THAT THING YOU GOT in the mail over the weekend? With all the names and words on it? It's called a ballot. And, yeah, we know, we know—you don't feel like digging it out because it's already buried under the mound of ashes and beer bottles on your coffee table.
Well, guess what? Tough shit. You have to vote if you want the right to complain about any politician, or any law that's passed, over the next four years. To claim that right, fill out the ballot by November 2. We've even done the hard part for you: figuring out how you should vote.
Including our primary endorsement blitz this past spring, the Mercury has sat down with, chatted with, or at least looked up almost every candidate whose name appears on that ballot you've spent the past few days ignoring.
Now get voting already!
US Senate—Ron Wyden
In May, the Mercury's endorsement of Ron Wyden was incredibly lukewarm. In fact, it was about as tepid as Wyden's support for a single-payer system during the health care debate. Little has changed since then, in terms of our fondness for the 14-year senator, a powerhouse fundraiser and a state and national Democratic institution. But all the same, we're going to tell you to vote for him again.
Why? Because as much as we think his opponent, law professor Jim Huffman, is a Republican you might be able to do business with (if you had to; he is pro-choice and acknowledges climate change), we'd still rather back a lame Dem over a somewhat reasonable Reep. Especially when that Republican, as genial as he is, still supports tax cuts for the rich and letting our businesses to do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want.
The time to take a stand against Wyden would've been, and probably should've been, this spring. Although that would have taken a credible Democratic opponent. And the only challengers Wyden faced were a couple of cranks. But now that Democrats are clinging to their majority in the Senate, things have gotten serious. So it's time to hold our noses, make our beds, lie down in them, whatever, and cast our votes. For Wyden.
Congressional District 1—David Wu
We didn't endorse David Wu in the primary election. We agreed with his opponent, David Robinson, that his votes on shit (literally) like No Child Left Behind and to tighten the rules on bankruptcy were total stinkers. But now he's in a reasonably close race with Republican business owner Rob Cornilles of Tualatin, and suddenly this is no time to dick around. Wu might not be a legislative stud, but he will reliably follow the party line when it comes to big issues like health care and not handing out tax cuts to the rich. Cornilles has never run for public office before, but he's quickly found the kind of conservative-friendly talking points that speak to a district that includes downtown Portland, but also spreads west to towns like Beaverton, McMinnville, and Astoria. He's even raised respectable amounts of cash. With control of Congress hanging in the balance, Multnomah County lefties are going to need to suck it up and give Wu their blessing.
Congressional District 3—Earl Blumenauer
With apologies to Delia Lopez, the Republican challenger in this race, there's no way in hell that Earl Blumenauer doesn't get the nod for an eighth term in Congress next month. And that's totally fine with us. Blumenauer rides his bike. He's an ardent supporter of public transit. And he's backed that up—and routinely delivers the goods for his hometown—with effective advocacy in Washington, DC. Need more convincing? Here's a recent example of Blumenauer's heft: Without his intervention this month, Mayor Sam Adams and Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen might still be dickering over the Sellwood Bridge rebuild. Again, apologies to Lopez, but it's hard to imagine she'd have the same success browbeating that dynamic duo to the table and then getting them to talk turkey.
Congressional District 5—Kurt Schrader
Kurt Schrader, a stalwart liberal Democrat, earned his current post amid the Obama wave in 2008. And now he's locked in a vicious race with Republican Scott Bruun, a young, charismatic state representative who could wind up replacing Schrader amid an anti-Obama wave in 2010. It would be a shame to see Schrader go. He backed the stimulus. During the health reform battle, he voted against a plan to limit federal funding of abortions. He also made a principled stand against war funding for Afghanistan. Bruun, meanwhile, has raised the notion of partially diverting payroll taxes away from Social Security and into private accounts. (Yikes!) While their battle has played out on the airwaves for all of us to see—dueling ads each accusing the other of raping and pillaging the elderly—the reality is that only a small slice of Portland residents will make a difference in this race. Bruun's message might play well in Lake Oswego, but we hope voters in Southwest Portland will do their part and back Schrader.
The most discussed horserace of this election is also the simplest. Do you support our minimum wage, access to abortions, climate-savvy legislation, and capital gains tax? Vote for Kitz. Do you not care about any of that and just want to abolish the OLCC? Vote for Duds. But that would be stupid.
