Four of the five candidates for the special Corvallis City Council election in Ward 7 participated in a forum Wednesday night at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
On hand were Linda Gearhart, Brad Longman, Paul Shaffer and Susan Walenza. The fifth candidate, Lucas Letelier, had to cancel because he has a cold. Letelier and the other candidates will get a second chance to discuss the issues at a Sunday event at the Harding Center (see information box for the details).
The Nov. 5 winner will be sworn in and take office in mid-November once the results of the election have been certified.
The seat has been vacant since Bill Glassmire resigned eight months into his third term after suffering serious injuries in a July 10 bicycle incident. Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber announced Glassmire’s resignation at the Aug. 5 council session.
Managing growth and finding ways to make nonprofits Oregon State University and Samaritan Health Services pay more for city services were the key topics that were addressed in the 75-minute event, which was attended by approximately 60 people.
“There have been some contentious and controversial council land-use decisions,” said Walenza, a retired teacher. “How should Corvallis grow? Our comprehensive plan needs to be updated, and we need to look at the big picture and enhance livability and vitality for everyone.”
“The biggest concern I am hearing from neighbors,” said Longman, a program manager for a global malaria initiative, “is how we manage our growth. The city is growing, the valley is growing and Oregon is growing. And there are consequences from this growth. I want to work with the Planning Commission and the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the neighborhood associations to make sure all the voices are heard.”
Shaffer, a retired technical/policy analyst, noted how growth can affect other aspects of city life, such as street conditions and environmental quality.
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“How can and will the city manage growth?” Shaffer said. “We need to manage holistically, and we’re not getting a lot of help from the city vision plan on how to manage things.”
“Everything in the affordable housing bucket needs to be balanced with infrastructure, streets, traffic and first-responders,” said Gearhart, a semi-retired minister and social service worker. “We need to make meaningful change and plan now, not just put Band-Aids on things.”
Gearhart also said that the community has shown strong interest in City Council land-use decisions such as the OSU dorm on Ninth Street at Monroe and the Caldwell Farms annexation agreement.
“They were breaking the fire code by having so many people in there,” she said. “It’s a good thing that people are concerned and interested in taking action.”
Longman noted the “student factor” that he said is driving up housing costs and suggested one possible solution would be to require sophomores to live on campus (this mandate already is in place for most freshmen).
Walenza suggested that a payroll tax or perhaps a 1% tax on the value of a vehicle could help capture more revenue from OSU and Good Sam, who do not pay the property taxes that pay for most city services.
Shaffer, however, noted that the city has “limited ability to leverage more funds out of OSU and Good Sam.”