THOUGH THEIR POLITICS ALIGN IN MANY WAYS, the three candidates for the position of Metro president bring different backgrounds and political instincts to the job. Rex Burkholder, a current member of the Metro Council, cofounded the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, but has been an ardent advocate for more automobile lanes in the design of the Columbia River Crossing. Tom Hughes, a former teacher and mayor of Hillsboro, has positioned himself as the more business-friendly candidate. Bob Stacey, former executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon and former head of the Portland Bureau of Planning, is running as an outsider, attacking not just the proposed scale of the Columbia River Crossing, but also Metro’s freshly minted transportation plan.
On March 8, 2010 these three candidates gathered at Jimmy Mak’s to discuss their candidacies and answer the following questions: How many residents should each of the region’s cities be able to absorb? How many lanes should the Columbia River Crossing, the new I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver, have? How should the region balance funding for cars, public transit, and bicycles? Which stretches of farmland and wildlife habitat will be preserved? For these, and numerous other future-defining debates, Metro serves as our arbiter. And come May 4, we will vote (and should one candidate win a majority, we will elect) a new president to lead this powerful, but still not widely understood, regional government.