State Treasurer—Ted Wheeler
Democrat Ted Wheeler is an effete fellow, but he's our effete fellow, having served as Multnomah County chairman before he was appointed to serve as treasurer. And we think he deserves a shot at another term. His record in Multnomah County was respectable—he managed a universe of shrinking resources without growing the county's budget deficit or forsaking the county's overwhelming priority: providing social services to the ill and the needy. Meanwhile, in the six months he's been treasurer, he's been a scold against reckless borrowing in Salem. And—bonus!—he's also experienced in fund management, key for someone charged with running Oregon's capital and pension investments. Of course his Republican opponent, Chris Telfer, also knows her way around a dollar. But her main work outside politics has been in accounting, and that's not really the same thing. The first-term state senator also styles herself as a fiscal conservative and has railed against Measures 66 and 67—this spring's divisive tax hikes on rich people and corporations. That might sound nice to the folks in Bend, where she served on the city council, but it's not what we like to hear up in Portland.
Senate District 17—Suzanne Bonamici
Suzanne Bonamici, in her lone term representing a district that stretches from the Pearl to unincorporated Washington County, has been a staunch fighter for consumers and a crusader against incarceration for the sake of incarceration. Among her bills? A requirement that banks try to sit down with the people whose foreclosed homes they're trying to snatch away. Previously she served as a state representative, practiced law, and agitated for more funding after getting active in the Beaverton School District. Her opponent, on the other hand, Republican banker Stevan Kirkpatrick, has never held public office. That might not be so bad if he were running against a do-nothing incumbent, but that's hardly the case in this race. Bonamici gets things done, and she deserves the chance to keep getting things done.
Senate District 19—Richard Devlin
Here's all you need to know about this race: Richard Devlin, the Senate's majority leader, has decades of exemplary public service underneath his belt, and most recently supported Measures 66 and 67. His opponent, Mary Kremer, is affiliated with the Tea Party. So, um, yeah.
Senate District 22—Chip Shields
Democrat Chip Shields, appointed to his post last year, has made good use of his time in the Senate. We appreciate that he's taken on corrections reform—especially how sentencing laws disproportionately affect black Oregonians. Shields, whose district includes North Portland, is the clear choice to return to Salem. Not that he faces a real threat from his opponent, Republican Dwayne Runyan. Runyan, a first-time candidate, wants to repeal Measures 66 and 67 and cast aside (instead of actually fixing) tax credits for green energy. But that's not even the worst thing about Runyan. His campaign email address ends with msn.com. Shudder.
Senate District 24—Rod Monroe
Rod Monroe has been in politics practically forever (since, like, the 1970s). That could be a real drag, but Monroe has used all that time (including 12 years as a Metro councilor) to develop fairly smart policies on transportation and the state's finances. He's an advocate of changing the state's "kicker" law, the rule that says whenever state revenue forecasters guess too low, the surprise money has to be "kicked" back to taxpayers. Monroe specifically wants the corporate kicker diverted into a rainy-day fund. That's going to be an issue next year when, if trends hold, Oregon's bleeding coffers wind up sending millions back to businesses. Monroe also has expressed skepticism about going full bore with the Columbia River Crossing. His opponent, Happy Valley Mayor Rob Wheeler, is a fiscal conservative who has fallen back on trumpeting his endorsement by the Oregonian. If you're reading our paper, you're better than that. Vote for Monroe.
House District 33—Mitch Greenlick
Ah, yes, yet another race in which a sensible, accomplished Democrat finds himself flicking away a Republican political newbie raving about, ahem, Measures 66 and 67. Mitch Greenlick, a health policy guru, has been cracking heads in Salem since 2003. His opponent across the aisle is Michael Bieker (also, weirdly, a health care consultant). In an era of deficits, Bieker doesn't approve of rampant government spending. Interestingly, that doesn't seem to apply to his own campaign accounts. As of Thursday, October 14, his campaign was more than $400 in the red.
House District 36—Mary Nolan
Mary Nolan, Democratic majority leader in the Oregon House of Representatives, occupies perhaps one of the legislature's safest seats. But it doesn't hurt that she's also right-on about issues like improving access to health care for the needy, keeping sprawl from devouring the metropolitan area, and seeing the Columbia River Crossing for what it is: a boondoggle that will hurt, not help, the region. She does have a Republican opponent, Diane Schendel. And just like when we last issued endorsements, in May, Schendel's Twitter bio is still stupid. In fact it's exactly the same: "Just say no to socialism." Guess she really means it.
