OPB asked all 34 candidates seeking the Republican or Democratic nomination for governor to answer some basic questions on the issues. Below are responses from Tobias Read, a Democrat and current state treasurer. These answers have not been edited.
To start, please give us your name and basic biographical details, including your current position or job, any elected offices you have held and any key facts you would like voters to know about you.
Tobias Read. Currently serving as State Treasurer. Served in the State Legislature from 2007-2016.
Why should you be Oregon’s next governor?
I’m running for governor because I believe it’s going to take steady leadership to help us move beyond this pandemic and start building a better future. We need to stop lurching from one crisis to the next and lay out a vision for where to take Oregon, not just for next year, but for the next generation. I’m not just interested in what happens in the short-term - because we’re planting seeds for future success.
My approach is simple: I’ll measure Oregon’s progress by how well our kids are doing. Today, too many kids are going to bed hungry, dropping out of school, and don’t see opportunities left for them in the rural communities that raised them. One out of every 25 kids, essentially a kid in every classroom, is homeless. We’ve got a lot we need to do to make Oregon a place of opportunity for every child.
I’m focused on investing in our future--everything from universal pre-K, to looking at extending the school year to making apprenticeships and vocational training available to all. We also need to make serious investments in clean energy and preventing future wildfires so we can preserve the beauty of Oregon for future generations.
What do you think is the most pressing challenge facing Oregon today?
Oregon is facing a housing and homeless crisis. This didn’t occur overnight, but is a result of years of shortsighted policy and budget decisions. Covid19 and resulting economic challenges made the crisis more acute, but we would be facing this challenge without it.
What is your proposed solution to that problem? Please be specific.
Nearly 16,000 people are experiencing homelessness every day. Despite state and local governments spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, the crisis has only gotten worse. What we’re doing isn’t working. There is nothing compassionate about letting our neighbors live in dangerous conditions outdoors, surrounded by trash, needles and human waste. Parents must feel safe letting their kids walk to school and play in parks, and small business owners must be able to open their doors and welcome customers free from harassment and vandalism. We need a level of urgency and accountability that has been missing from this crisis.
Getting people safely off the streets and into temporary shelters and sanctioned camping locations must be an immediate priority, but we must also address the long-term causes of homelessness. One of the key drivers is Oregon’s severe shortage of affordable housing, as well as housing of all levels. We know what it takes to get in front of this crisis: preventing evictions for those who are at risk of homelessness, housing those who are currently homeless, and delivering the health services - especially mental and addiction services - to those who need it.
Do you believe human beings are playing a part in rising temperatures?
Do you think Oregon should take additional steps to address climate change? If so, what are some specific efforts you’d undertake or push for as governor?
Yes, Oregon needs to take aggressive and innovative steps to address the climate crisis. The climate crisis is no longer something we have the luxury of trying to avoid; it is already upon us. As Governor I will follow through on Oregon’s recent commitment to achieve 100% clean energy by 2040, focus on long term funding for wildfire prevention, and invest in a workforce that is ready to grow the green economy. And we must accelerate the electrification of our transportation system.
Oregon has experienced a high number of severe wildfires in recent years. What role should state government play in wildfire response?
As a chair of the Wildfire economic recovery council I saw firsthand the devastation of the 2020 wildfires. As Governor, I’ll be focused on creative preventative measures to put us in a better position to manage wildfires and their impacts. We need to reduce wildfire risk by funding forest restoration collaboratives and supporting community colleges and vocational training programs to expand the workforce available to support forest health and fuel reduction projects. Again, we need to be thinking about what it will take to have more resilient communities 10 or 15 years down the road and make the investments now to get there.
Parts of Oregon now routinely face drought conditions. What role should state government play in preventing and responding to droughts?
Addressing the drought situation will take collaboration with ranchers, farmers, tribal leaders, and local governments to coordinate conservation and drought management efforts with a specific focus on on the ground programs lead by local communities. Additionally, we need investments in funds that can be deployed during difficult drought years to help mitigate the impacts on the state.
Do you support the use of body cameras by police officers to record their interactions with the public? Please explain why or why not.
Yes, body cameras are a step towards more transparency and accountability. The lack of trust between police and the community needs to be addressed and ensuring accountability around police interactions is one step we can take to provide additional transparency.
President Joe Biden signaled in his State of the Union address that he wants to increase funding for police. Do you agree or disagree?
In surveys, Oregonians on both the right and the left described political extremism as one of the biggest challenges facing the state. Do you agree with them? If yes, please describe the type of extremism that concerns you and what you would do as governor to address it.
