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Health Care for ALL Children

5 hours 11 min ago

At the Oregon Center for Public Policy, we believe that all Oregon children should have access to health care services. To further that goal, the Center partnered with the Oregon Latino Health Coalition to produce the report Health Care for All Children: Oregon Thrives When All Children Have a Chance to Grow Up Healthy (PDF).

Why did the Center write the Health Care for All Children? Because all children deserve the chance to succeed in school and life, and staying healthy is key to that success. Seeing a doctor when needed gives children an opportunity to make the most of school and build better lives.

Guaranteeing that all children have health insurance would benefit all Oregonians, not just the kids getting the new insurance coverage. Research shows that increasing health insurance coverage among children leads to a decline in high school drop-out rates and to an increase in college attendance and college completion. Ultimately, those improved education outcomes translate to a more skilled workforce that can strengthen Oregon’s economy.

Read the short (5 page) report to learn about the problem: Health Care for All Children: Oregon Thrives When All Children Have a Chance to Grow Up Healthy (PDF).

Chuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The No on 92 Campaign's $14 Million Grand Deception

October 23, 2014 - 4:15pm

Of all the sound bites gushing forth from the No on 92’s PR spin machine opposing GMO labeling, one stands out as a masterpiece of deception.

From their website:

“Would Measure 92 end up costing taxpayers?

Yes. Measure 92 would create two new state bureaucracies to enforce and implement its costly regulations. The Oregon Department of Administrative Services staff estimated that inspection programs to enforce Measure 92 would cost taxpayers more than $14 million every budget cycle.”

The $14 million figure is everywhere – in their ads, in the Voters' Pamphlet and on the lips of the PR professionals their campaign has hired to do their debating for them.

Yet the actual, official cost estimate from the Secretary of State’s office is that Measure 92 is “expected to result in direct expenditures by State agencies for initial one-time start-up costs estimated at between $550,000 and $600,000.”

This comes to a one-time cost of 15 cents per Oregonian for work performed by current staff.

So where did this $14 million figure come from?

The No campaign presents it as the final word. But that’s not the case at all – it was only a preliminary, internal memo that came from the Oregon Dept. of Administrative Services (DAS). Here’s what the No campaign isn’t telling you about the DAS memo:

  1. It took the figures from the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture.
  2. It considered the $14 million ongoing costs as only one of several possible scenarios. Another scenario in the same document pegged the ongoing costs at only $573,044. But this lower cost figure never saw the light of day in the No campaign’s slick advertising.
  3. It was only one document out of many presented as testimony to the state financial impact committee that determined the final cost estimate, which included Secretary of State Kate Brown, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Michael Jordan, DAS director.
  4. Neither DAS scenario made the final cut, which was the official one-time $550,000 - $600,000 estimate. Any future costs were indeterminate.

DAS spokesperson Matt Shelby concurs: “The DAS memo presented a range of potential enforcement items, the $14 million being the most costly. The state financial impact committee chose not to include either one of them.”

There were very good reasons for not accepting any of the DAS figures for ongoing costs. First and foremost, the initiative doesn’t require any new government infrastructure.

The enforcement of Measure 92 is notable for its simplicity and lack of red tape. It’s private citizen-initiated and consists of just three steps:

  1. If anyone suspects that a food manufacturer or retailer is breaking the law by not labeling, they notify the state Attorney General’s office.
  2. The AG’s office decides if they want to take legal action. If they do, it goes through the existing court system.
  3. If the AG’s office decides not to take action after 60 days, the individual, business or organization is free to independently pursue legal action.

That’s it. No “two new state bureaucracies,” no need for additional staff, testing equipment, lab analysis, etc.

So the next time you see anything with $14 million government costs for Measure 92, you can place it in the proper waste receptacle.

And then, hopefully, you’ll vote Yes so we can start getting the transparency we deserve in our food purchases.

Because we’re sure not getting any transparency from the No campaign.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The facts tell us: M90 won't work

October 23, 2014 - 3:42pm

The claim: M90 – aka “Unified Primary” – will increase voter participation by giving all voters the same choices on the same ballot. No more partisan primaries; a single, unified primary where everyone votes for the same candidates, the Top 2 winners moving on to the general election.

Here’s the problem: We already do that, and it doesn’t work.

Some primaries are, of course, partisan: President, Congress, statewide offices (except BOLI Commissioner), and the Legislature. But many primaries are non-partisan: county, city, Metro, judges, ballot measures, school boards and most municipal boards. That means in almost every primary election, all voters do get a unified ballot. Regardless of party registration, every voter has the same choices, and the top two from that ballot move on to the general election.

And how has it worked? Not so hot. Here are turn-out numbers from Multnomah County for the past decade.

ElectionTurnout - allTurnout - DemTurnout - RepTurnout - non May 201432.7%39.0%38.9%20.0% May 201240.0%46.9%41.9%24.4% May 201035.3%40.5%43.6%18.5% May 200860.2%76.7%50.8%30.1% May 200636.0%42.0%41.6%20.7% May 200445.3%53.3%47.4%28.2%

Lesson #1: No one votes in primary elections. Only in 2008, with a presidential primary and no eligible incumbent, did turnout top 50%. Not even Democrats and Republicans, who supposedly have the range of choices that M90 tell us will lead to greater participation, turn in half their ballots. Why should we believe that non-affiliated voters will vote at rates that Ds and Rs do not?

