
EB: Was L.B. Day on it?
EH: Oh, no.
EB: Where was he in all of this?
EH: L.B. was - He was not in the legislature at that time. He was teamstering, and you know, you may remember, and some people will tell you this, that during the last phases of the Senate Bill 100 deliberations, there was a committee formed, and he was the chair of that committee. It included Ward Armstrong from - whichever role he was in at that time, either the County or the AOI role, Gordon Fultz from Association of Oregon Counties and others, Fred VanAtta from the Homebuilders. The cities were represented. It was a group of people that really went off and cut a deal with themselves to support the legislation, and L.B. was the person that caused that to happen. He was in the middle of all of that.
EB: This is completely outside the legislature?
EH: Yes, but it came back and basically had the agreement. But L.B. he was outside of elected politics at that point. I just can't remember where it was, but when the legislation was passed and the commission was formed, he was the first chairman.
EB: L.B. Day was?
EH: L.B. Day was the first Chairman of the Commission, and it was a very interesting dynamic.
Arnold Cogan had been in the governor's offices in a staff role, sort of the state planner role, somewhat ill-defined. I think Arnold would be the first to admit that his was an oddball position; Bob Logan, who was the head of intergovernmental relations -- LGRD, Local Government Relations Division -- then so you had Cogan and Logan, and it was an interesting dynamic about what this program was all about. And then you had L.B. Day, and they're three very different and very strong personalities.
Tom McCall appointed L.B. as LCDC Chairman, and however it worked, and I never quite understood it, Arnold was chosen to be the first Director. And the first task, of course, was to go out and develop the goals, and that started in about February of 19 - oh, it must have been '74. I know I came on board I think it was the 15th of February, 1974.
The first commission meeting was I think an organizational meeting in December of '73, something of that sort, and then we started the long march of three rounds of public hearings around the state to develop the goals.
There was pretty much an agreement early on that the whole emphasis would be on the development of the goals as standards for local planning, rather than looking at critical area designations or activities of statewide significance, the other two parts of the legislation, which as you know were part of the model code stuff that was floating around at that time.
EB: Now, those were eventually removed entirely, right?
EH: Well, they were removed and put back in, and part of them are in and part of them are out now. We could do critical area designation if we thought the legislature would buy anything, but it's just not a part of the arsenal that's ever been used.
Yet during the discussions on Senate Bill 100, that was one of the major problems, I think, is that there was a map on the wall, Hector McPherson had a map on the wall that showed potential areas of critical state concern: the gorge, the coast, parts of Central Oregon...
EB: The Steens.
EH: Yeah, the Steens. On and on and on.
EB: And so people got scared of that?
EH: I think people got real scared because that would have been direct state control, and that was not going to fly. So that was retained in the law, but I don't think anybody was ever very serious about it.
The only one that's serious about it now is Thousand Friends of Oregon, who somehow think that that's a viable mechanism, and I don't think it is politically in the year 2000. It may be sometime. My view is, you know, that 1973 is quite different from 2000. You couldn't pass this legislation today.
EB: Let's talk about that at the end because I want to ask you a few things about the future.
EB: But the impression I get from talking to Arnold about that period is that after the bill was passed, then he - his main job was trying to get enough money to do what was going to be required, and that L.B. Day told him, "You go get it from Logan," and so Arnold - well, I guess eventually some of Logan's budget was brought into Arnold's - but Arnold to this day feels very badly about a sort of a rift in the relationship between he and Logan caused by that event.
EH: Yeah, I think that's right. All three of them really didn't get along with each other. L.B. versus Logan, L.B. and Arnold, after a while, Logan and Arnold. It was not a harmonious situation. Very, as I say, strong personalities.
Yeah, that's right. There was funding from local government, and then we went out - "we," I wasn't with the Department - but the Department went out and got I think some 701 money...
EB: Probably. It would have been a natural for 701.
EH: Yes, and some other federal dollars. There were people whose full-time assignment was trying to scare up money. John Gustafson was an early guy, sort of the political guy, and he - that was one of his jobs. Mr. Outside.
