By Jim Raffenburg
February 27, 2010
Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley came to Grants Pass, Oregon on February15th, 2010 as part of his southern Oregon campaign tour. He met with about 40 people at the Taprock Northwest Grill, in the restaurant’s beautiful meeting room. Mr. Dudley spoke for ten minutes, then answered questions for another thirty minutes.
The first impression one gets when meeting Mr. Dudley in person is his “presence”. At six foot, nine inches tall, you have to look up to him. He was a member of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers for nearly eighteen years, joining the team in 1993.
Mr. Dudley remarks began with, “Oregon Government today has a trust problem with the voters.” He went on to say that he pledged to use the three distinct powers of the Governors Office to restore that trust.
Specifically he said he would use the power of the pen to veto bills that include excessive spending, the power of the pulpit to champion bringing new business investment to Oregon and the power of appointment to make sure the right people are put into positions to make that happen. “We don’t need more taxes, we need more taxpayers”, Mr. Dudley proclaimed.
Next he touched on Oregon’s education system, saying, “Oregon is not living up to it’s potential,” citing statistics that show Oregon schools are rated near the national bottom, at 47 out of 50 states.
He also lamented that, “Hunger is a growing problem. With a change in leadership, the future will be brighter.”
The three points he thought were important enough to center his speech on, the Governors powers, school funding and hunger are all “buzz word” subjects that anyone asking the voters to hire them as the States Chief Executive Officer could be expected to touch upon. All well and good, as far as that goes.
Unfortunately, most Oregonian voters already know what the Governors powers are, that there is a school funding problem and that with the bad economic conditions we are currently living through, more people are going hungry. We get it.
What was missing was any idea on what to do about it. Specifics.
Mr. Dudley wants to bring more business and jobs to Oregon. Good idea. How?
Some of the questions from those in attendance tried to address these issues in more detail, especially school funding. The only answer from Mr. Dudley was to “keep funding levels steady”. But again, how? More importantly, at what level? Does he want to cut current spending levels or to increase them? If the latter, would he support higher taxes? Get the point?
The truth is, we don’t know what he thinks because he could not answer these questions with any details.
It appeared to me that he did not have any solid ideas, that he had not thought through potential solutions for the school funding problem. And that is a real problem for me as a voter.
It was no different with any of the other questions from the crowd.
When asked what he would do to reverse the current federal lock-up of most of Oregon’s natural resources, all he could say was, “Congressman Greg Walden needs a partner in the Oregon Governors Office to help re-open federal lands.” Was that an answer? No.
A question about repairing the broken land-use regulation system in Oregon went completely unanswered. He just commented on the need for new businesses to have “build able land available.”
asked what he would do to reduce the exploding cost of the Oregon Public
Employee Retirement System (PERS.), he said he recognized, “that
is a major problem.” He then went on to explain that he had been
a union member for 18 years and had served on high level contract negotiations
teams and that he believed, “It will take tough negotiations for
a win for the people.” Okay-y-y? And that means…..?
When asked about the recent passage of Measures 66 and 67, which raise taxes on business, he said, “Oregon now has the nations highest personal income tax rate and the highest capital gains taxes. We have to change that.” Great! But yet again, how?
To his credit, when asked about exactly where he would look to begin to cut spending, he at least tried to answer that question. He said he favored auditing departments first and then utilizing a zero-based budgeting approach to fully fund those services deemed to be the most needed and eliminating other services and/or programs.
I said the same thing when I ran for Josephine County Commissioner. It didn’t work here because I needed one more Commissioner who believed in cutting costs to work with me, which I never had while in office. Maybe if Mr. Dudley is elected Governor he’ll have the fortitude to stand-up to the labor unions and the expansive state bureaucracy and will actually succeed in cutting spending.
But that will take a person who is not only tough enough to carry it through to the end, but also someone who is committed to cutting the size of government down to a level that is supportable by the people. Of course it would also help if they have a well thought out plan ready to go on the day they take the oath of office. Just a thought. Might make for some good campaigning material as well, instead of the worn-out catch phrases most candidates try to con voters with.
However, none of that can happen without a comprehensive understanding of the many conflicting interests and related issues relating to both the institution of government and the absolute determination of the state bureaucracy to stop every real effort to effect any true change in favor of the people.
In closing, I believe Chris Dudley is a nice, well meaning guy who has absolutely no clue what he would be stepping into if he is elected. If he does win, I pray he is more prepared that he seemed on February 15th. If not, I pray for all of us, but especially his family, because he will either be eaten alive by the bureaucracy or he will compromise until he is assimilated into it, betraying everyone who voted for him.
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I offer Mr. Dudley the same advice I gave to current Josephine County Commissioner Sandi Cassinelli after the 2008 Primary Elections, “ Be very, very careful what you ask for.”
Chris Dudley is a graduate of Yale University and has earned an MBA. He is married to a fifth generation Oregonian. He and his wife have three children.
You can find out more about Oregon governor candidate Chris Dudley at his Website.
© 2010 Jim Raffenburg - All Rights Reserve