BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
SENATE DISTRICT 20 INTERVIEWS
January 14, 1997
Commissioners’ Conference Room
Chair Cindy Weeldreyer presided with Steve Cornacchia, Ellie Dumdi, Bobby Green, Sr. and Peter Sorenson present. Sharon Giles, Recording Secretary.
Weeldreyer welcomed the three candidates and interested parties. She reviewed the process as outlined on the agenda, including the fact that other candidates would sit in the outer room during individual candidate interviews. Responding to comments in the media by a member of the Democratic committee, Board members expressed their sentiments regarding the issue of fairness. It was determined to interview the candidates in alphabetical order.
PRESENTATION BY SUSAN CASTILLO
Castillo discussed the serious effects of Ballot Measure 47, noting that the new legislator will need to have an understanding of the legislative process and be ready to "hit the ground running." She indicated that she would advocate for local governments. Castillo explained that she has a broad base of knowledge of issues affecting Lane County. She stated that the "freshman," she would seek out those with experience on both sides of the political aisle who advocate for local government. Castillo remarked on her skills in communication and grasping complicated issues quickly.
INTERVIEW OF SUSAN CASTILLO
Q: CORNACCHIA asked for Castillo’s views on the role that government plays in the public’s everyday lives under modern dynamics, including Ballot Measure 5 and Ballot Measure 47.
A: CASTILLO commented that the government is the people of this state and the services they enjoy. She observed the need to do a better job of connecting to people and making them realize that what they pay for are police officers, public health nurses, etc. Castillo spoke in favor of efficient and responsible government.
Q: DUMDI asked what measures Castillo would take to support and maintain the viability of agriculture.
A: CASTILLO stated that she would represent all of the interests from the district, including agriculture. She remarked that she is sensitive to the needs of people in the rural area. Castillo indicated her plan to have an open door policy and be responsible to every person in the district.
Q: GREEN asked what Castillo considers the three most important issues that Lane County will face as the result of Ballot Measure 47.
A: CASTILLO discussed the need to work on definitions around Measure 47, to pursue local control, to deal with restrictions/limitations on how to get new revenue to pay for things and to get a handle on the full ramifications of Ballot Measure 47.
Q: SORENSON asked for Castillo’s top three priorities.
A: CASTILLO indicated that she would work to cushion local government from the effects of Ballot Measure 47, establish an office that maintains open communication, align herself with power players and make practical differences wherever she can.
Q: WEELDREYER asked how Castillo would address concerns regarding politicians who go into office with good intentions, but do not follow through.
A: CASTILLO stated that the people who are most successful are people who do not lose sight of what brought them to elective office in the first place. Castillo commented that she would appreciate reminders if anyone sees her becoming lax.
Q: WEELDREYER also asked about Castillo’s decision-making process and what influences her most.
A: CASTILLO indicated that she would look towards what is best for people in general and what is best for cities, the county and the state as a whole. She noted that smaller constituencies often need more help, but the goal should be to try to help the most people in forming new legislation.
Q: CORNACCHIA asked for a summary of Castillo’s understanding of education, kindergarten through higher education, and its current status in Oregon. He asked her to discuss its needs and her priorities.
A: CASTILLO indicated that she is very concerned as education is tied to the quality of life, noting that classrooms have grown larger and programs are going away. She expressed concern about rising college tuition, observing that it is important to make education accessible as the state needs highly skilled people for the future. Castillo stated that she would advocate for putting more money into education, not less.
Q: DUMDI asked how Castillo would address the issue of unfunded mandates, specifically Ballot Measure 30.
A: CASTILLO observed the need for better cooperation between all levels of government. She responded that she would work toward bringing the message regarding the effects of new legislation on local government.
Q: GREEN asked for Castillo’s position on the "kicker" and whether she agrees with the Governor that education should be held harmless. He also asked under what conditions Castillo would agree with the definition of public safety as it is defined under Measure 47.
A: CASTILLO stated that the Governor sees using the kicker as a necessity and that she would support efforts to use the kicker money. Regarding the definition of public safety, she indicated that she doesn’t think there is an agreed-upon definition yet.
Q: SORENSON asked if Castillo plans to run for election in 1998 for 4-year term.
