Think Karen Minnis was bad? Try John Nelsen.

Karol Collymore

John Nelsen is running to replace my best friend and yours, Karen Minnis, in Oregon House District 49. He's running against young, smart and talented upstart Nick Kahl and he "promised" a campaign on the issues. So, far, not so good on that promise. What about others?

On paper, he sounds decent. According to his most recent mailer, John's plans include: "Bridging differences." "Dealing with the rising cost of gas and food," and "Demanding accountability." I'd like to address the accountability thing, if I could.

I like holding people accountable, too, especially my elected leaders. But, I'd like to know from John who's holding him accountable for the sudden downward dive of the Reynolds School District. In the August 29th Oregonian, there are several problems with next year's school budget:

The Reynolds School Board, which placed its superintendent on paid leave last weekend, announced Thursday night it did not meet its financial and academic goals for the 2007-08 school year. And it expects a budget shortfall in the new school year.

The district's accountant, Debby Hunn, explained its latest budget projections, including $11 million more in expenses than revenues for the next year. The district's yearly audit will begin in October.

The newest budget includes a reduction of more than $1 million in salaries and benefits, as well as a cut of nearly that much in supplies, equipment, field trips and money paid to the charter school Arthur Academy.

Bummer, John. How did that happen?

In a rather interesting coincidence, John was endorsed by the Oregon Family Council and Oregon Right to Life. I know, you are wondering what the connection is. Well, if there are children and school staff and all that comes with that (you know, like health insurance and field trips) are at risk, how is that protecting the sanctity of family (their budgets and their kids' education) and the lives of people that are actually out of the womb? Here are some more family values, Oregon style:

The district's academic goals, which [John] Nelsen termed reasonable, were that all elementary schools would achieve adequate yearly progress, two of three middle schools would meet the standards, and passing rates at Reynolds High School would increase by 25 percent.

Only eight of 19 elementaries met the standards, and no middle schools did. The high school saw a passing rate that decreased by 4 percent.

Funny, the last statement on his mailer says, "Fighting for jobs." I guess those jobs are not the ones for Reynolds School District staff or the future jobs of the kids who don't seem to be doing that well.

Lois Anderson, political direction of Oregon Right to Life, said in her endorsement (fundraising) letter, "We are supporting John Nelsen because he is committing to protecting all human life." Well John, sounds like there is some human life that needs protecting in your district. I think I'll take my chances on the "Alternative jazz band" candidate, Nick Kahl.

  • Incoherent (unverified)

    I'm trying to discern some coherent point from your mess of an essay here. Best I can tell you are criticizing Nelsen for the performance of Reynolds School District.

    Funny how you neglected to tell that Nelsen engineered the release of the superintendent, holding him accountable for his failure to meet targets, and for hiding the financial shortfall from the board. That was all very openly reported in the media.

    Only if there were more board members like Nelsen, who are not in the pocket of either the district's administration OR the unions.

  • YoungOregonMoonbat (unverified)


    John Nelsen has been on the school board of the Reynolds School District for 9 years.

    Do you know what the role and responsibility of boards are?

    Boards are where the buck stops.

    They are elected by the voters or shareholders (if a Private organization) to steer the organization. They do that steering through hiring of upper level management, firing of upper level management, approving budgets, approving major changes in direction, etc.

    Let me repeat: John Nelsen has been on board of the Reynolds School District for 9 years.

    Having been on that board and party to major decisions regarding the Reynolds School District, the successes and failures of the Reynolds School District during the past 9 years can be attributed to John Nelsen's performance as a school board member.

  • incoherent (unverified)

    Moonbat: Right you are. The board exercises their oversight role by holding the administration accountable. That is precisely what Nelsen did at Reynolds.

    There were very specific and concrete performance criteria for the Sup't (authored mostly by Nelsen) and when the guy failed to meet them, he was released (spearheaded by Nelsen.)

    THAT is the role of the board. They don't operate the schools, they hire an administrator to do it, and if he fails, the board should act.

    The Reynolds situation is unique because unlike virtually every other district in Oregon, there were very specific academic and financial performance criteria for the Sup't, and when he failed to meet them he was released.

    Contrast that to almost every other school board in Oregon, which are basically totally co-opted by the administration.

    Nelsen has given us a model for how a board should hold its administrative staff accountable.

  • Susan Silodor (unverified)

    Thanks, Karol, for your post. Funny, isn't it, that John Nelsen would take credit, not responsibility, for a crumbling school district...with the highest dropout rates and now sinking into financial quicksand. After nine years on the school board, you'd think he'd be able to recognize danger signs before the situation blew up. Apparently not...

    As for his endorsement by Oregon Right to Life, let me just say that this is beyond hypocritical. It's easy to mouth platitudes about respecting all life, yet for nine years, his own school distirct has failed to meet the needs of its children.

    The very least voters deserve is honesty...and Nelsen can't even provide that.

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)

    There were very specific and concrete performance criteria for the Sup't (authored mostly by Nelsen) and when the guy failed to meet them, he was released (spearheaded by Nelsen.)

