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Laura's Deschutes County Voters' Guide - Special Election May 21, 2019

Laura's Deschutes County Voters' Guide - Special Election May 21, 2019

Here's who/what to vote for.

Laura Camacho
Laura Camacho

Welcome, voter!

Midterms and special elections get the worst voter turnout and yet hold some of the decisions that have the most direct impact on voters' daily lives. This special election, we'll be filling some of the "unsexy" positions that keep our cities and county running. The leadership we install on the Parks & Rec boards, at COCC or our K-12 school districts, and at the library will have ripple effects for years to come.

We are voting for the people who will choose how to spend our tax dollars. Let's put some people in charge who share our values and vision for the world!

Not sure if you're registered?

You can check right here. The only info you need is your name and birthdate!

Candidate video forum

Many of the Bend candidates participated in a forum hosted by Embrace Bend and the Restorative Justice and Equity Group on April 25. You can find that video here. (I've linked each position/candidate's respective presentation in their sections below). ASL interpretation was provided at the forum and can be seen in the video. A Spanish translator was also present.

Now Vote!

I'm using the Voter's Pamphlet that you can find right here. They also get mailed out to you about a week before your ballot arrives.

Keep in mind that not everything I cover here will be on your ballot; your ballot only allows you to vote for the measures and candidates in your particular area.


My vote recommendations are based on my own research and do not represent any entity's opinions but my own. I vote liberal/democrat/progressive. When other factors are equal, I favor the candidate that is the least cis/hetero/male/white/old; who is aware of and working on their own implicit biases; and who is committed to improving equity, accessibility, and inclusivity within their jurisdiction.

I've included summaries of why I'm voting the way I am, and links to more information on candidates, when available, in case you want to be an informed voter. I'm open only to discussion based on actual facts, that respects the work I've done here already. If you disagree with me philosophically to begin with, my guess is that it's going to be a waste of both our time to discuss. But if you think I've erred within my own set of beliefs, I would appreciate your input!

Pay me for my work

What started out as a favor to friends (to keep them from randomly filling in bubbles on their ballots!) has turned into a significant piece of my community service. My voters' guides will always be free to use and share, but they've never been free to make. The guide I've written for you here represents at least 25 billable hours of my time, researching, info-gathering, and writing. If this guide helped you fill out your ballot and you're able to, you can pay me for my work:


Measure 9-126 Redmond Area Park and Recreation District: YES.

I'm a fan of funding parks and rec improvements through tiny property tax increases. It's a small investment that allows for huge improvements to the community. In this case, Redmond will get a fantastic new aquatics and recreation center. You can read more about it on the Redmond Recreation PAC's website.

Measure 9-127 Redmond Area Park and Recreation District: YES.

This levy is a limited-time (5 year) increase to property taxes to support the operations of the new recreation center. Together, the bond and the operating levy are only going to cost the average homeowner maaaaaybe $20 a month (probably closer to $12). Totally worth it!

Central Oregon Community College Director, Zone 5: John Short

(Watch all of the COCC board candidate forum presentations here.)
This is the only contested seat for COCC, and is the all too common voting conundrum: do I vote for the old white dude or the young white dude? I'm going to go for the young white dude.

Jim Clinton (the old white dude) has a fairly solid blue track record on Bend's city council (four of those 12 years were as mayor, too). I think his social justice instincts are decent. However, he doesn't seem to be in touch with this election's hot topics: the importance of prioritizing on-campus childcare in the school's operating budget, accessibility for non-traditional students, and de-escalating campus security. The only really solid procedural idea he expressed in the voters' pamphlet is that he's very keen on applying for grants to help COCC expand and grow. I think that's a great idea! He just doesn't have to be on the board to do it.

John Short's primary messaging is around campus security reform. This quote from a Bend Bulletin article definitely resonated with me: “I’m fairly suspicious of parapolice organizations, or organizations that try to fill the role of police officers without having any of the actual vested authority." This article explores the personal and procedural aftermath of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a COCC student by a campus security officer, and the ongoing complaints about COCC's campus security.

Short is a Bend native and a recent former student, so he has a closer perspective to the issues COCC is facing. He is motivated to find a way to fund on-campus childcare, and wants to expand online offerings to reduce overhead and make classes more accessible to nontraditional and off-campus students. He is also an advocate of funding full time, fully benefitted faculty, instead of relying on adjuncts.