Lesson #2: Because even though non-affiliated voters have a full, unified ballot when it comes to non-partisan races, they don’t use it. And many of these races are critical. Here’s a look at what we voted for in Multnomah County in recent primaries:

May 2014
Multnomah County Chair: Kafoury-Francesconi
Multnomah County Commission: Bailey-Wilson; Smith-Raiford

May 2012
Portland Mayor: Hales-Smith-Brady
Portland City Council: Fritz-Nolan
Multnomah County Library bond & 9 Portland measures

May 2010
Multnomah County Chair: Cogen-Darger
Multnomah County Commission: Smith-Collymore-7 others
Metro President: Hughes-Burkholder-Stacey
2 statewide measures

May 2008
Multnomah County Commission: Shiprack-Delmon; Piluso-McKeel
Portland Mayor: Adams-Dozono
Portland City Council: Fritz-Lewis-others; Fish-Middaugh-others

May 2006
Multnomah County Chair: Wheeler-Linn
Multnomah County Commission: Cogen-Frederick
Multnomah County Auditor: March-Griffin-Valade

May 2004
Multnomah County Commission: DeSteffey-Dugan, Naito-McCarthy-Burket, Roberts-Stout
Metro: Liberty-Monroe
Portland Mayor: Potter-Francesconi-others
Portland City Council: Adams-Fish, Leonard-others

Friends and neighbors, these are not insignificant offices. The top offices are not only critical to the region’s future, but they received considerable media coverage. Consider the Portland Mayor race in 2012: Approximately 2 million candidates, about 1,000 debates and forums, and intense media coverage. And the result?

Turnout in Portland was 42%. A unified ballot, and 42% of the voters even bothered to vote. And non-affiliateds voted at less than half that rate. Hell, if it weren’t for a Democratic turnout of 64%, the overall results would have been even worse. And it’s not like Dems had anything important on their ballot: the biggest primary choice across the Dem ballot was for Attorney General (Holton-Rosenblum) and there were over 14,000 Dems who didn’t even cast a vote in that – about 14% of Democratic voters. Democrats turned out to vote for Mayor — and no one else did.

Primary election after primary election, non-affiliateds get exactly the same ballot choice as Democrats and Republicans on some of the most important offices and issues, and they respond by exercising their right to let other people make their electoral decisions for them.

And if having the option to vote for candidates for partisan office were offered, and we were to expect the NAVs to vote as do Ds and Rs, that would still mean over half them wouldn’t be bothering. We’d still have an overall turnout below fifty percent in Multnomah County. If NAVs don’t vote now when they have what amounts to a unified ballot, how can anyone believe that giving them a few more offices to vote on is going to make any difference?

Recent voting history tells us: M90 won’t work.

The solution? Let’s not screw around with an election that is ignored by over half the electorate except in extraordinary circumstances. They cost us millions of dollars and result in outcomes decided by a minority of voters, whether it’s a partisan or non-partisan race. Let’s dump primaries and move to a true unified ballot: Instand Runoff Voting.

IRV was made for Oregon: paper ballots mailed out three weeks before the election and a nice, big voter’s guide that arrives even sooner. There are different ways to apply IRV, and from these methods we can likely develop a system that works with vote-by-mail. IRV + VBM = everyone with the same, exact ballot and only one election to be concerned with. And we know that voters turn out in good-for-democratic-outcomes numbers November. How much more so if that’s the only election in the year and everyone has a full slate of candidates to choose from?

But here’s the problem: If we pass M90, any further reforms will be impossible for the next decade. If M90 passes, the response to trying anything else will be, “Let’s give this a chance to work.” Real reform will be put off while we learn the sad lesson about Top 2 systems: they don’t work. In Oregon, we know M90 won’t work because we already do unified ballots, and those don’t work.

Let’s not get suckered by arguments built on fantasy – If you pass it, they will vote – which are easily refuted by actual facts. Let’s vote No on Measure 90 and then, in 2015, let’s begin the movement towards a real reform that will work in Oregon: Instant Runoff Voting.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

#ProtectAllWomen: Gabby Giffords Tours the Country to Raise Awareness of Gun Violence Against Women

October 23, 2014 - 3:23pm

Over 60% of intimate partner related homicide is committed with firearms, as compared to approximately 50% for all Oregon homicides. Of the intimate partner related homicides in Oregon between 2003 and 2010, women killed by their current or ex- spouse or partner accounted for 53% of the victims. (Men are more commonly killed by someone other than their partner, such as officers responding to a domestic violence scene, or their partner’s ex). Since 2010 there have multiple incidents of men fatally shooting their wives and children and sometimes themselves in Oregon. In August 2012 a colleague of mine was fatally shot by her daughter’s estranged boyfriend, a convicted felon with a history of domestic violence. Her daughter was also shot but survived.

Oregon law, unlike federal law, does not specifically limit the possession of firearms by domestic violence offenders. This is one of many challenges for both Oregon and federal agencies seeking to protect domestic violence victims and prosecute offenders. Other barriers to domestic violence intervention include lack of resources, complexity of the problem and administrative issues such as restrictions on sharing information regarding gun purchases between state and federal agencies.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. On October 21, a coalition of local violence prevention and gun safety organizations held a Round Table with former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Americans for Responsible Solutions. ARS is the 501(c)(4) advocacy organization started by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly after she retired from Congress in the wake of the 2011 mass shooting by a mentally ill man during a constituent event in Tucson. The Portland visit was part of a series of appearances and events for ARS’s #ProtectAllWomen campaign.

There were approximately 20 participants at the Round Table held at Grant High School, including both public officials and representatives from non-profits. Amanda Marshall, the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, participated actively in the discussion, as did Oregon House Representative Barbara Smith-Warner (D45), retired Gresham police chief Carla Piluso and representatives from the Oregon Department of Justice, the ATF and Multnomah County Domestic Violence Services. Non-profit and advocacy organizations present included several domestic violence prevention and service agencies, The Q Center, the YWCA, the Oregon chapter of NOW, the Oregon chapter of the American Medical Association, Moms Demand Action and Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership.

