Oregon State Capitol in Salem. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

ASPSU hosts state congressional town hall

The Associated Students of Portland State University held a virtual town hall on Oct. 20 with Oregon House candidates James Ball and Lisa Reynolds and Oregon Senate candidate Ginny Burdick. 


Ball and Reynolds are running for the Oregon House for District 36, and Burdick is running for reelection to the Oregon State Senate for District 18. Both districts represent the PSU campus.  


Reynolds, a pediatrician, is the democratic candidate, and is running on a platform of supporting those with mental health issues. She has worked as an activist for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and helped co-found Indivisible Oregon. “I have felt for a while that I’ve wanted to do more for Oregon families than I can accomplish in the exam room, and that was my primary motivator to run for office,” she said.


Ball, a veteran, a former financial analyst and a small business owner, is the republican candidate, and is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and social progressiveness. A lifelong republican, the election of U.S. President Donald Trump inspired him to take action. “I decided that if good people do nothing then evil rules the world, and so I needed to get involved and do what I can to try to bring the republican party a little bit back to center.” 


Burdick, who is the senior member of the Oregon Senate—first elected in 1996—is running to continue her long line of work on education, the environment and gun safety. “Those three priorities really have not changed much over the years,” she said. 


A recent study showed that 60% of PSU students experience basic needs insecurity. What plans do you have for state level legislation to help students and working families? 


Reynolds: I think we really need to think about how we raise wages in our community, what we call living wage jobs and family wage jobs, and how we provide for more affordable and equitable housing, and overall how we strengthen our safety net so that when people find themselves at that lower end where they can’t meet their basic needs, that we have a much stronger safety net than we have right now.


Ball: [Regarding] the affordability crisis in Portland: I believe we need to allow more development in Portland. There is so much red tape and fees and regulations regarding building development in the Portland area, that it becomes cost-prohibited to build anything other than luxury high rise condos, and that’s not what helps the market. We need more middle and low income housing, and I think the best way to do that is to reduce the amount of regulation on development in Portland.


Burdick: I was actually the chief sponsor of the bill to require rent stabilization and protection from no-cause evictions that passed in 2019. I also carried the bill to extend the eviction moratorium. I’ve also supported all of the funding that we’ve had for affordable housing, and also legislation to make it easier and more encouraging for developers to include affordable housing in their development projects. We have a real crisis, and I know it’s really bad around [PSU].


What will you do to support international and DACA students? 


Reynolds: As a state we need to make sure that DACA recipients, and everyone who’s here in Oregon, has a clear path to education unfettered by the federal government. I’m very hopeful that we will vote Trump out of office in two weeks, and that we will start with an administration that respects and values all lives. We need a federal mandate around DACA recipients and all of those who live in America. But until then we need to protect them at the state level.


Ball: I think that congress at the federal level needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform to allow DACA recipients and other immigrants to have legal status. From a statewide standpoint, I think the sanctuary state is necessary. That kind of goes against my party, but until we get comprehensive immigration reform done at the federal level, we need to have a place where people feel safe, especially people who came to this country as children.


Burdick: Until we get change at the federal level, we’re limited to what we can do in the state. We have to change the senate, otherwise, even if Biden wins, he’ll be stopped by Mitch McConnell in the senate. If you have a chance to phonebank or do anything else, I encourage you to do that because the next two weeks are critical.


How will you support Portland’s call for more police oversight and accountability from your position in the state legislature? 


Reynolds: I know that one thing that the BIPOC coalition in the house has proposed is that, when things do get to arbitration, that if there have been instances of wrongdoing, that cannot be overturned. I think that needs to be codified into law. It hasn’t yet. I think we need to be negotiating a contract with PPB that takes into account that we need to be able to have consequences for poor behavior at the hands of the police.


Ball: The police need to be held accountable when they act inappropriately, when they act in a way that does not serve and protect the people, because that’s really their goal is to serve the people, not to exist for their own sake.


Burdick: I think it’s really important to work with the bipartisan [POC] caucus to really get their point of view.


What will you do to make tuition more affordable for Oregon residents at public universities? 


Reynolds: We need to rethink our tax structure so that we’re able to provide opportunities for every single Oregonian with a special emphasis on those who have been traditionally left behind.


Ball: I would take a different approach. I think [universities] should have to produce a business plan, and show why tuition has been increasing so much and where that money is going. What are we doing now that we weren’t doing 50 years ago that’s costing so much money? There’s got to be waste, wasted money in the budget, and I would put the institutions on the hook to produce their budgets and show where taxpayer money is going.


Burdick: I think there needs to be major change in the whole higher education system. The issue is not whether we can get more money to throw into a system that has become very rigid over the years and has not kept up with the times. We should work from the bottom up and try to get a system that works much better for the times we’re in.


Closing Statements


Reynolds: I thank Mr. Ball for running. Elections should be contested. Nothing should be assumed. I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m calling voters every night. It’s an engaged electorate with good opinions on how they want to move forward in certain things, and I’ve learned so much from them and am even rethinking how I want to do things when I get to the legislature, so I’m really grateful for that.


Ball: I believe in fiscal responsibility and being socially progressive. If I win this election, it will show the people in my party that this is a winning platform, and that this is a platform that we as a party need to embrace and shy away from the Trump dogma of demagoguery and hate speech and everything else that’s coming out of Washington.


Burdick: One of the things that has kept me in the legislature as long as I have, is that I’ve always felt that I am in partnership with my constituency. There are so many sharp, engaged people in my district, including at [PSU]. I always feel like we’re in this together, that people are listening to each other, and that people are participating fully. We’re all part of a team, and we’re all pulling in the same direction.