By Nori Juba
Many of us have become discouraged by the divisiveness and the polarization in our community. Some have lost hope that our leaders can bring us together. It becomes difficult to take sides in political discourse that lacks civility. Both party and identity politics fail to capture our individual beliefs. Winning appears to be more important than progress. The media focus more on our differences than on our common ground.
Our common ground is the pursuit of excellent schools, accessible health care, affordable housing and a healthy environment, all supported by a strong sustainable economy that benefits all Oregonians. I don’t believe that any candidate would disagree. So the question for voters is, who can lead us there?
The current political environment in our state is dysfunctional. Despite the strongest economy in decades, we have left too many behind. Housing and health care remain unaffordable for many working families. Oregon schools still have one of the shortest school years, one of the largest class sizes and consequently one of the lowest graduation
rates in the nation despite the fact that we have climbed in spending per student rankings.
These facts are the same ones that I faced 12 years ago when I started my first of three terms as a Bend-La Pine School Board member. We rallied then to establish a goal to be the best school district in the state. A couple of years later we appointed Cheri Helt to a vacant board seat and over the last years, our graduation rate has climbed 10 percent. Our schools have gained national recognition. Knute Buehler served on our Budget Committee and saw firsthand the funding challenges to serve all students He has laid out an ambitious goal and a plan for our schools to become among the top five in the nation in graduation rate in five years.
The state was on a similar path to improvement in education. Gov. John Kitzhaber had the courage to face the cold facts and to infamously declare that our education system was broken. He set in motion his vision and a plan for a seamless system with accountability and sustainable funding. He reached out to both parties and I had the opportunity to work with him and many stakeholders to push an ambitious plan forward. Unfortunately, politics reared its ugly head and we have lacked vision, leadership and progress in education ever since.
We have a rare opportunity to vote for a couple of candidates that focus more on the common ground than to fixate on our differences. They are not afraid to challenge the party line or to speak out against commonly held practices that hold us back. They are passionate. They are tireless. They care deeply about our community and doing the right thing. They possess the rare ability to see and paint the big picture but also to dig deep down into the details to get things done. They are focused on results and not on headlines. Most importantly, they both know that bringing people together is the key and the precondition to moving us forward.
Let us move forward together. Let us rally around our common ground. Let our votes benefit all Oregonians. Please vote for Knute Buehler for governor and Cheri Helt for state representative (House District 54).