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PCC Government Relations — April Report

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The month of April was an active one for the PCC lobbying campaign. Two lobby days and two hearings of testimony before the Joint Ways & Means Committee’s virtual  “Road Show” provided the platform for the PCC community to make our case for a robust Community College Support Fund and the placement of full-time benefits navigators on each higher-education campus in the state.

The Government Relations Team’s recent efforts suggest that the practice of remote lobbying over Zoom — rather than being a hindrance — could be a powerful tool in this legislative session and beyond, enabling PCC to organize in concert with our sister institutions and partner organizations all over the state. By eliminating the obstacles of time and distance from Salem, remote lobbying carries the prospect of fruitful collaboration with virtually anyone who shares our values and policy objectives. We look forward to exploring this potential further over the remainder of the legislative session.

In the meantime, please enjoy this summation of our recent work.

SPOTLIGHT ON PCC WORK

April 12, 2021 | ASPCC Cascade & Southeast Lobby Day: A group of student leaders from the Cascade and Southeast campuses joined the GR Team for a day of Zoom meetings with Portland-area legislators. The students advocated on behalf of passing HB 2835, the Benefits Navigator bill. The bill, if passed, would place a full-time benefits navigator on each public community college and university campus in Oregon, whose job would be to connect students with the array of federal, state, local, and institutional benefits available to them, and thus hopefully make the difference between staying in school and dropping out. As is so often the case, our students proved to be their own best advocates as they shared their compelling stories about their struggles with making sense of the complex and intimidating world of student benefits.

April 14, 2021 | Joint Ways & Means “Road Show”: Due to the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic, the Legislature’s traveling Ways & Means Committee “Road Show” was unable to make its traditional circuit of Oregon’s five Congressional districts. Instead, the Committee held five separate Zoom meetings, one for each district, during which citizens were able to provide their input on a range of issues and policy proposals. Four members of the PCC community — Mark Mitsui, PCC President; Matt Scott, welding instructor; Angela McMahon, Director of COVID Re-Opening; and Michael Northover, IT Manager — offered either spoken or written testimony at the April 14 meeting, which covered Congressional District 1 (Portland’s West Side).

PCC’s contingent acquitted themselves very well! Their testimony was concise, clear, and spoke to the need for a well-funded community college system, as well as for the passage of HB 2835, the Benefits Navigator Bill (see above). 

For example, Matt Scott closed his testimony by urging legislators to consider community colleges’ role as the engine of workforce development in Oregon. “When the pandemic passes,” he said, “our economy is going to come roaring back. We’re going to need far more than just welders. And right at this moment, the federal government is debating the largest investment in American infrastructure for generations. We’re going to need welders, and computer-aided drafters, and diesel mechanics, and graphic designers, and medical assistants, and aviation mechanics, and computer scientists, and millwrights, and carpenters, and nurses, and many, many, other skilled professionals. And where do you learn to be these things? At community college.”

The April 14 Ways & Means hearing can be viewed here.

April 16, 2021 | PCC All Managers Meeting: The Oregon Community College Association (OCCA), of which PCC is a member, has retained the services of VoterVoice, a company which helps facilitate lobbying efforts by coordinating e-mail, text, and phone campaigns. Abe Proctor presented at the All Managers meeting, encouraging managers to join in OCCA’s April e-mail campaign in recognition of National Community College Month. Managers were instructed in how to use VoterVoice’s embedded e-mail tool to advocate for higher levels of community college funding, and were asked to pass the request on to their respective areas within the College.

April 21, 2021 | Joint Ways & Means “Road Show”: Much as they did on April 14, four members of the PCC community testified via Zoom at the April 21 meeting of the Joint Ways & Means “Road Show,” this time for Congressional District 3 (Portland’s East Side). Michael Sonnleitner, PCC Board Member; Riley Turner, PCC Student Board Representative; Julia Betts, Southeast Campus STEM Center Coordinator; and Tom Farrenkopf, ASPCC Cascade Legislative Director, all testified either verbally or in writing. It was another strong performance from the PCC team.

“It’s important for you, the members of the Oregon Legislature, to hear about this, because our ability to do these things depends on the resources we have available to us,” said Julia Betts in her testimony. “A well-funded Community College Support Fund would enable us to continue, and even expand, our efforts to expose students to STEM-related studies, support them academically and socially, bring STEM education to young people in the community, and, ultimately, start students on the path to becoming Oregon’s next generation of scientists, researchers, engineers, technicians, and healers.”

The April 21 Ways & Means hearing can be viewed here.

April 22, 2021 | Student Hunger Lobby Day: PCC partnered with a broad coalition of sister community colleges, public universities, and community organizations on April 22 to lobby in favor of passing HB 2835, the Basic Needs Navigator Bill (see above). The coalition’s efforts met with support from a significant proportion of the legislators with whom they met, notably from a number of legislators from outside the Portland metro area.

The success of this joint effort suggests that the ability of a remote lobbying campaign to marshal the simultaneous participation of people from all over the state, across multiple institutions and organizations, could signal the emergence of a new and powerful means of advancing our priorities in Salem. Even after the coronavirus pandemic has receded, the potential of this sort of lobbying effort will remain. Given that remote lobbying removes the burden — in both cost and time — of a diverse coalition of partners needing to physically converge on Salem, it represents an opportunity to partner with a virtually endless range of like-minded institutions, organizations, and individuals to advocate for our common agenda. It is likely that we will retain remote meetings as part of our suite of lobbying tools for the foreseeable future.

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PCC offers this limited open forum as an extension of the respectful, well-reasoned discourse we expect in our classroom discussions. As such, we welcome all viewpoints, but monitor comments to be sure they stick to the topic and contribute to the conversation. We will remove them if they contain or link to abusive material, personal attacks, profanity, off-topic items, or spam. This is the same behavior we require in our hallways and classrooms. Our online spaces are no different.