Bend voters have a clear choice between community interests and special interests in the November 4 election.
Four City Council candidates-Jim Clinton, Linda Johnson, Peter Gramlich and Jodie Barram-stand out because they have demonstrated a commitment to the community and are not beholden to special interests.
Their four opponents-Don Leonard, Kathie Eckman, Tom Greene and Jeff Eager-are the candidates of special interests, specifically the political action committees (PACs) of Central Oregon's realtor and developer organizations that are blatantly trying to buy this election.
Oregon Secretary of State records (www.sos.state.or.us/elections) show that the Central Oregon Association of Realtors and the Central Oregon Builders Association PAC (called Central Oregonians for Affordable Housing) have contributed $49,669 of the $99,460 raised by Leonard, Eckman, Greene, and Eager-an astounding 49.9 percent.
The Central Oregon Builders Association (COBA) PAC has divided $33,669 among the four candidates-about $8,417 each. Central Oregon Association of Realtors (COAR) has spread $16,000 evenly among its four anointed candidates-$4,000 apiece to Eager, Leonard, Greene, and Eckman.
With all that money to throw around, you'd think these folks would be able to contribute to the campaign for Measure 9-60, which will provide stable funding for expanded Bend Area Transit and Dial-A-Ride services. But, you'd be wrong. The Realtors and COBA have not contributed a single penny to the campaign for a transit district that will serve our community.
The $49,669 from COBA and COAR is-I repeat-49.9 percent of the combined total in contributions to Eager, Eckman, Greene and Leonard. These two contributors have, in fact, ponied up 67.9 percent of Leonard's campaign war chest and 60.3 percent of Greene's total contributions. The most recent COBA PAC contribution of $22,415 pays for low-wage canvassers who are distributing campaign literature all over town.
We're not talking about money for nothing, folks. If their candidates are elected, these lobbyists expect something in return.
Like the rich and powerful corporations across the U.S., the local real estate lobby and COBA are simply hoping to purchase political power. They will demand reduced fees and increased services for developers, cuts in city services that serve ordinary Bend residents, and special treatment to boost their profits at the expense of our community.
And, like the State House, Congressional, and Presidential candidates who take vast sums of money from the rich and powerful corporations, Bend City Council candidates funded by special interests will, if elected, be heavily pressured to serve their benefactors at the expense of the rest of us.
We are fortunate to have four strong candidates for City Council who put community first. Jim Clinton, Linda Johnson, Peter Gramlich and Jodie Barram are thoughtful, they listen to people, they work hard, and they are dedicated to serving everyone. And, as their campaign reports show, they are not heavily bankrolled by special interests seeking political favors.
They are, in fact, out walking door to door with volunteers, making face-to-face contact with voters whenever possible, while their COBA-backed opponents pay a temporary employment agency to do that for them.
Take a look at www.sos.state.or.us/elections and you will see that the overwhelming majority of contributions to Clinton, Johnson, Gramlich and Barram are from ordinary people, small business owners and community organizations that recognize their balanced approach to the many issues we face in Bend.
In the interest of fairness, I point out that Clinton, Johnson, Gramlich and Barram have received in-kind support from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) totaling $7,006 as of October 23, specifically for the printing of a Voters' Guide distributed by OLCV volunteers. No OLCV money went directly to candidates.
The Central Oregon Labor Council (COLC) and the Central Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council have contributed a total of $2,050 to Clinton, Johnson, Gramlich and Barram. The Labor Council also contributed $1,000 to the Measure 9-60 campaign for expanded public transit.
While some may characterize the conservation and labor groups as special interests, it is important to remember that they receive no money from corporations or businesses that would profit from City Council decisions. Moreover, unlike the Realtors' group or COBA PAC, union members interviewed the candidates before making any endorsements and each campaign contribution has to be approved by a vote of members or their elected representatives.
Jim Clinton, Linda Johnson, Peter Gramlich and Jodie Barram are not owned by a handful of people who want to buy City Hall. They deserve the support of all Bend voters who value community interests over special interests.
Michael Funke is a Bend community activist.