Mark Herbert knows that as a Republican running for the House District 11 seat being vacated by long-term Rep. Phil Barnhart, he has an uphill race.
But Herbert says that even though 52 percent of voters in the district live in the heavily Democrat-oriented area near the University of Oregon, he is being well received as he knocks on doors from Creswell to south of Lebanon.
“I think my opponent, Marty Wilde, and I agree on about 75 percent of the issues,” Herbert said. “We just differ on how to fix them.”
Wilde said he brings decades of experience from the business world to the table and he has found that collaboration is vital to success in business or government.
“I’m running because we need meaningful change,” Herbert said. “Lane and Linn counties, especially rural areas, are not experiencing the economic rebound they should. Lane County is showing the lowest jobs and wage growth among seven metropolitan areas.”
Herbert believes that instead of increasing taxes on businesses — which has been a priority among more recent Legislative sessions — encouraging businesses to collaborate with school systems will pay dividends for both in the long run.
“I am extremely concerned about our educational system,” Herbert said. “One in four of our high school students do not graduate. When one of our seniors does graduate, he or she will have spent one full year less in school than in other states.”
Herbert said investing in career and technical/vocational programs in schools will benefit a broad cross section of students and prepare a solid workforce for Oregon businesses.
“Bringing back career and technical education programs raises graduation rates, especially for our students from lower income homes, but also from middle class homes,” Herbert said. “Graduation rates go up 60 percent and 35 percent respectively. This would have a huge positive effect on our economy.”
Herbert said there are about 150,000 family-wage jobs open in Oregon. Adding more layers of taxers on businesses will not encourage them to expand, but will send them looking to relocate.
“If these jobs were filled, it could go a long way toward closing the state’s budget gap,” Herbert said.
Herbert said rural communities have yet to rebound from the effects of the listing of the Northern Spotted Owl as an endangered species almost 30 years ago. Timber harvests from federal forests plummeted, taking jobs both in the woods and at local mills, with them.
“We lot a generation of workers who were not college-oriented,” Herbert said. “We haven’t replaced those jobs. We need a sustainable timber harvest to enhance the economy and for forest health, although we all know the number of jobs in that area will never be what it was.”
Herbert also believes it is important that business owners and employees have the same goals and sit at the table for long-term planning.
“It should not be an us versus them mentality,” Herbert said. “Hire good people, treat them well, respect their input, work collaboratively and the rewards will come.”
Improving technological resources such as fiber optic cables in rural areas and providing high-speed Internet, could go a long way to help develop localized jobs, Herbert believes.
He said the location of COMP-Northwest and the Samaritan Health Sciences Campus in Lebanon is an example of what could occur in Lane County, which in conjunction with the University of Oregon, could develop a biosciences/health care complex.
Herbert said health care costs can be reduced by helping employees improve their wellness.
“About 65 percent of health care costs center around lifestyle choices,” Herbert said. “If you save insurance costs, those funds can be used to grow business and contribute to employee wages or retirement programs.”
Herbert said he supports 2nd Amendment Rights and understands that responsible gun ownership is an important fabric of this state and nation, especially in rural areas.
“We need to invest in mental health education, especially in our schools,” Herbert said. “There are no easy solutions, but mental health support would also go a long way toward helping our homeless. We need to help them deal with issues and help them find a purpose in life.”
Herbert said several common themes resonate with residents of District 11: they are concerned about the environment; the effect of the Public Employees Retirement System costs; and they are tired of the acrimonious political climate statewide and nationally.
Affordable housing is another key area of concern. Herbert said that land use laws not be so restrictive they drive up the cost of property beyond the level that affordable housing can be built.
“A developer can’t pay $200,000 for a lot and then build a $150,000 house on it,” Herbert said.
Herbert said both he and his opponent are not facing the same hurdles are prior candidates who ran against a popular incumbent.
“Fortunately, my opponent and I get along well and there has been no name calling,” Herbert said. “I have met some amazing people and this experience has been educational and enriching.”