We set out to ask every city council candidate the same five questions. Here’s what John Shepherd had to say.
Why do you want to get involved with city politics?
It’s funny. Politics, I really am not a politics guy. I don’t even like office politics.
I think of politics as sort of like a popularity contest, where you’re going to try to go toward views that you might not hold personally but you want to please the crowd. So when I was looking at City Council, I thought non-partisan, working together to help the city, what’s wrong with that?
So my jumping in was my result of my kids being about done with college, we have an empty nest, we have time, I thought I’d really like to try that out. I jumped into this year’s election to get a handle on what the whole process is about, right off the bat I’ve learned about so much. You need to be working on your endorsements, well in advance. There’s a lot of groundwork that you lay ahead of the game. And I’ve also done it just to meet the people in our government. It’s been a real educational process.
I really like everyone on our council, our mayor, the way our city is run, I like that we have a city manager. It just seems to be a city that really works, it really works well. People in the government work well together. That’s just my view.
I’ve been here long enough that I’ve watched Orenco come in, the Streets of Tanasbourne, I love all of these things. We really bought our house because it was in one of the very few places in town that had sidewalks all around he neighborhood. It was kind of a big thing, and now so much of the city has become that.
What the city is all about is a place to live, a place to work, and a place to raise a family. The city is really in the background providing the services to make that possible, to make life easy and enjoyable.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing our city right now? What would you do about it?
It’s kinda funny. The city really doesn’t have a problem, so far as I can see, but it seems like we’re on the cusp of creating some. It’s funny how, as a buzz word, right now, homes for homeless and affordable housing are two linked hot topics right now. I look at those as kinda something you want to be careful with, you don’t want to just run down the street…..run toward that goal like we do with every other problem.
Think of water. We see the problem, it’s out there, and it’s being addressed. The affordable housing problem we seem to be moving toward a solution on that the same way we would address water. The problem with that, though, is that it’s a problem without any boundary to it. If the city says hey, we have either free housing or reduced housing, come on into Hillsboro from wherever you are, we will handle it, we will provide for it, we know that it doesn’t work. We know from an economic standpoint that we can’t keep taxing the Hillsboro base, because eventually everyone will be tapped dry.
If you raise property taxes that will contribute to the problem of affordable housing. So it’s creating a problem when it’s trying to solve it.
This is more of a…hey, we have a checkbook balance here, more of balance, we can do some sensible things, but we can’t let flag waving and planting undo the whole city. Right now we have a tax rate that is lower than the national average, and it does seem affordable. We do have the hit coming that is the increase in water rates for the next several years. We’re already being faced with some higher prices just as a result of living here, so I just don’t want to be careful that we don’t start bumping up property taxes and bond measures…we’re not going to be solving a problem, all we’re going to be saying is “if you build it they will come.” I think it needs to be a carefully addressed.
Having said that, the current policies pursued by the city all sound great. I’m looking at this in the long range. Those policies are good things, they can be put in place to help address this, and I like things that are incentives to having private investment who wants to get involved. I like the things that can address the problem and can help get that impact those who are actively working at trying to raise things for families.
Would you prefer to serve on the Finance or Transportation committee? Why?
I am looking at some committees. I would probably like transportation, because I’m not a finance major or anything like that. I don’t have an accounting mind. Transportation is one of those logistical things, it’s a living working problem, and it’s going to have a big future as we continue to grow and our roads are restricted. It’s going to take some, if not outright new construction, then something with timing of lights, the creative approaches we can take to alleviating some of the bottle neck.
Living here, kids have gone from cradle to off to college, and in all that time we have gone to all the fairs and the 4H displays and so on, love the livestock and everything that you see there, but also so much of the u-pick things in the area and the farmer’s market. It’s so great to have kind of the farming aspects of life.
Years ago, I don’t know what it was called, but there was this pioneer day thing that went on on the fairgrounds. They’d have real campgrounds in front of these, all kinds of people dressed up in period costumes, and they were all doing certain crafts and they would talk to you about what it’s about. They were passing on the lore, and it was incredible. I learned so much from that, and I always thought about that, wouldn’t it be great if we brought those things into either more of the city parks or centrally and publish the date.
We should pass on the knowledge and skill of jam-making and wood craftsmanship, I thought that would be fun for boys. Would like to see more programs that connect the city with its history.
Is there a question I didn’t ask that you wish I did? Answer it!
What do you think the City Could do to improve life and not have it be something that raises taxes? I see the city having a unique position of leadership and visibility. It could serve as the conductor of the symphony, the symphony being all of us here in the city. The City Council and mayor have this ability, and I’m thinking what could they do to help. Mayor Steve Callaway recently declared October domestic abuse prevention month, and that’s a way of doing that very thing.
In addition to that, in a similar way, the city could address things for our senior citizens, who need help. Someone could look in on them or provide a ride. A lot of that has fallen by the way side since the old days, when milk and mail would go door to door, all these points of contact that would happen throughout the day and the week. There would be a way of letting neighbors who were next door be like oh i haven’t seen Mr. Johnson lately, is he okay? He hasn’t picked up his paper lately.
So maybe we could do that together. So instead of hiring a person to do this, residents can do this ourselves, we just need to know how to go about it or what to do. There’s always going to be those people who will step up and say they’d love to be that person, who goes door to door and sees who might need someone to check in on them. You will always have those kind of people, to do that part of it. Collectively, we all have a role that we know we could play, it’s just a question of who will put the thing together and let us know when we can do what we can do.
The city has a unique position that can be the one that can get the attention. Like this domestic abuse thing, churches can address that too but Callaway said he wanted to make it an awareness, which is great. I think the city should do that in other areas.
It’s not about throwing money at a problem, it’s about providing leadership, it lets people see what they can do. It’s a maybe, you don’t know, but it’s worth a shot.