alternative press serving the lower columbia pacific region

Voter Beware – The 2012 HIPFiSHmonthly Election Guide

LNG. Walmart. J.P. Moss and Astoria Parks & Recreation. Casinos. Charter schools. Taxes. The kicker. The economy. The new high school sports stadium. Sprawl. Jobs. And sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Some of the local issues that you’ll be thinking of when you attempt to fill in your ballot for the upcoming November elections. (Well, rock ‘n’ roll isn’t specifically on the ballot…)

Welcome to the 2012 HIPFiSHmonthly Election Guide, your handy, free source of information on some of the candidates and initiatives on the ballots of voters on the northern Oregon and southern Washington coast.

It’s a leap year and a year divisible by four, which means that there are plenty of initiatives, ballot measures and referenda requiring your approval or not, in addition to many local council races, and of course the usual state and federal stuff – you know, like the president, your congressman (or woman), the governor (in WA), and those judges you know nothing about.

Ballots in Clatsop and Tillamook counties in Oregon, and in Pacific County in Washington, have contended elections for most of the races this cycle, which is good news. And many of the ballot measures are certainly contentious.

Referendum 74
Let’s start with SEX (now that you’re paying attention…). If you reside in the great state of Washington, you get to decide whether a law passed by the state legislature earlier this year concerning same-sex marriage will stick.

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage passed the Washington State Legislature and was signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire earlier this year, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force a voter referendum (Referendum 74) on the legislation. The bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships would be converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement. The law becomes effective only if it is upheld by the upcoming vote. (from Wikipedia)

In Washington, several groups are promoting a yes vote on Ref. 74 – Equal Rights Washington (http://www.equalrightswashington.org/), Approve Referendum 74 (https://www.facebook.com/ApproveRef74), Washington United for Marriage (http://www.waunited.org) and local chapters of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, http://www.pflag.org). In Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon has a marriage equality program (http://www.basicrights.org/programs/marriage-equality/) that is actively working to pass Ref. 74. The National Organization for Marriage (www.nationformarriage.org/) and the Archbishop of Washington are against the measure. It is leading comfortably in the polls. HIPFiSH endorses the referendum wholeheartedly!

Michael Pierce of Astoria Hemp Works sits behind the counter at his store on Marine Drive in Astoria. Photo by Bob Goldberg

Initiative 502 and Measure 80
On to drugs. There are ballot initiatives in both Oregon and Washington concerning marijuana. To give a better perspective on these measures, we talked with the proprietor of Astoria Hemp Works, Michael Pierce (no relation to Jim Pierce, running for Clatsop County Sheriff). Astoria Hemp Works makes and sells eco-fabric clothing, but also doubles as an art gallery, and is located at 1062 Marine Drive in Astoria. In the store, you’ll find clothing and accessories made from hemp, eucalyptus, bamboo, soy, organic cotton, wool and silk. Business is good, and they’re thinking about expansion.

Pierce has mixed emotions about the Oregon ballot measure, Measure 80, or the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), which would regulate the growing and selling of marijuana, similar to hard liquor. “There’s only one sentence in there about hemp,” he told me. Not only that, but Pierce is not sure that a control board is the answer. “It’s burdensome on the state. It would cost $20 million for regulation,” he added. “It’s too vague; it should be like tobacco.”

The sale of tobacco is regulated so that minors can’t buy it legally from any store in Oregon. It’s also taxed heavily, and the proceeds are earmarked at least partially to prevent smoking, especially minors. Pierce thinks this model would work well for marijuana.

The corresponding measure in Washington, Initiative 502, doesn’t deal with industrial hemp at all. In other respects, it’s similar to Measure 80 in Oregon. Here’s the gist from the initiative’s sponsor (New Approach Washington, http://www.newapproachwa.org/): “This law legalizes the possession of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. The only marijuana that would be legal to sell in this state would be grown by specially-licensed Washington farmers and sold in standalone, marijuana-only stores operated by private Washington businesses licensed and regulated by the state. There would be a 25% sales tax, with 40% of the new revenues going to the state general fund and local budgets, and the remainder dedicated to substance-abuse prevention, research, education and health care. Advertising would be restricted. A new marijuana DUI standard that operates like the alcohol DUI standard would be established.”

