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Updated: 1 hour 32 min ago

When Women Succeed, Oregon Succeeds

September 29, 2014 - 7:13am

Rep. Nancy Pelosi was in town Saturday. Here's what she had to say:

  • 2/3 of the people in this country making minimum wage are women.
  • Many of them are also people of color, people with disabilities and aspiring citizens
  • Lack of quality, affordable childcare is the obstacle to unlocking enormous economic productivity of women in this country.
  • Minimum wage does not allow women and families to emerge from poverty.

These are the basic talking points of the House Democratic Minority Leader's “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” policy and economic agenda. A broad coalition of local advocacy organizations, led by Family Forward Action and Family Forward Oregon partnered to present the event as a Women's Economic Agenda Forum. In addition to the House Minority Leader and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D- 1st Dist), Oregon Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenblum (D-21 Portland) and State Representatives Jessica Vega Pederson (D-47) and Jennifer Williamson (D-36) spoke.

Pelosi's talk of actual policy plans was a bit sparse, but the Oregon elected representatives joining her on the speakers platform also spoke on the need for paid sick days, increasing the minimum wage and access to childcare. In the immediate term, Oregon probably has a better chance of making favorable change, due to the partisan paralysis in the nation's capital. Certainly the themes of the Women Succeed Agenda dovetail with the Oregon Fair Shot campaign. Fair Shot outlines the basics that women and working families need in order to have a fair shot at economic stability: a true living wage, paid sick leave, equal pay for equal work and the ability to save for retirement.

Pelosi did not dwell on the inability to do anything productive in the divided Congress, but underscored the need to vote, register to vote and support progressive candidates. Her overall message was an optimistic one, that change is “inevitable”. Certainly she has committed to a “brand” and campaign around economic success for working and middle class families, ideally building on some momentum from the June White House Summit on Working Families.

The Women Succeed campaign is looking for stories about women and working families, which can be submitted to the campaign's website. But in Oregon we can also hold our elected representatives accountable for their support (or lack thereof) for the Fair Shot policies. Write your representative today about their support for all four points of the policy agenda: living wage, sick days, retirement savings and equal pay. Don't let them tell you have to pick one or two either. We shouldn't ask someone who is drowning whether they want air or solid ground under their feet. They need both to succeed.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Double-talk and Half-truths: The Fuzzy Math of the Anti-GMO Labeling Campaign

September 26, 2014 - 2:34pm

The media blitz is here.

You’ll be inundated with TV ads sounding the alarm that Oregon’s Measure 92 ranks in desirability somewhere between the Willamette’s algae bloom and the Ebola virus.

So far, opponents have branded Oregon’s GMO labeling proposal with causing mass confusion and misinformation, jacking up grocery bills, ruining farmers, hurting the poor, etc. What’s next, Bill Murray warning us that cows and pigs will be sleeping together? The fact that none of these dire predictions has happened in the 64 countries already labeling is just a messy little detail easily ignored.

But never make light of the power of millions of dollars of slick corporate PR. It’s transformed consumers’ common sense that they have a right to know what’s in their food into an irrational fear of their own best interests. This advertising was a major reason that similar labeling initiatives lost in California and Washington.

For example, one ad started this week said the initiative was “. . . so full of exemptions that it wouldn’t even give consumers reliable information about which foods contain GMO’s and which don’t.”

There are good reasons for certain exemptions, and for meat and dairy animals, it’s not even an exemption, it’s a distinction: they aren’t genetically engineered. Eating GMO feed doesn’t turn animals into GMO’s themselves, just as eating GMO food doesn’t make us genetically engineered.

If GMO salmon gets approved – a real possibility - the FDA wouldn’t mandate labeling it. But Oregon’s Measure 92 would require it, since it’s the animal itself. This would seem at least as important as the current requirement that salmon sold in grocery stores must be labeled wild or farmed.

The initiative’s exclusions are consistent with which foods don’t require full nutrition and ingredient labels now, such as those served in school cafeterias, restaurants and bake sales. This system, with a few modifications, has been in place for nearly 25 years.

To argue that consumers will be misled or misinformed because some foods would require labeling and others wouldn’t is Moby Dick-level fiction, but admittedly it does have an element of humor. Out of one side of their mouths, opponents complain that the proposed labeling is too burdensome and goes too far. Out of the other side, they complain that it doesn’t go far enough.

Like Oregon, dozens of states have introduced legislation to label GMO’s in response to consumer demand. They wouldn’t have to take action if numerous mandatory GMO labeling bills proposed in Congress over the past decade would have passed. The latest one was introduced by Oregon’s Peter DeFazio and California senator Barbara Boxer in April 2013. And who has led the charge blocking those bills? The very same biotech and food giant corporations who say they want national labeling. Of course, the only national labeling they want is voluntary - which we already have.

In a previous column, I pointed out the fallacies of the charge that labeling would significantly increase family grocery bills. Opponents say studies show that it would. What they don’t say is who is funding these studies – the labeling opponents. The most-often cited analysis, by a professor at Cornell, was completely funded by the Council for Biotechnology Information, a mouthpiece for Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Chemical and companions. Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, has thoroughly debunked it and even the study itself says it doesn’t represent Cornell University’s position.

Opponents know consumers have legitimate, science-based concerns about GMO safety, so they assure us that the FDA has said they’re safe. But here’s what the FDA said that they don’t tell us: “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.” The FDA doesn’t do any safety testing and doesn’t require any independent testing. Any testing is up to the biotech corporations themselves and is entirely voluntary. Yes, the fox is in charge of the henhouse.

