The MHCC District board member representing Zone 2 is Jim Zordich, running unopposed on the May 16 ballot to keep his seat.
Lack of a rival has allowed him to spend his time promoting Mt. Hood’s proposed $75 million general obligation bond, also on the May ballot. “Not having competition means I can focus on the bond and not have to worry about the campaign,” he said.
Zordich has been interviewed by numerous publications, but each has concerned the bond, he said. “This is the first interview I have done as a candidate,” he said when speaking to the Advocate.
His district – which extends from southeast Gresham through Damascus, Boring and Sandy in Clackamas County – was not supportive of last May’s $125 million bond measure. In fact, there was a 2-to-1 “no” vote, accounting for a 3,000-vote swing against the measure.
“North Clackamas County has been apathetic because there is no apparent conscious association with Mt. Hood Community College, even though… last year, we had a total of 1,500 Sandy High School graduates enrolled” at MHCC, Zordich said.
He’s got a better feeling this time.
“I feel very optimistic about the bond. I think that the interest that has been expressed, particularly by the faculty and their guidance and development of the signage that we’ve putting out around the community has been fun,” he said.
In his candidate’s statement for both the Multnomah and Clackamas counties voter’s pamphlets, Zordich dedicated space to market the bond, rather than himself.
Since the Centennial and David Douglas school districts have existing bonds that might compete (in the minds of taxpayers/voters) with MHCC’s proposed measure, Mt. Hood board members have been meeting with officials in MHCC’s district to get endorsements from those school boards.
“What I want to see established is a cohesive relationship between the K-12 schools that have CTE programs and provide the necessary carryover into our programming, which can result in a certificate or even an AA degree,” said Zordich.
One such CTE program at Mt. Hood is the newly launched Mechatronics program which recently received $300,000 from the MHCC Foundation. “We will now be able to buy the instructional modules that will make that program practical,” said Zordich.
If the bond measure passes, the current Applied Technology center (Building 18, on the east side of the main academic center) will be replaced with a new facility.
Besides the proposed new center, the bond has gained support “because the continuation of Mt. Hood Community College as a viable institution in this area is important to the k-12 boards,” said Zordich.
Mt. Hood also offers high school students the important “College Now” program, which saves them thousands of dollars every year. College Now “allows advanced enrollment in college level programs while the student is still in high school… it gives them an avenue or a jump-step forward” if they choose to pursue higher education at MHCC or elsewhere, Zordich said.
GO bond money also would cover the cost of seismically upgrading the MHCC library and gymnasium (Yoshida Event Center).
“The library is extraordinarily vulnerable,” Zordich said. “…(N)ot that I want to frighten anyone, but the library was built as an evolving structure and Charles’s (Charles George, Mt. Hood director of facilities management) big concern about that is that support columns do not necessarily register to columns below, so that there isn’t a straight line passage of load down to a foundation,” he said.
The gymnasium is designated as a community-wide emergency and relief center in case of a disaster, and so plays a critical role.
Improved security is also addressed by the bond. “After the Umpqua Community College active shooter situation, we had realized and come to grips with the fact that we cannot lock this campus down. We have 250 exterior doors, which all have to be locked manually,” said Zordich.
The bond would pay for a digital locking system that can remotely lock down the entire campus, or sections of the campus, he said.
Repaying current MHCC outstanding debt is also a priority. The college pays $2.5 million annually to creditors, said Zordich.
The proposed bond would cost taxpayers who own property valued at $200,000 approximately $50 in property taxes annually.
“In our first 50 years, we have served one million students, and that’s an incredible number in and of itself,” said Zordich. “I could just go on and on and on about the imaginations of the college and how it evolved and what roadblocks we’ve had in the past, but we’re looking forward to the next 50 years.”