Press release from Strong Schools Eugene

From Strong Schools Eugene

Strong Schools Eugene, the campaign working to pass school funding measure 20-182, filed a lawsuit today against the official opposition in Lane County Circuit Court. 

They are filing suit over a false quote attributed to Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy in the official opposition committee’s Voters’ Pamphlet. Measure 20-182, which seeks to raise $16.8 million for Eugene’s public schools, is on the May 17 ballot.

“This is yet another example of the dishonest campaigning our opponents have resorted to using.” said Hillary Johnson, 4J mother and Chair of the Pro-Schools campaign. “Opponents are twisting words and misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to mislead citizens into voting against adequate funding for our public schools.”

“This year, many elementary school classes top 35 students and kids in overcrowded classrooms at South Eugene High School are being forced to sit on the windowsill. Our children aren’t getting the personal attention from their teachers that they will need in order to be ready for college and the workforce.” Johnson continued.  “I’m happy to have a debate about the need for additional school funding, but let’s not sink to using deceitful campaign tactics.”

Each election, a Voters’ Pamphlets is published in which campaigns are given space to make arguments in support of or in opposition to candidates and measures. Every household in the voting district receives a copy of the Voters’ Pamphlet, and it is widely regarded as an important resource to help voters make informed decisions about the upcoming election. For Measure 20-182, each side was provided space to offer one opening argument and one rebuttal statement.

The school funding opponents’ official rebuttal statement attributes a quote to Mayor Piercy that she did not make. Furthermore, it misleads voters about both the Mayor’s and the Governor’s positions on the school funding measure.

Referring to the fabricated quote in the Voter’s Pamphlet, Mayor Piercy stated:

The quote attributed to me in the rebuttal statement is in fact, not an actual quote but a paraphrase by a reporter. The actual quote from me in the Register Guard was a local tax is ‘just something we are doing to stem the losses while we are trying to figure out our long term funding.’

I do support both short-term help and long-term solutions for school funding and the rebuttal statement misquotes me apparently to misinform the public. I am for both the short-term help of the local income tax and a long-term state resolution. We need them both.

The purpose of upholding quote standards is to assure misleading information is not dispersed.

To make their case, Strong Schools Eugene points to Oregon Statue (ORS) 260.532 which reads in part “no person shall cause to be published, any letter or other publication with knowledge or with reckless disregard that the publication contains a false statement of material fact relating to any candidate, political committee or measure.”

“To misquote any individual in the Voters’ Pamphlet is unethical and illegal,” Strong Schools Eugene wrote in its complaint. “But to misquote and misrepresent the position of a prominent elected official regarding an important measure before the voters of her own city is especially troubling.”

Strong Schools Eugene is asking for a public retraction of the false statement in a fair and reasonable manner required by the court, such as a mailer to each household and advertisements in local newspapers.  “We are not seeking money, we just want them to stop what they have been doing and tell the truth,” said Johnson.

Text of ORS 260.532 § 1

No person shall cause to be written, printed, published, posted, communicated or circulated, any letter, circular, bill, placard, poster, photograph or other publication, or cause any advertisement to be placed in a publication, or singly or with others pay for any advertisement, with knowledge or with reckless disregard that the letter, circular, bill, placard, poster, photograph, publication or advertisement contains a false statement of material fact relating to any candidate, political committee or measure.