MY PHILOSOPHY, PRIORITIES AND PROPOSED POLICIES
MY GOVERNING PHILOSOPHY
When I talk about things I would like to see Benton County do, I’m saying that, as we roll new ideas forward, I will be reaching out to communities within Benton County, and to those that border Benton County, to get them on board with the forward motion as well. Acting locally is important and meaningful, but when we work together, regionally or statewide, we’re able to accomplish so much more.
PRIORITIES AND PROPOSED POLICIES
My campaign for Benton County Commissioner is focused on creating accountable local government that actively plans for – and budgets for – the wellbeing of future generations.
Here are some of my specific proposals for Benton County:
- Immediately enact a tenant protection ordinance increasing notice given before a rent increase or no-cause eviction from 30 days to 90 days.
- Cut the salary for this position back to the median income in Benton County. Tie any commissioner raises to median income in Benton County.
- Review and renew Benton County’s codes and zoning: mandate higher standards (such as 100% energy-independence) for any and all new development.
- Consolidate our two local transit agencies into one, county-wide agency – and make all public transit fareless, not just the buses in Corvallis.
- Change Commissioner meetings to a time when members of the public can easily attend – not during the middle of the workday. Ensure meetings are broadcast, recorded, and made easily available online.
- Ensure ALL decision-making happens in full view of the public.
Here is more detail on my priority areas:
Renters in Benton County pay too much for too little, and have few protections. Our vacancy rate is low, and the local demand for housing is high, which has created an exploitative and unaccountable housing marketplace.
I would move immediately to enact ordinances based on ones in Portland. These ordinances increase the amount of notice given before a rent increase or no cause eviction from (the state mandated) 30 days to 90 days. They also include a formula that is used to determine if a landlord using a no cause eviction must give their soon-to-be former tenants a relocation reimbursement, to help them cover the cost of finding a new home. These simple changes provide renters with more time and money with which to deal with having to move. They are not a burden on landlords, and they would cost Benton County nothing to enact.
As a first step to addressing our housing crisis, these simple, cost-free changes must be adopted immediately. We can then move forward with more protections for renters, as well as with forming an active partnership with our local Tenant’s Union.
Addressing Income Inequality
Currently, Benton County has the worst income inequality in the state, and some of the worst in the entire country. Our local leaders have both enabled and ignored this community-killing situation for years.
I will not ignore it – I will engage immediately in ways to address it. I’m a supporter of the Fight for $15 and living wage ordinances. I will be a vocal and persistent voice at the state level to raise our shamefully low corporate income tax rates in Oregon. I’ll also be a proud and active partner with local and statewide unions on economic issues. And, as outlined above, finding ways to protect renters is also another step forward in addressing this issue. We must engage every expert, and bring every resource we have to bear on reversing the economic inequality in Benton County. This effort will begin on Day One if I am elected.
Fighting Climate Change Locally
With climate change, we are faced with a threat to our very existence – but our leaders at Benton County have yet to respond to this threat in any meaningful way. This isn’t due to a lack of resources, but rather, a lack of leadership.
I have a ten-point plan to start addressing climate change on a local level, and these plans are almost all revenue-neutral. It’s not a matter of spending more money, but of reprioritizing our county budget. We need to divest county funds from fossil fuels immediately. We need to invest more of existing funds in public transit, bike paths and sidewalks. We must review and renew Benton County’s codes and zoning through the lens of climate change, and mandate higher standards (such as 100% energy-independence) for any and all new development. I support consolidating our two local transit agencies into one, county-wide agency – and making all public transit fareless, not just the buses in Corvallis.
In addition to these straightforward ideas, I also have a proposal for a local gas tax that would:
1) Start putting a local price on carbon,
2) Produce funds to use for weatherizing/solarizing low-income housing, and
3) Create more local jobs for those doing the weatherizing/solarizing.
This plan would not lean on an addition to property taxes, but would capture tax dollars from visitors passing through our county, and allow us to address climate change, income inequality and quality of life issues all at once.
Seeking out Community Partnerships
Whether it’s working with the state on transportation issues, or with local non-profits on community health, Benton County has a reputation as being a difficult or unwilling partner. This is entirely unproductive, and that dynamic needs to change immediately. I will bring a focus on openness and cooperation to my role as a County Commissioner. Those in leadership roles in Benton County need to stop putting up barriers to success for our community. This “go it alone or stay home” attitude must be rejected and replaced with a renewed commitment to public service.
Closely related to the above, let me clearly state that I am fully aware that I am running for County Commissioner – not Corvallis Commissioner. Benton County needs to do a better job of engaging all communities within the county, and not just continuing to operate from a Corvallis-first perspective.
Increasing oversight and accountability
Having held public office before, I know that a regular flow of feedback from the public and staff is essential to making informed, sustainable decisions. Currently, we have County Commissioners who seem disconnected from both the public and from county staff. I believe these disconnections have helped lead to some of the poor decision-making we have seen in recent years, and explains why so many pressing issues remain unaddressed. One of my central areas of focus is working to improve the process of governing, and to greatly increase personal accountability.
We need to hold the County Commissioner meetings at a time when members of the public can easily attend – not during the middle of the workday. Those meetings also should be broadcast, recorded, and made easily available online – none of which are currently the case. Members of the public should not have to identify themselves simply because they want to come watch their government at work. In short, we need to do everything we can to enable and increase public oversight of and participation in local county governance.
Related to the above, and demonstrated so well in the shameful funding back-and-forth for the men’s cold weather shelter, Benton County must cease putting out vague meeting agendas, and making important decisions out of sight of the public. If elected, I will not abide deceptive agendas or secret meetings. Elected officials are supposed to be doing the business of the public, and they need to do that business in full view of the public.
Finally, as part of both enabling a culture of public service, and as a means to make more funds available to serve the public, I am an advocate for cutting the salary of the County Commissioners. In the last four years, they have gotten three raises, totaling over 15%, which has set their base pay at just shy of $90,000 per year. I propose we cut these salaries to match the median income in Benton County. As stated, this frees up funds that could then actually serve the public interest, and gives the Commissioners more “skin in the game” to see that our local economy is healthy and sustainable. They will only make more when a rising tide is lifting all boats.