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Vote for schools can revive community dignity

As a parent of school-age children living in Gresham, I feel an incredible amount of frustration when I look at Salem's lack of leadership.

In my community, our schools have cut eight days from the school year. We face the loss of 65 teaching and support positions, which will mean a big jump in class sizes. We will lose an incredible array of textbooks, athletics and other things that mean a real education.

And then I look at the example that we are offering our children beyond the school walls. Cutting seniors off from their medicine and their homes? Telling the mentally ill to hit the bricks, even if they are a threat to themselves or others? Giving dangerous criminals a note telling them to come back in a couple of months, at which time we may take them off the streets?

How can we look our kids in the eye and tell them this is the right thing to do? Even a child of 7 knows that's not true.

But of all the feelings surrounding this crisis, the worst is helplessness. It's the sense these things are being done to us, and there is little we can do.

Well, we aren't helpless anymore.

Measure 26-48 offers us a three-year bridge to better times or better leadership in Salem. It won't provide everything everybody wants, but it will restore the things we need. For schools, it will restore the cuts, saving teachers, restoring the full school year and keeping class sizes from rocketing upward. And, being from Gresham, it's especially important to me that every school district in Multnomah County (not just Portland) gets its fair share on a per-student basis. That includes Centennial, Corbett, David Douglas, Gresham/Barlow, Parkrose, Portland, Reynolds and Riverdale schools.

Measure 26-48 also will restore a basic level of common decency when it comes to seniors and the disabled in need. And it will restore a basic level of safety by once again getting dangerous criminals off the streets.

All of this is critical. But there is another element of Measure 26-48 that is important. It means we don't have to be at the mercy of someone else's failed leadership.

Measure 26-48 is our chance to take the destiny and needs of our community into our own hands. We can decide that schools, seniors and safety are worth protecting, even if the Legislature hasn't managed to figure that out. And everything raised by this measure stays right here, in our community. Not a penny goes to Salem.

Let's not miss what is at stake on May 20. These cuts aren't some kind of threat or possibility. They are already here. They are deep, and they are damaging. And if anybody thinks that families, employers or businesses are going to stay in a community that offers this kind of environment, they're dreaming.

At the end of the day, however, it goes back to being able to look our kids in the eye. If we want them to grow up to be good citizens, with a sense of civic duty and honor, they have to grow up in a community that demonstrates those values. It's up to those of us who can cast a ballot.

Let's do the right thing. Vote yes on Measure 26-48.

Margaret Wiederrich is the parent of two children attending Gresham High School. She has been a volunteer in classrooms and is a member of the Gresham High Citizens Advisory Committee.