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Eugene Weekly : Cover Story : 10.14.2010

 

Election Endorsements

Ballots will be arriving in mailboxes beginning this weekend for candidates and local and statewide measures. Deadline for dropping ballots in a ballot box around town is 8 pm Tuesday, Nov. 2. Postmarks don’t count, so it’s best to mail ballots in by Thursday, Oct. 28. Below are our selected endorsements. For races and issues not listed, please refer to your Voters’ Pamphlet. Most candidates have easily found websites.

 

CANDIDATE RACES

U.S. Senator. Ron Wyden (D)

“The skinny guy from Oregon,” as Wyden sometimes describes himself, should easily win reelection to six more years in the U. S. Senate, adding to his nearly 30 years already served in both the House and Senate. Jim Huffman, law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, is his principal opponent. A newcomer to politics, Huffman is articulate and certainly expert in constitutional law, but his hopelessly conservative, anti-tax, anti-regulation arguments for “limited government” sound like he missed the recession we’re still in. Wyden, skilled at working across the Senate, has been a big player in health care, a forest policy both industry and environmentalists can agree to, and trying to rein in Wall Street. He voted against the Iraq War, a powerful vote we value. His concerns about the anti-incumbent wave have pushed him to raise substantial money and advertise heavily on TV and the internet. A lopsided vote for Wyden will be a good message from Oregon. 

 

U.S. House, District 4. Peter DeFazio (D) 

Peter DeFazio, who has managed to maintain a populist appeal in the odd mixture of liberal Eugene and rural values that is the 4th District, ought to be a shoo-in for this race. He’s the guy who will talk dog food with you at Bi-Mart and get chided for not dressing up enough for Congress yet still has serious clout on Capitol Hill. But this isn’t a year for voters to be complacent. It’s only fun to laugh at states that elect crazy people when it’s not your state. Opponent Art Robinson is climate change denier who believes that whole Darwinian evolution theory thing is not quite right (and we doubt he believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster either), thinks that putting a little nuclear radiation-tainted water from California into Oregonian water would be healthy and espoused the idea that AIDS “may be little more than a general classification of deaths resulting from exposure to homosexual behavior.” He’s funded by a lot of out of state money, much of it from unknown sources. Mike Beilstein brings attention to peace issues in his platform, but he isn’t much of a factor in the race. The only vote here, and we’re talking to Republicans as well as Democrats and Greens, is DeFazio. Change ought to be for the better, and in this case the better vote by far is sticking with DeFazio.

 

U.S. House, District 5. Kurt Schrader (D) 

Hey folks in Corvallis, Newport, Waldport and other places where we know you’re reading EW even though you’re not in Lane County, this one’s for you. Schrader is in a swing race, and his opponent isn’t yet another Tea Party wingnut. Schrader is a newbie on Capitol Hill, but the large animal veterinarian turned Blue Dog Democrat got picked to chair the Small Business Subcommittee, has worked to help small businesses and has put in a solid first term. Opponent Scott Bruun isn’t horrible, but he is toeing the Republican Party line of repealing the health care legislation and freezing spending (except of course defense spending). Chris Lugo is running on a peace platform. Go with Schrader; he’s got promise.

 

Governor. John Kitzhaber  (D)

If you want just one good reason to rally again for John Kitzhaber, it’s health care for all Oregonians. Having devoted much of his life to this cause, Dr. K has the smarts we need to mesh Oregon’s needs with Obamacare. This is not a simple issue. Nor are the Oregon budget, preservation of strong public education, environmental sanity, job creation and more. That’s why it’s an insult to Oregon voters to suggest that Chris Dudley, a former pro basketball player with absolutely no public policy experience, is equipped to be an effective governor in a tough time. The campaign has shown increasingly that Dudley should not be governor. One more reason: Planned Parenthood has just told us that Dudley is not pro-choice. We’re lucky that Kitzhaber is willing to come back for a term to affirm that Oregon is governable, especially if the Democrats can hold the majority in the Legislature. If you want to call or walk in these last few weeks, go to work for the Kitzhaber campaign. Every “yes” vote is important. 

