Read on for our featured articles including:
- What Kind of Future Do You Want? Confronting fear, reclaiming hope this election season
- Welcome to Our 2016 Voting Guide
- Let’s Reclaim Democracy
- Oregon Ballot Measures: Do these measures uphold democracy and rebuild communities?
- A Rural Oregon that Works for All People
- Yes on 97: We All Deserve a Better Oregon
What Kind of Future Do You Want?
This election cycle has featured more than its share of “F” words: with two of the most common, regardless of who you plan to vote for, being fear and frustration. Rural Oregonians are finding ourselves feeling rightly frustrated in a political and economic climate where basic resources remain out of reach for so many of us. We don’t see or feel any of the economic “growth”. And more and more of the living-wage jobs and local businesses that have sustained our communities for generations keep disappearing. People in rural Oregon are ignored or manipulated by a political and corporate establishment serving an agenda that has little to do with our families and our lives, leaving us with crumbling roads, unanswered 911 calls, and funding for critical public services all but gone.
It is no wonder that such frustrations have opened up a vacuum in which “us” vs “them” ideas, along with candidates hoping to further divide us, have gained traction. Clinging for dear life to a few crumbs of the American Dream, many rural voters are looking around for someone to blame for their desperation, and hear loud voices proclaiming that getting rid of “them” will solve the problem. Many have turned toward those who exploit our fears, who claim that they alone have all the answers and that we should follow their lead.
But angry candidates don’t understand that rural Oregonians are much stronger, braver, and more unified than they think. We are at home in rough terrain — be it rain-soaked forests, mountains, deserts, or rocky seashores — and do the necessary work to live here, even when it is physically, economically, and socially difficult. Because as tough as we are, we are also full of generosity when it comes to our neighbors. At the end of the day, what matters is what we share, the values that ground our commitment to living here: dignity, civility, democratic participation in community building, and respect for any and all people who may wish to make this rough terrain their home. Such values are the steady, steely core of rural Oregon.
This election, let’s avoid getting pulled into the divisive rhetoric that gets hurled at us by candidates, billion-dollar ad campaigns and the media. Instead, what if we started with the simple question: What kind of future do you want? Indeed, those who offer knee-jerk reactions that don’t really solve our communities’ problems insult us by assuming we don’t know what our communities really need.
In posing this question — What kind of future do you want? — we remind each other of values that we hold dear as well as the consequences of failing to hold to those values. Do you imagine a future for rural Oregon where our neighbors are singled out for their differences, put on lists, forced to leave, or worse? Where services and infrastructure, including police and emergency, are no longer public, but left to corporate special interests? Where our beloved lands and resources are auctioned off, fenced off, and shipped off?
Or do you envision a future that brings us meaningful and well-paid work, equitable access to needed services, fair and accountable law enforcement, and respect for both the terrain we depend on and each person who inhabits it? In our bones, rural Oregonians understand that our differences make us strong, our common hopes pull us together, and both help us build a future in which dignity, democracy, and true “liberty and justice for all” can be achieved.
In the service of this goal, we would like to share a set of principles and beliefs to guide us as we create a rural Oregon that works for all people. Since this statement (below) is a work-in-progress, crafted and re-crafted by rural Oregonians, we’d love to get your feedback.
Welcome to Our 2016 Voting Guide!
Welcome to a voter guide by small town Oregonians for small town Oregonians. This is a real people’s guide to real issues and important decisions that you face this year.
In rural areas across the state people are engaged in common undertakings revolving around care of their families, their homes and their communities. We as people have different politics or philosophies, but that’s not as evident as our universal concerns for happiness, health and freedom.
Talk to your neighbors! Have a friendly discussion about the ballot measures and local issues.
When we discuss our different views, let’s begin with trying to remember people who disagree with us are not our enemies, they’re our neighbors, teachers, coaches and fellow humans. Discussing our position with folks who disagree with us is the way to refine our thinking and may just help us to understand the issues a little more thoroughly. Be grateful when you can debate policy with someone. Be reasonable, rational and kind.
Real problems need real solutions. Let’s focus on solving our common needs, starting locally and moving out from there. This guide will help you participate in the election this fall in a way that is meaningful to you as a small town Oregonian who cares about the democracy our country was founded on. Use your vote. Strengthen the collective voice for justice in small town and rural Oregon. We will be heard!
Let’s Reclaim Democracy
In a true democracy, those who are impacted by a decision get to help make that decision. Rulings like “Citizens United” allow the country’s richest corporations and individuals to pour billions into elections, giving them an especially loud voice in the decision-making process. Laws are popping up across the country that make it harder for real people to vote, taking the ability to decide what’s best for their community away from them. It is time to reclaim democracy for the people.
To truly have government of, by and for the people we need to make it easier, not harder, for everyone to vote. Helping make sure that all potential voters can access the polls is one way to push back against big money controlling our elections and ultimately what our government decides to do on our behalf.
The presidential election is stealing the limelight this year, but a lot will be decided by those who win seats in Congress and in state legislatures. When filling out your ballot, it is not always easy to tell whether a candidate advances a vision of democracy or takes us further away from this basic ideal. Does a candidate promote a future for Oregon that sustains and includes us all? Does she or he support policies that will lead to better schools, or a more accountable use of public money? Is she or he truly committed to making our communities safe and accessible not just for the already comfortable, but for those who are struggling, or new to town? Attending campaign events, and asking these kinds of questions, is one way to find out if a candidate can answer “yes.”
