State of the City: 2014

The beginning of a new year is always marked with new hopes and resolutions for the individual, but what about our community as a whole? With the State of the Union speech looming, many citizens find themselves looking to authorities both nationally and locally to provide them with some down to earth answers. We candidly asked a few Corvallis political, cultural and business leaders what opportunities and challenges they see for this upcoming year, and this is what they had to say.

Julie Manning – Mayor
julie manning“The city council and I participated in a facilitated goal-setting session and that resulted in six council goals. One of my priorities as mayor is to help facilitate the work of the council and city staff and making progress in each of these goal areas.”

The goals Manning and the city council will address in 2014: City/OSU Collaboration, Achieving a Sustainable Budget, Economic Development, Housing, Homeless Cold Weather Shelter, and Public Process and Participation.

One big challenge is the continued effort by the Corvallis and Oregon State Collaboration to address parking issues in and around campus. “In the first half of the year, a lot of work will be coming to the council concerning the expansion of residential parking districts,” Manning said. “Oregon State from its perspective is also doing work parallel to that concerning price structures for variable parking permits on campus that will make parking less expensive in the south part of campus, at Reser Stadium, and at the parking garage next to Gill Coliseum. [Parking] will be more expensive in the north part of campus, which is closer to residential neighborhoods.”

Jim Patterson – City Manager
jimpattersoncitymanager“In dealing with our budget, transforming city government and resetting the City budget involves an ongoing program of review and adaptation. The current fiscal crisis we are confronting is an opportunity to build on strengths and overcome weaknesses. We must identify new and more productive ways to provide essential city services and programs.

“Just coming off of the recent snow and severe cold weather event, one of the challenges will be to address areas identified for improvement in responding to a similar event in the future and determining the resources required to meet the expectations of local citizens. This will include the financial resources and equipment resources needed to more efficiently deal with snow and ice removal from city streets in the low and elevated areas of our city in a more expeditious and timely manner.”

Jonathan Sassaman – Corvallis Police Chiefjonathansassamanpolicechief
“This coming year we have the opportunity to plan for and implement the Neighborhood Livability Officers approved by the passing of the levy in November. As an organization we expect to work closely with Oregon State University, ASOSU, the Greek community, students, property owners/managers, and neighborhoods to create an atmosphere that can be enjoyed by all. We will also be implementing a School Resource Officer program into the 509J School System.

“We must [also] hire and train new employees before we are able to deploy them into service. For a sworn officer, it generally takes about one year until they are solo status. We know the community desires to see results. We must balance need for results with a realistic time frame of implementing new staff.”

Dr. Erin Prince – School District 509J Superintendent
ErinPrinceSuperintendent509j“2014 brings hope and opportunity for our students in the Corvallis School District. We have an extraordinary staff in our district. Our focus is “student-centered” regardless of position. Our teachers greet each child and provide an engaging and rigorous learning environment, preparing individuals for the fast-paced and challenging world beyond K-12.”

Cloud Davidson – Owner, Cloud & Kelly’s Public / Downward Dog
clouddavidson“With the development of the hotel coming in and the big apartment complex, I feel like it’s an opportunity to bolster the existing services downtown. And it creates an opportunity for more business entrepreneurs. I’m looking forward to seeing a better relationship between Oregon State University and the City of Corvallis. I feel there’s a bit of a disconnection between the two, and they could probably work together a little better.”

Sonia Ruyts – Owner, Stash
soniaruyts“Stash is looking forward to expanding our community involvement in a meaningful way this year. We are also looking forward to doing more collaborations with other local businesses to help support one another and bring new events and excitement to the area.

2014 will be our third year in business. We’re excited to hit our stride while continuing to innovate and meet new people. It can be difficult to see outside the walls of your own business; we are continually pushing ourselves to look at how we can serve our community, both inside and outside of Stash. Traditional means aren’t necessarily our style, so we’re going to be pushing the envelope a bit to inspire some creative action in our community and hopefully meet new people.”

Annette Mills – Facilitator, Sustainability Coalition
annettemills“We have an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the increasing impacts of climate change by adopting a climate action plan for the community—and by making use of the talents, skills, and resources that our community members bring to the table in this issue and other pressure issues. We will be challenged to maintain our core community values during these tight economic times.”

Jim Moorefield – Executive Director, Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services
jimmoorefield“We need both a diverse, affordable housing supply and neighborhood livability. Creating that balance is hard work, but we can do it if we remind ourselves: the places people live—whether they rent or own—are their homes, and home is the foundation of family, security, opportunity, and a healthy community.

