Slater for mayor / Johnson gets nod

By Observer editorial October 26, 2010 01:04 pm
For the first time in several years La Grande will soon have a new mayor. Mayor Colleen Johnson has decided to step down from the city’s top elected spot and seek a seat on the council. Former city councilors Daniel Pokorney and Doyle Slater are vying for the mayor’s position.
Both men bring considerable public experience and a history of community involvement to the race. Both are conservative. Both have lived in La Grande a long time. But they also bring differing perspectives, viewpoints and leadership styles. The Observer editorial board believes Slater is the person best suited to be the public face for La Grande and lead the city for the next two years.

Slater, a retired Eastern Oregon University professor, is a consensus-builder who would work well with the divergent personalities on the council. He will help find common-sense answers to issues and will always keep in mind that the bottom line is creating a better
La Grande. That bottom line will drive everything he would do as mayor.

Pokorney, too, loves this community and is driven by the fact he cares about it. But his personality is far different from Slater’s.

We like Slater’s style. He will make a good mayor. He deserves your vote.

Johnson gets nod

The decision in the only contested race for the  La Grande City Council is more difficult. Colleen Johnson, who is stepping down as mayor, is running against former councilor John Bozarth for Position 3. The editorial board likes both candidates, but for far different reasons.

Johnson is a committed public servant. She has served on the council for about 20 years, with much of that tenure spent as mayor. She’s an intelligent and capable leader with numerous accomplishments to her credit during her reign as mayor. While some citizens might disagree with her stand on certain issues, there’s no doubt that Johnson’s top priority is making La Grande better. Progress might be slow, but the city is headed in the right direction.

Bozarth is equally capable but hasn’t dabbled for as long in the local political scene. He’s a likeable fellow who knows how to dissect city budgets. He questions the track the city has been on under Johnson’s leadership, which has led him to oppose the city’s current request for a local option levy for public safety.

Bozarth, and Pokorney for that matter, say the public safety levy isn’t needed, that money to make up this year’s projected shortfall is in the budget. The money might be in the budget, but at what cost to other services? Times are tight, but nothing is more important to a community’s well-being than public safety. Offsetting that with reductions in other programs, either the library or pool, won’t do the city any favors when trying to recruit more jobs and diversify the local economy.

The Observer, therefore, endorses Johnson for Position 3. We don’t agree with everything she has stood for, but she is an effective council member. Too, she is due to be president of the League of Oregon Cities next year, and that important position would be a plus for
La Grande.

The race presents a difficult choice. But in the end we recommend a vote for Johnson.