Letters to the Editor: May 12, 2023

We deserve better

As a professional firefighter, and a citizen raising his family in McMinnville, I urge you to vote yes on Measures 36-226 and 36-227, allowing the formation of a new fire district.

I started my career with the McMinnville Fire Department more than 20 years ago as an intern. At that time, MFD was known as a stepping stone in the fire service, and it still is.

While there have been incredible career firefighters in McMinnville over the years, the department has gradually become more and more underfunded and understaffed as call volumes have soared. That has created a revolving door for personnel.

I am worried about the safety of my community and loved ones at MFD’s current level of service.

Response times of 20 minutes or more are not OK. A house fire doubles in size every minute if it is left unchecked, and survivability of heart attack or stroke is significantly reduced if the patient isn’t getting specific interventions in the ER within 60 minutes of the event.

We deserve a fire department that can provide us with faster response times, safer patient care and better fire suppression. Please vote yes on Measures 36-226 and 36-227.

Ron Baker



The real story

It appears to me that our city taxes will increase much more sharply than the city is letting on with passage of the fire measures.

There are lies of commission and lies of omission. The city seems to be using a combination of both in its trickery.

In the city, our current fire tax rate is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The measures would establish a new rate of $2.

Being a math teacher, I calculate that to be a 50-cent increase. Who wouldn’t do that for better fire protection?

However, the city is hiding the real story.

Our vote would establish a whole new $2 fire tax. Meanwhile, the city is proposing to retain its existing $1.50 of taxing authority and put it for other purposes, most likely in phases over three years.

Therefore, to be transparent, the current city tax rate of $5.02 will effectively end up at $7.02 for the same menu of services, a 40% increase. And the tax bite it generates for you will increase further as your home value increases.

Those in the rural fire area will see their present rate of 97 cents per $1,000 rise to $2 per $1,000, an increase of more than 100%. And its cost to homeowners will also rise in future years, as home values rise.

What’s more, as Janet Redmond noted in a previous letter, “The new fire board composition would likely feature zero representation for rural owners.”

We need to step back from this attempt to bamboozle voters, both urban and rural. We need to reject use of distortions in an attempt to fool and mislead us into passage of this flim-flam.

Bill Bordeaux



Benefit of all

When I served on the McMinnville School Board, it was a very collaborative body. Members worked well despite their differences.

In those post-strike years, a collaborative board was a necessity to heal deep community divisions. Well, we are apparently confronting deep divisions again today, given the generous sums political entities have invested in chosen candidates.

I have some suggestions for electing a board committed to the overall benefit of our local school system:

n Don’t underestimate the value of continuity and experience. More than half the seven-member board is up for election, and it’s a very steep learning curve for new members.

Both Larry Vollmer and Gerardo Partida have the benefit of years of institutional memory and distinguished experience. They understand what works and how the board interacts with the professional staff and community.

n Vote for someone who will respect the dedication of teachers and administrators. Many can boast a “passion for children,” but only teaching and administrative professionals develop that passion into a career.

Lu Ann Anderson has career-long experience working with educators at all levels, inside and outside the public school system. She understands the jobs of teachers and administrators, and would support them.

n Remember that there is a lot of nitty-gritty to running an educational system. The school board addresses long-range facilities planning, budgeting and bussing, state and federal laws, and much more. It’s wise to have board members who know how to get things done in complex organizations.

Doris Towery has done a remarkable job of familiarizing herself with local educational issues. She comes to this election with impressive administrative credentials and a desire to serve.

These are reasonable, balanced, thoughtful and intelligent people. A board with Vollmer, Partida, Anderson and Towery would work collaboratively to move our schools ahead for the benefit of all.

Marsha Mackie



Put students first

In the past few years, we have seen significant national and state money flowing into local school board races, with the intent of replacing high-functioning non-partisan local school board members with members of a narrow ideological bent.

In McMinnville, proponents of such an effort recently sent a false mailer. It talked about a supposed drop in local test scores, but omitted key information — that the district had changed to a new, harder test and was continuing to comfortably exceed the state average score on it.

Misleading by omission amounts to lying.

In fact, McMinnville is one of the strongest school districts in the state. That’s true because we have a school board that is committed to public education and to student success, not to national partisan agendas.

All one needs to do is look at the performance of the Newberg School District to see the negative impacts of extremist takeover of a local school board.

The district has failed to even provide basic services like adequate busing. Hundreds of students left the district, costing it more than $1 million in state funding, with many of those students coming to McMinnville.