EB: Oh, he was Mr. Outside?
EB: And Arnold was Mr. Inside?
EH: Yeah, Arnold was - and Herb Riley, who also was - at one point we had three deputy directors, but in the beginning, Arnold and Herb Riley were basically focusing on programs, and John Gustafson was focusing on some of the outside activities, getting the money and keeping the political fires from getting too hot.
EB: And he worked with the Commission at that time?
EH: Yeah, he was an employee of the Department working for the Commission. And the Commission took a pretty strong role in those early days.
L.B. saw himself, interestingly, as the lightening rod, and consciously took the flak rather than have the staff take the flak, which I think was a very important decision and insulated the staff to some degree - to a great degree. It eventually caught up with him, as it does with most, you know, hard-charging people, and he didn't survive in the Straub administration, and there was a change made.
But without his leadership and energy and ability to take that and to motivate people with just a killing pace and rounds of hearings all over the state, we would never have gotten there.
EB: So what happened to the oversight committee, then?
EH: Well, I was staff to the oversight committee. I followed the Commission and the Department around on the public hearings, made reports back to the committee, and the committee was fairly active, met about every two or three months and tried to be constructive - and that meant in some ways not getting in the way. Obviously with people like Ted and Norma Paulus, who were strong supporters of the program, it was an attempt not to make the legislature part of the problem. The Department had enough problems of its own without the legislature. So effectively the legislature was neutralized and kept out of it. But I think the oversight committee did its role, which was...
EB: Did it last for just a couple of years until the next session?
EH: Well, it's always there. It's still there.
EB: Oh, it's still there?
EH: Yeah. Its functions have been absorbed by some interim committees on natural resources, or something of that sort, but there were a couple of people after me who were executive secretaries of it. Steve Kafoury was chairman of it for a while.
Now as an entity it is not very important. But you know, legislative interest in the program has not gone away. And we face, in some ways, the same problems that Arnold faced in the beginning, which is the budget adequacy issues.
Subsequent to the initial formation, the Department benefited by - and this is something the oversight committee did - essentially absorbing the coastal program, which at that time was only a regional organization called OCC & DC, Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission. It was local officials and some state officials that were doing planning work on the Coast. Good work. Jim Ross was the Executive Director of that.
But we decided, it must have been in the '75 session, to combine those two, and that brought the federal coastal zone management money into the Department and created one entity. I would say ruefully that now, as coastal program manager, the coastal money has been supporting the Department ever since. Not fully, but more than its share.
Unfortunately, the legislature has seen the federal money as an offset against what the State has to do, and that has really been a problem. In other states' coastal money, that is federal money, is truly matched. In a lot of ways we have phony match: you can demonstrate it, but it doesn't double your capacity.
EB: It's furniture, and it's already existing people and...
EH: Yeah. We're using a lot of other programs to demonstrate match, coastal watershed councils for example. Well, yeah, they're working and they're doing coastal work, but they don't add really to our DLCD capacity to do anything.
EB: Right. Exactly.
EH: So that has been a problem. Oregon really goes on the cheap on these things.
EB: Right. Well, that's what Arnold said, too. The state has never really been willing to step up and pay for any of this stuff really.
Now, from '73 to '75, then, the goals were constructed and adopted by the end of '74, first of '75, something like that. But then you ran into another session, and I think wasn't it in the '75 session that they actually got some money together from somewhere so they could begin giving money...
EH: Yes, well, DLCD (Department of Land Conservation and Development) got a general fund appropriation. And actually as we moved through the '70s this decade is in some ways the high water mark of the budget because a lot of money was made available for grants to local government, to do the plan, to submit it for acknowledgement. And the organization grew significantly in terms of people who were brought on board to do some of the plan review.
Those were fast and furious days, too, trying to get these plans approved - it took ten years to get the plans through, and they were supposed to have been done in one. That's what the statute says. Well, I don't know that anybody believed that, even at the time.
But yeah, the general fund came along, and it's only recently now that we've found other federal sources.
EB: Well, it's getting to be a big deal across the country.
