Here is a look at some of the biggest stories of 2017 on the government beat:
Timberhill land use
The story: Developers who purchased more than 200 acres of land in the Timberhill area north of the Kings-Walnut intersection have been trying to build on the property since 2014.
The latest: Momentum seemed to swing toward the developers, GPA 1 and Forest Heights, in 2017 as a state enforcement order and a ruling in Benton County Circuit Court put the city on notice that it had to remove a planned development overlay on the property, the largest undeveloped chunk of land inside the city limits that is zoned for residential uses. Removing the planned development overlay would make it easier for the developers to build. On Dec. 18, the City Council unanimously voted for a new order in the case agreeing with the court and the developers. The wrangling appears far from over, however. Further appeals are likely, possibly by the Northwest Alliance of Corvallis, a group formed to represent the interests of residents in the dispute. Also, the developers are asking the city to reimburse more than $107,000 in attorney’s fees and other costs. The city, meanwhile, has spent $77,400 on attorney’s fees involving Timberhill.
City livability battle
The story: The city of Corvallis, Oregon State University, property managers and residents have been working on livability issues in the near-campus area since the Collaboration Corvallis process began in 2012. Key problems that have been plaguing officials include parties, loud noise, alcohol violations, fights and other disturbances.
The latest: The efforts appear to be paying off. Data from the Corvallis Police Department shows that livability calls for services peaked in 2011 and 2012 at approximately 2,000 and have been steadily dropping, with 2017’s final numbers appear likely to be at well below 1,000. OSU has added numerous hires in student conduct, public safety, Greek life and in the alcohol abuse and sexual assault prevention units of its student health service. Counting the $1.2 million the university is spending on three new CPD community livability officers, OSU has boosted outlays in these areas by $4 million since 2013. In addition, property managers and landlords began meeting in 2013 to work on collaboration and training initiatives. A new tool that has paid huge dividends in liability is a system in which a CPD visit to a rental property results in an email to the landlord by the next morning.
The story: The nation has been reeling in recent months from a dizzying variety of sexual misconduct cases involving national politicians (Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, Alabama candidate Roy Moore), Hollywood figures (Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others) and media figures such as Matt Lauer of the “Today” show and interviewer Charlie Rose. The scandal also hit close to home as state Sen. Sara Gelser of Corvallis filed a formal complaint against Senate colleague Jeff Kruse of Roseburg. Gelser alleges that Kruse touched her inappropriately multiple times during the period from 2011 to 2017. She said there were multiple occasions of unwanted touching, including twice on the Senate floor in which other senators intervened on Gelser’s behalf.
The latest: Gelser was one of the individuals honored by Time magazine in its Person of the Year issue for being part of a movement of people to “break the silence.” Early next year the process will unfold in her complaint against Kruse, who has denied that he inappropriately touched her. Kruse also has been reprimanded by the Senate, been stripped of his committee assignments and had his office door removed. A special state Senate committee on conduct will hear Gelser’s complaint, with an outcome likely by May. Said Gelser: “The change has to come from the attitude in which nobody thinks that they have a right to put their hand on you in the first place.”