A slide toward extinction

by Helen Caswell

As decisions about new logging operations are being considered in the state, conservationists are checking in on an infamous little owl. They’re finding that the news isn’t good.

The northern spotted owl is in greater peril than ever, and evidence suggests that it will take a huge amount of will – public and legislative – and require significant changes in Oregon’s timber industry, to prevent the species from perishing.

The owl in question is a nocturnal raptor that lives in the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, from northern California to lower British Columbia. It requires high tree canopies, old trees for nesting and open spaces beneath the branches under which to fly. These characteristics do not exist until forests are at least 150 years old.

In 1990, under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the species as ‘threatened.” President Clinton’s controversial Northwest Forest Plan was adopted in 1994, aiming, to protect crucial old growth forests for the spotted owl, while allowing sustainable timber harvest. The plan ignited one of the most publicized conflicts between environmentalists and the logging industry in history.

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Yet the spotted owl is in steep decline. In December 2015, the US Geological Survey reported that in approximately 30 years, (1985 – 2013) populations dropped in Washington by up to 77%, in Oregon by up to 68% and by more than 50% in California. The species has virtually disappeared from British Columbia. During that time, spotted owl numbers fell by an average of nearly 4% per year across their entire range.

“It’s a horrendous slide into extinction,” says Tom Wheeler of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) in Arcata. “We are heading towards an extinction event.”

Should Oregonians care?

The spotted owl is “an ‘indicator species’” says resource policy expert Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. Indicator species provide evidence of the health of an ecosystem; when they are robust, so are their surroundings and when they fail, the environment shows it lacks crucial structural diversity.

This matters—if only because healthy forests are a significant financial resource. “In Oregon,” Heiken says, “our forest ecosystem provides tremendous benefits to Oregonians, from the huge amount of carbon it absorbs to address climate change, to recreation. Quality of life based on healthy forests is probably the most important economic development asset for our state.”

Responsibility for maintaining Oregon forests rests with the U.S. Forest Services and the Bureau of Land Management (for federal lands) while the Oregon Department of Forestry manages state and private forests.

 

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Why has the owl declined?

The consensus of most scientists is that the decline is due to the timber harvesting on federal, state and privately owned lands allowed by the Clinton plan. Logging depletes habitat where spotted owls nest, and It forces them to live in small clumps of forest surrounded by clear-cut where they are more vulnerable to predation and starvation.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that the last 190 years has seen an over 60 percent reduction of suitable habitat available to spotted owls by. Washington has already lost more than 90% of its old growth forest to logging.

Propelled by this habitat loss, another species, the barred owl, appeared in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s. Native to the East Coast, barred owls have a broader diet than spotted owls and can use a wider variety of habitat, including poorer areas damaged by logging. They are also larger and more aggressive than the spotted owl. They are ‘generalists,’ who can thrive in a fragmented forest landscape; the spotted owl is a ‘specialist’ that requires large areas of older forests. In Oregon, barred owls are now more numerous than spotted owls.

Who’s responsible.

It’s a complex issue, but Michael Donnelly, co-founder of Friends of Opal Creek, says it come down to bad policy and lack of political will. The designers of the Clinton Forest Plan (created in 90 days) built in the assumption that it would take decades for reserve forests to regrow enough to counteract the habitat loss from the logging the plan allowed. “The Clinton Forest Plan was based on bad ideas,” Donnelly says, “on the ludicrous premise that you could arrange for a 1% per year decline of spotted owls for 50 years, and the species would magically revive 50 years later.”

Another problem, according to Wheeler, is that the designation of the spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened” is insufficient to safeguard them.

Efforts to turn the tide

EPIC recently filed a petition to ‘uplift’ the status of the spotted owl from ‘threatened’ to ‘endangered.’ “Scientifically, an ‘uplift’ is completely justified,” Wheeler says. “One of the ‘teeth’ of using the ‘endangered species’ determination is the legal ability to find a species is in jeopardy.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement a recovery plan says John Chatel, Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Program Manager for the USFS. The dominant focus of the plan is the removal (shooting) of barred owls, a procedure being tested in several treatment areas. Results from a 5-year experiment in California showed promising results, though, after about a year in Oregon, Chatel says” it’s still way too early to tell” if the method will be successful here.