Pierce told me that the Oregon initiative, trailing in the polls, has had its money pulled out to work on the Washington initiative and another similar measure in Colorado. In any case, for all such initiatives dealing with cannabis products, the federal government holds sway. Until cannabis is removed from Schedule 1 drug status, these state initiatives will only be advisory. So when I asked Pierce what his ideal marijuana/cannabis/hemp initiative would be, he said, “Appeal to Congress and the President to remove restrictions on cannabis from Schedule 1.” The Yes on 80 campaign’s website is at http://www.octa.org/. Notable endorsements are former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and both of Oregon’s Senators. And you can add HIPFiSH to that list! Look for the No on I-502 campaign at http://www.nooni502.org/. For more information about Oregon’s initiative, go to http://oregonmeasure80.org/. There’s lots of information about cannabis initiatives in several states at http://norml.org/about/smoke-the-vote.

So, will Pierce vote for Initiative 80? “On balance, yes,” he said. “It’s better than what we have now.”

Initiative 1240
Sex, drugs, and now… schools. The Washington Public Charter Schools Initiative would allow up to 40 public charter schools in the state over a five-year period. There would be an evaluation at the end of the five-year period to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed.

Washington is one of only nine states where public charter schools are not currently allowed (as most HIPFiSH readers know, a charter school was recently rejected by the Astoria School District, but many exist in Oregon). And Washington voters have turned down charter schools in previous ballot measures in 1996, 2000, and 2004.

The bankroll for this campaign is coming from some heavy hitters in the tech business and beyond: Bill Gates – $1M; Alice Walton – Walmart heiress – $600k; the Bezos family – Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon – $1.5M; Nick Hanauer – described as a “venture capitalist” living in Seattle- $450k; Paul Allen – $100k; Katherine Binder – EMFCO Holdings Chairwoman – $200k; and the McCaws- (McCaw Cellular) – $100k. Wow, I wish I had that kind of money to give to educate the kids of my state! It is supported by the League of Education Voters (http://www.educationvoters.org/), Stand for Children (http://stand.org/washington), Washington State Roundtable, Seattle Chamber of Commerce and Association of Washington Business. And rejected by everyone else.

For more on this initiative, see the People for Public Schools website at http://peopleforourpublicschools.org/, and the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools site at http://yeson1240.com/.

Warrenton City Commission
Time to move back to Oregon, and hone in on the unlikely political battlefield of Warrenton. The city commission there has been pretty much a given for years, but suddenly, when the LNG issue is heating up again, and there are rumors of Walmart coming to town, all three positions available in this election are up for grabs, and there’s only one incumbent in the mix!

HIPFiSH asked the candidates to weigh in on LNG and big-box development, probably the two biggest issues regionally at this time. Here’s what they said.

Position 1
Mark Kujala (incumbent) vs. Merianne Myers

Kujala is the native son, and has taken over the family seafood business. He’s been on the commission since 2006, and has been involved in the LNG battle and the onset of the big box takeover of Warrenton. Myers is a relative newcomer, but has made her mark in the community, owning a restaurant in Gearhart and serving on the boards of several local non-profits. And she is one damned good cook! It would be fair to say that Kujala is the more conservative and Myers the more progressive of this pair.

Kujala on LNG
I have voted twice on the Calpine/Oregon LNG project during my term on the Warrenton City Commission.  I voted “no” on the zone change to I-2 water-dependent industrial.  In that instance, I believed that the public did not have ample opportunity to comment during the public hearing, and I was interested to hear from Warrenton citizens.  I also voted “no” on the code interpretation that permitted an LNG terminal as an “outright” use in an I-2 zone. I believed that this type of facility was more consistent with a “conditional” use and certainly not appropriate for other I-2 zones in the City of Warrenton.