Yes, it is a very concerning issue. The isolation of the pandemic has only served to exacerbate the separation and the lack of interaction between different communities. We need to create more opportunities to be out in communities and build relationships across political spectrums. We also need to make it clear that anyone who engages in political violence or harassment, particularly violence aimed at silencing and intimidating vulnerable communities, will not be tolerated and will be held accountable.
In surveys, Oregonians consistently rate homelessness and high housing costs as a major problem facing the state. What role do you believe state government should play in addressing these interconnected problems?
We need housing for every person experiencing homelessness as quickly as possible. That means speeding up everything from acquiring motels to building more safe rest villages, as Multnomah County and Portland are doing now. The urgent priority is to get people off the streets into safe, clean environments.
We also need to cut through the bureaucracy surrounding zoning and building to aggressively address this shortfall in housing options. This is no time for red tape. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated to solve these challenges, and we’re not getting the results we need.
We also need to get serious and show some urgency about addressing something that Oregon hasn’t been very good with lately–we need to put more money and urgency into rebuilding our mental health care system, and getting more resources into treating drug and alcohol dependency.
Would you support requiring people experiencing homelessness to stay in shelters if adequate shelter space exists?
Oregon’s high school graduation rate continues to lag behind other states. What are specific actions you would take as governor to improve student performance?
As Governor, I want to make investments that will have long term goals in mind. To address our high school graduation rate we need to make investments early in a child’s education experience. I will invest in universal pre-k and early literacy programs along with summer enrichment programs that will allow students to catch up and avoid the summer slide.
Oregon, like much of the rest of the nation, has a child care crisis. What role should the governor play in this situation, and what are specific steps you would take as governor?
Families across Oregon are struggling to find and afford childcare. The costs of quality childcare are high relative to income: single parents earning Oregon’s median income are paying over 50% of their income for infant care and 40% for preschoolers. As Governor, I’ll work with providers to establish networks that can take advantage of scale to consolidate certain functions and reduce costs and partner local governments to convert unused commercial space into childcare space and community centers. Finally, I will make substantial investments in building the childcare workforce and increasing wages for child care workers.
Do public employee unions have too much influence in Oregon? If you answer yes, please tell us which unions in particular concern you.
Working people should have the opportunity to organize their resources and their voices in order to advocate for changes that improve the everyday lives of Oregonians. I’ve worked closely with public employee unions in the past to advance important policies. That said, elected leaders need to take into account all perspectives and make decisions that are in the best long term interest of all Oregonians, which means being willing to stand up to your friends on occasion.
As governor, would you support the creation of campaign finance limits in Oregon? If no, please explain why not. If yes, please can us specifics on what limits you would endorse.
Yes, I endorsed the ballot measure that allowed for campaign finance limits. I believe we need campaign finance reform and am particularly interested in measures that will increase real time transparency for voters.
Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election?
Would you support creation of a sales tax in Oregon?
Do you support the use of tolls to help pay for infrastructure constructions in the Portland region, including a replacement for the Interstate 5 bridge?
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, would you as governor push for new abortion restrictions in Oregon? If yes, please specify what type of restriction you would propose.
No. Oregon will continue to be a leader in reproductive health policy and access to abortion services when I am Governor. As Governor I will make it clear that Oregon will continue to be a sanctuary for people seeking abortion care.
How would you describe the relationship between rural and urban Oregon today?
Strained. There is substantial work to do to bring Oregonians from rural and urban areas together.
What’s one thing you would do as governor to bring rural and urban Oregon together?
It takes a real commitment to doing things differently and to approach problems facing the state by investing in relationships across the state and bringing uncommon allies together. The job of being Governor should not be reduced to an expression of political power. It’s harder and takes longer, but produces a more sustainable long-term solution. I took this approach to the Elliott State Forest. After 5 years of diligent work with partners from originally opposing sides we created a solution centered around a research forest that brings environmental activists, local government leaders from the South Coast, timber industry voices, recreation advocates, school district leaders together. This is the model that I will use as Governor to bring rural and urban Oregonians together.
What’s the best thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?
Governor Brown has overseen the passage of some important progressive policies like the paid family leave and medical leave act and the Student Success Act that have the potential to make positive change for Oregonians.
What’s the worst thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?
I have been concerned about the effective implementation of new policies. For example, too many Oregonians waited months for rent relief or unemployment, and while paid family leave will make a huge difference in the lives of Oregonians, so far the program has not been implemented on time. I want to make sure we deliver on the promises we’ve made to Oregonians.
Name another Oregon leader, either current or in the past, whose approach to public policy you admire and why.
Barbara Roberts has long been a leader I admire. Her lifelong commitment to the state particularly her advocacy on behalf of children and the LGBT community is something I admire greatly. She is a straightforward and thoughtful leader and is someone whose counsel I am thankful to have during this race. And she demonstrates that you can be both tough and respectful.