Some Post-Election Thoughts: Standing Up for Myself

                                    Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 11/13/2022

                                                By Neal Lemery

            At a meeting the other day, a new member of the group spoke about their passion for a particular topic, which happened to be one of my passions as well.  I’d been fairly quiet about the subject for a number of years.  But, I decided to also speak up and add my voice to the new member’s enthusiastic advocacy.  

            I discovered I had a lot to say and I didn’t hold back.  The rest of the group soon joined in, with some being astonished at the statistics we shared about the importance of the topic, and how it was a good fit for our mission. 

            It felt good to speak up, to let my views be known, to let some passionate energy fill the room and enliven an agenda which had been fairly lackluster.

            I’ve decided I need to do that more, to let my thoughts fly and express what is important in life.  

            “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want.  That’s why they don’t get what they want.” — Madonna.

            I suspect I’ve been frustrated by the politics of the recent election season, where it seemed like the advertising agencies had hijacked the discussions, where the political debates became focused on attack ads rather than a meaningful and deep discussion of the important issues of the day; how we can be solvers of problems and seekers of solutions, rather than spend our energy attempting to smear the character and reputation of the candidates.  

            Life is short and our time to influence a group of concerned people working on important subjects in our community is also limited. We shouldn’t think that we are just warming a seat in a group, that our opinions and passions shouldn’t really be aired, that we shouldn’t become engaged in taking on the hard parts of a problem. Time is precious and we have work to do. Our particular viewpoints matter.  If they didn’t, we shouldn’t have put ourselves up for being considered as members of a particular group or board. 

            We aren’t here to just be window dressing, to be just a pretty face in a group.  Each of us has our own unique contributions to make, our own perspectives, and yes, our own passionate and thoughtful points of view that should be heard and considered by others. As a part of the community, each of us has something unique to offer, something special, something worthy of consideration of others. 

            Democracy is a melting pot, a gathering of ideas and possibilities that enrich our discussions and provoking some well-informed debate and discussion. Every voice counts. When done with courtesy and respect, our discussions advance this important work of public conversation. An informed and enlivened discussion is what the founders of this republic imagined when they crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and formed the various states. Yes, we can disagree and debate, but we need to do so in the spirit of wanting to learn from each other, to grow our ideas, and investigate alternatives and differing ideas. a

            I’ve decided to speak my mind more, to air my ideas, and to listen hard to the ideas and passions of others, so that my own thinking is challenged, so that our ideas can develop and include the thoughts of others.  Such work is the richness of our country, where we can grow ideas and work to find better solutions.  We all benefit from that, and we raise our collective strengths to be good stewards of the Republic, to be better informed and productive.


Roundabout: Struggling With Addiction


                                                by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 10/4/2022)

            We took a long weekend, embarking on a road trip across the Northwest for a birthday, a long over-due gathering of loved ones, dear friends, to celebrate a milestone, to simply have fun together. We also needed to get away, and enjoy the colors of fall, and have an adventure. It was time for new perspectives. 

            Traveling on unfamiliar roads and through unfamiliar towns and cities, we came across a number of traffic circles. Roundabouts challenge me and I have to concentrate on my destination and the next link in the day’s travels, in order to escape the circle and go on my way.  A traffic circle doesn’t let me easily stop and contemplate my next move.  I’m compelled to join the fray, find the correct lane and get out at the right time.  It is not unusual for me to stay in the circle for a complete circle or even two, until I figure out my path of escape. Like the rest of life, it often seems to be more chaos than order.

            Yet, it is efficient. Once I figure out the methodology of it all, and know my destination, I do just fine.

            Gatherings with friends and loved ones often challenge me. I tend to stand back and watch. I pick up on the examples of old, often expected behaviors and the old ghosts of dysfunction and family dramas from past generations, the stuff that continues to be toxic for the newest generations. We can learn and change, but sometimes, we seem to be stuck on the dysfunctional roundabout and don’t know how to get off, how to leave the circle.  We often repeat the toxicity of the past, and don’t manage to move on. 