A: CASTILLO indicated that she has every intention of running for reelection.
Q: WEELDREYER discussed the differences of opinion between urban and rural district, particularly with regard to growth and expansion. She asked Castillo to talk about her basic philosophies on land use and managing growth.
A: CASTILLO remarked that she is a very strong supporter of Oregon’s land use laws as they serve a valuable purpose by helping to maintain liveability; but, she added that the pressures of growth are difficult for local governments, indicating that there should be provisions for dealing with growth as long as general precepts are followed.
Q: CORNACCHIA asked if Castillo was interested in revisiting the number of prisons scheduled to be built.
A: CASTILLO indicated that she is very interested, remarking that it is hard to see more money go towards housing prisoners, while taking dollars away from education. She stated that she was open to looking at suggestions for changes.
CLOSING COMMENTS FROM SUSAN CASTILLO
Castillo emphasized that the candidate chosen will face a tough challenge due to party politics. She stated that communication between people is at the core of all legislative business. Castillo stressed that she has developed those communication skills and has an understanding of local issues. She indicated that she has always pursued higher goals and realizes the need to work to make sure opportunities continue. Castillo concluded by saying she would be honored to serve the people of Senate District 20.
PRESENTATION FROM JOHN MCFADDEN
McFadden noted that this appointment will be the junior member of the minority party. He stated that the public has had an opportunity to look at the Governor’s proposal and now he expects that Republicans will have counterproposals. He expressed concern that there is an attitude that battle lines are being drawn, stressing that it is important not to close minds and to maintain and build on lines of communication. McFadden observed that the biggest issues for Lane County are the budget and also the potential infrastructure improvements costs related to siting a prison in Junction City and a work camp in Oakridge.
INTERVIEW OF JOHN MCFADDEN
Q: CORNACCHIA asked for McFadden’s views on the role that government plays in the public’s everyday lives under modern dynamics, including Ballot Measure 5 and Ballot Measure 47.
A: MCFADDEN stated that role of the government is to take the thoughts and ideas of the people and negotiate general consensus and then communicate back to constituents. He remarked on the need to do outreach to citizens and get feedback.
Q: DUMDI asked McFadden for his views on structuring an equitable tax system for Oregon.
A: MCFADDEN indicated his support for taxes based on ability to pay and for taxation where there is a definite connection between the tax and usage. He expressed dismay with the current property tax structure with no ability to pay provisions. McFadden stated the need for progressive taxes, taking into account issues of fairness between individuals and business.
Q: GREEN asked for McFadden’s position on the "kicker" and whether he agrees with the Governor that education should be held harmless. He also asked under what conditions McFadden would agree with the definition of public safety as it is defined under Measure 47.
A: MCFADDEN offered support for withholding the kicker. He stated that if the issue goes on the ballot, he hopes alternative budget information is included on the ballot. With regard to holding education harmless, McFadden indicated that he has seen the results of Ballot Measure 5 on schools and would like to see schools not be affected, but is not sure that is possible to do.
Q: SORENSON asked for McFadden’s top three priorities.
A: MCFADDEN noted the need to move forward, implement and live with Ballot Measure 47, to limit the impacts on schools and local government, and to look to communication as an important tool.
Q: WEELDREYER asked how McFadden would address concerns regarding politicians who go into office with good intentions, but do not follow through.
A: MCFADDEN stated that he has friends who would let him know if he got off track. He remarked that he is an idealist, but also a pragmatist and that he views politics in the light of what is doable/possible. McFadden emphasized that he looks for solutions to problems that are workable and acceptable.
Q: CORNACCHIA asked for McFadden’s thoughts on a modified package for corrections in response to the prison construction schedule brought on by voter initiatives.
A: MCFADDEN indicated that he didn’t support passage of Measure 11, but noted that it is what the people voted for. He stated that he was glad to see that the process has been started and that he hopes that people would say it is counterproductive. McFadden stressed that it is the job of the legislature to implement the will of the people. He remarked that it would take voter education to show the result of their choices. McFadden commented that he would want to see more outreach and feedback before going to the expense of putting prisons on the ballot again.
Q: DUMDI asked how McFadden would address the issue of unfunded mandates, specifically Ballot Measure 30.
