Monday, October 30, 2006

Election Edition

One of the great things about having a blog is that you get to endorse people when there's an election, whereas the unwashed non-blogging masses can't. It doesn't seem very fair, but there you have it. So without further ado, here's who you're supposed to vote for, if you live in Oregon, and Multnomah County in particular.

On the top of the ballot this year we have the Governor's race, and the 1st Congressional District, and I regret to say I couldn't bring myself to vote for the Democratic incumbent in either race. I am, generally speaking, a loyal Democrat, but Gov. Kulongoski is a hopeless do-nothing bozo, and I can't stand David Wu. There's a point where even throwing your vote away is preferable to voting for the "Brand D" empty suit. If either guy loses by exactly one vote, I'll apologize and grovel and all that. Otherwise, I'm voting my conscience, and you can't reasonably ask me not to do that. Joe Keating is the Pacific Green candidate for governor, and I'm voting for him instead of Kulongoski. And in the race for Congress, I'm voting for the Libertarian candidate, Drake Davis, who strikes me as the most acceptable non-Wu candidate, even though Wu's basically a shoo-in this time around. I don't usually vote for the sort of Libertarian who gets on the ballot in this state, but he appears to be the real deal, a Libertarian who's concerned about civil liberties, not just tax cuts. If you're not in the habit of voting for third party candidates, by all means vote for the incumbents. They're useless, but they aren't terrible. Vote for anyone except the Republican in each race, basically.

There's also an open seat on the state Supreme Court. On paper, judicial races are nonpartisan, but everyone knows Virginia Linder is the (moderate) Democrat, and Jack Roberts is the (moderate) Republican. So vote for the Democrat. I don't think Jack Roberts is the Bible-thumpin', wiretappin', waterboardin' kind of Republican, but I'm not taking that chance in a Supreme Court race. One of the great things about this state is that years ago our Supreme Court decided that the state constitution's Bill of Rights confers additional civil liberties on top of those you get from the US Constitution. Since our basic liberties are rapidly eroding on the federal level, our state constitution may soon be the only document that still genuinely means what it says. So Supreme Court races matter now more than ever, is what I'm trying to say here.

The easiest race to call this year was the judicial race for Circuit Court, 4th District, Position 37, where the infamous Leslie Roberts gamed the system so that she's appearing "unopposed" on the ballot. You know it's an extraordinary situation when all the local print media outlets have endorsed a write-in candidate. Take their advice for once, and write in Charles Henderson.

The hardest race to call is another judicial race: 4th District, Position 28, in which there are no less than 9 candidates on the ballot. This race is so hard to call that I haven't actually picked anyone yet. I'll post an update later if/when I make up my mind.

Oh, and in Position 31, vote for Cheryl Albrecht. It's a race between someone with judicial experience (Albrecht) and someone who's been a prosecutor all this time (Kathleen Payne). I tend to look unfavorably on judical candidates who've spent their entire careers handling criminal cases, prosecution or defense. I'm sure it's useful and perhaps even noble work, but I'm not convinced either background makes for a good, impartial judge.

Ok, so now to the obscure special district races. I used to have to vote in a lot more of these when I lived out in unincorporated Washington County, where parks, water, emergency services, and all sorts of other things were handled by single-purpose special districts. Now, to my knowledge, there's just one, the West Multnomah County Soil & Water Conservation District. I wouldn't even have mentioned it, except that I just ran across this item at Bojack, concerning sneaky underhanded doings on the district board. There are four seats up for election. One is contested, two have incumbents running unopposed, and one has nobody running. Apparently under state law only people who own at least 10 acres of farmland in a given zone are eligible to run in that zone. (Is that even constitutional?) Zone 5 was recently redrawn so that nobody is eligible to run for the seat, so that after the election the rest of the board can simply appoint a crony to the job. This sounds like something you'd see in rural freakin' podunk Louisiana, not here in clean-hands process-geek Oregon. So I'm not voting for any of the incumbents, and I'm also not voting for their measure 26-82, the so-called "Permanent Rate Limit", which is actually a weasel-worded property tax increase. Right now the district has no tax base at all, and the measure would give them a small revenue stream of around $1m per year. That's not a lot of money, and the district does good things (at least on paper), so I was all set to vote for it, but I don't trust these people. Throw the bastards out, and then they can ask me for money. Or even better, get rid of this district and its East Multnomah counterpart on the other side of the river, and hand their duties over to the county, or to Metro, someone who's actually accountable. William R. Goode is the only non-incumbent in the race, so vote for him, and either leave the other races blank or write someone in, anybody but the incumbents.