This weekend, I had some deep conversations with two members of the generation behind me, men I’ve often encouraged and counseled, as they’ve struggled in their lives, often plagued by their wounds and addictions. Alcohol is their poison of choice, how they self-medicate to try to kill their pain of rejections, abandonments, and challenges with self-esteem and appreciation for deep down goodness and compassion. They are good men, and when you scrape away the drunkenness and self-anger, they are loving and compassionate.  

I haven’t talked with them in a state of sobriety for at least the last twenty years.  I struggle with making the effort, with sitting down with them, and going deep about the meaning of life, of self-respect.  Being the good role model, the wise elder is a challenging role for me to play as they pound down the first dozen of their day’s beers.  

Still, I make the effort, I have the conversations, and I try to keep the gate open with them, trying to build our relationship.  I strive to be the good bridge keeper, a healer of some of our more challenging issues. I keep hoping the day will soon come when they reach out to me, telling me they want to get sober, and invite me into that work.  I keep hoping to find my magic wand, yet I know that true sobriety, true insight begins when they, and not me, decide it is time for change.  

Until then, our relationship is stuck in a roundabout, circling around the hard conversations, the long histories of trauma, abuse, neglect, and chaos, the stuff that one tries so desperately to ignore, the challenges you try to drown with your beer.  We circle, we change lanes sometimes, but we’re often stuck and don’t seem to know how to break that circle, and move on with our lives and our relationships.  

Each of us can break our generational curses, our guilt and shame.  We can begin our own traditions, expectations of friendship and be free.

I want to think that I really do have a magic wand.  It isn’t covered with fairy dust, and it doesn’t instantly solve worries and problems that have festered for generations.  My magic wand involves time and patience, and unconditional love.  It involves a belief that people truly can change, that each of us can dig deep and learn about ourselves and our wounds, that we have the tools in hand to take on and deal with a lifetime of worries and stress.  We can change, each of us.  Change and the rest of our lives can begin with one step in the right direction, and having the support of someone who loves us, who can hold our hand, and who believes that we are worthy of that effort to move ahead.  

My job in all this is to be the good friend, the patient one, offering myself as an example of a different path, and to offer my unconditional love and compassion to them.  I’m old enough to know that preaching and condemning builds even higher walls, and doesn’t provide the answers that will come, eventually.  I need to wait, and I keep extending my hand in friendship and love, trying to be that friend that is always there, always caring, and always representing the alternative path, the way out of the seemingly endless circles of addiction and self-destruction. 

Perhaps this visit, and these conversations, have pushed open some doors, making the path to sobriety and insight just a little more easy to find. Perhaps they have heard and felt my love for them, and that life offers some choices, that there is a way out of the real traffic circles of our lives.  


Guerrilla Gratitude: Bringing Light Into Our World


                                    by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 9/12/2022)

Any act, any kind word, is capable of making a change for the better in our world. Each of us has so many opportunities to make it a better place.  A few kind words at the grocery store or post office, a simple act of kindness to help someone along in their day, maybe a cheery note or a phone call. It can all make a difference.  

            I was in a hurry last week as I came into my favorite coffee shop, intent on getting to work on what I thought was an important project, one that couldn’t wait. 

            I pulled open the coffee shop door, focused on ordering my coffee.  I nearly ran over a woman holding two cups of coffee and looking stressed.  I looked behind her, seeing her frail mother, struggling with her cane and trying to keep up with her daughter.  

            It was time to pause and show a little kindness.  I pulled the door fully open and held it for them, letting the woman with the two hands of coffees navigate outside, as she offered her arm to her mother. They shuffled out the door, both of them thanking me, and breaking into smiles.  I muttered “no problem,” and smiled back.  

