Lynn Peterson was sworn in as the agency’s third elected president today, marking a return to the agency where she got her first planning job 25 years ago.
Peterson was joined by new councilors Juan Carlos Gonzalez and Christine Lewis, returning Councilor Shirley Craddick and returning Auditor Brian Evans in taking the oath of office at the Winningstad Theater at Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.
Peterson joined Metro in 1994 as an entry-level planner. She later served as Clackamas County Chair and as the head of the Washington State Department of Transportation before moving back to Portland and running for Metro Council President.
In her inauguration speech, Peterson laid out a vision of community development and improved livability in the greater Portland region.
“For too long we have sat on our laurels, celebrating the successes of the past,” she said. “Not now, not anymore. Our challenges won’t sleep, and nor should we.’
She called on Metro to lead greater Portland to become one of the most livable regions in the world, while improving affordability in the region.
“We have regularly seen Portland ranked well, nationally, but that might set the bar too low for what Oregonians want to achieve,” she said. “We must aim higher. Our new mission is to understand how to be more livable, to learn from all these other places, and to implement solutions as quickly as possible.”
She outlined a vision of a region where people have vibrant cultural exchanges, equitable access to amenities and living wage jobs, places that everyone can enjoy, healthy farms and forests and a continued focus for planning for sustainability, safety and resiliency in the future.
She also called for Metro to build its own Civilian Conservation Corps for the region, in partnership with other public agencies, labor and the private sector. Her concept was modeled after the Seattle Conservation Corps, which, she said, helps people who are experiencing homelessness enter into paid apprenticeship programs.
“We can empower people from all economic walks of life to grow, learn and earn a living wage for themselves and their families,” she said.
Peterson choked up when talking about the Metro 2040 Growth Concept, whose primary author, John Fregonese, died in 2018.
“Metro 2040 was a 50-year plan. It gave us a long-range vision and it’s been our North Star. It’s been my North Star,” she said. “But so much has changed since 1990, and even John would admit that. Our planning must change too.”
She said a new vision must account for the region’s growth and increasing awareness.
“We weren’t talking about resiliency back then. Climate change was only just entering the public discourse. We weren’t talking about structural racism and leading planning and implementation with social justice and equity for communities of color,” she said. “While we were focused on growing centers and corridors with light rail, bus rapid transit or other shared economy solutions were not part of our discourse.
“Well, climate change isn’t slowing down. Communities are not going to be sidelined and ignored. And, new technology and innovation are not going to cease. It’s time to chart our course with more information in hand, and with an understanding that our future, while largely unknowable, can be resilient and meet the needs of tomorrow as much as today,” Peterson said.
Gonzalez is the first Latino elected to the Metro Council and youngest Metro Councilor in history at 26. He is a native of Cornelius who graduated from Forest Grove High School and Georgetown University, and now lives in Hillsboro.
In his speech, he said he is looking for Portland to lead the way in addressing the world’s challenges.
“Around the country, people are looking for beacons of courage, someone to step up and say ‘This can be done – esto sí se puede hacer” Gonzalez said. “I believe we can be that beacon. I believe we can show the world what can be done when normal individuals come together to be bold and transformational.”
Lewis, a 34-year-old West Linn resident, is a a former lobbyist for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and the city of Portland. She said in her speech that she is committed to Metro’s vision of leading with equity and advancing the causes of the working class.
“We are, in this region and in the nation, living in a liminal time, with the data, policies and practices of yesterday behind us, and a brave new duty in front of us, one that will pit our wants and fears against the confidence of our liberties, and we have not yet charted the course of what is next,” Lewis said. “Yet we must do so with urgency. Working families and neighborhoods across the region are counting on us.”
Craddick, a retired nutritionist, is in her third and final term as the Metro Council’s representative from the east part of the metro area. She said she was looking forward to continuing to work on Metro’s equity initiatives.
“People of color represent a growing share of our region’s population. They also experience the worst outcome of every indicator of social wellbeing. It is imperative to the region’s economy and quality of life, as well as Metro’s effectiveness as a public agency, that we update our policies, practices, programs and activities to better serve all the people who live in the region,” she said.
Evans is beginning his second term as auditor.
“In these times of division, transparent and accountable government is one area where I think most of us can come to some common ground,” Evans said. “I think elected auditors are well positioned to provide the independence and objectivity to evaluate government performance and make recommendations if needed.”
The inauguration was emceed by David Bragdon, who was Metro’s first elected president. Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts, who served on the council from 2011-2013, also spoke.