OSPIRG referendum passes

Students passed the PSU chapter of the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group’s (OSPIRG) funding referendum on Friday by a margin of 116 votes.

“I’m thrilled that we won,” a flushed Kari Koch, OSPIRG PSU chapter coordinator, said Friday.

The ballot measure, which has been the subject of a number of reviews by ASPSU’s Evaluation and Constitutional Review Committee (E&CR) as well as condemned as an unviable funding option in a recent opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ), would ensure OSPIRG’s 2002-2003 funding level of $120,000 for next year, overturning a decision by the Student Fee Committee to reduce the group’s funding to $21,000 in conditional reserve.

The referendum saw the fewest number of null-voters of any contest. Of 1,216 students voting 604 voted yes, 488 voted no. A combination of the margin of victory and overall turnout for the issue implied to ASPSU members that the OSPIRG referendum was the defining issue of the campaign, drawing in voters and opinion from all sides.

All presidential candidates pledged their support for the referendum, and SFC chair elect Erin Watari signed on as well.

ASPSU State Affairs Officer Miriam Gonzales estimated the combined support did a lot to aid the passing of the OSPIRG referendum.

The voting body is not, however, the last word on the funding of OSPIRG, and Koch admits that the battle is far from over.

The SFC now must decide whether to draft a new budget at the current student fee rate and take the $120,000 OSPIRG request out of other student activity budgets, or increase the fee rate by about $2 per student per term to cover the new expenses.

“The E&CR is going to have a fun meeting Tuesday,” Gonzalez said Friday.

Current SFC Chair Tracy Earll has submitted a question to the E&CR asking whether the group can ask students to overturn an SFC decision at all, if the E&CR rules that students cannot, the referendum may be thrown out.

Napoleon Linardatos, editor of the Portland Spectator, has raised the issue of whether the OSPIRG referendum (as it was called on the ballot drafted by the elections committee) is in fact an initiative or a referendum and if the correct process was followed for submittal of the question.

If the OSPIRG referendum survives this scrutiny, the abridged SFC budget needs to be approved by the ASPSU senate, as well as President Bernstine.

By all accounts, the advice given last month by the DOJ was not supportive of the OSPIRG referendum, and if the University chooses to deviate from the advice of the DOJ, they may not represent PSU in the event of a lawsuit in connection with the funding of OSPIRG (the rumblings of which have been heard on both the pro and anti-OSPIRG sides).

President Bernstine was unavailable for comment at press time.