Why is Dave Hunt dissing land use policy he voted for?

Carla Axtman

A few weeks ago, the Willamette Women Democrats held an event that included two of the candidates for Clackamas County Chair: Charlotte Lehan and Dave Hunt. Lehan is the current Clackamas County Chair and has been a sitting Clackamas Co Commissioner since 2008. Hunt has been a state legislator since 2003 and is Executive Director of the Columbia River Channel Coalition and the Association of Pacific Ports.

During the Willamette Women Dems event, somehow the issue of land use came to the fore. According to Lake Oswego City Councilor Donna Jordan, who was in attendance, Hunt specifically slammed the new 50 year urban and rural reserves designations for the Metro area, saying, and I believe this is a paraphrase, "setting anything aside for 50 years is ridiculous".

Jordan said that Hunt's remarks gave her pause. "I think this was a process that was hard fought. Both sides tried to find a mix so that there was an understanding for people with property. It's to assure people that they can develop and it's an important landmark for folks." Jordan expressed concern about Hunt's willingness to take campaign contributions from people who want to develop the area around French Prairie.

Kay Hill, another witness to the event noted, "Hunt said that the 50 years wasn't practical. In my mind, he was promoting the agenda of the developers".

The especially strange part about this is that as a legislator, Hunt voted in 2007 for the legislation that created the 50 year urban and rural reserves in the first place. His current objection seems odd in this context.

It also seems odd that he'd open this up again, given the long, arduous and painful process undergone by the counties and Metro.

Hunt has happily taken a good chunk of campaign money from notorious local developer Chris Maletis - one of the people interested in development at French Prairie. Hunt and I have spoken about this before, and he insists that the money doesn't effect his stance on issues.

Color me skeptical.

For Hunt's part, he responded to my inquiry on this issue with the following in email:

As we are currently wrapping up this legislative session, tonight is tight but here are my thoughts on urban/rural reserves. We should work to protect prime farm and forest lands, to locate as much new development as possible within the existing UGB, and to site any growth outside the UGB in areas with easy access to transportation, sewer, water, schools, and other infrastructure. Smart growth happens when we look at the services a community will need and site growth in areas that can accommodate or already have access to these services.

New growth that was sited several years ago in Damascus, for example, does not meet the smart growth test. I also have major concerns about the high level of density being envisioned for areas like the Stafford basin, and believe we should work to create greater internal density (next to existing urbanized areas) rather than greater density along the outer crusts of the UGB (right next to rural areas). Thank you for allowing me to clarify my position on urban/rural reserves. I appreciated our lengthy discussion on this topic last month as well.

Honestly, I don't know how picking at the urban and rural reserves scab services that statement. And I'm having a lot of trouble seeing how someone gets $2500 from Chris Maletis without promising to give away the farm. Literally.

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    I'd like to hear more about this. Rep. Hunt hasn't been bashful about commenting here before, and I'm hoping he weighs in now.

    It's certainly possible that Rep. Hunt opposes a rule that was included in legislation he voted for - because it was a small part of the legislation, or because he's changed his mind.

    As for the Maletis contribution, it's important to note that the Maletis folks have other interests as well - most notably, Maletis Beverage.

    I also think that suggesting a direct quid pro quo without hard evidence is going too far.

    As the late, great Speaker of the California Assembly - Jesse Unruh - once said of the influence of lobbyists and special interests, "If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and then vote against them, you have no business being up here [in the Legislature]."

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    For some reason the interface isn't letting me reply directly to Kari above, so:

    Kari, Unruh's view may mean no more than that many people have no business being in the legislature. :-) Whether that applies to Rep. Hunt I couldn't say.

    There is a different way to read Carla's information than "quid pro quo." As she has documented elsewhere, the Maletis brothers have been pressing heavily all over the place about French Prairie and related principles for some time. The question the substantial donation raises is, does it reflect Chris Maletis having heard what he wants to hear from Dave Hunt? Likewise, does Hunt's new skepticism about the 50 year reserve time horizon reflect Maletis' persuasion?

    However, it may be more aimed at defeating Charlotte Lehan than about Hunt specifically, since as Carla reported previously he also donated $2500 to another person running against Lehan. That still suggests that Maletis thinks Hunt will be friendlier to development interests than Lehan and that people concerned about the reserves should note that apparent judgment, without implying a quid pro quo.

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      This is the most stupid, arrogant, and offensive post I have ever read on BlueOregon.

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      I don't know what Dave said at the Willamette Women Democrats forum and neither does Carla.

      Can we get the videotape? Last time I spoke at the WWD, it was videotaped and broadcast on Clackamas cable access -- and I know they've done it many times since.

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        "For example, I don't recall Carla complaining when the Metolius protection bill got done when Hunt was Speaker..."

        Then you remember incorrectly.

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          Now, that's a much more honest, pragmatic explanation of one's position than the platitudinous "balance between the environment and economic development" excelsior that so often poses as principle.

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        Re: "Hunt will never be a darling of environmental groups because it is absolutely correct that he tries to strike a balance between protecting the environment and economic development."

        Please explain this strange notion of "balance" to me.

        How does one weigh an ecological apple against an 'economic development' orange?

