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Wisnovsky's integrity, commitment deserve respect

About 15 years ago, I was working as the school director for an international actor training program. I had called the faculty together for a meeting at the start of the term, and had laid out a very ambitious plan for the program for the year.

After the meeting, the founder of the school, a remarkable Italian actor and instructor in his late 70s, pulled me aside. He complimented me for the clarity and scope of the plan I had laid out, but he chided me as well. "You left out a crucial element," he told me. When I asked him what I had missed, he replied "Good will. It is the glue that holds us together."

I have been painfully reminded of that lesson this year, and I'm wondering what I can do to address it. I've come to expect a lack of good will from people on the far opposite side of the political scale — that comes with the territory of being in public office. But I'm wondering what has to happen to promote good will amongst Oregonians who are actually trying to reach common goals.

Part of it, I have no doubt, has to do with communication, with making sure people are clear on what is trying to be accomplished. Earlier this year, I made an attempt to pull together what has proven to be an impossible coalition — pear growers, Harry & David, the Farm Bureau and environmental groups — to address a possible crisis in our pear industry, one that threatens our local economy and as many as 7,000 jobs. Many Jackson County families depend on the pear industry, and as someone with both a strong pro-worker and strong pro-environmental track record, I felt that I was in a good position to at least try the impossible — to see if all factions involved could work together on possible options.

The reaction I've received has been, well, not exactly filled with good will from people who I know have the same desires I have for sustainable agriculture, support for families and our overall quality of life. There were immediate phone calls and emails with accusations of "selling out" to the pear industry for even daring to try to bring people together. Sigh.

It's a complex problem, made even more difficult by having out-of-state ownership that has saddled Harry & David with a crushing debt load, and one that has now pulled the rug out from any discussions on solutions by firing its local CEO. But I do not regret making the effort to do what seems impossible. I ran for office in order to seek positive solutions, and I will continue to do so, and continue to try for good will from all involved.

I see a similar situation with one of the Democratic candidates for county commissioner, Mark Wisnovsky. Anybody who has spent more than two minutes in a conversation with Mark knows he is intelligent, caring, well-educated on the issues and has a long, long track record of backing land use efforts to contain sprawl and promote sustainable agriculture in Jackson County.

I strongly encouraged Mark to run for public office after I witnessed his extremely effective work to help pass the Medford school bond in 2006. He is exactly the kind of person you'd want to step up to serve, and I cringe at the lack of good will that has crept into the Democratic primary for the position.

The bottom line is that Mark is someone with integrity, compassion and commitment, and deserves respect for his willingness to step up and serve.

Ill will is tearing at the fabric of national politics and distracts us from the very real issues facing our country. It doesn't belong in politics there and it doesn't belong at the local level either.

Peter J. Buckley is a Democratic politician from Oregon. He represents District 5, consisting of Ashland, Phoenix, Talent, Jacksonville, Ruch and Applegate, in the Oregon House of Representatives.