Amid the flurry of criticism and questionable reports it is easy to lose sight of the real Sen. Betsy Johnson. The Oregonian and other publications have recently devoted a great deal of space to dissecting her. I was gratified to read at least a part of the "rest of the story" in that same publication on June 22. Other newspapers have followed suit.
Yes, Johnson has money. She has inherited wealth and has worked hard to establish widespread connections that serve to benefit her district. They broaden her understanding and give her access to background information about issues within her district, and informed advisors where needed. She has the ability to acquire independent research quickly. Not being dependent on the salary received for serving the public is an advantage, not a sin. Advocating for her district can take precedence over campaign fundraising activities.
Johnson not only resides in Columbia County, she is an active member of the community, giving generously and advocating where necessary. One example of her generosity occurred when she was serving as our state representative. Columbia Community Education Program is an alternative school program that has been in existence for 10 years in St. Helens. Early on there was a disconnect which resulted in these kids not having a lunch program. Johnson joined with two or three other donors to provide nutritious breakfasts, snacks and lunches until a time when the disconnect could be corrected. In doing so, she demonstrated a personal interest in youth within her district who could not vote and were not likely to donate to her political campaign. She has a personal connection to this community and this district and a commitment to service.
There are many fundraisers each year in this district to benefit organizations that cross all political and social boundaries. I can count on seeing Johnson and hearing her greet me personally, as she does so many of the people she serves. That is one of the things that distinguishes her. She is personally invested in this community to the extent that she actually knows our names. She also understands and supports our causes.
Johnson is very accessible. She responds to e-mails and phone calls. She works hard to know what the issues are in her district, and to address them. She is active in encouraging economic development, and supports development which would provide wages and improve conditions for the people who live in the further reaches of her district, not just the county seats. Although we do not always agree, she has unfailingly been willing to listen to my opinion and respond with her reasons for disagreeing. I respect that.
She is a multi-faceted individual, as the rest of the state is beginning to realize. Someone as outspoken as Johnson, with widely diverse interests and activities, is certainly vulnerable to criticism. As Elbert Hubbard, American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher, said, "To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." Is that what we want from our elected representatives? I don't think so.