Election 2012 Endorsements: A Closer Look at Hidden Ballot Bombs

October 22, 2012

I’ve not exactly been quite thisGoldwater: watch out for preachers political season. But most of my Tweets, Facebook and Google Plus posts have been about the presidential election and the travesty of religious extremist who have hijacked the Republican party and are attempting to drag women, LGBT folk, and persons of color back into the eighteenth century while eliminating the middle class and returning to the nobility/peasants stratification.

But, in many states, there are additional candidates who require support. And, in Oregon and Portland there are a a number of other issues critical to progressive values on the ballot — too many of which have had the facts of the harm they will cause obfuscated in campaign rhetoric.

So here, I will share how and why I’m voting. I’ve done the research and I explain my positions so if you don’t want to take the time, feel free to use what’s below to mark your ballot. Just remember to drop it off at your local library or other official drop box by Nov. 6.

National Election

What Kind of World do You Want to Live In?

who caused the deficit?I have never been a big Barack Obama fan. He makes purty speeches and maybe in eight years he would have been ready to tackle everything the presidency requires. If he’d been a little less naive, a little more seasoned, he might have wrangled a party majority in Congress to pass significant health care reform, get rid of laws that violate the constitution, reinstate the financial regulations that would have prevented the Wall Street-engineered meltdown, and ended the horrific wars the Shrub dragged us into.

But, Obama has gotten us out of Iraq, improved U.S. relations with the rest of the world, ended DADT, stopped defending DOMA, and enacted some health care reform including making contraceptives more accessible. Under Obama, the economic crash had a softer landing that it would have without his stimulus package and more people are working. His accomplishments are more impressive when you take into account he had to fight Republican determination to see him fail at every turn.

Whatever you think of the man now in the White House, he beats the alternative and only a vote for him can keep Mittens from giving more of the country away to the rich and powerful he belongs to.

The same philosophy applies to Congressional races. Right wing extremists, in the pocket of the Koch brothers and other corporatacracies, are trying to turn Social Security benefits over to the Wall Street swindlers, eliminate Medicare and all access to contraception, take our education system back to the dark ages, etc. Their ultimate goal is to deprive anyone except rich white straight males of their civil rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Romney-Ryan Social Security PlanEven if you’ve never had to choose between food and medicine, wondered how you would get to work without money for gas or bus fare because your child needed to see a doctor, or watched a love one die because of corporate neglect, try to discover within you the empathy entirely missing in the GOP rhetoric and candidates.

If you get weekends off or a paid vacation or have a retirement fund or paid sick leave, remember the union members who bought those benefits for you with their blood. The Koch brothers are leading a movement to take all that away and return to the concept of company-owned employees forced to work six days a week for a pittance with no benefits and no regard for providing a safe workplace, clean drinking water, breathable air.

If you want to see a viable third party, the time to do so is during interim elections. Progressive candidates who don’t want to affiliate with the Demicans, need to start in local races building up experience and clout.

Unless you’ve fallen for the right-wing extremist BS rhetoric, if you don’t want to see women forced back to the days of barefoot, pregnant, and dead in childbirth by the time they’re thirty, vote for the Democratic candidate for Senator and Representative to Congress and your state legislature.

Oregon State Offices

Secretary of State: Kate Brown has made some mistakes. She’s been arrogant and some of her decisions have been questionable. But, overall she did a good job for her constituents when she was a state legislator and has made state level accountability improvements as Secretary of State.

Much of her opposition is coming from a man who is angry that he was fined for violating state laws prohibiting paying signature gatherers by the signature. He’s telling people to vote for anyone but the incumbent.

But, her Republican opponent spouts the GOP line about voter fraud. So far, the only documented voter fraud has been perpetuated by Republicans and all efforts that have claimed to combat the proven Republican fraud has been aimed at disenfranchising people of color, poor folk, people with disabilities, senior citizens, and students — those more likely to vote Democratic. That alone is enough to keep me from voting for him.

State Treasurer: The state’s chief financial officer manages investment of state money, the sale of state bonds and helps oversee management of state lands. Ted Wheeler has done a good job protecting the state’s money through prclass warfareofitable investments. He also discredited claims that the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing boondoggle would be funded by tolls and federal money.

