We're not going to beat around the bush (so to speak)—we, like the majority of you, are less than pleased about the direction the country is headed in. But while there's not much any of us can do right now to send the Bush administration packing, we do have the opportunity to shift the balance of power away from local lunatics who want to destroy the American way of life.
In the federal congressional race, we have the opportunity to send back our tough-as-nails fighting Democrats, who will join their colleagues in the new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives (cross your fingers). On the state level, we can elect a bright new group of progressive representatives—and send Karen Minnis, the anti-gay, anti-choice Speaker of the House, back to her corporate bosses. We can reelect Governor Ted Kulongoski, and kick his ass into gear on issues like the environment and civil unions.
Perhaps most importantly, though, we can take back the initiative process by voting a resounding "no" on the slate of cynical and destructive anti-government ballot measures that could send Oregon headed back to the Dark Ages.
At the county, the only open race is between Lew Frederick and Jeff Cogen, two dynamite people who want to represent an oft-forgotten chunk of the region. And at the city, we can help fix federal and state bungling that have left vital services unfunded.
That said, all the "Regime Change Starts at Home" bumper stickers in the world aren't going to make a difference. The only tool we have to effectively determine our future is the ballot box. For the love of god, fill out your ballot and drop it in the mailbox—NOW. And if you're still not sure how to vote, here's our handy little guide that will answer all your questions. Get to it. If you don't, you forfeit your right to whine.
The Mercury's Editorial Board is Matt Davis, Wm. Steven Humphrey, Amy Jenniges, and Scott Moore, with an assist from Phil Busse. The Mercury does not make endorsements in uncontested races.
Multnomah County, District 2
VOTE FOR LEW FREDERICK
Of all the decisions the Mercury endorsement board was faced with, the race between Lew Frederick and Jeff Cogen was by far the most difficult. With Multnomah County at large—and North/Northeast Portland in particular—in a state of drastic transition, who would best represent the district and its needs to the county, while also serving the needs of the county at large?
And after hours of hair pulling, teeth gnashing, and eye gouging, we came to this conclusion: Lew Frederick—but just barely.
First, Jeff Cogen. As chief of staff for City Commissioner Dan Saltzman and a staffer for former County Chair Bev Stein, Cogen has vital experience in the way government works, and has a reputation as something of a fixer. When negotiations go south, Cogen is brought in to resuscitate things and bring both parties to a satisfactory resolution—like with Saltzman's Fire and Police Disability and Retirement fiasco. Even better, he's filled with workable ideas for programs that would solve many of the county's problems, like children without healthcare. And he gets so excited about the wonky details of governing that he makes cynical punks like us excited about the role of local government in people's lives.
That said, the county board of commissioners is the only local government that is districted—meaning that each district has an actual elected representative working on their behalf. That makes it vital for the commissioners to be closely connected to their districts, and in that regard, Frederick beats Cogen by a mile. He's long been a leader in the community, and knows firsthand the challenges facing the lower income and minority communities that have been cordoned off there for decades. All that would be beside the point if Frederick wasn't also smart, savvy, and qualified for the job. He'll bring a wide range of experience to the job and, importantly, provide a contrast to newly elected County Chair Ted Wheeler, who's as wonky as Cogen.
The bottom line: By the luck of the gods, Multnomah County is entering a new era of effectiveness and cooperation, and leaving behind its recent legacy of embarrassing infighting and incompetence. Both Cogen and Frederick will help that transition enormously, but with Frederick, we can be confident that a long forgotten segment of the community will be kept in the loop.
There are 10 measures on the ballot this year, most of them—including one that would require teens to notify their parents when seeking an abortion, and another that puts a cap on state spending—were put on the ballot by conservative-leaning jerks. Here are the ones to vote for, and the ones to watch out for.
Measure 39—Prohibits Public Body from Condemning Private Real Property if Intends to Convey to Private Party.
