Mark Davidson right choice for commissioner

By Observer editorial April 13, 2012 01:10 pm
There is only one contested Union County race in the upcoming Republican primary and that’s a shame. Competition for political office is healthy for the community and incumbents need to be challenged.

But in the case of the race between incumbent Union County Commissioner Mark Davidson and La Grande resident and businesswoman Irene Gilbert, we give the nod to Davidson.

Gilbert has much to offer, including a fresh perspective and some excellent ideas on open government, and we believe she would serve the citizens of Union County well.

But Davidson, a former La Grande city councilor and planning commissioner and current president of the Union County Economic Development Corp., has done a good job in his two years as county commissioner and he deserves to be re-elected to another term.

Davidson touts achievements such as the retirement of more than $2 million in debt on the Wallowa-Union Railroad and winning a state grant for construction of a depot in Elgin.

Gilbert is a staunch opponent of the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm that EDP Renewables wants to build near Union and a critic of the role Union County has played in the state’s site permit process.

Although he is not a wind energy advocate, Davidson negotiated a Strategic Investment Program agreement in connection with the wind farm that would yield millions of dollars in tax revenue if it is built.

Both candidates are outspoken about the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s Travel Management Plan, vowing to keep roads open and maintain access for Union County residents.

Both candidates view job creation as an important goal and have ideas on how to improve the local economy.

But Davidson already has valuable experience in that arena, with business recruitment, retention and expansion part of his duties with the UCEDC.

Davidson has also collaborated with Forest Service officials and others on timber harvest issues.

Gilbert has never held elective office but said it is her civic duty to represent the people of Union County because there needs to be more diversity of thinking on the board of commissioners.

She argues that the commissioners should be more open and transparent.

She suggests that the meetings be held at night instead of the morning to encourage public participation and that meetings be videotaped and aired on local television so more people can see the commission in action.

The commissioners --- including Davidson if he is re-elected --- should take those concerns to heart and start holding night meetings that are videotaped and broadcast to the public.

Gilbert is bright and eager and would probably be a good commissioner if elected.

But Davidson has already demonstrated his ability to do the job well. Vote to re-elect Davidson.