Newberg now has the highest staff vacancy rate of any school district in Oregon, while its administrative costs have skyrocketed, due to lawsuits resulting from the illegal and unconstitutional conduct of the board toward its own students and staff.

As a member of the McMinnville City Council and McMinnville School District Budget Committee, I’ve gotten a close look. I encourage voters to reject the deceptive glossy mailers, ignore the prom-picture campaign signs and support the candidates endorsed by Stand for Children.

Re-elect Larry Vollmer and Gerardo Partida. Elect Doris Towery and Lu Ann Anderson to join them. They can be trusted to put the needs of our community and students first.

Sal Peralta



Lives at stake

There are few issues of greater importance than addressing McMinnville’s need for a fully functioning fire department capable of keeping our community safe and meeting our emergency needs.

McMinnville has long relied on a largely volunteer fire department, staffing engines with only two paid employees when it takes a team of four to fight a fire. That leaves paid staff standing outside watching buildings burn while they wait for volunteers or personnel from other cities before they can enter.

The average house fire flashes over in six minutes, while McMinnville’s response times on fires like the Baker Street apartments and the creamery were well over 20 minutes. These devastatingly slow times ensure that anything that catches on fire inevitably burns to the ground, leaving homes and lives at stake.

I am married to a Portland firefighter who understands the danger of long response times and the risk to both lives and property. The fully staffed crews in Portland average response times under five minutes, and our community deserves no less.

The creation of a new fire district would allow our city to hire 15 new firefighters and finally field fully staffed professional crews. That would allow us to meet the standard response times in an emergency, ensuring a fire in McMinnville would no longer automatically equate to a total loss.

While the creation of the McMinnville Fire District will require some additional financial investment from our community, it’s a bill long overdue. McMinnville residents deserve to sleep well at night knowing that if the worst happens, our fire department will be ready to respond.

As such, I strongly urge you to vote yes on Measures 36-226 and 36-227. Help create the fire district we need to keep our community safe.

Erin Stephenson



Resist the highjacking

In 1932, Byron Price, Associated Press bureau chief in Washington, D.C., made the statement “All politics are local.”

I think it’s commonly accepted that he was correct, at least back in those days. But one has to ask himself if this statement still holds true today.

It may not. Let’s follow the money in the McMinnville School Board races to see just how local they are — or are not — truly local.

The politically oriented Town & Country PAC has been pouring large sums of money into a slate of three rightwing candidates sharing an agenda very similar to that of the candidates that have caused total disruption to education up the way in Newberg. Actual amounts of money, and to whom, are clearly shown in filings posted on the Oregon Secretary or State website at https://sos.oregon.gov/elections/Pages/orestar.aspx.

Now I ask you, does this sound local? By “following the money,” it’s clear that outside political partisans want to control the McMinnville School Board.

I urge you to visit the website above and prove for yourself that your local election of school board candidates is being hijacked. Please, seriously consider casting your votes for Lu Ann Anderson, Doris Towery, Gerardo Partida and Larry Vollmer.

John Rickert



Living in la-la land

In response to Susie Peterson’s “Time for change” letter of May 5:

Susie is an amazing person in many ways. Fortunately, there is no law that requires me to agree with her.

The school board candidates she supports for positions 4, 5 and 7 are, by all accounts, competent people. However, they are running under the current code words of “parental rights,” which translates into an anti-progressive education, anti-sexuality education and anti-trans-rights agenda.

This is not what my hometown needs. In fact, it is the reverse of what it needs.

Young people, whether cis or trans, must be reminded that they are worthy just as they are, and not second-class citizens. Some adults may pretend we live in a fair and just world, where no one gets assigned less importance than others, but that’s just an imaginary la-la land.

The world I live in does not work like that. It is a world where white people feel entitled to whitewash accurate history, to downplay historical atrocities committed by my and their white ancestors. It is a world that shames trans youths into fearing for their own safety.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say:

Susie’s friend who attended the school board meeting was on the right track in participating in community life, but engaging for the wrong reason — to shut our progressive voices down.

Lisa Warmington



No-shows in Mac

With four positions on our school board up for grabs, and a $141 million budget to manage, it’s essential we fill those spots with the leaders who have the most experience and are the most qualified. Thankfully, we have four excellent candidates.

I highly recommend voting for incumbents Larry Vollmer and Gerardo Partida for their consistency and invaluable experience.