That's the only local levy I'm voting against. As I said, I'm usually a loyal Democratic voter, so I'm voting for money for libraries, schools, and Metro's greenspace program. After spending much of the summer blogging about local parks and such, and wringing my hands about the budget situation, do you really think I'd vote against the greenspace measure? My street cred's on the line here. As with all tax measures, make a list of the measures you agree with, and vote for the ones on the list you think you can personally afford. Nobody should ever ask you to do any more than that.

We've got 9 state ballot measures this year. Most of them are easy calls. Measures 41 and 48 are sneaky, deceptive, and drastic anti-tax measures from Howie Rich and his slimy out-of-state pals. Vote no on those.

Measure 43 is a "parental notification" anti-abortion measure. I always vote against all anti-abortion measures, even ones that appear to be narrowly targeted. The people behind it are the same bible-thumping wingnuts who sometimes put total-ban measures on the ballot when they're feeling their oats. It's not that this is all they want, it's just this is all they think they can pass this year, and if it passes, they'll be back in '08. Never, ever, help the fundies win anything. Vote no on 43.

Measure 44 lets anyone without insurance participate in the state's existing prescription drug plan. It's not universal health care, but it's a step in the right direction, so vote for it.

Measure 40 would require Supreme and Appellate Court judges to be elected by districts. The poorly-concealed motivation behind this is to get at least a few conservative judges onto the statewide bench. The cover story is that judges should represent diverse geographic areas, some of which just so happen to be more conservative than others, by random chance or whatever. And sure, there's a kernel of truth to the complaint, in that almost all judges come from the Willamette Valley. But after all, that's where all the people are, and that's where the most-qualified lawyers tend to gravitate to. The very notion that judges are placed on the bench to represent the "interests" of any narrow subset of the population, geographic, economic, ethnic, or whatever, is disturbing. The courts are not the Legislature, and this measure is a bit hypocritical, coming from the same people who always complain about judges allegedly legislating from the bench.

Measure 45 is a new term limit measure for state legislators, replacing an earlier one thrown out by the state supreme court some years ago. I voted for the original measure, but I'm voting no this time, and so should you. After the last term limit measure passed, we got crop after crop of new legislators who knew nothing about the legislative process and cared even less, and brought nothing to the table but hardline ideology, on both sides of the aisle. When the Legislature wasn't gridlocked, it would produce all sorts of ill-conceived legislation. Lobbyists, who weren't subject to term limits, basically ran the show. We'll recover eventually, but legislative term limits were a mistake in this state, and repeating mistakes when you don't have to is not a sign of intelligence. Let's all admit we made a mistake the first time around, and vote no on 45.

Measures 46 & 47 are campaign finance reform, which this state desperately needs. One of the very few downsides to the state Supreme Court's expansive reading of our Bill of Rights is that "free speech" includes the right of huge corporations and other moneyed interests to spend as much as they like during election season. You don't have to be an Ivy League policy wonk to realize this has a corrupting influence on the political process. The local "liberal media" is spinning this as if voting no was a solemn civic duty. I expect they've been listening to special interests -- public employee unions and whatnot -- who've carved out a bit of turf in the existing system and want to defend it at all costs. The system is broken, and I'm not about to pretend it's any less broken just because the "good guys" can buy politicians too. Measure 46 is a constitutional amendment that allows campaign finance laws, and measure 47 is such a law. Vote for both.

Measure 39 is a local response to the recent Supreme Court ruling that allowed local governments to condemn and seize property, and turn around and hand it to other private parties. For some reason, as with the last 2 measures, loyal D's are supposed to vote against this as an article of faith. I guess we're all supposed to be allergic to anything that looks like a "property rights" measure. One big objection to the measure is that it might make urban renewal plans more difficult and expensive. To which I have to say "damn straight". That's the whole freakin' idea. Duh. Since when has the well-being of greedy rich developers been a progressive cause? Why should I lose any sleep fretting about how to make Homer Williams richer? The fact that we're even having a debate about this is a sign of what's been wrong with the Democratic Party for oh, the last 30 years or so. Sometime in the 70's the party became obsessed with celebrities and "limousine liberal" lifestyle issues and began sneering at the bread-and-butter concerns of ordinary people, resulting in the so-called "Reagan Democrat" phenomenon. Reagan was actually far worse for those people on a pocketbook level than any Democrat would've been, but he never sneered at them, and that counts for a lot. It's not actually a progressive act to look at, say, SE Foster Road and imagine tearing out all the auto body shops and replacing them with doggie day spas and yoga boutiques, even if the affluent gentrifiers moving in to the area would be reliable Democratic voters. Running people off their property because they aren't sufficiently upscale is wrong. Period. Vote yes on 39, dammit.