Most of the discussion focused on background checks, inter-agency coordination and prevention of domestic violence through addressing the root causes (objectification of women, sexual violence, poverty and economic limitations for poor women and single mothers). ARS provided information on some background check legislation at the federal level, but there was a tacit understanding that attempts to regulate firearms in Oregon are difficult. To the extent there are administrative rules that can be changed to allow sharing information that may an opportunity to improve enforcement, but generally any attempt to even scrutinize gun sales draws comment from gun rights organizations.

ARS has two primary objectives, to increase background checks and reduce gun trafficking. If they advocate legislation specific to domestic violence or women’s services, it is secondary or incidental. However, the round table discussion was wide ranging because the organizers and ARS appear to want to build coalitions across a broad spectrum of interest groups. Also, effective domestic violence prevention is complex and the ideal policy goal is to prevent intimate partner assaults and homicide well before gun control is even in question.

Giffords herself made very brief and general prepared remarks at the beginning about preventing gun violence against women. The 2011 shooting left her with permanent speech, vision and walking impediments, but she travels frequently and is active promoting ARS’s objectives. The opportunity to participate in a dialogue with her even indirectly was both a draw and an inspiration for the attendees. Although no specific proposals came out of the evening, it drew a number of different groups to one place at one time to learn from one another. The degree of difficulty collaborating between state and federal agencies was clearly a surprise to a number of the attendees. Everyone appeared to leave energized.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 86 will make college more affordable and reduce student debt

October 21, 2014 - 12:00pm

By Ted Wheeler of Portland, Oregon. Ted is Oregon’s State Treasurer and a sixth generation Oregonian.

As you consider your vote, I urge you to vote Yes on Measure 86.

All Oregonians should have a shot at a college education and the job skills needed to compete in today's economy. Measure 86 is a simple and responsible plan to increase financial aid for middle class students and those fighting to get into the middle class.

Measure 86 has three goals: 1) to make Oregon universities and community colleges more affordable and accessible to students; 2) to reduce student debt; and 3) to encourage the expansion of vocational and technical job training opportunities.

National studies confirm what Oregon employers are telling us: advanced education and technical job training are becoming more important than ever in our skills-based economy. People with a college education or equivalent job training earn far more over the course of their careers than people without. The gap is large, and growing.

Unfortunately, Oregon is moving in the wrong direction. Our support for higher education is among the lowest in the nation. On a per capita basis, South Carolina spends seven times what we do on student aid. Of every five qualified applicants for Oregon Opportunity Grants, only one receives any financial support at all.

We are leaving too many students behind, and we do so at the peril of our state’s long-term economic competitiveness. Oregon needs new thinking to get us off the bottom of these lists and regain our relevance in the global economy.

Measure 86 gives the legislature the ability to create a permanent, growing endowment dedicated to student financial aid and vocational programs, and allows the legislature to seed the endowment with a prudent mix of direct appropriations, limited bond sales, and philanthropic contributions.

Measure 86 does not raise taxes – it merely gives the legislature improved financial options to make better use of the resources they already have. No guarantees will be made by the state regarding benefits or rates of return. The state’s Financial Estimate Commission ruled that Measure 86 has “no financial impact” on the state. The endowment will be locked and cannot be raided by the legislature for other purposes.

Here’s how it would work if bonds were issued to seed the endowment: The legislature would authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds. The Treasury would then sell the bonds. The annual cost to taxpayers would be determined at that time, and the cost would be the same, fixed amount each year for 30 years. That amount would be in the state’s budget along with payments for all other bonded projects.

In any given budget cycle, the Legislature must remain within its existing bonding capacity. Measure 86 does that. It has never been proposed that bonds issued as a result of Measure 86 exceed that conservative, prudent limit.

Some have noted that this is neither a costless or riskless strategy, but if Oregon had invested $100 million in this strategy 30 years ago (at the low bond rates available to us now), today the endowment would be worth $474 million while providing $351 million in student aid. If we had decided to go big and invested $500 million, today the endowment would be worth $2.37 billion while providing $1.7 billion in student aid.

While not everyone wants or needs a college degree, everyone needs access to the job skills necessary to thrive in today’s economy. Measure 86 will help leverage private sector partnerships with community colleges to expand training opportunities. That’s a win for students who gain important skills, for the institutions that increase enrollment and businesses that gain access to a qualified workforce.

Measure 86 is a potential game changer when it comes to advanced education and job training. Don’t just take my word for it. A broad coalition has come together to support Measure 86:

  • Labor organizations like SEIU, AFSCME, The American Federation of Teachers Oregon, the Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Education Association.
  • Business organizations like the Oregon Business Association, the Portland Business Alliance and the Main Street Alliance.
  • Education leaders from Oregon universities and community colleges.
  • Community organizations like the Oregon League of Women Voters, the City Club of Portland, Basic Rights Oregon and the Oregon PTA.

Over time, Measure 86 will create a strong competitive advantage for Oregon’s economy – a permanent, growing endowment to develop and maintain a world-class workforce. I urge you to join a broad coalition of labor, business, education, and community leaders to vote Yes on Measure 86.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

OR-5: The race that wasn't

October 21, 2014 - 5:26am

For the last several election cycles, Congressman Kurt Schrader has faced tough (-ish) opposition. But here in 2014, it's been a bit of a snooze-fest.

Daily Kos Elections took the time on Monday to notice:

While Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader holds a competitive Salem-area seat, he's been a very tough target for the GOP. Team Red initially had some hope that Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith could give him a race, but her fundraising has been downright awful. Smith only raised $49,000 during her entire campaign, and no outside groups are getting involved here. It doesn't look like this one is going anywhere.

That's right. In a competitive swing district, the GOP nominee -- not a nobody, mind you; but a former state legislator and current county commissioner -- has raised just $49,000 over the entire campaign.

