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Our 2012 general election endorsements

Candidates
   Prineville City Council
   The Prineville City Council features three vacancies with five candidates vying for those positions. Incumbents Jason Beebe and Gail Merritt will face challengers Richard Johnson, William (Brad) Peterson, and Jason Carr. The top three vote-getters win the vacancies.
   The recession has increased the degree of difficulty running the City of Prineville like most local governments, but the current Council has done an admirable job in the face of adversity. The City has fared well financially with its debt restructure, as well as the franchise fees that have begun to roll in from electricity consumption at the Facebook data center. Beebe and Merritt both had a role in that success, and we feel they have a proven track record and deserve re-election.
   Of the three challengers, we feel that Carr provides the City with the best chance to move the economy forward and create jobs. Some may recognize him as the former Crook County Economic Development manager. That experience and knowledge of the interplay between businesses and local government should serve the Council well as they strive to create jobs.
   Peterson and Johnson clearly care about their community and have shown a genuine desire to serve Prineville. However, at this juncture, when unemployment outpaces all other communities statewide, Carr’s experience matters.
   Vote Gail Merritt, Jason Beebe, and Jason Carr for Prineville City Council
   Crook County Judge
   Following a very closely contested three-way race for Crook County Judge, Republican incumbent Mike McCabe emerged victorious in the May primary. Now he faces Independent Party nominee Walt Wagner in the general election.
   McCabe is not without his critics as the County has faced sobering economic times that have prompted deep cuts in personnel. County government has also faced criticism regarding its proposed reduction in county subdivision road maintenance, its consideration of a tobacco-free campus policy, and its passage of a gathering ordinance. Others question the tax breaks extended to Facebook and Apple to lure them to Crook County.
   With that said, we feel McCabe has done a good job with what he was given. Declining revenue is primarily driven by lower property tax revenue, which is caused by the decimated level of employment. While the decision has drawn criticism, Facebook and Apple have already added jobs and Facebook has generated building fees for the County as well as franchise fees for the City of Prineville.
   Wagner has pointed out that somebody should have done something to improve the unemployment rate by now. He has also said we need to take time before deciding on the County roads situation. The problem with these and other criticisms is he has yet to offer his solutions.
   In addition, Wagner comes across as an opportunist who seeks to take advantage of the 66 percent vote against McCabe in the primary. His public presence prior to the primary election was essentially non-existent, but now, with thinned competition, he has suddenly emerged as a candidate. If he cares so much about the future of the County, where was he before?
   The County is by no means out of the woods, but we believe McCabe has the experience to lead the community forward.
   Vote Mike McCabe for Crook County Judge
   Oregon Representative
   District 55
   After a two-year term, Republican Mike McLane is again running for Representative of Oregon’s 55th District. He faces Democrat John Huddle, who offers plenty to like in a candidate.
   Huddle has worked on various issues throughout the 55th district, is a committed veterans’ advocate, and also is a fiscal conservative who believes in reducing the regulations and bureaucracy that slows the progress of starting a business in Oregon.
   Nevertheless, we feel McLane is even better. McLane is also a fiscal conservative who wants to cut business-stifling red tape. However he brings the experience of two years in Salem to the table – experience that sets him apart.
   As a member of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, he has an intimate knowledge of the state budget and has strived to reduce spending. He has also created legislation to help keep the State of Oregon from centrally assessing data centers for taxation.
   McLane has repeatedly stated that creating jobs is priority number one. We believe he can help make it happen.
   Vote Mike McLane for Oregon Representative District 55
   Oregon Secretary of State
    In recent years, Oregonians have been reluctant to vote Republicans to statewide office.
   That may change as Knute Buehler has made an effective case why he should be elected Secretary of State.
   Buehler is an engaging, energetic, businessman who is both personable and candid in his conversation. Buehler has an extensive educational background and is a partner in a large medical practice as well as sitting on the board of St. Charles Health System.
   Although he has never held a political office, he is an exceptionally well-rounded candidate with an impressive professional career as well as experience with Oregon’s initiative process.