You can read more about both candidates in this Bend Bulletin article. Jim Clinton's website is here (it really doesn't say much, nor did he have a super clear message in his talk on the candidate forum). John Short doesn't have a campaign website, but have a scroll through some of his older public facebook posts and you'll get an idea of his values and voice. I'm impressed by the thoughtful and respectful way he engages his more conservative friends on high-tension topics like abortion and immigration.

Central Oregon Community College Director, Zone 6: NO VOTE

I'm not voting on this one because Bruce Abernethy (the 8-year incumbent) is running unopposed and will get the position regardless. I don't want to pad his numbers, because I don't like his politics. He is a very actively involved local politician who likes to play to the middle - something I abhor. He was mayor and a city councilperson during some of Bend's big growing pains, including the Bill Healy bridge construction, the city bus debacle, and Juniper Ridge. And he got lobbied into voting for Christ Piper in our recent city councilperson appointment snafu. Let's find someone new for the Zone 6 position!

Central Oregon Community College Director, Zone 7: Oliver Tatom (unopposed)

Tatom is working as a paramedic while attending COCC's nursing program. He's the president of the 2019 nursing class, on the board of directors of the Central Oregon Disabilities Support Network, and the political advisor to the Bend-Lapine Gun Safety Coalition (a local grassroots org working to promote sensible gun reform and mitigate school shootings). He wants COCC to develop more online courses/degrees so that rural students have better accessibility, and for on-campus childcare available for students who are parents. You can have a look at his website, here.

Tatom is an incredibly engaging public speaker. His dig at Mayor Russell's appointment gaffe had me laughing out loud, but his takeaway was strong: "All of us - this collection of mostly white people - can say a lot. But it's what we do that matters. Right now, I'll get the job no matter what I say, because I'm running unopposed. When I come back in 4 years and ask for your vote again, I want you to look at what I've done; who I've empowered....I want to create a community college that looks like the community we want to build here in Bend." (This quote has a couple bits taken out of context, for the sake of clarity. I think I represented him well.) Based on his candidate forum presentation, Tatom is clearly well educated in issues of consent, implicit bias, intention vs. impact, diversity vs. inclusion. He's doing his work and I'm impressed.

I think Tatom will be an excellent addition to the COCC board. His perspective takes into account areas of need that are not currently represented and he seems to be someone who really wants to help make things better, particularly for people who are marginalized. His wife is running for Bend-La Pine school board. Keep your eye on the Tatoms - they are doing good things in our community.

Deschutes Public Library District District Director, Zone 1: Cynthia Claridge (unopposed)

Claridge is seeking election for the post she was appointed to in November 2018. She's the co-owner of Paulina Springs Books (one of my favorite localish bookshops), and a retired elementary school teacher. She understands the value an excellent library system has for its community, and grasps the need for its evolution into digital needs and various forms of community support.

Deschutes Public Library District Director, Zone 4: Betsy Tucker

Tucker is running against incumbent Raymond Miao. Miao has served on the Deschutes Public Library District Board since its inception in 1998, and is basically the grandfather of every good thing the DPL offers.

(As an aside, I'm not sure if everyone realizes just what an incredible public library program Deschutes county has. It is so much more than books. For instance, I just found out about Lawyer in the Library: in partnership with Deschutes County Access to Justice Committee, DPL offers free 30-minute consultations with an attorney, every Wednesday night.)

Anyway, Tucker has been the Finance Manager for Bend Park & Recreation District and Budget & Financial Analyst for the City of Bend. She is politically and socially progressive, and is active in Embrace Bend, one of the local grassroots support and advocacy groups I've got my toe in.

I don't think you can go wrong with either candidate, here. I'm voting for Tucker because she holds the same priorities and values for the library as Miao, and has her whole political career still before her. I am exceptionally grateful for the work Miao has done to make the library what it is, and I am delighted to see an candidate like Tucker ready to take the baton.

Deschutes Public Library District Director, Zone 5: Ann Malkin (unopposed)

Malkin has been on the library board since 2007. She's also the chair of the State Library Board, a 19-year member of the Deschutes Public Library Foundation, sits on the Deschutes Public Library District Budget Committee, and is part of Friends of the Bend Libraries. In short: a total library geek (and that's a good thing!). Her experience and dedication are a huge asset to DPL.

Administrative School District No 1 Director, Zone 1: Caroline Skidmore

(Watch the candidate forum presentations here.)
Skidmore, a pediatric speech pathologist, is running against two guys with IT backgrounds: Mark Capell and Chet Liew.