House District 41—Carolyn Tomei
If there's a contest in this district, it's in name only. Carolyn Tomei, whose district includes Sellwood, has too deep of a resume to argue with, especially when the alternative is her whimsical opponent, musician Hugo Schulz. Tomei has been a supporter both of rebuilding the Sellwood Bridge and of extending light rail to Milwaukie. We do like the idea of a candidate like Schulz, though. He keeps a very exuberant website with detailed ideas, among them the suggestion that Oregon should cast off the yoke of federalism and adopt a law allowing the condemnation and seizure of federal property.
House District 42—Jules Kopel Bailey
It doesn't matter what you think about Jules Kopel Bailey, a rookie Democrat and a rising star in the legislature who fights the good fight on transit and bicycling issues. Here's one reason why: His district straddling Northeast and Southeast Portland runs reliably liberal, so he's already a shoo-in. (The district is so liberal there's actually a Green Party candidate on the ballot, Chris Extine, whom Bailey crushed two years ago when first taking office.) And here's another reason. His Republican opponent, Cliff Hutchison, is a Tea Party yahoo!
House District 44—Tina Kotek
Tina Kotek is Oregon's only openly gay legislator, but she's known just as much for taking sensible fiscal stands and for standing up for workers by backing a bill that banned credit checks by prospective employers. She clearly deserves to return to Salem. Her opponent, however, we'd like to see stay as far away as possible. And we think she'd agree with that. After all, Kitty Harmon, an eccentric Republican and Tea Party acolyte, says she's proudly anti-government. And what's more anti-government than, uh, running to be part of government?
House District 45—Michael Dembrow
Republican Anne Marie Gurney, another in the long list of long-shot Tea Party candidates in Portland, seems to be hoping radio spots with Lars Larson will help her steal away Michael Dembrow's district in Maywood Park. Dembrow, a rookie Democrat, hasn't been the brightest bulb in Portland's delegation, but he's all right in our book by arguing against things like the kicker. He's also collaborative and congenial. And we think he deserves to go back to Salem.
House District 46—Ben Cannon
What's not to like about Ben Cannon, a teacher representing outer Southeast Portland? His campaign finance filings are a thing of beauty: Except for a tiny handful of individual gifts of at least $100, he's mostly raked in dozens of small cash contributions—and none from corporations or PACs. He's given a few thousand bucks to PACs, though. One gift was to support Democrats nationally. Another was to support publicly funded elections in Portland. But, then again, it's easy to stay principled when you're running against foes like Russell Turner, a bartender at PF Chang's in Tigard. Turner doesn't stand a chance but at least he seems like an earnest, decent guy.
House District 47—Jefferson Smith
Jefferson Smith is as charismatic as he is controversial. The fast-talking, whip-smart legislator doesn't shy from taking a stance on tough issues: he's against the Columbia River Crossing, a vocal backer of campaign finance reform, and has some fiery words for Portland City Council about their neglect of East Portland. We had some fiery words of our own for him back during the primary (something about it being "time for Smith to put some drugs on the table") but, all in all, East Portland is well served by someone with the energy and ambition to talk tough on big issues. If there's anything Smith has in abundance, it's energy, and he can put that to work fixing the massive equity gap between Portland and its attention-deprived eastern regions.
House District 48—Mike Schaufler
Mike Schaufler might be a Democrat running in a center- to right-leaning district—way out in Happy Valley—but he doesn't have a thing to worry about: He's center- to right-leaning, too. If not for some progressive social stances, like on abortion and gay marriage, he'd probably be a left-leaning Republican instead. But he supports kicker reform, and he's likeable, and that goes a long way for us. His opponent on the ballot is an independent candidate, Jeff Caton.
County Commissioner Seat 2:
Both Karol Collymore and her opponent Loretta Smith are stellar ladies. Smith has worked in Senator Ron Wyden's office for 20 years and has assembled enough deep relationships with local agencies and community members to be a forceful advocate for seniors and social justice.
But Collymore, on leave from her job as aide to County Chairman Jeff Cogen, and a former staffer for Basic Rights Oregon and Pro-Choice Oregon, mixes an insider's know-how of the county apparatus with an approachable, fun personality. We think she'll bring much-needed new life and creativity to the county commission. Her challenge will be figuring out how to tighten the county's budget without destroying essential services. Collymore says she will prioritize mental health, domestic violence, and school-based services—and, if she has to cut, she would lower spending on jails. "Jail isn't treatment," says Collymore. We like that approach. She has smart ideas for digging up more money for the county, too—like turning animal services into a private foundation and cracking down on unregistered pets.