Use your vote this year and then do more – support groups who are mobilizing voters. Get involved in Oregon voter drives or support states where voter suppression laws are the strongest. Contact Rural Organizing Project for more information on how you can help reclaim a democracy of, by and for the people.
If democracy is to work, it must continue to uphold some basic principles. Here are four principles of democracy according to the World Book Encyclopedia:
- Inclusion of all; equality for all
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
– US Declaration of Independence
- Majority rule and minority rights
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
–14th Amendment to the US Constitution
- Democracy requires well-educated and well-informed
people who participate in the democratic process
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
–1st Amendment, US Constitution.
- A reasonable standard of living – economic justice
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
–Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by UN General Assembly (US included) 1948.
Measure 94 YES
This measure amends the Oregon constitution, making it so that Oregon judges no longer have a mandatory retirement age of 75. Age discrimination should not be a part of deciding who is qualified to be a judge.
Measure 95 YOU DECIDE
Universities need ways to generate income, and investing in the stock market is one option that many schools use. Measure 95 would amend the Oregon constitution to allow public universities to own corporate stock. Public universities should be publicly funded, today and always. This measure ties public universities to Wall Street and big corporations, placing university funding at the mercy of the unpredictable stock market. Instead of trusting our money to Wall Street, we should be creating programs, like an Oregon State Bank, that keeps Oregon’s money in Oregon, invests in our communities and provides a stable funding source.
Measure 96 YES
Measure 96 would amend the Oregon constitution to set aside 1.5% of net lottery proceeds for veterans’ services. All veterans deserve to be fully cared for and more funds are needed to meet their needs, from healthcare to job training.
Measure 97 YES
Large and out-of-state corporations use shady tricks to dodge taxes, putting more of the burden of paying for programs and services on individual Oregon taxpayers. Measure 97 raises the minimum tax on corporations making more than $25 million per year by adding a tax of 2.5% on sales in excess of $25 million. If passed, Measure 97 would provide reliable and much needed funding for education, healthcare and services for our seniors, moving Oregon in the direction of a tax system where large corporations pay their fair share.
Measure 98 NO
Measure 98 would require allocating $800 per high school student for dropout prevention as well as career and college readiness. While we support career technical education programs, this measure provides no new funding source to the state to cover the costs of the programs associated with this measure. Mandating funding to these particular programs could take away from other education priorities or important services. The decision to allocate the funds to these programs should go through the same process as all other educational funding priorities, rather than carving out a certain amount of our state budget without taking other needs or priorities into consideration. We need to focus on bringing more money into our state budget so we can fund the best programs that build stronger schools so districts can retain and support their students.
Measure 99 YES
Measure 99 would set aside 4% of lottery proceeds to fund outdoor school for Oregon 5th and 6th graders. The funding will restore outdoor schools to lower income districts and provide a realistic funding stream that does not take from other programs.
Measure 100 YES
Measure 100 seeks to protect twelve of the world’s endangered species by making it illegal in Oregon to sell parts from these animals or products made from these animals. For example, it makes it illegal to sell new products made of elephant ivory. Includes logical exemptions that makes this measure reasonable and a positive step toward ending illegal hunting of the elephant, rhino, cheetah, tiger, sea turtle, lion, whale, shark, pangolin, jaguar, ray and leopard.
In a time when our future feels uncertain, it is with steadfast hope that we declare: “We want a rural Oregon that works for all people!”
1. We commit to conducting our community affairs with civility, decency, respect for all opinions, and humanity for all. We hold many opinions and we often disagree, sometimes passionately. This is valuable and necessary to be an informed voter and engaged community member.
2. Democracy only works when everyone is involved. We uphold the practice and tradition of democracy as a tool for the people. Therefore, we support: Majority rule. Minority rights. A free press and media, an informed public, and a decent standard of living that allows all to participate.
3. We oppose the politics of division that have been so damaging to our communities. No one should be discriminated against based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, and economic status.
4. We welcome in our communities immigrants who do the hard work of the rural economy.
5. We honor and support all the Treaty Rights of the Tribes of this land, the original inhabitants.
6. We welcome in our communities refugees from oppression and wars.
7. We view economic exploitation as discrimination. Everyone has the right to economic development, to affordable health care and to education.
8. The clean water, air, soils, forests, and the species that live on this land are the true foundation of well-being and must be preserved for all.
When you fill out your ballots this election season, ask yourselves: Who are we, as rural Oregonians? And who do we want to be going forward?
Yes on 97: We all deserve a better Oregon
We all want strong communities with opportunities for our families like jobs, healthcare and good education. We all are frustrated with our current tax system that overwhelmingly impacts working families while Oregon currently has the lowest corporate taxes in the country. Many of us find ourselves nervous about our futures: Will our kids be able to go to good schools and get a good education? Will there be more options beyond working multiple part-time and minimum wage jobs in rural Oregon?
One of the ways that candidates seek to divert our attention away from huge injustices and areas of growing unrest is to pull out tried and tested issues that play on people’s fears. It is a great way to get people out to the polls and to split what otherwise may be a majority coalition of diverse groups that could force politicians to do right by their constituents. Worried about the economy? Blame immigrants! (And pay no attention to the corporations making record profits!) But this kind of solution does nothing for our communities.
There is something on the ballot this year that will make a real difference in our communities; Ballot Measure 97 offers concrete means – and funding – for the things we care about: education for our kids, care for our seniors and more affordable healthcare.
Who will pay for this? It won’t be Oregon families that are overstretched already. It won’t be small businesses. It will be large corporations who make more than $25 million in sales in Oregon.
That’s why we support Measure 97. We all deserve a better Oregon.