Pumping up the schools and protecting the middle class are priorities in common between the two candidates for their party's nomination to the Oregon House District 52 seat in the May 15 Primary.
Marv Hollingsworth and Peter Nordbye are both retired men from the Highway 26 corridor in Clackamas County who have spent a fair amount of time in Hood River County in recent weeks wooing voters.—Their names will be on the ballots that go out this weekend to county voters.—Also on the ballot are races for county district attorney and sheriff, among others.
If you are a registered voter and your ballot has not arrived in the mail by Monday, April 30, call the Elections Division at 541-386-1442.
Nordbye, who lives in Brightwood, was a special education teacher-turned-principal who calls himself "a special educator at heart.
Hollingsworth, from Rhododendron, is a teacher-turned-lawyer who said his experience as a mediator would serve him in the legislature.
"I did this once, one of the best things I ever did," said Hollingsworth, who served the Oregon House in 1971-72, while a Troutdale resident, serving east Multnomah County.
Nordbye is running for office for the first time, and he has vowed to accept no campaign contributions over $50 and will take money only from in-district donors.
Hollingsworth said, "Mark Johnson is vulnerable. I think the Democrats will turn out and vote. They don't do that in the off-elections. The $50 local contributions cap idea is noble, but it just won't work to take on a guy like Mark Johnson. He's got a lot of dollars.
"I would take any amount of money, and I've been promised some pretty substantial sums from some PACs, and I would take them but without any strings attached. I don't owe anyone a vote, just to look at their interests, and vote how I see is best for the people of Clackamas and Hood River counties."
Nordbye said, "I see money dominating the elections. It's bigger than just the elections. It's when our representatives go to Salem or Washington, D.C., if they're getting hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, depending on the office they're in; there's going to be expectations to that."
Here are two interviews with Hollingsworth and Nordbye, conducted by Editor Kirby Neumann-Rea.
The articles will also be published in the May 2 edition.
Peter Nordbye: Government should 'set the conditions so private enterprise can go to work'
You're a retired educator since 2003. Tell us something about what you've been doing.
I was a middle school teacher, principal, and before that I was in special education, and my heart and soul has always been in SPED
As a principal those kids were always the ones I had my eye on, when you look at dropout rates. They were probably my career focus; until I retired in 2003, still consider myself a special educator.
Most of all I've been studying, economics, has become particular interesting to me.
As a principal your time is often taken up with other things, so it has been good to become a learner; I became a fly fisherman — and a pretty doggone good one — I do cross country skiing and motorcycling, but I spent a lot of my time studying on my own and online.
In education we talk about life-long learners; I got excited about economics, and I got charged up about history, anthropology, political science, — I just started reading.
It's kind of like a turn-around, because when you're a principal it's like a seven-day-a-week job; often it's long hours and I just didn't have the time to do these things.
Why are you running?
This is my first attempt at public office: I never had any real interest, and I think my studying is what did it; looking at the shift of wealth, and that kind of thing. I did serve as a precinct chairperson, which is an elected office, but all you had to do was put your name down. I became involved in the Oregon Trail Democrats three years ago. That was my first involvement. I needed to get involved and didn't know how to get involved and so I got into political avenues more and more through that avenue.
I think I was inspired by my two daughters, who are college graduates now and they're doing okay, but they really struggled finding jobs after college. The college expenses were immense and I became concerned when I saw the shift of wealth from the middle class and the poverty class, and that has really concerned me.
I taught young people all my career and we told them if they get their high school degree and then you go to college because that's what you need to do.
And it's still true; you have a much better chance if you go to college, but we're seeing that shift, and we're seeing people with college degrees working at minimum wage jobs, thousands of them, and struggling to pay their student loans.I graduated in 1967 and was able to work a minimum wage job and pay off my college debt, but you can't do that any more. These things began concerning me.
What are the things Peter Nordbye is concerned about?
I'm concerned. I see money dominating the elections. It's bigger than just the elections. It's when our representatives go to Salem or Washington, D.C., and if they're getting hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, depending on the office they're in; there's going to be expectations to (alter your vote).
I'm concerned about jobs and public education and the shift nationally. I'm concerned about a whole bunch of areas, and my wife says, "Instead of sitting around and complaining, why don't you do something about it?" She challenged me and said, "You have a lot of ideas and a lot of skills and why don't you put them to use?"
I care; I'm concerned; I think I have some talents. I want to make a difference. I entered education because I wanted to make a difference and that doesn't change. I want to make a difference still.
What are those talents?
