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While there may be only a few measures and candidates on this May's election ballot, we should all know by now that voting matters in every election—and this ballot contains some especially important decisions for you to make. Lucky for you, the Mercury did all the heavy lifting, so check out our endorsements and get to voting!
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Multnomah County Measure 26-238: A Reluctant Yes
Perhaps no other ballot measure has led to the amount of discussion, questions, and consternation among the Mercury’s editorial team than the “Eviction Representation for All” measure, and for that, we are pissed. For the first time in a long time, our team was split on a decision.
Here’s the deal: There’s no doubt the current eviction system is deeply flawed and unfairly favors landlords. The data clearly shows that tenants are often left to go without legal representation in matters that have serious, lasting consequences on their lives.
Measure 26-238 seeks to create a new Tenant Resource Office to provide legal services for those facing eviction. It would add to existing eviction defense resources available through the city and county, offering culturally relevant services to anyone in need, regardless of income.
It would be funded by a new capital gains tax that would start out at .75%, but could be adjusted by the county, as needed.
While the intent is good, the measure’s failure to specify exactly how that tax would be calculated and collected is concerning. The tax would apply to the sales of stocks, bonds, valuable collectibles, and property. Federal tax code includes exemptions on home sales in which profits are less than $250,000 for single people and $500,000 for married couples, as long as the home is a primary residence. This measure does not include these exemptions. Without them, for example, it could mean big tax bills for low and middle income seniors who want to sell their homes to finance their retirement.
Proponents say if the measure passes, the county can go in and include those exemptions in the language—but we’ve heard next to nothing about the practicalities, legalities, or political will of the county commissioners to do so. One county commissioner, Shusheela Jayapal, said she believes the county would make the tax match up with federal IRS code, but pointedly does not support the measure.
The measure is also written to apply to the current tax year, which frankly makes no sense. Proponents claim the county could fix that as well, but voters shouldn’t have to rely on major fixes to a measure happening after it’s passed. The measure should have been written with the correct language to begin with.
We hope the proponents are correct, and county commissioners will use their authority to fix some of the shortcomings in the language. A good measure doesn’t help one portion of a needy population by penalizing another.
All that said, eviction prevention plays a key role in the fight to address and prevent homelessness. If the latest data tells us anything—and we’re going to bold this, because it’s important—the current landscape of services ISN’T enough. So hold your nose, hope for the best, and vote yes.
Portland Measure 26-240: Yes
Measure 26-240, the Portland Children’s Levy, is a property tax that helps fund child abuse prevention efforts, after-school programs, childcare affordability, foster care programs, and hunger prevention via food assistance for kids.
We encourage a “yes” vote, because the levy helps bolster critical safety nets for kids. That said, we hope the city can continue to work with community partners and nonprofit organizations to get more of the money from the fund spent on the critical programs and services the levy helps pay for.
As recently noted by the Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission, the Children’s Levy has spent far less than it’s received in recent years. City officials and employees responsible for managing the levy say that’s largely due to logistical issues, including organizations who are sometimes unable to spend the full grant amount, and other operational challenges during the pandemic. City staff plans to help its nonprofit partners recruit and maintain staffing to make sure programs and services are available. The levy also includes built-in oversights like audits and limits on administrative expenses.
In short, the Children's Levy continues to be a good idea that deserves our support. Vote yes.
Multnomah County Commissioner, District 3: Ana del Rocío
Ana del Rocío knows the issues impacting East Portland and her life experience mirrors that of many residents in District 3. She touts community trust and experience working on county policy, under the current County Chair, Jessica Vega Pederson. She also plans to use the county’s role as the local public health authority to tackle pressing issues like homelessness, mental health, addiction treatment, and gun violence. Del Rocío could be just the leader East Portland needs at a time when many residents have lost trust or faith in government.
While one of her opponents, Julia Brim-Edwards, has proven herself a capable leader whose work on the school board is commendable, we believe del Rocío would be a better representative of this particular community.
Portland School District, Zone 3 Director: Patte Sullivan
Patte Sullivan’s opponent in Zone 3, Derrick Peterson, has withdrawn from this race—but because he dropped out so late in the process, his name remains on the ballot, and that's unfortunate.
The former sheriff’s captain's decision to withdraw was fueled by questions surrounding Peterson’s ties to sometimes extremist religious circles.
That said, the Mercury had already planned to endorse Sullivan for this seat.
Sullivan is a retired teacher whose decades of classroom experience would be a valuable addition to the school board. Sullivan is firm in her convictions and values, including support for protecting the needs and rights of LGBTQ+ students. She also understands the core issues, like low attendance, that are impacting student outcomes.
It's a good thing Peterson dropped out, because now the choice is clear. Vote for Sullivan.
Multnomah Education Service District
Position 1, Zone 5: Dr. Samuel Henry
Position 3, Zone 2: Renee W. Anderson
Position 5, Zone 1: Denyse Peterson
Position 7, Zone 3: Katrina Doughty
There are five races on the ballot this year for the Multnomah Education Service District (MESD), which is governed by a seven-member board. One of the seats is uncontested.
The MESD provides a variety of programs and services to school districts in Multnomah County, which include student health, special education, school improvements, alternative education, and more. Rather than going into the pros and cons of each candidate in these four races, the Mercury is endorsing all of the current incumbents—all of whom have impressive backgrounds in education, have garnered quality endorsements, share a focus on equity, and have a demonstrated deep commitment to students in the county.
Their opponents have a variety of life experience, but none have the educational backgrounds of the incumbents, and their platforms range from mushy and benign, to downright suspicious—as in right-wing suspicious. As we know these days, every race counts, and since the current MESD members seem to be serving Multnomah County students in a responsible manner, we see no reason to rock this particular boat. Vote YES on the candidates above.
The Mercury Election Strike Force is News Editor Courtney Vaughn, News Reporter Taylor Griggs, Arts & Culture Editor Suzette Smith, and Editor-in-Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey. Political advertisements on the Mercury's website have no influence over our endorsement decisions. BTW, if you find our endorsements helpful, please consider appreciating our hard work with a small $$ tip!