We can understand the populist sentiment behind this measure—government can't take private property and give it to a private entity for development. Unfortunately, such a blanket policy would leave little room for public/private partnerships in urban renewal areas, which are vital to rejuvenating decayed districts. There is certainly room for reforms that protect private property and still take into account the nuances of modern civilization, but this isn't one of those.
Measure 40—Requires Oregon Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Judges to be Elected by District.
The idea is simple, and at first blush is appealing: State Supreme Court and appellate judges would be elected by district, rather than from a statewide pool.
But the idea is fatally flawed in a number of ways. First, it trades talent for geography, and the justice system in Oregon needs all the talent it can get. Second, the basic premise is unacceptable—judges need to be accountable only to the law, not to the whims of voters in their districts. If judges start making their rulings based on what's popular with voters rather than the law, the entire legal system will become a laughingstock.
Measure 41—Allows Income Tax Deduction Equal to Federal Exemptions Deduction to Substitute for State Exemption Credit (Federal Tax Substitution).
Our way of life and the expectations that we have for a civilized society depend on the government's ability to pay for those services. Here in Oregon, we're number 37 in the nation for local and state tax burdens—meaning that only 13 other states pay less in taxes than we do. Which explains why our schools can barely function and elderly residents are getting screwed out of public healthcare.
And yet the backers of M41 want the state to do even less. Yes, you would end up paying slightly fewer state taxes—but the tradeoff would be slashing the state budget, which pays for education, public safety, and human services, by $800 million in 2007/09. That's something we can't afford.
Measure 42—Prohibits Insurance Companies from Using Credit Score in Calculating Rates or Premiums.
Measure 42 would stop insurance companies from using credit scores as a factor in determining your premiums. Since there's no evidence to link poor credit scores with bad drivers, M42 will make the system fairer. There is, however, a higher likelihood that those with poor credit scores will pursue a claim instead of paying it off privately—costing the insurance companies more money, which may drive up premiums for some drivers as those costs are passed on. But if that's the price of fairness, we're comfortable with it, and you should be too. (And, yes, it gives the heebie jeebies that we're endorsing a Bill Sizemore measure. Thanks for asking.)
Measure 43—Requires 48-Hour Notice to Unemancipated Minor's Parents Before Providing Abortion.
If it passes—a similar measure failed in 1990—this measure will require doctors to notify parents by certified mail 48 hours before their 15- to 17-year-old daughter can have an abortion.
There are plenty of problems with this measure: We don't think the state should be mandating family communication, and we're concerned about the girls whose family situation is abusive—the teens who would be put at further risk should their parents find out they're pregnant and seeking an abortion. Though the measure includes a judicial bypass provision, that's an added burden on a teen already facing a touchy situation. And finally, the measure opens up doctors to lawsuits—which could have a chilling effect on the number of doctors willing to perform abortions in the first place. Vote NO.
Measure 44—Allows Any Oregon Resident without Prescription Drug Coverage to Participate in Oregon Prescription Drug Program.
Measure 44 will expand the existing Oregon Prescription Drug Program, offering more affordable prescription drugs to an extra million Oregonians—in fact, it will make prescriptions more affordable to anyone without insurance coverage.
That's why nobody's opposing the measure, not even the pharmaceutical companies—all the measure does is enlarge the state's bulk-buying power to drive down the cost of prescription medicines. Vote for it.
Measure 45—Amends Constitution to Impose Term Limits on State Legislators.
The sinister anti-government types pushing M45 from their moneyed bunker in Chicago want those serving in Oregon's state legislature to be kept to strict term limits—an idea adopted in Oregon in 1992, then struck down in 2002 as unconstitutional.
Term limits also take away our right to vote for whomever we want—if we want someone in for 20 years, we should be allowed to keep voting for them. Plus, under term limits, challengers would always wait until the incumbent is limited out—that could mean several terms of unchallenged incumbency even if a legislator is doing a dire job. Lastly, term limits punish experience—in what other profession would you legally be kept from becoming as experienced as possible? Vote NO.
Measure 46—Amends Constitution—Allowing Laws Regulating Election Contributions, Expenditures Adopted by Initiative or 3/4 of Both Legislative Houses.