Is it smart to shoot barred owls?

It helps, but may not be sustainable. It also doesn’t address all the issues. “They’re blaming the barred owls for moving in,” Donnelly says, ”but the reason they move in is because the spotted have less habitat.”

Although EPIC takes no position on barred owl removal, Wheeler suggests shooting the birds is “an incomplete solution. If we just do barred owl management and don’t protect habitat, we still lose large blocks of spotted owl habitat.”

Shooting barred owls is not an ideal strategy over the long haul, either. “I have a hard time imagining people out there continually shooting barred owls for the next 100, 150 years,” Wheeler says.

Moving forward

Donnelly suggests that all conservation organizations know the truth: that federal and state laws provide insufficient protection for the spotted owl. “They know if they would sue [government agencies], they would get an injunction and stop all logging,” he says. “But these environmental organizations are beholden to Democrats and corporate funders who keep them afloat.”

Joseph Vaile, Executive Director Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, concurs that powerful economic forces, supported by Oregon’s Department of Forestry, oppose changes that might restore the spotted owl.

“Oregon has by far the weakest forest practices on the West Coast,” Vaile says. “Clear-cutting is rampant, often followed by spraying of toxic herbicides. It is doubtful that the Board of Forestry will change this [because] ‘Big Timber’ wields enormous power in Salem.”

Until citizens “stand up and demand change,” Vaile says, “the timber industry power and ties to the political elites will protect them from having to change their practices.”

It will mean life or extinction for the northern spotted owl and the forest systems that benefit all Oregonians.

Salem safe from inundation!

by Helen Caswell

Salem residents concerned about the coming Cascadia subduction earthquake can cross one potential catastrophe off their lists, says the US Army Corps of Engineers.

And that is t he disaster of the Detroit Dam falling to pieces and its water engulfing the city.

It’s a topic local people wonder about. “I’ve been asked repeatedly about Detroit Dam failure in a Cascadia [earthquake] since I began this job,” says Ed Flick, Marion County Emergency Manager. “The consequences would be catastrophic, but the likelihood is extremely remote.”

Completed in 1953, the Detroit Dam is only 45 miles east of Salem and was built before Oregonians knew the risk of earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest . It wasn’t until the 1970s that people began to understand the state had numerous faults both off shore and onshore. In particular, geologists learned the region is subject to massive Cascadia Subduction Zone quakes which occur about once every 300 years.

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It’s now been 316 years since the last Cascadia , but Matt Craig, Dam Safety Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says that though the Detroit Dam was not constructed with seismic concerns in mind, the corps does not anticipate a failure.

“We do risk assessments on an ongoing basis,” he says, “in particular of what might happen in a 9.0.”

A magnitude-9.0 earthquake is the most intense possible quake, and only occur at subduction zones like the one off the coast of Oregon. “We look at whether an event like this could lead to dam failure,” Craig continues, “and what is the likelihood of some kind of release of water.”

Craig oversees the Corp’s “Portland District;” 20 dams that run roughly north to south from the Columbia River down to just above the California border. Thirteen are in the Willamette Valley basin. All twenty have a safety inspection every five years and a seismic study every 15 years.

Detroit Dam is built out of concrete “monoliths” Craig says , enormous slabs held together by joints. “They were purposely given joints so they could respond to temperature changes.” But although the Corps “would expect some movement , that won’t cause enough damage to release water. We don’t believe the blocks will separate at the joints.”

The dangers from earthquakes in Oregon are real. Salem Weekly encourages all readers to get information from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management or the Red Cross. Or, visit the City of Salem’s Emergency Management page and sign up for CERT disaster preparedness training.

In fact, Craig says, dams aren’t as susceptible to earthquakes as people might think; of dam failures around the world where every level of construction expertise is employed, only 1% can be attributed to earthquakes. He points to the 2011 magnitude-9.0 earthquake in Fukushima, Japan, that caused major devastation.

“It was similar to what we’d see in a Cascadia Subduction Zone event,” Craig says. But of over 250 dams in the Fukushima impact zone, only one small earth dam failed.