Myers on LNG
The current version of Oregon LNG’s proposal is to build an export rather than an import facility.  It’s a whole new ballgame and time for a fresh look at the proposal. In order to review the siting of such a facility in Warrenton, I would want answers:
•    How many construction jobs would be created based on actual projects elsewhere?  How many of our local workers would get work, what kind of work and for how long?
•    Are there companies in our area that are certified to construct such a project in a location that has been identified as high risk for earthquake and/or tsunami?  Would that piece be contracted out of state?
•    How many jobs would be provided to local workers beyond the construction phase?  Which jobs require skill sets we don’t possess locally and how many of the remaining jobs are family-wage jobs with benefits?
•    What actual income would our community realize from this facility and what tax, energy and/or zoning concessions would we have to make to get it?
•    What are the potential hazards to our collective health?  Human lives, our waterways and wildlife are all in the impact zone if something goes wrong.  Sadly, things have gone wrong occasionally elsewhere. Are our local public safety folks confident that we are positioned to deal with disaster should it occur?  Are there safety considerations beyond the explosion scenario (i.e. hot water and pollution discharge into the river)?
•    What is the realistic negative impact on our already beleaguered fisheries and fishermen based on what has happened elsewhere?
•    Do we have the ability to supply huge increases in water and power to run a facility of this magnitude without raising our rates or affecting our local supply?

Kujala on big-box development
I have advocated for updates to design standards in Warrenton, and I am happy that we are working with the Warrenton Planning Commission to adopt new standards. I believe in a transparent and open public process. I recently argued against the appointment of a Hearings Officer to review the latest retail store application. If an application is not consistent with the Warrenton Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws, and doesn’t meet construction design standards, I will not support it.

Myers on big-box development
The development of Highway 101 in Warrenton has brought jobs and low cost goods, but it is not without consequences. My questions in considering a new development would be:
•    How many jobs will be created for local workers? Are they full time, family wage jobs with benefits?
•    Is the demise of local businesses which inevitably accompanies big box presence a fair trade for cheaper prices?  What is the jobs trade-off?
•    Will the proposed store require zoning exemptions to fill or otherwise impact wetlands and streams?  How will those exemptions impact the water table, drainage systems, etc. that affect the quality of life in our communities?
•    How will the development impact traffic?

Kujala also mentioned accountability and accessibility within city government, support for direct election for Mayor, public safety and infrastructure improvements, economic development and partnerships with non-profit groups, community organizations, and schools (full statement available on the HIPFiSH website).

Unlike the federal elections, it is refreshing, but somewhat unenlightening, that the challenger doesn’t rip apart the incumbent’s record. But Myers did add, “There are three obligatory considerations when weighing important decisions – people, planet, profit.  Finding the sweet spot where those three intersect is the goal. Leave one of them out and you have a great big mess that will ultimately have to be cleaned up and will probably cost a boatload of money to do so. When pressured to make a decision before the research has been done, I opt to quote my mom who replied to impatient kids, ‘If you need an answer now, it’s no.’”

Position 2
Roble Anderson vs. Henry Balensifer III

The veteran (Anderson) vs. the young upstart (Balensifer). Anderson is a retired Air Force veteran who has worked in various local industries. Balensifer manages the Wheelhouse Coffee Co. in the Pilot House building on the Astoria waterfront. He also is known for his entrepreneurial exploits at Warrenton High School, starting a fisheries business there, and more infamously, for his George Fox University prank of hanging a lifesize cutout of then-Sen. Barack Obama, who was campaigning for president, by the neck from a tree. Balensifer is currenly on the Warrenton Planning Commission. His grandmother Barbara Balensifer was a former mayor of Warrenton. In this race, Balensifer is the more conservative candidate, with Anderson more progressive.

Anderson on LNG
I care deeply about the health, welfare and safety of the people who live here. I feel that all decisions concerning LNG need to be closely examined with respect to how it will affect the health, welfare and safety of the people who live, work, shop and play in this community. I do not feel any so called  “Acceptable Loss” is acceptable.

