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We can either beat challenges facing us or let them beat us

by: Submitted, Stephen Griffith

Stephen Griffith, 62, is the Republican candidate for Oregon House District 38: Graduate, Harvard College, Oxford University and Stanford Law School. Attorney, Stoel Rives LLP. Instructor, Lincoln High School class on the Constitution and American history. Former member and four times chair of the Portland School Board, Oregon League of Conservation Voters board, counsel to the Oregon House Judiciary Committee.

Where is Oregon headed, and in whose care should we entrust it? The answer to those questions should determine how we vote on candidates and ballot measures.

The state of Oregon, which 'twinkled from afar' when Tom McCall was governor, faces challenges that will doom it to mediocrity if we do not respond. They will bring us together in a way we have not seen for a generation, if we rise to the occasion.

We are presently a house divided - between Democrats and Republicans, city and countryside, people and government, and most deeply, self and others. We must re-open our minds, and use the present crisis to forge a new community.

The challenges are serious: The condition of public education, at every level; our economy and its balance with the environment; our health and access to health care; the funding, focus and ethics of our government.

Each challenge represents a lifetime's work. Each can be met, however, if people of good will and ability commit themselves. We can do it - because that is what Oregonians are like.

I came to Oregon 30 years ago because I was deeply impressed by the Oregonians I met in college, the Peace Corps and law school. They were incredibly decent people. And when they spoke of their birthplace, their eyes shone. I came and stayed. I would make the same decision today I made in 1977.

Walking the neighborhoods of Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland in House District 38, I have knocked on thousands of doors. Over 99 percent of the people behind those doors opened them. That stunning fact speaks volumes about our community. I have experienced the thoughtfulness, generosity - and ready humor - of Americans. Their responses confirm that, in following my own judgments summarized below, I also will be representing my constituents.

Education. We need to stabilize funding, return the arts and reinvest in higher education. Oregon's school year, which ranks in the bottom 20 percent nationally, needs to be brought up to par. Teachers are significantly under-compensated and over-protected. We need to address both issues and not be deflected by groups who favor one reform without the other.

Environment. We face the greatest non-partisan issue of our time in global warming, yet scarcely treat it as such. With market incentives to reduce greenhouse gases, we can free enterprise to respond and attract high-paying businesses to Oregon. Big picture land use and transportation planning will become more important. Individual land use decisions give government a bad name, and must be streamlined. Oregon is the only Western state without a comprehensive plan for water resources; if we want our precious water in 100 years, we need to plan for it now.

Health. The free market has not delivered a level of health care that even begins to match our nation's values and resources. Governments - federal and/or state - must either influence or create the market for health care services and reduce their cost. Oregonians have unmatched recreational opportunities. We have done original thinking in defining and prioritizing health care. We should, and can, be the healthiest people in America.

Government. Oregon government needs less partisanship, more focus, stabler revenue, higher ethics and greater wisdom. We will get these when we have a nonpartisan Secretary of State and the open primary contemplated by Ballot Measure 65; set a six-month cap on legislative sessions; replace a portion of our income tax with a consumption tax; tighten controls on the use and disclosure of campaign contributions; and raise the standard for amending the state Constitution.

Lake Oswego. Lake Oswego will face its own challenges in the coming years: The sewer interceptor, West End Building, urban infill, transportation links, and school enrollment. I will support essential state funds and tax authority to help address these issues. I would delegate other decisions wherever possible, because local government is the breeding ground of responsible democracy.

My opponent is a fine person, and we have enjoyed excellent relations. To my knowledge there has not been one negative ad or false statement issued by either camp. Readers of this journal have been well represented already, in this respect.

Is there a difference between Chris Garrett and me? Yes. My platform is better, I have 30 years' more experience, I am more independent and capable of being independent of my party, and as my Web site (voteforgriffith.com) shows, I enjoy support across the political spectrum.

Political parties are both useful and inevitable in government. Parties are also a trap for the public interest, however, because each is beholden to certain interest groups. A party line voter therefore misses a crucial point. The choice on Election Day is not between a Legislature composed of Republicans and a Legislature composed of Democrats. The choice is between two individuals wishing to sit in the Legislature, where the stakes are the public interest.

Oregon's House need not be divided. Most issues in government do not involve a choice between good and evil. They involve a trade-off between goods where people have different ideas about the balance. My approach to problems is to respect, listen, focus on the essential and seek common ground. Doing this, I can be a bridge between the people and parts of Oregon, someone who brings hope for our future by showing the way.