            It was time for me to take a breath, admire the beauty of the fall day; time for some gratitude.  The world had given me an opportunity to be kind, make people happy and take care of the community. 

            The opportunities continued.  A couple had followed me in, seemingly in a hurry to get their coffee and resume their journey.  I stepped back, letting them have first place in the queue for the barista.  The man gave me a funny look, like I was doing something strange, out of the ordinary.  

            “No problem,” I said.  “I’m taking it easy today.” I repeated the smiles I’d received from the mother and daughter, and felt my day brighten. 

            He just nodded, likely not knowing how to respond.  There was a lesson or two there.  At least, a lesson for me, taking time to let things unfold, to be part of an accommodation in someone’s day, making things go easier.  But, I got my reward: a nod, perhaps a sense of someone being kind and gracious to them, maybe some reflection on what the day was about.  

            I’d assumed they were on vacation, which is hopefully a time for some rest, a pause from the routine of daily life, and simply enjoying a sunny fall day in a beautiful place, topped off with some great coffee. The least I could do for them was to be kind. 

            My coffee shop punch card was filled by my usual order, and I gave it to the barista, asking them to use it to treat the next person who would come through the door.  I’ve been reading a book about “guerrilla gardening”, where you surreptitiously add beauty to public space. Perhaps this is “guerrilla gratitude”. We can all be rebels with a cause. 

            When I checked in at a hospital last week for some lab work, a very kind man gently and efficiently guided me through the process, even walking me over to the lab and then guided me to my next appointment.  He was extraordinary. Yet for him, it seemed just an ordinary day, just doing his job. He made my wife and me laugh and feel at ease, as he went about his work. His saintliness was just what I needed, calming my anxiety and frenzy. 

            Other employees were also extraordinarily kind and helpful, bringing to me an atmosphere of gentleness, welcoming, and professionalism. You could tell they loved their work and were proud of their competence, knowing they were saving lives. It was nice to see that a large organization doing important work appreciated great customer service. 

“If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path,” said Buddha.  We need to be a society of lamplighters, and not keep our compassion and kindness hidden away.  It is the treasure we need to share.     

            Life, real life, a good life, is really about kindness and accommodation and patience.   Life is paying it forward, diffusing the crisis of the moment, and quietly getting things done and put in order.  The cost is really non-existent.  A little time, perhaps a few more minutes spent with someone, some kind words, a few deep breaths, and exuding calmness and service to others. We get that back, at least tenfold, in our lives.

            I keep re-experiencing those lessons, and the need to be patient and kind, both on the giving and the receiving parts of life.  Such wisdom bears repeating, along with a whole lot of doing, part of “guerrilla gratitude”.  


What I Learned This Summer


                                    -by Neal Lemery

(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, August 29, 2022

            The calendar and the changing light in the mornings and evenings tells me that this season is in transition. We are leaving summer and moving into fall.  Perhaps it is also the appearance of all the teachers’ cars at the nearby school and the chill in the early morning air. 

            September always seems to be the real new year for me.  School starting back up, vacations ending,  the lazy warmth of late summer days, the harvests from the garden, all signal a new beginning.  The county fair and all the summer weekend festivals are over.  There’s an optimism in the air, a time for something new, different. There’s an expectation of change.

            And, there’s nothing like a bout of Covid in the middle of summer to make one appreciate their health, and the power of one’s body to fight off a potentially fatal illness and to be able, once again, to be active, to do the things one loves to do. I’ve had the time to reflect on what I’ve learned this summer.