Of greater concern to emergency managers is the possible collapse of infrastructure like roads and bridges, broken water and gas lines and downed power lines.

Flick, whose goal is to have Marion County “the most prepared region in the state,” says that he and other managers receive regular information and training on dam breakage risks, and though the science doesn’t suggest a dam that impacts the county will fail in an earthquake, “that’s not to say we don’t prepare for it and review our plans annually. But it’s not a high concern.”

How we move forward

by Laura Gildart Sauter

I’ve been a fan of the Salem Progressive Film Series for some time.  The monthly films are always thought-provoking and informative, and discuss issues that should be important to any concerned citizen.  However, this month’s award-winning offering, Bikes vs. Cars (90min), directed by Fredrik Gertten, produced by Margarete Jangard and Elin Kamlert, is particularly relevant to the City of Salem and many of its current issues: the disagreement over the construction of a third bridge, the controversy over downtown parking, the need for expanded bus service, and the movement to reverse the one-way street grid.  So, in partnership with the Progressive Film Series, Salem Weekly is issuing both an invitation and a challenge:  to any Salem City Council member, to Mayor Anna Peterson, City Manager Steve Powers, to any candidate for city office, or any Salem Planning Commission member – free admission if you attend this important film.

The film opens with shots of people sitting in traffic jams, of bicyclists pedaling between cars and busses, of oil rigs silhouetted by the sunset.  We hear a siren and the camera narrows in on an ambulance frantically battling its way through blocked traffic.  Bikes vs Cars focuses its lens on several large world cities: Sao Paolo, Brazil, Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada – all beset by horrendous traffic problems – feature prominently, as does Copenhagen, Denmark the most bicycle-friendly city in the world.

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The film interviews young bicycle activists in Sao Paolo, follows them as they memorialize fellow riders killed in traffic (at least one a week) with “ghost bicycles” spray-painted on the pavement, watches as they plan and undertake to persuade their city to create a network of bike lanes.  Raquel Rolnik, a professor of urban planning in Sao Paolo, expresses outrage at how the city is completely car oriented “our system does not take people into account.”  The activists petition the city government to reduce the width of streets, reduce speed, add bike lanes and trees to segregate traffic and keep cyclists safe.

In Los Angeles, we accompany a young father, Dan Koeppel, as he follows the path of the Los Angeles “cycleway” – a wooden boardwalk constructed at the beginning of the 20th century to move bicycles from Pasadena to downtown.  The structure is gone now, but in some places the right of way remains; a grassy reminder that in the early days of the city, people didn’t drive – 20% of people commuted on bikes, and most worked close to home or took public transportation.  We learn how General Motors purchased and destroyed the bus system and Standard Oil (now, Chevron) began dismantling the trolley system in 1945, ripping up the tracks and dumping the cars into Monterey Bay, all in a calculated move to turn Los Angles into a city dominated by the automobile.  To quote Koeppel: “The entire structure of LA is defined by the illusion of speed and convenience, but what we have are endless traffic jams: 2-4-6 lanes of freeway have become 10 or even 12 but no matter how much they build, traffic has gotten worse.”

The filmmakers interview Joel Ewanick, a car buff at an Irvine car show,  who says he cares about clean air, and climate change but “loves gasoline.  We’re addicted to it, its fun, its history.  I’m not selling my gas car and I’m as green as they come.”  At this point in the film, the audience begins to realize how deeply irrational humanity’s love affair with the automobile has become, but the film is not entirely one-sided.  The camera portrays the “pro-car” faction with some sympathy.   We can relate to the elderly gentleman lovingly polishing his 50s Ford convertible, and to the soft-spoken taxi driver in Copenhagen who delicately negotiates the streets through annoying “swarms of bicycles.”

One of the most infuriating segments of the film is the section on Toronto.  We hear former Mayor Rob Ford declare that the “war on cars stops today” as he sends out crews to paint out the bike lanes and vows that there will be no more light rail tracks laid in the middle of city streets.  We learn that, in Toronto, a pedestrian is hit by a car every three hours and a cyclist every seven, while the film shows Mayor Ford, blithely stating that “it’s their own fault.”