EH: Federal Transportation Department (IST) money. And one of the things that has been very encouraging has been Governor Kitzhaber's decision and admonition to the Transportation Commission, that "you're a growth management agency."
And one of the things that's happened is that we have now a transportation and growth management program in cooperation with ODOT that's provided some resources and provided grant monies, provided quick response to jurisdictions - and that's really the only other infusion of federal money that we've gotten, and that's only been in the last two biennia. But it's very welcome, and it also dramatizes the turn, I think, which started about eight - seven or eight years ago, the turn of the program away from just almost a total fixation on protecting agricultural land to addressing urban issues.
As somebody from an urban area, it always bothered me that the Agency was so transfixed on agricultural land protection. On the other hand, ag. Land protection has been a permanent basis of political support for the program.
EB: It's exactly where they were supported.
EH: Without that support, we would have been in deep trouble. We were able to slip the punch of the forest industry, who never really cared much for the program, by effectively bailing out and saying, "Forest Practices Act, you deal with that. We won't get into any issues other than" - and this is interesting - "helping you a little bit with the invasion of homes into forest land," which the forest industry doesn't like much.
So I think our political base has been solidified in that case. We had a lot of problems with the forest industry in the beginning. They were the money bags - for the two initiative efforts which would have destroyed the program if they had passed.
EB: So the agricultural industry was basically supportive.
EH: Always there. Very much supportive.
EB: And the timber industry against it.
EB: Now, Hector McPherson seems an unlikely person to be - I mean, I don't really know him...
EH: Well, he's very deceptive.
EB: But he seems very quiet, laid-back sort of guy, but he must have been very, very persuasive.
EH: Tenacious and just bright as hell. He comes from a family of people that are - well, his father was a professor of sociology at Oregon State, as well as a dairy farmer. His father sold milk and cream to my grandfather.
EB: Is that right?
EH: Yeah, my grandfather had a creamery in Corvallis. So I know a little bit about Hector's background and the fact that he's just a really bright guy and a very capable guy who was in production agriculture in Linn County and saw what was happening.
He was on the Linn County Planning Commission and saw the encroachment problem. He saw it the way I saw it in Santa Clara County, same thing, and he wanted to retain production agriculture in the Willamette Valley, knowing intellecutually about comparative advantage and a whole lot of other things that we have here - and basically, I think, got elected to the legislature on that issue, and got the job done. And then unfortunately got taken out by another person in that area. Hector is a very bright guy.
EB: When would that have been when he left the legislature?
EH: I think he left the legislature in about - must have been '78. Maybe earlier than that, maybe '76. He was not there long. But Bob Logan helped him a lot on the preparation of Senate Bill 100. There was a real relationship between Local Government Relations Division and Governor McCall and Hector prior to the session.
And you may recall that prior to the '73 session there was some activity called Project Foresight, which...
EB: I wasn't here then.
EH: You weren't here then. It was a slide show, a two-projector slide show that in part was contracted with a high-flown California firm which will remain nameless, but had to be redone by Local Government Relations to make it really work.
And a bunch of us went out and made presentations at the Rotary Clubs and PTA's and anywhere we could speak. I gave that presentation over 30 times as a County Commissioner, and the last slide in the series after it went through a whole lot of pretty pictures about Oregon and what was at stake and all this, the last slide was, "And the target is the 1973 legislature." And it was, you know, a pretty straightforward pitch that we needed statewide land use planning.
EB: Now, this was a product of Logan?
EH: This was a product of Logan, yes, working with Hector, who was doing the work in terms of the run-up to the legislation. But there was a significant P.R. campaign as part of the run-up to the session.
EB: Because now in '69 they passed Senate Bill 10, and that really...
EH: Didn't do anything.
EB: ...didn't require anything.
EH: Well, or if it did, it was so - the State could take over zoning, and Tom threatened to do that over in Lincoln County. Well, that was - you know, it was kind of like the atom bomb; that's all you had, was to drop it, and you needed some other kinds of tools.
So that was - that tool was just too blunt.