Lu Ann Anderson is another easy choice, with involvement in education at every level, including service as a board member in a neighboring district. And Doris Towery brings a wealth of expertise from her leadership positions with several large nonprofits.

With a steep learning curve, I also took a look at who’s been showing up for McMinnville schools at public board meetings this year.

Vollmer has attended all eight, Anderson seven, Partida six, Towery five, Hyder one to three, Humlie one to two, and Reyes and Aase none to one. Attendance records weren’t available for two meetings, making it difficult to get full counts in some cases.

Please don’t let a mostly out-of-the-area Political Action Committee buy three seats on the board.

Vote for experienced leaders who are already showing up for our schools. Vote Vollmer, Partida, Anderson and Towery.

Dayna Gilbert



Capable and experienced

Our schools in the McMinnville School District are excellent.

Our Career Pathway program, featuring welding, construction, health services, engineering, business, education and more, is one of the most robust in the state. Our students can learn a trade that can put them in well-paying jobs right out of high school, or give them a strong foundation for future studies.

As a small business owner, I couldn’t be prouder of this program.

We also have a wide range of dual college-credit courses, so many students graduate with college credits that can both lower tuition costs and prepare them for college-level work.

Students at all grade levels consistently outperform state test averages, and Mac High’s stellar graduation rate has steadily climbed over the past 10 years. Several of our educators have been recognized for their outstanding work at the local, state and even national levels.

I know this from having a front-row seat to the operations of the district — from being a district parent, to serving on the Citizen Oversight Committee for bonds, to participating on the budget committee, to serving on the school board, which I am currently chairing.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past 20 years is that the operation of school districts is complex. Meeting the wide-ranging needs of students with limited resources, while balancing the needs of those who teach them and care for them, is not simple or easy.

Particularly now, as schools regain their footing after the pandemic, we need experienced, capable leadership to keep the district moving forward. We don’t need politics and outside influence to knock us off course.

Please vote for Larry Vollmer, Gerardo Partida, Todd Hyder and Doris Towery for strong schools on the path to continued success.

Carson Benner



A cautionary tale

The dictionary definition of a “cautionary tale” is a story in which something bad serves as a warning for your future actions.

The voters in the McMinnville School District have a perfect example of a cautionary tale as they look north to the Newberg School District. We have seen what happens when you allow a group of ideologues and fringe thinkers to take charge of the local educational system.

We have witnessed the loss of a talented superintendent, lawsuits filed against the district, much unflattering news coverage of the school district and the city, as well as the departure of numerous faculty, staff and students disturbed by the school board’s actions.

Now we see a similar, like-minded group of three candidates seeking to take over and reshape McMinnville schools. The fact that they are all being funded and directed by the same newly formed political action committee is a warning signal.

These individuals are interested in making the local school district match their personal worldviews, regardless of whether these views have any educational validity or support. The only “parental rights” these three candidates will be vigilant about are those of parents who agree with them.

Having watched this sad cautionary tale unfold just a few miles away, I hope we will learn from it in time to avert a repeat performance here with our school board. I have cast my ballot for Partida, Vollmer, Anderson, and Towery, and I encourage other McMinnville voters to do the same.

Mary Adams



Build on strengths

The McMinnville School District has been one of the jewels of Oregon’s education system. In order to keep our schools strong, while allowing for growth and improvement, it is best to build on our strengths.

In the first two races, I am voting for the incumbents Larry Vollmer and Gerardo Partida, who understand the district’s budget and have the background to solve current and future issues. In the other two races, I am voting for Lu Ann Anderson and Doris Towery, as they have the best backgrounds to understand the complex position of being a school board member.

We as a town have the choice to continue to grow and better our school district or succumb to the blame, fear and deflection of issues promoted by the PAC supporting three of the opposition candidates. Each of those candidates use the words “parent rights,” promoted by Moms of Liberty and the Oregon Moms Union as an umbrella for fear, blame and deflection of issues instead of actual working solutions.

Our district has always supported the rights of parents.

It has always worked with individual parents who have concerns with their child’s curriculum. Those who are actually familiar with the district know parents can always talk to teachers and opt their children out of something that is of concern.

Forcing that individual concern on an entire district only diminishes our education system. It makes our children unable to think critically and become the thoughtful and engaged citizens we need for our future.

Support a strong town and a renowned school system by joining with me in voting for Larry Vollmer, Gerardo Partida, Lu Ann Anderson and Doris Towery.

Sidonie Winfield



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