A Report: Alan DeBoer’s Town Hall

Alan DeBoer’s Town Hall

Reported and written by Addie Greene

“Oregon has 22 billion dollars in unfunded PERS liability,” District 3 Sen. Alan DeBoer told his town hall audience Saturday morning at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. “It could be as much as 50 billion dollars,” he added. A woman who made the decision that created this situation told him it was “the worst mistake of her life.”

His suggestion for dealing with this issue is “to pull the liability away and put it in its own pocket.” He also proposed a 1.3% corporate tax, with a 1.4% tax on larger corporations. “This won’t do the job,” he said, “but it would be a start.” He also is looking into a gross receipts tax, which has been adopted by six states. Ohio’s (favored) model is a tax on gross receipts, including sales of property, performance of services, and rent, with an annual minimum.

When DeBoer opened the town hall to questions, several audience members expressed strong support for HB 2004, which would limit no-cause evictions after a six-month occupancy and allow local jurisdictions to decide whether or not they want to impose rent control. “There is no way to have stability in a community when rents are skyrocketing,” one speaker said. “We’re really hurting with retaliation evictions when people ask for repairs.”

DeBoer responded that the bill barely made it through the House and said, “We need to build more housing—increase programs to get people into housing.” He pointed out that when a black mold issue surfaced some years ago, “landlords stopped renting. Be careful of the effects you create.”

Another speaker said one in three Jackson County renters pays more than 50% of their income on rent. “I don’t understand the landlords’ greed,” he said, saying he was paying $500 more for rent after an eviction, and that rent just has been raised $200.

A woman who used to live in Pasadena said, “In California, renters must be informed 24 hours before the landlord enters” and said she was in the shower when her landlord entered without prior notification. “Front yards must be planted, stairs lighted, and pests eliminated.” In Oregon she was evicted because her apartment had rats. She said her good landlord here “has no concept of renters’ rights. I lived with a gas leak for over a year and with mold for three years.”

“Everybody has rights; we can’t violate them,” DeBoer responded, but he would not commit to supporting HB 2004.

Another audience member asked him to support SB 752 (HB 2005), which would require employers to give women comparable wages to men and would prohibit them from asking for a prospective employee’s wage history.

“Everybody needs equal pay,” DeBoer responded, but he would not commit to supporting this bill, saying it needs “research” and “bills change” from the time they are introduced until a vote is taken. “Is the bill we’re voting on the right bill?” he asked. “I read every bill I vote on.”

A young woman, after asking all those under 30 in the audience to stand, said, “Our generation is the one most impacted by climate change” and “a cap and invest bill would generate 700 million dollars in revenue.” She asked him to support SB 557.

“I will absolutely fight to save our environment,” DeBoer answered, “but utility bills will go up, and there must be provisions to protect low-income residents.” Another audience member asked him to give a yes or no by next Saturday. “I won’t promise a vote on anything,” he said.

“Will you fight against climate change if it goes against your donor group?” another asked. “I don’t think about major contributors,” he said.

“At least you can go to your fellow legislators to support climate legislation—to support SB 557,” someone else pleaded.

“Corporate power overshadows every issue in this room,” a woman asserted. “There is plenty of money if we tax corporations appropriately.”

“How will you distinguish yourself from the national fascism?” another audience member asked. “I’m trying the best I can,” he responded, and said he gave a letter, addressed to Donald Trump, Friday to Rep. Greg Walden to hand deliver, complaining about this issue.

A teacher cited 1.1 million dollars in cuts to the Medford School District and asked DeBoer to support legislation that would replicate Measure 97, the 2.5% corporate tax measure that failed at the ballot box in 2016. “Amazon would leave the state,” DeBoer replied. “Amazon still would pay the tax,” she countered. “We didn’t have a voice in the campaign” because it was dominated by corporate money.

A Lions Club member asked DeBoer to support SB 187, which would help fund Oregon school districts for sight and hearing testing. The Lions Clubs do the testing on fourth graders, he said, “but a lot of schools don’t have the funds to set it up.” “We can literally save millions that will help children” with these efforts, DeBoer replied.

Another audience member complained about a medical marijuana grow in a 2800-square-foot structure right next to her property on exclusive farm use land. DeBoer said he would “stop by” and see what he could do.

A man concerned about mass transit said, “We have a shell of a transit system” and asked how it could be improved. An employee payroll tax could be part of the solution, DeBoer answered, and said, “the state Constitution bars the use of ODOT funds for mass transit.”

“One in four kids in the county is food insecure,” a woman said, “because people pay the rent first. The system is not working.”

Another woman asked him to support SB 558 so that “every single child in Oregon can be covered with health insurance.” “We need health care for all,” DeBoer responded.

“Will you join us in keeping out the (LNG) pipeline?” a woman asked. “I’m against the pipeline,” he told her.

“It may be too late for Ashland,” a man said sadly. “Ashland is turning into a museum” where only retired people can afford to live.

DeBoer promised to hold more town halls and to keep listening to his constituents.