The camera returns to Sao Paolo, where Rolnik informs the audience that 60% of the space in the city is taken up housing cars, not people.  The film ends with a montage of traffic jams from a dozen cities: Mumbai, Jakarta, Paris, Rio, London, Beijing, Mexico City.  We do not see the iconic shots — the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben– what we see is the numbing monotony of endless automobiles.  The blur of traffic enforces what Koeppel tells us: “We need to decide how we want to live. We cannot make life better in cities by making more room for cars.”

We have all of the issues depicted in Bikes vs. Cars here in Salem, on a smaller scale.  Within the next few years we will, as a city, decide what direction we want to take – will we go the way of Toronto or Copenhagen?  The film shows us how when downtowns and neighborhoods are designed on a human scale – with room for bikes and pedestrians, with slower traffic, with trees, with fewer parking garages and more public transportation– business thrives, people flock to these areas to cafes and restaurants, to theaters and stores.  Salem has the potential to be a world class small city – the capital of the Oregon wine country, a destination for eco-tourists, a home for the creative and entrepreneurial spirit.  Will we live up to our potential or sink into sprawl and smog?  You decide.

 

Bikes vs Cars

 Salem Progressive Film Series

Guest speakers & audience discussion follow, 

Tuesday, May 17, 7 p.m.

The Grand Theater

191 High St. NE, Salem

(503) 881-5305

salemprogressivefilms.net

The Play’s the Thing -Focus on Lisa Joyce

by R.S. Stewart

“I wear many hats,” says Lisa Joyce, Executive Director of Pentacle Theatre, characterizing her job as the “voice of the theatre.”

Selling tickets while the front office attendant is on a coffee break and answering the phone after business hours in the Pentacle Box Office on Liberty Street are only two jobs that fall outside her official position. An executive director primarily focuses on fundraising; writing grants, policies, and newsletters. Lisa also manages the theatre’s property in the West Salem hills, supports the Board in its many decisions, and creates marketing campaigns. She emphasizes her job as “heavy on the writing.”

A theater lover, Lisa enjoys attending play rehearsals held in the basement of the downtown building. On occasion she sits in on auditions. During the recent production of Willamette University Theatre’s staging of Japanese Noh plays, she was a volunteer usher.

Lisa first experienced the “theatre bug” at Reed College, where she performed in a fellow student’s play written as a thesis. She also portrayed “crazy” Aunt Harriet in the comedy classic, The Man Who Came to Dinner. Among her favorite plays are Buried Child by Sam Shepherd and A Woman in Mind by Alan Ayckbourn.

The play selection committee at Pentacle is now preparing its list for next season, and although Lisa is not allowed a vote, she highly recommends the current London hit comedy Hangmen.

A resident of Salem since 1988, Lisa began her relationship with Pentacle by volunteering the year she arrived. In 1994 she became the Hospitality House Manager. At the same time as volunteering, she worked for 27 years in state agencies including the Governor’s Office, Corrections, Energy, and Human Services.

The mother of three, Lisa believes strongly in arts for children, a value exemplified by her service on the Board of Children’s Educational Theatre. It’s a family affair, too; when he was ten her son Isaac was in Pentacle’s production of Gypsy. Now 22, he is doing make-up for the current production of Verona Studio’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.

Volunteers and donors are a special group of people to Lisa , who has great admiration for their “passion” and drive. Would she rather not have to ask for money for special projects? “No,” she says, because “donors would feel unappreciated.”

She’s proud to be part of Pentacle’s history; the theater opened its doors in 1954- 62 years and going strong.

Lisa’s current campaign is to get a larger capacity for lights in the theatre and she is helping with the thick folder of paperwork required to get a permit to improve the size and visibility of the Pentacle entrance sign. Future projects include greater access for people with disabilities and a left turn traffic light onto Highway 22. Many patrons would appreciate both.

At the close of our interview, Lisa read portions of letters she received from some of the 100 middle-school children who attended Pentacle’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank because of a grant she wrote. She was clearly very moved by the children saying that it was the first play they ever attended and that they would remember it all their lives.

May 1 march in Salem

Photos and story by Jason Cox

Hundreds of progressive Oregonians marched on the Oregon State Capitol on Sunday, May 1, with a timely theme of “Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote!”

