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Publics voice must be loudest

Readers Letters
by: Christopher Onstott, Don Francis, co-owner of the environmental contracting firm EcoTech, talks with home owners Courtney and Terra Goodman while working on a project at their Southwest Portland home. Francis says the city's public campaign financing system allows everyday citizens like himself to consider a run for office.

I was shocked earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns. Even worse, they can do it anonymously by laundering their money through innocent-sounding organizations that don't have to disclose their source of money. The amount of money corporations are spending to influence our government is disgusting.

On the bright side, Portland has a program that reduces the influence of big money on our City Council and mayoral elections (Vote tests city election bucks, Oct. 7). The Voter-Owned Elections program allows candidates with proven community support to run without taking a dime of special interest money! This means the average citizen has more power in City Hall and candidates can spend their time with voters instead of with wealthy donors.

The City Council is asking voters if we want to keep this program, and I certainly do. So I will be voting yes on 26-108 so my voice will be heard louder than any campaign contribution.

Rhiannon McCracken

Southeast Portland

Taxpayers can't afford program

Voter-owned financing of elections is a joke (Vote tests city election bucks, Oct. 7). IF (the big if) everyone had to use only voter funds to run a campaign, and no other source of money was available, then maybe it would be a good system. Everyone would be on an equal and level playing field.

However, since that isn't a requirement, then the voter-owned part of elections is nothing more than a black hole for taxpayer money. Eventually, there will be a cry that the candidates who do opt for voter funds can't compete with those who don't take the voter funds, so we need to pour more taxpayer money into the system to try to equal it out. It will never equal out, but will suck taxpayers dry.

No, as it is now - and recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings seem to indicate that it won't be changing soon - the voter-owned idea is just a waste of taxpayer money.

Get rid of it. We can't afford it.

Michael C. Wagoner

Hillsboro

Don't give wealthy donors the power

I strongly disagree with the editorial opinion, titled 'Put voter-owned elections to rest' (Sept. 16).

I'm afraid that without our Voter-Owned Elections program, big corporations and wealthy donors will drown out the voices of everyday Portland residents who can't afford big campaign contributions. We've seen the same developers who write huge campaign checks getting urban renewal dollars for projects, such as the South Waterfront condos, without adequate affordable housing for the rest of us. And we've seen a backroom soccer stadium deal approved, while many neighborhoods go without basic services such as sidewalks and stoplights.

Former Commissioner Erik Sten and current Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz were elected under the strict rules of the Voter-Owned Elections program.

Don't close the door on future concerned citizens who choose to run for public office unburdened by the financial support of deep-pocketed donors.

Please vote yes on Ballot Measure 26-108.

Ken Cropper

Northeast Portland

Bold reforms worth the price

When I think about the decision to support Portland's Voter-Owned Elections program in November, I think about the bottom line: If Voter-Owned Elections help elect a person or preserve a culture in City Hall that saves even one major donation-driven boondoggle, it will pay for itself many, many times over.

The program is capped at 0.2 percent (two-tenths of 1 percent!) of the city budget, and in five years it has always come in under budget. I'd rather pay 68 cents per year for a bold reform program than risk paying the high price of backroom deals that benefit big campaign contributors instead of everyday Portlanders.

Norman Turrill

Southwest Portland

Media elite deaf to voice of the public

The difference between having voter-owned elections and not having them is that in having them, non-rich people have a chance to get their message out if they run for public office and have a chance to actually get elected. Your editorial against voter-owned elections blatantly makes the case that voter-owned elections are bad because the type of people they help are somehow inherently corrupt, incompetent, or unworthy (Put voter-owned elections to rest, Sept. 16).

So, in essence, you are saying that us non-rich people are just too corrupt, incompetent and unworthy to serve in public office.

Thanks for this editorial. It makes it quite clear how the corporate conservative media elites - including the Tribune, the pampered Pamplins and their country club friends, view the rest of us.

Tom Soppe

Southeast Portland

Election system encourages diversity

The Portland City Council turned 160 years old in 2010. And in all those years, we've only had seven women serve on the City Council. Seven!

That's a pretty pathetic record for such a forward-thinking city. And on top of that, we've hardly had any people of color or working class folks serve in City Hall either. If Portland is to honor its commitment to progress, it also needs to honor its commitment to diversity.

That's why we need to protect our voter-owned elections program when it comes to the Portland ballot in November. With voter-owned elections, people who are typically shut out of City Hall have a strong voice in our local elections.

Pat Osborn

Northeast Portland

Voters don't 'own' anything

While all of the arguments made in this editorial make the case for voting no on Measure 26-108, there are two additional points that need to be made (Put voter-owned elections to rest, Sept. 21).

• Measure 26-108 is about taxpayer-funded city elections, not so-called voter-owned elections - the name coined by Erik Sten to obfuscate the true nature of this public spending failure.