Mark Capell seems to think you can throw money at a problem and make it go away - that was basically his answer to every question at the candidate forum. According to his voter's pamphlet statement, Mark Capell sat in a Kindergarten class recently, seems to think that there's a big problem with kids having different capabilities at that age (in the candidate forum, he framed this solely as a privilege issue, which really grated on me as a (privileged!) parent of kids with learning disabilities). His proposed solution is better funding - particularly moving away from depending on the state for money for our schools, whatever that means. I'm on board with smaller student to teacher ratios, but Capell's apparent lack of basic understanding of child development is odd and out of touch to me.

Chet Liew clearly has lots more experience with actual children and is an emphatic supporter of public schools. He sees himself as a futurist who wants to address the issues our schools are facing with technological solutions. He is a really hands-on parent who is very involved in his kids' school experiences and wants to build community involvement around our kids' educational experience. I think Liew is a good candidate, but I like Skidmore's focus better.

Skidmore knows kids: she's worked with them every day for her 25 year career as a pediatric speech pathologist. Her human-centered approach to educational reform focuses on mental and emotional health support for students and their families, funding diverse learning needs, and proactively addressing bullying and school violence issues. Skidmore wants to implement a restorative justice policy in our district and to make sure our curricula tell the truth about the indigenous experience and a non-white-washed history of our state/country. She is on the board of directors for the the Bend-Lapine Gun Safety Coalition (a local grassroots org working to promote sensible gun reform and mitigate school shootings). She has strong statements regarding diversity and inclusion, and clear policy ideas for making our district better in these areas.

The Source Weekly also endorses Skidmore, and has their own writeup and video interview of the candidates here.

Administrative School District No 1 Director, Zone 3: Shimiko Montgomery

(Watch the candidate forum presentations here.)
Montgomery is running against Andy High, the current board chair. High is a business owner whose main approach to running the school district focuses on balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility/success. That said, he definitely seems to appreciate human needs over spreadsheets and says he is on board with using excess budget for increasing school counselors. He has taken a special interest in accessibility at our schools throughout his tenure on the board, and he sounds like he's gaining fluency on the issue of diversity and inclusion. However, his campaign contributors are icky, in my book. I will have no part in elevating someone to power who is supported by Bill Moseley and Knute Buehler.

Montgomery's platform is student/family and educator support and equity/inclusion. She can back that up with her experience as a school counselor and her current role of Pastor for Justice and Mission at Bend First Presbyterian Church. Her entire professional career has been about working for the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized communities. She also has a degree in urban policy studies, and is a board member of both Bend 2030 and the Homeless Leadership Coalition. I am also pleased to see that she's endorsed by the incredible PsyD who was instrumental in helping our family over the years. With her education, experience, and dedication, Montgomery is the kind of public servant I want to see in every role in our community.

Administrative School District No 1 Director, Zone 3 Director, Zone 5 - Amy Tatom (unopposed)

(Watch the candidate forum presentation here)

Amy Tatom is a nurse practitioner at St. Charles Medical Center and a member of the St. Charles Medical Group’s Board of Directors. She wants to bring a holistic approach to the issues our schools face, including addressing teacher/staff burnout, connecting kids/families in need with community resources, and making sure policies are in place that make our schools truly safe and inclusive. She supports funding mental health care providers in our schools, sensible gun safety education between schools and parents, a goodfaith PERS reform, and finding a way to stop "teaching to the test." She is running unopposed but I would vote for her regardless. Her husband is also running for COCC board. I hope this power couple keeps working to make Bend a stronger, safer community!

Administrative School District No 1 Director, Zone 6, At Large: Melissa Barnes Dholakia

(Watch the candidate forum presentations here)
(There is also a round table with the three candidates presented by the Source Weekly. Though, I'm shocked that they didn't find Barnes Dholakia's experience sufficient for an endorsement!)

Melissa Barnes Dholakia is running against Richard Asadoorian and Mike Way. Asadoorian opened his candidate forum presentation with a statement of rememberance for his relatives lost in the Armenian genocide, connecting his experience as an Armenian-American with the discussions of discrimination and inclusivity of the evening. He's been an elementary school teacher, a counselor in middle and high school, and principal of an alternative high school. He clearly believes that kids are our most precious resource, and his life calling is to serve their educational needs. I got a little choked up watching his presentation; he seems like a really wonderful man.