I think one of the things I had to learn as a special education director and middle school and high school principal: Each time I had to bring people together and build consensus. I have a lot of ability at consensus building.
That whole idea of you come into a room with people with differences, and you try to find that common ground and I'm really good at that. I've done that dozens of times.
The other thing you have to do as a teacher and principal is problem solve. I'm really a good problem solver and I know how to get people on the right track. Most people don't know how to focus on the cause of the problem. They get focused on the rabbit trails.I know how to pull them in. I know how to brainstorm and come up with viable consensus and then problem solve around them.
How do you deal with trying to bring together a conservative lawmaker from, say, Klamath Falls, and a liberal from Portland, to get them to both support your proposed legislation?
I know to bring disparate parties together. There is no recipe for it, but there are some skills. You have to know who you are and what your values are. and you have to know your principles. You have to know the difference between your principles and your values. On your principles you can shift a little. On your values you shouldn't shift. You gotta know who you are, very carefully and then you go in and you look at any given bill.
I'm a good listener; that's the other skill I bring to it, and I can articulate the other side's point of view. I can understand it; if you and I disagree on something, before you and I get too far in our discussion I will understand what your position is, and I will check with you to make sure I understand it and you're going to understand what my position is and then we start hammering. And there's no guarantee we're going to come to an agreement, but if you don't start with those two points of "Here's who I am and here's who you are" and find some common ground, you will never get to a resolution.
Sometimes you get to a resolution and your position might be so radical from mine. I might not be able to compromise with you, and you can't compromise your values so you just work, and then you build.
The other thing is I'm a good researcher, so the other thing is you go in and try to build your case and pulling in evidence.
You try to find what the people in your district want. What people in Klamath Falls want. You've got to gather information. I'm kind of an information gatherer, as well. You gotta start there. You pull that in, you hammer it out and then you try to listen to people, and always treat people with respect. As principal, I had parents who came in and some of them didn't like me, some hated me, but the thing is you gotta start with respect. Even though I might not agree with you, I can respect you.
Elaborate on your position on education funding levels and service delivery.
I strongly believe the service delivery now, the top down testing model, is wrong, the tests are forcing teachers to develop curriculum based on multiple-choice tests. Research all over the place, almost everything we've learned about multiple learning styles, it's negating this model.
What we've learned about testing models is it assumes that if you have a 15-year-old 10th-grader it's assuming they are all at the same developmental level.
I struggled in high school and I was in my third year of college, I struggled with it, and then it all sort of started coming together. We know guys learn differently than girls. If we are using the tests to determine if the student is successful or the teacher is successful or the school is successful, it is absolutely the wrong model, because we know just from the development end that you can't create proficiency just because you use this business model that says we're going to have you all at the same level.
It isn't going to happen, and we're punishing people for not being able to do it Some kids are going to excel there, and for some kids who are bright, the tests are tending to dumb down the curriculum. We're setting up a delivery model that hasn't worked anywhere.
Every teacher will tell you should be developing enriched curriculum, I will fight it. I don't know if I can turn it around but I will speak to it. We've got to get people in there who can speak to it intelligently and will not be fooled by this testing model.
As to funding, Measure 5 centralized funding. and even conservatives don't want centralized decision making, yet conservatives put it in. It's nonsense. At the state, they're going to get so tired of trying to pass the $5.5 billion for education each year they're going to send it over the private sector and they'll say "We're going to give you the $5.5 million; you try to figure out how to teach our kids."
I'm against that model. We need to fund more locally. Are we likely to go back to more local funding? It's probably not likely since we've centralized it. We've got people making decisions about education who have no understanding, We have filled committees with people who have no understanding. I'd like to be on those committees, has to be an alternative voice because all you're hearing is top-down testing.
It's great that the governor is coming up with these learning compacts for each school, but we've had compacts since the 1980s. They don't change learning. We used to have a 6-7 percent drop-out rate before Measure 5. I used to get furious at that, and now it's 30 percent.
Who's dropping out? Kids with learning problems and behavior problems and kids in poverty. So how do we solve them? We test them; if they can't succeed they get behind and they drop out. Someone has to speak to it.
Can I turn it around? I hope so, but I don't see any voices now who have any understanding of our public school system and I don't want to turn to a private model. The private model would hire teachers with the idea of keeping them two to four years, pay them low wages, minimum benefits, so after a few years they can't afford to stay in teaching, and you bring in new cadre, and they'll love their youth and enthusiasm, but it takes four or five years to develop a teacher. You need career teachers.
