Ballots are in the mail for the May Special Election in Oregon. Ballots can be mailed until approximately Thursday, May 16. After that they can be dropped off until 8 pm Tuesday, May 21, at any white ballot box around town or at Lane County Elections offices at 10th and Lincoln. Here are our endorsements on selected local issues and contested races. More information can be found in our election coverage this issue and past issues, in the Voters Pamphlet and on various websites.
Ballot Measure 20-210
4J School Bonds — YES
We wish we were voting for millions to go into our classrooms, but that’s not the option Oregon’s property tax limitation hands us. Maybe Gov. Kitzhaber and the Legislature will come up with real investment in Oregon education. Until then, this is a measure that greatly improves our school facilities, helps protect our children and offers some direct educational assistance in new textbooks, science equipment and tech upgrades. It will enable 4J to spend more of its budget in classrooms rather than repairing schools. We do suggest a citizen panel to see that new 4J schools are built to last much longer than 50 years for a change.
Ballot Measure 20-211
Eugene City Services Fee— NO
What we are looking at here is, let’s face it, a flat tax that exacerbates the gap between rich and poor. The city’s Budget Committee has both the ability and the political support to save the threatened services — five of eight councilors oppose the fee, and eight other Budget Committee members don’t have a political dog in this fight do, too. The city has funds earmarked for far less essential services that are not on the chopping block, such as management staffing and pay, overtime and consulting services. The ordinance fails to address basic issues regarding the poverty exemption or how the fee will be collected, and it limits the fee to support services such as police and fire — but those services are the biggest part of the city budget. Meanwhile, the city gives away millions in questionable tax breaks for developers and excess revenues are being squirreled away in fat reserve funds. The council and Budget Committee need to restructure the city’s financial practices and priorities, and we’re skeptical that will happen if the fee passes.
Ballot Measure 20-213
Public Safety Local Option — NO
We should pay more taxes in Lane County, but we don’t like this measure for two broad reasons. First, we have no confidence in the governance of Lane County, neither the administrator nor the County Commission majority of four who appointed Liane Richardson and appear to condone or even direct what she does. This lack of confidence affects our view of this five-year tax levy and how it will be implemented.
Second, Measure 20-213 is yet another public safety levy put out to the voters with only a nod to prevention and rehabilitation. Where’s the support for all the services and programs that keep people from ending up in our overcrowded courts and prisons? The response is always that jail beds are so critical and the need is so great and voters are so reluctant that this is all we dare ask for. But we think voters are smart enough to understand the need for prevention and alternatives to incarceration. Commissioner Sorenson does not support this levy. Give us a public safety measure that Sorenson will support, to be administered by people we trust, and we’ll endorse it, but not 20-213.
Zone 1 Position
Sharon Stiles of Florence is the incumbent in this LCC board position that represents Bethel and western Lane County. She’s being challenged by Rich Cunningham, a member of the Bethel School Board and a former EWEB commissioner who resigned last year after moving out of his EWEB district. We’ve endorsed Cunningham in previous races and appreciate his strong support for practical job training. Stiles is not an outspoken “political animal” like Cunningham, who has managed to gain union endorsements, but she’s rock solid, trained in mediation skills and has key support in the community. She’s also the only member on the board representing rural Lane County, which is a plus considering LCC’s broad reach within the county and classes offered in Florence.
Eugene School District
4J Position 3
Beth Gerot has served on the 4J Board since 1998 and has been challenged unsuccessfully a few times over the years. This time her opponent is lawyer and former Lane County Assistant DA Lisa Christon, who appears to be running a low-profile campaign. Christon has been active in schools and is the leader of the new Kennedy Middle School Parent Group. We’ve appreciated Gerot’s knowledge, experience and leadership on issues of equity and the perennial battle for more state funding of public education. Gerot has extensive endorsements from the community and we see no need to replace her.
Lane ESD Board
Vanessa C. Truett
Don Kimball is not seeking re-election to the Springfield Position 3 on the Lane Education Service District Board and two good candidates are looking to replace him, Vanessa Truett and Cj Mann. Truett is co-founder of the “A” Team Justice League helping families with autistic children and has a broad background in education and nonprofit management and development. Mann is a longtime labor activist and organizer who works for the Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County. She is politically active and a strong human rights activist. She ran unsuccessfully last May against Dave Ralston for Springfield City Council. Either would be fine on the ESD Board but we give the edge to Truett who has a more extensive background in education services.