   A graduate of Oregon State, he studied politics and economics at Oxford University with a Rhodes scholarship prior to earning a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University.
   A Bend resident, Buehler is an independent-minded individual who will bring both leadership and new ideas to office. Buehler has called for reform of the Public Employees Retirement System. In addition he intends to make the office’s Corporations Division more business-friendly.
   By contrast, incumbent Kate Brown is a career politician. Brown also says that she would like to change the Corporations Division. However, in her four years as Secretary of State, Brown has done little if anything to actually improve Oregon’s business climate.
   Brown has spent more than 20 years in Salem, and has done little in that time to help Oregonians.
   Recently, Brown came under fire after notifying candidates for labor commissioner that their election would occur in November rather than May. The notification arrived after the filing deadline. Although the position is non-partisan, Bruce Starr, a Republican, tried unsuccessfully to challenge the switch, arguing that the change helped fellow candidate Brad Avakian, who, like Brown, is a Democrat.
   Brown has also received criticism for the manner in which the Secretary of State’s office has validated initiative petition signatures.
   We believe that it is time for a change. Brown is an intelligent, professional official with a long record of public service. However, she has had ample opportunity to make a difference in Salem. Buehler has impeccable credentials and will bring a new voice to Salem.
   Vote Knute Buehler for Oregon Secretary of State
   U.S. Representative,
   Oregon District 2
   Second Congressional District voters have a clear choice in the race for U.S. Representative.
   Incumbent Greg Walden has served in the position since 1999. Walden has served his constituents well. He has consistently supported Eastern Oregon needs when it comes to both timber and agricultural issues.
   Walden is accessible, and listens to the people of his district. As Oregon’s lone Republican representative, Walden has consistently supplied Central and Eastern Oregon with a conservative voice in Congress. Walden is a fiscal conservative who has consistently spoken out against out-of-control spending.
   Meanwhile, Walden’s challenger, Joyce Seger, has never held political office and seems to be out of touch with the majority of citizens in Oregon’s second congressional district. An Ashland resident who moved to Oregon in 2009, Seger’s primary political concern is women’s rights issues.
   It is rare when a person’s spiritual beliefs should become an issue in a political race. However, Seger’s believes may be reason for concern. When Seger first challenged Walden in 2010, the Medford Mail Tribune wrote an article titled “Who is Joyce Segers?” It can be found on line at http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100822/NEWS/8220326. In the article, Seger clearly points to views that mainstream Oregonians may find uncomfortable if not downright laughable.
   Seger has failed to present any kind of compelling reason to vote against Walden. Nor has she campaigned extensively in Central Oregon.
   Simply put, Walden has done a good job representing the second congressional district. His experience and willingness to serve have stood Central Oregon well.
   When presented with the same choice of candidates in 2010 voters overwhelmingly supported Walden.
   Vote Greg Walden for U.S. Representative, Oregon District 2
   Ballot Measures
   Measure 77
   Measure 77 was in essence prompted by the massive destruction suffered by the earthquake off the coast of Japan. Recent studies suggest that an earthquake of similar magnitude could occur off the Oregon coast, leaving similar destruction in its wake.
   The measure seeks to ensure that the state government continues to function and provide emergency services in instances of “extraordinary levels of death, injury, property damage, or disruption.” Such disasters include, but are not limited to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, public health emergencies, and acts of terrorism and war.
   In such instances, the surviving members of the legislature must convene within 30 days. Until they meet, the governor would have the authority not ordinarily granted in the Oregon Constitution to allocate money from dedicated funds or utilize other state resources to pay for disaster relief. The added authority is limited to a period of 30 days from the time the governor declares a catastrophic disaster.
   The greatest concern with this measure is the amount of power given to the Executive Branch. Giving any branch of government more power eliminates the checks and balances and oversight that help create sound policy and decisions. Worse yet, they could abuse that power.