Finally, here are some numbers that aren’t fuzzy at all – Washington State’s contribution records for last year’s Measure 1-522 to label GMO’s.

The No campaign, led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto, spent over $21.7 million. All but $600 came from large corporations. They had a grand total of SIX (that’s not a typo) individuals contribute.

In contrast, the Yes campaign raised $8 million from over 16,400 donors. You can decide for yourself which side represented the public interest and which represented the corporate interest.

It’s the same story in Oregon. The math is simple. All their double-talk has a single purpose: protecting industry profits.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

... In Which Hillsboro Leaves the Rest of America Eating Green Dust

September 26, 2014 - 11:43am

When it comes to Oregon’s most pro-environment communities, one might think of Portland, Ashland, or Corvallis.

But in using green power, Hillsboro leaves the rest of Oregon (and America) in the dust.

The news comes via the EPA’s Green Power Community Challenge, which looks at the percentage of a community's power consumed from solar, wind, biogas, biomass, low-impact hydro power, and geothermal. From The Oregonian:

[Hillsboro] took first place... because just over 50 percent of its total electricity use comes from green power. That's a far higher share than the second-place town – Brookeville, Md., which came in at just over 40 percent.

The third-place community – Swarthmore, PA, lags way behind the leaders, at 32.4%. Other Oregon communities are even farther back– Gresham (9.1%), Beaverton (8.3%), Bend (8.3%), Portland (8.0%), Corvallis (6.2%), Hood River (5.9%), Cannon Beach (5.0%), Milwaukie (3.8%), Salem (3.3%), and Medford (3.1%).

My guess is the numbers are significantly driven by Intel and SolarWorld, who I believe buy 100% green power - and a lot of it. (My inquiry to Intel has gone unanswered.) Intel returned my message, noting as a company overall they bought 3,100,000,000 kWh of green power in 2013, and claim to be "the largest voluntary purchaser of green power in the U.S. since 2008". For comparison, the average American household consumes 11,700 kWh/yr.

Not content to let the community and large businesses boost the numbers, Mayor Willey notes his personal commitment as well:

”This is a great achievement for the City of Hillsboro and a testament to our community's commitment to voluntarily seek out ways to become more sustainable,” said Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey in a written statement. “My family knows the value of green power firsthand from our experience installing solar power panels on our roof.”

Congrats to Hillsboro. For the rest of us, it's time to catch up!

Note: Burlington, VT claims to use 100% green power, but it apparently has not been part of the EPA's challenge and I can't find the details on whether its 'green power' corresponds with the EPA's requirements.

Disclaimer: These views are mine alone, not those of my employer.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Will the media actually ask Dennis Richardson where he stands?

September 26, 2014 - 7:30am

Dennis Richardson would have voters believe that it doesn't matter what his positions are on abortion and the freedom to marry.

Here's what he said to the O back in April:

Asked whether his views on abortion or same-sex marriage have changed, Richardson said he remains pro-life but considers abortion law to be a federal issue, not one he’d deal with as governor. He said he fully expects a marriage equality law to pass in Oregon.

“My positions on social issues are my own,” he said. “As governor, I will keep my oath to enforce the laws that are on the books.”

And he's basically been getting away with it -- with media acting as if his extreme social views are old news. To most voters, of course, they're not. They're just waking up to the gubernatorial race, and they should know where he stands.

To highlight the dissonance between his views and the reporting on them, the leaders of NARAL Oregon, Planned Parenthood PAC, and Basic Rights Oregon have called on members of the media -- and debate sponsors -- to ask the Richardson the key questions:

Dennis Richardson has spent the past 11 years voting against Oregon women and the LGBT community, but now that he’s running for governor, he’s running away from his record and claiming that “the social issues have already been decided.”

We’ve heard that before.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory promised on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t restrict abortion access, then he signed a law imposing costly, medically unnecessary rules that could shut down every provider in the state.

Dennis Richardson is inviting extreme Texas Governor Rick Perry to Lake Oswego to raise money for his campaign and he’s accepting giant checks from Oregon Right to Life, yet he expects voters to believe that limiting access to abortion and contraception isn’t on his agenda?

We’re calling on editors and debate hosts to raise these important questions so that Dennis Richardson can’t have it both ways.

The governor’s office has the power to sign anti-women’s-health legislation and make judicial and agency appointments that would roll back the clock on women and the LGBT community. Richardson’s record on these and other issues is abysmal.

... We’re calling on editors and debate hosts to raise these important questions because voters deserve to know who Dennis Richardson really is.

Read the whole letter.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Guess who is coming to town?

September 24, 2014 - 10:38am

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Portland to support Senator Jeff Merkley on Wednesday October 8th. There will be a public event at the Oregon Convention Center with doors opening at 1 p.m.

Our Vice President is always entertaining and this should be a fun event.

It is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required for security reasons.

RSVP here!

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Oregon Business Leaders Call for Action on Climate Change

September 23, 2014 - 4:02pm

By Kelley Meck of Portland, Oregon. Kelley is a campaign professional turned law student at Lewis & Clark Law School. Previously, Kelley contributed "A Democratic wave year? In the State Senate, don't rule it out!"

Add this to the list of organizations and individuals clamoring for action on climate change: the Oregon Business Community. Over 200 familiar Oregon businesses, from behemoths Nike and Intel, to household names like the Portland Timbers and the Portland Trailblazers, have joined together to urge Oregon to lead on climate change, saying there is a "clear and present need for action on climate change."