His opponent has worked for companies that contributed to the economic mess GOP deregulation put us in, has never held a public office, and spews the GOP line about the need to decimate public employee benefits so we can give more tax breaks to the wealthy. Enough said.

Oregon’s first woman State Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, is a former appellate court judge, former state court judge, and was a federal prosecutor. She’s endorsed by labor, conservationists, LGBTQ advocates, pro choice supporters, and builders. That last one may seem incongruous, but it speaks to her fairness.

who actually balanced the budget?Her opponent has only been in private practice and has never held a public office. He supports the GOP line about out-of-control government spending (that never seems to mention how much the GOP-started wars and GOP-passed tax breaks and corporate welfare for their wealthy donors have contributed to deficits).

State Labor Commissioner: Organized labor (the folks who brought you the 40-hour work week, health and safety regulations to protect workers from injury, paid holidays, weekends off, etc. for which they’re vilified by the right wing as the evil that is destroying business) is supporting Brad Avakian and businesses don’t consider him to be the Big Bad. Among other accomplishments, he’s gotten more than $15 million returned to workers who were cheated out of their wages by their employers.

His opponent toes the GOP line that “Red tape, high taxes and lawsuits are killing good paying family wage jobs.” The reality is that unregulated businesses that refuse to pay “family-wages” leave consumers unable to make purchases, which kills jobs.

Oregon Supreme Court: Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Richard Baldwin, an 11-year court veteran, has demonstrated his commitment to helping those with less access to the legal system.

His opponent has mostly worked as a lawyer in private practice and only served as a volunteer substitute judge. She has seriously exaggerated how much bench experience she has and I’m not willing to vote for someone who lies to serve as a judge.

Oregon Court of Appeals, Pos. 6: James Egan sits on the Linn County Circuit Court. Previously, as an attorney, he represented people who had been injured on their jobs. He also served as a Judge Advocate General in the military.

His opponent is a trial lawyer with no experience on the bench, although his supporters make much of the fact that he successfully argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. What isn’t mentioned on his website or in most of those endorsements is that the Supreme Court case supported random drug testing. That alone is enough to cost him my vote.

State Measures

Romney LiesPolitical spin often phrases issues to make them appear the exact opposite of their real impact. I remember one election where I condemned a measure in a letter to the newspaper (you know back in the old days before weblogs) and someone asked me how it could have a downside. He had only read the paid endorsements in the Oregon Voter’s pamphlet (please note, there’s nothing “impartial” about the document–I rarely open mine). The significant downside had been completely hidden in the campaign rhetoric so I had to dig it out, but it was there.

There are a number of measures on the ballot this year that promise the opposite of what they will deliver, kind of like GOP candidates. Some are particularly egregious because, like the Republicans, they appeal to core needs — jobs, education, environment — while only lining the pockets of the wealthy.

Vote YES on Measure 77 Disaster Emergency Powers: Some measures just make you shake your head as to why they’re needed or why no one passed them before. Measure 77 grants the governor temporary (30-day) authority to call the legislature into emergency session and direct response and spending in the case of catastrophic disasters.

Vote YES on Measure 78 which makes spelling and grammatical changes in the state constitution.

Vote NO on Measure 79 – Real Estate Transfer Tax Ban: The National Association of Realtors is trying to scare voters into adding a ban on real estate transfer taxes to the state constitution even though that’s been illegal under state law since 1989. (Washington County’s tax was grandfathered in under that law and won’t be affected by Measure 79.)

Realtors have wasted more than $5 million in a misleading campaign to protect their own (and no one else’s) interests.

marijuana lawsVote YES on Measure 80 – Legalizes Marijuana: For decades, billions of dollars have been flushed down the toilet trying to prevent Americans from consuming marijuana. Thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens are thrown into prisons — fed, clothed, and housed by taxpayers. Meanwhile, it’s easier for minors to purchase pot than beer.

This measure would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales in Oregon. When we persecute, prosecute, and incarcerate those who use a drug that’s less harmful than legal ones such as nicotine and alcohol, everyone loses, especially taxpayers.