   Nevertheless, desperate times call for desperate measures. We feel Measure 77 is meant for severe disasters, the likes of which this state has never seen. If Oregon faces an earthquake, pandemic, or other disaster that kills hundreds or thousands and leaves the state in ruins and in dire need of relief, the government needs to act quickly and decisively. To convene a legislative body takes travel time at minimum and in a state of disaster, other factors could slow their ability to meet quickly. The governor can react much sooner, and in the event of major catastrophe, he or she should be able to do so.
   While granting more power to the governor has its pratfalls, we feel the circumstances this measure was designed for warrant it.
   Vote yes on Measure 77
   Measure 78
   On the surface, Measure 78 appears to be nothing more than a long-overdue house-cleaning measure. It calls for changes in language to the Oregon Constitution to more accurately reflect the common titles for the branches of government. Simply put, the Constitution refers to the executive, legislative, and judicial arms of government as “departments.”
   The measure would change the word “department” in those three instances to “branch,” the more commonly-used descriptor. Some lawmakers argue that the change will help prevent confusing the executive, legislative, or judicial arms of government with other departments in state government such as the Department of Justice or Employment Department.
   The measure would also replace gender-specific pronouns such as “he” or “him” with gender neutral ones.
   While this measure looks innocuous – perhaps eliciting a shoulder shrug or ‘Why not?’ response – any change to the Oregon Constitution runs the risk of unintended consequences. In this instance, we don’t feel the risk is worth the seemingly nominal reward.
   More importantly, lawmakers could not say for sure that the public could view the Constitution with its changes before voting on the measure. We should not give our stamp of approval on any changes if we don’t know with absolute certainty what those changes actually entail, regardless of what is proposed.
   So far, we have never encountered a scenario where the state government was hampered by a confusion over “department” versus “branch.” Yes, the change makes the language more technically correct, but it seems unnecessary and runs a greater risk of unintended consequences.
   Vote no on Measure 78
   Measure 79
   Measure 79 has frequently been characterized as a preemptive law change to ensure that no Oregonians ever face a tax on the sale of their home.
   Currently, state law prohibits city or county districts from imposing a real estate transfer tax. However, the Oregon Legislature can still create such a tax. This measure prevents them from doing so, effectively ruling out the possibility of the tax altogether.
   Critics of a real estate transfer tax point out that such a fee cuts into the profit margin of a home sale. In many cases, the tax could negate the profit entirely or even cause the seller to take a loss.
   At this time, no lawmaker is publicly advocating for a real estate transfer tax as a means for generating revenue for the State of Oregon. Consequently, one could argue that the measure is unnecessary at this time. We disagree.
   Just because the Legislature hasn’t pushed for a transfer tax yet, doesn’t mean they won’t — especially now, when the state is struggling to keep pace with its expenses. Senator Doug Whitsett said he has heard some lawmakers talking about the transfer tax as an untapped revenue source.
   One could also argue that the measure is unneeded because people could simply fight the tax if the Legislature chose to enact it. Again, we disagree. Once the tax exists, it would take more time and resources to reverse the decision than it does to fight it now — when all it takes is a vote of the people.
   The preemptive move is the right move.
   Vote yes on Measure 79
   Measure 80
   Ballot Measure 80, commonly called the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act Initiative, is bad public policy. The measure, as well as similar measures in Colorado and Washington, allows for the commercial cultivation and sale through state licensed stores of marijuana.
   The measure would create a seven-member commission which regulates the growth and distribution of marijuana. Initial members of the commission would be appointed by the governor. However, subsequently licensed growers would elect their all seven commission members. That’s right, growers would control who is on the commission that regulates and sets the rules for the growers.
   In addition to regulating marijuana growers in Oregon, the commission has a number of other duties including “work to promote Oregon cannabis products in all legal national and international markets.”
