By editorial board • 

Menke, Garvin, Chenoweth our choices for city council

For at least the last quarter century, McMinnville’s mayor and council candidates have generally faced little if any serious opposition. That began to change two years ago with the hard-fought, high-dollar Sal Peralta/Chris Chenoweth race, and burst into full flower this year with serious races developing for the mayorship and all three open council seats.

We see three factors at work here: 1) Council failure to afford citizens more generous and respectful opportunities for engagement in two contentious issues of recent years, homelessness and westside growth. 2) A surge of newcomers not necessarily attuned to or interested in an entrenched old guard’s “McMinnville way” of doing things. 3) Increasingly bitter political polarization, with regional political party interests focusing on non-partisan local races.

We are not sympathetic to the injection of raw partisan ideology into city and county races. We are, however, supportive of richer, fuller engagement of citizens in local decisionmaking, and with giving newer residents a more meaningful say.

Here’s how that played out in our endorsement decisions in the three council races:

 

Kellie Menke over Brittany Ruiz

In some respects, we regard Menke as part of the problem in the city’s failure to fully engage its citizenry, particularly those migrating here in recent years.

We assume this will be her last term, should she be re-elected. In that event, we think it would be best if she relinquished the council presidency in favor of a member of the next generation, as the city needs to begin embracing representative democracy and demographic and generational change more openly.

However, she brings to the council an incredibly deep and rich vein of public service. She is experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated.

Challenger Brittany Ruiz is confident, articulate, energetic and conversant on city issues. She has experience with public engagement, but exclusively from the citizen activist side, and often taking confrontational rather than collaborative forms. She also comes armed with strongly held ideological views, which would need to be checked at the policymaking door for her to be an effective and representative councilor.

Menke is endorsed by all current councilors, many of whom have sparred with her at meetings. The fact she can draw such support by those who criticize her is a reason we consider her better suited to work through the important issues facing McMinnville in the next four years.

 

Adam Garvin over Tynan Pierce

Pierce impressed us with his endorsement interview; perhaps, the best of the season.

A relative newcomer, he is brimming with fresh, innovative ideas for fuller and more effective public engagement. What’s more, he has developed practical ways to introduce them.

Garvin has come to serve as the business community’s primary conduit to the council, a role of immense importance in a community that finds itself questioning, “how business-friendly is McMinnville?” He has proven a very steady hand, particularly behind the scenes.

What’s more, he helps supply the kind of next-generation vision sorely needed on the council, and does it with insights gathered from serious on-the-job experience.

We may have endorsed Pierce in a different race or another year, but can’t bring ourselves to recommend him over a proven contributor filling some valuable niches.

 

Chris Chenoweth over Lisa McCracken

Chenoweth has been schooling himself on city issues for three years running now, having run for a council seat in 2018.

He is a political and social conservative with values derived through personal conviction and principle. We view him an independent thinker when it comes to local policymaking, and his status as a longtime local business owner is a plus.

McCracken’s focus is on maintaining services in a growing city, and her work as a veterans’ advocate would be constructive on the council.

However, Chenoweth’s command of the issues runs much deeper and we find it easy to give him the nod in Ward 1.

Comments

GrizzlyMountain

Before voting for any candidate associated with the Yamhill First PAC, such as Garvin, Chenoweth, Ruiz and Parker, I would like to hear more about the goals of Yamhill First and it’s primary stakeholders- such as Olde Stone Village RV Park.

Does the owner of the RV park live in the community? Does he have reasons besides pure benevolence for contributing thousands of dollars towards the PAC? In the interest of transparency shouldn’t voters have a right to know this information?

I have concerns when a group like Yamhill First funds an entire slate of city and county candidates. I agree that city government should support local businesses. However, please tell me the benefit to either citizens or the majority of local businesses when control of city and county government is captured by a few wealthy individuals?

Don Dix

GrizzlyMountain makes a good point about candidates receiving funds from a PAC -- it's concerning.

Would that concern be a fair comparison to the multiple PERS-related associations that strictly fund D campaigns in the state? Isn't that how Oregon has become a one party state of legislative and government positions? And isn't Oregon's unfunded $26B PERS liability a direct result of those election decisions funded and captured by the PERS crowd?

Ossie Bladine

I invited the guys from Yamhill First to submit an op-ed to explain their mission and processes in deciding endorsement and contribution. They haven't gotten around to it but I hope they still do.

From how they've described it to me, they set up the PAC to ultimately support who they perceive as pro-business candidates. They said it'll be nonpartisan and not tied to any party; business first and foremost.

As for the donors, I know the major early contributors to the PAC all had individual issues with McMinnville. Oregon Mutual was critical of response to downtown homeless camping. Olde Stone was upset it was put under the city's transient tax, after initially not being there. Fee Stubblefield of Living Springs clashed with the city on the care home licenses.

But there also are contributions from individuals who have very partisan political ties like Mary Starrett, Lindsay Berschauer and Tom Hammer.

GrizzlyMountain

Mr. Dix - yes, I have concerns about one party rule and special interest $ at a statewide-level. However: a) I think that issue is beyond the scope of this particular article, which addresses local elections. The city positions are non-partisan nature, and as far as I know, no public employee union has contributed to any local candidate in this election; and b) I do not think an argument that public union $ are the primary reason that Oregon has turned blue is particularly well supported given the numerous other contributing factors such as changing demographics and increased party polarization flowing down from the national level. Further, public employee unions are certainly not the only special interest at work in Oregon, with corporate interests frequently backing Republicans. Just look at the last gubernatorial election- Knute Buehler out raised Kate Brown, with the bulk of his funds coming from corporate interests.

Mr. Bladine - Yamhill First may claim to be generally pro-business, but I personally don’t find that claim as compelling as the fact that the largest stakeholders each have individual financial interests affected by city and county decisions. And I think you would be hard pressed to find any candidate in the upcoming election who does not claim to be generally supportive of local businesses.

Further, while these positions are supposed to be non-partisan in nature, one can’t help but notice that all of the Yamhill First candidates lean to the right politically, and in some cases the far right. For instance, Brittany Ruiz is a prominent spokesperson of the anti-vaccination movement. I can’t help but believe that in office these candidates will represent the political beliefs of a select few rather than the community at large.

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