Smith is an impressive candidate, also clearly steeped in the issues. Her extensive Rolodex and her ability to draw on federal and state purse strings would be assets. But as the clincher, Smith supports the new Columbia River Crossing I-5 bridge, which Collymore acknowledges will hurt both health and traffic in the district. We hope Smith runs again for local office, but in this case our vote goes to Collymore.
Metro President: Bob Stacey
Both Bob Stacey and Tom Hughes are serious, smart leaders who have the background to manage the diverse and wonky missions of Metro, the largely unknown regional government that controls so much of our lives, from garbage collection, to where people ought to build homes, to our zoos and parks.
But Stacey is the clear smart-growth candidate here. The former executive director of powerful environmental nonprofit 1000 Friends of Oregon understands that Metro needs to find land for businesses to flourish. But he's committed to making sure that growth happens without trampling over natural resources or building communities where people can't get around by biking or walking. Rather than sprawling into new development, Stacey pitches the idea that Metro take the roughly 12,000 acres of land available to develop within the urban growth boundary and get it ready to be built on with a "shovel-ready sites" program. That sounds like a smart solution to the region's battle over growth.
Former Hillsboro Mayor Hughes would bring a non-Portland perspective to the office and would try to bring more businesses to the dry land-use-discussion table. (Choice quote: "The fear among the local folks is that when Metro says, 'Here, let me help you with that,' it means, 'Here, we have some rules we want you to follow.'") That's great, but we worry that tactic will stick smart-growth advocates in a corner. Case in point: Hughes supports the Columbia River Crossing megabridge, while both Stacey and former Metro President David Bragdon are ardent critics of the project.
Measure 71: Yes
Do you know why our legislature only meets every other year? Because our Constitution was written in 1857, when raccoon- skin-capped lawmakers had to make their way to Salem via horse and buggy. It's absurd that we're still one of five states that doesn't make its representatives meet annually, and this modernizing measure is long overdue.
One fear about making the legislature meet annually is that it would block regular citizens (like schoolteachers) from becoming legislators. But there's so much work to be done in state politics that the legislature has already met nearly every year for the past decade, with Salem leadership calling for a "special session" to tie up loose ends in February. In 2002, the legislature even called for five special sessions thanks to budget woes. This measure doesn't change much about how politics will run in Oregon except formalizing the currently loosey-goosey nature of the annual sessions, limiting legislators to 160-day sessions in odd years and 35-day sessions in even ones.
Measure 73: No
Measure 73 is being billed as a tough-on-crime measure we can't afford not to pass—a means of making sure the worst kinds of perverts and drunken drivers get the time behind bars they deserve. It calls for repeat sex offenders to serve at least 25 years in prison and drivers convicted of a third DUII to be classified as felons and serve, at minimum, 90 days in county jail on the state's dime.
But the truth is this is just a measure we can't afford. Its price tag? Anywhere from $20 million to $30 million annually—money sucked away from things like domestic violence shelters and drug and alcohol counseling. That's what happens when you expand the state's pool of felons without also finding a new way to fund that expansion. This overly broad measure would also scoop up teenage sex offenders who might be helped more by rehabilitation than incarceration. That heavy-handed approach to public safety, coupled with its high cost, is one reason why even advocates for sex-abuse victims are opposed. (Another reason is because they weren't consulted.)It should be no surprise that this measure is the brainchild of Kevin Mannix, the right-wing hero behind Measure 11, the minimum-sentencing measure that has sent Oregon's corrections costs soaring at the expense of our public schools. Mannix says public safety should be Oregon's top priority, but this smells more like the politics of fear than necessity. Vote no.
Measure 74: No
We really, really, really wanted to support this measure—a plan to bring Oregon's medicinal marijuana market out from basements and backyards and into regulated nonprofit dispensaries instead. We support legalization. We also support improving access to pot for patients who can't grow their own stuff and live either in far-flung rural areas or for whatever reason don't run in the same circles as casual pot smokers.
And while this measure comes close to winning our assent, we're not convinced it's the right measure for Oregon patients. Much of the measure's promise of regulation and reform hinges on state rules that would be crafted only after the measure is approved—and there's the very real chance those rules would fall short of advocates' claims. A highly touted provision that calls for grass to be tested lacks a firm financial commitment. There is no limit on the number of dispensaries, meaning more could crop up than the state can afford to regulate (even at best-case scenarios of $40 million in annual revenue from permits). Also, the five-year background checks required by the measure won't weed out (pun intended) someone with a serious drug record who got out of prison yesterday but was first convicted seven years ago.
