More Election Analysis: What About the Measures that Failed?

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Monday, we took a look at the statewide trend of support for community services. In the primary election, 70% of all local money measures passed.

Today, it’s time to take a look at the other 30% and what it means for Oregon counties.

The League of Oregon Cities put together a summary which of the local money measures passed and failed (PDF, see pages 2 – 4.)

Here’s the rundown: Of the 40 measures asking community members to pay a little more to protect the services they value, 28 (70%) passed – which means that 12 (30%) failed.

These failed measures include two K12 school levies and a community college bond. With school funding from the state down, many communities asked their denizens to help support their schools. While 80% of school measures passed, the students of Canby, Curry, and Umpqua Community College will continue to operate with inadequate resources, as districts will now be forced to reduce staff and school days.

In Josephine County, City Commissioners are similarly being forced into difficult decisions after residents rejected a levy to support jail services. Commissioner Don Reedy suggested to the Oregonian that “voters apparently thought there was a bluff to call…  They just don’t believe it. They just don’t believe we’re broke.” Clatsop County voters also rejected a bond to fund jail services.

Voters may very well have believed that they were “calling bluff” in the communities where community service bond and levies were rejected. This is, after all, exactly the result that Tea Party groups aim for when they allege that government has plenty of money. In some of these communities, the link to far-right messaging is quite pronounced. One failed school levy, for example, was the Canby School District, located right in the middle of the current hub of conservative funding and tactics.

But, in reality, this Tea-Party type messaging has no place; these community pleas are no bluff. The rejection of the Josephine County jail bond measure, for example, had direct consequences as the county was forced to lay off 70% of the sheriff’s office staff (effective May 31) and release about 75 prisoners. A chilling image, “Sheriff Gil Gilbertson told the Associated Press that inmates were laughing in their cells on election night.”

But, there is a silver lining when looking ahead to possible future measures. It’s worth noting that of the 12 measures that failed, 25% failed by 20 votes or fewer. In Estacada, a vote for a general obligation bond to construct a new fire station failed by just 13 votes – or one half of one percent (0.5%) of the total vote. These communities could very possibly see a shift to majority support next time around.

November may be a great opportunity for these local areas. But in the meantime, unfortunately, the communities that rejected the needed funding measures are going to have to live with the consequences of slashed funding to schools, prisons, and other vital services.

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