Several candidates from around the region took part in a forum hosted by the Latino Business Alliance on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce joined Republican Rep. Jodi Hack, a candidate for House District 19; Republican Laura Morett and incumbent Democrat Rep. Paul Evans, candidates for House District 20; and House District 22 Republican candidate Patti Milne alongside Aubrey Mechling, campaign manager for Milne’s Democratic opponent Teresa Alonso Leon.
Candidates were asked three questions and given two minutes to respond.
Question: What our your thoughts on Measures 97 and how will it affect Latino small businesses? (Measure 97 would create a new tax on corporations with more than $25 million in Oregon sales and result in about $3 billion per year for public education, health care and senior services).
Bud Pierce: I feel it will be more harmful than helpful. From a Latino business point of view, you will have to purchase goods from the businesses that are going to be taxed. Costs will be passed onto families and their businesses and I oppose it based on increased costs.
Rep. Paul Evans: In this particular case, Measure 97 has some language that will need to be tweaked. I think what Dr. Pierce said is probably true. But what’s not been discussed is the potential gains. One of the specific gains would be increased transportation gains, increased workforce development and hopefully a safer, more capable health care system for children. There will be some impacts, but I don’t think it will be directly harmful.
Laura Morett: They are promising it’s going to education and seniors, but it’s going into the general fund. We all know what happens with that money, it’s misspent and mishandled. I don’t want to take $600 of my money or your money and throw it into the general fund. We need leadership willing to do the hard things and make hard decisions.
Audrey Mechling: Teresa has spent her career advocating for students and she knows the schools need more funding to reduce class sizes and increase graduation rates. Career technical education and apprenticeship programs can be a path to success for students and she wants to see us investing in bringing back career technical education to our high schools. She is supporting Measure 97 to make those critical investments.
Patti Milne: In addition to the concerns raised by Dr. Pierce, Measure 97 would eliminate the motivation to correct the disconnect between education and funding. There are actual lives at risk in these programs and some of them are not serving the intended populations. We need accountability and transparency.
Jodi Hack: I don’t support Measure 97. It’s a blank check to the legislature. I understand Rep. Evans about making tweaks and changes, but under a one-party rule that doesn’t happen. It’s bad for Oregon. When we had a $1.8 billion surplus last year, we only put a little into education.
Question: Describe your campaign’s Latino outreach efforts, what have you learned from those, and are there any measures you would push for to help Latino small business owners?
Pierce: I’ve met some of our Latino residents who are working three jobs. I’m overwhelmed by their work ethic, but we have to make sure students are studying 12 hours a day to be scientists, lawyers and doctors. I also favor small business enterprise zones where if you increase the value of your property, you are incentivized through tax breaks. I also support tax credits that kick in early for entrepreneurs, and the state helping with loan guarantees.
Evans: Outreach is the bread and butter of what any representative is going to do. Investment in transportation on the weekends is critical to get to jobs. I want to see more education and workforce development, and hopes to create an Oregon State Deposit Store that would generate micro business loans in this state, especially for those with documentation problems. As a representative, I’ve also worked hard to put more money in small grants for new businesses. I don’t have one answer, it’s going to take a lot of us working together.
Morett: I came to the Latino business alliance and asked one of the women here if she votes. She said she doesn’t because she is afraid she would make the wrong decision. There are 8,000 Latino residents in District 20 and 1,800 voted. It’s one thing to say what needs to be done. I actually do it. Look at representatives’ records and look how they voted. They are voting with a Portland agenda.
Mechling: Teresa will represent all the constituents. Her website is available in English, Spanish and Russian. She has made it a priority to reach out with town halls in English and Spanish, and made it a priority to visit the businesses in downtown Woodburn. One of the biggest concerns is the lack of access to capital allowing them to grow and change, and she’s been working on that as a Woodburn city councilor.
Milne: Many of my friends are Hispanic, Latino and Slavic. With my background as a Marion County Commissioner, I’ve had lots of interaction with various business groups. We need capital and access to quality workers.
Hack: I have 100 percent voting record for small business. One of the things I did was hold meetings with business leaders, a tradition started by my predecessor. We’ve been able to work through things that are good for business and creating some incentives and to create capital for research and development.
Question: In 2007, Gov. Ted Kulongoski changed requirements for drivers licenses and voters have rejected driver’s cards. These represent a huge challenge to Latino businesses. Are there any actions you are willing to take to remedy the situation?
Pierce: The answer to this is comprehensive immigration reform which will take away the driver’s license problem. What a governor can do is get involved. I would make a phone call once a month to the president and say we need this. We need a social media movement to demand federal legislators do their job. It is not fair to have a permanent underclass and that is what we are creating in our society.
Evans: I was for the driver’s card and I believe it is a path that we can make work. Given the current republican presidential candidate’s immigration strategy, which involves trains, busses and everyone that doesn’t have paperwork and moving them out of the country, there is a vast difference regarding what we need to do. We have to figure out how to build a sense of community. We have to find a way to get people to and from work safely so they can be productive and we have to find the resources to make it happen.
Morett: Our hands are limited here, but it comes back to leadership. Why can’t Oregon spearhead a driver’s card issue. Not all Latinos want citizenship and some who do give up because it is too difficult. Every one of you can come to me and ask how I can help you.
Mechling: Offering driver’s cards to those without documentation gives them access to education, allows them to purchase insurance and allows them to travel safely and legally. It affects Oregonians from all walks of life. If elected, Teresa will be one of only two Latino legislators. It takes bridge-building and conversations like the ones that the Latino Business Alliance starts every day.
Milne: Ballot Measure 88 (which would have created the driver’s card) was the wrong approach to solve an issue that is a reality for many people. It set back legitimate conversations several years. This is not the approach I want to see happen ever again. I understand the value and importance of forgiving, but we will not solve problems with confrontation. I know that there are some solutions out there, but we won’t get to them until we work together.
Hack: This is a federal issue. Working with the Farm Bureau, one of the things we did was bring people in from around the state and workforce (transportation) is a major problem. One of the things that was most shocking is the lack of involvement with the people. First, we need to hear from you about the real conversations and real issues. I want to challenge us to sit down and have the tough discussions. If we start there, we will come up with the solutions.