Pomp and buzz surround the presidential State of the Union address yearly, but what plays out closer to home can be quite different than what unfolds on the national stage. This has been especially true over the last year. Rather than the larger ship of state, Corvallisites are more likely to encounter the microcurrents our homegrown leaders are navigating, so annually, The Advocate asks those folks just what they believe to be the state of our fair little burg.
Mayor Biff Traber
1. What are the challenges you see for Corvallis this year?
As I and the council get started, our major challenge is to successfully handle a number of major work areas. These include, over the next six months, recruiting a new city manager, starting detailed review work related to the OSU District plan, renewing the relationship with OSU (known previously as the Corvallis OSU Collaboration), setting council goals and building a budget in difficult times. After that, we will begin work on the identified goals.
2. What are some opportunities that the city faces this year?
The time is right to develop a community vision of Corvallis 20 years from now and to develop an accompanying specific action plan for achieving that vision. The opportunity is to do this as a community collaborative effort to reach a shared community vision with a community plan for action. If we do this well together, then the more technical work on updating the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code can also work as a community collaborative effort.
Another opportunity relates to climate change. Building on the work of the community-based task force, we can refine the plan and broaden the range of people involved to implement our community action plan for reducing our carbon footprint and building our resilience.
3. What are a few things you personally hope to accomplish this year?
My personal goal is to succeed as mayor. Success to me is a council that works well together doing its business and a community understanding that the preferred approach to issues is one built around conversations among the stakeholders in the issue.
4. What are the stories you believe the public will be talking about this year?
I expect many stories around OSU: its plans, our plans, how the city and OSU interact and OSU’s impact on Corvallis. Other stories will be around our new city manager, our efforts to update our vision, downtown development including the hotel, climate action plans, budgets and revenue, housing and the homeless, and ongoing—how great Corvallis is as a place to live, work, and enjoy life.
Chief of Police, Jon Sassaman
1. What are the challenges you see for law enforcement this year?
Challenges will include the implementation of the Community Livability Officers and getting their work efforts partnered with OSU, neighborhoods, and businesses. The legalization of marijuana and what, if any, effects that has on policing.
2. What are some opportunities that the city and particularly CPD face this year?
We have the opportunity to partner with the 509J School District through the levy-funded School Resource Officer position and the implementation of the Community Livability Officers to begin their work.
3. What are a few things you hope to accomplish this year?
We hope to capitalize on existing successes reducing neighborhood livability calls for service, such as parties, noise, liquor offenses, disturbances, and fights through the combined efforts of our staff, OSU, and property managers/owners.
4. What are the stories you believe the public will be talking about this year? These might be things that haven’t had a lot of public attention yet, or they might be continuing issues in the community.
This next year, we will be exploring the full implementation of on-body cameras to enhance the current systems we use in the patrol cars and on officers.
1. What are the school district priorities for the rest of the school year?
First of all, this is a legislative year. With the Governor’s budget release in December that is much too low to adequately fund our educational programs, we will anxiously await the co-chairs’ budget. Many proposed bills are on my radar, but especially the potential impact on instructional time, inter-district transfers, and the 5th year expanded diploma options.
With the uncertainty around the new budget for the next biennium, we are entering contract negotiations with all three bargaining groups: certified, classified, and non-represented. This process has been and undoubtedly will continue to be, collaborative and productive.
The new assessment Smarter Balanced will be implemented later this spring, which will be a new experience for our students and staff. We have been preparing for the implementation of the test, yet still are cautiously optimistic around the administration logistics and student outcomes.
We are in the midst of researching, reviewing, and piloting potential Language Arts adoptions, both print and digital, for next year. This is a critical process that involves many staff members. Mathematics will be on the docket for review the following year.
The new teacher and leader evaluation systems are in place and being refined through collaborative training and practice. The processes are more relevant and rigorous, based around strong student outcomes and effective teaching strategies.
Finally, professional development is always a focus for our staff support. We are utilizing a cohort model this year where staff members are delivering training to peers that is relevant and meaningful.
2. What is currently the district’s biggest challenge?
Our greatest challenge remains closing the opportunity gap that exists for our students in poverty, students of color, students where English is a second language, and students with disabilities. This is not a new challenge, but one which we must strive to be adaptive and implement systems and programs that are not status quo. Historically, we have continued to deliver education in the same manner supporting about 70% of our students. We must do better and be more creative in how we provide multiple pathways for all students to succeed and be prepared for our global world. This means raising both the floor and the ceiling to provide an exceptional learning environment.
3. What has been your proudest moment as superintendent (this school year)?
I am most proud of our graduation rates. (To be released Thursday this week). Our staff has made it a priority to truly understand, attend to, and place urgency around ensuring that all students have equitable access to an excellent educational experience. This does not mean a one-size-fits-all system. We have created more pathways for students to access, have better supports in place, and most importantly, our staff cares deeply and has been relentless in making sure all students achieve success. Our results are showing this effort over that past two years. When I arrived in 2011, over 30% of our high school students were not graduating in the typical four years with their cohort. We did see more graduates completing in five years, which is great… however, too many were slipping through the cracks. When you see the data, you will see a transformational shift! I am very proud of our Corvallis team!
Economic Development Director for the City of Corvallis, Tom Nelson
1. Of the current city projects that you are aware of or involved with, what would you call the most innovative? And in what way could future projects improve in this area?
Our management of the Enterprise Zone has resulted in the creation of 299 jobs and $12 million invested in building and equipment. Our partnership with LBCC’s Small Business Development Center in 2014 resulted in five new business starts, 48 jobs created, $600,000 in capital infusion, and over $6 million in increased revenue among clients served.
As for innovation, our partnership with OSU, UO, LBCC, LCC, and the cities of Eugene, Springfield, and Albany in the Regional Accelerator and Innovation network is resulting in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is the first of its kind in Oregon. It has translated in coupling innovation from OSU and the community with entrepreneurial talent and mentors, developing actual business startups which have become profitable and are growing in our communities.
2. What are some of the biggest challenges facing development right now?
Properly zoned, infrastructure served, and available flex space is needed to grow companies in Benton County. This is difficult to find, and is recognized by the Economic Development Advisory Board as a gap we need to address.
3. In the present and near future, what opportunities does the city have to look forward to?
Corvallis is the #1 start-up community in the state, as well as one of the most innovative communities in the nation. We have opportunities to capitalize on this, and build companies, and if we can address #2, we will be able to keep them here, and see positive growth in good companies in our area.
4. Oregon State University is clearly a large part of Corvallis. What impact does OSU make on the overall economic state and growth of the city?
OSU is huge! Notwithstanding some of the “growing pains” that it produces, it is the largest “traded sector” industry in Benton and Linn counties. In 2014, OSU generated $1.334 billion in combined economic impact of operations spending, capital spending, student spending, and visitor spending. That also translated into 25,110 jobs created. Beyond the economic impact it creates a culturally diverse, innovative, and active community, making Corvallis an exciting place to live.