These companies represent a diverse cross-section of Oregon's business community. Signing companies include coffee companies big and small, such as Dutch Bros., Caravan Coffee, and Stumptown, who are watching coffee prices soar in anticipation of climate change's affects on coffee crops. Ski resorts are signed on too, including Mt. Ashland, Mt. Hood Meadows, and Timberline Ski Lodge, and it's no surprise why. But the list also includes businesses, small and large, that just want to see Oregon seize an opportunity to invest in a bright future for Oregon, and do the right thing at the same time.

The business community, of course, are late to the party: All the other professionals you'd expect to have opinions have already figured this out.

Academic economists, for example, basically love the idea of a carbon tax.

For another example, a doctor or nurse or any other member of the medical professional community will recognize that their profession has unequivocally found that climate change is harming people. The American Medical Association has been saying so at least since 2008 and says so again in strident terms just yesterday. The American Lung Association likewise.

And judges and lawyers and legal professionals can all look to the Supreme Court, which found in 2007 that "The harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized." Although hopefully lawyers and legal professionals have the good sense to look to scientists and other experts, not other lawyers, for this kind of question.

And of course, since 2007, when the American Association of Petroleum Geologists ceased claiming otherwise, there has not been a reputable scientific organization disputing the reality and urgency of addressing climate change. (You read that right. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists.)

So maybe the question is, who is left seriously saying that no action is necessary on climate change? Are we down to just the Oregonian editorial page and Art Robinson and the rest of his crazy party?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

It's official! Turn your dial to 107.1 to hear XRAY FM

September 22, 2014 - 7:00am

At long last, XRAY FM -- including Carl Wolfson's "Carl in the Morning" show -- can now be heard in most of Portland, as well as some westside suburbs. Just turn your dial to 107.1 FM.

Here's the new coverage map:

It's not quite citywide -- as it largely doesn't extend much past I-205 to the east. And the 90-watt station is a far cry from, say, KXL's 100,000 watts, or even KBOO's 26,500 watts. But it's a big jump from the low-power station that it's been for the last six months or so.

In addition, about a week or so ago, Thom Hartmann's national program (which got its start right here in Portland) started airing LIVE from 9 a.m. to noon on XRAY.

In other words, fine citizens of BlueOregon, the old KPOJ morning lineup is now back in place!

And after Carl and Thom, there's a schedule of progressive talk that changes up every day:

Kick Ass Oregon History, 12:00 to 12:40
Bitch Media's Popaganda with Sarah Mirk, 12:40 to 1:20

State of the Re-Union, 12-1
Help Wanted with Shane Torres, 1-2

Thank you Democracy with Jefferson Smith, 12-1
News with my Dad featuring Jefferson and Joe Smith, 1:00-1:30

Five Quadrants of Portland, 12-1

Check out the full XRAY schedule here.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Cartoon: The Least We Could Do

September 20, 2014 - 7:00am

By Jesse Springer of Eugene, Oregon. Jesse is a long-time political cartoonist and illustrator. See more of Jesse's work at Springer Creative.

News Item: Oregon's minimum wage, tied by law to the inflation rate, will rise 15 cents to $9.25 per hour in 2015.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

A little mansplainin' for all the ladies out there

September 19, 2014 - 11:45am

OK, this is a little bit awesome. Just watch:

It's brought to you by Fair Shot Oregon, a collaboration of SEIU, AFSCME, OEA, and Planned Parenthood Advocates, Family Forward Action, Mother PAC, and Oregon Action.

They're laying the groundwork for policy fights over the minimum wage, paid sick days, pay equity, and retirement security. This is going to be good.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The Oregonian’s Muddled Mess on Pollution Taxes

September 18, 2014 - 2:18pm

Today’s Oregonian editorial against a tax on pollution (carbon tax) shows an impressive combination of timidity, poor logic, and ignorance.

First, timidity - the editorial starts by arguing the struggles the state has had with Cover Oregon should prevent it from taking on anything hard. It backs up its argument by quoting wild hyperbole of an unnamed industry group.

The editorial is notably silent on the contents of the carbon tax report the legislature had commissioned. The Oregonian’s own news story reported:

The [pollution tax] idea received a far more positive response [than it had recently] from an Oregon legislative committee as a group of economists and scientists provided an overview of a detailed proposal due out Nov. 15.

“This could really help rejuvenate many rural parts of the state,” said Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford. “The devil is always in the details, but I'm tantalized.”

Much of the reason for that enthusiasm stems from the idea that a tax on carbon would be revenue-neutral, meaning that whatever the state collected from taxing various forms of energy would ultimately be returned to members of the public and businesses through means such as lower income and business taxes.

Some background: taxing pollution is one of the most widely supported ideas in economics literature, and is generally used as the perfect example of a Pigouvian tax that improves market signals and functioning. But it's not just theory. After Congress implemented a tax on ozone-layer depleting chemicals in 1989, it's lead to a true environmental success story. The Oregon legislative report noted a pollution tax on carbon could bring two billion dollars to households and businesses each year -- about $550 for every Oregonian.

Why are we even considering this? We know without taking action on global warming, our world’s economy is facing a 5 to 20% loss of GDP – costs that would land disproportionately on the world’s poorest. The World Health Organization estimates global warming will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. None of this reality - that demands serious, bold action - is mentioned.

