By Tom Markgraf of Portland, Oregon. Tom is a candidate for Multnomah County Commission, District 2. You can find out more about Tom on his website, TomMarkgraf.com
I am running for the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners because, more than at any other point in my life, we are at a critical juncture for the qualities we value most in our region: livability, good jobs, the environment, and the health and safety of our citizens.
In a time of economic downturn and crumbling infrastructure, we need the type of leadership that can balance the needs of repairing our streets and our ethical duty to protect our most vulnerable citizens. I am running for the County Commission because I can offer skills and experiences that build coalitions and strike this careful balance.
I care deeply about Multnomah County, and for good cause: it has been my home for nearly my entire life. I was born and raised in Portland, attending Fernwood Elementary (now Beverly Cleary School) and Central Catholic High School. After graduating from Oberlin College I received my master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, where I studied under former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.
After finishing graduate school, I returned home and began my career in public service, working under Don Clark at Central City Concern. I managed the building of Transitions Projects’ Homeless Shelter, working with dedicated individuals like Jean DeMaster. Transition Projects still operates there, housing men and women in a safe, alcohol and drug free environment.
I continued my interest in aiding the mentally ill by serving the community on the board of Mental Health Services West for nearly a decade, during which we started Project Respond to help downtown businesses react humanely and safely to the mentally ill, and worked to teach the City of Portland’s Police Bureau how best to identify and react to situations involving the mentally ill -curriculum that would be as timely, relevant, and necessary again today as it was then.
In addition to my work with Transitions Projects and Mental Health Services West, I also served on the board for Outreach on Burnside, which serves the elderly and mentally ill in Old Town/China Town.
While bringing vital resources to vulnerable citizens is a big part of Multnomah County’s charge, helping people gain access to family wage jobs and economic success is just as important. It’s always hard to help families safe-guard resources, and especially so during an economic downfall. A time-proven way to start turning this crisis around is investing in infrastructure. Infrastructure projects, such as funding for transportation improvements, has always been a good way to create strong jobs while improving efficiency, providing multi-modal transportation options, and strengthening our neighborhoods and community.
Perhaps more than any candidate in the race, I have a strong set of transportation skills and background working on projects right here in Multnomah County. I have worked on building community support for major local projects, such as Interstate Max, Eastside Street Car, Milwaukie Max and Airport Max.
For nearly a decade I was Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s senior advisor on transportation, working to get Oregon’s transportation priorities funded in Congress. I understand the complexities involved in both the local side and the federal side of garnering funding for vital transportation projects. I know what it will take to get the Federal funds needed to rebuild the Sellwood Bridge.
We have a choice among a great field of applicants for this position. While the large candidate pool offers an array of skills and perspectives, I believe that my lifetime of community experience and deep roots in Multnomah County differentiate me from the others.
All of the candidates running for this position will speak about the importance of mental health services, but I would happily put my record up against anybody’s. All of the candidates will talk about transportation, but I have the specific experience necessary to navigate the complexities of the process and put people to work. All of the candidates will talk about economic development, but I have experience working in the private sector, meeting a payroll, and creating jobs that support our economy and environment.
Multnomah County is at a critical point, and I asking for your vote to help me continue serving the public by bringing my passion for the community and relevant experience to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.