It kinda makes you wonder why Tootie Smith even bothered to run.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Driver’s Cards (Measure 88) is a Women’s Issue

October 20, 2014 - 4:03pm

In this election, Oregon residents have the opportunity to vote Yes on Measure 88, affirming the bi-partisan actions taken by the Oregon legislature and Governor Kitzhaber in 2013 to extend the right to drive to all people living in our state. This law would have ensured that recent immigrants, the elderly temporary workers and more could take a driver’s test, get auto insurance, and then drive safely and legally. As they should.

While the law ensured that those driving were well-equipped and could do so without fear, it is now on hold, pending an attempted recall through Measure 88. This, despite the fact that the right to drive affects so many throughout the state, as reflected by the list of the measure's endorsers – public safety officials, business owners, unions, communities of color, women’s organizations, and more.

Oregon NOW has proudly endorsed the measure – for us, it was a no brainer -- it affects so many Oregon women. Why?

It’s about women’s safety. Women walking alone at night can face harassment, assault and more. The safety of a car can empower women to ensure their own security and that of their families.

It’s about women’s families. Women are (still) the primary caretakers of their families – the ones driving their elderly relatives to doctor’s appointments, their infants to well-child check-ups, their kids to school and so many other necessary trips. In many instances, these trips can be lengthy -- and harrowing if a relative is facing mobility issues or compromised health. Plus, buses don’t run frequently enough or in the middle of the night (or at all in some parts of the state!) should there be an emergency. Women, doing so much for others, deserve to be able to drive safely.

It’s about women’s jobs. After taking care of all that we take care of, there may be little time left for a long commute. For many women, taking care of their families means working more than one job, leaving little time between shifts to get from one place to another, or from their child care to work on time. Women deserve to be able to drive to earn a living for themselves and their families.

It’s about women’s health. Women should be able to do more than take care of their families’ health, they should be able to take care of their own. They deserve to be able to drive to their doctors’ offices, pharmacists and more.

Finally, it’s about all of our safety. All Oregon families deserve to have safe roads, with skilled, insured drivers -- Measure 88 will ensure just that.

I can drive and ensure my safety, my own health and that of my family, and my professional commitments. It shouldn’t matter that I happen to be an American citizen, that my own luck of the draw was that I was born here. My commitments and my family don’t matter more than anyone else's. Nor is my family somehow more deserving. Women's safety, families, jobs and health matter equally, regardless of birthplace. Let’s vote human to human on this one.

For aspiring citizens, for women, for us all, please, vote Yes on Measure 88 by November 4th.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The mask is off: Measure 90 is for Republicans

October 19, 2014 - 12:21pm

Whoa. Until now, the folks behind Measure 90 liked to portray themselves as good-government types. "Hey, let's just open up our elections to more people." -- an argument that sounds lovely on its face.

But this weekend, with ballots in hand, the Yes on 90 campaign sent Republican voters in Portland a piece of mail that rips the mask right off.

Make no mistake. Measure 90 is designed to help Republicans. Check it out (click to zoom):

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 89 provides equality for the majority of Oregonians (50.5%) who are women and girls.

October 19, 2014 - 9:00am

By Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo of Portland, Oregon. Leanne is the chief petitioner for Measure 89 and founder and president of VoteERA.org

Why is it important to vote YES on Measure 89?

  1. Women are not equal in the Oregon Constitution.

  2. Women are not equal in Oregon case law as there is an exception for “biological differences.” Current case law exempts discriminatory laws that are “justified” by specific “biological differences” between men and women and measure 89 would remove that exemption.

  3. Women are not equal in the United States Constitution.

Measure 89 will establish state policy banning discrimination based on sex. The language of Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution, written in 1857, has not changed. Under it women could not vote, could not serve on juries, most could not own property, and women still do not have equal pay for equal work.

Measure 89 will provide momentum for women’s equality in the U.S. Constitution by engaging all those who are still working on the federal ERA to follow Oregon’s lead. After 91 years the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has still not been added to the U.S. Constitution, even though it has been introduced in Congress every single year since 1923. It passed in Congress once in the 70s but fell three states short of the deadline for ratification.

The U.S. Constitution still does not adequately protect women.

"Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't.” US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (2011).

Four former Oregon Supreme Court Justices took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter in favor of Measure 89 to debunk several arguments made by detractors. Their June 2014 letter -- signed by former justices Paul De Muniz, Michael Gillette, William Riggs and George Van Hoomissen -- made clear that women do not have the strongest protection in the Oregon Constitution. They said:

“... no current provision in the Constitution expressly provides those protections ... Instead, the protections available to women are present as a result of case law... Measure 89 would remove the biological differences exception.”

This is why women would ultimately have full equality.

One detractor says others’ rights could be affected by passage of an Oregon ERA. The former justices stated:

“The text of the ERA itself provides that nothing in it will diminish the rights of any group under any provision of the Oregon Constitution. ... Oregon’s Office of Legislative Counsel has also issued opinions further supporting that nothing in ERA proposal will diminish the rights of any other group. At least 22 states have adopted equal rights amendments in their constitutions. Not one of the ‘concerns’ voiced by [detractors] has ever come to pass in those states.”

The Justices concluded their letter with another reference to the detractors of the measure:

“They are mistaken to oppose passage of the Oregon ERA. We believe that passage of the Oregon ERA will acknowledge the contributions and importance of more than 50% of our citizens by finally providing women express recognition in our state’s most important document, its constitution.”

The women who originally obtained the right of women to vote in Oregon needed to resort to the initiative just as we have. On five separate occasions, Oregonian editor Harvey Scott was against women gaining the right to vote even though his sister was Abigail Scott Duniway, the leader of the suffragist movement of the Pacific Northwest and the first woman to vote in Oregon in 1912. But the women prevailed.

Measure 89 has broad bipartisan support. In addition to the four former Oregon Supreme Court Justices, former Court of Appeals Judge David Schuman, former Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer, and Oregon Women Lawyers, Measure 89 is endorsed by a long list of organizations, elected officials, community leaders, and Oregonians from all over the state which include U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, State Senator Margaret Carter, YWCA, NAACP of Eugene, Oregon Business Association, League of Women Voters, Democratic Party of Oregon, Clackamas County Republican Party, AFSCME and many more.