  1. There is power in collective action and organization.  The real work comes from the collective actions of a small group of people. I’ve gained new appreciation for the power that small groups of people have for deciding to get something done, and then going about getting it done.  This has been a summer of reunion and reorganization, with groups again putting into motion their activities, and moving ahead in their lives.  By attending these events, I’ve become reacquainted with friends and neighbors, and celebrated the power of togetherness.  From signature gatherers on political issues to re-invigorating social events, things have gotten done.  It is grass roots work and it wouldn’t have happened unless people got moving and worked together.
  2. Relationships are Essential.  Our family gathered for a wedding this summer, resulting in some deep and loving conversations, emotional support, and shedding a lot of the loneliness and isolation of the pandemic.  We realized the importance of family, and became reacquainted with what brings us together.  I took the time to talk with people at the grocery store and on the street, reaffirming our common ties and interests, re-weaving the frayed fabric of what the media often paints as a divided and angry society.  Those brief conversations have taken on a new value, and a new relevance for me.  I’m again realizing the importance of good friends, and deep conversation. 
  3. Connecting with your own creativity brings joy to your heart.  I’ve taken time to play my guitar again, to paint, to take photos, to garden with others, to explore and honor my own creative juices. I again feel the joy of what children experience when they free themselves to simply be, to create and bring joy into their lives. I joined an art group, which meets every week to simply paint together, without judgment or criticism, and simply enjoy the communal act of creation. 
  4. Take time to do the right thing.  I sometimes let things go undone, and I neglect to take responsibility for my own mistakes and missed opportunities.  Sometimes, I need to apologize, to make amends, and to focus on doing what is right.  I sometimes neglect relationships, or let a wondrous act of kindness and service go unrecognized.  I’ve humbled myself, and reached out, making connections, sometimes apologizing, and often simply recognizing and appreciating the good works of others.  I’ve learned the power of the sincere sympathy card or note of thanks, and how why that may seem insignificant, receiving that acknowledgement moves people to tears. The price of a card and a stamp is incredible, and changes lives. Appreciating others and embracing them, loving them is really what we are here for. I need to do that more often.
  5. Experiencing nature is an essential part of self-care. I often forget to take care of myself.  Having Covid this summer was a re-set on that value for me.  Self-care can keep you alive and upright, and able to get back to your to-do list, and the things that bring you love and joy.  The other day, I was at loose ends, and the things I thought I needed to do that day dropped off of the calendar.  I took that time, and went outside. I went to the beach, the forest, and sometimes just looked up into the sky. I spent the day enjoying the day for what it was, an incredible gift.  I was reminded that life can be beautiful, that we live in a gorgeous place, that I can find peace and contentment anywhere I look.  I took photos of flowers, really looking at a single flower, examining and taking in all of its beauty. I need self-care. If I was frank with my doctor about my need for self-care, they’d put it on my medication list, and expect me to follow through.  Take time for me.  Respect and honor me.  And let me take myself outside and into the fresh air and sunshine. 


Listening Can Be The Change


                                                –by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, August 21, 202]2)

            When life gets chaotic and painful, I try to simply take a breath and become a better listener. Most of us don’t feel like we are being heard, that our feelings and our own personal pain simply doesn’t matter, that we are insignificant.  

            Being the active listener, using our attention and our ears, changes the dynamics and gives importance and compassion to those who haven’t been heard, who feel ignored, unvalued. Our stories are powerful and liberating.

            “We are made from the stories we’ve been told, the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we tell one another. The world can be terrifying, wonderful, repulsive, wounding, comforting — sometimes all at once. The stories we are fed often determine how we live in the contradiction.”  —Mark Yakonelli, Between the Listening and the Telling—How Stories Can Save Us (2022).

            Yakonelli is a professional listener, a collector of the deeply personal stories of others.  A pastor and counselor, he helps others find their safe harbors and to share their lives.  One of his tasks was to help Roseburg heal from the devastation of the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015.  His work was to simply help create a safe place for people to share their pain, and to tell of their own courage and love of their community.  He gave permission and sacred space for people to tell their stories, to express their innermost values and character. He helped heal a suffering community. 

His book speaks of his own journey in gathering the stories of others and how that telling has changed himself and the communities he has visited. He continues to work with groups and individuals throughout the world, helping them to find their voices and to open their hearts.  