EB: So the '71 legislature, people weren't ready yet, right?
EH: Yeah. Yeah.
EB: So everybody decided to make a pitch on the '73 legislature.
EB: Now, another interesting thing about it is Hallock, who was sort of like the other side of that duo of McPherson and Hallock. McPherson was the state senator?
EH: State senator. A Republican.
EB: So Senate Bill 100 originated in the Senate; is that what happened?
EH: That's right.
EB: So that's unusual, isn't it?
EH: Well, not necessarily.
EB: But Hallock is totally different from McPherson? Certainly bright, certainly energetic.
EH: He's bright, energetic and an operator. This was in the days, remember, when the Democrats controlled the Senate, or more likely the coalition forces, conservative Democrats and some Republicans, usually electing a conservative Democrat as president of the Senate.
Ted Hallock was obviously a liberal Democrat and was not always part of the inner circle of the leadership, but he is one of the few people, I think, who has ever served in the Senate whose rhetoric and oratory could change votes on the floor. I've seen it happen when I worked for him. Just in terms of the compelling logic and just general persuasiveness of his rhetoric. And they teamed up, Hector as the - basically the technician, and Ted as the operator, to get it through, as Chairman of the standing committee in the Senate, to get it through the Senate and then to go over onto the House side, which was also in Democratic hands at that time - Nancy Fadeley from Eugene was the chairman of that committee - and one of Ted's - and he will tell you this, one of his major contributions was to go over to the House and say to Nancy, "This bill has got to come out and be passed without anything changed because I don't want it to go to conference committee."
And so it did. But again, there was some - you had Republicans in those days who were truly moderates. Tom McCall, for example. But people like Norma Paulus and others that were - didn't have some sort of social agenda that we see so often now. And it passed in pretty good shape over there.
But Ted was really the tactical person in the Legislature, to get it through the committee on the Senate side, to get it on the floor and get it passed, and then to make sure that it got out of the House. Ted had a deep philosophic commitment to the idea. His view of local government, certainly outside of Portland, and maybe Portland at that time, was a pretty dim view of the capability of people to step up and get what needs to be done, done.
EH: And Ted and Hector are good friends to this day. I think Ted's last - he claims it's his last public appearance - was a sort of testimonial down in the capital to Hector at the 25th anniversary of the legislation. He gave an eloquent little introduction.
EB: I wonder if anybody recorded that?
EH: Yes, I think so. I think we've got a recording of it.
EB: Well, let's see. What about some of the people who were kind of outside of Salem?
EH: There's an interesting story about the goals that you probably need to know.
We had in that 1974 period this attempt to make three rounds of the state, and as I said, they were grueling. Arnold, with some consulting help, put together some really grassroots efforts that brought a lot of people out to talk about what was important in Oregon. He collected an enormous amount of data and information and anecdotes and venting and all sorts of things that happen in one of those meetings. The problem -- it was almost too much information, and probably caused an inability to get from the input to the draft goals. And that was one of the problems that L.B. had with Arnold -- not getting there fast enough.
At a crucial point in the process, L.B. kind of stopped the situation and submitted a memo to the Commission and indicated that we probably are going to do about 14 goals, and let's look at the statutory requirements that we have to meet and write the goals in terms of the statute.
So that information and all that effort was of value, but the difficulty of translating it into a strategy was a real problem. And [L.B. Day] caused the translation to happen. It focused the attention back on, you know, what the outcome was going to be, and now you justify what the outcome is and write it, and then we kicked it in and it got going. But there was a lot of floundering around, and I think that was part of the problem he had with Arnold, -- an inability to get over that hump.
EB: Right. Get out of the process and get to a product.
EH: And that's always a planner's problem.
EB: That's always a planner's problem. I couldn't agree with you more.
EH: But part of the problem I think is that planners work with a lot of decision-makers who don't really know where they want to go, where they want to end up, and it's touchy, and it's going to make somebody mad. I can remember sitting as a County Commissioner, and it was tough because you literally do send people out of the room crying with your decisions sometimes. It is not fun.
