District three Senate candidates faced off in SOU town hall forum
by Genevieve Grippo, Friday, October 12th 2018
ASHLAND, Ore. — The countdown for November's elections is on, and Thursday night, candidates for Senate District Three vied for the public's vote in a town hall forum hosted by Southern Oregon University and Jefferson Public Radio.
Democratic candidate Jeff Golden and Republican Candidate Jessica Gomez met at the university to answer questions derived from community concerns emailed to JPR prior to the forum.

One of those concerns was tuition costs at public universities, and whether the candidates would consider a boost in state support to lower the cost of in-state tuition for students. The question also asked other ways the candidates would support education at all levels. Gomez said she would like to increase support for public universities, but the problem lies in getting spending under control elsewhere-- mainly administrative costs. "You have things like PERs, you have things like healthcare that all businesses within our region are dealing with, and that's what driving up the cost," said Gomez. "We can try to invest more and try to bring down tuition, but unless we get that spending under control... we're going to continue seeing the need for those budgets to rise, and tuition rise with it." Golden opened his answer by stating that access to affordable education is paramount to equal opportunities in society.
Over time, he said the state has dis-invested in education, and he's open to creative solutions to change the tide. "I'm interested in some creative programs that are around, that are probably in the line of an AmeriCorps, or OregonCorps program," he said. "I'd like to see young people offer college tuition in return for a year or two out in the woods reducing fuel with the help of the federal government." Candidates were later asked about women's rights and safety. Golden took to his answer first. "There are reasons to believe that women have been harassed and abused in the capitol over the years," he said. "It is really difficult or hazardous to a career for a woman to come forward with complaints." For that reason, he said a third party should be in charge of examining those situations rather than the legislature itself.
District three Senate candidates face off in SOU town hall forum (KTVL/News 10)
On the local side of the issue, Golden said the state should partner with community organizations already making strides towards women's safety. "The state should be in the business of supporting and bolstering, and maybe matching some funding for community organizations that are solving problems that the big institutions aren't," he said. Gomez followed his answer by pointing to her own situation. "Elevate more women into leadership roles," she said as the audience clapped. "It is so important to have diversity in the workplace... When we have a team that works together like that, we're not going to see these types of problems continue to permeate our workplaces, our state legislature." At home, she said solutions need to come in the form of a cultural shift. "We need to start with little girls. We need to start with our young boys and teaching them how to conduct themselves-- what it means to respect each other," she said. "These are things you can't legislate." Candidates moved onto environmental concerns, and while both said change is in order, they had very different ideas of what that change should look like. According to Gomez, water conservation and forest management are efforts that should be tackled at the state level. She suggested large-scale environmental legislation might be over Oregon's head. "Reducing greenhouse gas is really important, but we're a small state," said Gomez. "I'm concerned that we're going to spend a lot of money and we're going to get zero results." Golden followed Gomez, calling her response "grossly irresponsible." "Climate change isn't coming, it is here," he said. "It's very clear we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions very quickly... I think the most effective way to do that is to put a price on green house gas emissions." Besides changes in the environmental legislation, Golden also pushed for investments in mental health services. Reminiscent to his response on women's safety, he suggested partnering with existing organization focused on combating homelessness and mental health. That includes using their volunteer force, expertise and "creative brilliance" to help solve mental health crises. He said state government should help them find grant funding. "They are doing things that large bureaucracy can't do," he said. Golden also placed an emphasis on restoring mental health programs to schools. Gomez said she's learned about both mental health and addiction in the community by spending time on the Greenway between Phoenix and Medford. "It's absolutely incredible to see that kind of destruction happening here in our city that is so small," said Gomez. "We might need a hundred bed facility here just to handle this problem." It's a problem Gomez said can't be solved by Jackson County's criminal justice system, referring to the county's overloaded jail. Thursday's forum will be aired on Jefferson Public Radio at 9 a.m. on Friday.
The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County
101 E. 8th St.  |  Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 779-4847
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