            “Stories can expand the boundaries of the heart to hold the chaos, the betrayals, the destructive absurdities with a sense of grace, resiliency, and moral courage. Or they can shrink us to become brittle, fearful, destructive. We need a comforting space and compassionate ears to sort out what we have suffered, to find the stories that recover and repair the world, to keep our hearts intact,” he wrote.

            In these times, I can often feel isolated.  In spite of technology, I can easily feel lonely, disconnected from others. I can feel ignored.  By sharing our stories, and by the simple act of telling my own story, bridges are built and connections with humanity and with community are made.  We crave the good stories, the ones that reach into our hearts with a deep message of love and compassion, spreading empathy and good will.

            There are many good listeners among us, the people who welcome us to share what is in our hearts, and to work on healing our pain.  The Irish have a word for the people who do this work, seanachie, the story catchers.  

            As we go about our lives, and do the healing work that needs to be done in this world, we should pause and reflect on the healing power of story in the world, and the power that each of us has to be both the teller of stories and the listener.  


I Wait

                        -by Neal Lemery 8/13/22

Possibilities arise in

this space of time and place

unfilled, unscheduled.

I breathe with no expectation

of production, accomplishment, success.

No score keeping, no quotas

no reports to make at the end of the day,

just being unaccountable, 

idle by someone else’s rules,

practicing uneasy patience.

Ideas swirl, circling to land

take root, grow into something

more, developing, on its way to


yet still forming, still in its making,

still in utero, not yet ready, 

me merely anticipating.

I wait, letting its yeast grow, ferment.

I will let it rise, giving it patience, time,

allowing it to grow on it own time.

I am but the kneader, the bread maker, letting the 

Muse pass through me, hoping I can net the gift she has today.

I am merely the nurturer, the


–Neal Lemery


Quotes That I Have Recently Discovered That Speak to Me


                                    –Neal Lemery

            “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

                                    –Amelia Earhart

            “You are not your mistakes. They are what you did, not who you are.”

                                    –Lisa Lieberman Wang

            “Be the person who breaks the cycle. If you were judged, choose understanding. If you were rejected, choose acceptance. If you were shamed, choose compassion. Be the person you needed when you were hurting, not the person who hurt you. Vow to be better than what broke you, to heal instead of becoming bitter so you can act from your heart, not your pain.”

                                    –Bright Vibes

            “For poems are not words, after all,  but fires for the cold, ropes let down for the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”

                                    –Mary Oliver

            “Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.”


            “To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.”

                                    –Amazing (Facebook post 8/22)

            “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”


            “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”


            Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

                                    –Margaret Mead

            “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

                                    –Albert Einstein

            “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

                                    –George Bernard Shaw

            “Change will not come if we wait for another person. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

                                    –Barack Obama

            “The world we see today is the world we’ll see tomorrow if we fail to do something now to change the things we don’t like about it.”

                                    –Mayor Deah

            ‘If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior as a reflection of the stater o relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.”

                                    –Yogi Bhajan

            “A child not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”

                                    –African proverb

            “But to rescue a soul is as close as anyone comes to God. Think of Noah lifting a small black bird from its nest. Think of Joseph raising a son that wasn’t his.”

                                    —The Same City, Terrance Hayes

            “I look at fatherhood not as biology, but as an emotional and spiritual mission.”                                                        –Neal Lemery


Each of Us Can Be a Force for Change


                                                by Neal Lemery

(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 8/3/2022)

            We are in the midst of change.  We’ve always been in transition, growing and evolving, but these times seem even more energized and challenging.  Big challenges are all around us:  the post-pandemic world, climate change, economic, social and political uncertainties. How many of us work and get an education, how we socialize, how we look at our world and our own expectations are in flux. How do we deal with all that? 

