Small Town Actions for a New Democracy
Provided by the Rural Organizing Project
- Welcome to a Voter Guide by and for Small Town Oregonians
- Talking About Tough Issues
- Oregon Ballot Measures
- Thinking About Our Rights
- Vote Our Values, Not Our Fears
- A Peek Behind the Curtain
- How to Choose a Candidate
- Co$t of War: Let’s Talk Money
- Still not registered to vote?
- Ballot Basics:
- What is ROP?
Welcome to a Voter Guide by and for Small Town Oregonians
Most of us share common dreams with our neighbors. We want decent jobs that allow us to put food on the table and to take the occasional vacation. We want to know that our schools are working hard to educate our children. We want services we can depend on in natural emergencies. We recognize that people may need help to weather economic storms. We want our families to be able to live safely and without fear. These are shared values.
We do not always agree on how to build and maintain these safe and functional communities. That’s okay. The idea of democracy is that we get to debate options and make our voices heard. Through elections, we can tell our political leaders what our priorities are and create laws that build a more just society. Democracy should mean that We The People own the government. It is our duty to participate in elections, so that everyone can lend a hand in decision-making instead of giving offices to the highest bidders.
This year all of our State and Federal Representatives are up for election. Many of our State Senators and one US Senator are also on the ballot. We will choose a Governor. Like any employer, we need to do a serious job review! In addition, seven ballot measures will be voted on. Some of these will change the face of the state. Which measures are useful reforms and which ones represent narrow special interests and fuel discrimination and hate?
Slick political ads clutter our mailboxes. This simple guide is different. It is paid for, produced by, and written for regular folks in small town Oregon. There is probably not a county in the state that has not contributed to this guide through a local community group. And we didn’t all agree on everything! What we do share is a commitment to inclusive democracy, and recommendations on making the best choices for small town and rural Oregon at the ballot this year. We hope it helps.
Every election cycle opens up conversations about frustrations and yearnings, but this election seems more important than most. A humanitarian crisis at the border, a broken immigration system, a looming energy crisis, and economic hardship for many rural families add urgency to the many local decisions of this election. Let’s start talking about the communities we want and make this election move the country and Oregon forward.
Some people complain of a feeling of helplessness that one person or one vote can’t change things. Individuals like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning have shown that it is possible for one person to make a difference. Not everyone has to do what they did, but casting a vote is one way that we can have an impact. Sometimes critical elections can be decided by just a handful of votes, especially in small town communities. Imagine the impact if all the voters who feel helpless came together and engaged.
Talking About Tough Issues
In this critical election year, we face important choices that will impact Oregon for years to come. Some of the choices that we are asked to make require us to respond to issues that can be misunderstood and manipulated in ways that do not support real democratic values.
A just democracy is defined by the World Book Encyclopedia as: the inclusion of all; respect for majority rule and minority rights; a well-informed and educated public; and a reasonable standard of living.
Vote Pro-democracy November 4th – We have a lot to win…or lose.
Oregon Ballot Measures
|Yes on Measure 86 (R)Creates access to higher education for students in need by creating the Student Opportunity Fund and authorizes the state to issues bonds for the fund without raising taxes. Oregon has seen some of the highest tuition hikes in the nation and this is one step in addressing the student debt crisis.|
|Yes on Measure 87 (R)Allows judges to serve in the National Guard and state colleges and allows school employees to serve in the Legislature. Determined to be straight forward and without unintended consequences.|
|Yes on Measure 88Allows access to a four-year limited purpose, limited duration driver card for those who can provide proof of living in the state for at least one year and can pass drivers’ tests. Advances safety and justice for all by allowing everyone to drive safely to work, school and the doctor, regardless of documentation status.|
|You Decide on Measure 89Amends the Oregon Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from discriminating based on sex. Women are a group that experiences discrimination and we support all efforts to protect all communities that face discrimination. This measure, though, is redundant to existing protection in the Oregon Constitution (Article 1, Section 20). Symbolic repetition is a distraction to systematic action. Opponents worry this measure could put others who experience discrimination at risk – including people of color and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks – because it suggests that current constitutional protections against discrimination are inadequate. Advocates suggest that this could help with challenging gender discrimination such as wage gaps and hiring practices. You decide, is this repetition worth the risk?|
|No on Measure 90Creates a top-two primary system. Allows all voters to vote on all primary candidates, regardless of party affiliation. Only the two candidates with the most votes would proceed to the general election. We firmly believe in the need to stop money from dominating politics, but we are concerned that this measure falls short. This measure may also have negative consequences, including increasing the overall cost to run for office, favoring more privileged candidates with more access to money. Is one primary for all voters more democratic? Will 3rd parties be helped by access to May primaries or hurt by being excluded from the November ballot unless they win “top two” in the primary? Will adding endorsements by multiple parties to the primaries hold major parties more accountable? These are important questions that concern us.|