Next up – poor logic. The Oregonian’s editorial board makes an impressively bad argument: “the effect of such a tax in a single state on global warming would be negligible, and perhaps nonexistent.” This might be thought of as the Zeno’s Paradoxes argument – and indeed, it can be hard to imagine dividing a big problem into small solutions (perhaps the wedge piece visualization from Princeton professors Socolow and Pacala can help).

But it’s just sloppy thinking. By that logic, the editorial board must never walk a mile, because any single step’s progress towards getting a mile is negligible. Similarly, they must never vote, as any single vote’s chance of changing an electoral outcome is negligible. And they must never buy a newspaper, as the chances that purchasing one newspaper will create a vibrant fourth estate are nonexistent. The reality is much different – countries and states and people across the planet are taking actions to fight global warming, and it’s time Oregon did its share of leadership on the issue.

Finally – ignorance. The editorial states “it has the uncertainty that comes with trying something new. Plenty of states have sales taxes, but none have carbon taxes.” That’s an impressive side-step of the existence of state carbon trading markets, and, more to the point, British Columbia’s carbon tax that’s been around since 2008. Just because something is Canadian doesn’t makes six years of experience inapplicable. The outcome, according to The Economist? “BC now has the lowest personal income tax rate in Canada and one of the lowest corporate rates in North America, too.”

Or, according to this piece in the Globe and Mail:

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that B.C.’s policy has been a real environmental and economic success after six years. Far from a being a “job killer,” it is a world-leading example of how to tackle one of the greatest global challenges of our time: building an economy that will prosper in a carbon-constrained world.

Once again, if you want to be educated on the issue of the day, read the Oregonian’s reporters. If you prefer poorly reasoned arguments, read the editorial pages.

Disclaimer: these are my views alone, not of my employer.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Kitzhaber & Richardson reveal fall TV ads

September 17, 2014 - 4:01pm

Both gubernatorial campaigns launched their TV ad campaigns this week. They're definitely worth watching side-by-side.

John Kitzhaber's ad rapidly summarizes his accomplishments in the last four years, and unveils his vision for the future:

Dennis Richardson's ad, by contrast, is about... well, I'm not really sure. It's a mishmash of biographical stuff.

Strangest of all, it closes on the line "Oregon's road to a better future starts with leaders who have a new vision" -- but then fails utterly to tell us what that vision is.

What do you think?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

NY Times on Portland: All the kombucha you can drink, but no jobs.

September 17, 2014 - 9:00am

After years of glowing coverage about Portland, the New York Times Magazine turns the screw and starts musing out loud that Portlandia's "where young people go to retire" riff might have some basis in reality.

But after the provocative lead, the NYT's take is actually quite good:

Portland is not a corporate town, as its neighbors Seattle and San Francisco have become. While there are employment opportunities in the outdoor-apparel business (Nike, Adidas and Columbia Sportswear are all nearby) or the semiconductor industry (Intel has a large presence in Hillsboro), most workers have far fewer opportunities. According to Renn, personal income per capita in the city grew by a mere 31 percent between 2000 and 2012, slower than 42 other cities, including Grand Rapids, Mich., and Rochester. And yet people still keep showing up. “People move to New York to be in media or finance; they move to L.A. to be in show business,” Renn said. “People move to Portland to move to Portland.” Matthew Hale may have all the kombucha he can drink, but he doesn’t have a job.

But the most compelling bit is a small note from David Albouy, economics professor at University of Illinois:

Albouy told me that he has always wondered why Portland doesn’t invest more in its institutions of higher education. If you took Portland’s quality of life and citizens, he said, and added Pittsburgh’s universities, you would come out with a world-class city.

Yup. That's exactly right.

It has always been striking to me that Portland is the only major city on the West Coast without an R1 research university. Seattle has UW. SF, Oakland, and San Jose have Berkeley and Stanford. Los Angeles has USC, UCLA, and Cal Tech. San Diego has UCSD.

Sure, Eugene has UO and Corvallis has OSU -- and Portland has OHSU -- but that's not the same thing as a top-tier undergraduate and graduate university right in town.

After all, top-tier four-year universities attract (and retain) talented young people to the region, which in turn attract major employers and breed startups.

Oregon has to get serious about investing in Portland State.

I've been flabbergasted why we're not doing that. Is it alumni loyalty to UO and OSU that punks PSU at the State Legislature? Is it just a lack of imagination or ambition? Whatever it is, it's hurting Portland.

You know, if it requires changing Portland State to UO Portland or OSU Portland, in order to get this ball moving, I'd be OK with that.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Wehby: When support for rights is no support at all

September 16, 2014 - 10:21am

You’ve seen the headline:

New Wehby Ad Touts Her Support For Equality

Except, of course, she didn’t. What Dr Wehby did was distribute a press release that says she supports equality. Clever, huh? At no point in her ad does Monica Wehby explicitly state that she supports marriage equality.

This is why the Koch Brothers spend millions to support campaigns like this: to develop lies that sound like something they are not. Here’s how the money and wordsmithing suckered one notable Beltway media outlet, “The Hill” —

Republican Senate candidate touts support for gay marriage

By Alexandra Jaffe

Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby is touting her support for gay marriage in a new ad, an unusual move for a Republican and perhaps the only example of such an ad from a GOP Senate candidate this cycle.

But here’s what the Wehby campaign actually says:

I’m proud and humbled to have the endorsement of Ben and Paul. Their courage to stand up for their family, and against inequality is inspiring and embodies the spirit I will serve with as Oregon’s next Senator.