Back in those days, before we had comprehensive plans that really made any sense, and that was one of the reasons that I was in favor of S.B. 100, we had endless zoning problems out there. Every week we would say: "Let's get a plan, and let's get some implementing ordinances that are related, and let's get something so I don't have to sit here and do 38 zone changes every week." It just drove me nuts.
EB: Right. Arbitrary rules.
EH: Yeah. And you're kind of making it up as you go along. And that was the reason for my support. As a County Commissioner this is going to make this so much easier. We did it, anyway, in Washington County, as some other jurisdictions did, but boy, it's good for you, too, Forest Grove - or Beaverton or Tigard or Clatskanie or Bend.
And despite the resistance, I think most people now do realize that it was worth the effort.
[End of Side 1]
EB: So I guess the only other thing that we need to maybe talk a little bit more about is: What now? I mean, this of course is not history, this is, "Okay, we know the history..."
EH: Yes, but we're back in the same kind of frenetic growth situation that we were in the metropolitan area in the '70s. I mean, it's worse. It's much worse.
And it's a different society; that's the thing that disturbs me, is the fractionalized, non-civic society that we have in terms of people have got other things to do than show up to public meetings and participate. That's really scary. I don't want to go out at night anymore, but I figure I've done mine, I don't have to do this anymore, but somebody ought to.
EB: Most of whom actually came here because of the results of somebody doing that 30 years ago.
EH: That's right. We have a lot of people - I worry about the Coast because we have a lot of people over there that are hiding out -- who don't want to participate. The major - and you know, the major center of the coastal economy is transfer payments, you know. Retirement income...
EB: Social security?
EH: Things like that. It's close to 50 percent. Fishing and timber harvest and agriculture are on the decline, and you have a year 'round population that's growing, and certainly the summer population is really growing. So you have a very a different economy than it was 20 years ago.
I do think that the interesting thing is that, as I said, we've had continuous governors' support. Governor Kitzhaber's intentions are, you know, absolutely on point. This land use/transportation connection is something that we all knew in the metropolitan area a long time ago, the importance of transportation and land use planning working in harmony. It's a great, great satisfaction to see now the light rail system in place and what I think it's going to do.
I took a ride out to Hillsboro soon after the West Side opened up, and I thought back to 1973 and was reminded "My God, there's acres and acres and acres of undeveloped land right next to the track out here." I'd forgotten about it. All inside the urban growth boundary. And we're seeing some interesting compact development. I hope it keeps up.
You know, you go back in time, and you think, "Boy, that was the right decision, wasn't it?"
EH: The Mt. Hood freeway issue, and the support of Tri-Met.
I remember Neil saying at one of the CRAG meetings when we had to make a judgment on where we were going to start, and we'd start East and go out to Gresham, and I remember he turned to me and said, in a joking way, "Well, I tell you what we'll do, on the West Side, maybe we can improve the zoo railway and extend it out," I thought to myself when West Side Light Rail opened "That's some zoo railway extension that we've got out there now."
It was the right decision to go east, no question about it. I wish we could get Clackamas County squared away on this issue.
EB: Well, going east of course was necessary because we had to produce an alternative to the Mt. Hood freeway, we had to meet that travel demand.
But anyway, I think that the two parts of that that need to go together is the first part was stopping the Mt. Hood freeway, and the thing that made it different from a lot of other communities in the United States who knew you needed to stop freeways, was that we turned in the money, we got the money for the transit. So that had just come along a couple of years before.
EH: And you know, that was a regional decision that the other regional people bought into. I think of Bob Schumaker in Clackamas County, and Bill Young, my colleague out in Washington County. We all said, you know, that's what's going to have to happen here.
EB: Part of that, I think, was that the money that we got from trading it in was pretty much spread not just around the region, but around the state. Some money went downstate in the sense that ODOT didn't have to spend certain money up here, they could spend it down there, and we would use the federal money here.
So it was, I think, a masterful political job among the regional leadership at that time, too, to understand that everybody needs to feel some value from this.