Our current system in which patients can grow their own shit, or have someone trusted grow for them, isn't perfect. The best growers already have a full complement of patients, and with a lesser grower, it's hard to know what you'll wind up getting. A dispensary measure that was more explicit about testing and regulation would be far more likely to win our favor. For now, vote no.
Measure 75: No
How you feel about this measure—a plan to allow a larger-than-Vegas casino-and-entertainment complex at the vacant dog track in East Multnomah County—mostly comes down to faith. Because any science involved, in the form of a whirl of competing financial studies, will leave you utterly bewildered.
On one side are proponents of the project, a pair of wealthy developers who have tried for years to build the state's first private casino. Their promise of lucre is hard to ignore: 25 percent of gross gambling revenues, which amounts to up to $67 million annually for cities and counties and up to $74 million for schools. Plus, the complex would pay property taxes on its 30-plus acres and provide 2,500 permanent, taxpaying jobs in a part of the county that sure could use them.
If that all sounds too good to be true, that's because it very well might be. A nonpartisan state analysis of the measure warns the project might cost the state's economy as much as $79 million a year in lottery revenue that pays for parks, schools, and prisons. The state also says all the new spending would come at the expense of current spending in Oregon. Proponents say they have their own studies that show the state's studies aren't right, and that the findings on lottery sales and cannibalization of business are overstated. Which all sounds fine. Except then an Oregonian story this month said the casino might have to shrink, jeopardizing all the rosy revenue goals, because the investors won't be paying enough each year to regulate the casino at its proposed size.
It's enough to make your head hurt. We acknowledge that it's rare to see private investors willing to offer so much cash. We don't like seeing land sitting disused in a hard-luck area. We even like risk. But sometimes the risk isn't worth the promise of the reward. Vote no.
Measure 76: Yes
This measure makes permanent a funding plan voters first approved in 1998: directing 15 percent of the lottery fund (about $2 million a year) to protecting parks, beaches, and watersheds. Setting dedicated money aside for these resources is important for two big reasons: (1) It's very easy for the legislature to ax funding for nature when times get tight, so it needs to be in an untouchable fund and (2) spending money on keeping parks, rivers, and beaches clean actually brings in money and jobs for the state.
As campaign spokesman Joshua Alpert put it, "No one wants to kayak in a dirty river." Before voters chose to set aside lottery funds for parks in 1998, 65 parks were considering shutting down for lack of funds and thousands of miles of streams were degraded or polluted. In the past 12 years, over 3,000 miles of rivers and streams have been cleaned and not only are no state parks threatened with closure, but we're adding state parks. Seventy-eight percent of restoration costs are in the private economy, so using some public money leverages a lot of private investment and creates jobs to keep our natural areas clean and tourist-friendly.
MULTNOMAH COUNTY MEASURES
Measure 26-109: N0o
Measure 26-110: Yes
Measure 26-111: Yes
Measure 26-112: Yes
Measure 26-113: Yes
Measure 26-114: Yes
The county's charter review committee has placed a handful of measures on the ballot seeking nuts-and-bolts changes to the county governance—some minor, but a few rather dramatic. We support all but one, Measure 26-109, a bid to do away with term limits for the county board of commissioners. Currently, commissioners can serve eight years in a row, but then must take four years off. While term limits are problematic in higher levels of government, we think they are an effective way for local governments to cycle in new talent and fresh faces—especially if the best officials are welcome to serve again after taking time off.
We considered saying no to one more, Measure 26-110, a proposal to allow commissioners to continue serving even if they decide to run for another job. We understand the aim of the current rules, which require a resignation, and why some might want to keep them in place. But we'd rather see a talented official return to office if they decide to test the waters elsewhere only to wind up failing. The other proposals are fare less controversial. Measure 26-111 would give the county's salary commission control over the sheriff's pay and the district attorney's supplemental pay. Measure 26-112 would force commissioners to live in their districts after election—a sensible change that ensures they remain receptive to the concerns of those who put them in office. Measure 26-113 would save hundreds of thousands of dollars by allowing elections for vacant seats to be consolidated with state elections in May and November. Lastly, 26-114 would give county commissioners the power to beseech voters directly for a special library taxing district, a move that library boosters believe would create a more stable funding source for our county's award-winning system.
Measure 26-118: Yes
Here's the deal: Do you think we should have a state history museum? Or should Oregon, which already spends less on its museum than any other state, become the only state in the nation that locks the door to its history museum?
