Medford House District 6 needs continued leadership to make great decisions for a better future. I would be honored to have your vote and represent you in Salem.
It is important for us to honor the retirement contracts we have made with our police officers, fire fighters, teachers, and other public servants. However, the way Oregon is currently fulfilling those commitments is unsustainable. Now is the time to create a long term, fiscally responsible solution to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Despite previous reforms that were implemented, the financial obligation of PERS continues to increase.
The budgets of local governments and school districts will eventually be overburdened by their PERS commitments. Within the next decade, Oregon will be faced with the difficult decision between paying its retirement obligations or paying for its invaluable public employees.
Instead, let’s have the courage to repair this issue and avoid having to make that choice. Two possible solutions to the PERS situation are:
Move to a defined contribution plan. This system has saved the retirement fund of the employees of the TriMet transportation system. We have proof that this system works and should follow its example in the rest of the state.
Offer current retirees an option to cash out their accounts. This would allow them to make private investments and grow their retirement fund in a personalized way. Once a lump-sum payment is made to a retiree under this plan, the state’s financial obligation to them would end.
We all know someone who has struggled to find appropriate housing in Medford. Many have proposed a range of policy solutions, but little progress has been made.
Restrictive land use laws have limited the supply of buildable land, driving costs up and out of reach of Oregon’s working families. As a city, we have outgrown our empty lots. Before we can build on outlying property, we must first gain permission from the state Department of Land Development and Conservation, a process that can take many years. As a member of the Medford city council, Kim is working with the state to obtain this permission. If granted, the additional acres will increase the supply of buildable land, driving land prices down. As we build on this land, we will increase the supply of housing, which will help people find affordable homes.
In the rental market, prevailing wage laws and other government regulations nearly doubles the cost of labor and reduces the number of units that are built. As a Medford city councilor, Kim saw one government-built project cost more than twice what the same project would have cost if done by the private sector. She saw another project not get built at all because of prevailing wages and other regulations. This government intervention has reduced the number of available housing units in Medford.
New laws meant to protect renters instead make it harder and more expensive for people to find housing. Price controls and requirements for landlords to pay relocation fees for evicted tenants make owning and building rental properties unappealing. For example, if renting the apartment in your backyard could potentially cost thousands of dollars in relocation fees because you need the unit for personal use, you will be less likely to offer it as a rental. The best way to increase rental units is to encourage private citizens and small businesses to choose to create rentals.
Kim’s time on the Medford School Board gave her a comprehensive understanding of education issues, ranging from budgets to policy to curriculum.
First and foremost, we have a responsibility to make our schools a safe place for our students and teachers. It’s time to empower educators to creatively maintain control of their classrooms, thereby ensuring all students can learn and thrive in a safe environment.
Career and Technical Education programs increase students’ connection to school and motivate them to graduate. These types of programs also build our workforce for family-wage jobs in construction and other trades. Kim advocated for Measure 98, which required the state to fund these programs. However, the 2017 legislature took from this fund, and left students with only a little over half of the dollar amount we voted to allocate to them.
In 2015, 25% of the Medford School District’s budget went to PERS payments. That figure is now higher and growing. Burgeoning class sizes are a result of having inadequate funds to hire new teachers. Schools have had to reduce the amount of time students spend with their certified classroom teachers, dispersing them instead among a growing number of part-time classified employees. As PERS costs grow, our schools will likely expand this aide-centric model.
The memory of last summer’s smoke choking our valley and damaging our local businesses, wineries, and tourism industry still lingers.
Oregonians have always been proud of our clean air and beautiful landscapes. Instead of fighting to preserve what makes our state unique, we’ve heard we can only sit back and “let it burn.” However, a more effective solution is to eliminate excess fuel by responsibly and sustainably harvesting timber. We can implement better forest management practices rather than wasting our natural resources and damaging the health of our citizens and our land.