But let me ask you one thing. You mentioned earlier about the critical areas and the areas of statewide significance and so on, and I hear Dick Benner now saying things like, "We need to have more incentives and less regulation," which I couldn't agree with more. But it seems - I wonder why it isn't possible to consider more a case of state investment in critical areas or areas of statewide significance, rather than regulation, and whether or not that might be a way to get into that area without bringing up what you said, which I think is absolutely right, people will fight that tooth and nail.
EH: I think that one of the tools that we don't have, that other states do, is either a series of strong non-profit land acquiring entities, or, as in California, where they have a conservancy, a coastal conservancy, that's funded with state money and can accumulate property, redevelop it and put it back on the tax rolls, for example. You don't always have to take land off the tax rolls, which is the big bugaboo for local government people and the private property folks who say: "There's too much land in public ownership." Well, that doesn't have to be.
One of the things that just scares the hell out of me is the fact that if the plans were built out on the coast, we would see a coast that we would not recognize. And I'm not sure everybody understands that. The plans that we (LCDC) approved are pretty bad in some cases. If the standards had been any lower, this program wouldn't have been worth doing.
But on the other hand, you can only go so far with regulation, and it seems to me that's something - a lot of us have talked about the need for that kind of an entity, and maybe it's a public entity, backed with public resources, so that in key places we could prevent really bad things from happening. And yet people are not - you know, they're not wiped out by some regulation.
EB: An organization with resources and history like Thousand Friends couldn't do that?
EB: They have a different kind of attitude about things.
EH: Well, you know, consciously they are watchdogs, and they are litigators. I think they do have other things in mind, but on the other hand a lot of this has got to be citizen-driven rather than anything like an organization like that, which brings baggage with them. I think they've been an instrument for good, no question in my mind. They've kept our program honest in a lot of ways. But we're going to have to rise above the regulatory regime and look at other techniques, and I think that's one of them.
EB: I couldn't agree more. It's actually the bluntest of all instruments because it basically says you can't do something. It doesn't create a damn thing, it just simply excludes certain things, and so that to me has always been the problem.
EH: And yet we now face possibly this awful compensation initiative that Sizemore's has in his back pocket. Don't know whether they've got enough signatures or not. That would be just as devastating to the state, it seems to me, as this crazy tax deduction thing that would cause us to have a special session of the legislature and quit spending on natural resource agencies.
EH: So that's one solution to it. I don't see the critical areas, direct state regulation, I don't see that as happening, and I don't see the State declaring certain activities to be of critical state concern and therefore direct state regulation. Those things are not going to happen.
EB: Right. The other thing is this sort of overall mantra, what's the whole idea about what we're doing here? And like you said, it was easy, and all the support came originally from the idea that we're trying to protect that farm land, forest land from development, and people could get a sense of that, and they could get religious about it, you know.
When you come step inside the boundary, and you begin saying something about, "Okay, now what do we want in here?" then it just goes up in smoke, and everybody starts arguing with one another. And the thing to me that has started this trend, which I think is partly a result of the combination of land use and transportation, is this emphasis on density, where the - this is sort of like the single word now for what we want inside these boundaries: "density."
Well, it's the last word you want to - it's the worst word. It's so hard to develop any kind of support for that. But we've lost - we don't use the word "livability."
EH: Well, that was what was in my mind when you were saying this. I live in the highest census density tract in Oregon, in Northwest Portland, and it's easier for me to get around either by walking or through mass transit, or even, I hate to say it, getting in the car and driving on the local Portland streets, than in comparison to the - I get into road rage when I have to go out into the suburbs, when I have to go outside of the city. It just drives me nuts, and I can see why people would be driven nuts. But that doesn't have to be the case, it seems to me. We can do better than that.
EB: Well, it seems to me density certainly shouldn't be our number one goal. I mean, it's a means, it's not an end. And so it also is not an end that will get you any support. So it always seemed to me that we need to find some way to consider what we want to do inside the boundaries, more like we're trying to be a more livable place.
EH: Yeah, livable. Smarter.
