Graser-Lindsey hopes to support livability and the environment
Elizabeth Graser-Lindsey is running for House District 39. A Democrat from Beavercreek, she has been involved in community service and leadership since she joined a regional lawsuit two decades ago opposing Metro's decision to target Beavercreek for urbanization. The decision was later overturned by the courts, and Graser-Lindsey has remained involved in the Hamlet of Beavercreek and several other organizations since then.
Graser-Lindsey holds a doctorate degree in bio-environmental engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and has worked as a researcher for the U.S. government and as a professor at the University of Hawaii.
"Scientists are pretty experienced in working with logic and seeing how evidence fits together and leads to conclusions," she said. "A lot of issues that we have require an understanding of science."
The Estacada News spoke to Graser-Lindsey about the priorities she would bring to the position, statewide ballot measures in the upcoming election and the issues facing the district, which includes Estacada, Eagle Creek, Barton, Beavercreek, Boring, Canby Carus, Charbonneau, Fisher Mill, Mulino, Redland, rural areas of Oregon City and portions of Damascus and Happy Valley.
ESTACADA NEWS: What priorities would you bring to the position?
GRASER-LINDSEY: There's a real need to deal with how growth impacts this district, how it makes traffic congestion, how there's not enough jobs, how housing is unaffordable. It's an interrelated packet of problems that I've been working really hard on for 20 years. Some people say our middle class is dying, and I've seen some evidence of that. I'd like to be someone who finds solutions.
EN: What are some of the issues facing the district?
GRASER-LINDSEY: Traffic, having affordable housing (and) having local jobs (are the top issues). Throughout this district, people are having to commute long distances. It congests the roads (and) makes their lives less livable. (There are) other issues too, like access to high school and high school graduation rates.
The environment is an issue we're dealing with also. . . China has stopped accepting our recyclables, so we're having to come up with an Oregon solution. I'd like to see the solution include, to the extent that we have to subsidize recycling, that it goes into the local paper and steel mills.
EN: What are some issues faced by the district's rural areas, such as Estacada?
GRASER-LINDSEY: People in Estacada are having difficulty with having enough income to feel stable, and some of them are talking about how, as their community transitions from mostly being a timber town into being the community it is today, they're having a rough time re-emerging as a really vibrant community. I'm impressed with how downtown has revitalized — there are the beautiful murals that make a really good atmosphere, and you do feel some vibrancy in the downtown.
In one neighborhood they were having a problem where they were having a lot of meth houses and homelessness. One man I talked to was telling me how he started a patrol. I could tell that those were really involved citizens.
EN: How do you hope to support local schools?
GRASER-LINDSEY: There are a few main problems the schools are facing. They feel they're not adequately funded so they're having to (cut) teachers and school days, and that doesn't typically build a very good experience for students. The Legislature needs to resolve its impasse on how they're going to fund schools. We need to find the solution so that the funding impasse can be solved
Some of the cuts we made (at the schools) and some other problems leave some of the students not very interested in their education and finding it not very relevant. We need to bring back shop, art and music classes so students can have those classes that they really care about.
At a high school in Oregon City, the principal tried to get each student paired with an adult who would check in with them regularly and be a mentor. (It's) keeping a closer eye on the student so they make sure things are working right and they know someone cares about them, and helping them find solutions to their problems. It's not very expensive, but it's extremely meaningful (and) helps students feel more tied to school.
EN: Should there be tolling on Interstate 5 and 205?
GRASER-LINDSEY: I don't think people in this district want to have tolling. People who commute to work in the inner part of the region have the ability to use alternative transportation, but most of the time alternative transportation doesn't touch this district. People who don't have local family wage jobs (are) stuck commuting to Portland and other areas.
To the extent that the problem is congestion on I-5 and 205 and other major roads, the solution that the state has available — but we haven't been utilizing —is using the system development charges so that growth pays its own way. It would be right to have the growth pay its own way and not put all those costs on people who already paid for the growth systems. They've already paid for it, so they should be paying to maintain it, but they shouldn't have to pay for its capacity to increase.
EN: Do you support Measure 102, which would allow cities to use bonds to fund privately owned affordable housing?