Which leaves us with measure 42. Measure 42 prohibits insurance companies from using credit scores to determine insurance rates. Insurance companies have increasingly been doing this in the last few years, and the practice disproportionately affects low income people. So you'd think the law would be a liberal cause, but it's actually the brainchild of Bill Sizemore, one of our state's menagerie of colorful far-right nutjobs. Sizemore actually got the Republican nomination for Governor back in 1998, and lost by the most lopsided margin in the state's history, dating back to the 1850s. So my natural inclination is to wonder what the secret catch is, and what icky special interest wins if the measure passes. Everyone's been trying to figure that out and nobody's come up with anything concrete, so I'm inclined to think this is a purely personal crusade on Sizemore's part. He ran into some legal difficulties a few years back, and legal problems often mean financial problems, and thus a lower credit score. I expect he's pushing the measure because his own insurance rates went up, and he was outraged and decided to take it to the voters.

If a bit of adversity can teach the guy a little compassion, at least in a limited area, there may be hope for him yet. I'm not holding my breath waiting on that, but I'm still voting for 42. It feels naughty to be voting for any Sizemore measure, ever, but I'd probably heard of the issue before he ever did, so I like to think Sizemore's agreeing with me, not the other way around.

So there you have it. Now vote, dammit, and make sure the thing's filled out correctly, and signed, and mailed back on time. Someday the powers that be will listen to my pet idea of taxing the bejeezus out of people who don't vote, since if they're that apathetic clearly they're ok with whatever the rest of society decides to do. If they get angry about it, they can simply vote next time and get an exemption from the "apathy tax". Sure, some people may not like it, but what exactly are they going to do about it? If they're too lazy to even fill out a ballot, do you really think they'll go to the trouble of suing? Not very likely, I expect. Complain to their legislators? Their legislators can be sure that, by definition, the complainer did not vote for them in the last election, and may not at the next election. So there's really no upside for 'em in helping this person. Anyway, that's a topic for another day. So vote. Unless you're planning to vote Republican, in which case you ought to fly to Palm Springs and play some golf, or go club some baby seals, or whatever it is you people do for fun, and don't come back until the election's over.

7 comments :

Joshua said...

Am I the only person in the world who likes Leslie Roberts? I think her actions are 100% defensible. It's not her responsibility to tell everyone who is and who is not qualified for an open judicial seat. Blame the peoople who failed to "dig a little deeper" before You was appointed to fill the vacancy. And as for all the harping about muddling politics and the judiciary, that's a good point, but it's also a completely stupid one to make in light of the fact that we, ummm, elect judges. Of course it's political. The sitting judges who endorse Roberts's challenger are mostly pissed that Roberts has called into question the long-standing tradition of allowing incumbent judges to run without scrutiny, when they should be pissed that an unqualified candidate got the job in the first place!

Bruce said...

Just a quick comment in response to your support of Measure 39. Eminent domain is rarely used for redevelopment projects but when it is, it is after an exhaustive process of trying to work with the property owner for fair market value compensation. However, if M39 passes, we lose that ability to have a last resort means for fair market value compensation for redevelopment projects and if the city owns 8 of the 9 parcels it needs to start a project, the 9th parcel owner can basically hold the city hostage for any amount he or she wants for that property. Also, while you use doggie day care as your example, affordable housing is a much more likely project subject to eminent domain than a strip mall.

atul666 said...

Regarding Leslie Roberts, not once have I seen anyone argue that Youlee You should have stayed on the bench despite being ineligible. That's a straw-man argument. And as attorneys are legally "officers of the court", Roberts did have an obligation to report the situation as soon as she was aware of it, rather than waiting until the filing deadline.

If Roberts wanted to be a judge so badly, there were three other circuit court seats up for grabs and she could have filed for any of them. Position 28 has nine names on the ballot, and she could have made herself #10 if she really believed in competitive elections. Instead she gamed the system for her own personal advantage.

It's true that nobody becomes a judge without a certain degree of personal ambition, but anyone who takes this kind of slash-and-burn approach to getting the job obviously lacks the right temperament to be a judge. If someone can't display at least a basic degree of restraint and decorum, he or she doesn't deserve to wear judge's robes. If Roberts is the sort of person who cravenly seeks personal advantage at every turn, she'd be right at home in the Legislature, but not on the bench. I'd hate to be in her courtroom arguing over, say, a desirable beach house, only to have her decide she wants it for herself. It's possible she wouldn't operate this way once she's secured the job, but her behavior thus far is not encouraging.

atul666 said...