   Fees for licensure and sale of marijuana would be collected by the state and would then be utilized to cover the costs of regulating the program. If there is additional revenue, 90 percent of that revenue would go into the state general fund. Seven percent of the funds would go to Human Resources to fund drug abuse and treatment programs. One percent of the funds would create an agriculture committee which would work to promote hemp products while another one percent promote biofuel production from hemp seeds. The remaining one percent would go to drug education in the public schools which is required to teach among other things “persuade students that if, as adults, they choose to consume psychoactive substances, they must nevertheless responsibly fulfill all duties they owe others.”
   Regardless of how you feel personally about marijuana use, Measure 80 is bad policy. Imagine the outcry if a giant tobacco company were put in charge of rules concerning tobacco production and distribution. That is exactly what Measure 80 does when it comes to marijuana production. No industry should be entirely self-regulated.
   In addition, the measure exempts hemp from all regulation, then clearly defines all marijuana seeds and starter plants as hemp.
   Worse yet, the measure requires the Oregon Attorney General to serve as Oregon’s drug ambassador. The Attorney General would be compelled to defend, at state expense, anyone prosecuted under it including those found to be in violation of federal drug laws.
   Finally, the measure creates a conflict between the state of Oregon and the federal government when it comes to drug laws and enforcement. Marijuana cultivation is banned by the federal government and when it comes to drug laws federal law trumps state law.
   In other words, should Oregon pass Measure 80, federal drug enforcement officials may step in at any time to enforce federal law and then Oregon’s Attorney General would be forced to defend the marijuana producers and distributors in an expensive and unwinnable legal battle.
   We urge voters to carefully read the full text of ballot. Vote no on Measure 80
   Measure 81
   Ballot Measure 81 is a well-intentioned, but poorly crafted measure that would limit gill netting on the Columbia River.
   The reality is that should the measure pass, there will still be gillnetting on the Columbia. Currently three groups of fishermen are allowed to gillnet on the river: Oregon commercial gillnetters, Washington commercial gillnetters, and tribal fishermen. The measure does nothing to stop tribal gillnetting, nor does it prevent Washington gillnetters from using their nets on the Washington side of the river.
   In addition, Oregon gillnetters would still be allowed to use their nets in “designated off-channel areas located in the lower Columbia River.”
   In other words, gillnets will still be used in the Columbia River system. However, Oregon gillnetters would be put at a competitive disadvantage. Since the federal government regulates how many salmon can be caught by commercial fisheries each year, that means the same number of fish will probably still be caught as with the existing system.
   As a compromise, a portion of the measure Oregon gillnetters would be allowed to use seine nets instead of gillnets within the main channel of the Columbia. This presumably is intended to allow Oregon commercial fishermen to continue to compete with their Washington counterparts. However, tests utilizing seine nets show that less fish are caught.
   The Oregon restaurant and lodging association has come out against Measure 81 on the grounds that the measure may limit availability of fresh salmon for Oregon’s restaurants. A concern that may well be accurate. In addition, since the measure still allows gillnetting in off channel areas such as Astoria’s Young’s bay gillnetters will presumably be forced to set their nets in close proximity to each other in the limited areas they are allowed to fish posing the risk of completely decimating fisheries such as the Young’s river.
   Although many may find gillnetting a messy and indiscriminate method for catching fish Measure 81 is not the answer. If the goal is to allow more Columbia River salmon to make it upriver to spawn, this measure fails to accomplish that goal.
   Vote no on Measure 81
   Measures 82 and 83
   Measures 82 and 83 are companion bills that are intended to allow a non-native casino to be built in Wood Village.
   Measure 82 changes the Oregon Constitution to allow non-native casinos with as many as 3,500 slot machines to be built in Oregon, provided they are at least 75 miles from a native-run casino, are built in an incorporated city, have been approved statewide, and have the approval of the incorporated city.
   A brief look at a map of Oregon will quickly show that only a handful of incorporated cities would qualify for such casinos. However, backers of Measure 82 and 83 incorrectly claim that the Wood Village casino would be the only non-native casino that could ever be built under the measures.
   Measure 83 gives the specifics for the Wood Village Casino, which can only be built if both measures should pass.
   We have several reservations about the two ballot measures.