Please join me in voting “yes” on Measure 89.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Convoluted Republican Attack Ads Undermine Traffic Safety

October 17, 2014 - 6:46pm

The Willamette Week is reporting attacks from various Republican candidates on candidates who support a law allowing undocumented immigrants to go through license testing and get driver's cards. That law has since been subject to referendum, and has become Measure 88.

The specific mailer from Sen. Alan Olsen attacked Jamie Dimon with a list traffic deaths involving undocumented immigrants; it is apparently is similar to other mailers attacking other Democratic candidates.

As someone who's worked on traffic safety for years, I appreciate taking traffic deaths seriously, as they are one of the leading preventable causes of years of life lost (roughly 400 Oregonians die every year in traffic deaths). But listing people who died in traffic crashes before this law went into effect is convoluted logic.

Instead, those who could bear some responsibility are those who have pushed to continue the current system -- that prohibits undocumented immigrants from going through the testing needed to get a driver's card.

Under the law, drivers will need to pass Oregon's written and behind-the-wheel driver test, as well as follow current Oregon law regarding proof of insurance.

Without such a law, the incentive is for undocumented immigrants to drive without a license, without a test, without insurance. How is that safer than what Measure 88 would allow?

And that's why groups that work on traffic safety issues, such as the Oregon Public Health Association, Upstream Public Health, Oregon Walks and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, back Measure 88.

The mailer lies further, claiming such driver's cards would give bearers the ability to board an airliner, which is explicitly does not do.

But what's critical is understanding how areas that rely on driving set up no-win situations. Ramiro S., a supporter of Measure 88, notes:

“Late one night, around 2 AM, my three-year-old son started screaming in pain. He was extremely ill and I didn’t know what was wrong. I couldn’t calm him down and he only screamed louder in pain. I was filled with immense fear but also anger at having to chose between driving illegally or taking care of my only son and getting him to a hospital.

Those smearing Measure 88's supporters with the traffic deaths under the pre-Measure 88 system should be ashamed of themselves. Our roads must be made safer; undermining that law undermines safety.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Why vote against Measure 90? Because it's pointless. And unnecessary.

October 17, 2014 - 12:06pm

I want to begin this piece with a secret that I rarely share: In 2000, I voted for George W. Bush.

Now, before you react in horror and shout "Shame!" while branding me with some sort of Scarlet Letter, let me provide context. At the time, I was a 21-year old registered Democrat casting a ballot in Washington State's primary. Al Gore was the confirmed Democratic nominee, riding on the coattails of Bill Clinton's successful presidential administration despite an effort by Bill Bradbury Bradley (How embarrassing! Clearly I've been an Oregonian for quite some time!) to challenge from the left. In fact, if memory serves me well, by the time Washington held its spring primary, Bradley had conceded his challenge to Gore, resulting in only one candidate on the ballot for me to "vote" for as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Indeed, the hotly contested race at the time was on the Republican side, between self-proclaimed "maverick" John McCain and Dubya. Too many intelligent people who I respected expressed support for McCain's supposed centrism, enough that I was concerned he would mount more of a serious challenge against Gore in the general election. And Dubya was clearly unfit to be President, so it made much more sense that--instead of wasting my primary vote on the already-confirmed Al Gore--I should do my part to make sure the unelectable George W. Bush made it through to the general. (Smart thinking, that.)

And I was able to (foolishly) cast this vote for Dubya as a registered Democrat. Why? Because, at the time, Washington State had an open primary system. You could walk into the voting booth (the last time I ever used such an arcane form of voting) and could mark your support for any candidate regardless of the party you were registered for.

Of course, primary elections in Washington State are now closed--just as they are in Oregon. Meaning that only party-members get to vote in the spring for the candidate that offers the best chance of wining the election in the fall.

However, just because I'm a Democratic-leaning voter in a closed-primary state does not mean I haven't cast a primary ballot for a Republican in a primary election over the past decade. For example, without a strong primary challenger to incumbent Governor Kulongoski in the 2006 Governor elections, I was much more interested in casting a ballot in that year's Republican primary. As such, I changed my affiliation to cast a ballot for Ron Saxton over arch-conservative Kevin Mannix, ensuring that a Portland-based public schools lawyer would be the Republican standard-bearer in the rural, conservative corners of the state, where each of these three (Portland-based, public schools, lawyer) would make Saxton unpalatable to conservative voters. Major media outlets viewed Kulongoski as a vulnerable candidate, only to express surprise how he easily won re-election on Election Night.

Of course, I'm not taking any sort of credit for Kulongoski's re-election. And changed my party affiliation to cast a ballot in the hotly contested Obama-Hillary primary of 2008.

I'm providing all this background information to illustrate the following point: In Oregon's closed primary system, it is the easiest thing in the world to change your party affiliation o you can cast a vote for the candidate of your choosing in the spring primary. Just how easy is it? A simple call to the Secretary of State's office will inform you that all it takes to change the party your registered with is to fill out a new voter registration form-- which can be accessed either online or at your local County Elections office or at the DMV or at the library or at the many other convenient places where such forms can be accessed--or simply use your Oregon state driver's license or ID to change your party registration with one simple mouse click on the Secretary of State's MyVote website.

Supporters of Measure 90--commonly referred to as the "Top Two" primary initiative--make the claim that Oregon's current closed primary system is "broken" as it effectively locks out thousands of voters who choose not to be affiliated with any of the state's political parties. The closed primary system, the argument goes, makes it so others decide which candidates will be on the ballot in the general election for these voters to choose form. To this contention, I respond with the following: Do you want to vote in the primary election? Then change your registration with a simple click on a website or by visiting your local library, and you can do so. It's really that simple.