A: MCFADDEN stated that he would invite his colleagues to visit River Road, indicating that he is well versed on the impacts of unfunded mandates and would not support passing unfunded mandates onto local governments.
Q: GREEN discussed Services to Children and Families and asked McFadden to discuss the need for legislation that requires full disclosure by the agency and stricter accountability of foster parents as it relates to the academic progress of the child.
A: MCFADDEN asserted that he is a strong advocate for accountability and is in favor of greater openness. He indicated that he would like to see better screening of potential foster parents. McFadden stated that the entire system needs to be looked at from top to bottom.
Q: SORENSON asked if McFadden plans to run for election in 1998 for a 4-year term.
A: MCFADDEN responded affirmatively.
Q: WEELDREYER asked McFadden to talk about his basic philosophies on land use and managing growth.
A: MCFADDEN expressed his support for Oregon’s land use laws, noting the need to make better use of space within the urban growth boundaries.
CONCLUDING STATEMENT OF MCFADDEN
McFadden stressed that he recognizes the diversity of Lane County’s issues, noting that there are many different priorities and that it is important to represent all the differing views. He emphasized his ability to listen, work with people of various political backgrounds and keep an open mind to different ideas.
PRESENTATION FROM JERRY RUST
Rust introduced his wife Angela. He remarked that Lane County’s back is up against the wall with declining revenues and that relief is needed from unfunded mandates. Rust emphasized that he "can hit the ground running." He indicated that he would work to hold schools harmless and work toward vote-by-mail elections. Rust continued that he would work to get the District Attorney’s office funded by the State of Oregon, to spread the cost of assessment and taxation among all users of that system and to eliminate redundant, unnecessary functions such as periodic review. He stressed that he has a working knowledge of local government. Rust concluded that he has not approached the commissioners privately for support, but is doing so publicly today.
INTERVIEW OF JERRY RUST
Q: CORNACCHIA asked for Rust’s views on the role that government plays in the public’s everyday lives under modern dynamics, including Ballot Measure 5 and Ballot Measure 47.
A: RUST stated that government is there to provide for the public good and to do things people cannot do individually, such as education, civil law, criminal law, public health, public safety, fair elections, etc. He indicated that he was in favor of streamlining government and that the government is best that governs least.
Q: DUMDI asked Rust for his views on structuring an equitable tax system for Oregon.
A: RUST remarked that it would take a two-step process as there will probably not be a major tax overhaul this session. He stated that the goal should be to get through this session keeping everyone as whole as possible and set the table to work together next session for property tax relief. Rust stressed that business, industry and commercial entities need to pay fifty percent of the property tax load. He spoke in favor a more progressive income tax and selective taxes, such as the cigarette tax.
Q: GREEN asked for the conditions in which Rust would agree with the definition of public safety as it is defined under Measure 47.
A: RUST responded that public safety deserves a broad definition as it is not just police on the street and jails. He stated that prevention and the youth system needs strengthening. Rust stressed that healthy families are part of public safety. He indicated that he would propose debate regarding the state gas tax being used for patrolling.
Q: SORENSON asked Rust what he has in mind when he states that counties need relief from unfunded mandates
A: RUST indicated that the legislature probably won’t get there in one session, but that the conversation needs to move in that direction. With regard to the District Attorney’s office, Rust noted that the state paid $7,500 toward each deputy district attorney a few years ago and now it is down to approximately $2,000. He indicated that a case could be made for a statewide real estate transfer tax to pay for state-mandated growth management/planning functions. Rust expressed hope that vote-by-mail elections will go through this session. With regard to assessment and taxation, Rust spoke favorably toward using commercial appraisals. He stated that if local governments could get rid of half of the unfunded mandates that they have no policy control over, that would mean a great deal.
Q: WEELDREYER asked how Rust would address concerns regarding politicians who go into office with good intentions, but do not follow through.
A: RUST commented that he will try to get to know each senator personally, noting that he doesn’t expect that his environmentalist leanings will be in the majority. He stressed that he is going to keep his eye on the budget and public fiscal policy this session. Rust stated that he would like to be held accountable and that he expects the public to do so.
Q: CORNACCHIA asked for a summary of Rust’s understanding of education, kindergarten through higher education, and its current status in Oregon. He asked him to discuss its needs and his priorities.
