Petition race heats up

Carol Gaddis of Salem was more than happy to put her name on the dotted line during Saturday’s Recall the Tax drive.

“I’m taxed to death as it is,” she said, signing a petition held by Wayne Brady at the Vista Station branch of the U.S. Post Office.

“I think it’s always a good idea if the people have a choice.”

The Saturday drive to collect 5,000 valid signatures, organized by Recall the Tax of Portland, is part of a larger effort to refer an estimated $800 million tax increase to the voters at the Feb. 3 election. The increase was enacted in the 2003 Oregon Legislature.

Organizers need to have 50,420 valid signatures at the secretary of state’s office by Nov. 25 to put the increase on the ballot.

Gaddis could have had an interesting conversation with Forrest D. Anderson of Salem, who rebuffed one of the three signature-gatherers at Salem Public Library.

“I’m for not for repealing the tax right now because this petitioning has changed my mind,” he said. “I don’t like the way they do it.”

Scott Johnston of Salem was another non-signer at the library.

“I support public schools, and I think our schools are in desperate need of more money,” he said.

Most of the response at the six locations in Salem and Keizer operated by volunteer, unpaid signature gathers was mixed, with an apparently equal division between pro and con.

Several people said they were just too busy or too cold to bother, and many said they were not registered to vote.

Mike and Judy Alsworth of Salem, who gathered signatures at the Salem main branch of the U.S. Post Office, collected 50 signatures but ran out of forms. They got some more from other workers in order to canvas their neighborhood.

“I’m not sure that the Legislature is really that concerned with taking care of business,” Mike Alsworth said.

He and his wife found a mixed response, with older people more likely to say no and younger people on the yes side for referral.

Dan and Robin Freeburg of Salem actually were driving around looking for a place to sign when they arrived at main post office.

“I think they can be much better served by reducing their budget than raising taxes,” Dan Freeburg said.

This was not the first time Brady had gathered signatures. He already had garnered 60 names, and he got 45 more on Saturday.

“I’m not paid,” he said. “I’m just doing this because this is what I believe in. I just think they’re spending too much.”

Trudy Good of Hillsboro and John Juhring of Keizer, who were at Lockhaven and River Road N in Keizer, collected 60 signatures Saturday morning.

Activity was slower at the Jewelers Workbench on Center Street NE, where 18- year-old Keely McDermott and her sister Angela, 15, of Salem were gathering names Saturday afternoon.

“Because I believe in the issue,” Keely said. “Mostly because I feel like the voters said no once, and they need the opportunity to vote again.”

Jamie Jackson, a signature gatherer at the library, recently moved to Salem and was out for the fourth time on the issue. He was joined by Mike Nearman and David Cross, both of Salem.

“I got one hostile guy from the Department of Justice,” Jackson said. “He called me a jerk.”

“Most of them have been very pleasant,” Cross said.

Rita Conrad of Salem, who was running a Howard Dean for President table at the library entrance, was unhappy with the signature gatherers.

She said one woman signed a petition for Jackson and then told her, “Boy, we need more taxes. We need to support our schools.”

Conrad said Jackson was saying, “Sign a petition to get the tax increase on the ballot,” which she felt was misleading.

Rhonda Meyer, director of the Portland office of Recall the Tax, said the Saturday effort was aimed mostly at the western part of the state and that she wouldn’t know whether they had met their goal until next week.

She estimated that 100 people were out signature gathering and said hers and other groups would continue the effort.

“It looks like we’ll be arranging other events,” Meyer said. “This is really the beginning of the last big push.”

Ron Cowan can be reached at (503) 399-6728 or