Hillsboro chamber head working to pass HSD, PCC bond measures
Hillsboro voters are deciding on two bond measures in next month's special election, and one Hillsboro woman is deeply involved in both campaigns.
Deana Palm, the longtime president of the Hillsboro Chamber, has been working for months to spread the word about the Hillsboro School District and Portland Community College bonds voters will decide on.
Ballots were mailed out this month for the Nov. 7 special election, where Hillsboro voters will decide on Measure 34-278 — a $408 million bond to build several new schools and make improvements across the district — and Measure 26-196, a $185 million bond measure for improvements across PCC's campuses, including Rock Creek near Hillsboro.
Since 2009, Palm has served on Portland Community College's board of directors, representing Hillsboro, Forest Grove, North Plains, Vernonia, Rock Creek, Banks and Gaston.
"I'm a PCC alum," Palm said. "That was the beginning and the end of my higher education, and now I'm here. A lot of my success goes to my connection with PCC and providing me that higher education opportunity."
The PCC bond measure would tackle a host of projects across the state's largest community college, including a new workforce training center in Northeast Portland and the construction of a new childcare development center on the Rock Creek campus. Every Portland Community College campus has a childcare center on its grounds except Rock Creek.
"If you can't afford access to childcare, we need to fix that," Palm said. "And if that's what makes the difference between you ever getting your diploma and associates degree? That's important. If we can remove that barrier, then the economy benefits, the state benefits. It's important stuff that's happening."
Rock Creek did experiment with a childcare center a few years ago, but closed it in 2014 due to rising costs. According to PCC at the time, it cost $150,000 per year to provide for 15 children at the center.The Hillsboro School District, likewise, is hoping to address a number of issues if its bond is approved, including building new schools across the district, making seismic improvements at several schools so they're more survivable in an earthquake and building new gymnasiums at schools that currently use combination cafeteria-gymnasium-auditoriums.
"If I'm a student and I go into a place every day that doesn't look its best, there's a message that's sent to our kids," Palm said. "I think our kids deserve a message that says, 'You deserve the best.' It moves the dial forward locally at HSD and in the region with PCC as well."
Palm is the currently co-chair of the district's bond advisory committee, which is running the campaign.
As the head of the Chamber of Commerce, Palm is tasked with advocating for Hillsboro's business community, both locally and at the state and federal levels.
At first glance, education issues may not seem like areas a Chamber of Commerce would get involved in, but Palm said education is the No. 1 priority the Chamber focuses on most months.
"It's a good space for chambers of commerce to be in," she said. "We, as an organization, have to care about education. The businesses that are here are trying to attract talent, and those employees want to know that they can locate in the community and raise their kids here. We have to have the resources at K-12, at community colleges and at universities in order for all of us to thrive.
"Our business community is demanding it. The talent they are hiring needs and wants it."
The Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce finds itself involved in many local issues, Palm said, including transportation planning, the city's plans to build a new water supply and working with the school district on career training.
"I'm passionate about Hillsboro," she said. "... There's not a day that goes by that I don't talk to businesses and they say they can't get the people they need. We're limiting our economy by the workforce gap we have. These businesses want to grow, if not but for this."
Palm said she sees education as a renewable asset in the community.
"When we don't invest in it, we're not renewing it," she said. "You have to invest in it in order to get out of it what you want."
By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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