It’s understandable that you might be tired of politics in general right now, and political campaigns specifically.
Honestly, 2018 was brutal. Oregon saw record-setting campaign spending in the governor’s race and on statewide measures, and contested local races mixed in, too.
It all translated into bushels of flyers in our mailboxes and advertisements in all forms of media. It was impossible to avoid, and became a challenge to find the substance underneath the layers of posturing and rhetoric.
This current calm between storms of the 2018 midterms and 2020 general may seem like a good chance to not think about elections for a while.
At the risk of ruining that relaxation, we’d like to talk about the election coming up in May.
Don’t freak out. You will not be getting mailers or seeing advertisements on your television. Your inbox will not be flooded (any more than usual). Mud will not be slung.
In fact, many people won’t be aware of the election until the day a ballot arrives in their mailboxes. Maybe you’re one of those people. But if you perused the classified section in Wednesday’s East Oregonian, you saw the listing of 45 districts large and small with seats coming open this year.
(A quick side note on the classified section of the newspaper: Much of our local government’s work appears there first in the form of budgets, hearings, requests for bid, auctions and other public notices. If the back half of the B section is not part of your daily reading habit, there is a lot to be learned.)
Districts across the state will take part in the special election, choosing volunteer representatives for all kinds of boards. These are often under-the-radar positions that don’t draw nearly the same level of scrutiny as city councils or county commissioners, much less statewide office. They also attract few applicants and are often filled by write-in candidates if no one files for the position.
But they’re a crucial part of our democracy. They represent the commitment of common citizens to make decisions for the good of the whole. The directors are in charge of spending taxpayer money and making decisions about large employers, including the Hermiston and Pendleton school districts, Blue Mountain Community College and the ports. They oversee critical functions like ambulance and fire services, and community services like parks and cemeteries.
It takes all kinds of people with all kinds of expertise to keep local government functioning, and we applaud those who step up to the role. We also encourage more people to sign up for duty. One way or another, the seats will be filled. It’s our belief that democracy functions best when the selection process of representation is public, rather than chosen by default.
Filing for the positions begins Feb. 9 and the deadline is March 21. Forms are available at county offices and on the Umatilla County website. Ballots will go out ahead of the May 21 election.