And then, after the primary election, you can easily change your registration to continue touting your independent, unaffiliated stance--untainted by partisan politics.

Purists may have issues with my history of casting primary ballots for odious candidates on the "other side," but I'm not going to argue for being politically informed and knowledgeable enough to try and get easily defeatable candidates on the ballot--or voting in support of candidates from my party that I support. The idea of a closed primary makes sense in theory--Democratic voters should decide who should best represent the Democratic party in the general election, and the same should apply on the Republican side. But if the idea that Oregon's primary system is "broken" does have any merit, then advocating for a truly open primary--in which all voters could choose from all candidates--provides for an easy fix. (And would make it unnecessary for me to change my registration to cast a ballot in contested primaries.)

Currently, Democratic voters have a huge advantage over Republicans when it comes to the amount of voters split between the two parties by a 56-44 percent margin. If Measure 90 were to pass, one (arguably intended) result would be the prevalence of races in which the "top two" candidates come from the same party. In the case of House Districts or other areas that lean heavily on one side versus the other, this would result in the election lasting beyond the spring primary. No longer would whoever wins in May effectively win the election over token opposition by the minority party in the general election. As a supporter of Democratic candidates, one might think I'd support of race between two similarly-minded candidates which would lead to a healthy discussion of issues that matter the most to me. And I would, except for one reason: repeatedly it has shown that over 90 percent of the time the better-funded candidate wins the election. As such, it wouldn't be the "marketplace of ideas" that decides an election between two candidates from the same party, but such an election would simply be decided by the marketplace. After a Measure 90 primary result leads to two candidates from the same party duking it out, they would spend the prevailing months trying to raise money instead of raising support from voters.

Little wonder that outside moneyed interests are pumping millions in support of the Measure 90 campaign, as it would result in a situation where close races could potentially be bought via the infusion of cash.

I understand the logic of attempting to extend the elections past the primary--nothing should be considered locked up or "safe" six months before the general election. But we could examine other options to extend elections, including gerrymandering reform, if necessary (which doesn't seem to apply Oregon as much as other states.) Or we could implement a truly open primary system in which all voters are able to cast a ballot in support of all primary candidates. Or, heck, the state Republican and Democratic parties could recruit strong candidates to challenge in these heavily-leaning districts, candidates willing to buck the party line and take the necessary progressive or conservative stances when necessary to win the votes of their electorate.

But the argument that the current primary system effectively silences the voices of thousands of voters and therefore requires the passage of Measure 90 does not pass the smell test, especially when it is so easy to change party affiliation in the state of Oregon. Voters' desire for independence or nonpartisan affiliation is not sacrosanct enough to enact a primary system that may result in a general election more susceptible to the influence of outside moneyed interests.

And for these reasons, there really is no other option but to Vote No on Measure 90.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

To everyone who already voted: thanks!

October 17, 2014 - 10:42am

By Kelley Meck of Portland, Oregon. Kelley is a campaign professional turned law student at Lewis & Clark Law School.

Here's the simple reason why you should vote as soon as you can: the sooner you vote, the more you help campaigns save time & trouble talking to you, and focus on undecided and maybe voters and get good information to them and remind them to vote. That's good for Democrats, often, because it means more people vote overall, but it is also good for small-d democracy, because it means a wiser allocation of effort spent creating an informed and engaged citizenry to make choices for the future.

There's a side-benefit too. Once you vote, campaigns will focus their door-to-door efforts, phone-calls and mailers on folks who haven't voted yet.

You may ask, why do they call me? Why do they knock on my door? You were going to vote anyway, you say. Well, sure, maybe you were. But lots of people need reminding--that's just science. Literally, science: i.e. double-blind randomized studies conducted by scientists repeatedly find that more people vote when they are reminded in a personalized, one-on-one kind of way.

Here are some other things you can do to ensure a good turn-out this year:

  1. Get excited. Excitement is contagious.
  2. Remind yourself and others that millions of people are voting all across Oregon (not to mention the country). Everyone is doing it. Some are even doing it early.
  3. Volunteer with a campaign near you to help build excitement. For one, there are several very competitive state senate races this year.
Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

If an oil train derailed in Oregon...

October 17, 2014 - 10:28am

It's a scary thing if you think about it.

Last year, 19,000 rail cars filled with crude oil came through Oregon. Fortunately, none of them derailed, crashed, or exploded.

But other places in North America haven't been so lucky. In 2013, 42 people were killed in Quebec when a train derailed. The explosion destroyed 30 buildings in the small town of Lac-Megantic. Trains have also derailed and exploded in North Dakota, Alabama, and Virginia -- sometimes sending up huge fireballs.

There are good questions about whether these trains should be delivering oil at all -- and if they can be made safer.

But one no-brainer is this: If an oil train is coming through your town, shouldn't local firefighters be notified in advance? Shouldn't local police be notified in advance? The only thing worse than an oil train derailment is an oil train derailment that happens when first responders are unavailable or unprepared.

That's why BlueOregon Action has partnered with Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Ron Wyden, and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici to call on the Department of Transportation to change its rules -- and require advance notice of oil trains to first responders.

There's a lot to debate about oil trains. But notifying first responders? There should be no debate at all.

Sign our petition and make your voice heard.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Merkley: "Call me a progressive"

October 16, 2014 - 11:34am

It's taking off like a viral video storm across the country -- with sharing by Senator Elizabeth Warren and even comedian Bill Maher.

What's that? It's the moment in the Senate debate on Tuesday night in which Senator Jeff Merkley was asked if he was comfortable being called a "progressive".

Check out his answer:

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

WATCH LIVE: Merkley vs. Wehby Debate

October 14, 2014 - 1:04pm

Starting at 7 p.m., Senator Jeff Merkley and Dr. Monica Wehby will face off in their only televised debate, hosted by KOBI in Medford.

