OR-GOV: The enviro debate

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Last night, a coalition of environmental organizations hosted a debate between gubernatorial candidates Allen Alley, Bill Bradbury, and John Kitzhaber. Chris Dudley couldn't be bothered.

You can watch the debate video and read the twitter reactions.

My reaction: Both Bill Bradbury and John Kitzhaber did very well. They engaged on the issues, got into the specifics, and weren't afraid to discuss agreement and disagreement. Every campaign debate should be like this one.

Allen Alley was a mess -- using silly stories rather than meaningful engagement on the policy questions. I understand that this wasn't his crowd, but he neither tried to win us over, nor challenge our assumptions. Instead, he tried to charm us with humor that mostly fell flat. (Really, Allen, a joke about shooting cougars because they can't help the polar bears?)

Nothing was more telling than the question about toxic chemical disclosure. Asked how Oregonians would learn about toxins present in their air, water, land and food, Alley talked about the importance of Facebook and Twitter as ways to notify the public. By contrast, Kitzhaber and Bradbury understood that the problem isn't the P.R. - it's getting public disclosure by companies who are releasing toxins into the environment. Each gave a detailed discussion on the key challenges. Alley was so clearly out of his depth, on this question and many others, that it was frankly embarrassing. (And it's not like it's an obscure issue - it was a major policy dispute in the 2007 legislative session, while Alley was the Governor's deputy chief of staff.)

Media coverage on the jump...

From Jeff Mapes at the O:

They differed on some key specifics. Bradbury said the Boardman coal plant, which provides much of the state's electricity, should be shut down when Portland General Electric's permit to operate the facility expires in 2014.

"That will create some real challenges for us," he said, "and that means we have to be really serious about investments in energy efficiency and developing renewable resources because the Boardman plant is a huge part of the electricity we use in Oregon."

Kitzhaber countered that the state should only shut the plant down before 2020 – PGE's preferred closing date – if it can find other sources of supply. Otherwise, he said, industries and low-income individuals could be particularly hit hard by rising rates.

"If we move it up a couple of years, that's great," Kitzhaber said, "but we have to be realistic about answering questions about replacement power and the impact particularly on low-income citizens. It's not just an energy issue, it's a social justice issue."

Similarly, Bradbury reiterated his call to take all steps to block a liquefied natural gas terminal in Oregon, saying it was a dirtier source of energy than domestic natural gas. Kitzhaber said he agreed that domestic natural gas supplies were preferable but said he wasn't willing to totally shut the door on LNG.

"I'm not willing to say we will never have a need for LNG in the future," said Kitzhaber, adding he wanted to be sure there would be adequate supplies without it.

Lastly, the two differed on the Columbia River Crossing, with Bradbury saying he wanted to strengthen the current I-5 spans over the Columbia while building a much smaller new bridge to carry transit, cyclists and pedestrians. Kitzhaber said the proposed $4 billion bridge is much too large and expensive, but he was less specific on what kind of design he wanted to see.

Bradbury specifically talked about using variable tolls to control traffic flows on the bridge while Kitzhaber talked more broadly about vigorously managing use of the bridge.

There's more from the Register-Guard and the Portland Observer.

Over at Natural Oregon, Dennis Newman runs down the issues and excerpts out some video highlights.


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    Full disclosure: My firm built John Kitzhaber's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    As you'll pick up in the media coverage, there was a late exchange about campaign financing. I'll be assembling another post about that in the morning. Use this space to talk about the policy questions, ok?

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    I can't help but imagine the dynamics in 1978 when Gov. Bob Straub was running for reelection against State Sen. Vic Atiyeh. Straub's good friend and former Governor, Tom McCall, got into the General election race as an Independent (after he lost a bitter primary fight to Atiyeh). The circumstances were different, of course, but it is interesting to see how friends take on each other and to imagine how those dynamics (barbs/attacks/hurt feelings/cheap shots) affect the race down the road. Neither McCall nor Straub won, of course, and the Republican, Atiyeh, was elected. Hmmmmm....

  • Jason (unverified)

    There's nothing Alley could've said to appease you, Kari, or anyone else. Even if he agreed with you 100% on environmental issues (which wouldn't happen), it's not like you'd support him anyway.

