Council Corner: Voters' concerns have common thread

I have been campaigning to be elected to House District 5 since last December.

Over the past 10 months I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with people across the district, perhaps including you.

Thanks to the democratic process that underlies an election campaign, I have had the rare privilege of engaging in conversations about the issues and institutions that affect life here in Southern Oregon and across the state.

While often wide-ranging, these discussions have tended to focus on a few areas. Here are some of the views I’ve heard over and over again:

As a community, we should invest in education and particularly in the critical period from birth through early childhood. Every child needs to be ready for kindergarten, and children who have experienced poverty, neglect or other adverse childhood experiences need intensive services before they ever get to kindergarten. This is the path we must take if we intend to change the dysfunctional intergenerational patterns that cripple so many adults.

At the other end of the spectrum, high school graduates must be prepared to enter college, trade school or the skilled job market. Certainly, continuing support for SOU’s transition to a self-governing institution will be critical to this region’s long-term economic development.

We must stay the course and complete the transformation of our health care system. Oregon took advantage of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, to push forward remarkable initiatives. Ninety-five percent of Oregonians now have some kind of health care coverage, although high deductibles and co-payments often limit access to services. On the public side, we are investing in prevention strategies that, over time, will result in much healthier communities at a lower cost.

Clearly, we have much more work to do to build a system that is accessible and affordable for all. Over time, we may want to consider alternative payment structures, including single payer, a public option, or a different mix of public and private payers. But the overarching factor that will determine our long-term health outcomes is how we spend our health care dollars.

The old paradigm — payment attached to an office visit — needs to be replaced by a new approach that invests in prevention, wellness and the so-called “social determinants of health” — factors such as the quality of your housing or your domestic relationships — that determine long-term health outcomes.

Oregon should lead the way in developing renewable energy sources because both our planet and our economy need help. As Southern Oregon residents we see the results of climate change every day, in the form of shifting agricultural patterns, tumultuous storms, drought and forest fires. If, as the experts tell us, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 6-8 percent per year, there is no time to waste.

In 2017, we should pass legislation that incentivizes the development of renewable energy projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide local, family-wage jobs. This effort should begin with establishment of a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

We must replace our crumbling transportation infrastructure with a smart new system. Funding that addresses our deteriorating roads and bridges and that targets essential and strategic seismic upgrades must be front and center in 2017. At the same time, we need to identify dollars that can be invested in transit and other sustainable modes of transportation.

All of these conversations have a common thread, voiced by people across the district — a strongly stated desire to invest in Oregon’s families and infrastructure. We know the world is changing. Right now, we have an opportunity to transform our institutions to make sure we are ready.

Over and over again, I’ve heard support for smart investments that will grow healthy, educated citizens equipped with the tools and resources they need to deal with environmental, economic and other challenges lay ahead.

This is the Oregon you want, and your vision is the reason I am running for House District 5.

— Pam Marsh is a member of the Ashland City Council.

Share This Story