State Legislature Candidate Forum
Jeff Golden and Jessica Gomez, both running for the State Senate District 3 seat vacated by Alan DeBoer, Rep. Pam Marsh running for reelection in House District 5, and Michelle Blum Atkinson running to replace Rep. Sal Esquivel in House District 6, gave their views on state government at a candidate forum sponsored by SOCAN (Southern Oregon Climate Action Network) Monday in the Medford Library. Ms. Blum Atkinson’s opponent, Kim Wallen, did not appear at the forum, nor did Karen Rippberger, running for House District 55.
SOCAN’s Candidate Forum on Environmental Challenges consisted of introductions, three questions previewed by the candidates, four Yes/No questions, and up to five questions from the audience. SOCAN asked the candidates to list the top two or three environmental challenges facing Oregon.
Jeff Golden said the timber industry must retool for smaller logs and reduce the use of toxins. Wood stoves also should be regulated, he said.
Jessica Gomez called for building a more diverse economy, dealing with summer fires and smoke, and securing Southern Oregon’s water.
Rep. Pam Marsh called for establishment of an Environmental Commission and pointed out that no significant climate legislation was passed this session and said 92% of the state now is in drought.
Michelle Blum Atkinson said she got into politics as a result of the library shutdown. She is most concerned about air quality, water conservation, and quality recycling.
Are Oregonian regulations protecting human health generally too restrictive?
Gomez: Cap and trade doesn’t reduce carbon emissions. We have $750 million per year and don’t know how it will be spent.
Marsh: I’m a very strong proponent of cap and trade. We must find the 100 biggest emitters, convince them to reduce their emissions, and use a market-based approach.
Atkinson: I support the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, which aims to eliminate pollutants. We must invest in clean-energy jobs. Why should we allow polluters to pollute and not pay for it?
Golden: We must take on the national leadership. Who will be exempt, and how will economically challenged people be protected?
All oppose the Jordan Cove pipeline except Gomez.
How must Oregon deal with summer fires and smoke pollution?
Marsh: The Smoke and Fire Summit was a start. There is no easy solution to forest management, particularly in the interface. We must save businesses that have been hurt and establish shelters in the summer.
Atkinson: We can do more. Firefighters can clear underbrush and use controlled burns. We must stop clear cutting and planting trees close together
Golden: This is our version of climate chaos. We got all the benefits in the ‘70s-‘90s and didn’t give it back.
Gomez: We are dealing with the results from the ‘80s, when we got a lot of overgrowth, didn’t allow logging, and lost logging jobs.
All oppose Ballot Measure 104 except Gomez.
What is your stand on protecting the environment?
Atkinson: Protecting our environment is a life and death issue. We need to be scientific, and the transition must be gradual enough that it won’t hurt the poor. We must have 100% clean renewable energy by 2050.
Golden: We must fight for working families. Will the Clean Energy Jobs Bill turn out to be just window dressing?
Gomez: Our environment is precious and we must do everything to protect it. This includes accommodating rural areas and making practical investments.
Marsh: Jordan Cove was not specifically called out in the Democratic platform. It has to be #1 or #2 in order to pass meaningful climate legislation.
All oppose Ballot Measure 105.
What is your stand on recycling?
Golden: We must seriously reduce packaging.
Gomez: Reduce and reuse—we all need to think about that. She cited a local company that makes natural gas from garbage.
Marsh: We’ve made recycling way too easy—don’t use so much stuff in the first place.
Atkinson: I want it to be easier to recycle—bring back paper and glass recycling in Medford.
How do we build climate resilience?
Gomez: Climate resilience starts in communities.
Marsh: Climate resilience has to be addressed at all levels. We need to take action in our own lives and communities.
Atkinson: The state must help build clean energy infrastructure. You put in a windmill and it pays for itself. We need battery backups as well.
Golden: The state has to make it easier for citizens and at the community level. We need clean energy subsidies, small-scale hydro, and volume purchases of new energy tech.
How do we protect vulnerable communities from climate change?
Marsh: We must make an effort to pull in all vulnerable communities into a safety net.
Atkinson: Once people are exposed to toxins, we can’t take that back. Chemicals must be proven safe before they are used.
Golden: Why did we make the burden of proof land on those exposed rather than manufacturers? He called for buffers and for control to be moved from the Department of Agriculture to OSHA.
Gomez: What happened in Flint is an infrastructure problem. We must provide infrastructure for the poor.
How should the state handle cap and trade?
Atkinson: We must make sure cap and trade money doesn’t go to investment banks. It should go to clean energy projects.
Golden: With an estimated $700 million a year being generated, banks and insurance companies will circle. I would love to see a state bank of Oregon handle the money.
Gomez: I’m really concerned about the state’s ability to handle cap and trade. Even if we do it right we’ll still lose a lot in administration.
Marsh: Cap and trade is not a revenue generation bill, and $700 million is a gross overstatement. There is no reason we can’t handle the money through the state treasury and model Oregon’s approach after California’s.
In closing remarks, Gomez said she wants to make sure the state is fiscally sound. It is 48th in the nation in graduation rates, which is unacceptable, she said. She would like to see a reduction in poverty and a better alignment of the safety net.
Marsh said climate change is her #1 issue. Your enthusiasm and passion for this issue fuel me, she said. We need to take bold action.
We must take immediate action to defend our planet, Atkinson said. We vote with this in mind. We are running out of time.
Does anyone feel good about our stewardship? Golden asked. Smoke is part of the call. We need a bold government strategy to buck the fossil fuel industry.
Ballots are mailed October 22.