Democratic Party sets sights on Oregon City School Board incumbents Troy Bolinger, Evon Tekorius
Democrats are targeting two members of the Oregon City School Board running for reelection, Troy Bolinger and Evon Tekorius.
Volunteers for the Democratic Party knocked on doors of registered voters throughout Oregon City last weekend, just after ballots arrived on Friday.
Tekorius earned the Republican nomination and last November ran unsuccessfully against Mark Meek for State House District 40. She is being challenged by registered Democrat Emily Farrer, director of cyber security and IT infrastructure program delivery at Kaiser Permanente.
Election records show that Bolinger switched from the Republican Party to the Independent Party when he moved to Oregon City in 2010. He said that his intent in making the switch was due to the fact that neither major party represents his views or the duties of the nonpartisan seat, and a unaffiliated voter registration would be more appropriate for him.
"I represent all the citizens of Oregon City, and my motivation is to speak my conscience," Bolinger said. "I don't like labels, because when you're a Republican or a Democrat, everyone seems to think that you think a certain way. It sickens me to see Republicans attack Democrats and Democrats attack Republicans for their party affiliation."
Bolinger's main opponent, Martha Spiers, said that she doesn't know what Bolinger believes. She wants to give voters a clear "progressive" choice in the May 16 election. (Of the two other candidates in the race for Bolinger's seat, one has endorsed Spiers and the other is campaigning for mandating that the Pledge of Allegiance comes back to every classroom.)
Spiers, whose candidacy is informed by her day job as a county social worker, pointed out that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds. Oregon's average suicide rate is higher than the U.S. average, and Clackamas County's rate is higher than Oregon's. County officials have recognized that police officers have become the "defacto mental health response," and Spiers wants teachers similarly trained in recognizing issues, since they are on the front lines for addressing metal health in kids.
"I believe that public schooling is an essential safety-net system for kids and an essential part of our democracy," Spiers said. "If these worries that kids are dealing with are left unaddressed, it can lead to mental health and addiction issues later."
Bolinger retorted that the worries of kids are being addressed. When several students at Oregon City High School fell victim to racial incidents this past school year, he personally reached out to them and invited them to his home in the McLoughlin neighborhood to discuss how the district could help. In March, the board passed a resolution affirming the district's commitment to creating safe and welcoming school environments for all students, regardless of race, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, country of origin or other factors.
"The challenge I see is that most of these groups want to attack the behavior, and I support the punishment for what they're saying that's hurtful, but we have to take it one step further," Bolinger said. "Whether they're the victim or the perpetrator, they have to be able to express themselves somehow. We have to find out why people are like this. If there is someone who hates a group because of their skin color, we have to give that person a hug and dig deeper."
Both Bolinger and Spiers have children attending Oregon City schools, and they're both extremely concerned about the school budget cuts being contemplated by the state. Spiers cited a long-term study showing that a 15-student class size, versus a class size of 22, was the equivalent to adding three months to the school year in terms of student performance. Many classes in Oregon City now have more than 30 students, and the sizes are expected to increase next year.
"It's a terrible situation, and we're gambling with kids' lives and our future," Spiers said. "I'd probably support anything that would bring more funding to schools to make class sizes smaller."
Bolinger said that he would support sending a tax levy to voters if it proposed adding back school days that the district had to cut due to the state budget crisis. The more immediate priority, according to him, is for voters to pass a bond for $2.25/$1,000 of assessed property value to pay for building upgrades to address student safety and improve learning environments.
Bolinger said that the School Board has received feedback from the community that voters would be willing to pay more than the bond passed in 2000 to build new Oregon City High School. With the old bond expiring, voters would be asked to renew the bond at a higher rate to build new middle schools and finance safety and technology needs throughout the rest of the district's schools.