Numerous allied groups found common cause in speaking up for workers’ rights, keeping families together and speaking up against hate. Causa Oregon and the Oregon School Employees Association organized the event.
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Election Day May 17, Get that ballot IN, Why May Matters

Get that ballot IN

Marion County ballots are being mailed this week. Mark yours and turn it in as soon as possible.

Why?

– You won’t get phone calls.

Elections officials keep track of who has turned in their ballot (though not what your vote was). That information appears in online databases. Candidates and their volunteers can see if you’ve voted. They often call tardy voters to get their ballot in. You can avoid the hassle if you mail your ballot in early.

– You won’t have to find a drop box to drop your ballot by hand.

Ballot drop box locations are printed on pages 4 and 5 of the Marion County Voter Pamphlet. But stamps are 47 cents now. Avoid the drive, the gas and the traffic! Mail your ballot immediately.

Election Day May 17 Mail by May 10

“If you don’t mail before May 10, you are taking a chance,” says Bill Burgess, Marion County Clerk.

Salem mail – even mail destined for Salem – is now routed up through Portland. This can delay mail delivery times back in Salem. For this reason, Burgess and other Marion County election officials are urging voters who want to mail their ballots to post it by May 10 – ONE FULL WEEK before election day.

“We’ve seen time and again, that a few ballots don’t make it in time. One year there were 22 that didn’t get in on time. We don’t want that to happen to anyone.”

Why May Matters

Relevant nationally

May 17 is the day that Democratic Oregonians will vote for Hillary or Bernie and Republican Oregonians will vote for Kasich, Trump or Cruz.

Neither national party has an official presidential candidate yet, and Oregon, though not decisive, will be a more important state in the race than usual as the parties head towards their national conventions. The general election, when everyone will make a final decision on who will be our next President, will be held on November 8, 2016.

It’s a crucial election year for the country, since, among other things, four Supreme Court judges will be older than 80 during the next President’s term. The President nominates new justices, who determine the nation’s law for generations to come.

Important statewide

Here in Oregon the May election will also determine who will run off in November as the Democratic and Republican candidates for Oregon’s governor. It will determine who will compete later in the year as candidates for two long-held national legislative seats, one in the U.S. Senate (currently held by Kurt Schrader) and one the U.S. House of Representative (now held by Ron Wyden.)

Vital locally

In Salem, May 17 will be the date citizens will determine the direction they want their city government to take. There will be no November vote for city seats; it all happens now.

The May ballot has contested races in 3 of 4 city council slots, one uncontested council seat and a race for who will be Salem’s next mayor.

Oregon election law allows for these positions to be determined in the primary. This law, which is not inevitable, means that our city government will be determined by a smaller number of the electorate because substantially fewer voters cast a ballot in a primary than a general election.

“Even in relatively high-turnout years,” says the Pew Research Center, “… primaries attract far fewer voters than general elections, even though they determine whom voters get to choose from come November.” For example, in 2012, 129.1 million Americans, 53 % of the voting-age population, cast ballots in the November general presidential election – as opposed to fewer than 28 million in the 2012 spring primaries.

Every state has different laws regulating local elections. In some areas of California, for example, candidates for city council do not run in the spring at all. They save their campaigns for November, when turnout is higher, and the person with the most votes wins the council seat.

Attempts to raise voter participation

When Gov. Kate Brown signed the “motor-voter” bill last spring, Oregon became the first state in the nation with a law that automatically signs people up to vote when they renew their driver’s license.  It remains to be seen whether these new voters will participate in May – or even November. When Canada implemented a similar system about 20 years ago, it did not see an increase in voter turnout.

Oregon’s mail-in ballot system, which does not require voters to stand in line on Election Day, however, does see increased participation. Data gathered by Michael P. McDonald of the United States Election Project shows that in the three states where voters can utilize “postal voting,” voter “turnout” is consistently higher than the rest of the nation. In 2012, the average U.S. turnout was 62.2% of voters; in Oregon it was 68.3%.

A month from now, the numbers will be in, city races decided and figures tallied about how many voters in our city of more than 160,000 decided who the next mayor should be.