Measure 47—Revises Campaign Finance Laws—Limits or Prohibits Contributions and Expenditures; Adds Disclosure, New Reporting Requirements.
We're all for campaign finance reform—the deluge of money in Oregon politics, especially the cash from out of state or corporate donors, is shameful.
But Measures 46 and 47—Measure 46 is a constitutional amendment that paves the way for the reforms in 47—aren't the right fix for our problems. The reforms would ban corporate and union donations, limit individual contributions ($500 for statewide office, $100 for other public offices), regulate donations from nonprofits, and carefully track contributions—all fixes we're fine with.
However, we're concerned that other provisions in the measure—limits on individual expenditures and the ability for candidates to self-finance their campaigns—will be overturned by the courts, allowing individuals to pour money into politics at a rate nonprofits couldn't keep up with. Also, the penalties for folks who make mistakes—even small infractions like accidentally contributing $5 over your limit—are inflexible and overly strict. Finally, the measure has driven a wedge into the lefty political community. For those three reasons, vote no on these measure, and demand better campaign finance reforms.
Measure 48—Amends Constitution—Limits Biennial Percentage Increase in State Spending to Percentage Increase in State Population, Plus Inflation.
M48 would limit the state's ability to spend money, tying budget increases to increases in population plus inflation. Proponents say it's a way to keep lawmakers from spending wildly, but we find that unforgivably cynical.
The unfortunate fact is that many of the populations the state provides services (the elderly, college students, prisoners, etc.) to are growing faster than the general population, and require services that cost more than the rate of inflation. Tying lawmakers' hands to an arbitrary budget number would hamstring their ability to care for our most marginalized neighbors—the very people who we expect society to care for.
Plus, the provisions that allow for increases are unrealistic. It would take two-thirds of the legislature and a majority of citizens to bust through the cap—in the case of a major emergency (an earthquake, say) that would be impossible. The state would literally be sitting on emergency funds and couldn't spend a dime.
Of all the measures on the ballot, M48 is the most dangerous to the way you live your life. Vote a big, fat NO.
VOTE FOR TED KULONGOSKI
We'll be honest: We aren't fans of Governor Ted Kulongoski. Sure, he loves the gays, is into protecting the environment, is pro-union, and has been outspoken on questioning the Iraq War—all solid liberal credentials. But we find it physically impossible to get jazzed about Kulongoski—he's not exactly an inspiring leader.
But he's also not Ron Saxton, the Republican candidate for the state's top job. Saxton—who has run xenophobic and misleading campaign ads about illegal immigration—would drive Oregon into the ground if he were elected. He's proposed a slate of tax cuts and new programs, but hasn't outlined which services he'd cut to pay for them. He also opposes the minimum wage, supports the Iraq War, and is anti-choice. Vote for Kulongoski.
State Senator, District 17
VOTE FOR BRAD AVAKIAN
State Senator, District 19
VOTE FOR RICHARD DEVLIN
State Senator, District 24
VOTE FOR ROD MONROE
State Senator, District 26
VOTE FOR RICK METSGER
State Representative, District 27
VOTE FOR TOBIAS READ
State Representative, District 33
VOTE FOR MITCH GREENLICK
State Representative, District 36
VOTE FOR MARY NOLAN
State Representative, District 38
VOTE FOR GREG MACPHERSON
State Representative, District 42
VOTE FOR DIANE ROSENBAUM
State Representative, District 44
VOTE FOR TINA KOTEK
State Representative, District 45
VOTE FOR JACKIE DINGFELDER
State Representative, District 46
VOTE FOR BEN CANNON
State Representative, District 47
VOTE FOR JEFF MERKLEY
State Representative, District 48
VOTE FOR MIKE SCHAUFLER
State Representative, District 49
VOTE FOR ROB BRADING
If those icky state measures and our lackluster incumbent governor got you down, here's some good news: Portland's blessed with a great slate of progressive legislative candidates, including a handful of rising star newcomers—Tina Kotek, Rob Brading, Tobias Read, and Ben Cannon—who nicely complement the savvy veterans already slaving away in Salem (like Diane Rosenbaum and Jackie Dingfelder). Vote for 'em!