The state funded the history museum and library, located on the South Park Blocks, for over 100 years before seriously reducing funding in 2001 and again in 2003. Now the library staff has been axed from 15 to four, and the museum will shutter in the spring unless both get a lifeline.
It shouldn't be Multnomah County's responsibility to carry the burden of keeping the STATE history museum open but, frankly, the state has dropped the ball for a decade. Sixty percent of the archive's collection relates to Multnomah County, making it the de facto county historical society, and as a matter of "pure political pragmatism" the historical society didn't have the money and resources to launch a statewide campaign. If the state renews $2 million in annual funding any time during the next five years, the levy will cease. In the meantime, every county resident will get their $10 tax back in the form of free admission to the museum.
If you think history and education aren't worth $10 a year (the tax on the average homeowner), vote no. We vote yes.
CITY OF PORTLAND
Since 2006, Portland has ponied up $150,000 in public funds for any city council candidate who can gather 1,000 $5 contributions. The system is definitely not perfect, but the 60 cents per Portlander per year it costs is a worthwhile investment in democracy that has created some significant change.
Providing a level political playing field—and more transparency—should be considered as much a core city service as providing water, firefighters, and cops. That's precisely the promise of Portland's taxpayer-funded election system, and that's the biggest reason why voters should say yes to keeping the system in place.
Let's just get the imperfections out of the way: The public money has been a boon for candidates who have no chance of winning and has also led to some embarrassing embezzlement. Only two publicly financed city council candidates have won since 2006 (one of them an incumbent), and a "candidate" named Emilie Boyles absconded with tens of thousands of dollars and lavished payouts on her own daughter. Jesse Cornett, trying to unseat Dan Saltzman this year, got $150,000 to run his campaign and finished with an embarrassing 7.1 percent of the vote—fewer votes than numerous non-publicly financed candidates.
The city, in the aftermath of the Boyles scandal, has since tightened oversight of how money is spent. (Boyles, who broke the law, is also supposed to pay the city back.) That's a good start. And while some candidates have been lackluster, privately financed campaigns don't ensure candidates of any better caliber, just ones with bigger advertising budgets. The larger field of candidates with money to back them means incumbents have to run actual campaigns—a big change from earlier years. That means more talking to voters, more debates, more small contributions from people across the city, and less reliance on single big-check donors. Dan Saltzman is a good case study: In 1998, 72 percent of his contributions were checks over $500. In 2006, with voter owned elections, only 10 percent of his contributions were over $500.
Opponents seize on the money issue. They point to the total sum—$1.8 million—and complain that all that cash could be spent on real city needs like cops and parks. They say keeping the system amounts to a "blank check." It's important to note, though, that the money spent is capped as a small percentage of the budget.
Measure 26-117: Yes
We would totally forgive you if you ignored our counsel and voted no on this measure, a production of Fire Commissioner Randy Leonard. Measure 26-117 asks the voters to do what the city council could not—come up with millions of dollars to pay for new fire engines and communication radios, among other things. It seeks to borrow $72.4 million that would be paid back through a modest increase in property taxes, anywhere from $18 to $28 a year for someone who owns a home worth $200,000. We realize it's a request that comes with a stench: Commissioners, except for dissenter Amanda Fritz, refused to make a difficult choice and scour the general fund for some other program to cut. We also don't like that Motorola, a manufacturer of emergency radios, has become a champion of this measure, contributing thousands of dollars. But we're even more troubled about what happens if we don't pony up—now that the council has put us in this position. The fire bureau's current radios don't work in the hills. Response times have been found lacking. Those are big problems, and they raise the question: What happens if we don't invest in those improvements? Vote yes, wash your dirty hands afterward, and then let's all make sure we never have to answer this kind of question again.
It's clear that things are not well in TriMet budget land. Operating costs, thanks to better-than-average union benefits, have ballooned in recent years, further eating into a budget that's been shark-bitten by the recession. TriMet should seriously look at cutting back on building expensive new rail lines in the middle of the recession and renegotiating its union contract.
But those issues aren't really affected by this measure. Without this $125 million bond to replace 150 old buses with new disability-friendly ones, create more bus service for elderly and disabled people, and fix up 300 bus stops that have no sidewalks or benches, then TriMet Chief Neil McFarlane says the transit agency will make up the difference by slashing service. For that reason, we say vote yes. People who rely on bus and MAX to get to work, home, and the store can't bear any more public transit service cuts.