PCC Bond: Do we need a $3 Million Public Safety Building?
Coming up on November’s ballot is a measure for renewing a bond received by PCC in 2008. If passed, $185 million of taxpayer funds would be allocated for one-time facilities purchases at properties owned by PCC. Since the bond is a renewal, it will not result in an increase in taxes. Rather, it would maintain the 2017 tax rate of 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. This tax rate would remain in effect for 16 years.
One part of the bond proposal is a facilities update at PCC’s Cascade campus, where an estimated $3 million would be used for a new public safety building. PCC refers to this as one of their “modernization projects”. The current building is located on the North side of NE Killingsworth, on the East side of campus.
Linda Degman, director of the bond program was originally receptive to answering questions, but made no response to the questions sent to her on October 12th. These included: Why does PCC need a dedicated building for public safety on each campus? Why was this project prioritized above others? According to “Safety First” an article on PCC’s webpage, the building Public Safety currently occupies was originally a residence, then a dentist’s office.
Cascade’s public safety Sgt. Erik Hargrove believes “connectivity with the campus and community is vital to public safety’s mission.” It is unclear how PCC will reconcile staying connected with its community with committing to further property development which might serve to further displace long-time residents of the area.
When contacted for comment on how the $3 million building would affect public safety’s ability to fulfill the needs of students and the community, one public safety officer conferred with coworkers and said “We don’t really know much about it.”
Nick Carmack, CA’s student body president, seemed doubtful of how vital the building would be in serving the needs of students and the surrounding community. He expressed this concern:
“When PCC builds new buildings, PCC becomes a part of the gentrification of the neighborhood.” Carmack thought using the money for multi-stall All-User restrooms would better represent the values held by Cascade campus students.
This is not the only instance where PCC’s spending practices have been questioned. In 2015, Nick Budnick of the Oregonian reported that the roof of the Newberg Center failed less than four years after it was built. Last year, Leah Bell-Johnson of The Bridge investigated this further and obtained and published documents from PCC staff warning that the roof would fail, documents that were ignored by bond authorities who gave the go-ahead to the construction. PCC recently settled with the construction companies, who agreed to pay $2.75 million to the college. PCC had sued for $3.4 million.
Doug Taylor, a PCC alumni, former ASPCC-Cascade President, and the driving force behind the re-creation of The Bridge was involved in discussions of how PCC’s 2008 bond would be spent, and was one of many students who stood in a 4 hour protest at a bond meeting where the final version of CA’s Student Union was decided. Doug concurred with Nick that this rebuild was a dubious prospect, saying, “Growth. . . is always going to displace long standing citizens of the surrounding community. [It’s] always a double-edged sword.”
At a recent CA campus talk on the bond, PCC president Mark Mitsui said that PCC’s current plan is “to take care of what we have” rather than build during a decline in attendance. He also acknowledged that development quickens the spread of gentrification, and shared a map indicating trends in the changes of neighborhoods spreading from Portland’s core.