Local Levies and Bonds
Measure 26-81—Libraries Levy
Portlanders love books, and our Multnomah County Library system is so easy to navigate that it's harder not to use it. But here's the troubling thing: Almost 60 percent of the system's fund comes from this levy, which has to be re-approved every five years. That means that if the levy doesn't pass, county libraries will disappear.
The Levy will also secure two new branches in poorly served areas—including North Portland. (So please, please, please vote yes (and pay those library fines!).)
Measure 26-80—Open Spaces Levy
It's simple: Give the Metro board money to buy natural open spaces that will remain undeveloped, in order to protect wildlife and clean water. Holy hell, that's part of why you moved here, right? Natural settings nestled in an urban environment. Well guess what, it takes money to maintain that ideal, so pony up. The slight increase in property taxes will equal 4,000-5,000 new acres of protected land—that's like adding a second Forest Park.
Measure 26-86—Fire Police Disability and Retirement (FPD&R) Reform
It puts us in a tough spot to say that the fire and police departments' disability system has been gamed for years, without maligning the men and women who keep us safe. But it's clear: The current disability system has union members making disability judgments for other union members—it's a scenario that will inevitably lead to abuse. The FPD&R reform would remove peers from the equation, create a board of trustees, and allow for an independent appeals process. It's a leap forward that will save the taxpayers a ton o' money.
The other half of the reform would put new hires into the state's PERS system instead of the city's retirement system—which is a $1.64 billion unfunded liability, projected to increase to $8 billion over 40 years. Unchecked, that has the capacity to swallow the city's budget.
The new system will cost property owners slightly more per year—starting with $3 in the first year. Compared to municipal bankruptcy, that's a small price to pay.
Measure 26-84—Schools Levy
Chances are, Mercury reader, you're liberal enough to believe in the value of a state-funded education. And if you don't already have one, you might want a kid some day—and that booger-eater will have to go to school. So vote yes on Measure 26-84, which proposes a five-year local option on property taxes that'll cost you just $1.25 on every $1,000 of your home's assessed value—before you get your panties in a bunch, realize that the assessed value is far less than the market value in many skyrocketing Portland neighborhoods—and it'll save the jobs of 380 Portland teachers.
United States Representative in Congress
VOTE DAVID WU
VOTE EARL BLUMENAUER
VOTE DEMOCRAT! Don't think about it—just do it, okay? The Democrats may even take control of Congress this time around, and they'll need every single teeny, weeny ounce of advantage you can give them to knock those evil, heartless Republicans off their perch.
So: Vote for David Wu in District 1 and Earl Blumenauer in District 3. (And if you live in District 5, be EXTRA SURE to vote for Darlene Hooley.)
Judge of the Supreme Court
Here's what we said about Oregon Appeals Court Judge Virginia L. Linder back in May: "She's got a reputation as a moderate who leans right on law and order issues, and left on social policy issues, and she's earned the Oregon Bar Association's highest rating." That's still true. Meanwhile, her opponent is a former Republican candidate for governor. We'd rather have a moderate-to-lefty like Linder on the bench. Vote for her.
Judge of the Circuit Court, District 4
Mark K. Kramer
Write in Charles Henderson
Judge Pro-Tem Cheryl Albrecht has got a reputation for treating the people who come before her with compassion and fairness, taking the time to explain the process. As an attorney, she's handled a wide variety of cases, including criminal defense cases. She deserves your vote.
Mark K. Kramer, meanwhile, has a strong criminal defense and civil-rights background, which sets him apart from the well-qualified challengers in this nine-person race. Vote for him.
The race for position 37 looks uncontested on the ballot—because candidate Leslie Roberts pulled a fast one and got her opponent kicked out of the race. That doesn't make her judge material in our eyes. Vote for her dark horse write-in opponent instead: public defender and personal liability attorney Charles Henderson.