EB: Yeah. And part of that is maybe being more dense certain places, part of that's being smarter, how we develop inside here. But in the end the goal is, all those are means of getting to someplace that's livable.
EH: Yeah, exactly.
EB: Because we turned that argument to density, for the last ten years we've been fighting like cats and dogs inside these urban areas. I don't think we're getting anywhere. I think we're getting kind of like a bad name for planning.
EH: Well, it's real spotty, there's no question about that. There are some things that make you feel good - but yeah, we solved some of the easier problems.
EB: Yeah, we did. With a lot of money. We don't have the money now, and our problems are all harder.
EH: And because it's harder, I guess, it's more difficult to get the leadership and to articulate the problem. You know, the governor is - I have high regard for his values. I know he supports our program, and yet it's a complicated message that he's trying to deliver, and he's got other things to worry about, too, you now. Tom McCall could emphasize the environment because he didn't have to worry about education issues.
EB: Oh, exactly.
EH: But you know, education and the prison population and this other stuff in some ways is more in the front ranks than land use and natural resource protection. Unfortunately, I think we take it for granted we've got some of our problems solved, and you know, it's an endless process. You've got to be ever vigilant.
EB: So the LCDC, though, as far as you can see, is pretty solid now, pretty well established, we're going to have continued...
EH: It's almost, you know, a talisman. It's an icon. I don't think a repeal measure would pass.
EB: I don't, either.
EH: I don't think that people, though, fully understand what it is that we do, but we know that we don't want to go backwards, and we don't want to have rampant development, and we want to have open space and things of that sort.
So I think institutionally we're probably in pretty good shape. Financial starvation is always the problem, and we have taken on I think some commitments that we really don't have the resources to meet. That's always the way in planning. And you know, there comes a time maybe you have to say, "No, we just really can't do that."
We have to set our priorities more carefully. As I say, we have turned the corner away from agricultural land protection because it's pretty secure. That's probably the great accomplishment -- establishment of urban growth boundaries, so that we're not sprawling out onto the landscape.
People don't get it when they see vacant land, maybe even land in agricultural use, but inside the urban growth boundary, being built on. Nor does it do any good to tell somebody, "Well, we made the decision back in 1973 that that land was going to stay a filbert orchard."
In both cases the person will say:
"You didn't tell me!"
And of course the response is "Well, we did, but you didn't hear us."
And so there's that problem. There's a re-education problem, and the fact that there are so many new people that didn't go through this process. And the fact that people don't want this kind of - as I said, the decline of a civic culture in which people did participate. It's really a deterioration.
EB: Do you think Senate Bill 100 could pass today?
EB: I think you're right.
EH: I don't think it could. I'm sure that it could not. The window was open, we got through it, and it was with a whole lot of luck, good timing.
I don't know that something like this can pass anywhere in the country.
EB: I think that's what we're seeing. It just can't be passed.
EH: And in a way, you know, it's embarrassing when people talk about all the great things that are going on in Portland and on and on and on, but I say, you know, it's not probably not exportable. It's a very different state - a boutique state, in some ways, and what we have here is probably not ready for prime time nationally.
EB: That's right. Well, I put it down into four parts: vision, leadership, federal money, big federal bucks, and luck. Those four. Lots of people can get the vision and the leadership, and they have in a way, but getting the federal resources and being lucky enough to meet windows, like you're saying, of opportunity, that's hard.
EH: Yes, knowing that it's open and running through it just as fast as you can. You know, I think L.B. Day had a real sense of that: we've got to get this thing established because who knows what's going to come up and overshadow it or try to take it away. We had great leadership in the beginning.
EB: That's right. Well, let's see, what else do we need to talk about in terms of...
EH: What's your sense of Metro's 2040 plan?
EB: Too much emphasis on density. Way too much. It's a result of trying to make the transportation system work better, a result of trying to reduce our infrastructure costs -- I mean, there's a logical reason for the density, it's just that it politically isn't very saleable.
EH: It's so complex that people can't identify with it, it seems to me.
