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Commentary From Community Activist Jeff Hess on OSU Growth Impacting Corvallis

Last Modified: 03/21/15
First Published: 11/07/14
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Comments: 1 Views: 730

At their last meeting I testified before the OSU board of trustees raising to their awareness the irrevocable loss of affordable housing stock Corvallis has seen in response to OSU growth, the increase in student debt that has accompanied it, and the environmental impact from more than 18 thousand daily commutes to our city... all resulting from OSU's enrollment-before-housing expansion plan.  Alarmingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, this appeared to be the first time the board had heard of any down-side from OSU's growth.  The first time they may have even heard mention of Corvallis as anything more than 'the city where OSU resides'.  Responding to my testimony OSU president Ed Ray raised to the board a favorite point he makes on this matter, that 'Benton County wasn't hit by the recession thanks to OSU'. 

While this statement is true it should be said that it isn't because of masterful leadership at OSU.  For anyone who cares to remember, the university was as surprised as anyone to see enrollment start going up in those early years of the recession as a wave of people chose to further their education rather than face a declining job market.  In other words we were both quite lucky in avoiding the recession.  But more importantly why does Mr. Ray raise this point when someone speaks to the many negative social and/or environmental impacts that have resulted from the way OSU's growth has been managed?  The implication appears to be that Corvallis somehow owes OSU a debt of some kind and that the concerns raised by community are part of the repayment of that debt.  If this is the case might we reasonably ask exactly how much he thinks we owe and at what point will it be paid?

In my exposure to Mr. Ray, the single person who sets the tone and character of all OSU/city interactions, it seems increasingly clear that he may not value what Corvallis brings to OSU.  That is, he might not think OSU is lucky to have us, and 'us' is a community of people, (many of whom are retired from OSU and including many who still work there today), who are much more than mere employees of the university.  We have families here, we live here and we make this place home.  We work harder than most cities in maintaining public input to local government.  Our vision for a city, and our community beliefs, largely shape what allows OSU to sell itself as being plunked within one of the most livable cities in the world and our passion for community and open spaces provides OSU students an incredible place to live.  Had we, years ago, followed the advice of growth-based economists and rushed to the industrialization of our city lands we might today provide the same broken backdrop many other state universities have to contend with when selling themselves to prospective students.  It's fair to say OSU is lucky to have Corvallis too. Now, can we stay on topic and begin to address the things that aren't working?

Sat Mar 21, 2015 6:38 am
Name: Benjamin Comment: This man, Mr. Hess, makes more and more sense each time I read something he has authored. President Ray has been resistant to any criticism to this point but his armor is becoming tarnished by his intransigence.

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