The Oregon Secretary of State elections division site contains all the information Oregonians will need to vote. It also quotes a remark made by Franklin D. Roosevelt:

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not vote.”

What Salem people say

We recently asked Salem residents on Liberty Street and in South Salem if they knew who Salem’s mayor was, and if they knew who was running in May to replace her. We also wondered what issues they hoped the city would prioritize after the election.

We were surprised that so many younger people were unaware of the name of their city’s top elected official, or candidates who have been running to take her job.

We enjoyed the range of good ideas Salem people have as the city moves forward.

 Randy B. Doesn’t know who mayor or mayoral candidates are. “I think downtown parking taxes are ridiculous for small downtown business owners. There should be a better system.”
Randy B.
Doesn’t know who mayor or mayoral candidates are.
“I think downtown parking taxes are ridiculous for small downtown business owners. There should be a better system.”

 

Vedika C.  Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. I have no issues.
Vedika C. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. I have no issues.

 

 Brian H.  Knows who mayor and one mayoral candidate are. “This is a well-run city and I have no complaints.”
Brian H. Knows who mayor and one mayoral candidate are. “This is a well-run city and I have no complaints.”

 

Maria F. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. “We need better street lighting in all neighborhoods, not just a few.”
Maria F. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. “We need better street lighting in all neighborhoods, not just a few.”

 

Miles M. Doesn’t know who mayor is, knows one mayoral candidate. “Our mass transportation is not very good, not like Portland. I own a small downtown business, and busses don’t even run on weekends. So my customers can’t get downtown to spend any money on the weekends.”
Miles M. Doesn’t know who mayor is, knows one mayoral candidate. “Our mass transportation is not very good, not like Portland. I own a small downtown business, and busses don’t even run on weekends. So my customers can’t get downtown to spend any money on the weekends.”

 

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Amy S. Knows present mayor, doesn’t know either mayoral candidate. “I would like to see lead testing in our air and water.”

 

 Don U. Knows current mayor and both mayoral candidates. “I would like to see increased funding for the library and parks. These services yield rich dividends in civic pride and community – values needed in these days of anger and division.”
Don U. Knows current mayor and both mayoral candidates. “I would like to see increased funding for the library and parks. These services yield rich dividends in civic pride and community – values needed in these days of anger and division.”

 

Miranda B. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates, “We need better cleanliness downtown and more police enforcement so I feel safe alone downtown.
Miranda B. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates, “We need better cleanliness downtown and more police enforcement so I feel safe alone downtown.

 

Maria F. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. “We need better street lighting in all neighborhoods, not just a few.”
Karen F. Knows current mayor, doesn’t know either mayoral candidate. “Traffic slows too much on South Commercial.”

 

Dick S. Knows mayor and mayoral candidates. “I do think we need to get that police station taken care of and continue with the good development of Salem.”
Dick S. Knows mayor and mayoral candidates.
“I do think we need to get that police station taken care of and continue with the good development of Salem.”

 

Axel  Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. “I volunteer to help homeless people. The city needs to do more to help the homeless situation in Salem.”
Axel Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates.
“I volunteer to help homeless people. The city needs to do more to help the homeless situation in Salem.”

 

 Joe D. Knows who current mayor and mayoral candidates are. “There’s not enough downtown parking. This has been an issue for years. It’s a mess for small businesses. 3-hours of parking is too long.”
Joe D. Knows who current mayor and mayoral candidates are. “There’s not enough downtown parking. This has been an issue for years. It’s a mess for small businesses. 3-hours of parking is too long.”

 

 

 

 

 

   Beverly K. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. “I would like to see the city do more for the individuals who are hungry, cold, need mental health services and who are without shelter.”
Beverly K. Doesn’t know mayor or mayoral candidates. “I would like to see the city do more for the individuals who are hungry, cold, need mental health services and who are without shelter.”

Little school, big politics -Willamette students speak out

If you want to hear firebrand political ideas, what better place to start than at the local college? As this year’s election season kicks into gear, the students of Willamette University have thrown themselves into the national political conversation. There is a diversity of political opinion at the school that makes itself known in nearly every political conversation. Salem Weekly sat down with students to hear more about their political thoughts and engagement.