    So it sounds like Nelson is an effective leader of sorts on the school board? Sure doesn't seem like it.

    After 9 years on the school board and touting accountability through very specific academic and financial performance objectives, why is the school district still experienceing such poor performance?

    Doesn't the school district still have serious financial problems, over crowded class rooms, and a significantly higher than average drop out rate?

    After eight years of failed policies by a President who is supposed to hire competent administrators. It looks like a theme going on with Republicans failing on a local school board level too.

    If Nelson can't be enough of a leader on a school board to find and hire competent administrators why would we want him in the state legislature?

    The only model that seems to be happening in this school district is how not to be successful.

    Nelson's endorsements from Oregon Right to Life and the Oregon Family Council, do not bode well if he is trying to pass himself as a moderate. However it does speak to the academic performance criteria that Nelson has some control over as a member of the school board. Does he support abstinence only sex education and creationism curriculum?

  • bigredpen (unverified)


    Beyond all your other points about Nelsen that are not necessarily relative, your typos are ridiculous. Perhaps YOU were a failed member of the Reynolds School Board and that accounts for the bitterness and the poor grammar?? Also, his name is Nelsen, with an E. You managed to copy and paste it correctly, but not correctly re-type it.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Okay, I had just hit send when we had a power surge, so I'm guessing my previous post isn't going to show...but if so, well, you get to read two comments from me on this.

    John Nelsen is not a moderate, he is conservative. He is not a Democrat, he is Republican. He is running so scared that he has resorted to calling himself moderate and trying to align himself with Dems (if I was a Republican I think I'd be insulted by that) to show how bi-partisan he is, which is such bogus bs.

    Nelsen says he has union support on his mailers---and lists two groups, one of which has Republican leadership and the other has also endorsed Nick. Nelsen says he has "key Democratic Support"---and lists the names of four East County residents, two of whom are not even Democrats (one's NAV, the other R). Of the two left on the "Key Dem" list, both serve with Nelsen on the Reynolds School Board.

    As for the Reynolds School Board---yeah, its great that the Board finally clued in and gave the Superintendent the boot---but wouldn't it have been great if the Board had actually done their job a few years back and been OVERSEEING the district, so that they were aware that things were going sideways? And yes, that IS part of their job. You don't just hire a Superintendent, say "ta-ta, now" and go your merry way. You oversee, you watch the budget, you demand accountability---and you do this before there's a multi-million dollar hole in the ground. Seriously, you want this man in Salem?!

    Back to the larger issue---Nelsen is running so scared that he's trying to backpedal fast on his oft-stated belief that we need a sales tax in East County---which would be easier if this was 1808 and not 2008---see, we have this thing called video now and he's on tape at least twice stating that he thinks we should have a sales tax. Unless he's going to try and run a time-travel campaign or a "aliens possessed me" defense, I think he's outta luck trying to get out of that one.

    Nelsen is trying to make Nick Kahl a scary bad guy, which is pathetically funny. Seriously, the scariest thing he can come up with to scare East County folks is the fact that Nick plays accoustic bass in a jazz band and that's he's pro-choice, pro-education, AGAINST a sales tax, pro-equal rights for all----oohhhhh, scary.

    But what really scorches my shorts is the fact that John Nelsen is treating the residents of East County like they are idiots. Since he has no real argument against Nick Kahl on the issues, he's trying to bloody Nick in personal attacks.

    TEST TIME---What does it say about Nelsen's campaign when a) he spends all his time insisting that he really, really, really has LOTS in common with the Democratic party and our views (really) and b)instead of trying to get people to vote for HIM, he spends all his time trying to convince people to NOT VOTE for Nick? A)It says Nelsen knows he's going to lose and he's desperate.

      B)It says that Nelsen has no respect for the intelligence of the voters in East County, who will see through this pathetic ruse of a campaign.
      C)It says that Nelsen knows that if he runs an honest issues-based campaign, he'll lose--because East County residents are tired of polticians who say one thing and do another, not representing them worth a damn.
     D)All of the above (ding!ding!ding! we have a winner!)

    The people of East County are hard-working, decent people with a myriad of personal beliefs and views but over-riding all of that is the belief that East County deserves better than what we've had in the past----we deserve REAL leadership, we deserve REAL representation, we deserve a REAL voice in Salem and we deserve someone who will listen TO US, stand FOR US, and work FOR US----that someone is Nick Kahl, the next State Representative for House District 49.

  • (Show?)


    But it's not the Democratic Party he is aligning himself with, it's the Democrat Party. ;)

  • (Show?)

    Wasn't John Nelsen a no-show for a Reynolds School Board meeting that he, himself, called in order to seek public comment on the future superintendent hiring?

    Please explain how this exemplifies the behavior and concern for community we want out of our public officials.

  • Joba (unverified)

    Incoherent says: "Funny how you neglected to tell that Nelsen engineered the release of the superintendent, holding him accountable for his failure to meet targets..."

