Charlyn Ellis, a longtime community activist, is seeking a second two-year term on the Corvallis City Council in Ward 5, which covers the area north of the Oregon State University campus.
Ellis, who ran unopposed in 2016, is being challenged by Paige Kreisman, a transgender disabled Army veteran and political science student at OSU.
“I’ve lived here 20 years and I know my ward, the good and the bad,” Ellis said in introducing herself at an election forum. “I’ve learned an amazing amount in two years. I look at the city very differently than when I started. I try to represent the big and the small and believe that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
Kreisman, who also works as a political organizer for the Communist Party and the Democratic Socialists of America, takes a bigger picture approach to local politics.
“There is a class war being waged in this country, from health care to prisons to immigration to the environment,” she said. “The capitalist class is waging a war on working people. It’s time to fight back. We can do this by building socialism, a mode of production characterized by democratic control over the means of production by the workers. In building socialism we can begin to dismantle oppressive power structures in our society such as imperialism, colonialism, white supremacy and the hetero-patriarchy.”
Ellis and Kreisman are far apart on the role of law enforcement in Corvallis.
Kreisman favors the removal of resource officers from the schools as well as “actions that would take away the police’s power to do violence. They should be disarmed and replaced with unarmed community patrols and mental health professionals.”
Ellis, who has seen the work of school resource officers firsthand, strongly defended the program and said it should be expanded.
“Everyone has found the program beneficial,” Ellis said. “It helps students understand how the legal system works and they benefit from interacting with the CPD.”
Ellis also said that “our police officers are some of the best-trained in the country. They take their jobs very seriously.”
Ellis noted the challenge that officers face who are patrolling solo and added “we need more police officers.”
The council is planning to implement a public safety fee by the end of the year that would charge residents, businesses and nonprofits via the city services bill, which also includes water, stormwater, wastewater, street maintenance, bus service and urban forestry. Proceeds from the fee would be used to hire additional firefighters and police officers.
Ellis favors the fee increase. Kreisman said she favors funding more firefighters but opposes adding more police officers.
A series of audience questions at an Oct. 2 forum at the Old World Deli touched on the concept of rent control. Both Ellis and Kreisman said they were for it, with Kreisman adding that she “supports the abolition of the landlord class.”
After the forum Corvallis Community Development Director Paul Bilotta sent an email to all council and mayoral candidates and the Gazette-Times noting that general rent control is illegal in Oregon.
“If Corvallis were to enact a rent control ordinance the city would need to get the state law changed first,” Bilotta wrote, adding that there are exceptions. “Rent controls for projects that the city funds with affordable housing funds are legal and normally included in our affordable housing projects as a condition for receiving public funds. If the state law is not changed the only way to increase the number of rent-controlled units is to fund more affordable housing projects.”
Background checks: The Gazette-Times conducted Oregon and federal background checks on all City Council and mayoral candidates. Kreisman came up clean. Ellis had a series of eight nonmoving violations (parking, expired registration, etc.) in 1996 and 1997, with all but one of them in Multnomah County.