Oregon's next Governor, Jason Atkinson, took some time out of his extremely busy campaign schedule to hook up with some local bloggers. We met him at the Eugene Airport this morning. He's heading up North to the Portland area, where he'll be meeting a few more bloggers later tonight.
Here we see Bob from Eugene Rant, soon-to-be-blogging David (a fellow U of O Law student), Sailor from Do or Die, our next Governor, Vonski from They Call Me Vonski, yours truly, and Robin from Robin's Nest.
Senator Atkinson sounds very optimistic about the campaign. He's getting a ton of grass roots support. He says fund-raising is going well, and he expects it to do even better in the days ahead. And the bulk of his fund-raising is coming from individual donors giving an average of about $25, not from big special-interests. That's important. One of the reasons I am supporting Senator Atkinson is that I believe he wants to be Governor to serve the people. What's also important: he says he has overtaken one of the two "front runners" of the primary in fund-raising!
(UPDATE: after publishing this, I spoke again with the Atkinson campaign: they wanted to emphasize that they don't have hard numbers on their opponents' fundraising; it is their perception that they are exceeding at least one of them at this time -- Resistance is futile!)
It's time for the media to recognize that Senator Atkinson is a legitimate candidate and start giving him the serious attention he deserves.
He also commented that he is getting some attention from national players. He commented that people like Grover Norquist and Robert Novak are taking notice. And he said this attention is due, in large part, to the efforts of bloggers like us helping to get his name and his message out.
Hey, we do what we can!
Senator Atkinson really stressed how important he thinks blogs are. He has given up on every newspaper except for the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, he is getting more and more (and better and better) information from alternative media, like blogs. And he stressed that it's not just young nerds turning to blogs: his wife's grandmother is reading them! I hope she likes the picture we took...
So what was Jason's message to us today? He said, and I quote:
People today want to believe they can get their government back.
He wanted to emphasize that he won't make a promise he doesn't intend to keep. It's been nothing but the same-old-same-old from Oregon politicians for over a generation now. It's time for a change.
I asked about a debate with his primary opponents. He sounded very enthusiastic about it. We're looking into the possibility of getting such a debate here at the University of Oregon School of Law. Jason joked that, as the only non-lawyer of the bunch, that venue might go against him. But seriously, we're looking into it, maybe around April of next year. Memo to Kevin Mannix and Ron Saxton: we Atkinson supporters are issuing a challenge! Are you up to it?
Speaking of lawyers... One hot topic in the news of late has been judicial activism. We had a judge, recently appointed by "Sleepy Ted" Kulongoski, toss out Measure 37, the most popular ballot measure in history. I asked the Senator about judges, and what we could expect of him when he is elected Governor. He said the problem is that the political system today encourages young lawyers in Oregon to take one of two tracks: practice or politics. Because nearly every judge in Oregon is appointed, the political system is such that most judges come from a small pool of political players, while many highly-qualified attorneys are never considered. And with a generation of control by liberal democrats, you can understand how we have come to have judges like Mary James.
So what would Governor Atkinson do? He says he would be committed to going outside the political circles to find new judges with broad experience. I wonder what he thinks of Jack? Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask. Of course, since judicial races are supposed to be "non partisan," we're probably better off not getting the party-players involved...
Jason mentioned that he recently read a great book, Give me a Break by John Stossel. He said he's not in the business of selling books. But since I am a shameless capitalist, here's an easy Amazon link for you:
So what brought Mr. Stossel up? Jason wanted to talk to us about how government gets in the way of business and growth in Oregon. He told us how one of his friends packed up his business and left the state, off to a land of lower taxes and less regulation. He reemphasized his goal to make Oregon business-friendly again.
I asked him about an issue near and dear to us local Eugenians, the West Eugene Parkway. And since the Parkway would ease traffic going between I-5 and the Coast, it goes beyond Eugene to become a State issue.
Jason told us about an ordeal he went through involving a church in his district. The church wanted to expand, but for some reason, the local city council kept giving them the runaround. Finally, the council agreed to let the church expand, but only on the condition that no weddings or funerals were to be allowed to take place there. Yes, you read that right: have a church, but God forbid you use it for two of the most solemn church services! What was their rationale? Such services would create traffic problems that would inconvenience the area--even though the people of the community wanted the church expansion!
So Jason went to talk with one of his most liberal counterparts in the Senate, Frank Shields. Shields was concerned about a similar problem: in his district, local government was giving the runaround to a church shelter and soup kitchen, because the council didn't want "those people" around causing problems. Recognizing that local governments in both districts were going to the extreme, Senators Atkinson and Shields worked together to bypass the local governments.
What does this have to do with the West Eugene Parkway? Well, in a nutshell, the Legislature has the power to override the Eugene City Council. And while he is reluctant to interfere with politics on the local level, as local governments should have some degree of autonomy, he isn't afraid to use the power of the state when necessary to right a wrong at the local level.
Let's hope that the next time the Legislature is in session, we have a Senator named Jim Torrey to sponsor a bill to move forward with the West Eugene Parkway, and a Governor named Jason Atkinson ready to sign it!
This got us talking about ODOT. All of us there seemed to agree that ODOT is a problem, and we all wanted to know what the Senator thought about it. Here his bluntness came as a refreshing relief from the same-old-same-old of politicians. He said flat out:
The problem with ODOT is the attitude of the organization. As Governor, I would have the power to appoint a new director.
Big words! And what changes in ODOT's priorities could we expect? He says it all comes down to money, and that he and the people of Oregon need to see how much money ODOT actually needs and actually uses. He is tired of seeing projects run double, triple, or even more over budget. And he is sick of money being spent on projects that can't be justified.
I think it is safe to say that, when Jason Atkinson is elected Governor, there will be major, major changes with ODOT. Thank God! If ever there was an example of a bloated, dead-weight bureaucracy in need of explosive overhaul...
But I digress...
Another topic of interest: meth. If there is one area where Jason let me down, it was the meth bill that put new restrictions on Sudafed. But since virtually every other politician in Salem is equally guilty, I won't hold it against him. On the encouraging side, he did say that he is anxious to see the actual results of the new Sudafed restrictions. As we enter cold and flu season, the legitimate need for Sudafed will increase. Meanwhile, meth continues to come in from Mexico. Senator Atkinson gave us his word that, if the facts show that the Sudafed bill isn't working to combat meth, he'd be open to changing the law.
Well, we were pressed for time as Jason had to get right back on the road. But it was great to see him again, and to meet a few other bloggers for the first time. I'm looking forward to the weeks ahead. One of the last things Jason said before we all parted ways was that his campaign is moving forward, and some big things are coming.
I can't wait!