|Yes on Measure 91Legalizes use and tightly regulated sale of marijuana for adults 21 and over, freeing up law enforcement for more pressing priorities. Regulates and taxes the sale through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission; tax revenues would benefit schools, state and local police and alcohol and drug treatment and prevention programs. People of color are disproportionately more likely to be arrested for and incarcerated longer for marijuana possession than white people, also making this measure a step toward reducing unjust impacts of the prison system on people of color.|
|Yes on Measure 92Gives consumers more information by requiring food manufacturers to label food containing genetically modified ingredients. Demonstrates support of small farmers to maintain control over their crops and livelihoods, and is a step towards taking back power from corporatized agriculture.|
|(R) indicates that these measures are referrals from the State Legislature. All others are citizen initiatives. ROP recommendations were decided by the Board of Directors with input from the overall membership. Our Board is comprised of small town Oregon leadership from eight counties: Crook, Deschutes, Douglas, Klamath, Marion, Polk, Yamhill and Union. ROP members live in all 36 counties.|
Thinking About Our Rights
Measure 88 would create a four-year limited purpose, limited duration driver card for Oregon residents provided that they, 1) pass the driver’s written test, 2) pass the behind-the-wheel test, 3) provide proof of residence in Oregon for more than one year, and 4) provide a passport, consular identity card or other document proving their identity.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because in 2013 the Oregon legislature and the governor already agreed to make drivers cards available to everybody who qualifies. Now the bill they passed has been referred to the ballot, where a majority of votes must be YES to make the driver card a reality.
There are a lot of distractions flying around about what this measure is about, but don’t be fooled! This is about all of our neighbors – including many immigrant families who would be impacted by the measure – having equal access to get safely to the places we need to go. And in rural and small-town Oregon where public transportation is rare, driving is often the only way to get around.
Vote Our Values, Not Our Fears
Here’s a fact for people who eat food: according to the US Department of Labor, about half the people growing and harvesting our food crops are “not authorized to work” – they are undocumented workers. It has been this way for decades. What this means is that the riled up folks who would vote to take away driver cards for undocumented immigrants in Oregon start their days by sitting down to a breakfast provided to them by… undocumented immigrants.
So what is this really about? Do opponents of the driver card really want to prevent the critical workforce behind Oregon’s $1 billion per year agricultural industry from getting to work?
The few at the top hope that by turning workers against each other, they might be able to keep workers from thinking about the real solutions to the problem of making a living, such as better wages, the right to organize, fair taxation on the rich and corporations, and closing the huge wealth gap in our country.
In other words, the folks opposing the driver card are thinking very little about a common sense way for people to get to work and a lot about making all work pay as little as possible.
During this election season, let’s all stay focused on our basic values of human dignity and respect for ALL members of our communities. Vote YES on Measure 88, YES for Safe Roads. All people should be able to get to work.
A Peek Behind the Curtain
Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) is the primary organization responsible for the driver card referendum. Since its founding in 2000, OFIR has pushed policies designed to create a hostile environment for immigrants and drive them out of the state. OFIR’s efforts are supported by and follow the lead of national anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
OFIR’s efforts to overturn the driver cards through Measure 88 have been funded primarily by Loren Parks, a wealthy business owner who provided an infusion of $100,000 (70% of OFIR’s total budget!) in the eleventh hour, getting paid canvassers on the streets to collect enough signatures. This is not Loren Parks’ first rodeo! He has worked with buddies Bill Sizemore and Lon Mabon for over a decade, bankrolling political campaigns designed to make Oregon a haven for the rich and unlivable for communities that are already vulnerable, including creating new mandatory minimum sentences and cutting taxes for the wealthy.
Why is Loren Parks the largest political donor in Oregon history, even though he lives in Nevada? Oregon is often seen by big-money political movers as a testing ground, meaning that what can pass in Oregon can pass in other places around the country. This means that the way we vote here in Oregon has echoes around the country… which just goes to show that your vote as an Oregonian means a lot!
How to Choose a Candidate
It is hard to choose a political candidate. How do we know if a politician reflects our values and if they will work for our best interests?
Some people go by “brand name” – political party. Some folks try to figure out where a candidate is at by watching the TV ads, listening to radio spots, reading campaign junk mail (good luck if that’s your method!). Then there’s the trusty coin toss.
The most reliable way to choose a candidate is also the best way to keep that person accountable to you when in office: decide what issues matter most to you, make a list, then do what you can to find out where that candidate stands on your concerns.
