recommendations for the Oregon ballot

Some of you will still have your ballots and be planning to fill them out this weekend. For your benefit, I've researched the candidates and initiatives on the ballot, and come up with a set of endorsements and recommendations. Whether or not you agree with me, please use the text and links that follow to make an informed vote.

Tommorrow, I will post on the Portland city and county races.


Endorsement: Kate Brown

Governor's Race: Kate Brown has done quite a bit for the disadvantaged and vulnerable in Oregon. This includes saving 400,000 low-income Oregonians from losing healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, securing paid medical leave for all workers, appointing four women (two women of color) to Oregon's Supreme Court, enacting automatic voter registration, adopting a phase-out plan for coal power, making community college affordable for everyone, passing gun safety laws, and imposing first-in-the-nation protections for transgender kids in school.

However, she has done little to cut the Gordian knot that is Oregon's financial crisis, which is something that some voters cannot forgive her for (I also suspect that some voters aren't keen on her support for gay rights either).

While her opponent, Knute Beuler, is running on his ability to "fix Oregon's finances". However, while he is happy to criticize Brown's poor track record on this issue, he has no specific proposals of his own on how he would fix the financial crisis. This leads me to believe that, in fact, he has no solution, and once elected would be just as ineffective on the problem as Brown has been -- probably even more so, given that he would need to work with a Democratic legislature. His voting record does not suggest that he has any ideas either, and he could have been getting more done on financial reform as a legislator than he would as governor.

Bueler is also running as "the progressive's Republican", being pro-Choice, pro-environment, and pro-public-healthcare. He's also a physician, which would be a nice change from the usual career political backgrounds of gubernatorial candidates. Based on his promoted platform alone, he would be a great alternative to the inaction currently in Salem.

However, his statements and record on racial issues and immigrants are quite different. He supports measure 105, and has indicated that, as governor, he would undermine the Sanctuary Law even if 105 does not pass. His talking points on this also echo the arguments used by the racist hate group OFIR. Within the last year, his ACLU scorecard has dropped to 33%. He seems to be OK with getting into bed with racists, and I'm not OK with that.

He's also done a huge about-face on the issue of campaign finance reform. Once a champion of repeated Oregon finance reforms in multiple bills, to run for governor he has accepted as much as $1.5m from a single individual, and has refused to participate in voluntary campaign financing limits. This suggests, at least, that his principles are malleable.

This last point becomes super-critical because he is running as a Republican. The national GOP has, multiple times in the last 2 years, required individual candidates to vote against their principles to retain campaign support. They appear to have done this at least once with Bueler, as he voted against a bill to extend Medicare that he had orignally co-sponsored. So we can't trust Knute to remain a moderate: he will get his marching orders from the White House.

So, this is a lukewarm endorsement of Kate Brown, and a strong endorsement against Bueler. You may not love Brown, but Bueler would be a disaster for human rights in Oregon.


Measure 102

Endorsement: Yes

Two years ago, Portland voters endorsed a $250m bond for building affordable housing. That money is on hold, due to a state restriction on using affordable housing money for anything other than city-owned, city-run, new construction. Such construction takes a long time and is very expensive ($200K per family), as opposed to offering incentives for privately built affordable housing, or even direct subsidies for residents.

Passing Measure 102 could allow that $250m to go far enough to house all 4000 of Portland's homeless. Wheeler has been right to halt the spending of those funds in hopes of making them stretch further with this change.

Yes, we will have to watchdog for corruption in this. Measure 102 also enables politicians to divert affordable housing funds for private development projects that mainly benefit them. However, that was possible under the old rules anyway (witness what Hales did with the first of the $250m).


Measure 103

Endorsement: No

This measure is a Trojan horse. Pretending to somehow be about preventing taxes on our groceries, it's really an attempt by soda distributors to head off potential soda taxes in Oregon's cities. These companies are the funders behind the measure, and its beneficiaries, and the rest of us will pay the price for it. I'm not actually a fan of soda taxes, but cities and counties should be able to decide that for themselves.


Measure 104

Endorsement: No.

Reason: Measure 104 would require a 3/5 majority to pass any "tax increases" in the state legislature. We already have a 3/5 majority rule for new taxes, but this initiative extends that to thinks like removing tax deductions and loopholes. It's specifically motivated by, and funded by, real estate interests, because they want to prevent any possibility of (for example) eliminating the mortgage interest deduction on Oregon state taxes, something that's been discusssed.

So, why am I against it?

California passed an initiative like this in 2010. The result was annual budgetary paralysis, with the state legislature unable to pass any kind of budget. Most of the time, California runs without a legislated budget because no compromise can get a 2/3 majority. And it means that negotiating the budget takes up even more of the governor's and state legislature's time, forcing them into expensive "emergency" sessions to pass other legislation.

Note that Measure 104 would require the 3/5 majority to remove any tax exemption, even if the net tax load on Oregon taxpayers was reduced by other changes. For that matter, it would be possible for the legislature to enact a tax exemption with a simple majority, but would require a super-majority to revoke it.

We are in a financial crisis, and Salem will have to be creative to get us out of it. Budgetary gridlock will make that job impossible.


Measures 105, 106

Endorsement: NO, No, No, NO!

This pair measures could be described as the "Axis of Evil", consisting of two initiatives to get you to vote away your rights or the rights of others. They go together with a measure that was, fortunately, disqualified from the ballot but sponsored by the same people, which would have voted away our right to vote.

Measure 105 is a discriminatory measure intended to take away the rights of immigrants and people of color. It's sponsored by a anti-immigrant hate group supported by out-of-state money.

Measure 106 takes away the healthcare rights of women who work for the state, such as schoolteachers and firefighters. Like 105, this initiative is mostly funded by money from other states.

We need to stand firm in favor of the rights of all Oregonians. Vote no.