Vote: NO on Measure 81 – Bans Gillnetting: Sports fishermen are casting this as a law to prevent cruel fish captures. But, this measure would not change the number of salmon caught. It would only allow sports fishermen — who spend money fishing for fun — to catch even more salmon at the expense of commercial and Trbal fisherman for whom fishing is their livelihood. (Sports fishermen already remove more fish from the rivers than the commercial fisherman combined, but the greedy asshats want more. As one newspaper asked: “Is it too much to call this whole proposal fishy?”

Vote NO Measure 82 (Authorizes private casinos) and Measure 83 (Authorizes Multnomah County casino): Slick advertising gushes BS about The Grange’s (a name stolen from an organization that has supported farm families since 1867) “family-friendly” casino, jobs, and contributions to the state coffers.

This amendment is wrong in so many ways, it’s hard to remember them all. First, it would break yet another white man’s government promise to Tribal authorities and deal a devastating blow to Oregon’s tribal casino profits which are their only hope for lifting their members out of the dire poverty in which many of them have been kept for generations.

Second, enshrining benefits to a single, foreign (Canadian), shady (their other endeavors have all come under legal scrutiny for questionably practices) in the state constitution is an egregious mistake.

Third, the Canadians would take money that now goes into the pockets of Tribes, local businesses, and schools out of the country.

Fourth, many of the “jobs” would be minimum-wage, no benefit, night and weekend (how’s that good for “families”?) shit work that would be created at the expense of existing jobs and businesses.

Those slick advertisements for the privately owned Wood Village casino (which won’t be called The Grange after the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry took them to court for stealing its name) make much about a portion of its revenue will be paid to the state.

But those advertisements neglect to factor in the reduced revenue from lottery and video poker which pay more that triple the percentage that the Canadians would pay. The Oregon Lottery generates more than $500 million for the state through video gambling machines. Bar  owners now (and would continue to) pay 75 percent of their video poker money to the state while the Wood Village monstrosity would only pay a quarter of its profits in taxes. Even in other states where it has established gambling entities, the Canadian company pays from 55 to 85 percent.

Supporting this measure gives a Canadian company a virtual monopoly over gambling in the Portland area and allows it to steal more than $300 million dollars from the state of Oregon every year.

Vote NO Measure 84 Eliminates inheritance tax: Once again proponents are lying to try to get you to vote for another way for the rich to get richer at the expense of the rest of us. They claim this measure would be a boon to small farms, but all farms worth less than $7.5 million already are exempt from inheritance tax. And anyone else with an estate valued at less than $1 million doesn’t pay estate taxes either.

Worse, the proponents always seem to forget to mention that this measure would allow family members to give unlimited assets such as stocks, bonds or businesses to other family members tax-free. So rather than pay taxes on the gain of something that’s appreciated significantly in value, the rich get to transfer it to Uncle Bob, who only has to declare the gain from when it was gifted to when he sold it. He then gifts it back.

The only people who would benefit from this are the 1 percent. And we can’t afford to gift the 1 percent with anymore tax breaks. This measure is supported by Kevin Mannix, who broke the law to finance its campaign, which is really enough to say vote no in and of itself.

Vote YES Measure 85 Repeals the Corporate “Kicker”: The kicker check, a unique, bizarre Oregon tax construct, is triggered when the state’s revenue surplus is 2 percent more than predicted. Divided between individual and corporate taxpayers it’s fiscally irresponsible, especially when our bridges are falling down, are schools are underfunded, and we already have one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country.

As fiscally irresponsible as the kicker policy is, Oregonians have seemed reluctant to relinquish it. But giving it to corporations, most of which have their headquarters (and take their profits) out of state, while public schools increase class sizes and shorten school years is just stupid.

This measure won’t fix the madness that is the kicker or a legislature underfunding public education (that requires voting to throw out all Republicans in the state legislature), but it’s a start.

City of Portland/Multnomah County

Mayor: Write In Scott Fernandez : Although early in the primary campaign I threw my support in the Portland Mayor’s race behind one of the two eventual winners, as November approached I’ve found myself having second thoughts. During the primaries, he seemed the best choice to stop big business from buying the Mayor’s office and to stand up against the CRC boondoggle. But watching him fumble revelations dug up from his past, especially given that he could have brought them up earlier himself and diffused their impact, I had to wonder whether he’s ready to be Portland’s mayor.