Someone please point out where this is an endorsement of marriage equality. It is not. Wehby does not endorse marriage equality. She does not endorse the rights of Oregon’s GLBTQ community. She does not state that every Oregonian shares the same legal right to create a family via marriage.

She instead posts a video and sends out a press release that encourages people to believe that’s what she has done.

This dancing around an actual endorsement of marriage equality is not an accident. When she wants to endorse a policy matter, she’s crystal clear on that. From her website:

Dr. Wehby will fight to protect all our constitutional rights – including the Second Amendment, which is constantly threatened by outside interests wishing to abolish it. She’s an unapologetic and unstinting champion of the individual citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.

She’s received the endorsement of the NRA, and she is very clear that she supports NRA goals and policies (although who the “outside interests” are that wish to abolish the 2nd Amendment goes unstated; should one assume that she doesn’t believe those who support universal background checks are Americans?).

Oregon Democrats, progressives and political activists: Read this stuff carefully. Monica Wehby is no friend of our causes. She is using Ben West and his husband as political props. I’ve no problem with them endorsing her for the usual political and policy reasons. Being gay doesn’t mean you’re a liberal, or believe in justice, or care about the needs of those most vulnerable in our society. Being gay means you are gay.

It’s not even a guarantee you’re smart enough to avoid being a tool for the Koch Brothers.

But if you think you’re better than the sheeple following Faux News, you can’t look at a headline like this and let it drift past unexamined. To be honest, I paid no attention to the ad or press release until a friend brought it to my attention. I am impressed at the skill behind this snowjob. The Koch Brothers’ money was well-spent. The propagandists got their job done.

We have to be smarter than that, however. Monica Wehby has not endorsed marriage equality, and she certainly has not endorsed full civil and legal rights for GLBTQ Oregonians. If she wanted to do that, she would. She endorsed the NRA’s right to determine gun safety policy. She’s endorsed term limits for the U.S. Senate. She’s endorsed expansion of charter schools and voucher programs. Explicitly, clearly.

Exactly what she’s not done for marriage equality. But she has approved suckering voters.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

It's time for Oregon to lead on paid sick days

September 13, 2014 - 9:00am

By Angelica Maduell of Portland, Oregon. Angelica is a freelance writer, marketer and political activist.

This week marks the beginning of the next great nationwide expansion of workplace rights for women and families. On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed the country's second statewide paid sick days bill. Although this bill and others like it cover men and women equally, it impacts the working family the most. Equality in the workplace is still far from being realized—even 50 years after the civil rights era—but earned paid sick days for everyone moves women closer to achieving that dream.

Currently, we are witnessing the preliminary momentum of a movement building energy from laws passed in Seattle, Connecticut, New York City, Portland & Eugene, OR, and several other cities across the U.S. We don’t know when the tipping point will be reached, but the scales are shifting in favor of working women.

The Need for Paid Sick Days in Oregon

Nearly half of Oregon’s private sector employees don’t earn paid sick days. For these Oregonians, a day off work means they are short on rent and short on food. Taking care of yourself or your sick child should not mean risking your home and your ability to provide. Main Street small business owners understand that particularly well, since they are often family-operated.

If it’s the parent that is sick, they are likely going to go to work anyway. This puts their co-workers at risk of catching their illness, and puts the sick worker at risk for developing something more serious, not to mention the loss of productivity in the workplace. The entire labor force suffers when people can’t afford to take a sick day.

Economic Stability & Paid Sick Days

Working women and families deserve a fair shot at a stable life. They need to be able to afford to take a day off work to take care of family, or go to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of day. If women and working families have financial stability, then workplaces will be more stable, and the entire U.S. economy becomes that much more stable.

When our mothers and sisters succeed, the entire community thrives. Businesses on Main Street rely on the support from the community to keep them growing and strong. A healthier, more financially stable workforce is just what the doctor ordered.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

An open letter to Monica Wehby, Ben West and Paul Rummell:

September 12, 2014 - 12:00pm

Dear Monica Wehby,

It's not very hard to read the writing on the wall (polls) when it comes to marriage equality in Oregon, especially after it's a done deal.

But coming out in support of marriage equality after years of the rest of us fighting for a right that should have never been an issue, is better (I guess??) than digging in your heels. I'm sure there were some folks who believed the earth was flat that changed their minds after it was proven wrong.

The proof in the sincerity is to ask, "why now?" Just because you're just now running for U.S. Senator, even though the only record you have is NOT voting in every election. That's really kind of low-brow pandering.

Dear Ben and Paul,

You have every right to voice your endorsement of a candidate of their choosing. I have no qualm nor disrespect for you to endorse a candidate. You said in your TV ad that you thought your candidate was the one who would fight for you and that is what Oregon needed.

But where was your candidate when Jeff Merkley stood up with a very straight spine on the floor of the Oregon House fighting so hard for your rights? When that same Jeff Merkley was threatened with being arrested by the Republican then-Speaker of the House who was openly and blatantly denying you your rights?

Where was your candidate during all that time we were spending every resource fighting for our rights?

It's really hard to judge your candidate on the issues as she has no record on legislative issues that she can stand behind.

The only record she has that we know of for sure is she hasn't voted regularly in elections and she's managed to have somewhat of a police record.

We also know for certain that she is in cahoots with the billionaire Koch brothers and we all know just how much they will fight against LGBT rights, middle class families, health care, and the environment. That's because they spent a lifetime exploiting every opportunity to squeeze every penny they can to put in their own pocket.

You said you spent time with your husband wrestling the issue and then decided to reach out to your candidate.