I'll give Mike Way credit: he knew he was completely outclassed by Melissa Barnes Dholakia, and basically said as much when he took the mic after her. He is a retired career teacher who still volunteers with the robotics team in La Pine. He had some excellent statements about affordability in Bend, and how if we are going to meet the goal of recruiting a more diverse teaching staff, we have to address our current housing crisis. He is obviously an asset to our community and the groups with whom he volunteers.

Melissa Barnes Dholakia's CV just blows everyone else out of the water. I really hope her sights are on superintendent; she has everything needed for that job. Barnes Dholakia has been a public school teacher in elementary, middle, and high school. She was a principal and adminstrator for ten years, building an award winning k-12 charter school district in East Oakland. She also has her own consulting practice for principals, superintendents and CEOs.

Barnes Dholakia's platform for the school board is agency, belonging, and equity, along with financial stability. Having seen the institutional racism and inequality in the East Oakland schools, she believes education is the civil rights issue of our generation and has made it her life work to do something about it. She pointed out the achievement gap within Bend, and between Bend and La Pine, and the racial achievement gap (in our district, there's a 79% graduation rate for white kids, in the 50s for Black and brown kids). I have every confidence that Barnes Dholakia will vastly improve our district during her tenure on the board. I'm excited to follow her political career here in Bend.

Redmond School District 2J Director, Position 4: Tim Carpenter (unopposed)

Other than a short blurb in the voters' pamphlet, I can't find much of anything about Carpenter. It looks like he's got a "I've been doing this since 2015, vote for me to keep doing it" platform, and no one has a big enough complaint (or aspiration) to run against him.

Redmond School District 2J Director, Position 5: Liz Goodrich

Goodrich is running against incumbent Johnny Corbin, a veteran and retiree who has held the position since 2015. According to this Source Weekly writeup, "Corbin believes arming school staff is a key component for addressing the threat of gun violence in schools." He also thinks students' concerns about climate change are blown way out of proportion. So, he's a big nope for me.

Goodrich is officially endorsed by Deschutes Democrats and informally by many of the candidates endorsed in this post. She is in alignment with the Bend-La Pine Gun Safety Coalition's guidelines, seems to have some trauma-informed education, and wants to make Redmond's schools more inclusive and equitable for marginalized students.

Sisters School District 6 Director, Position 3: Jeff Smith

The candidate statements in the voters' pamphlet were pretty useless for decision making, but after some googling, I was able to find this article in the Bend Bulletin about the Sisters School District candidates. The two candidates for this position are Jeff Smith, incumbent, and Stephen King - who vacated his seat on position 4 so that he could oppose Jeff Smith for position 3. Weird? Apparently, King thinks Smith represents the status quo and wants to shake things up a bit.

King wants to extend the school year by two days each year, for the next five years, for some reason. But I do like his idea of creating a more experiential, hands-on curriculum. However, Smith states that he wants to focus on kids' mental health to increase accessibility to learning. I think it's crucial for schools these days to emphasize student mental health, so Smith (ironically, the older white guy) has my vote.

Sisters School District 6 Director, Position 4: Mandee Seeley

Mandee Seeley is running against Don Hedrick, who served on the school board from 2009 to 2017 and was board chair from 2012 to 2016.

Hedrick is 84 and has a wealth of experience from his career as a teacher and former board member. At this point, though, it's time to pass the baton, and I think Mandee Seeley is an excellent candidate to complete the handoff. She's new to Sisters, but dived right into community organizing, beginning the the twice-yearly Community Cleanup event hosted by Sisters Parks and Recreation District (where she was serving as Administrative Assistant). Seeley has her eye on a City Council seat next, and wanted to get her feet wet in local politics with the school board position. This might go over some people's heads, but as a former homeschooler myself, I can see how impressive it is that Seeley chose to send her kids to schools in the Sisters School District. Stepping out of the homeschooling mindset and entrusting your kids to "the institution" can be hard for homeschooling parents; for Seeley to invest her time and energy in supporting its success shows me that she believes in its value.

Bend Metro Park and Recreation District District Director, Position 1: Ariel Mendez

(Watch the candidate forum presentation here.)
Méndez is running against Travis Davis, a licensed civil engineer who currently works in risk management/insurance. He doesn't have info in the voters' pamphlet, but according to his candidate forum presentation, he wants to add diversity to the board by being the sole Eastsider represented on the BPRD board (I think that's valid, in that the socioeconomic divergence between the east and west sides of the city are significant). He showed fluency and humility about racial diversity issues, acknowledging that his white-maleness puts him in a position to learn. However, Davis's campaign seems to be financed almost solely by local housing developers. This year, the board is making crucial decisions about SDCs: fees charged to developers when a new residence (or hotel) is built - fees that fund our parks and recreation district. Fees that the housing developers would love to see reduced, if not completely done away with. No way do I want the builders' guild to install a lobbyist on the board who owes his election to them.

