The name may not be familiar, but the ideas might be refreshing in relatively conservative east Lane County. Jose Ortal is one of the challengers eyeing incumbent Faye Stewart’s East Lane County commissioner position in 2014. Also on the record planning to file are former EWEB commissioner Joann Ernst and longtime environmental land use activist Kevin Matthews.
Asked why he decided to run, especially given his relatively low public visibility compared to the other candidates, Ortal says, “I believe I can provide a viable progressive alternative to the sitting commissioner,” and that he is looking for the status quo to “be expanded beyond the usual.” He said the main themes of his campaign are “governance” and “public oversight.”
“Let’s stop with the bickering already. Let’s get everybody more or less on the same page. Let’s conduct the people’s business rather than posture,” Ortal says.
He has expressed distaste for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), posting a vocal support of the new bill to ban GMO crops in Eugene on the Facebook page for the Citizens League of Lane County. He has also been displeased with financially based environmental decisions, saying he’s tired of county politics “being driven by the McDougal Brothers of the world.” The McDougals are local loggers, speculators and developers often at odds with environmentalists.
“Any commissioner has to be a commissioner for all the people, not the 1 percent or the 99 percent,” said Ortal.
While Ortal sees no problem in big business solutions to our stagnant economy, he does say, “We must make sure these folks are good corporate neighbors.”
He has more than once vocalized his dissent against budget cuts to community college funding and worked even after his position at LCC ended to bring attention to what he felt were problems with the school’s infrastructure. He ran unsuccessfully for the LCC Board in 2009.
Although he has not had as involved a career in local politics as either Ernst or Matthews, he does have some footing. Ortal moved to Eugene in 1996 from California when he was hired as the director of affirmative action and diversity at LCC. His position was eliminated in 2005 due to budget cuts. He now owns McKenzie River Insights, a management consulting firm. In addition to a master’s degree in history from UCLA, Ortal has a history of diversity-based interests. — Jordan Tichenor