I well understand people’s concerns for growth and new jobs however, I remain to be persuaded that LNG is worth the risk to our health, fishing fleet, roads, existing jobs, infrastructure, public safety, fish and wildlife.  I also have grave concerns about the possible release of carcinogenic toxins into the environment from LNG processing.  The issues of hundreds of trucks bringing raw building materials and dealing with a boomtown of construction workers has not yet been addressed at all.  Imagine 5 years of this heavy construction!   I have not yet heard a compelling case for the need or suitability of Liquefied Natural Gas facilities here.  As a veteran I feel that the wholesale export of our Natural Gas is a security threat to the entire United States. We need to be moving toward energy independence not dependence.

My stance on the future of Warrenton is that we will have growth but it must be compatible with the uniqueness of this town while maintaining a safe, pleasant and healthy environment for the people who live here.  I believe growth must feature a useful benefit for the residents of this area and not just that of outside special interests.  As a City Commissioner I will critically and objectively review any application for LNG commensurate with the massive impacts it could have on this community.

Balensifer on LNG
Because I am on the Planning Commission I cannot comment on developments that I may be deciding on in the future.  What I can say is that Warrenton has changed quite a bit in the past decade and I think we need to look at our zoning and comprehensive plan to check in and evaluate how we want to continue shaping/growing Warrenton.  Specifically this would require a lot of citizen input to ensure it is what the entire city wants.

Anderson on big-box development
I recently retired giving me the opportunity to dedicate a large amount of time toward making Warrenton a safe and environmentally friendly place to live.  We now have the big anchor stores in place on Ensign Avenue and Highway 101.  I envision Warrenton will continue as the major shopping center of the entire North Coast region. New growth must pay for itself and follow established guidelines for building design, streets, sidewalks, and land use laws.  The residents of Warrenton should not be forced to pay for incoming business development.  An area within the North Coast Business Park should be considered for future light industrial development that will be attracted by the unique mix of small town and separate big box shopping. This growth will provide the increased jobs and tax base necessary for a thriving community while maintaining Warrenton’s unique downtown area and small town feel.  The old downtown of Warrenton needs to be revitalized by using available Urban Renewal funds to refresh the public infrastructure, develop vacant lots, and help clean up derelict buildings. I see old downtown becoming a friendly place for people to stroll and visit.  We can envision small specialty stores, services, art studios and coffee shops which would be showcased by an attractive and fully accessible street landscape.  Downtown Warrenton will become the community hub with access to our beautiful rivers, parks and trails.

Balensifer on big-box development
Warrenton has changed a lot since the 2008 passage of the Comprehensive Plan. I believe we need to review and revise the Plan and our zoning in an effort to ensure the needs of our citizens are addressed.

There was an attempt to get Balensifer to elaborate on his views regarding LNG and big box development, but he did not respond.

Position 3
Tom Dyer vs. Ken Yuill

Yuill on LNG
First, I would like to say that I am against exporting our natural resources.  Every time I see a load of logs going to the Port for export, yes jobs are being created, but how many more jobs could we have if those logs went to a mill for processing and then the finished product exported.   The debate over the LNG is heating back up. I would like to see more service lines installed to areas in our own county, if not throughout our entire country, that does not have the availability of natural gas. More service lines mean more jobs; however, this comes down to simple economics, cost versus revenue. The final say on if and where there is an export facility will come from FERC.  What we need to do is make sure that if this plant is built in our city, the City Commission places a public safety tax on every cubic foot of natural gas that goes into that plant for export.   Whoever is the consumer of this product needs to pay for the added demand on our Police and Fire Departments, not the taxpayer.

Yuill on big-box development
With the consideration of the big box stores there are advantages and disadvantages. Our City Commissioners set in place a very large Urban Renewal District that included the majority of the big box store area.  As more stores come, there will be more tax revenue set aside for improvements to other areas of the district. This year $1.3 million has been allocated to the Warrenton Marina along with money set aside for the improvements to the storm water pump system.  Before this, there just was not enough revenue to make these types of improvements.  One of the problems the city faces with the big box stores is the added traffic and the greater burden to our Police and Fire Departments. I feel that each store that is 100,000 square feet or larger needs to be examined on how they can offset this type of burden to the taxpayer.

Dyer did not respond to the questions. In this race, Dyer is more conservative than Yuill.

