The candidate’s forum, hosted by the American Association of University Women at Seaside City Hall Oct. 9, wasn’t a debate per se, but it teetered dangerously close to becoming one.
The two candidates vying for Oregon House of Representatives District 32 — Democratic incumbent Deborah Boone and Republican challenger Rick Rose — squared off on topics ranging from taxes and spending to tsunami preparedness and alternative energy.
By the end, Boone and Rose had made their differences abundantly clear.
Rose, a Warrenton resident who owns and operates Rose’s Adult Foster Care out of his home, criticized Boone for voting yes on tax increases during the height of the Great Recession.
“I have voted for many fee and tax increases,” Boone, a Cannon Beach resident, said unapologetically. “When we have a shortage of money in the state,” like during recessions when tax revenue is low, “we have to deliver certain services, and that’s how we do it.”
She added that the tax increases were small, and that some of the fee increases were requested by constituents who wanted the money to go toward oversight commissions in their industry.
“As I look around the state — and I deal with the state every day — I saw quite a bit of waste,” Rose said. “And I saw how we could do things better.”
Rose has repeatedly said that, if elected, he would work to lower taxes, cut wasteful spending and roll back unnecessary regulations.
“Time and time again, we’re hit with new taxes — taxes we didn’t even know about,” he said.
When pressed for specifics, however, Rose went broad:
“I think what needs to happen is, there are over 180 state agencies with over 11,000 rules,” he said. “I think we need to go line by line and see which ones are still effective and see which ones are still needed. I can’t believe that those are all current.”
Boone replied that the state does review every agency regularly.
Rose pointed out that the state budget has at least quadrupled during the last 10 years, from almost $5 billion to more than $25 billion.
“I don’t know about all of you,” he told the audience of about 70, “I don’t make three or four times more than I did 10 years ago. Our roads aren’t four or five times better now than they were then. The police don’t get to my house three or four times faster because of the money that we’re spending. We can do better.”
Boone, who has served as the District 32 representative since 2004, said she wants to spend her next term implementing the Oregon Resilience Plan.
This includes seismically upgrading schools, hospitals, fire stations and other public buildings so that they will be safe when the next Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami happen.
Much of this work, she said, could be done by technicians trained at Oregon’s coastal community colleges using a curriculum she is developing with Oregon State University and the Oregon Institute of Technology.
She will also continue to invest in “clean, renewable energy projects” that could create “hundreds of family-wage jobs to boost the local economy.” Recently, she’s been working with the Oregon Military Department to help Camp Rilea meet its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy.
Seeing these projects through to completion represents Boone’s “unfinished business” in Salem, she said.
Rose, however, doesn’t believe, in the face of Oregon’s failing public schools and increasing homeless population, that tsunami preparedness and alternative energy should rank very high on a representative’s list of priorities.
“I think those things are important, and they are important. I don’t think they’re important at this time,” he said. “Fifty-five percent of this district gets free lunches at schools. That, to me, is more important.”