Elections should be about policies, not personalities. Voters need to know whether people we elect will represent our communities, or only those with the most money.
That’s why I was so glad to see an issue questionnaire that was sent by the independent, nonpartisan Rogue Action Center this week to the Republican and Democratic candidates for Oregon Senate District 3 (the seat that represents southern Jackson County and has been temporarily filled by Alan DeBoer following the tragic passing of Alan Bates).
Before voters choose the parties’ official nominees in the May primary, we have a right to know what we’re getting if particular candidates end up in the Legislature.
The Rogue Action Center questionnaire asks, for example, for each candidate’s specific position on proposed action to address the housing crisis in the Rogue Valley.
In Talent, 40 percent of households have annual incomes under $25,000, and we lack 606 units needed for them to have housing that costs no more than 30 percent of monthly income. The questionnaire asks candidates for their views on specific changes in state law to give local cities more options to stimulate affordable housing development.
A majority of residents paying more than 30 percent of income for housing are renters. The questionnaire asks candidates’ views on specific state legislation to stabilize rents and keep tenants from becoming homeless.
State funding that our schools depend on has been inadequate and unstable as the share of state income taxes that comes from corporations has dropped by two-thirds. In the Phoenix-Talent schools and other districts, class sizes are too high, teachers have been laid off, and basic parts of the curriculum cut out.
The questionnaire asks candidates for specific views on the proposed Education Investment Initiative that would have raised $2 billion per two-year budget cycle through a tax on the largest corporations. It also asks each candidate to specify other ways to provide schools with increased, stable and equitable funding.
The questionnaire also asks for candidates’ views of Oregon’s ”pass-through income” tax break, 94 percent of which goes to corporate executives, consultants and other professionals who make more than $200,000 a year. This loophole will take away nearly $300 million in future budget periods from funding for education and other essential services — even more because of 2017 federal tax legislation if the Legislature does not act.
The questionnaire also asks whether Oregon should continue to leave it to the federal government to enforce immigration laws.
It asks candidates' views on a proposed state family and medical leave insurance program that would cover all workers.
It also covers the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act to establish a financial incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the largest polluters and use the money to create jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency in rural areas like ours.
The Rogue Action Center says it will post answers from state Senate District 3 candidates on its website and Facebook page in early February. This is grassroots democracy in action.
— Darby Ayers-Flood is mayor of Talent. The views expressed here are her own.