GRASER-LINDSEY: I was thinking that's a good one to support, and that the cities that are thinking of doing it are up to working that through.
EN: Do you support Measure 103, which would ban taxes on groceries?
GRASER-LINDSEY: I think a tax on groceries would be very regressive and a sales tax is already regressive, so this would be the most regressive of regressive taxes. But as I investigated this issue, I could see that there's more to it and it would also permanitize the minimum tax that's made on grocery stores, and I haven't investigated the fairness of taxes on grocery stores. But I do think we don't want to put a little red herring out there and say this measure is about sales tax for groceries when it might actually be more about grocery stores not having to pay their fair share. I don't know if that's the case or not, but that might be what it's about. So I don't support this one.
It would be a constitutional amendment. In general, we shouldn't be using constitutional amendments for little detailed things that aren't about how we run our government. That would be a party taking advantage of the difficulty of changing the constitution.
EN: Do you support Measure 104, which expands the requirement of a three-fifths majority to any legislation that increases revenue through changes in tax exemptions, credits and deductions?
GRASER-LINDSEY: There are a couple things I don't like about this. It's a constitutional amendment. Going to the constitution is not the right way to handle most measures. This particular ballot measure is one of the more complicated types. Some ballot measures might be more taking the pulse of the public and seeing where public opinion is, and resolving something that's clear and easy to understand. I don't think voters should be having to take on something that complicated, and it would be more suitable for the Legislature to deal with.
I am a fiscal conservative. I like the idea that the Legislature not pass new costs easily, and I hope our current two thirds majority (requirements) will have that effect.
(The measure) has a few consequences that didn't seem attractive to me. It could cause the need to have (the) majority to raise something so simple as a fishing license fee. This idea would make it so that tax deductions couldn't be taken away without (the) majority. We have almost 300 tax deductions and some of them seem to be ones we should have and everyone would probably agree, and some of them seem to be special interest tax credits.
We want to have the Legislature be able to function. I'm not supportive of making it even harder to govern in Oregon, even though I understand it would help make things even more fiscally conservative.
EN: Do you support Measure 105, which repeals a law forbidding state resources from being used to apprehend persons violating federal immigration laws?
GRASER-LINDSEY: I've had friends from many different countries, and I have liked knowing people from these different places. I feel very positive about people we have in this country. But on the other hand, I'm running to be in the state government because I believe in the rule of law and that no one is above the law from the president down to the humblest laborer. I try to find ways to make sure that when we are loving and principled we do it in a way that's harmonious. Oregon could take a lot more steps in the loving direction of healing with the root causes of illegal immigration. I think people are taking the cheap way out when they act like there's only one way to be loving, and that's to ignore the law. We need to follow the law and cooperate on the law.
EN: Do you support Measure 106, which would prohibit public funds from being spent on abortions in Oregon, except in instances that are medically necessary or required by federal law?
GRASER-LINDSEY: Oregonians have the freedom to choose the context they have sex in. They have the freedom to choose if they use birth control of not and they have the freedom to decide if they're going to have an abortion or not. With all these freedoms, they need to be responsible and either they need to have a baby or they need to pay for their own abortion.
EN: How do you plan to balance being available to the local communities you serve and working in Salem?
GRASER-LINDSEY: I've felt that meeting a lot of people has been helpful for me to understand the issues in the different parts of the district, and the differences in the different communities. I would like to stay in touch with people.
EN: What would the most rewarding part of the position be?
GRASER-LINDSEY: The special part about running for office is talking to so many people. That would be a rewarding part about being in office.
As a person who likes to solve problems, I would like to work on that. I know many of these problems are complicated, but I'd like to be part of figuring out solutions. Many times I've had to work on impossible solutions, where everyone has given up and thought it was hopeless. I frequently have worked with that type of problem and often have been about to find solutions. Maybe for some people the results are rewarding, but for me trying to figure out how to get it done is pretty rewarding in itself.
EN: Why are you the most qualified candidate?
GRASER-LINDSEY: I've been working on what this district needs for a very long time. I'm really good at problem solving and listening to people. I'm humble enough that I won't be the person who gets there and doesn't want to deal with people anymore.