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Winners & Losers in This Week’s Election

November 8th, 2007 by dk

Published Friday, Nov. 9, 2007 in The Register-Guard.

Tuesday’s election included no names on the ballots, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t winners and losers. Some may surprise you.

Measure 20-131 (Urban Renewal for downtown Springfield)

Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken emerged as the clearest of winners. As the only municipality in the county to win a vote of confidence from its citizens, Springfield is on track to continue its renaissance, with Leiken in the lead. Who lost? Two urban renewal districts may be one too many to keep the attention of Leiken and Springfield city staff, so the Glenwood field may go fallow for another few years, if not another generation.

Measure 20-134 (Urban Renewal for downtown Eugene)

Bonny Bettman won more than a fight for a “go-slow” approach to downtown. The lopsided victory against urban renewal may become a mandate, at the expense of Eugene’s city staff. Put another way, the pragmatists in Eugene’s center lost to those with utopian visions on the left and the right.

Measures 20-132 & 20-133 (Gas taxes for Eugene and Junction City)

Gas station owners learned how to band together and “fight city hall,” so the Oregon Petroleum Association won, but you can add all professional and industrial associations to the list of winners. Who will be next? Architects want more “green” public buildings. Doctors want lower malpractice insurance rates. Home builders want a cap on permit fees. That scratching sound you hear is fundraising letters being written to members of these organizations.

The losers here are the Lane County Board of Commissioners and the Oregon State Legislature. Both chose to kick the can down the quickly deteriorating road. Roads are inherently regional assets, since you need them only when you want to leave where you are to get someplace else. Relying on local funding sources would necessarily produce a patchwork that is unfair to some and unreliable to all. Back to work, folks!

Measure 49 (Statewide Land Use Law Modification)

Look at the way the votes are divided and you can see that there are no winners here. And no losers. The battle between city life and country life won’t end here. Both sides survive to fight another day.

Measure 50 (Tobacco tax increase)

Who qualifies as a winner, now that each pack of cigarettes won’t cost 85 cents more? Who found themselves better off Wednesday morning than they were Monday night? Not the 120,000 children who will still be without insurance. Not smokers, because the economics of an unhealthy habit did not become more onerous. Not tobacco companies, because they spent $12 million to keep the status quo. The winners here are radio and TV stations, and Michael Bloomberg.

The campaign to defeat Measure 50 broke new ground for its clarity and its amplitude. Never before in Oregon has so much been spent on so little. The strategists poured dollar after dollar into broadcast commercials — everywhere, all the time, over and over. They spent almost nothing on print advertising or lawn signs or press conferences.

Broadcast advertising is hard to avoid. The show doesn’t continue until the ad has been played. The audience is captive. You can switch the channel, but in this case you were as likely to find the same ad anywhere else you turned. It worked. People were persuaded that using money from an unpopular habit to extend care for the cutest and most vulnerable among us was a bad idea.

Because the campaign employed so little else, it’s a good day for people selling advertising on radio and television. We’ve all just endured an expensive and expansive experiment. If you can buy enough of them, TV ads work.

But who can spend that kind of money? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that’s who. He’s a self-made billionaire and he may launch an independent bid for president in 2008. If he runs, it’s rumored he’ll spend more than $1 billion of his own money on the campaign. Oregon has seven of the 535 electoral votes, or 1.3 percent of the nation’s total. Do the math. A billion dollars will buy the same blanket of ads across the entire nation. If it happens, it will be because the strategy was proven in Oregon with Measure 50.


Don Kahle ( is executive director for American Institute of Architects’ local chapter. He’s also a media, marketing and management consultant for small and civic-minded businesses. Readers may review and comment on past and future columns at his blog, right here.

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