            I often don’t handle change well.  I like stability, predictability, the certainty that the demands of tomorrow will be comfortingly just like the demands of yesterday and today.  But that’s not realistic, and we are all compelled to adapt and move into uncharted and often uncomfortable new territory. I’ll resist that, and want to stay in my rut, the old patterns and ways of navigating through life as comfortable as a pair of broken in shoes.  

            Yet, I see that much does need to change.  Like most of us, I’m conflicted, wanting some things to change, but then not wanting change.  I struggle with that continuing conflict, that debate with myself about what needs to change and what we need to go back to.  After some inner conflict and self-talk, I mostly resolve those internal conflicts with myself by being a champion and voice for real reform, a recommitment to finding solutions, and doing things differently.  

            “It can be tempting to focus on all that is not working – the challenges, hurdles, and injustices. Good times can feel fleeting, like momentary distractions from the real work of life, which is more struggle and heartbreak than satisfaction and happiness.”  — Dan Rather 

            I’m dissatisfied in leaving the role of change maker, of rabble rouser, of being the dissenting voice that advocates new thinking, to the politicians, the theologians, and those who simply seem to be just wanting to make a lot of noise.  All of us should take on that role, and raise the voice of the reformer, the change maker.  As citizens, isn’t that our duty? If I don’t become the actor, the instigator, the loud voice, then don’t I lose the right to complain?

            “Change will not come if we wait for another person. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama. 

            My rant isn’t just about political reform, about rewriting public policy and revitalizing our institutions to be the change makers.  The work, and arguably the most important work, lies within ourselves and in the relationships we build in our communities.  The work is one on one, deeply personal, and demanding of our own energies and skills. 

            The changes you and I can make can start with a conversation at the post office, with the gas station attendant, with a small group activity where we are deep in a community-building event.  It can be seeing a need in the community for something and then taking leadership to fill that need. There is so much talent and passion in our community and it often becomes unleashed by the work of a single person. Often, it’s not limited by money, but by our own willingness to step up and get something done. 

            The true power lies in the individual and the small group. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead. 

            Want to change things up? Want to make a difference? Want to revitalize your community? Then have those encounters at the post office, the grocery store, the community event.  Gather a group for coffee and have those deep conversations, the ones where everyone walks away with a to do list and a motivation to make some changes. Ask the tough questions, and seek out the meaningful conversations. Organize, motivate, daydream.  Learn the skills you need to work on solutions. 

Educate yourself. Imagine what may seem is impossible and take on those first few tentative steps. Be persistent, stubborn, and focused.  Be outspoken, and speak your truth. Surround yourself with like-minded people and be determined. Know that you are called to leadership, to be the instrument of real change. 

            You will make a difference.  You will be the change you want to see in the world. 


Finding Determination in an Old Family Photo


                                                            by Neal Lemery

)(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 7/26/2022)

The old family picture showed up in my e-mail the other day, a discovery from a cousin.  I could see the younger faces of my grandparents and an aunt, standing stiffly in front of a simple three room shack on the Canadian prairie.  

            It was the mid 1910s, the barren landscape being the beginnings of their wheat farm, the place where they raised their six children. The one room schoolhouse was a mile away, the boarding high school sixteen miles down a dirt road in the only town in the county.  

            Life looked hard there, the chickens and geese in the yard, their horse and mule at the ready for the day’s chores, the tar paper on the outside walls.  

            My parents and I visited there in the 1960s. Dad wanted to show us where he was born, where he grew up, before they moved to Oregon.  The house was gone then, leaving only the foundation.  And from that memory, I could see that the photo showed where my ancestors lived, struggling to build a life.  

My grandmother’s dream was to send all her kids to college, which seemed so unattainable in the bleakness of the prairie, the struggles to plant and harvest their wheat. 

