Our Opinion: Who we endorsed
It's become an unhappy tradition, marked every other fall, to declare that the current election is one of the most expensive and negative in recent memory.
Sadly, 2018 proved no exception in Oregon.
The two top candidates in the marquee event, the governor's race, are on pace to spend more than $21 million, which will surpass the $17.7 million spent in 2010 when John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley faced off.
And, as noted by Portland Tribune reporter Paris Achen, both campaigns have used scare tactics and misleading messages.
Watching the television commercials you'd think Gov. Kate Brown crafts her child welfare policies from a gingerbread house and Knute Buehler takes his political advice from Donald Trump.
This election is not, and should not, be a referendum on dysfunctional dramas playing out on the Potomac. It is a chance to shape the policies and choose the policymakers who will help lead our communities and state for years to come.
Fortunately, there is plenty of good information available on all these contests. Below is a recap of our endorsements, but we encourage you to grap your voters pamphlet, pick up your local paper, log-on to news sites and educate yourself.
The governor's race features two capable politicians who differ on significant issues and leadership style. Gov. Brown, who stepped into the job during a political crisis, has done an admirable job, but struggled to force her fellow Democrats (who control both legislative chambers) to make tough decisions on education funding, pension reform and tax reform. Our nod goes to Rep. Knute Buehler, a social moderate who has the potential to find the elusive middle ground in the sharply-partisan statehouse.
State Ballot Measures:
Allows local governments to leverage bond money for affordable housing
This measure, referred to the ballot by state lawmakers, may seem like a simple housekeeping measure, but it's actually very important. Oregon's constitution requires general obligation bonds to be used directly to pay for capital projects. This makes sense when you need a new road or school, but not housing. This measure would allow local governments to more easily and efficiently partner with nonprofits and developers to stretch tax dollars used for much-needed affordable housing throughout the state.
If you want proof of the downside of Oregon's easy access to the ballot, this measure is Exhibit A. Masquerading as a means to protect consumers from a phantom sales tax on groceries, this is actually a special-interest ploy to pre-empt another gross-receipts tax from reaching the food industry. We opposed the last gross-receipts tax and would certainly resist any effort to tax food, but we don't believe in changing the constitution to protect a specific industry.
Requires 3/5 vote to raise fees
Here's another example of a solution in search of a problem. Oregon's constitution already requires a 3/5 vote in the state legislature to raise taxes. This measure purports to protect Oregonians from sneaky end-runs around that law by classifying taxes as fees. There are no examples of this actually happening, and this law would give lobbyists extra leverage while needlessly bogging down legislative sessions every time an agency needs to adjust fees for everything from fishing licenses to health care accreditations.
Repeals Oregon's Sanctuary Law
Oregon was one of the first states in the nation to pass a law ensuring that state and local police agencies stay out of the immigration enforcement business. The 1987 legislation was in response to disturbing cases of local police forces engaging in racial profiling of non-white individuals. No one, including the police chiefs and sheriffs in Oregon's largest cities and counties, wants to go back to those days.
Authorizes Metro to levy bonds for housing
This measure, for us, was one of the toughest calls on ballot. There is a desperate need for affordable housing throughout the state. This well-crafted measure would help address that in the Portland metro area by authorizing $653 million in bonds to purchase, manage and build housing in the tri-county area. Our concern is that Metro has no track record in housing and failed to get the support of some key local leaders for this proposal.
Multnomah County Auditor
In a race between two likeable qualified candidates, Scott Learn's demonstrated ability to remain objective while being a fierce advocate for accountability gives him the edge over Jennifer McGuirk.
Portland City Council
Jo Ann Hardesty
This contest features two seasoned politicians with long histories of public service. Loretta Smith or Jo Ann Hardesty each would bring a new energy to the council and an appropriate focus on the city's least-advantaged residents. Our nod goes to Hardesty for her fierce independence and record of collaboration.
Public financing of city elections
This was a flawed concept when voters approved it for Multnomah County elections in 2016, and it's no better when applied to city elections. Its supporters acknowledge that it's likely illegal and are hoping it passes so they can make their case in court. We agree with their goal to reduce the influence of money in elections, but legislating through the courts is not the way to achieve it.
Clean Energy Fund
This citizen-led initiative would move the city forward on addressing the most critical challenge of our time: climate change. We have some misgivings about the details but share the backers' sense of urgency and are confident that the city council could fix any problems that arise.