One of the big problems is you have teachers who aren't very effective who stay on the job. I never had a problem firing those people; you just follow the process, you follow the rules and work with the union. It takes a lot of a principal's time to remove a teacher, but if you remember your whole staff is working with the teacher, I think more than firing a teacher I helped teachers become more effective. That's why I would return more authority to the local level. It's more effective.
I have a Ph.d. and most of my work was on organizational development. I looked at localized decision making, not top-down, centralized. It makes no sense, That's why I'm in this, I don't know everything, but I know some things, and some of this is just absolutely ludicrous and yet we continue doing it. So I'll be a voice.
How will you be effective in Salem?
Will I be able to turn the tide? I'm willing to give it a shot. I mean, I'm not going to keep my mouth shut. I'm not going to let someone roll over me, who may be a different point of view. At the same time, you've got to make some adjustments. People need to know what's going on and I don't think they do.
There is the system of new legislators paying their dues and not taking a high profile.
How would you work in that system to try as a new legislator to be effective?
They're not going to shut my mouth, I am not going to adjust my values and be quiet just because they tell me to. Like a first-year football player carrying the bags. I am not that kind of person. I'm not going to carry the bags. I will speak up and I will press my case.
There has got to be places you can fit into that model. I am also a team player. I have played on football and baseball teams. But I was also a principal and I know how to step up. As a principal you don't just sit back and wait for things to happen, you move before things happen. I don't have the kind of personality that's going to sit back, and yet I can be a team player.
I'm not going to upset the apple cart; at the same time there are some things that need doing, and I think people will listen to me. I'm not expecting them to all of a sudden embracing me and treating me like a leader, but I will be a leader eventually. It's always been that way for me.
How do you reconcile need to care for the environment with the need to create jobs?
I guess from my bias we need to focus on jobs that are environmentally friendly. At this point we cannot anymore create jobs just for the sake of creating jobs. There has to be some sort of a plan, and I'm pretty sure we can look at infrastructure things.
Certainly we can do a lot to reduce carbon in the air. We may have to look at adjustments at the timber level...We gotta make sure we're not totally destroying our timber. I am one of those who thinks my kids need to have the same things available to me.
It's a balancing act to some degree, but you gotta go into it looking at it this way: Destroying our environment doesn't create jobs.
Ultimately in the long term it destroys jobs. So you've got to look at the green aspect of infrastructure. In today's climate you hear so much about limiting the size of government, but all limiting government will do is reduce jobs; it won't create jobs. We know that it's in the private sector where most jobs are created and should be created, but it's about partnerships.
I'm one of those that says you look at countries that survived the recession: They had a strong government working with a strong private sector, in partnership, and that would be my focus in creating jobs. And you do that by looking at the environment, at the big picture and long range rather than "I'm going to create X number of jobs tomorrow."
At the same time you've got families struggling and you have to move on it; you can't sit back and say "I have a 50-year plan and you're going to lose your house."
I don't absolutely see the intensity of going after this job market. I see people jousting each other, but I don't see the urgency of people putting this together; I think there could be millions of jobs out there in our country that could fit the environmentally friendly model of partnerships.
(Long pause): Take the transportation system. We have one of worst train systems in the world, but we could put together an interconnected system, and all of that could produce hundreds of thousands of jobs and you could come away with something that would help people, help move people from place to place. We have the greatest economy in world, but look at China and Singapore, and what they have done with infrastructure, communication and transportation systems. —
We need to create jobs and have something for everyone afterwards. A lot of these jobs we're creating are gone in four or five years.That's not the kind of planning government should be doing. Government should be doing long-range planning and saying "Let's set the conditions so these kinds of things can happen — let's set the conditions so private enterprise can go to work." We've always had a history of government supporting private industry and innovation. That's how you get new innovation going.
Marv Hollingsworth: 'I'd be a kind of scrappy veteran'
Tell us a little bit about Marv Hollingsworth and why you're running
I did this once, in 1971-72, served in Oregon House, for east county, one of the best things I ever did. I served the east Multnomah County area in the Oregon House.—
I started a couple of years ago going to Democrat meetings and workshops, helped organize a golf tournament, and people needed someone to take on Mark Johnson and they convinced me I'd be a kind of scrappy veteran who could maybe take him on.
By scrappy veteran do you mean political veteran or military veteran or both?
Well, political veteran, because I did serve before. I did serve six years in the Oregon National Guard.
I guess you could call me a scrappy veteran. What that means to me is I just like to represent people and stand up shoulder to shoulder and do what I can for them and take care of some of these issues that are not being taken care of for them, the average working guy.
