On the Issues

In addition to my priorities for District 13,  it is important you know my views on the issues facing us all in Oregon.  I will present these over the coming weeks — here online and where there is an opportunity to answer your questions in town halls and “meet the candidate” house parties.

As a Black man, I have long seen the inequitable impacts that our police, legal system, and incarceration industry have had on our minority communities.  While I strongly believe that the majority of law enforcement officers work hard every day to ensure that they are protecting the community they serve, the system has not worked to protect the community and create confidence in our enforcement practices, and often the unequal application of laws.  I do believe that there is a purpose and need for a strong and responsive policing system.  I also believe changes in the way our law enforcement officers engage and participate in our communities and the way laws are applied, are critical to earning the trust of our communities, especially our communities of color who are more often feeling the negative consequences of corruption and failed policies.

I support policies such as limiting the ability to be pulled over solely on the grounds of minor traffic offenses to help remove the impression of profiling and disparate treatment of persons of color.  I also support community policing models and companion programs that allow for mental health response professionals and other specially trained response teams to assist in non-violent situations and community engagement.  Offering these additional support staff will reduce the heavy burden we place on our law enforcement officers who aren’t always the appropriate agency to respond.

The system is set up to benefit those who have the means to afford independent legal defense and creates an imbalance in the communities that are impacted, causing a ripple effect in the community as a whole.  Community restorative justice practices, diversion programs and targeted counseling initiatives warrant consideration, as would hotlines for domestic disturbances and mental health situations.  I believe that we need to work with our police unions, and law enforcement departments to review and evaluate all policies to ensure that they are equitable, fair, and without bias.  I also believe in citizen accountability and review of law enforcement practices and policies to ensure that transparency and fairness are evident throughout our legal system.

Seeking Balance in Development and Land Use

Since the early 1970’s, Oregon has been a strong leader in creating and implementing solid land use planning laws and rules based on a successful set of goals requiring a balance of citizen involvement, housing, and natural resources.

Our laws protect agricultural lands and natural resources in recognition of their critical importance to the vitality of all communities throughout Oregon.

After years of involvement on the Wilsonville Planning Commission and Development Review Boards, I have learned we can support smart growth when necessary and balance that growth with both short-term and long-term needs of the community while striving to avoid irreversible and/or unexpected negative impacts.

Our communities need the ability to expand zoning and development of housing, commercial or industrial lands balanced with varied types of urban development to help create a strong community and safeguard against market changes which can create significant damage for an otherwise successful, thriving community.

We must do everything possible to utilize the lands that have previously been designated for specific uses rather than hastily and blindly re-zoning lands to meet an owner’s self-serving perceived needs.

Put simply, no land-use decisions which would alter agricultural, forest, or natural resources designations should be easy and quick. There’s too much at stake.

We must encourage thoughtful, sustainable land use planning and livable communities with the following guiding principles:

  • Focusing growth into existing communities by taking advantage of infill, infrastructure, and redevelopment opportunities with deference to existing zoning and long-term planning.
  • Revitalizing urban and town centers to provide accessible community services accessible for everyone.
  • Providing transportation connectivity and multi-modal opportunities.
  • Protecting natural and environmental resources.
  • Appropriately protecting, enhancing, and expanding our communities and small towns which enhance Oregon’s uniqueness.
  • Importance of protecting agricultural farmland

We must always place paramount consideration on the impact of traffic congestion, affordable housing, public safety, job creation, livability, and a clean environment.

Together, we must do our utmost to ensure that all land use and zoning laws are followed as described in the locally driven and inspired goals of citizen involvement, transparency, and long-term stewardship protecting our environment, our people, and our way of life.

As a State Senator in District 13, I will support our urban and rural growth boundaries that have been established.

 It is clear children in schools are showing signs of stress from the trauma they have experienced during the pandemic. The grief, anxiety, and depression children have experienced during the pandemic is showing up in many ways such as crying, disruptive behavior, and increased violence and bullying among adolescents. Unfortunately, many children are internalizing their sadness and fear. The vast majority of our kids are suffering to some degree from the psychological effects of the pandemic, adding to the already significant amount of unaddressed mental health needs of students. And to add to this, many have lost a primary and/or secondary caregiver, and children of color are disproportionately impacted. 

