Gallia looks to increase engagement, collaboration
Challenging the Republican incumbent for the Oregon Senate District 20 seat is Charles Gallia, a Democrat from Oregon City.
Gallia is a senior policy advisor for research and evaluation at the Oregon Health Authority and co-founded the Oregon Pediatric Improvement Partnership. He has a doctorate degree in public administration and policy from Portland State University.
If elected, Gallia hopes to improve access to healthcare and increase engagement with government.
"As I've gone through several legislative sessions I've seen some of the discussion and decisions that have played with people's access to healthcare as if it were a pawn. The cons of those are really devastating on an individual level," he said.
The Estacada News spoke to Gallia about the priorities he would bring to the position, statewide ballot measures in the upcoming election and the issues facing the district, which includes Estacada, Eagle Creek, Canby, Oregon City, Gladstone, Johnson City, Beavercreek, Boring, Damascus and southern parts of Happy Valley. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Estacada News: What priorities would you bring to the position?
Gallia: Part of my job is asking people what they think is most important and if the background on a particular issue isn't clear, providing objective (information) so people can make informed choices. It's really a matter of communicating effectively and representing those positions in Salem. There are things that are going to be similar and different between the majority of the district and what my views are, but I have an obligation to advocate for those positions (of the district). It's not a matter of getting re-elected. That's what democracy is about.
There's things like building community. There's instances when somebody calls the police on a representative in Happy Valley while she was knocking on doors, and it makes you wonder (if) we've really created that much of a barrier between knowing who is in our neighborhood or not. That's the rebuilding we need to do. (If people had a voice), they may be able to bring ways of solving problems that we may not have considered yet.
EN: What are some of the issues facing the district?
Gallia: When I ask people what their priorities are, they're often not able to answer. You can't make informed decisions about policy decisions if you don't know what the issues are. When we go to make cuts or increases in funding, you can't have public support if they're not informed and involved. One of the biggest issues I see is a sense of disconnect with Salem and not knowing where influence can be put, what people are getting for taxes they pay and how successful we are in different program areas.
The district is a little older than the rest of the state on average, and it's also a little more white. So some of the experiences that are happening in Portland aren't relevant to this district, but healthcare is important. (People are) getting caught in the transition between work-based healthcare and Medicare. People are still concerned about education funding and the stability of our economic growth.
EN: What are some issues faced by the district's rural areas, such as Estacada?
Gallia: There's increasing traffic and homes being built. It's a growth demand that puts pressure on the city. It looks like the resources exist to support the infrastructure, but there's going to be a change of what Estacada is. What is its identity? Is it a suburb, or is it really its own thing? Balancing that identity is probably almost as important as the specifics about housing and infrastructure.
EN: How do you hope to support local schools?
Gallia: Education is probably one of the toughest issues we have. What we need to do is find the resources to pay for that gap, and shift the emphasis on schools that focus only on graduation rates and testing metrics. . .and let teachers have smaller class sizes. When people understand where their money is going, they're going to be more likely to support it.
EN: Should there be tolling on Interstate 5 and 205?
Gallia: No. It presents a lot of problems. If somebody has an 8-5 job, they're not going to have a choice about when they go to work. If we do congestion pricing, they're going to be hit the hardest and that's not necessarily fair. In parts of the district, there aren't public transit options. I-5 and 205 are interstates. They have regional significance, and the burden of making sure that congestion is addressed shouldn't primarily lie on the local population.
EN: Do you support Measure 102, which would allow cities to use bonds to fund privately owned affordable housing?
Gallia: Absolutely. It gives local jurisdictions the option of working with nonprofit entities. It's a choice the state is encouraging cities and counties to pursue. It's fine.
EN: Do you support Measure 103, which would ban taxes on groceries?
Gallia: I have some concerns about this kind of specialty tax. Reality is we don't have a sales tax. I can't imagine it ever occurring. But the driver behind this really wasn't the grocery (industry). It was actually real estate companies who didn't want the legislature to impose a transaction tax, and so in order to prevent that from occurring they joined the with grocery stores saying 'these are off limits.' I'm opposed to that kind of industry specific taxing because it's not good public policy.
EN: Do you support Measure 104, which expands the requirement that a three-fifths legislative majority to any legislation that increases revenue through changes in tax exemptions, credits and deductions?
Gallia: I think it's a bit too extreme. A fee, a State Park pass, would require a vote. If people thought that government was ineffective or unresponsive now, just imagine what would happen when we can't end a session because we can't come to the constitutional requirement of having a balanced budget.
EN: Do you support Measure 105, which repeals a law forbidding state resources from being used to apprehend persons violating federal immigration laws?
Gallia: I'm opposed to the repeal of (the sanctuary state). We have a limited amount of resources and to ask us to subsidize enforcing federal laws is really beyond what we have the capacity to do. More fundamentally, it's not who Oregon is. We have kind of a checkered past in race relations, and our long-term growth comes from having a welcoming environment for businesses and individuals, and not the kind of segmentation that would come along with passing something that's sponsored mostly by a couple of hate groups.
EN: Do you support Measure 106, which would prohibit public funds from being spent on abortions in Oregon, except in instances that are medically necessary or required by federal law?
Gallia: It's an incremental step in trying to reduce women's access to reproductive healthcare. I'm not supporting it.
EN: How do you plan to balance being available to the local communities you serve and working in Salem?
Gallia: I like working with communities and attending meetings. I like having my office open, and people can call or write. It's understanding and communicating with folks that you find out what their real priorities are. You can only do that if you're involved and engaged on a regular basis.
EN: What would the most rewarding part of the position be?
Gallia: I've started to see some things already. People have told me stories about their experience and they expect or hope that I would be able to help. There was a grandmother concerned about her grandchild, who has spina bifida, being discharged because there wasn't a caregiver for him at home and his insurance coverage would lapse. So I helped that grandmother figure out what to do.
Globally, I hope my presence in the Senate will change the culture enough to allow us to be constructive problem solvers that put Oregon first, before party.
EN: Why are you the most qualified candidate?
Gallia: There are few people with the education and experience moving into this kind of role that I do. I really understand our budget for Medicaid, the Oregon Health Plan, our match rates and what things are possible to change through negotiating with our federal partners. That expertise will fill a role in the senate that is currently not being met.
When I graduated from high school in 1975, we had these Republican leaders — Hatfield, Packwood and McCall, and how they operated was putting Oregon first. Some of the most innovative things that came out of state government occurred under that leadership, and I want us to get that kind of community-based problem solving that put citizens above party. Because of my longevity here, I know it's possible. The culture exists. We need to surface it and take pride in that Oregon independent progressive behavior once again.