“There is a severe housing shortage in Corvallis. Housing is not affordable to far too many families, and neighborhoods around OSU are stressed by the growth of OSU. The City’s Comprehensive Plan is outdated and is based on some predictions that turned out to be wrong. The challenge is to prioritize and fund the community-based effort needed to start work on a new Comp Plan and to actively address our housing crisis.”

Richard Hervey – City Council, Ward 3
Richard Hervey“The opportunity is one of three areas that I set out to work on when I became a councilor five years ago. Those were all related to making Corvallis a more resilient city in the face of global warming, peak oil, and what I see as signs that the U.S. role in the global economy will continue to erode. We have done useful work at making City facilities and Corvallis homes more energy efficient/independent. We have done useful work at making more of the City’s land open for citizens to grow food. We have created more lawful places within the city to grow and sell food. The next step in my view is to help our citizens become more interdependent. The 2013-14 Public Participation goal of the Council has some language in this regard. The Public Participation Task Force is currently examining what role the City can play in connecting citizens to each other and to the City. I expect that the City’s role will be more catalyst than active player and as such will not require much from the City budget.

“Ever since I came on council, we have needed to maintain constant awareness of the ever increasing imbalance between the costs of PERS and Health Care for our employees and property tax dollars. The League of Oregon Cities has been attempting to address some of the most egregious unintended consequences of measures 5 and 47, without apparent success. I understand that Governor Kitzhaber is planning on seeking reelection with his primary focus on tax reform. So, long term, there may be an opening to better balance the needs of City employees and the needs of Corvallis citizens. In the short term, I see a continuing challenge of maintaining the quality of services that have produced the quality of life that Corvallis is known for, on ever decreasing (effectively) property tax contributions.”

Joel Hirsch – City Council, Ward 6
Joel Hirsch“We are at the midpoint of this Council term. The Council Goals we identified and committed resources to at the beginning of the term are the opportunities we should continue to pursue and to try to accomplish: City/OSU Collaboration, a Sustainable Budget, Economic Development, Housing, Public Process and Participation.

“As a Council Member the challenges that concern me most are the challenges that concern me most as a citizen: global warming, GMOs, income inequality, and conservative partisan extremism around the country.”

Hal Brauner – City Council, Ward 9
Hal Brauner“We will continue to work on the sustainable budget.” He also said that the council will work on finding new ways to keep services functioning while keeping the budget balanced, additionally stating that a lot of land use items are coming up in the near future, such as ways to use the space that we have to better serve the people of Corvallis.

“The primary challenge is with the tax situation in Oregon, how do we continue to get services with the limitations that are on property taxes.” He said that revenue isn’t sufficient to cover services that people need in the city, yet we still need to provide those services that are demanded by the city. “Just a lot more hard work still coming up!”

Bruce Sorte – City Council, Ward 7
Bruce Sorte“If we spend at least half of our time looking to the future instead of towards all these current issues that are overcoming us in a sense… an example would be our goals say, well we need a sustainable budget. So to me that’s a given. To spend a huge amount of your goal effort on that is unfortunate in the sense that that has to happen anyways. My hope for that is that we will not reduce the breadth of our city services but that we will reduce the depth of them. We will keep the parks and the library functioning, with the same types of services…but they won’t provide that for as many hours, with quite as much flexibility.

“I think Corvallis has to step away from being reactive to OSU’s growth, and start looking to the future and say, ‘What do we want from this community?’ Right now, what we are trying to do is accommodate it in any way that we can. The City needs to find a way to get more revenue from the two primary non-revenue payers in town, and that’s OSU and the Good Samaritan Hospital. I understand why that doesn’t happen, but we have ways that OSU could reimburse the City even more than it does, for the cost of its students.”

Penny York – City Council, Ward 1
Penny YorkYork stated that keeping the budget balanced is always a challenge in good times and bad, quoting a new challenge as the transition from formal OSU collaboration to more productive conversations and problem solving with them in a more traditional way of doing business. She said managing the housing in Corvallis is also a big challenge. For example, it is hard to pin down exactly what sort of housing is in demand. She says that one effort is towards making land use issues easier to handle. Another is to refocus on parking challenges.

Mike Beilstein – City Council, Ward 5
Mike Beilstein“The great challenge facing Corvallis in the next year(s) is to develop an understanding that economic development does not mean growth. It is not growth of more jobs, nor growth of population, nor growth in wealth. This is hard for everyone to understand because for about 100 centuries more economic activity has meant greater security, better health, and richer communities. However, we have been so successful in exploiting resources faster and faster that we now face a life-threatening resource crisis. The ability to put our wastes into the atmosphere has already far exceeded the capacity for natural systems to maintain a global climate like the one that has supported human ‘development’ for the last 100 centuries.