 

State Treasurer. Ted Wheeler (D)

In their Eugene appearance, all three candidates were appealing in their own ways, but Ted Wheeler already has proven his ability as state treasurer. Governor Kulongoski served the state well when he appointed Wheeler last March to fill the vacancy left by the death of Ben Westlund. Three former state treasurers, R and D, are supporting Wheeler. His educational background is powerful: degrees in economics, business, and public policy from Stanford, Columbia, and Harvard; and it’s all training he’ll need to steer the finances of this state at this time. Wheeler already is a public servant to watch for Oregon’s future, but first, elect him state treasurer for four full years.

 

Senate District 4. Floyd Prozanski (D) 

Prozanski is the easy choice here. He sealed his environmental credentials when he cosponsored the bill that ended field burning in the Willamette Valley, but the former prosecutor has also gotten props from the cops and from the Independent Party. His opponent, former Roseburg county commissioner Marilyn Kittelman, barely survived a recall attempt in that job and wasn’t re-elected. She has been accused of racism against Native Americans and made headlines when she allegedly made a shotgun pumping motion and said, “I’m fighting Indians. Anyone want to join me?” We got a kick out of her calling her opponent “Pink Floyd Prozanski,” and at a Tea Party rally in April she implied Prozanski was a communist. Fellow Republicans groaned with dismay when she threw her hat into the ring for this race.

 

Senate District 6. Lee Beyer (D)

This district includes Creswell, Springfield, Brownsville and parts of Linn County. Lee Beyer held this seat up until nine years ago when he was appointed to the PUC. He’s now retired and wants his old Senate seat back. Beyer is a conservative Democrat who favors tax breaks for developers, but he did some good work in the Senate and is the better choice over conservative Republican Michael Spasaro, 

 

Senate District 7.  Chris Edwards (D)

Edwards served in the Oregon House from 2006 to 2009 when he was appointed to the Senate to fill Vicki Walker’s seat. A graduate of OSU who worked in his family’s wood products business, Edwards works with diverse elements of the state in a straightforward way. He’s a good listener who works hard for equitable solutions. Education is his highest priority. Clearly, he has a future in the Oregon Democratic structure. His opponent, Karen Bodner, talks the Tea Party line: “Protect capitalism and abide by the Constitution,” as she interprets both. No contest.

 

House District 7. Sara Byers (D)

This district includes Cottage Grove and parts of Lane and Douglas counties. Don Nordin tried unsuccessfully to unseat incumbent Republican Bruce Hanna in 2008, but Democrat Sara Byers is running a more energetic and aggressive campaign, pointing out Hanna’s business-as-usual calls for more logging, less regulation, less taxes on the wealthy, and no increases in the minimum wage. Byers supports well-funded schools, kicker reform and a statewide toxics right-to-know law similar to Eugene’s. Byers is going door-to-door in the district talking to registered Republicans, and we hear she’s getting a positive response. It appears Hanna’s not all that popular, even in his own party.

 

House District 8. Paul Holvey (D)

This race makes for another simple choice. Paul Holvey has been a voice for the environment, health care and sustainable growth since his election in 2004. Opponent Simone Gordon took the Tea Party tactic of name calling last April when she called Holvey “the biggest socialist in the state of Oregon.”  We like her “no kill” stance on animal shelters and the fact that she claims to be a Republican who’s pro-conservation. She’s 23 and here’s hoping she’ll continue to be involved in politics because we like the young folks, but against a proven positive force in the Legislature like Holvey, who’s endorsed by the Sierra Club as well as police and firefighters, and who’s fought to end puppy mills and field burning, it’s another “no contest.” 

 

House District 10.  Jean Cowan (D)  

Incumbent Democrat Jean Cowan has been a solid lawmaker representing Newport and the central Oregon Coast since 2006.  Republicans picked the very conservative Becky Lemler of Elmira to run against her. Lemler campaigned against Measures 66 and 67 and wants taxes and regulations on businesses rolled back. She likes to quote Reagan saying, “Government is not the solution, it is the problem.” Keep Cowan on the job. 

 

House District 11. Phil Barnhart (D)

Barnhart is the choice here, hands down. He’s experienced and strong on health care and education, and worked on legislation to protect air and water quality, and safeguard farms and forestlands. His opponent, Pleasant Hill-based rancher and grass seed farmer Kelly Lovelace, told the Albany Democrat-Herald that he sees timber as a way to fund police and education — which hasn’t been working in Oregon — and like a lot of inexperienced candidates in this race, who hope there will be some sort of backlash against incumbents, offers a lot of criticism but little in the way of an actual plan.  

 

House District 12. Terry Beyer (D)

Republican Sean VanGordon ran against Terry Beyer two years ago and is back to try again. This time around, VanGordon, a UPS project supervisor, is tapping into the current toss-the-incumbent movement and harping on such pet Republican issues as cutting taxes and services, bulldogging government waste and trimming or consolidating legislative bureaucracies. Beyer, however, is a proven commodity, a candidate determined to create “good jobs” for Oregonians while making government leaner and more accountable, and her hard work for better schools, expanding affordable health care (especially for uninsured kids) and tightening the state budget make her the obvious choice. Peter DeFazio calls her “a tireless advocate for Springfield,” and that’s just what is needed right now.

 

House District 13. Nancy Nathanson (D)

Veterinarian and Lane County Republican Central Committee Chairman Bill Young called this summer’s Sarah Palin visit “a great, motivational, exciting event for us” that also cost the local party a reported $108,375. A double-barreled Tea Bagger through and through, Young toes the line by calling for governmental belt-tightening and incentives (read: tax breaks) to make Oregon “open for business.” Nancy Nathanson, the incumbent Democrat, would be the sure choice were she simply bipedal, but her work as indeed been impressive: improved services for veterans, curbing insurance costs and expanding social services, opposing the Beltline renaming and protecting affordable housing. Mark Callahan, running as the Pacific Green candidate, has mounted a tireless campaign and list of accomplishments, but he has yet to define any sort of solid platform. Vote Nathanson. Enough said. 

 

House District 14.  Val Hoyle (D)

This is a tight race. Val Hoyle was appointed to the Oregon House in 2009 to fill Chris Edwards’ seat. She’s running against Dwight Coon, park specialist and mayor of Junction City. A smart, high-energy woman, Hoyle should have a bright future in Oregon politics. She believes in the positive role of government in the best Democratic sense and has demonstrated her ability to work for it. For more than a decade, she has worked hard for kids, starting with the McCornack Elementary PTO presidency. Having spent her professional life in small business, she offers an economic plan for that sector. And Val Hoyle understands the process to make a plan happen. It’s important that she win.





STATE MEASURES

Measure 70. Veterans’ loans. Yes

The non-controversial measure with no financial impact on the state would extend the eligibility for a veterans low-interest, home loan program to former soldiers that had served less time, older veterans and more veteran spouses. 

 

Measure 71. Annual Legislature meetings. Yes

This measure will bring the Oregon Legislature from the 19th century to the 21st. Back when Oregon was founded and it took days to ride a horse to the state Capitol, a Legislature that met only every other year made some sense. 

But now that Oregon moves a little faster and has about four million more people, Oregon needs the yearly legislature that almost every other state already has. A government that budgets and responds to changes in the economy and other crises every two years just isn’t flexible, responsive and accountable enough in the internet age.

There’s a good argument that lawmakers need to be more efficient and stop wasting time on idiotic, meaningless bills. But Measure 71 also includes restrictions about how many days the Legislature can meet each year. Overall, there’s no estimated additional cost for the Legislature to meet every year. 

 

Measure 72. Lower interest loans. Yes

This bipartisan constitutional tweak would allow the state to get lower interest loans saving tens of millions of dollars for taxpayers. It will not increase taxes or borrow more money.

The state estimates that it would have saved $38 million in incurred loan costs last year if Measure 72 had been effect widening the use of low-cost general obligation bonds instead of the current “certificates of participation” borrowing. The only question about the measure is: Why didn’t the Legislature refer this amendment years ago? 

 

Measure 73. School money for prisons. No

This poorly crafted law could throw a 15-year-old in jail for 25 years for sexting while diverting a quarter-billion dollars from schools to prisons. Measure 73 imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for selected sex crimes including using a teen in a sexual display. The 25-year sentence could be imposed on first-time offenders with a sext sent to multiple people. 

The measure would cost an estimated $238 million over the next decade, mostly by diverting school funding to prisons. There’s little evidence that expensive, draconian minimum sentencing laws actually deter serious criminals. It’s more likely that an innocent person could be forced to plea bargain for a crime she didn’t commit. Measure 11 has already imposed costly sentences for many sex and other crimes at the expense of education, making Oregon a national leader in the percent of taxpayer money wasted on prisons. There’s a more convincing argument for a separate provision in Measure 73 that requires a minimum 90 days for repeat drunk drivers. But the DUI provision includes no way to pay for it other than taking more from schools. How about a drunk driving minimum sentence funded by seizing the vehicles of drunk drivers with a tough new DUI forfeiture law? Better yet, how about a minimum sentence and minimum teacher ratio law to fund schools instead of prisons?

 

Measure 74. Marijuana dispensaries. Yes

The measure would regulate and tax the sale of medical marijuana already approved by voters by setting up a limited system of nonprofit dispensaries.

Instead of having to grow their own marijuana or buy it from drug dealers, doctor-approved medical marijuana card holders would be allowed to purchase it from stores regulated, inspected and taxed by the state. 

The measure will improve access to medicine and dignity for the elderly and infirm and has the potential to generate up to $20 million or more in tax revenue for the state and create thousands of new jobs. The measure allows potential problems in the law to be fixed with administrative rules and/or state Legislature or city council regulations.

Opponents argue that Measure 74 is a step toward legalizing marijuana. So be it. Tightly regulated and taxed, marijuana poses far less of a threat than booze, tobacco or prescription drug abuse. Police and prosecutors have far better things to do with their time than continuing to obsess about marijuana. Opposition to Measure 74 is based more on political and cultural bigotry than any rational examination of the issue.

 

Measure 75. Corporate casino. No

The proposed law would give a foreign financiers a massive, monopoly corporate casino in a Portland suburb. The casino would have 3,500 slot machines plus 150 gaming tables and rank as one of the largest gambling colossuses in the world.

Supporters argue that they’d share up to $150 million in profits with state and local government and create thousands of jobs. But the deck appears stacked against taxpayers. Independent state economists estimate that the casino could suck up to $230 million in profits out of the state economy, costing tens of thousands of jobs and blow a $79 million hole in state lottery revenues, hitting schools hard. In addition, taxpayers will spend untold millions trying to keep mobsters and fraudsters out of the casino, which will no doubt buy up a raft of politicians and lawyers to avoid effective regulation and reduce promised revenue sharing.

The corporate casino won’t be the first and will set the state down a path of government corruption at the expense of glazed, gambling-addicted grandmas embezzling from their families and employers to fund their fix and huge profits for casino financiers. At casinos, the rules are fixed — the house always wins, and everyone else loses. Just how dumb do these casino hucksters think Oregonians are?  

 

Measure 76. Park funding. Yes

The measure continues to allocate 15 percent of lottery funds, about $80 million a year, for state parks and natural areas.

The state’s beautiful parks, rivers and beaches are what makes Oregon Oregon and the reason many people have chosen to live and create jobs here. This critical state infrastructure needs more funding, not less.

