A Thursday forum on Measure 97, hosted by the Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce at the Monmouth Public Library, may not have swayed anyone in the audience one way or another, but it set a fine example of how a debate should be run.
Otto Schell with the Oregon PTA spoke in favor of Measure 97, and Alison Hart with the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce spoke against the measure. It wasn’t so much what they said, but how they said it.
The two were passionate about their beliefs, politely discredited each other’s reports, and at one point admitted, “This is our job. To disagree without being disagreeable.”
Each encouraged audience members to dig deeper into studies and reports to find answers. For every study that shows Measure 97 — a corporate sales tax — would be good, another shows it would be bad.
And then Hart and Schell found common ground.
They agreed: Oregon students deserve better.
They disagreed on how that should be paid for — politely, respectfully, and patiently.
Ultimately it is up to voters to do the research, uncover reliable sources of information, decode studies and reports, and make the choice that most closely reflects what they think is the best for Oregon and our nation.
In the meantime, as we jump head first into the next four weeks — peak season for forums and political debates — all candidates could take notes from Schell and Hart.
The two could not disagree more, and yet found common ground. We all want what is best for our nation — better schools, less poverty and homelessness, open and honest government, food, shelter, clothing, world peace.
Political arguments shouldn’t be about the end game — we’re all heading that way already — it’s about which road will we take to get there, and who will be driving.