Like many of you out there we are struggling with the question of who to vote for in the upcoming General Election, especially for local offices.
This go around many of the decisions have been taken away from us because there is only one candidate running, usually the incumbent. In those cases we have to choose between filling in the square next to the sole candidate or writing in a serious or not-serious candidate like “Bart Simpson” or “None of the Above.”
A competitor for office brings about more chances to hear why we should or shouldn’t return the same person to the job for another four years. That’s what we got when the Oroville Chamber of Commerce presented a candidates’ forum last week at the OHS Commons. It wasn’t a debate; most candidates who shared the ballot, did offer a chance for the public to ask questions and for the challenger to rebut what was said.
From what we saw on Thursday night, the most controversial race appears to be for Okanogan County PUD Commissioner Dist. 1. Incumbent David Womack is facing Scott Vejraska and while we couldn’t see a whole lot they disagreed on regarding our most local issue – the rehabilitation of Enloe Dam (they both would like to see it happen), they did differ on whether the new office should have been built. Of course, that’s water over the dam, so to speak. They both agree redundancy in the transmission to the Methow is a good thing, although it wouldn’t have helped during the recent outages because of the Carlton Complex fires. Womack justifies the increases in utility rates and points fingers at labor cost increases – a jab aimed at lineman Vejraska – but he doesn’t offer a scenario where our rates go down as facilities, equipment and labor costs increase. Vejraska says he won’t vote for any increase that can’t be justified. Isn’t that what they all say?
So, if you are anti-Enloe and went to hear a candidate who was against spending more money on rehabilitation you were disappointed. If you’re like us and think Enloe is part of the river now and should stay whether it generates power or not, either candidate will suffice. It basically comes down to voting for or against the candidate you know or going for the new guy. We’ll let you decide.
In the Assessor race it’s incumbent Scott Furman or challenger Les V. Stokes. Stokes basically said he wouldn’t have anything against someone voting for his opponent. We’ll take him at his word and recommend returning Furman. The incumbent explained that properties are assessed using a formula set out in state law. Stokes would like to change assessments to represent what he describes as true market value – what he could sell his own house for in 120 days. That’s great, but to do so state law would have to be changed. Perhaps Stokes is running for the wrong office and should consider a run at state legislature instead. That’s where laws are made.
Then there is the race for the new position of County Coroner. Candidate Gary V. Reams brings his experience in the medical field, while Dave Rodriguez brings his in law enforcement. While both could be valuable, in our opinion Rodriguez trumps Reams as he has been dealing with crime scenes for years and has taken courses relating to the job of county coroner. As Todd Hill, Oroville’s soon-to-be police chief told us after the forum, “I was glad to hear Rodriguez say he was going to make my job easier.” Hill was talking about how a coroner takes charge of the dead body even before law enforcement, something that has been reversed in Okanogan County with the former system of unelected coroners. Rodriguez wins our vote.