Well, women's rights are being assaulted. I'm a Roe v. Wade guy, a pro-choice guy. Any decision should be made between her and her doctor and not some politician sitting up on a pedestal.
On education, we need more stronger payment from the state, so we can have smaller classrooms and better teachers.
On the economy, we need to focus on our infrastructure and get people to work, starting with (the Interstate 5) bridge down there. They need to get that going, it'll provide scores of jobs, but politicians are arguing over who's going to pay and where and who's going to contribute, and they need to get on with that.
Other economic issues you want to mention?
Ever since I've met with people in Hood River, I've realized we need to look at a state sales tax, so long as the state gets rid of the income tax and we're not double-dipping.
Sale tax proposals have gone down repeatedly over the years, so in 2012-13 how would the selling of the sales tax idea in be difrerent?
Yes, nine separate times. It probably wouldn't (be different) but I think we need people to help us pay the burden of taxes, folks in Washington and California who come here, and a sales tax would share some of that burden. I think we're one of the last to have it.
I'm just saying take testimony and hearings on it. If they were leaning in that direction then it would have to go to the people for the vote, which the constitution requires.
Do you have other ideas for improving the economy?
Well, on jobs I met with the economic development commission the other day, and they have lots of money available to small businesses, and while it's not easy — there has to be collateral — there is money available.
We have to get counties and cities and unions and city workers together and come up with new jobs. I think things are starting to change that way. You just need to get them talking and find ways. Federal and local moneys are available, maybe floating bonds, explore road and toll taxes, somehow or other, just get all the parties talking so we can get jobs available. It's the only way to get jobs. Since Obama took over things are improving, and the stock market is turning.
Elaborate on your ideas on education.
You look at the figures on per-student spending — we need to get that way up. The state General Fund needs to pay more of the cost of education and thereby relieving some of he property tax burdens. I like Gov, Kitzhaber's new committee (Oregon Education Investment Board).
Maybe take some of the money going to higher education and bring it down to K-12, make that more of a priority for financing.
What have you been doing in the 40 or so years since you served in the legislature?
I was born and raised in Portland, and I went to PSU for my teaching degree. And I taught in the David Douglas School District and what I was making told me I needed a new line of work so I went to law school at night, got my degree and practiced law in the Gateway area.
I served on the original Mt Hood Community College board; we went around the country to various other colleges and took the good parts and got Mt. Hood started. I was a pro tem judge in east Multnomah County and the city of Gresham, and served two years in Legislature.
I also trained race horses for 22 years, retired from that in 1992. I got bored with being retired, got involved in a variety of civic things.
What sets you apart from your opponent and what will it take to win the seat?
Mark Johnson is vulnerable. I think the Democrats will turn out and vote. They don't do that in the off-elections.
The $50 local contributions cap idea (held to by Peter Nordbye) is noble, but it just won't work to take on a guy like Mark Johnson. He's got a lot of dollars. I would take any amount of money, and I've been promised some pretty substantial sums from some PACs, and I would take them but without any strings attached. I don't owe anyone a vote, just to look at their interests, and vote how I see is best for the people of Clackamas and Hood River counties.
How would you make that work and avoid the expectation of quid pro quo?
I'd just make it clear there are no conditions. I'd do my best and support the Democratic platforms, but just because I get $10,000 from a union it doesn't mean I'll vote "aye" on everything they want. It's kind of idealistic, but I would make it work.—
(Peter Nordbye) and I are fairly close on issues. I think he's anti-labor He's made statements. We've been told that he would not take any money from labor, or help labor help them any in the fall, so there's a difference.
You gotta be labor-oriented if you're a Democrat. I think that's part of the whole thing, supporting unions, the right to organize and collective bargaining and to organize for those rights.
Another difference is that I think (Nordbye) being a principal I think he'd be on the other side of negotiating than OEA.
What is it about Marv Hollingsworth you want people to know?
I'll stand with them and in between (legislative sessions) I'll come out here and meet with people. I'll stay in touch.
I served as a mediator and arbitrator, and I would make those services available in looking at issues and deciding issues and putting groups together. I'd just like to represent the guy who doesn't get a whole lot of representation.
There's a new issue, transporting coal dust in the Gorge. I would meet with people and have hearings and look at scientific evidence, and I would just stand up on their behalf, both environmentally and business, and just keep in constant contact with them.
So what is your stance on transporting coal through the Gorge?
Just off the top I'd be against that because it's going to pollute. There's just lots of problems.