If all of the more progressive candidates win their races, it would change the direction of the Warrenton City Commission dramatically. Much like the county commission changes last year, many important decisions coming up soon in Warrenton could set the tone for the region in the years to come. We’ll see what happens. None of the candidates appears to have a web page, so to contact them, see the Clatsop County elections page at http://www.co.clatsop.or.us/page/298?deptid=2.

Measures 82 and 83
This pair of measures would first authorize private casinos in Oregon in general, and then specifically authorize a casino, in particular, to be built in Wood Village, near Troutdale, east of Portland. Presently, only Native American tribes can operate casinos in Oregon.

The organization Still Bad for Oregon (http://stillbadfororegon.org/) opposes both measures, as do (not surprisingly) the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (http://www.grandronde.org/). For a positive take on the measures, visit the website of the developers of The Grange casino complex, rejected once already by Oregon voters (Measure 75 two years ago), at http://www.thegrangeoregon.com/. According to Wikipedia, there are 20 states (and two US Territories) that allow commercial casinos in some form, including Washington. The approximately 450 commercial casinos in total produced a gross gaming revenue of $34.11 billion in 2006.

Measures 84 and 85
How much should we pay and how should we allocate our taxes in Oregon? Measure 84 would eliminate the current inheritance taxes for extremely rich folks, while Measure 85 would send any corporate kicker rebates to K-12 schools.

The Yes on 84 campaign can be found at http://endoregondeathtax.com/, while the opposition can be found at Defend Oregon’s website (http://www.defendoregon.org/no-on-measure-84/), where you can also find arguments in favor of Measure 85 (http://www.defendoregon.org/yes-on-measure-85/). The organization Our Oregon (http://ouroregon.org/) also favors Measure 85.

Tillamook County Commission
Position #1 on the Tillamook county commission is being contested by Lisa Phipps and Bill Baertlein. This is the second try for Phipps, who lost a close race in 2008, while she was still mayor of Rockaway Beach. A win for Phipps would put a much more progressive stamp on the commission, which, unlike in Clatsop County, is elected at large for its three positions. Phipps and Baertlein were the top two vote-getters in the May primary. For more information on Phipps’ campaign, see http://electlisaphipps.com/. Baertlein’s website is at http://www.baertlein.com/, with a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ElectBaertlein.

Astoria City Council
Two positions are open for the Astoria City Council this election cycle. In Ward 2, incumbent Peter Roscoe has a challenger in Drew Herzig. Roscoe has been on the council since 2005, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. To find out more about his campaign and supporters, check out his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PeterRoscoeForCityCouncil. Roscoe is the owner and operator of Fulio’s Restaurant in Astoria, and a long-time resident of the city.

Herzig is the relative newcomer, arriving on the scene a couple of years ago. He’s been involved in many non-profits and charities, educational programs and arts organizations. Of the two, Herzig is definitely the more progressive. Contact him at (503) 325-1895 or
drewherzig@yahoo.com for more information.

In Ward 4, Russ Warr, the incumbent, had no challengers by the cutoff date to be included on the ballot. Four years ago, Warr squared off against me in a race that was decided by 3 votes. I’m deciding whether to launch a write-in campaign for the Ward 4 position. You may see those green Vote Bob signs from last go-round, and a new website and Facebook page in the coming days. Believing strongly that no election should be left uncontested, and this one being the only one I am eligible for, I may just go for it. What do you think? Use the comment box below this post to let me know what you think.

Wrapping Up
There are many other races and local ballot measures that were not mentioned here, and you should do your best to get all the information you can before voting. County election offices in Clatsop (http://www.co.clatsop.or.us/page/298?deptid=2), Tillamook (http://www.co.tillamook.or.us/gov/Clerk/Elections%202012/2012ElectionsInfo.htm) and Pacific (https://wei.sos.wa.gov/county/pacific/en/elections/Pages/default.aspx) counties are your best first places to look. For each race or measure, do as much research as you can, using this guide and any other credible sources you can. And when all else fails, follow the money. There’s even a website for that (http://www.followthemoney.org/)! The 2012 election, like all major elections, is a really important one for the country, and for us here in the Columbia-Pacific region. Voter beware, but do vote!

Comments are closed.