EB: And the 2040 plan was, I think, like a lot of plans in Portland, it was based on the regulatory powers of Metro, and more and more I see that these plans are being developed basically as a zoning ordinance, as a tool for limitation, and I don't think that works.
EH: Yeah, it's the old style.
EB: It's a blunt instrument, it's not a very powerful one, and it's deadening. It doesn't lift, it sort of suppresses. So to me we need somebody who carries a different picture around to people for a long time, 'til they can get the idea that planning is really about investment, that's what it's about. It's about public and private investment, and where should you be investing your public and private dollars in order to create this livable community.
EH: Well, you know, that's one thing that the governor's trying to do - and it's one thing that Dick Benner did on assignment for the governor - is an investment strategy, and trying to get the rest of state government to think in larger terms. You've always got the Economic Development Department who goes off on its own doing some sort of bizarre thing that nobody quite understands. But you've got to line up all the state resources, and not work at cross-purposes with the transportation people and the land use people. Easy to say that, really hard to do it.
One of the things that has happened in this administration, and interestingly, it's almost a throwback to the Tom McCall days, is the Community Solutions Team, which brings together the agencies on a regional basis to address some problems. You know in 1973, some of us thought that we ought to do that task through governmental structures, whether they be councils of government or administrative districts or something like that in which you had both the locals and the state agencies looking at things on a regional basis.
It's kind of coming back. I don't know how well it will operate and how accepting the entrenched interests will be, but it's rational.
EB: It certainly is.
EH: And it doesn't have to necessarily be regulatory, if it's problem solving. And if it's strategic, if it does look forward to how things might be and where the State ought to put its money, maybe better things can happen.
For example, you know, LCDC has coordinated with the Transportation Department, and we both agree that we are just not real interested in seeing the city of Warrenton, across the bay from Astoria, string out along 101 anymore, and we're sure not interested in them developing into the wetlands along the 101 and Youngs Bay. And we're together on that, and that's a big improvement.
Now, the main thing is not to have EDD go off and give some money to some development up there that would counter that joint DLCD/ODOT agreement.
EB: Well, you know, when you think back to the 1960s and '70s, the difference between then and now with respect to this transportation land use agreement at the state level is just phenomenal because in those days in the '70s - no way. Nobody could give a damn about it. Transportation people did whatever the hell they damn well pleased.
EH: God, I remember some horrendous discussions that we used to get into with those people, and I remember some of it was pretty primitive.
Were you here when we used to make deals down in the Congress Hotel? [laughs]
I remember one time Glenn Jackson, who was on the board of St. Vincent Hospital - and Barnes Road was a county road - and it was one of those closed door meetings, and he came in and said, "You know, I think it's really important for the County, Washington County, to improve Barnes Road. That ought to be your top priority." And you're looking at, you know, Mr. Transportation.
And you know, we got the message, okay. And I turned to him and said, "Well, you know, that's not impossible, that could be. But you know something? I don't think you want to build a grade crossing at 185th and Sunset. I think that ought to be a full interchange."
And he said, "Okay."
So we got a full interchange at 185th and Sunset, and his project, which was worthy, went up. But you know, that's the way decisions were made then. That was before citizen involvement and open meetings.
We're better off with the citizen involvement and open meetings, but on the other hand, you could move ahead and get some things done in those days.
EB: You definitely could. Yes.
EH: I do recall, though - you remember Ted Spence?
EB: Oh, yeah.
EH: He was one of the guys at Transportation that had a broader view of things.
EB: He definitely did.
EH: I've intersected with him subsequently and talked about those old days. It's interesting to find a few of those people around.
EB: Yes. I think Ted Spence probably contributed as much as any other single individual at a staff level in this region. I think he definitely did. He was always the person that the land use planner types looked to to help with the transportation, and vice versa. I'm sure, you know, Bob Bothman and people like that used to say, "Ted, will you go down here and find out what the hell those people want?"
EH: Yeah. It was, again, lucky that we had somebody like that, that you could talk to. Just lucky.
EB: Well, listen, thanks a million for this interview. This has been very informative.
[End of Interview]