Ballot measure picks
YES on 65
NO on 64
As you may know, I’ve devoted a lot of attention to the history of ballot measures in Oregon. In this election cycle, ballot measures aren’t getting nearly the attention of the presidential and senate races; but there are some very important measures before us, from an excellent opportunity to reshape the way we handle elections in a more inclusive way (Measure 65) to dangerous-but-popular measures that must be stopped if we hope to build a better Oregon (like Measure 61).
Many of you ask for my thoughts on these, so I thought I’d put together my positions for all to see, and open it up for discussion. I should disclose, I’ve taken a paid gig in favor of Measure 65, but only because I truly think it’s one of the greatest opportunities for positive change in this election cycle. For that reason, and also because Measure 57 only makes sense in the context of Measure 61, I’ve listed the measures in reverse order.
Please feel free to copy this and send it to your friends and family. Modify, of course, as you see fit. I sure did — this draws heavily on the positions advanced by Defend Oregon and Onward Oregon. For a general overview, be sure to check the Wikipedia article on the current election.
So, on to the measures:
YES on Measure 65
The current system in Oregon excludes one in four registered voters from participating in any partisan primary election. Only voters who have registered with a major party (Democratic or Republican) may participate in partisan elections. Everyone else is excluded from voting in important races like those for state and national legislators; statewide offices like Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Treasurer; and some local positions.
In practice, independent and minor party voters almost never have an influence on who serves in the legislature. Same for Democrats in eastern Oregon, where Republicans win consistently, and for Republicans in urban centers. These are all voices we need at the table to move our state forward.
Measure 65 would change the primary system, and give all those people a role equal to other voters. All voters would choose from a list of all candidates in the primary election; the top two finishers would advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Each voter would get to choose the best candidate regardless of party.
In addition, voters would be provided more factual information on the ballot: any party could endorse any candidate. If a candidate chooses to accept the nominations, he or she might have several party endorsements (e.g., Democratic and Pacific Green, or Republican and Libertarian) listed on the ballot. So minor parties, which have been relegated to running “spoiler” candidates in the past, would have a much more meaningful role; smaller parties could negotiate with major party candidates to earn their endorsement.
NO on Measure 64
Prevents public employees from using voluntary payroll deductions to donate to non-profits, charities, unions, and organizations of their choice. Reduces public employees’ opportunities for free speech. This is a dangerous measure could lead to a loss of funding for Oregon charities and unions. It’s a matter of principle (free speech), and will also have enormous negative effects in practice.
NO on Measure 63
Allows property owners to construct certain structures, costing less than $35,000, without a permit. Could allow unsafe construction projects; for example, poor electrical wiring could cause problems that extend beyond a single home and endanger firemen. The measure would also result in a loss of tax revenue to cities and counties that are already experiencing large deficits.
NO on Measure 62
Allocates 15% of lottery proceeds to a public safety fund for crime prevention, investigation, prosecution; takes the funds from education and economic development. Measure 62 takes over $100 million from our education and economic development projects and limits the state’s flexibility to use lottery funds as needed. It defines “public safety” irresponsibly, leaving out major elements like 911 dispatch and prisons. Public safety is a critical concern, but this is the wrong way to fund it.
NO on Measure 61
Proposed by Kevin Mannix, Measure 61 imposes mandatory minimum sentences (like Measure 11 from 1994) for non-violent property crimes, drug-related offenses, and identity theft. It fails to include drug or alcohol treatment programs to prevent repeat offenses, and it prevents our judges from exercising discretion and judgment based on the specifics of a case. Most significantly, it would cost Oregon up to $274 million per year once fully implemented, plus an estimated $1.1 to1.3 billion to build new prisons. Mannix has proposed no funding plan, so this measure would drastically cut funding for education and other public services.
UNDECIDED on Measure 60
Mandates that teacher pay raises depend exclusively on undefined “classroom performance” as opposed to “seniority.” This is a very short and simple ballot measure; please read the measure text and think this one over carefully. The “opposition” arguments I’ve seen are full of claims that seem highly dubious.
However, people I trust have explained to me that existing Oregon laws mean that an expensive statewide system would need to be implemented; so it’s not as simple or benign as it appears. Plus, in my experience there’s always room for a bit of skepticism where chief petitioner Bill Sizemore is concerned.
Changing to a “yes” vote here, following a discussion with Amy Ruiz (who’s part of the editorial board for the Mercury — see all their endorsements). This is an important first step; it doesn’t guarantee good results, but rather creates a framework for evaluating teachers. Evaluation is important; there are lots of ways to do it wrong, but we shouldn’t be afraid to do it, and do it right. There will be more reform required, but it’s about time we started the process. If we’re not equipped to evaluate teacher performance, it’s high time we remedied that — and considering that school funding is over half the state budget, and the schools serve nearly all Oregonians, this is a pretty big ticket item.
I’m still not fully decided on this one; watch for a future blog post. I’m leaning toward “Yes.”
NO on Measure 59
Creates an unlimited deduction for federal income taxes on individual taxpayers’ Oregon income-tax returns and reduces revenue available for state expenditures by $2.4 billion. The reduction will affect funding of education, health care, and public safety. Richest 1% of Oregonians will save $15,000 while 75% of Oregonians will save less than $1.
NO on Measure 58: Imposes an arbitrary limit on bilingual programs in public schools so that students must enter mainstream classes, regardless of progress, after only two years of English learning classes. Measure 58 is a one-size-fits-all mandate that undermines local school control and will cost over $200 million to implement.
YES on Measure 57
This measure is an alternative to Measure 61, referred to the ballot by the Oregon legislature. It shares some of Measure 61′s problems, but vote “yes” anyway.
Like 61, Measure 57 creates longer sentences for certain property crimes and drug-related offenses. But it doesn’t rely as heavily on mandatory minimum sentences, which undermine judges’ ability to do what’s best in a given situation. Unlike Measure 61, Measure 57 includes mandatory drug treatment program for certain offenders.
If both 57 and 61 receive a majority of “yes” votes, only the one receiving more votes will become law. Polling indicates Measure 61 is certain to pass. Even if you think Measure 57 is bad policy, hold your nose and vote for it — Measure 61 is much, much worse.
Special thanks to my friend Jen Yocom for helping me get my thinking straight on this one.
YES on Measure 56
Allows May and November bond measures to be determined by the majority of voters who vote. Under the “double majority” rule established by Measure 47 in 1996, more than half of registered voters must vote, in order for local funding measures to pass. Measure 56 restores the ability of local communities to determine their funding priorities. This is one of the most important opportunities on the ballot, to undo a bit of the damage wrought by the over-the-top anti-tax movement of the 1990s. There are times when local communities need to raise money, and the double-majority rule is overly burdensome.
YES on Measure 55
Allows legislators to complete their terms in the districts in which they were elected. When districts are redrawn every ten years, this will prevent legislators from being reassigned to new districts that did not elect them. Seems like a good housekeeping measure, and in line with the views that lead me to support Measure 65.
YES on Measure 54
Makes 18-year-olds eligible to vote in school board elections, consistent with state and federal elections. Repeals six-month residency requirement, twenty-one minimum age, and English literacy tests to remove outdated and unenforceable language from the Oregon Constitution.
Other guides and endorsements:
- Official Voters’ Pamphlet from Secretary of State (tough to navigate; check links in lower left)
- Working Families Party
- League of Women Voters
- Defend Oregon (PDF file)
- Rural Organizing Project (PDF file)
Please pass this message along to friends and families — feel free to modify as you see fit!