Ballots arrived in Lane County mailboxes this week for the May 19 special elections. If you didn’t get your ballot, call Lane County Elections at 682-4234 or visit lanecounty.org/elections. Completed ballots need to be at the elections office or in white ballot boxes around town and campus by 8 pm Tuesday, May 19.

Below are our endorsements in selected races and money measures. Find additional information in your Voters’ Pamphlet.

Lane ESD Director Position 7 (at large) 

— Linda Hamilton

Linda Hamilton has a decades-long history of service in government, public service agencies and boards, and she would be a welcome addition to ESD. She has served on the Eugene Human Rights Commission and Human Services Commission, the Lane County Advisory Council for Disability Services, the UO President’s Diversity Advisory Community Committee and many others.

One opponent is John A. Baumann, a physician with a long background in public health services and policy and early childhood development. Another opponent is Karen Bodner, a landscaper and Tea Party conservative who ran unsuccessfully against Chris Edwards for state Senate in 2010.

Eugene School District 4J Position 4

— Eileen Nittler

It’s not hard to choose among social worker Eileen Nittler, retired doctor John A. Baumann (who withdrew his candidacy last week) and retired small-business owner Scott Landgreen. Nittler already has a stellar record of school service in 4J, including the 4J Equity Committee, committees to renew three 4J school levies and extensive volunteer work. We’re impressed by her straightforward approach to education as well as her commitment to transparency. We believe her energy and talent for open communication will serve her well on the school board.

Eugene School District 4J Position 5

— Jim Torrey

We’ve lambasted Jim Torrey in the past when he was mayor of Eugene and rubbed us the wrong way on many issues, but he has always joined progressives in supporting public education, even to the point of raising local taxes — a very un-Republican thing to do. His unwavering support for the kids of Eugene can’t be questioned. We don’t have the facts to know Torrey’s role in the secrecy and mis-managed firing of Superintendent Sheldon Berman , but we suspect that other board members not on the ballot were more important players. Torrey is a strong advocate for increased school funding and has the ear of lawmakers to make it happen. He’s respected by conservatives and business in Eugene, an important segment to bring about better budgets.

We like Kevin Cronin and his vision for reforming our funding system for Oregon schools, but he’s such a political animal that his candidacy for School Board seems misdirected. His talents and exceptional energy should go to a statewide campaign to reform Oregon’s tax structure.

The third candidate in this race is David Nickles, a self-described “fringe” candidate who has libertarian leanings. Nickles is an impressive thinker and speaker. He voiced concerns in the debate last week that the system that failed him will also fail his young son.

Eugene School District 4J Position 7

— Mary Walston

Frustration with public education on so many levels is driving a “throw them all out” shout in these school board elections, but we all know the niggling problem is the replacement. First, we don’t really know Mary Walston’s role in recent issues of Superintendent Sheldon Berman, his non-evaluation and firing. We do know that she has strong endorsements in the Voters’ Pamphlet, she has spent countless hours as a volunteer in the schools, and she knows how local and state government works. It’s a plus that she works for Val Hoyle, now one of the most powerful members of the Oregon Legislature.

Her opponent, Colin Farnsworth, has made a big deal of his being blocked from debating Walston. That’s not an issue. A substitute teacher in this area for four years, he also stresses the importance of having a teacher on the board. If elected, he would not be able to teach in 4J and serve on the board because of the conflicts of interest in negotiating teacher contracts. Every candidate wants more funding for public education in Oregon. We hope Farnsworth will invest his energy in fighting for the statewide solution we so desperately need.

Lane County Measure 20-231 

— Vehicle Registration Fee — YES

We still believe in representative government and taxes and public process and compromise and safe rural roads and city streets and bridges. We don’t like flat taxes, but this compromise should be supported. The county’s citizen road advisory committee evaluated 20 funding options before recommending this fee to the County Commission, and while the fee is not ideal, it’s simple and easy to collect. Any sales tax or fee based on income or mileage would require a big overhead to manage. The state of Oregon already regulates weight-mile fees on big trucks and commercial vehicles, and local governments cannot legally add to those fees. Voters have shown little interest in adding to property taxes. It’s important to note that the fee will go to maintenance, not to building new roads and creating sprawl.

All the county commissioners support Measure 20-231. That’s Pete Sorenson on the left and Jay Bozievich on the right. And the county finally has an administrator, Steve Mokrohisky, we trust and respect. Timber money is running out for Lane County. Elections are expensive and time-consuming, but if this measure fails this time, our elected representatives should come back to the voters again and again to pay for maintaining our roads and bridges.

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