Unfortunately, his principal opponent is a horrible alternative. He’s owned by developers who enjoy building huge apartment complexes with no parking and no regard for the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. He’s been a strong backer of the developer boondoggle, aka the Columbia River Crossing, that will cost the taxpayers billions.

As stated above, I don’t usually advocate supporting third parties and/or write-in candidates. But, Scott Fernandez is a scientist, not a politician. He prioritizes clean water, will fight to keep coal trains from polluting the city with their dust, and supports a no-kill animal shelter. He’s not accepted big business contributions.

City Council, Position No. 1: Supporting Amanda Fritz in the primary was probably the last decision I made for that ballot. She’s made mistakes and enemies. But, she cares and shows it with every thoughtful decision. She guards every penny in the city’s pocketbook as if it were her own. She’s probably the only truly independent voice on the city council, and continually stands ready and willing to challenge the status quo.

Her opponent has run a, expensive vicious campaign that’s quick to find fault with Fritz, but rarely mentions why her opponent would do a better job.

One of Portland’s biggest problems is a rogue police force that shoots first and doesn’t ever want to hear answers to the questions invariably asked later. Most of their victims are mentally ill and Fritz’s background as a psychiatric nurse puts her in an excellent position to challenge the status quo of blood on the streets.

Her opponent is backed by the police union, she supports their desire to remain above the law, and she would have returned Aaron Campbell’s killer to the streets.

Vote: YES Measure 26-143 – Creates a Multnomah County Library Tax District: Multnomah County Library is second only to New York City in per capita usage, circulating twice as many materials per resident as the average library. It’s a critical component of Portland’s literary reputation and the city’s livability. And it’s closed on Mondays because it’s underfunded.

Bizarre accounting systems put in place by tax cutting measures have stripped city and counties of their ability to deliver needed services to their citizens. As a result, even when we pass a levy to support it, as property values drop many people don’t pay that levy. (Look at your tax bill which arrived within a day or two of your ballot to see if you’re contributing.)

A library district would give the marvelous Multnomah County Library it’s own tax revenues so it no longer would be at the mercy of county needs. The cost would be minimal, $33 for a home with an assessed value of $100,000. If you’re an average user, that’s $1 for each item checked out during the year.

The measure would restore library hours and children’s programs and remove the necessity and expense of campaigning for a funding levy every few years.

Vote: YES Measure 26-145 – Reforms the Portland Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund: A loophole allows police and firefighters to bump up their lifetime annual pension payments by retiring in a year that includes an extra pay period, inflating the number used to calculate their retirement benefits. This measure will save taxpayers $46.6 million over 25 years.

Vote: NO Measure 26-146 – City of Portland Arts Tax: Can we spell deceit children? This is being sold as a way to restore arts education in schools. But, more than half of the funds collected for this regressive tax will go to already well-endowed nonprofit arts organizations such as the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Portland Art Museum, etc.

Every resident with earned income (which eliminates wealthy tax avoiders who live off their stock and bond funds) must pay$35 a year evene if they’re eligible for food stamps or other benefits.

And, the worst potential impact of this measure is that it will hurt smaller schools. The measure guarantees one art or music teacher for every 500 public school students between kindergarten and fifth grade within city limits. Most city schools have fewer than 500 students so they will be forced by this measure to fork over enough to pay the difference, possibly at the expense of math and science programs.

I’m all for arts. I believe we should have arts education in schools, but we also need math, sicent, and reading. And as much as I think it’s important to have a symphony and ballet and art museum, these are organizations with wealthy backers, pricy fundraisers, tax breaks, and tickets the taxpayers hurt most by this measure won’t ever be able to afford.

Vote: YES Measure 26-144 – Portland Public Schools Bond: Portland Public School District is one of few in Oregon without bonds to build and repair school buildings. As a result, the district’s buildings are in bad shape.

This measure would fix the schools with greatest need first while trying to minimize the impact on taxpayers ($1.10 per $1,000 of assessed value for the first eight years when most of the money will be raised/spent).