All politicians say they support economic development that benefits working people. Is your candidate supportive of programs that benefit small businesses and living wage jobs, or policies that pad the pockets of large corporations?
What does your candidate mean when they say they support working families? Outside of Portland, 53% of private-sector workers across Oregon lack a single paid sick day. That’s true for nearly 80% of low-wage workers. Would your candidate support a proposal that affords workers across Oregon the right to earn paid sick time through their job? What about a raise to the minimum wage in Oregon?
Politicians often say they can be trusted to ”make the tough choices.” Often, elected officials must make difficult choices when budgets are tight. When there is a budget crunch, does your candidate immediately propose cuts to services for the most vulnerable in our communities, such as health care for children or the elderly? Or does the candidate put everything on the table, including tax breaks for powerful corporations?
We believe in democracy: the majority rules, but minority rights are protected. In these uncertain times, some politicians play on people’s fears of economic insecurity by scapegoating minorities. Immigration reform and the rights of child refugees crossing the border are being debated nationally and in every community. Does you candidate stand up for the rights of all?
One good thing about this election season is that candidates are reaching out to voters. Use the web sites and phone numbers from the campaign ads, contact the candidates or their staff and ask hard questions. Attend candidate forums and events. Get together with friends and neighbors, compare notes, and share information. Remember, information is power. The more you learn, the more you can make the system work for you!
The Rural Organizing Project (ROP) will help you to access election-year information. Call the ROP at 503-543-8417 or go to www.rop.org
Co$t of War: Let’s Talk Money
Let’s talk money. It’s a subject that interests most people, but when the numbers get so big, it’s hard to make sense of things. Since 9/11, the USA has spent over $4 trillion for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (http://costsofwar.org/article/economic-cost-summary). What the heck does this mean?
A trillion is one million times one million, or one thousand times one billion. If you spent a million dollars a day, every day, seven days a week, every week of the year, from the day Jesus was born until today, you would not have spent a trillion dollars.
Every time the Bush or Obama administrations requested money for these wars, Congress approved it – without delay. Virtually all this money was borrowed money, with estimated interest costs of over $300 billion.
Other Federal programs have not been so lucky. The Republican majority in the US House of Representatives refused to approve funding for the Department of Agriculture for an entire year, until they forced through $9 billion in cuts to the food stamp and emergency heating assistance program. Here’s what Rep. Greg Walden (Republican in Oregon’s 2nd District), who voted for the cuts, had to say about cutting food and heating help for the needy:
“Of all the threats that face our nation, few loom larger than the ever-growing federal debt and the impact it has on jobs and our economy,” Walden said in a statement. “That’s why I’ve backed efforts to cut federal spending and get the federal budget in balance so we can begin paying down the nation’s debt.” – The Register Guard, April 14, 2014
So, Congress will borrow $4 trillion for wars, costing $300 billion in interest without a peep, but will cut $9 billion in help for needy Americans because “of all the threats that face our nation, few loom larger than the ever-growing federal debt and the impact it has on jobs and our economy”? Right.
Almost half the war spending since 9/11 went for the fighting in Iraq. In June, the Iraqi army collapsed, which the US had spent over $20 billion to fund, abandoning millions of dollars in US war equipment to ISIS, which has overrun much of the country. It’s time to hold our elected officials accountable for this.
As a voter, here is what you can do:
Educate yourself about the cost of war:
Contact your US Representative or US Senator and tell hem how you feel about the cost of war:
Organize. Join people who are working to put the needs of people above the needs of war spending. To find a grassroots group near you, contact:
Still not registered to vote?
Did you move? Not sure if you are registered? You have until October 14th to register!
To register to vote or to update your current registration:
Complete the voter registration form online at www.oregonvotes.org or a paper form that can be found at the county election office, post offices, the DMV, or most public buildings.
You may register to vote in Oregon if:
- You are a resident of Oregon.
- You are a United States citizen.
- You will be 18 years old by Election Day, Nov. 4th, 2014.
If you have a felony conviction, you can vote in Oregon as soon as you are released from prison, even if you are still on parole or probation.
Who represents you?
- Two US Senators represent Oregon in Washington D.C.
- One US Congressperson represents your region in Oregon in Washington D.C.
- Five US Congresspeople represent Oregon in Washington D.C.
- In Salem, you have one State Senator and one State Representative based on where you live.
- You have numerous other local elected officials that represent you in city, county, and state governments.
What is ROP?
The Rural Organizing Project is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. ROP works to advance democracy and human dignity in all 36 of Oregon’s counties. Learn more about ROP at www.rop.org.
Stay up to date with ROP! Email us your contact information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 503-543-8417.
Do you want STAND Voter Guides to distribute in your community? Give ROP a call at 503-543-8417!