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PAC money comes to Talent

TALENT — Political action committees tied to real estate and development have contributed $3,000 to the mayoral campaign of Talent City Councilor Ken Baker in his race against incumbent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood, who while seeking re-election is limiting her expenses to $750 and only accepting local contributions.

Baker, a builder, received $1,000 from the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors Political Action Committee and $2,000 from Oregonians for Affordable Housing, the PAC for the Oregon Homebuilders Association. That group said the donation was made at the direction of Builders Association of Southern Oregon.

“It’s an industry where we all know each other. These are my work associates,” said Baker. “We all work together. We buy materials from each other and work on each other’s projects. We use common subcontractors and Realtors to sell the houses.”

While the money was contributed through PACs, the funds come from friends and acquaintances in the Rogue Valley, and it is not different than Ayers-Flood accepting donations from her friends and acquaintances, said Baker.

“I’m not going to rail against Ken Baker for this. It’s his first campaign and he wants to win, and he’s asking for money,” said Derek Volkart, who sits on the town’s Planning Commission. “What does the home builder’s association out of Portland want with Talent?”

Talent has been looking to bring land in designated urban reserves into the city’s urban growth boundary, a necessary step before land can be annexed into the city for development. Previous studies had suggested the city needed up to 109 acres to accommodate growth. But more recent projections foresaw a need for 14 additional acres. Currently, city officials are looking at ways to use land already in city limits and UGBs more efficiently before bringing in more acreage.

“The question for me is, what interest do they have in these small towns other than our urban reserves,” said Ayers-Flood. “I don’t know what they will influence other than the outcome of the race. I think they are just interested in buildable lands.”

Baker was appointed to the council in 2017. Stricker ran for mayor in 2010 but lost, then won the four-year term in 2014. She has been a city councilor two different times going back to the early 2000s.

Baker’s financial filings with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office show expenditures of $1,250 with Mark Arinsberg Creative Services; $746 with Minuteman Press; $334 with Pronto Print; and $437 with Bridgeview Signs. Other miscellaneous expenditures under $100 are listed.

Baker is using signs, has a website, is active on Facebook and will use handouts to promote his campaign.

Ayers-Flood said she’s purchased a limited amount of lawn signs to place around town and also bought door hangers. For the Oct. 6 Harvest Festival, she had 150 stickers printed in lieu of campaign buttons for people to put on their clothing. She said she ended up giving out all the stickers.

Bill Cecil defeated Ayers-Flood in the 2010 mayor’s race but then lost to her in 2014. He financed both campaigns out of his own pocket and said he spent $500 to $600 on the first election and less than $500 on the second.

“I think that’s too bad,” Cecil said of the PAC contributions. “Previously in Talent, you just had get out and walk around town and knock on doors.”

Ayers-Flood said she spent under $750 in both 2010 and in 2014. Campaigns that spend over $750 must create a committee and report expenditures to the state. She said she used her own money and donations from friends and neighbors.

Rogue Valley Realtors PAC looks for candidates who align with the group’s values, such as private property rights and wise use of land, said Tina Grimes, the group’s executive director.

“We evaluate all the local races. We invite candidates. We sent out questionnaires,” said Grimes. “We always give equal opportunity to all candidates.”

RVRA has had a PAC since 2002. The group contributed in the 2016 Central Point mayoral race, and in 2014, it contributed to mayors’ races in Phoenix and Shady Cove. It also contributed to city council candidates in 2010 and 2012.

Several campaign contribution offers have been declined as candidates wanted to stay underneath the threshold or didn’t need additional funds, said Grimes. That occurred most recently in the 2016 Rogue River mayoral contest.

“It’s probably not surprising that OFAH would support a candidate like Ken Baker, an experienced local professional builder, to support affordable housing in Talent,” wrote Brad Bennington, executive officer of BASO, in an email response to questions.

BASO and some members have contributed to the affordable housing PAC from time to time, Bennington said. OFAH contributes to candidates of both major parties and also on campaigns around ballot measures, he added.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gamil.com.

Election 2018