Portland Community College board candidates Moses Ross and Valdez Bravo spoke and took questions at a Washington County Public Affairs Forum meeting on Monday, May 8. Valdez and Ross are both competing for the Zone 5 seat, along with David C. Squire, who was not in attendance. The fight for Zone 5 is the only contested PCC board race.
The candidate forum started with opening statements, then moved on to audience questions.
"The whole basis of my campaign is emphasizing the word 'community' in community college," said Ross, a small business owner, in his opening statement. "We must keep PCC affordable and accessible to all in the community. The best way to do that is to listen and learn, to acknowledge and respect all voices in our community."
Ross went on to say that PCC is the, "Ellis Island in our community," because it empowers residents to better their lives.
Bravo talked about his background in his opening statement. He grew up on a goat farm outside of Salem, and said that college always seemed like, "something you had to be incredibly wealthy to participate in."
After graduation high school, Bravo joined the army and served in Afghanistan. Upon his return to the country, he enrolled in PCC and went on to graduate from Baylor University. He is now a health care administrator at the Veterans' Affairs Portland Health Care System.
"I'm here because PCC changed my life," Bravo said. "I want to fight for no-to-low tuition increases, because I believe community college should be an affordable, accessible experience, and the tuition just keeps getting higher."
A major issue of discussion in the forum was the fact that not all PCC credits are transferrable to the state's four-year universities.
"I will look into this," Ross said about the credit discrepancies. "I will correct it, if I can."
Ross also advocated for improving the apprenticeship programs, so that more students can make a living wage while working toward a two-year degree in a promising field. He said that he would favor apprenticeships over internships, which he called "unpaid slave labor."
Bravo pointed out that if the 17 different community colleges in Oregon could work together to make credits transferable, then the four-year universities ought to cooperate as well.
"As a PCC board member, I'll be a strong advocate to make sure those big schools can get on the same page," he said.
Other important issues for Bravo included hiring more full-time teachers, and increasing diversity in PCC leadership. If elected, Bravo will be the board's only Latino and only veteran. He recently received the endorsement of Our Revolution, a political action organization that formed out of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.
"When we have faculty and staff of color, we can better serve students of color," Bravo said.
For Ross, ensuring accessibility for the entire community was tantamount.
"PCC picks up the slack — as it should," Ross said, referring to the gaps in Oregon's K-12 education. Anyone within the community can go to a community college and get that remedial math … and create a career path towards a living wage job. We have to be that safety net for the community to ensure that they get the higher education that they deserve."
The winners of this election will serve a four-year term. Ballots have been sent out, and the deadline to vote is Tuesday, May 16.