Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Meeting David Edwards--Part II

[Part one of my interview with David Edwards is here]

Edwards is running in House District 30, historically a fairly conservative part of Hillsboro. The demographics have changed somewhat in the last four years with Democrats beginning to catch up to GOP voter registration. John Kerry also won this district in the 2004 Presidential election. A moderate Democrat should do well here. But is David really a moderate? The Hillsboro Argus casts him as "more conservative" than his opponent, Edward Curry:

But after interviewing both candidates, we find the Democrat to be more conservative on the issues and a better choice to represent Hillsboro. As the chairman of the city's 20/20 Vision Task Force, David Edwards is no stranger to the workings of interactive government. A graduate of the University of Southern California in film and with a master's from the University of Oregon in state economic development, he is a successful businessman, the founder and CEO of a high-tech research firm.

More conservative than Curry? How does Edwards feel about that?

I made a note of this at the American Association of University Women Forum where the discussion turned to bipartisan cooperation. I've been described by the media as "conservative", "moderate", "liberal" and a "pragmatic progressive". So I think I'm uniquely qualified to work across the aisle.

So in what ways does Edwards consider himself "conservative"?

I'm a fiscal conservative. The Hillsboro Argus appreciated my ideas for streamlining state government. They were impressed by the specificity and power of my ideas.

So why should someone like myself, a progressive, consider voting for David Edwards?

I do consider myself more of a "pragmatic progressive". In the sense that I am dedicated to the common good. I think what's been lacking in Salem in recent years is an ethic of community to govern our priorties in state government. My hope is to realign the priorties of state government with our common values.

Hmm..kinda vague. So are there issues/ideas where Edwards is definitely going to advocate for a progressive approach?

There's a stark contrast between my opponent and I in regard to education, for example. My opponent is an advocate for the so-called 65% Solution. This would mandate that local school districts spend at least 65% of their money on classroom instruction. There are a number of flaws in this idea.

First of all, the organization promoting this idea is called "First Class Education". Its founded by an internet mogul whose ultimate aim is to set the stage for vouchers and public subsidies for private schools. A memo circulated to Republican Party leaders he indicated that the 65% solution was good politics. It would foment animosity between teachers and administrators. So its a political gimmick rather than a real solution.

In addition, as a business person I reject the notion of setting some arbitrary spending pirameter. It would be akin to setting a budget for inventory regardless of demand. Its focused on inputs rather than outcomes.

In fact I have a 15 page report from the credit rating agency Standard and Poors. It points out that while putting more money in the classroom is a laudable goal, what's important isn't necessarily the amount of money spent in the classroom or the ratio of that money compared to other budget items. The real focus should be on identifying programs that produce significant outcomes for students.

The 65% Solution is a mere smoke screen for public policy. Its a fantasy that we can simply develop an unfunded mandate for local schools to release an additional $241 million into the classroom. Besides that, the independent nonprofit group The Chalkboard Project estimates that the Hillsboro School District already spends 68% of its budget in the classroom. Even if we implement the 65% Solution it would do absolutely nothing to relieve our overcrowded and understaffed schools.

Edwards has an overall belief in strong accountability for state government. For schools, there are accountability measures and budgetary procedures that he believes will help provide a way to assess which programs yield the biggest impact for students for the dollars provided. But David also recognizes the reality that schools simply need more money.

One way to help bring more funds to local schools is by closing tax loopholes. Edwards believes one of the first should the elimination of the $10 corporate minimum tax. David noted that his 17 person company last year paid about $80,000 in state income taxes while 51% of the companies here in Oregon with revenues of $25 million or more paid the $10 minimum.

So besides closing tax loopholes, Edwards believes the legislature should impact schools by:

*Guaranteeing a full year of school: 175 days

*Fully fund Head Start

*Full day kindergarten

*Lower class sizes in grades K-3

Edwards believes that early education is where the greatest impact can be made for students. He says that students who go through quality preK programs not only reap the educational benefits and higher incomes, but they also yield social benefits as well: less likely to break the law, they become homeowners and stay married longer.

In part III of my interview with David Edwards, we'll discuss the reaction of House District 30 residents to the campaign so far as well as Edwards' take on several key ballot measures.