Kyle Allen is running for Hillsboro City Council. He’s the incumbent in Ward 2, Position A; his opponents are John Shepherd and William Joseph Fields.
We set out to ask every city council candidate the same five questions. Here’s what Kyle Allen had to say.
Why did you initially get involved with city politics?
I graduated from Eastern Oregon University, intending to teach. I started feeling at that point that education was really underfunded in our state, and I wanted to do something about it. Going in the 2008 election I wanted to make a difference, so I ended up getting a job at Working for America, which is the political arm of AFL-CIL. It’s all of these different labor unions combined together.
I did a lot of canvassing, mainly at the state level…and so I got to learn a lot about the state legislature. That kind of fueled my love of local politics, so I started getting involved in our county party, I met people like Chuck Riley and Aron Carleson.
There were some local issues that I wanted to address. The number one issue for me back then was getting the sidewalk built by Brookwood Elementary. The school was built 60 years ago, and it didn’t have a sidewalk. I thought that was ridiculous…we can do better than that. So I ended up learning that they were updating the 2035 Plan at that point. I learned that sidewalks by schools was a top issue people were wanting us to deal with.
So I was wondering: why aren’t we getting it done? Aron Carleson was term limited, so I went to every single city council meeting for a year and a half before the election. I applied to be on the city Budget Committee, and then ended up running for city council in 2014.
Sidewalks are very expensive, and as we grew as a city we incorporated unincorporated areas that didn’t have those standards. Since the 90s new development requires that developers build the sidewalks. So I get on council, I’m advocating for sidewalks, they release the top ten priorities for the council and sidewalks was not on there. So I made a motion in the meeting to add an 11th priority, to make sidewalks a priority, and it passed. I advocated for it, but the funding mechanisms kept coming in, the costs were going up.
We got the sidewalk built. They haven’t even put the street trees in, but you can go by and see it on Cedar street.
There’s another project that I’d like to see done as well, by WL Henry Elementary School—there’s no sidewalk there right now. It’s the only walk-only school in HSD, and it’s a tight neighborhood, so you have a lot of parents who drop their kids off, and you have kids that ride their bikes against the cars. I feel like it’s unsafe and I would like the city to address it.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing our city right now? What would you do about it?
Housing affordability and homelessness. The economy has improved. Before I was on council the unemployment rate 6.6 percent, but as of this last August it was 3.1 percent. There are several tools we used to bring Caterpillar here, and First Tech Credit Union has their headquarters here in part because of our efforts.
So the economy is doing better, which is excellent. But part of the problem is after the great recession in 2009 banks stopped providing funding to developers for new units. Development dropped and stayed flat. With our city growing in population and no new units coming on board, rent increased. That has contributed to our affordability crisis.
What do you think Hillsboro should be doing in order to offer more affordable housing?
There are a few things we can do. Addressing parking, which we did. Addressing property taxes, which we will. Land banking, which is finding city owned parcels to partner with nonprofits. We just made $450,000 in contributions to housing nonprofits: Habitat for Humanity and Proud Ground. The model is that the nonprofit comes in and purchases the land, they build the home on top of it, the homeowner only has to buy the physical house on top of it. They live in the house for 30 percent less, and if they want to move they can sell the house but not the land.
Recognizing that there are really good nonprofits that know how to do this work, and the city doesn’t need to be the one that has to do everything. We can facilitate, train and guide where appropriate.
Would you prefer to serve on the Finance or Transportation committee? Why?
I sit on the finance committee, and what I like about the finance committee is our ability to make really impactful contributions to nonprofits that do important work in our community. Right now with our community service grants we increased the contributions from $100,000 to $200,000. These grants go out to home plate services for the homeless, or emergency rent assistance through community action. They’re really important, because they help these nonprofits provide services to Hillsboro residents. There are 42 applications this year.
That feels good. I like being able to advocate for increasing the funding for services. I also advocated for community impact grants, which are $120,000 to nonprofits over three years. That went to an organization called Community Hands Up. It’s all a partnership. You get to see these nonprofits and people who work so hard in the community to make Hillsboro a better place to live.
I’ve been on finance committee for four years, and I was also vice-chair of our budget committee. But I would like to sit on transportation, especially as it relates to the bicycle pedestrian capital improvement projects. I have filled in at transportation meetings in the past.
Is there a question I didn’t ask that you wish I did? Answer it!
I wish you asked about our parks. We have really awesome parks, as part of a full service city. My favorite is Nobel Woods, which has these tall standing trees.
And we’ve created new parks. We opened the Orenco Woods Nature Park, right off Cornelius Pass. That’s going to be an excellent community asset long term. Cities doing big projects like that is unheard of.
One of the reasons I want to stay on council is because we’re looking forward to doing things like the Crescent Park Greenway, a 16 mile trail that will go around our entire city.
The thing that I love about parks is they really are there forever. Look at Shute Park, it’s still widely used. To save these space that I know my kids will get to play in someday, that’s really special.