A: RUST remarked that schools are going to lose teachers and that classroom sizes will get larger. He stated that he would support going beyond holding schools harmless. Rust stressed that community colleges are incredibly important and the least he would like to see is a tuition freeze for higher education. He indicated that most studies indicate that if children don’t have a decent home life, it doesn’t matter what kind of system is in place. Rust continued that this is where counties come in as they can keep an eye on prevention/early intervention.
Q: DUMDI asked what measures Rust would take to support and maintain the viability of agriculture.
A: RUST noted that he grew up on a farm and has his roots in agriculture. He indicated that he would be further educating himself in that arena. Rust remarked that there are some problems, such as pesticides, and would like to be a constructive voice in that area.
Q: WEELDREYER asked Rust if he intends to run for the seat in two years.
A: RUST indicated affirmatively.
CONCLUDING REMARKS OF JERRY RUST
Rust stated that , if appointed, he will practice human relationships and make it a priority to get to know each legislator personally. He stressed that he will keep his eye on the budget during this session. Rust remarked that then broad tax reform comes next. He emphasized that good government has to cross party lines to build bi-partisan consensus. Rust summarized that he wants to go to Salem to get something done and wants to be held accountable.
This meeting recessed at 10:33 a.m. to reconvene at 10:50 a.m.
DISCUSSION AND DELIBERATION
Sorenson remarked on the difficulty of the decision, noting that each candidate would bring tremendous assets.
Various commissioners noted that the Board members did not discuss their questions with each other ahead of time.
Sorenson spoke about the role of a person appointed under these circumstances, indicating that one important duty of the legislator is to listen to the constituents and a duty of the junior legislator is to represent the concerns of the district, as that person will not be looked at to bring about major changes. Sorenson recommended Susan Castillo for the appointment.
Green spoke in sports analogies, referring to players who make the transition from playing to broadcasting, but that he has never seen a reporter make the transition to the playing field. He spoke in favor of appointing Rust, noting that Rust has served Lane County for 20 years and may have been elected again if he had been running. Green emphasized that it is important to send someone with government experience and someone who knows local needs and can communicate that.
Weeldreyer indicated that her first responsibility is to the people of District 20 and who can represent those broad interests. She commented that her second responsibility is to the government of Lane County.
Cornacchia stated that he was looking to hear who would not use the term "the Republicans." He observed that Oregon is a very independent state and people are growing tired of partisanship. Cornacchia remarked that there was only one person who didn’t mention "the Republicans." He noted that Rust’s candidacy puts the Board in no-win situation: if Rust is chosen the Board will be accused of favoritism; and if Rust isn’t chosen, then the Board could be accused of having three Republicans against Rust. Cornacchia stressed that neither is accurate. He indicated that he has tremendous respect for Rust, noting that it takes integrity and courage to stand by one’s beliefs. Cornacchia stated that Lane County and the district need effective representation, not partisanship and adversarial politics. He noted that Rust’s integrity and beliefs may prevent him from going far enough for results. Cornacchia observed that Castillo offered compromise with integrity and that he found her to be very realistic and pragmatic. He stressed that Castillo appears willing to listen, understanding of freshman status and optimistic.
Dumdi remarked that Rust’s experience at the local level gives him an advantage, but that he also has his own strong agenda. She offered her support for Castillo, stating that she appears to be best able to listen and convey the message for local government. Dumdi noted Castillo’s willing to maintain open communication and an open office.
Weeldreyer observed that it takes an incredible amount of ethics to be an effective reporter as the person has to be the public’s eyes and ears. She commented that she has had an opportunity to see how the state legislature does business, remarking that a lot of the Republican leadership has expressed concern about Rust’s "baggage." Weeldreyer offered her support for Castillo.
Sorenson noted that each commissioner has acknowledged the difficulty of this decision. He expressed is appreciation of the work Rust has done for the citizens of state and Lane County.
MOTION: Approval of Order 97-1-14-1, appointing Susan Castillo to fill the vacancy in the Legislative Assembly, State Senate District 20. Cornacchia MOVED, Dumdi SECONDED. VOTE: 4-1, Green dissenting.
There being no further business, this meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m.
Sharon Giles, Board Secretary