If you think your vote in the November 2010 election is not important, think again. Here at The Skanner News we believe this election will determine our course for the next decade. We're talking about the future of the State of Oregon; the future of the Portland metro area; the future of North and Northeast Portland. And this election will be crucial for all communities of color.
The nationwide trend is for black voters to stay home. In Memphis, Tennessee, where 63 percent of the population is black, just 8 percent of African Americans voted in the primary. Even in Chicago just 20 percent of Black voters showed up. The reason for this is crystal clear. Huge numbers of African Americans turned out in 2008 to vote for President Obama and to hand Democrats a resounding win. Yet, two years later Black America is in a state of emergency, and we are left angry, frustrated and disillusioned with our elected leaders -- especially when they vote along party lines instead of in the best interests of the people. Congress gave its members a 14 percent raise last year. What did you get?
Communities of color are desperate for jobs, economic support for small businesses, and resources to help struggling families. Instead we're on the sharp end of rising poverty, homelessness and third-world levels of wealth inequality. Our youth live in deprivation and get a substandard education -- leaving them prey to depression, aggression, substance abuse and the prison system. Meanwhile we spend and spend on foreign wars and greedy military contractors, while the politicians bicker about whether to give tax cuts to people in the wealthiest top 20 percent.
That's why we must use our votes to further our interests – recognizing that we will have to keep up the pressure on those elected officials no matter what. Let's be clear. Democrats are not entitled to our votes. We should vote for candidates – whether they are Democrats, Republicans or Independents – who put resources behind their campaign promises, and put jobs and money into our communities.
It's disappointing that the Democratic National Committee has failed to advance any meaningful investment in our communities of color – either nationally or locally.
President Obama did not create the economic problems we now face. That was a parting gift from the previous administration. Has he done anything for people of color? With the passage of health care legislation, we have taken an important step forward. And after years of lobbying by civil rights activists, the White House recently sponsored legislation that will dramatically reduce sentencing disparities. Funding for historically Black colleges has been restored. Some progress has been made in reining in the robber barons of Wall Street.
We must keep up the pressure on our elected officials. That means showing up when our issues are at stake. And it means showing them that we will use our votes. So our message to you from The Skanner News is: Please, vote for candidates who support you, who support your institutions, your communities and your families.
Here are our endorsements
We appreciate the work our incumbent lawmakers have done on the national level, especially the pro-veteran efforts of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and District 3 Rep. Earl Blumenauer (both of whom typically make themselves available to reporters at The Skanner News and actually show up regularly in Northeast Portland). District 5 Rep. Kurt Schrader has done some good things on job creation and doesn't march in lock-step with the Democratic Party, which we appreciate (the shrill attacks on his character by the Republican Party have filled our inbox with misplaced venom all year). District 1 Rep. David Wu is not the most dynamic lawmaker, but his attention to small business creation, expansion of community colleges and green technology have made a difference in our communities.
The Oregon governor's race touched off the biggest disagreements on The Skanner News editorial board. As outgoing Gov. Ted Kulongoski has said, whomever is elected Nov. 2 faces a horrible term of office in which the state budget and Oregon's deepening poverty are expected to collide in an unprecedented disaster. What kind of leader can keep the state from melting down? Republican Chris Dudley is a genuinely nice person who is clearly compassionate and has spent years in public service; unfortunately his "plans" are vague and he has no track record in elected office. Democrat John Kitzhaber has excellent, targeted ideas on how to tweak the mechanisms of state bureaucracy and an encyclopedic knowledge of every bureau, department and budget; yet despite his claims to the contrary, his past governorship was marred by a complete lack of access for Oregon's Black community. We endorse Kitzhaber, but if he is elected, we'll be watching carefully to see who he will hire on his staff to ensure that communities of color have a voice in Mahonia Hall – and we'll be holding his feet to the fire.
In the State Treasurer's race, Republican Chris Telfer looks like a fantastic candidate with just the very job experience that could bring depth to the office. But we are backing Ted Wheeler because of the backbone he's shown in his few months already in the position – cleaning up the conflict of interest scandal in the office he inherited when incumbent Treasurer Ben Westlund died suddenly, and more recently drawing a line in the sand in front of the Democrat-controlled state legislature to rein in general obligation debt. We're glad Telfer is a state senator and we look forward to her further career in politics.
The races for state lawmakers are really easy. State Sen. Chip Shields, from the 22nd District, is one of the most responsive legislators for our neighborhoods and our state that we've ever seen in Salem; in the 24th District, Rod Monroe is also a proven leader.
In the State Representatives races, we support: 36th District: Mary Nolan; 43rd District: Lew Frederick (who is quickly proving himself to be a firebrand on behalf on North and Northeast Portland residents); and 45th District: Michael Dembrow.
The race for Multnomah County commissioner is important, because for years the panel has written the Black community out of its operations. Just to take one example, we need representation on the commission that can bring back federal dollars to create meaningful disaster preparedness programs in the Black community here in North and Northeast – because right now there is nothing for us. That's why we are supporting Loretta Smith for County Commissioner District #2. She has deep roots in our neighborhoods and wider political connections that could bring in the resources to make a difference. Challenger Karol Collymore is smart, she is already steeped in county operations, and we share her enthusiasm for neighborhood farmers markets, public libraries, LGBTQ rights and women's health. We wish her well and hope she keeps trying for elected office.
For the same reasons we support, for Metro Council president, Bob Stacey. Both he and Tom Hughes are qualified but have not served on the Metro council. But Stacey, a former chief of staff for Rep. Earl Blumenauer, is smart on the racial divisions facing the region – and we expect him to be in a position to tap federal resources to bolster our communities.
What do you think?