Saturday, March 25, 2006
By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
March 15, 2006
Cascade Locks Councilor Rob Brostoff believes that his city needs a representative seated at the Hood River County Commission table.
“We are one of two incorporated cities in this county but sometimes there has been an ‘us against them’ feeling that I would like to change,” said Brostoff.
Last week he filed to challenge Barbara Briggs, executive director of United Way, for the District 1 seat. That position is being vacated at the end of the year by Republican Carol York, who has opened a campaign against State Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches.
“I just felt that I could accomplish a lot more for the people in the Gorge at the county level than I could by serving on the city council,” said Brostoff, 63, a retired field engineer.
He believes the good working relationship of Cascade Locks officials with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs could soon pay off for all county citizens. The elected body negotiated for numerous financial returns in exchange for supporting the tribal request to site a casino in the city’s industrial park.
The Warm Springs are currently undergoing a federal review of their proposal to build a 500,000 square foot casino/resort on 25 acres within the city limits. Another 35 acres would be leased from the Port of Cascade Locks for parking.
Brostoff said the tribes have pledged to provide the county with about $355,000 each year and the city and port of Cascade Locks about $682,000 annually for general services. In addition, another $407,000 will be available from lodging taxes to market the area for tourism.
The tribes have agreed to set up a community benefit fund, with the first $100,000 each year going toward Cascade Locks projects. In addition, about $432,000 will be given annually to the city’s fire, police and ambulance services, following $95,000 in startup costs. In addition, Brostoff said the Warm Springs are handing over $345,000 toward a new emergency service building to replace Cascade Locks’ aging fire station.
But the coup de grace, said Brostoff, is that the tribes are willing to pay $20 million for a new freeway interchange. And that will alleviate the safety concerns brought by the at-grade railroad crossing into the 120-acre industrial park. Brostoff expects the interchange to make other properties available for development. He said that will add even more employment opportunities to the 1,700 jobs brought by the casino.
Brostoff expects the rural community of 1,150 residents to become a visitor hub in the Gorge, and vacant store windows to once again fill with merchandise.
“I know that there are people opposed to the casino but they need to understand that this is our best option for jobs,” said Brostoff.
He said the small town has never intended to put all of its eggs in one economic basket. In fact, Brostoff, who specialized in setting up computer networks, has fully supported local infrastructure upgrades to meet high-tech needs.
For example, the city runs its own satellite television and broadband Internet services. And soon, the municipality will offer VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) that provides unlimited long-distance calls via the computer to reduce charges.
“I’ve been an advocate of making Cascade Locks a technology incubator for start-up companies,” said Brostoff.
He looks forward to putting his knowledge of government operations to work for the entire county. Not only has Brostoff served on the Cascade Locks council for six years, he also spent 12 months on the city’s planning commission focusing on growth and land-use issues.
In addition to public service, Brostoff once ran his own pizza parlor in Eugene and learned a lot about the challenges of private enterprise. He has also gained valuable insight into school funding issues by helping the Hood River County School District get a $9 million construction bond levy passed in 2000 and a local option levy for $3 million approved in 2004.
“My experience has given me the ability to find consensus among people and draw them together on a project. I believe that would be very helpful at the county level,” he said.
Brostoff believes that the best way to create more affordable housing opportunities in Hood River County is to set up a public/private partnership. He recently took a residential tour in Portland to learn more about how the government and developers had worked together to meet middle-income housing needs.
Brostoff also worked with other Cascade Locks officials to expand their state-designated Enterprise Zone to bring Cardinal IG into Odell. He said without the startup tax breaks provided by the special zoning to attract economic development opportunities, the county would be minus a major employer.
Brostoff admits that he does not enter his campaign without “baggage.” He pleaded guilty last fall to a DUII charge and was granted the right, because it was his first offense, to enter an alcohol treatment program instead of serving time in jail or paying monetary penalties.
He willingly traveled to Portland for more than two months to fulfill his bargain with the court. But Brostoff said the shame brought by his behavior has reinforced lessons on personal responsibility and accountability. He doesn’t ever plan to be on that learning curve again.
“It was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever gone through. It was humiliating,” said Brostoff. “I’m supposed to show leadership in Cascade Locks and that certainly wasn’t it. I feel that I really let the town down.”
He invites anyone with questions about his campaign platform to (503) 419-6360.