    Republicans will never win support of Multnomah County liberals. Having an (R) by your name in parts of Western Oregon is like wearing a huge bullseye in public.

    However, I will say that many Republicans lack good, solid environmental policy within their campaigns. Even if a Republican's views on environmental issues are wildly different than the liberals, at least of a clear, concise and coherent message on how you'll deal with environmental issues.

  • Jason (unverified)

    That should read:

    Even if a Republican's views on environmental issues are wildly different than a liberal's, at least "have" a clear, concise and coherent message on how you'll deal with environmental issues.

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    I will say that Allen Alley, uninformed as he was, won just by showing up. Unlike Democrats, Republicans are known for not being willing to even speak to people they don't agree with 100%. This shows Alley is less of a coward than your typical conservative politician.

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)

    "Even if a Republican's views on environmental issues are wildly different...."

    With Obama announcing today of "investing" in offshoring drilling, a couple of new nuclear power plants, and more clean coal technology, I'm now wondering, what, exactly is the difference?

    "Clean coal technology" - cracks me up everytime I read this crap.

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    I will say that Allen Alley, uninformed as he was, won just by showing up.

    I agree with this. It takes guts to show up to a crowd that you know isn't in your favor. I thought what Alley had to say on coming together and not just taking sideline shots was timely.

    Note to Jason: I'm not a "Multnomah County liberal" and lots of folks that were in attendance weren't either. Alley missed this opportunity to actually present an informed, engaging pitch to a somewhat receptive audience. He could have certainly come into it in the spirit of a Republican predecessor, Tom McCall. When you say to the audience that one of their big issues just "isn't a priority", then honestly--that's just bad form and rather stupid.

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    Remember: It was a Republican, Tom McCall, who founded 1000 Friends of Oregon.

  • Xander (unverified)

    I talked to Alley after the debate. He said he wasn't there to convert anyone, because that just wasn't going to be able to happen.

    However, two things really impressed me about Alley. One, he's a Republican and showed up to a debate sponsored by the OLCV and the Sierra Club at PSU. And secondly, he did say during the debate that he showed up because he's running to be Oregon's governor. And that means having to be able to talk to all Oregonians, even ones who may not like you, and will probably disagree with you on most things.

    That to me is impressive as hell. And we all know Kari is biased. Obviously. An honest person would agree with Kari, that Alley was not specific and was more story based than anything else. Howeve, a mess? He showed up. Sure, he seemed nervous. But wouldn't you be if you were him? It's not easy to tell a group of environmentalists you'd endorse LNG and off shore drilling.

  • Kurt Hagadakis (unverified)

    All true, Xander, but, from where I sit, his logic was a mess, and that shouldn't require preparation. You raise an interesting point, though. Since the blog loves to point the finger and guffaw at every lapsis lingua and ill-considered aside- not as comments, but dedicating whole articles- fair play would at least be an aside acknowledging their better angels, on the odd occasion that a sighting happens.

    IMHO, the most insidious eroding force, working on the body politic, is that both parties, equally, see good 'ol laughing at the other guy as being the most effective, first line, most easily chosen, campaign strategy. And the peeps wip out their wallets for it. In the land of the tyranny of the majority, the lowest common denominator sets the rate of exchange. Progressives want, well, more progressive thinking. We have to address how that will happen in a primitive 50% + 1 magic vote, winner takes all system, where 1/2 don't vote, and the ones that do are the most poorly educated in the industrialized world.

  • Xander (unverified)

    That's a good point, Hurt.

    The whole laughing at the other guy is the best strategy.

    We should all remember, this is the same Allen Alley who went in front of unions and explained the way he wanted to re-vamp PERS... again, not exactly a place where he'd win votes, but it was going to affect them, so he felt he ought to tell them what he'd do.

    I know 'Pubs and Dems are both guilty of the bashing the other guy mentality. If I can shove more dirt in your face, faster, I'll look like the most clean candidate. That's a disservice in a way to run a campaign, or on a way to vote.

    <h2>For instance, I will give much credit to Mr. Kitzhaber for being a realist when it comes to the nature of what can be done environmentally, and in what time frame, because he understand we're kind of bankrupt at the moment. And he, he I can respect. Bradbury? When he zaps Oregon into a greater state of economic depravity? I dunno. I've never wanted to play Oregon trail and ford the Columbia... but I might.</h2>

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