Nothing that Corvallis does alone can reverse or even slow the changes in atmospheric greenhouse activity, or acidification of the oceans, or thawing of ancient permafrost, or loss of glacial ice. Citizens of Corvallis represent only about 1/1,000 percent of total human activity on the planet. However, we can set an example of sustainable living that might inspire change in enough other communities that the resource crisis might be avoided or at least postponed.

Corvallis needs to redefine the goals of economic development as meeting human needs efficiently and fairly with less use of resources. Automobile transportation is a good place to start. Private automobiles travel about one million miles per day on Corvallis streets, at a cost of about $100,000 per day for fossil fuels. We already have one of the best transit systems for a city of our size. We can improve transit while continuing to make automobile use less convenient and more expensive. Approximately 17,000 workers commute daily to Corvallis. Developing more housing and better intercity transit while charging fair market rates for parking can reduce the commuting contribution to climate change. Without adequate local housing, any increase in jobs means an increase in commuting. We should not be encouraging more commuting.

To make necessary changes in our economy to avert the climate crisis we have to redefine prosperity. We need to understand that more wealth is not equal to greater health. The flow of resources through the economy is what facilitates human life. Accumulation of too much wealth is a disease state like obesity or constipation. Corvallis needs to show the world, as stated by Corvallis author Rob Dietz, ‘Enough is Enough.’”

Biff Traber — City Council, Ward 8
Biff Traber“I think we need to continue to work on getting our financial house in order. Keep hitting for a multi-year sustainable budget. Continue on keeping up our efforts on economic development activity, so we have more businesses, more jobs, and as a result more revenue to the city. Implement the recommendations of the OSU Collaboration, neighborhood livability, improvements in parking districts along with the collaboration. The collaboration was a three-year effort and it will be ending this year, so we need to set up a followup and continue building good relationships.

“The budget is a challenge. On the OSU collaboration, working on details to the parking and housing problems. The challenge is to get a good picture of what the problems with housing are. What don’t we have and what should we have where? The first challenge is describing the problem and being able to do something about it.”

Johnny Beaver – President, Temporary Artists’ Guild and Editor, Corvallis Advocate
johnnybeaver“I see each year as a new chance to chip away at some of the walls that exist which prevent certain elements of the community from working with others. The arts community is slowly growing tighter and our big annual arts event, Fall Festival, is under great new leadership. With so many art-friendly businesses in town, it’s becoming easier and easier to get your work shown—and some of the more traditional galleries are taking notice. The big challenge from my perspective is to create awareness in the community as to what a relationship with local media can really do for everyone involved. Media not only reflects the community in terms of art, or protects it in terms of news… but offers a chance for everyone to help each other and themselves. Local media is that unique opportunity for one-stop shopping for everything offered in a community, whether it be political, cultural, based in business or anything else. People need to be more aware of the inherent value there, and what things might be like without it.”

Tinamarie Ivey – Executive Director, Majestic Theatre
tinamarieivey“The Arts Consortium program offers the Majestic as a fiscal sponsor for local artists, arts organizations, and specialized projects. We believe that this program gives us the opportunity to directly support young performing arts organizations, individual artists and charitable artistic projects which serve our community. The Arts Consortium will also make it possible for the Majestic to support endeavors that make it possible for young organizations to create the dream of becoming their own 501c3.

“I think it goes without saying that running a live theater venue has its challenges in many arenas. But to answer your question I want to focus on something that concerns me as a community member, a director of a theater, and as an artist. Arts organizations, as a whole, have a reputation of being elitist which I believe stunts growth and creates a divide between the organization and the community we need to serve. Though this is not intentional, it is imperative that the art we produce be completely accessible to the entire community. The challenge of creating access for all, giving every community member the opportunity to participate and get involved in the arts regardless of how much disposable income they have is paramount. A family of four or more should not feel like they have to miss an event because it will cost too much money—I fell into this category while I was a graduate student and thought ‘there must be a way for a theater to include everyone without losing money.’ All inclusive and access for all—my goal for 2014.”

Kyle DeVaul
KYLE-DeVaulL“The Arts Center is lucky to call Corvallis home. Residents here are inquisitive and passionate and our stakeholders, though few in number, are loyal and generous.  In 2014, I believe our greatest opportunities lie in our capacity to engage our community and spark innovation, creativity, conversation and joy.

Our biggest challenge is complacency. Like the other wonderful non-profit arts and cultural organizations in town, The Arts Center does tremendous work. We could easily rest on our laurels and continue as always but to truly serve our community as it grows and transforms, we must always ask, “What more can we offer?  What else can we do?” Challenge us, Corvallis, and we will rise to the occasion!”

by Patrick Fancher, Kyra Young & Jennifer Smith