Street Roots weighs in on local and statewide ballot measures relevant to our areas of news coverage. All conclusions were reached with consideration on how the laws will affect people experiencing poverty. Because Street Roots is a 501c3 nonprofit, we cannot endorse candidates for public office. (Read our Q&As with Portland and Multnomah County candidates.) In the case of measures not included, we are taking a neutral stance.
Amends Constitution; dedicates 1.5 percent of state lottery net proceeds to support services for Oregon veterans
This money will go toward reintegration, employment, education benefits and tuition, as well as housing, physical and mental health care and addiction treatment programs for veterans. It also will assist veterans and their dependents in accessing unused state and federal benefits to the tune of $4 billion, according to the Oregon State Legislature, which referred the measure to the ballot. This $9.3 million annual investment will ensure the 350,000 Oregonians who served their country will have every opportunity to recover from that experience and access education. It will go toward alleviating the abysmal unemployment rate among returning veterans and reduce the often tragic wait times for service people seeking health care.
Increases corporate minimum tax when sales exceed $25 million; funds education, health care, senior services
This is a flawed measure, no question. But it swings the pendulum in the right direction and gives the Legislature a foundation to build upon. It needs to be modified to alleviate potential pressures on lower income residents, particularly regarding the increase of utility costs and health care. But the push has to come from somewhere, and low-income Oregonians are also already bearing the brunt of Oregon’s underfunded public schools and limited access to health care.
The rhetoric against this measure contains claims that it’s nothing more than a sales tax, costing Oregonians jobs and money. Opponents cite reports that have been questioned for their methodology. Additionally, corporations are spending tens of millions of dollars to protect their interests, not yours, in opposition to this measure. And their threat of retaliation against consumers by passing the cost down doesn’t ring true in light of national and global market forces.
We’re not being idealistic about this. But Oregon, of all states, shouldn’t continue subsidizing corporate interests while assuming that working-class and low-income Oregonians will keep picking up the slack.
Even with its flaws, it’s the right first step.
FURTHER READING: A series of columns from Oregon economists about Measure 97
Requires state funding for dropout prevention, career and college readiness programs in Oregon high schools
Oregon’s rural communities are struggling to offer a K-12 education that not only keeps students in school until graduation, but also equips them with the skills needed for real jobs, from the tech industry to trade vocations. Our state’s high school dropout rate is around 30 percent. In rural high schools, shop and other technical classes have all but disappeared.
Measure 98 dedicates $147 million annually toward career and technical education, although it may be less if revenue forecasts are lowered. School districts would apply for grants with strict performance oversight to access funds. Our children need this.
Creates Outdoor School Education Fund, continuously funded through lottery, to provide outdoor school programs statewide
The Outdoor School provides vital experiences for Oregon youths and reinforces statewide values around our environment and natural resources. It shouldn’t be taken for granted, and the opportunity should be available to all students, rich and poor, regardless of their school district.
Prohibits purchase or sale of parts or products from certain wildlife species; exceptions; civil penalties
If there is any Oregonian who needs an endorsement to decide how to vote on this measure, they’re in the wrong state. Our coast has become a port for trafficking endangered animal parts, including from rhinoceroses, elephants, tigers, sea turtles, leopards and others. Currently, state law only prohibits the sale of shark fins. This goes to the next critical and long-overdue step. Vote yes to join Washington and California in implementing stricter laws, and solidifying the West Coast as an obstacle to traffickers.
Multnomah County measures
Amends charter; extends term limits to three consecutive terms
There is no reason our county officials shouldn’t have the opportunity to go for a third term. Eight years is an arbitrary limit that ties the hands of office holders whose policy platforms often take many years to fully implement.
Amends charter; commissioners may run for chair midterm without resigning
This measure applies only to the county chair position. A county commissioner running for an elected office midterm other than the chair’s office will remain subject to the resignation provision. The change would free up candidates for the county chair without automatically jeopardizing their role as representatives.
Amends charter; changes elected sheriff position to appointed department head
While there are some compelling arguments in favor of elected law enforcement, the ideals never quite bear fruit in urban centers. If this were a rural county, where local municipalities were few and far between, we would probably argue otherwise, but this is an urban county with multiple law enforcement agencies working our streets.