The voters don't 'own' anything in this process. The press and opponents of this measure should use the right terminology.

• The only measure of success for taxpayer-funded city elections would be a demonstrated pattern of four-to-one votes where the recipient of city funding, Amanda Fritz, argued that she was standing against the funded political interests of her colleagues in favor of the voters/taxpayers. That hasn't happened.

A blind analysis of voting patterns would show that Fritz's votes are mostly indistinguishable from her fellow commissioners.

The previous arguments notwithstanding, there is a place for taxpayer-funded city elections. That place is the Oregon Legislature. It doesn't matter who's in charge, Rs or Ds, in any given session. The same groups that are major funders of both sides control the agenda and the votes. Most of us, Rs, Ds and particularly independents, don't belong to these groups, so we don't have a voice in major public policy issues, especially those involving the state budget. We pay, they get.

The Portland Tribune management is right to oppose Measure 26-108. An easy call. It remains to be seen whether or not they will demonstrate the courage to support taxpayer-funded legislative elections.

Richard Ellmyer

North Portland

VOE is right for democracy, city

When it comes to quality of life, Portland is ahead of the curve. That's why the Oregon League of Conservation Voters supports voter-owned elections. Voter-owned elections give real people a voice in the political process, allowing our values and priorities to be reflected in City Hall - which translates into opportunities to protect our environment and invest in sustainable, livable neighborhoods and transportation choices.

We can't allow big polluters and corporations to pump big bucks into our elections and put our communities' needs on the back burner. The voter-owned elections system caps campaign spending and forces candidates to solicit the direct support of citizens. With voter-owned elections, we can have leaders who make better budget decisions and invest in the programs and policies that make our communities healthier.

Voting yes on 26-108 to protect Portland's voter-owned elections is not only the right move for democracy, it's the right move for the environment too.

Tresa Horney

Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Southwest Portland

Hughes' record holds strong

The name of Tom Hughes, former mayor of Hillsboro, listed as a candidate for president of Metro Council, will appear on the ballot of every registered voter in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington Counties for the Nov. 2 election. It may be hard to find Tom and Metro Council on the ballot, due to the many candidate races and measures up this time, and the fact that it is not a Democrat or Republican matter, but rather a nonpartisan leadership position.

This open position, where Tom Hughes is ready to apply his skills and experience, relates to the coordination of land-use planning, transportation and services for the three counties and the 25 cities included within these boundaries.

Tom Hughes has many endorsements, including mine. I know Tom and have seen his past leadership for environment, jobs and growth as elected mayor of Hillsboro.

Find his name on the Nov. 2 ballot and vote for him. If you feel strongly enough, contact your family and friends and get them to vote for Tom Hughes.

Ed Warmoth

Cornelius

Urban sprawl unwelcome

If you like corporate lobbyists pushing urban sprawl, elect Tom Hughes (Elect Hughes as Metro President, Oct. 7).

Hart Ryan Noecker

Southeast Portland

Which candidate has the will?

Jim Redden's piece on the Metro president campaigns was well done (Metro race reflects region's complexity, Sept. 23). And the overview of Metro's regional portfolio was useful for voters looking for a primer on Metro's services.

Redden is right when he says it's simplistic to view the candidates as an environmentalists-vs.-development option. Both Tom Hughes and Bob Stacey are experienced and effective public servants dedicated to the planned and sustainable development of the region.

But the most important thing that voters need to know about this race was buried in the last few paragraphs.

The next Metro president's Job No. 1 is to be the booster-in-chief of the 25 cities that comprise the Metro region. Success in the job will be measured by how effectively he uses his bully pulpit to convene regional leaders - elected and affiliated - to figure out a way to fund development that cities have planned for and want.

This is Oregon. We are all environmentalists. If we are to protect farms and forests, and farm and forest industries, finding a way to pay for development in our region's cities is the means to that end. It will be a heavy lift. Both candidates are capable. I'm still trying to figure out who is more willing.

Kate Marx

Northeast Portland

Hughes failed to tackle transit crisis

Question for Tom Hughes: During your tenure as Mayor of Hillsboro, you selected a location for the main library on Northeast Brookwood Parkway, a road developed for the kind of edge office parks Hillsboro was seeking to attract while its downtown was struggling. Would locating the library downtown have advanced Hillsboro's downtown renewal efforts and enabled hundreds of people to walk or bike to the library? Wouldn't this have been a plus for sustainability?

As mayor, you continued the Hillsboro tradition of developing even more corporate campuses on the fringes of town. Now that traffic has become unbearable because everyone arrives at those campuses via private car, corporate entities are crying for TriMet to establish transit. TriMet cannot make that work because there is not enough density per acre. Consequently, most sane people do not want to be caught in a car in Hillsboro after 3 p.m.

Is this the kind of leadership we could expect from you when you to become Metro Council president?

Mary Vogel

Southwest Portland