The result of that was happy hour at the Mint that turned into three hours of enlightenment. Judging from the beautiful production of the ad you appear in, it would seem your family is doing OK. Using your notoriety is your privilege.

Let me contrast your wonderful story.

I'm the trans* daughter of immigrant parents. I didn't get a degree and barely made it out high school. I've pretty much struggled all my life to make ends meet and be a good person. I got into politics because, like you, my rights were non-existent. In the height of a successful career, I got involuntarily outed and lost my job, family, and pretty much everything else.

In 2007, Jeff Merkley reached out to me. Not because of my notoriety, my wealth, or because he was pandering for someone to portray him as some sort of good guy.

Nope, what Jeff Merkley wanted was to hear what I had to say. He wanted to know what more he could to do to help. We didn't meet for happy hour at a swanky bar. He listened and he's worked hard for me every step of the way every single day.

Now there's a guy who stands up every day to do the right thing for Oregon!

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 90, the “Open Primary”: Some facts you might not have considered.

September 12, 2014 - 10:30am

By Barbara Dudley of Portland, Oregon. Barbara is the Senior Policy Adviser to the Working Families Party.

Many people whose opinions I respect have questioned, more or less vociferously, the Working Families Party’s decision to support Measure 90. But I supported that decision because to me it is clear not just that the status quo should change but that the status quo is already changing, dramatically, and it is best to be intentional about the change we want.

For many Oregonians, most significantly including half of the registered voters under 40, the present system isn’t working very well. Young people are disaffected and cynical about electoral politics and only getting more so. We ignore this reality at our peril.

No one is arguing that the passage of Measure 90 will miraculously engage more voters in primary elections, or in any elections, but it does make that a possibility whereas the current system does not. It isn’t working to say to young, unaffiliated or minor party voters, “If you want to participate, just register as a Democrat.” They aren’t doing it. Instead they are deciding that the system is rigged, and from their point of view, it is.

The opponents raise the objection that having the Top Two system will cost more money for party donors and thus bring more money into politics. To translate this, once a Democrat wins a primary in Portland or Eugene, under the current system they don’t have to worry about the general election, often they have no opponent at all, or at most a weak Republican and/or a minor party candidate with no hope of winning. But if two viable candidates go on to the general election, they will have to continue to campaign till the November election. Meaning, they will have to reach out to all those voters who are not registered Democrats. That should not be viewed as a bad thing.

In fact the same people who argue that having a Top Two system would cost political donors more money because they have to reach out to more voters in the general election also argue that it is wrong to have only two candidates emerge from the primaries because only older white voters vote in the primary! You can’t have it both ways.

We in no way dispute the pernicious role of money in politics. Should we move the primary election closer to the general, say to September, as many states have done, to cut down on the cost and on voter fatigue? Absolutely. We would work very hard with anyone who supported that reform. Do we need to introduce other campaign finance reforms as well? You bet! But you can’t argue that a closed primary system which saves donors money because there will be only one viable candidate getting to the November ballot has anything to do with democracy.

At the very least Measure 90 is provoking a little soul searching amongst the Democrats and Republicans and some serious conversation about electoral reform. This by itself is a very good thing. Reasonable people may differ on whether Measure 90 is an improvement over current election law in Oregon, but it helps to know what the current law is and what might change under M90. So in the spirit of having an informed and serious debate on this subject, I offer up a few key facts for the Blue Oregon community to consider:

  • Under current election law (largely chapters 248 and 249), Oregon has a system whereby, for all partisan offices (state legislative seats, federal offices and some county commissions), major political parties have closed primaries conducted by and paid for by the state. Only registered party members can vote in closed primaries.

  • Under current law a major party could choose to open their primary to any registered voters who petition to vote in their primary. Neither major party allows that type of cross voting.

  • Major parties are defined as those which have registrants equaling at least 5% of the total number of persons registered to vote in the state (a little under 107,000). At present only the Republican and Democratic parties have that level of registration.

  • One third of all registered voters in Oregon, including 49% of all registered voters under 40 years old, are not registered Democrat or Republican and thus cannot vote in party primaries.

  • Because most electoral districts in Oregon heavily favor one major party or the other (urban=Democrat; rural = Republican), 85-90% of all legislative races are decided in closed primaries.

  • It seems very likely given current registration statistics that the Independent Party of Oregon will reach major party status before the 2016 election. At that point they too will have a primary election paid for and run by the state. Any registered member of the Independent Party could run in their primary and the winner will appear on the general election ballot. No other minor party (Libertarian, Pacific Green, Working Families, Constitution or Progressive) is at all close to reaching major party status.

  • You must be registered in a major party for 180 days before the primary election in order to run in that party’s primary. Thus major parties cannot cross-nominate candidates of another party except through write-in votes. A candidate who loses in a primary election may not run as the nominee of another party or as a non-affiliated candidate for the same office.

  • Minor parties, which are defined as those having less than 5% of the total number of registrants, conduct their own nomination processes according to their own party rules subject to approval by the Secretary of State.

  • Under current law, minor parties maintain their ballot status in one of two ways: Either they maintain a level of registration that is one tenth of one percent of the total votes in the last gubernatorial election and run a statewide candidate who garners at least 1% of the vote in the general election; OR they maintain registration levels that equal one half of one percent of the total number of registrants (at present that would be a little under 10,700 registrants).

  • As of 2009, Oregon is one of the few states that allow “fusion voting”, i.e. minor parties (but not major parties) can cross-nominate candidates of other parties and up to three nominations accepted by the candidate can appear next to the candidate’s name on the general election ballot.