    So if Nelsen "engineered the release of the superintendent" and "held him accountable," I assume that means he's also responsible for the $200,000 golden parachute that was given to the fired Superintendent.

    Giving a disgraced superintendent who did a lousy job, a year's salary, car allowance, health insurance and an extra $2,500 for "uninsured medical expenses" sounds like reckless handling of taxypayer funds in a school district that is already strapped for cash.

    Sounds like Enron/AIG/Lehman Brothers-style accountability to me.

  • (Show?)

    Mr. Nelsen didn't even bother to show up to the community meeting that the board called to get feedback from the community about desired traits in an interim supt.

  • SuperWonk (unverified)

    John Nelsen gave a disgraced Superintendent a $200,000 golden parachute.

    In the words of the great Republican blogger, Coyote in a post on 9/22/08: "If my kids are paying for your parachute then by God I wanna know something about you"

    I couldn't agree more, Coyote. Tell us your reasoning, John Nelsen.

    Yap yap.

  • AngryBlue (unverified)

    Um, Nelsen . . . hate to break it to you, but Oregon has a much bigger, more complex budget than your tiny little school district. As a board member at the helm for nine years, and let me interject briefly that I know you weren't at the helm because boards don't take the time or invest the energy in learning how budgets work, you failed in two ways. One, you abandoned your primary responsibility. Which was keeping your eyes on the bottom line. And two, you failed by not admitting you lacked the skill to keep your eyes on that bottom line. In other words you failed because you had no idea what you were doing and by being too lazy or embarrassed to do anything about changing that.

    The simple fact is, this state is quickly entering a time and place when it needs real leadership. That doesn't mean we need people who can solve all of the problems. But we do need people who are willing to put in the work to try and at least understand what they are. Which, as i've indicated, you are seemingly incapable of doing.

    But, I'm impressed that you've decided to adopt the term moderate. I've decided to adopt the term Superman from here on out. Oh, wait, calling myself Superman won't let me leap tall buildings and stop bullets? Too bad. I suppose that calling you a moderate won't take away the anti-choice endorsement you just got. Man, delusions sure aren't what they are cracked up to be.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Mea Culpa, Jenni, you're quite correct---"Democrat" not "Democratic"---don't know where my brain was there. Thanks>

  • BidenFan (unverified)

    Does anyone here realize that Nelsen's only been the chair of the Reynolds School Board for the past year or so? He was voted by his collueges (mostly registered Democratic) unanimously this past time. Ms Mel, you really have a mad on. Nick Kahl wishes he had the resume Nelsen does. Another hard D swayed by Nelsen. Kahl should worry. He has very little substance behind his rhetoric and East County residents are noticing this big time. I was at the West Columbia Gorge Chamber forum the other day and Kahl was extremely disrespectful to the panelists and people in attendance... and, frankly, came off like a used car salesman. He calls East County the sticks. Kahl is a kid. A disrespectful one at that.

  • RowJimmy (unverified)

    I am a parent and grandparent in Troutdale. I know Nelsen and you are all off base. He was the minority vote for years and was the only Board member that had the courage to openly and publicly challenge the leadership over budget and fiscal problems (check the record). When he became Chair last year he immediately went to work setting the ship right. Most of your comments are ill-informed and demonstrate your lack of experience in the Reynolds community. Democrats in East County can decide for ourselves and don't need Kahl's out-of-district partisan bigot bloggers to help us pick from within our community. Bottom line: While I really wish he was a Democrat (and he would be if we were not so hatful and vicious) I'm voting for John Nelsen...

    By the way, does the democrat party turn away anyone who is pro-life, owns a gun or supports traditional family values? I thought we were a “big tent.” My democratic party is not judgmental and doesn’t who are the hypocrites?

  • BuzzKillforNickkahl (unverified)

    Hey Kahl, bought any half onces from J.T. lately? I heard you had someone else picking them up for you recently,... I don't know why Nelson is too much of a wimp to use your drug use against you... I will! Also you might want to quit pushing yourself as a "special ed" teacher.. you were a lunch room aid...and were asked to resign..... I hope you sleep well on your sister-in-laws couch (rent-free)tonight.... You make me want to take a bath....

    BuzzKill Bob....

  • john Nelsen (unverified)

    I wish Ms. Collymore had tried to interview me or even find out anything about me prior to posting this article. It is too bad that people (like Nick and I) who put themselves up for public service face such BS..... maybe that is why so few step forward to serve.... John Nelsen

    I appreciate the support but not the attacks on my opponent..

  • john Nelsen (unverified)

    I wish Ms. Collymore had tried to interview me or even find out anything about me prior to posting this article. It is too bad that people (like Nick and I) who put themselves up for public service face such BS..... maybe that is why so few step forward to serve.... John Nelsen

    I appreciate the support but not the attacks on my opponent..

  • Larry J. (unverified)

    For the record: Nelsen's mom passed away early last month and he missed (understandably) a meeting. He has held more meetings (by far) than any other chair in RSD history..... don't be a shithead....

connect with blueoregon