Christine Drazan is running for House District 39 in the seat that's being vacated by Republican Bill Kennemer, who is retiring. Drazan, a Republican from Canby, has worked as the executive director of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition and the chief of staff for the speaker of the house in the Oregon Legislature.
"I got to peak behind the curtain in a way that not a lot of people get to see," said Drazan, who has a degree from George Fox University. "It gave me a clear sense of how the Legislature impacts our lives in really big ways."
If elected, Drazan said she hopes to "make a real difference in the lives of people who live here."
The Estacada News spoke to Drazan about the priorities she would bring to the position, statewide ballot measures in the upcoming election and the issues facing the district, which includes Estacada, Eagle Creek, Barton, Beavercreek, Boring, Canby Carus, Charbonneau, Fisher Mill, Mulino, Redland, rural areas of Oregon City and portions of Damascus and Happy Valley.
ESTACADA NEWS: What priorities would you bring to the position?
DRAZAN: My number-one priority would be to serve and represent constituents. I'm not pushing this from the perspective of hammering on a table and saying, "I see something that's broken and I'm going to single-handedly go in there and fix it." I am a collaborator. I like to problem solve in a way that's respectful, and I want to work with others.
Immediately on the heels of that, we have got to something about schools. Our graduation rates vary across this particular district, and statewide we continue to struggle. I don't think that's a Salem kind of top down mandate solution, but I do think that we need to get our hands around what some of the challenges are in our schools that are really struggling with graduation rates and being more responsive to our leaders and school boards (to) get a better sense of what they need. The conversation in the past has really revolved around what is the big budget number, but I hope that we can move (to) how is increasing this budget going to help you increase these gains in graduation rates and student learning. Help us understand what you'll be going with this that's different than what we've done in the past to help kids succeed.
EN: What are some of the issues facing the district?
DRAZAN: Education and graduation rates drive a lot. When you talk to business owners, workforce is an issue everywhere. People are really having a hard time finding the right person and training them, and getting them to stay long enough. That's an important issue and it starts with education.
When I was walking in Estacada this past weekend, (at)all the doors where people really wanted to talk about issues they were all healthcare — whether or not it was the price of their prescription drugs, or the service they were actually getting once they were in a hospital or doctors office, all the way through to their insurance itself and what it did or didn't cover. (One person I spoke to) was saying for her prescription for her insulin, if she goes to her local pharmacy it's $75, if she drives to Fred Meyer it's $50 and if she drives to Walmart it's $25. She's on a fixed income budget and doesn't drive. So it's a whole interconnected system. It sounds like it's a small thing, just picking up her prescription, but for her it's a big thing. So these are issues that affect people that the Legislature needs to keep working on, and we need to try to figure out if we have regulations in the bureaucracy that are allowing for some of these disparities, we need to figure out how that is happening and we need to make things fair for consumers.
DRAZAN: I think that Estacada, being rural, will continue to have issues around its economy and transportation. The issues I've been talking about are issues that people have talked to me about when I'm here — issues around healthcare and education.
EN: How do you hope to support local schools?
DRAZAN: Part of it has to be keeping in regular communication with your school board and your superintendent as we go through the budgeting process and policy proposals. (We need to make sure) that there's some really good dialogue for "How will this affect your schools? Will this be manageable? Is there something you'd like to be changed with this?" So I think the biggest part of that from my end is really about supporting the direction and goals of local schools. Keeping open communication and dialogue is important.
EN: Should there be tolling on Interstate 5 and 205?
DRAZAN: Typically, when they have tolls it's in support of additional capacity, and you're paying for brand new lanes and that's what helps congestion. But this proposal is tolling to price people off these roads and not actually giving people other options, especially in our community where people can't hop on a MAX train and if you take a bus you're 2-3 hours away from wherever you want to go. We don't have realistic alternatives to getting in our car here. I don't think the way they structured it that it's a fair proposal. I think it adversely affects Clackamas County.
DRAZAN: I have concerns about anything that has the possibility of increasing property taxes and making it less affordable (for people) to stay in their homes. Having said that, the structure of Measure 102 is very appropriate. It requires the approval of voters, it's project specific and it's specific to the community and the voters themselves get the final say. Even though I have concerns about the fact that it's going to increase prices for homes, I think that voters have a say in it and so I'm OK with Measure 102.
EN: Do you support Measure 103, which would ban taxes on groceries?
DRAZAN: I think that one's fine. We don't currently have a tax on groceries, but I understand where they're going with that.
EN: Do you support Measure 104, which expands the requirement that a three-fifths majority to any legislation that increases revenue through changes in tax exemptions, credits and deductions?
DRAZAN: It clarifies how it's structured. The reason that measure is so important is because in some cases you'll get a proposal that will come to the House or Senate, and it will actually increase revenue substantially. They'll say, "We don't view this as a tax, we view this as a fee." If it's an actual tax than it requires a higher threshold (for votes). I think a lot of things they have been categorizing as fees, since they're used for general benefit and not just the benefit of the user, they should have had a majority requirement. I think there's a strong basis to support that measure.
DRAZAN: I support Measure 105 for a super basic reason, and that is if we have a budget that takes $20 billion of federal money, we use that $20 billion in funds throughout our budget to provide public services here in Oregon. I think it's appropriate that if we have an issue that is criminal in nature, that we work together with federal law enforcement.
I would hope that if it does pass we would fund additional training and support for our public safety officers and make sure that the concerns we have from our community members opposed to 105 as it relates to potential racial profiling and other issues, that we provide additional training to ensure that those issues are addressed and that that's not a concern for how this is implemented
I think it's very important that people still feel like they can report crimes and they feel like there's still community policing where they can have a relationship with their local law enforcement officer and feel safe. But on the other hand I do think that we need to work with our federal law enforcement. Rule of law is important and we need to be a nation of laws.
I think our law enforcement professionals can be trusted to be able to do this in a way that maintains relationships and is respectful to communities.
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?
DRAZAN: I am supportive of that. For all the priorities we have around homelessness, graduation rates, not enough foster parents, and the list goes on and on, we have scarce resources and I really believe that there are better use of funds than that.
EN: How do you plan to balance being available to the local communities you serve and working in Salem?
DRAZAN: I intend to continue to go to as many events as I can to be present in the community and be available to people. I'll continue to communicate and do newsletters, town halls and have lots of opportunities to be out in the community and hear from folks and see how I can be of service. I hope people come see me in Salem if I have the opportunity to serve, but if they don't I'll come see them in their communities.
EN: What would the most rewarding part of the position be?
DRAZAN: For me, the biggest part of this is being of service to other people and being their voice, not only inside Salem and in the process as we're looking at bills, but also after that when people need help with agencies or when they need they need help working through problems. I want to help be a problem solver for people.
EN: Why are you the most qualified candidate?
DRAZAN: I have a unique experience professionally. I've been inside the building and I have a pretty extensive policy background that makes me uniquely qualified. I would say a more compelling perspective for me is that I really want to serve people. I want to take what I know and my qualifications and my background and put that to work for other people