So what would Measure 90 change?

  • All candidates from all parties (or no party) would run in one primary election. All registered voters would be able to vote in that primary. Only the top two vote getters in the primary would proceed to the general election.

  • The ballot would list the party (if any) in which the candidate is registered, and would indicate which parties have endorsed the candidate and whose endorsement the candidate has accepted. This is a critical difference between this Measure and the Open Primary/ Top Two systems that exist in California and Washington where the candidate’s party registration or party “preference” is listed, but no party endorsements are listed.

  • M90 would not eliminate the role of parties; to the contrary it would give the voters far more information about the candidate, via party endorsements, than is presently available on a primary ballot.

  • Party endorsement processes would be subject to the general rule that “Each political party by rule shall insure the widest and fairest representation of party members in the party organization and activities. Rules shall be adopted by procedures that assure the fair and open participation of all interested party members.” (ORS 248.005) Endorsement processes would be subject to approval by the Secretary of State just as with minor party nomination processes under current law.

  • Minor parties could field candidates in the primary on an equal footing with major parties, or could choose to cross-endorse candidates from other parties. It is quite likely that in some districts, a minor party candidate would advance to the general election as one of the top two candidates as they have in the recent election in Washington State.

  • No party would “nominate” a candidate per se (except for Presidential elections where federal law prevails). Minor parties could maintain their ballot status through registering at least one half of one percent of the total number of registrants. It would presumably be much easier to obtain and retain minor party registrants when those registrants would no longer be barred from voting in the primary.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Senator Jeff Merkley: The Real Champion for LGBT Equality

September 11, 2014 - 2:20pm

By Roey Thorpe of Portland, Oregon. Roey works with the national LGBT equality movement. She is a former executive director of Basic Rights Oregon and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. Before coming to Oregon, Roey also served as a city councilwoman and acting mayor of Ithaca, New York.

I'm guessing that, like me, you were surprised to see that one of the plaintiffs in the court case that won the freedom to marry in Oregon is now featured supporting Senate candidate Monica Wehby in her latest TV commercial.

Everyone has the right to support the candidate of their choice, of course. But I wanted to take a moment to share why, as a long time leader in the LGBT community, I continue to be steadfast in my support of Senator Jeff Merkley and why I believe he is without question the real champion for LGBT equality in this race.

Senator Merkley’s unwavering support for fairness and equality for gay and transgender people dates back to his time in the Oregon State Legislature when I was Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. As Speaker of the Oregon House, Merkley led the effort to pass Oregon’s landmark non-discrimination law. And years before, when he was House Minority Leader, I watched in awe as he stood up in protest as the Republican leaders used procedural tricks to keep our bill from coming to a vote we would have won, and speaking up even as they gaveled him down time after time.

As our US Senator, Jeff Merkley has brought that same passion and grit to the job, and is known nationally as the champion for passing employment non-discrimination at the federal level.

The fight to win the freedom to marry in our state has been a long journey—much longer than any 55-day count down to Election Day could possibly reflect. There have been many champions along the way, including elected officials, volunteers, and most of all the loving, committed couples from all over this state who shared their stories of love and commitment.

Some of those champions were with us at the beginning, while others joined along the way and still others have voiced their support only now that the freedom to marry has been secured. Senator Merkley is one of the people who has not only been with us, but has been leading the way with courage and conviction for every single step of this journey.

All of the plaintiff couples deserve our thanks as we continue to celebrate this landmark decision. But that does not mean we all agree on every political issue. After all, the LGBT community, like all communities, is diverse in our opinions. Building statewide support for the freedom to marry took one of the largest, politically-diverse coalitions the state has ever seen. Our movement was strengthened by bringing together people of all political views, spiritual beliefs, and walks of life and continues to be strengthened by this diversity.

It is important that all of us who care about LGBT equality understand Senator Merkley’s leadership and perfect record. He has never wavered in his commitment to equality for LGBT people and I believe he deserves the same level of support in return. I am so proud that he is my US Senator and hope others will join me in supporting Senator Merkley.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

How Not to Manage Parking (Salem Edition)

September 11, 2014 - 9:42am

Downtown Salem has been facing a newfound lack of car parking.

Is it because Salem is getting many more visitors to the businesses? Nope. Is it because the population of Salem is booming? Nope. It is because Salem simply stopped, by and large, putting limits on parking.

The result: downtown businesses are suffering, as Michael Rose of The Statesman-Journal reported in “Free, unlimited parking clogs downtown district” a couple weeks ago:

Lack of on-street parking in the Downtown Parking District, once a sporadic problem, is a near constant irritant. Business owners rue the day in October when Salem City Council voted [remove limits on parking].... “We just aren’t getting the turnover that is critical to every single business down here,” said Lyn McPherson, co-owner of Whitlock’s Vacuum & Sewing Center.

In essence, the Council cut the price of a good (parking), driving up consumption -– while the supply has remained roughly the same. The result has been predictable –- drivers stuck circling the block, with some choosing to not shop downtown because it’s too hard to find a spot. It's bad for the environment, and it's bad for business.

Moreover, the parking subsidies for drivers are diverting millions of dollars in urban renewal money that could be used for other public priorities:

City officials confirmed that over the past six years, about $6 million in urban renewal funds have been used to pay for capital improvements in the city-owned parking garages, such as replacing worn-out elevators.

Parking isn’t rocket science. It’s actually a fascinating subject, deep in economics, human psychology, urban form, fairness and planning... among other issues. Professor Donald Shoup has studied the issue for decades, and written an 800 page treatise, "The High Cost of Free Parking."

