Former Portland Trail Blazer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley wants to put his lesser-known talents as a money manager to work for Oregonians.
Dudley, who met with business leaders, city and county government officials, and heads of organizations March 12 on his visit to Wallowa County, has a degree in economics from Yale University.
He also is a certified financial planner, was a senior vice president of a financial firm, a partner in an investment advisory firm, and was founder and president of a non-profit to benefit children with diabetes.
He knows his way around a checkbook and his take-home message from meetings in Wallowa County was direct."(As a state) we've got to grow up. We have to keep the businesses that we have here and that's it," he said.
Dudley strongly criticized the leadership of the state with regard to the treatment of business, informing the Wallowa County community leaders that newspapers had recently reported that the mayor of Chicago has said "he cannot believe the way business is being treated in Oregon and he's coming out to Oregon to take business back to Chicago."
" I wrote him a letter and said I'd meet him at the airport and send him home," Dudley said. "The fact that I'm the one writing the letter should tell you where we're at on leadership."
The situation for Oregon business is so notoriously bad, he said, that nearby states are putting together plans to actively recruit business away from the state.
"Montana legislature is putting proposals together on how to target Oregon business and bring it to Montana. The Governor of Idaho is targeting Oregon - writing businesses across the state about why Idaho is where businesses should move," he said.
That problem is one Dudley feels confident in addressing. "I think it is incumbent upon the governor to show strong leadership and defend Oregon for the business community," he said. "As governor I would use the tools of governor: power of the pen to rein in spending, power of the pulpit to push forth an agenda that encourages rather than discourages business, and the power of appointment to put people into boards and commissions across the state that have a business perspective."
The business perspective of a rural community with an economy based on natural resources was not alien to Dudley, who said that he believed natural resources were something to be managed, pointing out that management meant use.
"I'm a believer that natural resources are our attribute that we need to take advantage of," he said and quoted a favorite source, Teddy Roosevelt, as saying "The responsible farmer is one who leaves his land in better condition to his heirs."
He also made it clear that he felt Oregon was too good to be having the problems it was having. "I'm of the belief that Oregon is not reaching its potential as a state - not even coming close to reaching it's potential as a state," he said. "We're among the national leaders in unemployment; we were second in the nation in the misery index; we're among the national leaders in hunger and homelessness; our schools just got ranked 43rd two weeks ago; we are 47th in job creation; 42nd in the funding of higher education - and the list goes on. At some point you could say, 'Who can say we're headed in the right direction?' and when do we say, 'Enough is enough, we've got to change our direction.'"
Despite those statistics, Dudley remained optimistic and said that he felt Oregonians should be optimistic because there was no excuse beyond poor leadership for the situation.
"W hen you look at the other states in the bottom you can understand why they have their problems," he said. "You understand why Michigan is struggling the way it is. Oregon should not be struggling that way. It is one of the most beautiful states in the nation. We have some of the best natural resources in the nation. We have great people here. We're on the Pacific Rim. People want to move here. We have so much to offer here. We need to take advantage of it."
To begin to make Oregon shipshape, Dudley proposed immediate changes in money management - not just to restore the financial balance, but also to restore citizen confidence in government.
"Our revenue system is one of the top three most volatile in the country," he said. "Right now with trust where it is you can't push through a sales tax - it's just a toxic word in this state at this time. The thought is that if the government gets their foot in that door they're just going to bust that door wide open and then we'll have three taxes. Our personal income and capital gains taxes are the highest in the nation."
His proposal for creating stability without going to the public for more money is to take three percent off the top line in the biennium budget and put it in a reserve fund to provide stability and to save when times are good, rather than spending on new programs that then must be abandoned when times are bad.
"I think (creating stability) it's an absolute necessity," he said. "I think once you restore that trust where the public feels that government is able to discipline itself and save some and put it away and really have transparency of funding, then you can talk about the revenue side. I've said that when it came to that time we'd talk about sales tax. But I think that time is a long time off, yet."
Dudley is winding up his 36-county tour, a tour he promises to make yearly if he is elected as governor, calling it "the least you can do."
"I don't think there's any other way you can know what's going on unless you do that," he said. "I will promise that, there's no question, I think that's very important.