   First, if Oregon is going to allow non-tribal casinos then the rules for building those casinos, size limits and restrictions, regulation of the ensuing gaming, etc… should all clearly be spelled out in any constitution change. Measure 82 fails to accomplish this.
   Second, the proposed Wood Village Casino, The Grange, would be run by PDX Entertainment Company, but the big-money backers are Clairvest Group and the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. Both are based in Canada and operate multiple casinos.
   Clairvest was previously involved in a race track casino project in Queens, N.Y. which was described by New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin as corrupt and rigged. Although the words “corrupt” and “rigged” are the opinions of a columnist and not legal findings, the New York inspector general issued a report describing the process as tangled, tarnished, chaotic, and lacking clear rules.
   Does this mean that Clairvest will bring problems to Oregon? Not necessarily, but it is something to consider before voting on Measures 82 and 83.
   Before voting on Measures 82 and 83, voters need to consider three questions. Does Oregon really want giant multinational corporations funding gambling in our state? Is it possible that the money being spent at The Grange will be new money, or will the casino merely pull gambling money from the Oregon lottery and tribal casinos? And finally, does Oregon really need more casinos than the nine that are presently operating in the state?
   We think that once voters answer these questions a ‘no’ vote becomes obvious.
   Vote no on Measures 82 and 83
   Measure 84
   In Oregon, the inheritance of most estates in excess of $1 million is subject to a tax of at least 10 percent on the transfer of the estate. Measure 84 is proposing to phase out that tax, primarily to help preserve the wealth of family farms as they are passed down from generation to generation.
   Opponents of the measure have characterized it as yet another tax break for the very wealthy, and insist the measure would not help family farms, because they are exempt from the inheritance tax until the estate value exceeds $7.5 million.
   We dispute that claim. While some farm estates might fall between $1 million and $7.5 million, we believe that a substantial amount of farms likely exceed the $7.5 million threshold. Once you factor in the home, the barns and other structures, farm equipment, land, and livestock, it doesn’t take long for even a modest-sized farm to climb that high in overall value.
   With an estate valued at $7.5 million, the inheritance tax comes to $750,000. Coming up with that kind of money could force the new farm owners to sell a portion of the farm to pay the bill. Not only does that devalue the estate from the get-go, it likely reduces productivity, which in turn reduces the labor the farm can employ.
   Over the years, agriculture has become an increasingly difficult way to make a living. We should not be making it even harder. That does not lead to recovery. It just creates the need for even more jobs. The tax needs to go.
   Vote yes on Measure 84
   Measure 85
   Oregon law currently stipulates that when revenue collected by the state exceeds expectations by two percent or more, the state sends a refund or “kicker” to both individuals and corporations who have paid taxes in that year.
   The law covers personal income tax as well as corporate and excise taxes. Measure 85 would amend the constitution to no longer refund corporate income and excise taxes.
   Supporters of the measure state that the funds will be used to provide additional funding for education. However, a closer look at the measure shows that the funds will remain in the general fund. Consequently, although they may be earmarked for education the legislature, at its discretion, could put that money towards education, but at the same time remove an equal or greater portion of the general fund to use for other purposes. In other words there is no guarantee that Measure 85 will add one dime to school funding.
   In addition, even if Measure 85 were to increase money going to education, it would only be on years when state revenue exceeded expectations. That means that in years when the economy is good and there is already adequate revenue in state coffers schools would get more funding. However, on lean years, when schools most need the money, the measure does nothing.
   Periodically members of Oregon’s legislature have made attempts to take both the corporate and personal “kicker” for the government to spend.
   This is just one more attempt to take more in taxes. The danger is that it will encourage corporations to locate elsewhere, ultimately costing the state revenue. However, even if that doesn’t occur Measure 85 is bad policy. Oregon’s revenue stream currently rises and falls with the economy. Measure 85 not only fails to address the tax policies which cause Oregon’s tax income to rise and fall so dramatically with economic conditions, it may actually increase the problem.
   Vote no on Measure 85




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