The majority of students appear to support Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, while supporters of former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton number slightly fewer but are just as vocal. While the reasons students support each candidate are diverse, many students’ opinions reflect broader conversations being had around the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

For Sanders supporters, one of the main issues students consistently raised was a wariness of establishment politics. To Sam Hilburn, class of 2016, Clinton represents a deepening of existing problems seen in the status quo, particularly income inequality.

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Shamir Cervantes, ’16

Senior Shamir Cervantes, the recently-resigned student body president, elaborates on the belief that Sander is more likely to listen to outsider perspectives, pointing to issues like foreign policy. Although Cervantes cannot vote due to his status as a non-citizen legal resident, he articulates an ardent support of Senator Sanders. When asked why he believes Sanders espouses a better position on foreign policy than the experienced Sec. Clinton, Cervantes excitedly brings up the example of Israel. He explains that Sanders is able to acknowledge the importance of supporting Israel’s right to exist while also condemning the aggressive tactics the Israeli state uses against Palestinians. He is troubled by the fact that candidates like Clinton tend to lack nuance in their views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While Sanders supporters nearly all list income inequality as their primary concern, Clinton supporters tend to point to foreign policy as their biggest concern this election cycle. Sophomore Jessica Weiss says that foreign relations are her biggest concern this election. She believes Clinton can help the United States become a positive influence in the world. She points out that foreign policy is important to all Americans because it can influence “little things,” such as the oil market, that impact Americans’ daily lives.

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Jessica Weiss, ’18

Weiss also highlights Clinton’s pragmatism, noting that while ideals like those of Sen. Sanders are valuable, for the average American daily life is about “getting from point A to point B,” not speculating about how to create a perfect world. She thinks Clinton is the right candidate to help Americans accomplish their goals quickly. This sentiment is echoed by Luther Caulkins, ‘16, who caucused for Clinton in his home state of Washington. He says although supporting Clinton was “not a vote out of lots of enthusiasm,” he believes that Clinton will be able to most effectively protect measures like the Affordable Care Act from potential dismantlement by a Republican legislature.

Conspicuously absent from many political conversations are the voices of the university’s conservative population. Because WU’s student body is known for its progressive-liberal bent, conservative and right-leaning students often express frustration with the backlash they feel against their opinions, and many prefer not to voice conservative views publicly at all.

Jarrett Oseran, '17
Jarrett Oseran, ’17

One student, who agreed to speak to Salem Weekly under condition of anonymity, is a staunch Republican who describes himself as “appalled” by candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but a long-time fan of Governor John Kasich. This student points to Kasich’s success in economic revival in Ohio. On this, the student says, “Kasich showed the entire US that cutting taxes and a little bit of reform goes a long way for economic revival. This doesn’t mean that other plans aren’t as good; Bernie has a good plan, but requires a lot of tax increases.”

Jarrett Oseran, ‘17, is another conservative who is disgruntled with the state of the Republican party. He says that he plans to vote “for whoever has the best chance of beating Trump,” but says he also supports Gov. Kasich. Oseran explains that he believes that candidates like Trump, Cruz, and others are not “real” Republicans: the emphasis of the GOP used to be on protecting the Constitution and limiting government oversight, and sees many of the GOP candidates as advocating instead for a bigger government that attacks civil liberties. His support of Kasich, he says, stems from the fact that Kasich acknowledges the basic humanity of LGBT, immigrant, and other marginalized communities in the United States.

Other conservatives have chosen to jump ship from their party entirely. Senior and self-identified conservative Nate Balk expresses disappointment in the GOP’s candidates and policy: “If I had to vote for someone tomorrow, it would be Hillary Clinton. As someone who considers himself to be a conservative, I am embarrassed by the national GOP pool and ashamed that certain figures are representing our party.”

One thing upon which almost all students seem to agree is the importance of voting and democratic engagement. All students interviewed expressed excitement at the prospect of voting. As one student put it, “I make sure I vote in every election. It’s an absolute blessing to have a government that gives us the privilege to do so.”

So, while the politics of Willamette University students may not always see eye to eye, one thing is certain: students hope to make an impact on their world, and many plan to start at the voting booth.