There are significant costs when it comes to providing large amounts of space required to store people’s cars on public streets. In downtown business districts, especially, the best use of that space is not for long-term storage of an empty 4,000 pound piece of metal and plastic.

I wrote about smart parking management, and what San Francisco and Seattle were doing, on BlueOregon three years ago. A more recent article is Rex Burkholder’s forward-looking article on GoLocalPDX about parking in Portland.

But Salem doesn’t have to be a Portland or a San Francisco. It simply needs to follow the success of scores of other American cities its size and price parking.

Pricing parking right means spaces will be available for customers, which is what some businesses need to thrive. Pricing parking wrong (or having a zero cost) can mean no spaces, and fewer customers. That's why Salem’s Parking Task Force recommended paid on-street parking last year. The ability to find a parking spot has value, and most drivers are willing, however begrudgingly, to pay a bit for that value - rather than suffer through an exhausting search for a parking space.

Many citizens signed the petition that pressured the Salem City Council into gutting the minor parking controls they had. One wrote a 20-20 hindsight letter to the editor in February:

I was opposed to adding parking meters to the downtown area and signed a petition to prevent it. I, as many, were unaware that the city would eliminate the two-hour restriction that has caused a parking nightmare to occur.

The City Council recently decided to institute three-hour limits on parking. But hopefully, some citizens will realize it’s time for plan C – a plan includes pricing – and take the leadership needed to get the City Council to adopt that plan. Done right, and the results will be more turnover, more customers, less pollution, and more resources available for city improvement projects.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 90: “Top Two” elections deserve an honest debate. We’re not getting one from the Yes side.

September 6, 2014 - 11:28am

By Bill Bradbury of Bandon, Oregon. Bill is a former Senate President and Secretary of State of Oregon.

For an issue as important as election reform, the need for an honest debate is critical. There are few things as precious as our democratic system, and we shouldn’t subject it to dirty political tricks.

And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening with the Measure 90 (“top two” elections) campaign. Rather than having an honest conversation with voters about how the measure would impact Oregon’s future, the proponents of the measure are resorting to phony Voters’ Pamphlet statements and fake opposition websites.

The Yes on 90 campaign has set up a fake “no on 90” website that mocks the opponents of the measure and is meant to fool voters into thinking it’s the actual opposition campaign. I find this deeply dishonest and deceptive, and no way to have a discussion about something as important as how we elect our leaders.

The Yes campaign has also placed several arguments in the official Voters’ Pamphlet that pretend to be from the No side—these are in the section of the voters’ guide dedicated to arguments opposing the measure. The point appears to be to confuse voters about who’s opposing the measure and why. That’s a shameful misuse of a resource that voters depend on for important information.

Yes, I’m aware that other people in the past have put statements in the Voters’ Pamphlet on both Yes and No sides, but this is the first instance I can think of where a ballot measure campaign has used this tactic to intentionally misrepresent who they are to voters.

This is deeply disappointing, and Oregon voters deserve better than this. If we are going to dramatically change our elections system, we need a fair and honest debate. These fake arguments and websites are designed to deceive and it should not be rewarded.

If the backers of Measure 90 think they have good answers to the many real criticisms presented by opponents of the measure, let’s hear ‘em. But these phony, malicious tactics undermine the seriousness of the measure’s impacts and really only show that the Yes side apparently feels they can’t win in an honest debate.

Find out more about the campaign to oppose Measure 90.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Modern-Day Labor Day: Finding the Humanity in Business

September 5, 2014 - 12:00pm

By Angelica Maduell of Portland, Oregon. Angelica is a freelance writer, marketer and political activist.

The modern meaning of Labor Day is lost amongst traffic jams, crowded campgrounds, and forgetful barbecues. For most Americans, it’s simply another 3-day weekend: a day off work. For others, it’s an opportunity for overtime. For many more, it’s a Monday they have to wake up, go to work and get paid the same as every other day.

Many of those who didn’t get the day off are small business owners. These hard-working Americans are on their own in the economy, playing on a field sponsored by multi-national corporations. Outnumbered, they fight to get their voices heard above the clamor of political and profit-focused ideology. Their message proves that there isn’t just one type of business in America, and there isn’t just one voice of business.

Business is made up of individuals. Each individual person deserves the respect we would want for our neighbors, our loved ones and ourselves. Individual Americans, the media and the government need to recognize the humanity that lies beneath the bottom-line.

The Main Street Alliance of Oregon works with small business owners that are taking steps to recognize and nurture the humanity in business. The challenge these small business owners face is that their competition refuses to play by these new rules.

The American people have demanded a rules-change since before Labor Day began. The minimum wage, the 40-hour workweek, and child labor laws were the first basic recognitions of humanity won when Labor Day was young. Now workers fight for earned sick time, affordable health care, affordable childcare, and access to credit.

Each business that takes on these new rules, and each city that passes supportive proposals, is helping to turn the economy away from the single-mindedness that drove us into a recession. Profit on Wall Street should not be the only navigational tool by which we drive the American economy. We need to include employee measurements into the toolbox.

The average American’s level of stress, whether financial, emotional or physical, already silently affects the economy—and the effect has been a shrinking middle class. If we want our middle class to be restored, more businesses need to take a stand and do what’s right for the modern employee. Maybe then the meaning of Labor Day will resonate with every American, and they can celebrate the American value to uphold humanity—even in business.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs