Ballots have started to arrive in Lane County mailboxes by now. No ballot? Check your voting status at oregonvotes.com or call Lane County Elections at 682-4234. The deadline for ballots to arrive at Lane County Elections is 8 pm Tuesday, Nov. 4. The last day to mail ballots and assure their arrival is Thursday, Oct. 30. Ballots can also be dropped off at any of the white ballot boxes around town. Here are our endorsements in selected contested races along with state and local ballot measures.
Jeff Merkley has served six years as a U.S. senator in the best tradition of Oregon. The one Merkley-Wehby debate told it all. Wehby doesn’t understand the issues but thinks she should be elected because she’s a doctor. Really! Merkley has joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren against the big banks and Wall Street, for fairness in student loans, for the global environment, for the middle class. His dad was an Oregon millworker. He’s proud to call himself a “progressive,” but he has worked with great patience and diplomacy, statesmanship, if you will, to reduce the power of the filibuster. This is a no-brainer. Re-elect Merkley.
U.S. House, District 4
Rep. Peter DeFazio’s well-funded challenger Art Robinson has been trying to play down his whole “raining down a little radiation is good for you, climate change doesn’t exist and, by the way, please send me a sample of your urine” side, but we’re not impressed. DeFazio might rub us the wrong way from time to time (ahem, O&C forest plan anyone?) but a vote for DeFazio isn’t a vote for the lesser of two evils. The longtime congressman has a good track record, he’s independent and he’s spoken up on issues like the dangers of oil trains and reining in Wall Street long before other politicians even noticed there was a problem. Mike Beilstein of the Pacific Greens is also running and we’re sure some folks in green Eugene will give him a nod, but ours this year goes to DeFaz.
U.S. House, District 5
Kurt Schrader is a Blue Dog Dem and likes to buck the party line, but despite joining DeFazio on his O&C legislation, Schrader gets decent ratings from Environment Oregon and the Sierra Club on the environment and 100 percent positive ratings on health care from the American Public Health Association and abortion rights from Planned Parenthood. While we like that Tootie Smith shares a first name with one of our favorite characters from The Facts of Life, we’re going to go with Schrader’s track record.
John Kitzhaber is better positioned to make the tax reforms and structural changes that Oregon desperately needs than his opponent, Dennis Richardson, a five-term Republican state representative. For the past four years, Kitzhaber has worked hard to bring Oregon’s fierce factions together to move Oregon ahead in education, health care, economic development and prison reform. His efforts to curb the growth of Medicaid spending and slow the rate of growth for state employee health care costs will prevent more than $3 billion in state health care cost growth over the next eight years. Add savings from prison reform and Oregon’s budget could reach structural balance by the 2019-21 biennium and could have a structural surplus in 2021-23 to reinvest in education and other programs. Sounds wonkish, but that’s what state government is all about. Kitzhaber is clearly the best candidate.
Senate District 4
Floyd Prozanski (D)
Floyd Prozanski has pushed for the legalization of marijuana, has taken steps to protect neighbors and the environment from mining, he’s worked to end field burning and to protect pristine Waldo Lake. And he has spent a lot of years hanging out at the Oregon Country Fair. These are all things we like; Prozanski is another incumbent worth keeping.
Senate District 6
Lee Beyer (D)
Lee Beyer supports all Oregon workers getting paid sick time and women getting equal pay. He’s good on education but needs some work on his environmental scorecard — we’re going to give him a nod while we chide him for voting against letting organic farmers protect themselves from GMOs with local legislation.
Senate District 8
Sara A. Gelser (D)
Incumbent Republican/Libertarian Betsy Close sees tax cuts as an economic strategy and has one of the worst lifetime ratings (7 percent) by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Her rating with the ACLU is also bad at 38 percent. Close has a serious challenger in Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis who has an extensive background in professional social services and education and has served well on several legislative panels in Salem, such as the House Revenue Committee. Close was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Frank Morse in 2012, but she has not earned re-election. Democrats see this race as good opportunity to replace a Republican in the Senate.
House District 7
We might be squeamish about going to the dentist, but when it gets down to choosing between a dentist versus a dude who supplies insects and rodents to laboratories and pet stores in an election, we would usually go with dental hygiene over rats and bugs based on creep factor alone. In all seriousness, Cedric Ross Hayden, a Republican, got the nod from the Dems (because no one else ran) and the Repubs in the primary (opponent Brandon Boertje, the rat-raiser, is a Libertarian). Hayden’s got the name recognition from his dad, the longtime politician also named Cedric Hayden, and he’s got a focused platform that has integrating dental care into Oregon’s health care system as a top priority. We would like to say go ahead, vote for a Republican, vote for Hayden, but we checked out his stance on abortion and we just can’t endorse putting another right-to-life legislator in the Oregon House.
House District 9
Caddy McKeown (D)
Caddy McKeown is a moderate and energetic legislator seeking her second term representing the large 9th District that includes the coastal part of Lane County. Her focus has been on the economy and education. Her opponent is Casey Runyan, a disabled war vet with traditional conservative values and no experience in elected office.
House District 11
Phil Barnhart (D)
Education plays heavily as an issue in this year’s local elections, and Phil Barnhart is running on a platform to decrease budget cuts to public schools as well as touting the need for lowering the cost of health care. His votes in the Legislature tend to be pro-environment, and he voted to protect Waldo Lake, limit suction dredge mining in Oregon’s rivers and halt the growth of canola farming in the valley until a study on its effects can take place.
House District 12
John Lively (D)
John Lively has proven to be an effective member of the Oregon House and a good fit in the Legislature representing the Springfield District. We like his good voting record on environmental issues and his support by unions. His opponent, Republican Christopher Gergen, is an LCC grad and Navy vet who appears to be moderate on the issues, but he’s also a partisan Republican, blaming Democrats for just about every problem in Oregon.
House District 13
Nancy Nathanson (D)
Nancy Nathanson boasts a long list of endorsers (including EW, which has given her the nod in the past, too). Her endorsements from pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-marriage equality groups and from workers’ unions reflect her positive stances on those issues as well as health care and job creation.
House District 14
Val Hoyle (D)
Val Hoyle’s platform, like that of many other candidates this year, focuses on health care, public safety and education. We like those goals, though votes on the environment might reflect her more conservative, rural district (she overlaps with Commissioner Jay Bozievich in the area she represents). She voted against letting local governments ban GMOs and she, like Barnhart, voted in favor of SB 246, which according to the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, allows for public dollars to pay for natural resource mitigation — removing the incentive for developers to avoid or minimize damage to habitat as they build. Green chiding aside, we like Hoyle and her willingness to fight for her constituents.
Fund for student financial aid — YES
To all the students who work through college, get help from family, earn scholarships and still have to take out massive loans to get that degree, the Oregon Student Opportunity fund sounds like a godsend. State money for education has declined for years, putting the financial burden on students and their parents to find the money. Problems like these have contributed to national student debt, ringing in at a whopping $1 trillion. Is it ironic that the state wants to go $100 million in debt to help students pay for college? Maybe, but the bottom line is that if more students feel they can afford to get a degree, Oregon will have a better-educated workforce than it has in the past, which is better overall for our economy. And money shouldn’t be a barrier for those who want to further their education.
Allows judges to teach or join National Guard — YES
Amends the Oregon Constitution’s separation-of-powers provisions so state judges can be paid for teaching in state schools and serving in the Oregon National Guard. Currently they can be paid for teaching in private law schools, Lewis and Clark and Willamette, but not in the UO because of prohibitions against salaries from two state agencies, commonly called “double-dipping.” We wish Oregon judges were paid more. We also wish that dockets were always current. But those are not issues in this measure, which we will support along with a hope for further examination of the basic structure.
Driver cards for undocumented residents — YES
Regardless of your stance on immigration reform, chances are you support safer roads. Measure 88, the Oregon Alternative Driver Licenses Referendum, would allow four-year driver licenses to those who cannot prove legal residence in the U.S. How will this make for a safer driving environment? Undocumented immigrants will be required to take the same written and behind-the-wheel driver’s tests that all citizens must take, and if other states are any indication, expect to see a significant bump in the rate of insured drivers. The “driver card” will not be valid identification for air travel, registering to vote or obtaining government benefits. While the federal government hems and haws on immigration reform, let’s make sure everyone in Oregon can share the joys of the DMV.
ERA for Oregon — YES
Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman first proposed a federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1923, which was meant to amend the U.S. Constitution and provide equal rights for women. Yet here we are, 85 years later, and we still don’t have a federal ERA. Voting to amend the Oregon Constitution to guarantee equal rights for women in 2014 is a clear statement that all people deserve equal rights in Oregon. While some say it’s a symbolic gesture, we say it’s more than a gesture to address thousands of years of gender inequality. We don’t think it’s redundant, either, especially when Oregon women are currently protected by a Supreme Court case that ruled equality for genders, except for “biological differences.” That’s a little too vague for our taste.
Top-two primary — NO
Measure 90 sounded good at first glance, but the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Based on other states’ experience so far, voter enthusiasm for primaries has not improved significantly even with everyone eligible to vote on partisan races. Surprise! Unaffiliated voters are not motived to vote for Republicans or Democrats. More choices on the primary ballot are offset by fewer choices on the November ballot, where votes really count. And the measure does nothing to resolve the issue of money in politics; in fact, it is quite likely the manipulating power of money will have an even bigger role in determining who ends up on the November ballot. We can improve our elections process, but this is not a step in the right direction. Instead, let’s push for election finance reform, including overthrowing Citizens United and banning secret contributions. That would go a long way to reducing the cynicism that discourages voting today.
Legalizes pot for adults — YES
It’s time to legalize pot. If Rick Steves — the Mr. Rogers of the travel industry — is endorsing Oregon marijuana reform, it’s time.
Also known as the “Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act,” Measure 91 would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for people ages 21 and up with an allowance to possess up to eight ounces of “dried” marijuana, purchase up to one ounce and grow as many as four plants per household. Four types of businesses will also be legalized under the act — marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers, which will be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The measure would also legalize the industrial production of hemp — a cousin of pot with a THC content too low to get anyone high — a much more sustainable fiber source than, say, cotton.
New Approach Oregon has created a thorough measure that avoids the pitfalls of 2012’s failed Measure 80 and, similar to the movement for marriage equality, Oregon does not want to be on the wrong side of history here. In addition to the ethical and moral ramifications, and easing prison bloat, the measure would be a great economic boon for the state: 40 percent of tax revenue would go to Oregon’s Common School Fund, 20 percent to the Oregon Health Authority’s mental health and drug services, 15 percent to the state police and 20 percent to local law enforcement.
Oregon has long been a leader in rational marijuana laws: It’s been 31 years since Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana and 16 since Oregon became the second state to legalize medicinal marijuana. Let’s join Washington and Colorado and keep leading the charge.
Label GMO foods — YES
It’s Monsanto versus Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap on Measure 92, which seeks to label genetically modified foods. More precisely when you look at who’s pouring money into supporting or defeating the measure, it’s the organic and natural foods (Stoneyfield, Tofurky, Earth Mama) up against the big names in processed food (Coca Cola, Kellogg, Hershey, General Mills). Opponents have tried to play Measure 92 as anti-farmer, but it was conservative, rural counties here in Oregon that passed local measures against GMO crops before the Legislature took away the rights of local governments to do that. If you are anti-GMO you are going to want to know if your raw or processed food has genetically modified ingredients or is GM. If you are pro-GMO, then it’s hard to see why you would mind if your food is labeled GM, loud and proud. Vote yes and don’t let out-of-state chemical companies determine what you eat.
Local candidates & issues:
East Lane Commissioner
Write-in Kevin Matthews
Incumbent East Lane Commissioner Faye Stewart won in the primary with 50.05 percent of the vote. With a 10 percent under vote, only 17 percent of voters in East Lane actually went for Stewart — that’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the pro-mining, pro-logging and pro-ill-advised scheme to develop a Goshen incumbent. Only nine votes led to Stewart’s name appearing alone on the ballot. We support Kevin Matthews’ write-in campaign because he has consistently shown himself to be a strong voice for the environment and the long-term needs of rural Lane County.
West Lane Commissioner
Jay Bozievich’s challenger Dawn Lesley lost to the conservative incumbent by a thin margin. Lesley has chosen not to mount a write-in campaign and we respect that, but we also think you should let Bozievich know of your displeasure with his ham-fisted political moves. Don’t vote for him just because his name is on the ballot. Let the under votes speak for you. Or heck, write in the “LTD, Lick my Sweaty Nutsack” Man.
Springfield City Council
Springfield has an open council seat representing the Thurston area and our nod goes to Denise Bean. She has been a solid community leader for years and has the support of progressives. Bean owns a tax service, founded the Springfield City Club and serves on the board of the Willamalane Park and Recreation District. Pishioneri is a sheriff’s deputy and former council member. We remember his poor attendance at council meetings, his ill-advised and awkward campaign against John Lively for the Legislature, and conservative views that are becoming more and more out-of-date as Springfield evolves.
EPUD board Subdistrict 2
Lee R. Kelley
Incumbent Patti Chappel has been at the center of numerous clashes on the EPUD Board for years and the drama has been a big distraction for the utility. We welcome Lee Kelley stepping forward as a solid candidate to take her place. Kelley, whose family has owned and operated the local hardware store since 1976, is calling for “harmony, cooperation and stability” on the board and those qualities are certainly overdue. EPUD now has a better general manager, more openness and transparency and having Kelley on board should help restore public confidence in the utility.
4J Measure 20-222
Local option levy — YES
Eugene schools are tentatively on the upswing — the 4J district has added teachers and eliminated furlough days for the 2014-15 school year. To cut about $8 million a year to the district now would be a low blow, considering the recent lean years 4J has faced. Sure, 4J has gotten its share of criticism recently for purchasing an unpiloted math curriculum and not selling Civic Stadium to the highest bidder. But those who disagree with 4J’s decisions should vote for a different school board, not punish students and teachers by cutting their funding. Oregon schools have so few options when it comes to funding, and the last thing the district needs is to cut the teachers it just hired. Class sizes in the 40s are simply unmanageable for teachers, and voting no would only make the problem worse.
Springfield Measure 20-223
Pay for council & mayor — YES
Springfield’s elected officials only get expense reimbursements for their many hours of work on behalf of the citizens, and it’s time to pay them something, particularly since council and mayoral duties often require being present during work hours, evenings and weekends. Paying councilors and the mayor will also encourage more people to run for office, knowing they will get some compensation to make up for lost work time. Under this charter amendment, the mayor would get about $500 a month and councilors would get about $300.
Springfield School District Measure 20-226
Bonds for school district — YES
While 4J is seeking a renewed local option levy, the Springfield School District is proposing a bond measure to fund facilities improvements, including remodels, upgrades and technology investments. Springfield voters rejected the bond last year, but the district has “re-engineered” it to lower the tax. One of the district’s most pressing concerns is replacing the aged Hamlin Middle School, a 57-year-old building that has “outdated electrical equipment, deteriorating drinking water and sewage piping, lack of a fire sprinkler system, leaking roof and old portable classrooms.” They had us at deteriorating sewage piping. On top of that, Springfield needs to expand its instructional space to accommodate the onset of full-day kindergarten in 2015. This bond money will help Springfield repair schools with floundering infrastructure, making it safer for kiddos to go to school.
Santa Clara RFPD Measure 20-228
Five-year local option levy — YES
This measure would impose a levy of 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on property in the fire district beginning in 2015. The measure would support general operations. The district’s last local option levy of 60 cents per $1,000 expired in June so this is a lower levy.