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State legislators address citizens concerns

Rep. Kennemer and Sen. Olsen visit Estacada


by: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY SANDY RICHARDS - Students from Clackamas River Elementary ask the state legislators to Save Our Schools at a Town Hall meeting on May 14.                                                                     Citizens of Estacada brought their concerns to state Rep. Bill Kennemer and Sen. Alan Olsen at a town hall meeting at the Estacada Community Center on Tuesday, May 14.

Kennemer and Olsen, both Republicans, represent Estacada in the state Legislature.

Concerns over the school budget loomed large during the meeting.

A group of Clackamas River Elementary students displayed signs with slogans such as “Save our schools!” and “I need library so I can read tremendous books!” to the politicians.

Citizens described the proposed removal of library, music and physical education teaching positions that had been discussed at recent Estacada School Budget Committee meetings.

Despite the School Board’s acknowledgement that it is a top priority to save these positions, parents were frustrated that these cuts had ever been considered in the first place.

“We need representatives that say these options aren’t on the table,” one citizen said. “The rules need to be changed so that certain things can’t be cut.”

“I think one of the most fundamental things about government is education,” Kennemer said.

Olsen explained that the Republican party hopes to raise the statewide school fund to $7 billion.

An Estacada resident reminded the politicians that “kids don’t have a political party.”

“I would like to see our government be nonpartisan for our schools,” she said.

“I think fighting and being nasty and gridlocked is exactly what we need to avoid,” Kennemer said.

“We (democrats and republicans) do have negotiations going on. They’re going to be difficult, but they’re going on,” Olsen said.

However, he also described how bills with significant support could be stalled by one senator.

He discussed the difficulty of bipartisanship in the Senate.

“A lot of good bills on both sides of the aisle don’t move because they have that guy’s name on it and I don’t like that guy,” he said.

“I don’t like politics,” he said.

Both Kennemer and Olsen found fault with the Public Employees Retirement System.

“PERS is a giant vacuum for dollars,” Olsen said after admitting that he is a PERS recipient.

Kennemer explained that Republican representatives are attempting to reduce PERS benefits.

Kennemer said that in 2009 — at the heart of the recession — the state held the budget steady, but increased state-assistance benefits by 28 percent.

“That’s where a lot of the school money goes,” he said.

But both lawmakers say the state needs to look for other ways to increase state revenues. One of those ways would utilize the natural resources of Western Oregon ‘s forests and put loggers back to work.

Olsen, a former Estacada resident said that “it was so cool to see logs and log trucks” when he first moved to the area.

Olsen described how Republicans are attempting to obtain approval for logging on O&C lands. O&C lands encompass approximately 2.4 million acres of forest in 18 counties in western Oregon.

Olsen suggested that revenue from the logging could potentially benefit schools, but added, “Of course anytime a person puts a chainsaw over their shoulder they get followed by a lawyer.”

Olsen asserted his belief in sustainable logging.

Estacada American Legion Commander Douglas Jamieson expressed his concern for Afghanistan veterans returning to Oregon with no prospective jobs.

“I came back in 1971 in the Vietnam era. The first thing I got to do upon my return was go to college,” said Olsen, a U.S. Army veteran.

Olsen shared Jamieson’s concern that “The guys that are coming back now from Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have jobs to go to.”

Olsen pointed out that with no school or jobs to go to they “have to sit around and think about what they’ve done.”

He described an effort to get honorably discharged veterans into school with instate tuition regardless of where they’re from. He said that a person who has received U.S. military training is the sort of person you’d want to live in Oregon.

Olsen went on to describe his discomfort with Oregon’s “monocular” approach to business as exemplified by tax incentives to solar and wind power.

“This is the industry we’re supporting so far. But as you can see solar isn’t doing to well,” he said.

He described his vision as a broad industry base for Oregon, adding “If one (industry), like housing, falls, the others can hold it up.”

Both politicians encouraged citizens to call or email them with their comments or concerns.

“If I can say I got 5,000 emails on this and it’s an important bill to my constituents, it helps,” Olsen said.

They pointed out that they take personal emails more seriously than form emails, and that emails from their constituents hold more weight than those from outside their district.

“Frankly, short is good,” Kennemer said of emails.

Both politicians thanked the audience for coming.

“We represent you, you are our boss, “ said Olsen.

Kennemer and Olsen are up for re-election next year.




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