        I emailed Mother Nature about this. She responded that she did not understand the concept of environmental trade-offs. It seems that if one wrecks land but "balances" that with the enrichment it provides developers, the land is still wrecked.

        What is this "balance?"

        I must say, though, that the claim that a state politician is going to sell his votes on such an important matter, for a paltry $2500 campaign donation, strikes me as rather ludicrous. But by the same token, why take the donation in the first place? Is this another permutation of that interesting "balance" theory? E.g., "I have balanced my acceptance of pro-development, anti-small farm campaign donations, with my exercise of sound land use votes."

        Look: Nature knows nothing of trade-offs. Either one votes to protect a particular aspect of the environment, or one votes to harm it. That action retains the same character regardless of whether it provides "economic development" -- which is a euphemism for unsustainable exploitation of finite nature.

        It is this moronic lexicon about "balance" that has made all this so fuzzy and has produced the governments of mush-heads we have today.

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      Thank goodness there are politicians who don't see conservation as good (period) and development as bad (period). Both have to exist, and I think it's perfectly reasonable that a policymaker could agree with a general proposition of conservation, and agree with promoting conservation, while finding its application inappropriate at other times.

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        I do not understand this. Is what you really mean, that at times the correct social course is to develop, while doing so in such manner as to mitigate environmental harm to the degree possible? That, I get. But it sounds as if you are saying that there are times when the ends justify the means, such that mitigation of environmental harm may justifiably be entirely discarded if the economic payoffs are high enough. Which one is it?

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    73% OLCV rating looks pretty fair for a Clackamas County elected official, who also chaired the lege. Of course regarding documentation we have Dave's actual statement, Carla's interpretation of what some attendees recalled of the meeting, and Jonathan's "all the bad stuff" from the once in four times that he voted against them, so there's that.

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      Since Dave's been here and hasn't accused me of misstating or mis-characterizing what he said at the WWD meeting, seems even more solid.

      You were saying?

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        As I'm sure is the case with you, I do not rely on politicians whether allies or opponents, to decide the nature of my own observations.

        To the larger point regarding the environment, responsible use of resources, and the role of elected officials in addressing these issues, I find Dave to be carefully level headed, and to have done his research on the specifics before he jumps. Jerking knees from any POV ring immediate warning bells for me.

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          Ok. I'll bite. How does "responsible use of resources and the role of elected officials in addressing these" jive with voting for a piece of legislation whose fundamental principle is a 50 year set aside for urban & rural reserves--and then completely dissing that very thing a relatively short time later?

          And frankly, the issue of accepting campaign contributions from those who have had a long term gripe with wanting to build a casino on prime value farm land is meaningful in this context too, like it or not.

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      We also don't need good farm land turned in to casinos and major industrial outlets either.

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        Langdon Farms has been a golf course for many years now, and would never go back to being farmland.

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          Well it could, but it probably won't.

          But that's not the point. The point is that taking more high quality/value farmland there to build a casino is a really lousy thing for us to be doing.

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        I favor protecting good farm land, and I am not favorable toward casinos anywhere, but we need to consider what we are already doing while considering alternatives.

        Expansion of the Metro UGB has often meant development on good farm land. That can be more or less destructive, depending on how we do it. Building suburban housing tracts on farmland in an area already short of employment is more destructive than using that same land to provide long-term employment for the people already living in the area.

        Washington County has lots of jobs. People drive there from Multnomah, Clackamas, and Clark County to work. If there is ag land turned to housing in the Metro area, it should be in Washington County. If ag land in Clackamas County is developed, it should produce employment - and I do not mean short term construction jobs.

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          Would like to renew your historical knowledge here. Because Clackamas County had zoned so much of the Damascus area as "exception" land, ie, removed rural protections and allowed what is basically sprawl development, under state law, Metro HAD to bring this land into the UGB before any other lands could be considered. With that devil's choice, we did also include considerable industrial land (promptly eaten up by N. Clackamas Park and School Districts as well as Providence--with concurrence of the Clackamas Cty commission) as well as spending over $1 M to help the new city of Damascus engage its citizens in creating a homegrown plan for its community, consistent with the goals accepted and followed by the rest of the region's 24 cities. The best path to take? maybe not. But it wasn't a "dumb" move, just the only one allowed. The reserves process was pushed by Metro to avoid such no-win choices in the future.

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          Bases now loaded! I mjust say, however, that in my opinion, what happened to Washington County is very sad. But it is a fait accomplis and your focus is very sound based upon reality.

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      Score another base hit for Civiletti.

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      Respectfully, issues involving land use are one of the main things county commissions do. The Chair of a county commission in the metro area has an enormous say in how things are done not only in their county, but in the region with Metro.

      It's vital that we are clear on the vision and policy priorities of the next Chair when it comes to this set of issues.

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          Just to clarify. Carla wrote "issues involving land use are one of the MAIN things county commissions do" (emphasis mine).

          You wrote "Land Use Planning issues are not and should not be the ONLY issues that County Commissions handle" (emphasis yours).

          Carla didn't say that land use is one of the main things that county commissions deal with, not the only thing they deal with.

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    Sorry for the mistakes in spelling - my old fingers aren't too good on small keyboards.

    But you get the idea!

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