Activist against illegal immigration takes aim at PCC's bond

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Portland Community College in November seeks a bond renewal of $185 million for facility upgrades
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Article date: 
Friday, September 15, 2017
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Oregon Issues
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A former vice president with Oregonians for Immigration Reform has shelled out $1,600 of his own money to file four Voters' Pamphlet statements attacking Portland Community College's $185 million bond renewal measure on the November ballot.

Rick LaMountain, a retired mail handler from Washington County who filed the opposition statements, says he wants to alert likeminded voters in the more conservative patches of PCC's service area to the community college's decision last December to designate itself a "sanctuary campus" for undocumented students. LaMountain also decries PCC's decision in spring 2016 to hold a "Whiteness History Month" event to examine racial privilege, an event he says instills "shame and guilt in white Americans."

It's not clear this early in the campaign what, if any, effect LaMountain's modest campaign could have on the bond measure, which seeks to modernize job-training facilities, improve transit and disability access on campuses and create a childcare facility on the Rock Creek campus, among other things.

His are the only statements against the bond. Nine groups representing businesses, elected leaders, students, faculty and others have filed statements in support of the renewal.

But liberal Portlanders aren't the only ones weighing the measure in November. Voters in portions of Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia and Yamhill counties have a say in the decision. The last time PCC sought a construction bond, in 2008, voters approved it with 53.2 percent of the vote, despite the fact that voters in Washington and Columbia counties rejected it.

Jake Weigler, a Portland political consultant, said LaMountain's statements in the Multnomah and Washington county Voters' Pamphlets could actually help drive people to vote yes on the bond. Given the national political climate, Weigler says, local voters are looking for ways to affirm their values of inclusiveness and social justice.

"On balance, I think it will help the campaign," he says.

John Horvick, a pollster with DHM Research in Portland, says he's also sceptical LaMountain's messages will resonate with enough voters to tank the bond. PCC, he says, typically enjoys high approval ratings, in part because so many people in the region have taken classes there or have family members who've done so. "It's not abstract," Horvick says. "People have a close connection."

For his part, LaMountain says he's aware he's unlikely to sway many new voters to his side. But he says he wants people who already side with him against taxpayer support for undocumented immigrants to be aware of PCC's actions.

His concerns haven't deterred PCC officials from moving ahead with offering additional services for immigrant students.

Just this week, PCC announced a grant to fund a "DACA Resource Center" at the Rock Creek campus in the Beaverton-Hillsboro area for beneficiaries of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It's being billed as the first of its kind in Oregon.