It’s time we stop letting special interests within the sheriff’s department choose their boss, and disconnect political ambition from the job of law enforcement. Accountability comes with the oversight of the county chair who is responsible to citizens, rather than sheriffs union interests.
Limits contributions, expenditures; requires disclosure in Multnomah County candidate elections
This county charter amendment was written with the intent of challenging an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that bans caps on campaign contributions and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United, which opened the floodgates to allow for unprecedented amounts of dark money to flow into our elections nationwide.
We endorse this measure, not only because we support those challenges, but also because it would amplify the voices of small donors in future Multnomah County elections by allowing an exception to contribution caps for political committees that accept no more than $100 per donor. It would also require political committees to report their sources of funding.
While there were notable concerns brought forth by Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith around the ability of women and people of color to get elected without large contributions, we feel the potential of this measure to get dark money out of politics and help the U.S. reclaim its democracy warrants a “yes” vote.
Amends charter review committee appointment process, sets appointment, convening timelines
This is a basic housecleaning measure; we see no reason to vote no.
City of Portland measures
Bonds to fund affordable housing
Street Roots is a proud founding member of the Welcome Home Coalition, made up of more than 140 organizations, which has worked for the past two years to help support bringing this ballot measure to voters.
Measure 26-179 is a Portland bond measure that will pay for 1,300 deeply affordable housing units in Portland that will house an estimated 3,000 people. Funding provided by the measure will also be used to acquire existing market-rate housing to keep Portlanders from being displaced.
The affordable housing units built will go to support vulnerable people on the streets, including hundreds of two-bedroom units to support struggling families. The average cost to Portland homeowners is an estimated $6.25 a month. That’s two cups of coffee every month to help provide adequate housing for thousands of Portlanders.
Street Roots sees firsthand the harsh reality of homelessness. We know the only solution to ending homelessness is by increasing the stock of deeply affordable housing units in our community. The housing crisis in our community is real, and this measure is one tool Portland can use to help give individuals and families a safe place to call home.
FURTHER READING: In support of Yes for Affordable Homes
Here are a few examples of why this measure is critical for our community:
• While families wait for shelter and permanent homes, their kids don’t get the sleep they need and can’t get to school on time or regularly.
• Parents struggle to keep the employment necessary to get back into housing – difficult while also trying to keep their families safe.
• Seniors suffer with medical conditions worsened by stress, lack of sleep, inconsistent diets, prolonged standing and limited access to medication.
• While Portlanders with disabilities wait, many have nowhere to turn for help except emergency rooms.
• Those of us on the front lines of poverty know the only solution to homelessness is more affordable homes for Portlanders with very low incomes.
• Homelessness on our streets will only increase without prioritizing affordable housing in our city.
Voting yes on Measure 26-179 will create urgently needed permanent and affordable homes for 3,000 Portlanders, and tens of thousands of Portlanders over the lives of these new apartment buildings. This is the right and necessary step for Portland to take now to ensure our city is safe and accessible for all.
Establish tax on recreational marijuana sales; dedicate purposes for funds
The Oregon Legislature voted to reduce the tax on recreational marijuana from 25 to 17 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2017. With the addition of this 3 percent tax on the sales of recreational – not medical – marijuana, the total sales tax amount in Portland would be 20 percent. That’s less than it is today, and a lower tax rate than Washington and Colorado have placed on recreational marijuana. It’s projected to net $3 million annually that will go to programs for those affected most by the war on drugs.
This superhero tax is slated for a slew of admittedly noble causes, including investments in firefighters, paramedics and police to reduce the impact of drug abuse; alcohol and drug treatment accessibility; employment readiness and support for neighborhood and small businesses; providing economic opportunities to communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition; and even street infrastructure projects. We urge City Council not to spread it too thin.
Street Roots knows, through our reporting, advocacy and experience with people on the street struggling with addiction, that drug and alcohol treatment services in Portland are seriously lacking. We’d like to see a substantial amount of this tax go to making sure that treatment is available to the people who need it most, within the often-narrow window that they are ready to quit.