So, for that reason and on his own merit, Ariel Méndez has my vote. He has his PhD in political science, and already sits on the Bend Parks and Recreation District Budget Committee and the Citywide Transportation Advisory Committee. His platform for inclusivity and accessibility is informed from these roles as well as being Board President of Bend Bikes, our local urban biking advocacy group. Méndez's main priority is expanding our urban trail network (yay for better bike paths!); using the BPRD budget wisely (while still exempting SDCs for affordable housing); and making parks programs more accessible to all residents (i.e. more subsidies for families in need; better transportation via trail networks; and in general, assessing needs and prioritizing support community-wide). He's a thoughtful, gracious man who has quietly been building a better Bend for years. Having him on the board will be a gift to this city!

Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Director Director, Position 2: Jason Kropf (unopposed)

(Watch the candidate forum presntation here.)
Jason Kropf is Deschutes County's Deputy District Attorney and on the City of Bend Accessibility Advisory Committee. Previously, he was a public defender, working mostly with families in crisis and foster situations. Now, he carries the juvenile caseload for Deschutes County and sits on the board of directors for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Kropf sees first hand the disenfranchisement of at-risk kids in our area - as well as how lifechanging it is for a one of those kids to join a BPRD soccer or swim team. He pointed out in his candidate forum presentation that while there is a fund for subsidizing fees and memberships for those in need, it's small (less than half of one percent of the BPRD budget). Furthermore, it's not even used up every year - mainly because people don't know that help is available. Kropf is determined to change that. He wants to take the good intentions of the BPRD financial aid program and actually make it work, so that everyone who wants to access programs can.

La Pine Park & Recreation District Director, Position 4: Deren Ash

Deren Ash is endorsed by Deschutes Democrats. You can read more about him here. He's running against incumbent Gary Gordon, and you can read a little blurb on each of them in this Bend Bulletin article.

Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District No 2, Director, Position 5: Raymond Miao

Raymond Miao is running against proud rural conservative Ben Schimmoller. Schimmoller's politics make me think he might be an advocate for "raking the forest," if you take my meaning. He's received sizable campaign contributions from Tea Party organizer Tim Phillips, and Action PAC, which spent huge sums trying to unseat Kate Brown last year. Schimmoller lost the 2018 Republican primary for state representative to Jack Zika by two votes. He's trying to get his toe in somewhere and I really want to keep shooting him down until he goes away for good.

Vote for Miao, who has been in this position for several years and has done some very good work here. Miao is a member of Project Wildfire, which advocates for fire adapted communities - a way to keep people and homes safe from wildfire while allowing the fires to play their important role in the ecosystem. Oregon desperately needs this kind of ecologically sound forest/fire management; let's keep Miao in a position of authority here.

Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District, Director, Position 1: Kristie Miller

Miller has her degree in forest management and is a retired forest ranger with 35+ years in the forest service. Her experience will lend itself beautifully to this position. She's running against Ken Jones, who already sits on the distric's budget committee and has spent the last 30 years as this fire district's attorney. I can't find much of anything about either of these candidates, and so I'm falling back on my guidelines: put more women in charge.

Sisters Park & Recreation District Director, Position 5: Rosemary Vasquez

Vasquez is running against incumbent Peggy Tehan. You can read a tiny bit about each of them here. Vasquez is endorsed by Deschutes Democrats, and that is literally all the info I can find on her. These candidates really need to have some help putting their info online!

The following candidates are running unopposed, so just fill in the bubble if you have it.

(That said, if you have reason to believe that a symbolic No Vote is worthwhile, let me know!)

La Pine Park & Recreation District Director, Position 5: Bridgit Montgomery

Redmond Area Park and Recreation Director, Position 4: Zachary L Harmon

Redmond Area Park and Recreation District Director, Position 5: Edwin H Danielson

Cloverdale Rural Fire Protection District Director, Positions 1 & 2: John Thomas & Jerry B Johnson

Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District No 2, Director, Positions 1 & 2: Gary Cadez & Karl Scronce

La Pine Rural Fire Protection District Director, Positions 3, 4, & 5: Joel Witmer, James L Landles, & Larry J South

Redmond Fire and Rescue Director, Position 3: Craig Unger