Watch live here:

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

NO on 90, AGAIN!

October 14, 2014 - 1:02pm

So this is what 1.5 million buys you - a nifty Mercedes Sprinter van with slogans and color schemes pandering to Portland Hipsters.

DUDE, where's your values?!

In the cacophony of political messaging, campaigners do their best to market the right message to the right folks. But sometimes it's so over the top it's just obnoxious. Enter the purveyors of Measure 90, a small but wealthy lot of investors, equity managers and CEOs that are 99.5 % of the financial support of this M 65 Redux. They take condescending to a new level as these hucksters try to tell you that M 90 is cool.

It's crap.

These fellas think if they drop in enough out-of-state dough, they can convince most Oregon voters that up is down, that green is red and that M. 90 is for the "Good of the People". It's for the good of their bottom line. The huge money they're investing will overwhelm us with well-polled & focused messages, and they hope their investment will rework the Oregon election system so dramatically that it will pay huge dividends in the form of friendly legislation for their business interests.

What, I don't believe that 90 would "empower voters" ? Nope, and it's not just because I am too old to be a hipster. Precise and well researched messaging may be appealing, but the truly empowered voter should be tuned into the real intentions behind a measure so heavily funded from out-of-state. Really, why would some rich Texan dump a million and 1/2 into lil' ol Orygun? Why are the funders of this thing all club members of the 1%? The intentions that bring you Measure 90 are clear as the $25,000, $30,000 and $50,000 donation chunks that are dropped into the YES coffers. These big spenders know the old saw - to make money, you've got to spend money. And if they succeed, not only will every election become the rich man's game in the rich man's playground, but their playground will become so exclusive that us regular people won't even see the yard.

Gone will be the good old party Primaries for Democratic and GOP voters, so the folks of like stripes can choose the candidate that best represents them in the General Election. Gone will be the nominating conventions and processes small parties can use to either name a unique nominee or get on board with the D or R candidate. Gone will be the the candidate from the masses, that regular guy who cares enough to run and can make a go of it without big money bending his ear for payback when in office. (Did I mention that the Texas investor is billionaire John Arnold, former Enron hedge fund manager & trader who specialized in natural gas derivatives?)

Do the quid-pro-quos happen now? Sure. But instead of eliminating them, passage of M90 will throw the money game into hyper-drive. Big money will be selecting and pushing candidates well before the filing deadline, and great potential candidates who don't jump through the hoops will either be also-rans or throw in the towel before they even file. M 90 proponents claim that passage of 90 will "end gridlock". Well, if a bunch of candidates are elected that have these funders as their masters, yeah, they will all be marching to the same tune.

Oh, and that chartreuse Mercedes van? Even that dang thing is from out-of-state. That should tell you all you need to know.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Seneca Jones Timber posts another stupid anti-Kitzhaber sign in Portland

October 13, 2014 - 12:36pm

If you live in Portland--particularly if your daily commute brings you into downtown--then you have seen the sign(s). With large black font on a stark white background, they intone: "It's not a red or blue issue. It's a black and white issue. Oregon needs fiscally responsible leadership."

The signs are paid for by Seneca Jones Timber Co. in support of Dennis Rchardson's campaign for Governor, and are much more straight-forward in its messaging than its vaguely-worded predecessor which materialized over the summer and literally threw a bunch of words against the side of a wall to see what might stick. (The bridge? The website? Rudy Crew? etc.)

But this time the message is clear: Since John Kitzhaber is a Democrat, by definition he is a reckless spender who lacks fiscally responsible leadership. Right? Right? How about wrong.

Let's take a look at a few facts here:

  • When Kitzhaber was sworn into office for an unprecedented third term as Governor in January 2011, the state's unemployment rate stood at 10 percent. In August 2014, Oregon's unemployment rate dropped nearly three points to 7.2 percent.
  • The state added 40,000 non-farm jobs between August 2013 and August 2014, a clear metric that the state's economy is improving.
  • In 2013, Oregon's rate of personal income grew at 3.5 percent, the fifth-highest growth rate in the country.
  • Also in 2013, Oregon had the third-highest job growth in the nation, with a job base that expanded by 2.4 percent.
  • By any measure, Oregon's economy is humming along. In fact, this past summer Oregon businesses posted 50,000 positions, their most job openings in six years.
  • In fact, Oregon's economy is running so well and outperforming previous estimates, that projected increased revenues could result in state lawmakers dealing with the good/bad problem of returning the entire surplus back to taxpayers via the "kicker" refund.

So now, in that list of positive economic news that has occurred in Oregon under Kitzhaber's leadership the past four years, can anyone point to the lack of "fiscally responsible leadership?" Because I sure can't.

In fact, the question that needs to be answered by Seneca Jones Timber Co. and the Dennis Richardson campaign is whether Governor Kitzhaber should receive any praise or credit for Oregon's burgeoning economy, or if this all occurred despite of actions taken by the Governor. Because the central core tenant of this sign is that Governor Kitzhaber's leadership is bad for the state's economy. Which is absolutely, patently false.

Let's play a fun game. Let's pretend that this sign wasn't about the Governor's race, but instead targeted President Obama. I mean, it could more or less be the same thing. Would you think that the recent news of the nation's 5.9 unemployment rate reaching the lowest level since before the 2008 recession--and that the country's current deficit represents just 2.8 percent of total GDP, the lowest since 2008 as well--would prevent Republicans from putting up a sign criticizing Obama for a lack of "fiscally responsible leadership?" Of course not! Obama's a Democrat, and therefore he's bad for the economy--truth be damned!

And that's exactly the same message beyond this stupid, stupid sign. Never mind truth or facts. Governor Kitzhaber is bad for the economy. The black letters on the white background say so.

