Where the votes were in May

In the June 8, 2018, issue of the Register-Guard, the editorial board writes:

Voters rejected a proposal for an elected Eugene city auditor on May 15, but the initiative’s sponsors can take heart from detailed election returns released by Lane County this week. Measure 20-283 passed in three of eight Eugene City Council wards, and in 12 of 31 voting precincts. Most encouraging to the sponsors was that the elected auditor found support in diverse parts of the city, and lost by a landslide in only a few neighborhoods.

The citywide vote was 53 percent no to 47 percent yes. That’s a vivid contrast to the competing proposal for an appointed auditor presented by the Eugene City Council, which failed by a 75 percent to 25 percent ratio. The council’s Measure 20-287 lost in every precinct. Proponents of an elected auditor accused the council of attempting to muddy the waters with its measure, and if that’s the case, Measure 20-287 succeeded only in that respect.

The elected auditor measure passed in Emily Semple’s Ward 1, the ward formerly represented on the City Council by two of the proposal’s most visible sponsors, Bonny Bettman McCornack and George Brown, and in Alan Zelenka’s Ward 3. It also passed in Claire Syrett’s Ward 7, and in three of five precincts in Chris Pryor’s Ward 8. Support dipped below 40 percent in only a few places. Plenty of people in Eugene think an elected auditor is a good idea, and an improved version of Measure 20-283 might fly.

If support for a city auditor is a barometer of weak confidence in city government, a different reading comes from a pair of measures to support Eugene parks. A proposed five-year property tax levy passed by a 66 percent to 34 percent ratio, and won more than 80 percent of the vote in eight precincts. The measure failed in only five precincts, and nowhere by more than 55 percent of the vote. Opposition was strongest in parts of Eugene that feel least connected to the city: Bethel and the incorporated parts of the Santa Clara area. Voting on a companion bond measure for capital improvements in city parks followed a similar pattern, passing by a ratio of 63 percent to 37 percent.

Outside Eugene, the May 15 election brought a big upset: Joe Berney defeated two-term incumbent Sid Leiken in the race to represent Springfield on the Lane County Board of Commissioners. Berney won in six of the Springfield district’s 11 precincts, generally those closest to the city center.

No one won a majority in the six-way race to represent the east Lane district on the county board, but the results present appointed incumbent Gary Williams with a challenge. He finished 92 votes and half a percentage point behind Heather Buch, and the two will compete in a November runoff. Buch won in nine of the district’s 23 precincts, while Williams won in 10 — but he won an outright majority in only three. Buch can expect to draw many of the votes that went to the other four candidates, who won a combined 37 percent of the vote. Turnout is likely to be higher in November, but at this point Buch appears to hold the advantage.

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