If we thought voting against this measure would divert all the money to sorely needed lower class sizes and more school days, this would be a tough vote. But the state is as likely to spend the lottery funds on more prisons and corporate giveaways.

Without the lottery money right now, it’s hard to see how parks funding would compete for funding. In the longer run, the state needs to wean itself off of the lottery altogether and replace the revenue with progressive taxes. State gambling is a corrupting tax on the ignorant and addicted that increases crime and poverty while draining money and energy from the economy into an uncreative, unproductive waste of humans.

 

 

COUNTY CANDIDATES & ISSUES

West Lane Commissioner. Jerry Rust

Jerry Rust has deep roots in western Lane county, literally. As a Hoedad decades ago, his broad hands planted many of the trees that now provide jobs and habitat in the region. Rust offers 20 years of experience in a previous stint on the Lane County Commission, moderate positions and a down-to-earth, working-man style that will serve west Lane voters well. Jay Bozievich, an anti-government Tea Party extremist, led local wackos in calling to eliminate Medicare and the Department of Education after moving here from the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Bozievich wouldn’t offer much credible opposition if it weren’t for all the campaign cash from right-wing logging and development barons. 

 

Springfield Commissioner. Pat Riggs-Henson

Democrat Pat Riggs-Henson offers decades of experience creating jobs for the unemployed as a career advisor, labor union leader and LCC board member and key endorsements from local Congressman Peter DeFazio, former Springfield mayors Bill Morrisette and John Lively, and a host of local labor, environmental and business leaders. Her opponent Republican Sid Leiken is Springfield’s largely ceremonial mayor and has his pockets full of campaign cash from development, gravel mining and logging interests pushing for unlimited pollution, urban sprawl and corporate give-aways. Leiken, a career politician, recently ran against DeFazio, but his campaign imploded amid charges that he embezzled campaign money and then he blamed his mom for it. A choked-up Leiken finally apologized to constituents before TV cameras and paid a fine but admitted only a clerical error. Riggs-Henson offers more credibility and balance and better working relationships with the unions and congressional representatives key to solving the county’s financial plight. Leiken, who championed splitting Eugene and Springfield’s growth boundary and has attacked the current county board, has taken a divisive approach and offered few real ideas for addressing the county’s problems. Riggs-Henson has solid ideas to create thousands of jobs and has already knocked on thousands of doors to serve her district.

 

Springfield Measure 20-173. Yes.

This is a reluctant endorsement since Springfield government has Springfield voters over a barrel for an essential service. Springfield government has chosen to put its fire department on the chopping block before voters every five years to free up money for its jail and developer subsidies in its general fund. 

The measure would continue a serial levy to raise $7.6 million to keep 12 firefighters on the job for five years. It would increase average taxes a total of about $222 over five years to spend $125,000 per firefighter per year. That math may be hard to swallow for many Springfield voters struggling in the recession.

Springfield voters and government officials need to get a grip on this and fund essential services without serial levies. More developer subsidies means higher taxes. More urban sprawl means more firefighters for the same response time and that means more taxes. That may burn voters, but better that than letting houses burn. 

 

Lane County Measure 20-174. Yes

These measures are along the same lines as those that voters passed in May. The Lane County commissioners decided that throwing a bunch of obscure measure at voters all at once would be confusing, so they split them up. Like the May measures, these will not cost the taxpayers any money or cause changes in county services. This charter amendment allows more flexibility in providing county services. In other words, in these days of budget cuts, the commissioners want to be able to quickly reorganize departments and services. 

 

Lane County Measure 20-175. Yes

This charter amendment allows changes in county departmental structure and lets the commissioners to delegate their reorganization authority to the county administrator. The commissioners would still have the final stay, but it gives the administrator some flexibility. 

 

Lane County Measure 20-176. Yes

This charter amendment clarifies confusing language in section 22 of the Lane County Charter related to the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Assessment and Taxation. The amendment does not affect the commissioner’s authority to make changes to departments or the restrictions to those departments.