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Corvallis losing two key councilors
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Corvallis losing two key councilors

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The Corvallis City Council that begins its new term Monday 4 will be the first without Barbara Bull since 2015 and the first that did not include Nancy Wyse since 2017.

Bull, who was originally elected in 2014, chose not to run for a fourth term. Wyse, who defeated the late Joel Hirsch, then a four-term incumbent, in 2016, has won election to the Benton County Board of Commissioners and will be sworn in Monday.

Wyse replaces long-time Commissioner Annabelle Jaramillo on the three-person commission.

Bull and Wyse both performed in leadership positions on the council. Bull was council president during her second term, and Wyse was council VP in the most recent term.

Bull and Wyse also were part of a dramatic gender diversification of the council. In the 2012-13 and 2013-14 election cycles, just one woman served on the nine-person council, Jeanne Raymond in Ward 7 in 2012-13 and Penny York of Ward 1 in 2013-14. It should be noted, however, that Julie Manning was the mayor for those two council terms.

The past two councils have had a female majority of five of the nine slots. York, Hyatt Lytle (Ward 3) and Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5) joined with Bull and Wyse for the 2017-18 term. Jan Napack, meanwhile, replaced York in Ward 1 for the 2018-19 group.

The incoming council will have four women, Napack, Lytle, Ellis and Laurie Chaplen, who won election in Wyse’s Ward 6. Gabe Shepherd is replacing Bull in Ward 4.

The Gazette-Times conducted email exit interviews with Bull and Wyse, focusing on how the two individuals felt about the accomplishments of the council as well as issues on which they had thought more progress would be made.

“It's hard to choose only one initiative,” Wyse said. “I'm proud we got the (South Corvallis) urban renewal project up and running. Serving on that advisory committee was a rewarding experience. It was great to help shape the plans that will have positive effects on the community in the future.

“I'm also proud to have helped with the ‘three-legged stool’ projects which not only helped to stabilize some of our most critical departments, police and fire, but also protected some of the assets our community values most — Osborn Aquatic Center, the Majestic Theatre, and the Corvallis Community Center.”

The “three-legged stool” was the language chosen by City Manager Mark Shepard to describe the revenue additions that helped the city continue many basic services.

The three pieces were 1) adding a public safety fee to the city services bill that would allow for a total of 25 new police and fire staffers; 2) a renewal and expansion of the five-year local option property tax levy, which mainly pays for parks and recreation services and the library; and 3) the formation of a countywide 911 emergency services taxing district.

The City Council passed the public safety fee on a unanimous vote in November, 2018, and the levy renewal and the 911 taxing district easily received voter approval in May of 2019 and November of 2019, respectively.

Bull was involved with the “three-legged stool” even before it received that nickname.

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“The council initiative that I am most proud of is the sustainable budget task force work,” said Bull, who participated in the group’s 22 meetings between June 2015 and December 2016.

The task force was led by Ward 9 Councilor Hal Brauner and included councilors Bull and Hirsch as well as Budget Commission members Mark O’Brien, Curtis Wright and Karyle Butcher.

“As a new candidate one of my first conversations with a sitting councilor was with Hal Brauner about how to accomplish (a sustainable budget).” she said. “Fortunately, he was also interested in working on it, and he knew how to lead it. The plan was to start small with a transportation maintenance fee update, then work up to a levy replacement or some equivalent. The 911 district and early versions of what became the public safety fee were also explored and supported by that effort.”

As noted above all of the revenue-producing measures were enacted — the transportation fee was added to the city services bill in the same manner as the public safety component. But Bull thinks other measures also could have helped achieve the goals.

“I wish we had more seriously considered an employer-based income tax or payroll tax,” she said, “which could easily be made as progressive as we want, to replace the fees which currently are more or less the same for every household regardless of ability to pay.”

Wyse said what she will miss the most “is working with the other councilors and city staff. It’s been great getting to know everyone and to be part of a team at the city.”

Bull used almost identical language to answer the question.

“I enjoy being part of a team,” she said, adding that her work on the sustainable budget group was an example of how the council’s goal-setting and establishing of priorities led to “good work.”

Both outgoing councilors noted the challenge of long meetings, some of which landed on the far side of the five-hour mark.

“I can’t think of anything I will ‘miss the least,’ “ Wyse said, then added “I would say reading long packets and attending meetings, but I’ll still be doing all that, just with the county.”

“Council meetings themselves have been unpleasant,” Bull said. “We haven’t kept up, and the work that we have done has been more pressured, with less depth and with less opportunity for community input.

“Council meetings feel a bit like a cross between being in a college course composed of serial pop quizzes and being a contestant on ‘Jeopardy.’ Every two weeks you have to cram for the test, then when the day comes you must be first to the buzzer and sometimes get yelled at (not by Alex Trebek). ‘In the form of a motion, please, councilor!’

“Only there is no prize money and though there are also no grades there is a good chance some of your neighbors are going to be unhappy with your decision no matter what you do.”

Next steps for Wyse are already known. She joins the county Board of Commissioners in January.

Bull, meanwhile, left the door open for more public involvement.

“There are always causes to join in Corvallis when I’m ready for more of that,” she said, citing as possible examples the work Corvallis Sustainability Coalition actions teams do on land use and transportation.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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