Midterms 2018: An Interview with Janeen Sollman
By Patrick Maguire
Washington County Democrats Communication Committee Secretary
Janeen Sollman was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2016 and serves on the House Education Committee, the House Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee, the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission and is a STEM Fellow. Prior to being elected to the House, Janeen served on the Hillsboro School Board from 2009-2017 and was Board Chair from 2011-2013. As an active volunteer, Janeen has served with Meals on Wheels, the Washington County Project Homeless Connect, and the Hillsboro School District.
Tell us about what your day looks like as a state representative.
It is an honor to serve as State Representative for House District 30. I enjoy listening and learning from my constituents across my diverse district that extends from Banks to Beaverton. I balance a busy work/life schedule that includes my job as a Recycling and Customer Service Specialist at Vernier Software & Technology and my job in Salem as a State Representative. Currently, during campaign season, I balance a third job as a candidate. It is always a rewarding opportunity to be among my community and constituents, in all areas of my daily life, and I look forward to continuing to work for them in Salem.
What made you originally want to run? What inspired you to become an elected official?
I am a strong believer in service to my community and the biggest priorities I see for my community are education, the environment, and jobs. As a former school board member, I have a true belief that we need to address the issue of continued cuts to the K-12 budget and the rising costs of higher education. An educated workforce is the cornerstone of a thriving community, and quality public education is essential to create equal opportunity for every Oregonian and build a stronger future for our state. We also need to protect the legacy of our state for future generations by making sure we have clean air and water, by protecting our environment, and finding the balance needed with the growth in our area. I want to make sure that we have a healthy and prosperous economy for every hardworking Oregonian and respect the needs of our aging population.
Tell us about what you’ve been able to do to address homelessness and housing affordability?
I have supported several bills to address homelessness and/or housing affordability, including HB 4007 which increased the document recording fee from $20 to $60, which will generate an additional $60 million each biennium for a total of $90 million each biennium in resources for housing. The document recording fee generates resources for homeless services and prevention, developing and preserving affordable housing, and providing homeownership opportunities for low-to-moderate income families. Twenty-five percent of the document recording fee serves veterans and this increase will result in an additional $15 million a biennium, for a total of $22.5 million a biennium for veterans housing.
HB 4007 also allows financial institutions to create First-Time Homebuyer Savings Accounts for Oregonians struggling to save for their first home. Income-qualifying individuals will get a tax incentive for funds contributed to the account. Another measure, HJR 201, refers a constitutional change to the voters to make it easier for local jurisdictions to use voter-approved general obligation bonds to finance affordable housing in their communities. The resolution received strong bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature and the accompanying measure will be put before voters in the November 2018 election.
Finally, HB 4006 requires Oregon Housing and Community Services and the Department of Land Conservation and Development to help cities with more than 25 percent of renters paying more than half of their income on housing identify and report on actions that will help reduce severe rent burdens in their communities. The bill allocates $2 million to provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions and partners working to increase the availability of affordable housing in Oregon.
What keeps you going in difficult times? What would you say to your constituents about keeping focused and positive about the future?
Honestly, the people I represent keep me going. They attend my many listening sessions, share their concerns and ideas and keep our community conversations going strong. We have much to be proud of in Oregon, but we still have more work to do. The issues we work on have a potential to directly impact many lives. You want a representative that is energized by this type of work, dedicated to finding community solutions and driven by the results. I strive to be that kind of community leader and it has been an honor to lend to positive change.
On another topic that many Oregonians are concerned about, what are your plans for Oregon for disaster preparedness and infrastructure improvements?
As cybersecurity attacks get more advanced, we need to be proactive in reviewing current infrastructure and implementing new procedures to ensure data is safe. We also need our local governments to start prioritizing this issue. Our communities need to develop emergency preparedness plans so that in the event of a disaster we are prepared and can recover quickly. We don’t want disaster to strike, but if it does we want to be ready. Making these investments now will help ensure that we are.