This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 3, 2002 9:34 PM. The previous post in this blog was The Saturday papers. The next post in this blog is Your bar dues at work. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, November 3, 2002

Election Day confessions

I voted against the libraries, the parks, and the kids.

Here in Oregon, where all voting is by mail (a curious setup that merits a long post of its own sometime), I just signed and sealed up my ballot, which I will deliver tomorrow. Among the votes that I regretted to cast were those against three local ballot measures that would have increased property taxes by more than $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value for the county library, restoration of park maintenance, and various vaguely described children's programs.

It's not that I'm against these programs, because I'm not. What angers me is that we are put on the spot to vote to increase taxes for these programs, when our city and county leaders have no qualms about shelling out tons of tax dollars for far less worthy and popular programs without ever consulting the voters, or in outright defiance of what the voters have already told them.

I drive around Portland and see all sorts of projects that are making developers rich while bankrupting municipal coffers. Regular readers of this weblog are no doubt tired of hearing my list: Convention Center expansion, more light rail, Pearl District trolleys, trams to Pill Hill, the ice skating rink, and now a $1 million "exploration" of whether the city should dive into the energy business. Voters have never OK'd these projects -- in fact, they have rejected a couple of them. And yet before we can have parks, libraries, and programs to combat child abuse, we have to vote to jack up our taxes. It's ridiculous.

I've got my property tax statement on my desk right now -- the annual check's due the 15th of the month. The tax is 4.87 percent higher than it was a year ago. That's enough inflation for me. I'm just not up for volunteering to increase it by 13.38 percent for next year, over and above the increases that are already allowed by law. If these measures pass, next year the jump will probably be in the neighborhood of 18 or 19 percent.

If some or all of these measures go down, the politicians will make folks like me out to be the villains. We're too selfish and cheap, they'll imply, to make an investment in our future.

To them I reply: Stop wasting the money we already pay you on toys that will get you your campaign money from the West Hills and your quotations in The New York Times. Start figuring out how to prioritize so that parks, libraries and kids can get a fair shake under the existing budget. Some of the electorate is smart enough to figure out when we're being used, and we resent it.

My other picks:

U.S. Senate: Gordon Smith. A rare vote for a Republican candidate. His Democratic challenger, Bill Bradbury, ran a campaign that did not speak to me at all. Its only message seemed to be, "Gordon Smith votes his conscience instead of the will of the voters of Oregon." Not only was that a weak note to make one's central theme, but on a lot of issues it just isn't true. If Bradbury had mentioned something about the scandalous 2001 tax cuts that are bringing deficits back with a vengeance and hindering economic recovery, I might have listened. But he didn't.

Oregon Governor: Ted Kulongoski. With a large clothespin tightly over the nasal passages. If the Republicans had had the sense to run Jack Roberts, I would have voted the other way.

U.S. Congress: Earl Blumenauer. A good guy, he's done a good job.

Portland City Council: Randy Leonard. We already have one Erik Sten; we don't need a second. It's time to hear from someone who lives in (gasp) Southeast Portland, and acts like it. Plus, Leonard has earned this.

Bonds to earthquake-proof public buildings: Yes, of course. I'm not that cheap.

Reduce age for serving in the Legislature to 18: No, thanks. I'd increase it to 35.

"None of the above" for judge: The most mean-spirited ballot measure in many years, and there has been lots of competition. No, no, a thousand times no.

State appellate judges elected by district: Heck, no! The existing electoral process already exposes the public to too many weird candidates, and makes the bench too political. To narrow the field for worthy judicial talent and localize the politics even further makes no sense whatsoever. I get a kick out of the ads that claim that giving eastern and southern Oregon guaranteed seats on the appeals courts will somehow bring about ethnic and gender diversity on the courts. Right.

Universal health care: Yoohoo! Hello! We're all broke! We can't afford to even be talking about this.

Increase the minimum wage: If you can't afford to pay your help $6.90 an hour, you don't deserve any help.

Prohibit paying ballot measure canvassers by the signature: Yes, yes, yes. The Oregon initiative system has become a perverse joke (see some of the above rants for examples). If you want my signature, you should be out there pestering me in front of the grocery store on your own time. If we must allow you to be paid, we should be able to say how.

Require labelling of genetically engineered foods: I confess to voting for this one, despite the apparent impracticality of it all. I just remember when the food industry spokepersons claimed that the sky would fall when they had to start listing the fat content of their foods on the label. "No other country does this, it's complex, it will create a bureaucracy, and blah blah blah." Since they were faking then, I'm just going to assume that they're faking now. If it's so safe, why are they so afraid to tell us what they're doing before we put the food in our mouths?

OK, that's it. More than you wanted to know, and doubtlessly likely to cost me some plum political job some day.

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