Regarding measure 39, I do realize eminent domain is rarely used in Oregon these days. It would be nice to think it was generally used for noble and selfless purposes like affordable housing, but I doubt that's really the case. I'd be open to a narrowly worded legislative tweak in the next session, so that property can be conveyed to nonprofits (say, Central City Concern or the Nature Conservancy), so long as there's a legitimate and well-defined public purpose in doing so. Vague notions about "redevelopment" are not well-defined. As a practical matter, "redevelopment" just means anything shiny and new that the inside crowd wants. That could be affordable housing (in theory), or unaffordable housing, or a new baseball stadium, or an aerial tram, the possibilities are endless. Historically it's always been a way for poweful insiders to enrich themselves and their friends. If you look at Portland's large-scale urban renewal projects over the last half-century or so, they've been bonanzas for the big boys, and boondoggles for everyone else. Building the Memorial Coliseum area meant bulldozing the historic core of the city's black community. Likewise, the South Auditorium district rose where the city's oldest (and mostly working class) Jewish and Italian neighborhoods once stood. Sure, we got the Keller fountain out of that, plus some ultra-mod concrete condo towers, but is that really a sufficient reason to kick people out of their homes and destroy their businesses? I don't think so. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

Chris Piekarski said...

Atul:

Thanks for the endorsement and also for very succinctly voicing the concerns of many with regard to Roberts.

Joshua:

If the question were simply "should Roberts have challenged You's qualifications," then her actions are entirely defensible. No one (not even the judges you take issue with) is contesting that point. If the question is, instead, "should Roberts, who is Youlee You's neighbor and who knew prior to August 29th that You was not qualified to be a judge (even as You was sworn in as a judge), have clearly raised the issue with authorities sooner than the filing deadline," then you start seeing where people's concern arises.

With regard to our judicial endorsements: although any of these judges is capable of speaking for themselves, I strongly feel that it is necessary to point out that, whatever their feelings about Roberts' conduct, it would be foolish of them to back a person who they did not believe was qualified and well-suited for the position. I don't believe any of them to be of the ilk that would make such poor decisions.

We are confident that people can make their own decisions regarding this election, provided they are aware of their choices. That's why blogs and other information sources are so important, and that is why we are so grateful not only for your endorsement, but that you took the time to discuss this race.

If anyone wants more information or has questions about Charles Henderson, you can go to our website or e-mail us.

Chris Piekarski
Director, The Committee to Elect Charles Henderson Judge
hendersonforjudge@gmail.com

Joshua said...

According to Roberts (and I'll give her the benefit on this one) she told the officials to make sure they verified everyone's residency. They didn't, and You got the job in the first place. Secondly, while she certainly had an obligation to report her knowledge, she could not challenge You's nomination until it had been verified by the elections officials. And You herself waited until close to the deadline to file. So Roberts's only choice was to file and then challenge after the deadline had passed. And as for jumping into a race with nine other candidates, I think she's right when she tells the Oregonian than anyone would have made the same choice. Go into a race with no opponent or go into one with nine? It's not fair to say she's "too political" when we have a political judiciary. She's running for election. The myth of the judge who is Above It All is ridiculous enough when applied to, say, Sandra Day O'Connor. Much less when it's applied to people who get their jobs by being elected.

Furthermore, if you'll recall, there seemed to be some genuine debate as to whether or not You was qualified. a lot of smart people, and probably You herself, argued that she was qualified because the residency requirement didn't necessarily apply to the time immediately prior to appointment. So, should Roberts have smeared You's name for no good reason? Instead, she filed a complaint at the appropriate time with the appropriate officials who then determined, independently of Roberts, that You wouldn't make the ballot.

And there's no reason to believe that a woman with a bit of ambition won't be a fair judge. If anything, she demonstrates enormous legal savvy and is likely to out-think any lawyers who try to pull one over on her court.

Listen, I have no problem with Henderson at all. He might make a fine judge some day. He clearly has a strong ethical impulse and that's a great thing. My broader point is that Roberts really did nothing unethical. A bit shady? Maybe. But I happen to think cunning is a good trait. And, since I typically follow a pretty strict vote-for-the-incumbent rule as regards judges (who should not, for just this reason, be elected in the first place) I see no particularly awesome reason to vote against the only candidate who bothered to file by the deadline. Mr. Henderson, if he cares so much about competitive elections, could also have run against ten people for another judgeship. Instead, he's done a very cunning thing and inserted his name into a race he almost certainly won't win in order to build name recognition for a real election in the future. So, in the end, Roberts ain't the only one playing politics for personal gain around here.

PS: I otherwise mostly agree with your political endorsement, and want to second your response regarding Measure. Measure 39 won't have a huge impact, but I think it's important that we take a stand for the Constitution when upstanding, apolitical judges refuse to do so.

activist kaza said...

Atul:

This is a well-reasoned and articulated endorsement edition. Think you particularly hit the nail on the head with measures 46 & 47. Without them, we'll continue to suffer with middling candidates whose chief skill is fund-raising, rather than leading.

Kulongoski and Wu are great examples of this (as is my former opponent Darlene Hooley). In each case, I'm with you on supporting the third-party alternatives...(or against the Guv, you could support the memory of Tom McCall!