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County Commission candidates: In their own words

Mark Kujala

Mark Kujala
Friday, May 4, 2018

Age: 47

City: Warrenton

Length of time in region: 47 years

Occupation: Membership Director, Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce; Owner, Skipanon Brand Seafoods Education: Warrenton High School Graduate; Oregon State University, Bachelor of Science

Community involvement: Astoria Regatta Festival Association Co-Admiral 2016, Astoria Regatta Festival Association Admiral’s Aide 2008, Warrenton Sunrise Rotary President 2011-2012, Salmon for All Board of Directors 2002-2004, Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors 2006-2008, Liberty Theatre Board of Directors 2009-2011, Clatsop Community College Foundation Board of Directors 2011-2014, Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival Emcee 2006-2016, Hope House Emcee 2008-present, Warrenton School District Long-Range Facility Task Force, Clatsop Plains Land-Use and Feasibility Study Advisory Committee, ODOT Highway 101/Miles Crossing Transportation Refinement Committee, Clatsop Economic Development Resources Board Member, Clatsop County 4-H Extension Committee

Political/Other experience for the post: Mayor of the City of Warrenton, 2011, 2013-2017; Vice-Chair of the Warrenton City Commission 2006-2010, 2012; Warrenton City Commissioner 2005-2017; Appointed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director, Curt Melcher, to the ODFW Fish Passage Task Force 2017; North Coast Leadership Council Member for The Oregon Community Foundation 2017-present

Top three issues affecting the county: Affordable housing, family-wage jobs, quality of life

How would you approach these three issues?

Affordable housing: There is no ‘silver bullet’ to solve affordable housing shortages. It will take a variety of approaches, and the market ultimately determines housing prices through supply and demand. More inventory will reduce the cost to the consumer.

As Mayor of Warrenton we made incremental changes in zoning and development codes to help promote affordable and workforce housing. Having flexibility in density requirements and conditional use options in commercial zones can assist in creating lower-cost housing construction.

There are also opportunities for public-private partnerships to add both affordable housing and low-income Section 8-eligible housing to the inventory. As Mayor, Warrenton approached the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority about a project on city-owned land next to City Hall. By providing the land at little or no-cost and agreeing to a fixed-cost development agreement with the contractor the total cost of the project would be significantly reduced. At that point the development would be sold to the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority where they would manage the property and access Housing Choice Voucher Program opportunities. I see this model as a method to assist in creating low-income housing.

Recently, the Clatsop County manager proposed the sale of surplus county-owned property on Ridge Road for residential development. The proceeds would be split up amongst the taxing districts, with the county portion being put in a fund to address homeless issues in Clatsop County. I think that was a good proposal, although it was defeated by the current Clatsop County Commission Board. I support the new Housing study being funded by the County and the municipalities, however I believe the solution will be taking small steps to promote housing development in each community and not a broad-sweeping government action.

Family-wage jobs: I am very proud of my efforts as Mayor of Warrenton to create an environment for family-wage job growth. The City of Warrenton worked with existing businesses like Pacific Seafoods, Lektro and Hampton Lumber to help them expand their operations. In the instance of Pacific Seafoods, the City of Warrenton worked with the Governor’s office and the Oregon State Legislature to get them re-built on the Skipanon River. There are opportunities at the Port of Astoria Regional Airport and at the North Coast Business Park for industrial development and more family-wage jobs. The Coast Guard will be adding an additional 170 service members and those are good jobs that bring good families to our area.

Countywide there are industrial jobs that can be added at Tongue Point and the Port of Astoria. Enterprise zones can be useful in attracting investment, but they must be balanced in a similar manner as Urban Renewal Zones so that general fund balances are not sacrificed in favor of tax deferments for businesses. I will bring the same approach I established in Warrenton to the Clatsop County Commission, to create an environment where Clatsop County is “Open for Business”. This relates to an existing businesses’ goals to expand and grow, and to a new business looking to make Clatsop County their home.

Quality-of-Life: Quality-of-life concepts start with the basics: Public safety, education, health care, access to social services, and upgrades to infrastructure. But quality of life really extends to the recreational opportunities, conservation, aesthetics and public right-of-way enhancements, arts and culture, and community pride.

County government does not have the resources to address all these areas in the way they should, nor is it always appropriate. With the basics, the Clatsop County government needs to allocate sufficient funds to public safety and infrastructure. However, as a county commissioner we can support the organizations in Clatsop County that are already affecting positive change in each of these areas. Clatsop Community Action and Helping Hands have been doing great things to address those less fortunate in Clatsop County. Having been involved for two decades in so many of these great community organizations, I know that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. You must give your support to the good volunteers and organizations that are already making a difference in our county.

As your county commissioner, I will look for partnership opportunities to raise the quality-of-life not just for a few folks, but for all of us.

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