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Candidates square off in Powell Butte forum
State Representative and Crook County Judge hopefuls addressed a variety of local issues, concerns
Oregon District 55 Representative incumbent Mike McLane gives his opening statement during the Powell Butte candidate forum on Tuesday night.
October 11, 2012
Candidates for two general election races met in Powell Butte on Tuesday evening to answer questions from Crook County residents and address local issues.
The forum drew about 50 people to the Powell Butte Community Center where candidates for Crook County Judge and Representative for Oregon’s 55th District fielded pre-written questions from the audience. Crook County Commissioner Ken Fahlgren (R), who faces no opponent in the general election answered questions as well.
Citizens queried County Judge hopefuls Mike McCabe (R) and Walt Wagner (I) on such topics as data centers, County road maintenance, and future challenges. They questioned State Representative candidates Mike McLane (R) and John Huddle (D) on the role of state government, the challenges facing the state, and how the candidates differed from their opponent.
When it comes to challenges for Crook County, McCabe stressed a desire to keep the cost of living down for local residents.
“We haven’t raised any taxes or fees since I became judge (in 2009), he said, adding that he intends to continue that trend going forward.
McCabe also hopes to preserve Crook County’s Commission on Children and Families, an organization he helped found nearly 20 years ago. Recent action at the state level has threatened to take away funding for the Commission. In addition, McCabe wants to focus his efforts on curtailing natural resource regulations in Crook County to help create more job opportunities.
Wagner emphasized that Crook County faces a 12.5 percent poverty rate, which directly correlates with the current unemployment rate – the highest in Oregon.
“I don’t like being critical of anyone, but in 20 years, we should have set something in place to allow for implementation of a program that brings more small businesses to this area,” he said.
In addition to battling unemployment, Wagner feels that data center water needs could pose a challenge. He feels that the County may have to pull water from Prineville Reservoir to fulfill that need.
Wagner went on to highlight County road maintenance, a topic that another question later addressed.
Due to a significant reduction in workforce, McCabe said the County can no longer maintain every road under their jurisdiction. At this point, no official decisions have been made on the matter, but the County Court has developed a plan to address the issue.
“If you live in a subdivision, we’re going to give you some seed money,” McCabe said. “We expect you to put that in a community road fund for your subdivision and use that to keep up those roads.”
Fahlgren pointed out that as Secure Rural Schools dollars (county payments) decline, the County is left with less money to maintain roads.
“It’s hard to take anything away from anybody,” he said.
Wagner said such a decision should only be made after investing time in the process to weigh all the issues.
“We are going to need a lot more time to prepare – a lot more time to adjust,” he said. “It just can’t happen overnight.”
Like the County Judge candidates, the state representative hopefuls expressed a need to focus on job creation.
“I think the first challenge (facing the State of Oregon) is getting people back to work,” Huddle said. “The most effective way to do that is to get small businesses going.”
McLane shares a similar, if not stronger viewpoint on unemployment. When asked for three challenges facing Oregon, he answered jobs, jobs, and jobs.
“The fact is that with more taxpayers, we have more revenue in the coffers.”
To remedy the lack of work, McLane expressed a desire to “bring back the balance on use of natural resources.”
Huddle and McLane fielded a question regarding the role of state government as well. McLane highlighted a need to educate, medicate, and incarcerate – in other words, provide for the most vulnerable and make sure people are safe in their homes. Huddle also emphasized three roles – protect, ensure equality, and promote the common good.
“All of those things fit together,” he added. “The problem isn’t role of government. The problem is to say how far to take government. We have to fight to make sure we have enough government, but not too much government.”
One question asked the state representative candidates to elaborate on the difference and similarities to their opponent.
Huddle answered first, pointing out that his conservative stance on spending makes him similar to McLane. Regarding differences, Huddle emphasized that he has not taken campaign contributions from corporations.
“I’m for the little guy,” he said. “I’m not interested in corporations. I think they have enough lawyers and people to take care of themselves.”
McLane countered by telling the audience he was not there to mud-sling. He then listed his similarities to Huddle, which included their experience in the military, care for their respective communities, and a desire to bring prosperity back to rural areas.
“We don’t always agree on how to get it done,” McLane said, “but what I do know is both of us will work very hard for you as your state representative.”
He declined to elaborate on how he differs from Huddle.
“If you want contrasts, I’ll be happy to do that, but I’m just not going to do it in a one-minute spiel in front of a group of people, because that just turns into mud-slinging, and that’s not what we are here for.”
According to the City of Prineville and Ochoco Irrigation District, Prineville Reservoir water cannot legally be taken out of the reservoir or out of the Crooked River for industrial or municipal use. That water is reserved for flood control and irrigation purposes only.
The 2012 general election will take place on Nov. 6. Crook County ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 19.