Our schools need to invest now in the mental health and well-being of our kids broadly and comprehensively. We must reduce the mental health barriers to learning. Oregon has a student per school psychologist ratio of 1:1,659 which is higher than the national average of 1,211. I believe Oregon should be spending a larger share of their federal relief money on mental health and since local school districts have wide discretion over how to spend their money, they should do the same. Here are several ways Oregon might approach this: 

  • School districts could invest in partnerships with community mental health providers to offer students mental and behavioral health services virtually or in school buildings that can be billed to Medicaid or private insurers. 
  • Spend federal relief funds to hire more counselors and social workers in K-12 schools to improve the student to mental health professional ratio. 
  • Oregon should consider developing school mental health response teams to address the needs of students who have experienced trauma during the pandemic. The teams would quickly respond to local schools as needed. 

The need to increase the number of school psychologists in Oregon is strong. This is a time to build the pipeline to bring more professionals into the field, including using federal relief dollars to support increased opportunities for enrollment, as well as supports like loan forgiveness to attract and retain individuals I also support additional funding and local programs that will address the mental health needs of students in K-12, including greater attention to supporting community and culturally specific strategies for reaching those populations most in need 

We need to do more, but I do want to recognize that Clackamas Community College has been actively working to address these concerns. Even during the pandemic, we have continued to offer full services – including telehealth and operating out of regular hours – to best meet students’ needs. We also partner with Clackamas County and others to provide wrap-around services and recently collaborated to open a new on-campus health clinic that serves both students and the general population. It is this perspective and experience that I will be able to apply to this work as a State Senator. 

Opinion: Overturning Roe v. Wade could impact basic rights

I’m concerned about effects of decision including it leading to further restrictions of basic rights

 I am deeply concerned about the draft United States Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade from many perspectives. As a father, grandfather, and husband, I’ve been blessed with strong, dynamic women in my life. As a retired IT executive, planning commissioner, community college board member, and activist, I know our lives are enriched by outstanding women. All women deserve the right to make fundamental choices about their lives, their health and their bodies.

As a Black male, and diversity equity and inclusion activist, I’m particularly concerned that fundamental privacy and civil rights, protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, are at risk. The amendment states that “No State shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” and grants citizenship to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including formerly enslaved people.

The right to privacy is the basis for other Supreme Court decisions; this draft decision is a slippery slope and could open the door to overturning those decisions. They include decisions regarding contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut), who we marry (Loving v. Virginia, re: interracial marriage), who we live with (Moore v. East Cleveland, re: a grandmother living with grandsons), what languages are taught in schools (Meyer v. Nebraska), bearing children (Skinner v. Oklahoma, re: forcible sterilization) who we love (Lawrence v. Texas re: homosexual rights) and what we read (Stanley v. Georgia: adult pornography in one’s home).

The draft also reflects strict constructionism, showing a preference for limiting interpretation of the US Constitution to what is explicitly mentioned, and a narrow interpretation of what are “deeply rooted” historical events. This is another slippery slope, considering that basic rights in the original Constitution were not extended to women or people of color.

I am further concerned about the impact of the decision on women’s health, and its disproportionate impact on poor women and women of color. Research shows that significant percentages of women who seek abortions already have one or more children and are below the poverty line. The rate of death from pregnancy-related causes is particularly elevated among people of color. The US already has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country, and there are often long-term consequences of unwanted pregnancies. This decision could worsen these grim statistics.

The Washington Post’s poll and others show the majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, regardless of age, background, or educational level. However, if it is overturned, more than half the states — 26 — are poised to quickly ban access to abortion. A large number of these states are in the South and Midwest, further impacting communities of color and low-income individuals — those most facing systemic barriers to health care. This, coupled with those states’ limitations on voting and other fundamental rights, is cause for concern.

Oregon is fortunate to have strong protections for reproductive health access. For the sake of women and basic human rights, we must continue to preserve those protections and be vigilant about any challenges to our basic rights in all branches of government, both state and federal.

Aaron Woods lives in Wilsonville, is co-chair, and co-founder of the Wilsonville Alliance for Inclusive Community, and serves on DEI Committees at the state and national levels.

Source:  Aaron’s opinion posted to Wilsonville Spokesman 5/6/22. Article here: https://pamplinmedia.com/wsp/135-opinion/544776-436077-opinion-overturning-roe-v-wade-could-impact-basic-rights.