            Yet, she prevailed, later moving the family to a better farm near Salem, close to a number of colleges. She made sure the three daughters and the three sons finished high school and went on to college. The three sons and two of the daughters eventually earned graduate degrees, and the other daughter finished three years of college.  Those remarkable achievements in the 1920s and 1930s became family mandates and principles, expectations ensuring later generations would strive to advance their lives. One should be purposeful and better the lives of the next generation. My dad, my aunts, and my uncles all became forces of determination, taking on the role of my grandmother, repeating her words for the next generation. 

            Empowering and educating women was more than a political topic in my family. There was no room for excuses for not being achievers, movers, and shakers. 

            In her last few years, Grandma would talk to me. I was just starting grade school. In spite of her stroke, she was adamant that education was important, that learning and bettering yourself was what we all needed to do. She made sure that I, the youngest grandchild, got the same directive as did everyone else in the family. 

            Those sun-burnt, dusty faces look at me from that old photo, reminding me of the family mandate, that determination and working through adversity was just what one did in the world, that life could be improved with some hard work and dedication.  You took what you had, and you made life better. 

            I printed off that photo, put it in a frame, and found a place for it among the other family photos.  I need a reminder that part of our lives come from the hard work and dreams of those who came before us, and that the things I can find in today’s world, situations I can easily whine and gripe about, aren’t as significant as what people just a hundred years ago endured and overcame. There’s gratitude and admiration, and inspiration, too in that photo. And, a reminder of Grandma’s directives to me, which I’ve carried on to many young people in my life. 

            Many of the dreams of those who came before us were realized through their blood, sweat, and tears.  Life wasn’t easy, and comforts and advantages weren’t served on silver platters. Their dreams and ambitions often get lost in the hectic pace of today’s life.  Yet, I need to be reminded of those dreams and those efforts to make lives better, to invest in our kids, and make a better world. 

            There’s a small piece of my grandmother in me, that determined, committed voice that instilled in me the need to better my life, to get an education, to move ahead in the world. When I get complacent, when I take our lives for granted, I need to stop and listen to my grandmother, and move ahead.  When I see young people hard at work, getting an education, and working on their dreams, I can see my grandmother’s spirit at work, her stern words and waving finger urging us all to move ahead.  


Ranked Choice Voting: Is It In Our Future?


                                                by Neal Lemery

(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 7/24/2022

            Ranked choice voting (RCV) is the new popular trend in American politics these days.  In August, Washington State primary voters will choose their candidates in their primary using this method.  It is also now the method used statewide in Alaska and Maine.  In November, Portland voters will decide if they want RCV to choose their city commissioners and mayor.  

            RCV eliminates the need for runoff elections, and also sometimes allows two candidates from the same party to move ahead to the general election. The process is based on the idea that the top candidates of all the voters should prevail. 

            As they mark their ballots, voters literally cast several votes for an office, marking their first and second choices, and sometimes up to five “rankings”. 

“A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.”

This process is already in place or will be in the next year in ten states, in some federal, state, and local elections. This idea, and its many variations, are being widely discussed. 

In Oregon, Benton County has adopted this for elections involving at least three candidates for county officers. (The Sheriff is exempt from this, per state law.) One of your choices can be a write-in candidate. The voters adopted this idea and amended the county home rule charter.  Tillamook County is a “statutory” county and not a home rule county, and it is unclear whether the voters here could adopt such a system without the blessing of the Legislature. 

In New York City, you can have five choices, in rank order. 

In Alaska, this reform has eliminated partisan primary elections, and voters can choose among all the candidates.  That state used the new system a few months ago for a special Congressional election with over fifty candidates, and election officials handled the new process with apparent ease. At least three states use this for presidential candidates.

RCV is also used by a number of universities and organizations for their election processes. 

The arguments in favor include: 

  • Determines the candidate with the strongest support
  • Encourages civil campaigning
  • Reduces wasted votes
  • Eliminates the need for multiple elections

And the arguments against it include: 

  • It’s too complicated
  • The person with the most votes can lose
  • Your vote might not count if it’s “exhausted”
  • It violates “one person, one vote”