I mean, I get it. In a state in which Democrats hold a 55.7 percent advantage between voters registered between the two main political parties, the Republicans don't have a chance to return to Mahonia Hall unless they are able to secure increased support from Democratic-leaning voters in the Portland metro area. But I guess instead of adopting policies in line with the majority of the Oregon electorate, their solution is to make spurious claims regarding "fiscally responsible leadership" on the side of a building.


Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Yes on M88, no to the fear and hate

October 12, 2014 - 7:00am

Somewhere around 1760, Daniel Barnhart and his kin landed in Virginia. They were Puritans escaping religious persecution in Germany. In the New World, they found a freedom Daniel’s offspring – including me, ten generations later – continue to enjoy.

They did so, of course, by wiping the native people almost entirely off the face of the planet.

This is the stupidity, and the gross inhumanity, of borders: they only work when someone has the power to enforce them. From 1492 onward, the people who had lived on the American continents for tens of thousands of years no longer had that power. Soon – and this is the perversity of borders – they had lost not only the right to control those borders, they had lost the right to live in the lands within those borders. This is our American history: millions of people living here for tens of thousands of years, and in the course of a few short years, over-run, over-whelmed, and over-and-out.

This is part of my disgust with our current “debate” over borders, immigration, deportation, and so on. Every border the United States claims as its own was stolen, by force, from other people. Our ancestors invaded, slaughtered, and took by extreme force the lands of the people who had been living here centuries before Europe could even pretend to be civilized.

But these are “our” borders. God gave them to us, you know.

The other disgusting part of the border/immigration “debate” is, of course, racism. There are those in this country who truly do believe that “diversity is a code word for white genocide”. Which is effing stupid, but the combination of hate, fear, and self-righteous does tend to result in appalling outcomes. The fears of people who have nothing to fear from brown hordes and other “invaders” are fanned by politicians and media hacks who have much to gain from fear-mongering.

And white people like me, for the most part, are silent in letting this injustice continue.

Measure 88 is a straight-forward, limited, and just ballot measure. It allows residents of Oregon to drive a car and to do so while insured — even if they are undocumented residents. That’s it: a driver’s licence and nothing more. No citizenship. No amnesty. Just a driver’s license.

On May 1, 2013, Gov Kitzhaber signed SB 833 which directed “Department of Transportation to issue driver card to applicant who does not provide proof of legal presence in United States but otherwise has complied with all requirements for type of driving privileges and has resided in Oregon for more than one year”. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that SB 833 had nothing – nothing – to do with citizenship in any way, shape, or form. That didn’t stop the hate-mongers, the racists, and the desperate-for-anything-to-save-their-sorry-party Republicans from either voting no on SB 833 or referring it to voters as M88.

As a tenth-generation white male American who has benefitted greatly from our country’s violent racist past, I say: Enough. Our fixation on color, borders, and any type of otherness is killing us. From the wars in the Middle East to the children sick and starving in Oregon, our refusal to acknowledge our common humanity is killing us. M88 is another nail in the coffin of that humanity.

Defeating M88 would be a crime against humanity. Voting against M88 is a hate crime. If you can’t figure out what the measure actually does – which is to make sure everyone driving in Oregon has a valid licence and insurance – then you have no place in our democracy. We liberals are far too nice with those who are poisoning our country with their hate and ignorance. As far as I’m concerned, we need to tell organizations like Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which was behind M88, to go to hell. They are making life worse for the people of Oregon, not better.

As a white American, I have absolutely no fear of those who seek to come here and work, live, and fulfill their dreams in freedom. It’s what my ancestors did, and they were part of one of the great genocides in history as a result. My freedom and my prosperity, limited as the latter may be, is built on that genocide. I have no moral right to demand closed borders or to insist “America for Americans”.

That’s bullshit. That’s hate speech. That’s a suicide pact with history.

M88 is an embarrassment: not the measure (Vote Yes), but the fact that it’s even on the ballot. OFIR is playing on the fears of too many ill-informed Oregonians in order to advance their racist/nativist agenda. Voting no on M88 is an abject surrender to fear and hate. Vote yes, defeat the fear-mongers, and let’s set our sights on making America free. Not chained and imprisoned with borders built from violence, fear, and lies.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

M88: A manga'd perspective

October 9, 2014 - 4:28pm

images by Kim Hye Jin, from "Girls of the Wilds", which is written by HUN.

There is no excuse for SB 833 being referred to the voters in this way. This is a common-sense law of the first order. Living in Oregon without documentation is not illegal, but it sure is a good target for right-wing demagogues. M88 is supported by business and labor, by community groups, faith organizations, and more. Testing and insuring drivers: that's what M88 is about.

Support the measure. More info at Vote Yes on 88.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Sherry Hall strikes again: All Clackamas County marriages since May 19 may be invalid

October 9, 2014 - 12:00pm

By Tom Civiletti of Oak Grove, Oregon. Tom Civiletti is a longtime Clackamas County progressive activist.

Once upon a time, John Kauffman was Clackamas County Clerk.

The office ran smoothly and elections were run fairly and legally. Then Kauffman took the job running elections in Multnomah County and was replaced in Clackamas County by Sherry Hall in 2002. Hall's tenure has seen a stream of mistakes and poor judgment, many of which suggest partisanship.

The problems have included sending the wrong ballots to voters, not sending ballots to voters, Voters' Pamphlets with incorrect or missing information, poor process in the verification of petition signatures, exclusion of Democratic Party observers from ballot counting, a temporary employee marking selections on voters' ballots, using the term 'Democrat Party' on ballots [did the hair on the back of your neck just stand up?], refusing to accept filings from Democratic Party precinct committee people, and attempting to charge citizens filing an initiative petition for the cost of an election.

Now Sherry Hall's questionable performance has impacted the Recording Division. Peter Toll's column "Sherry Hall Up To New Tricks Contrary to Law" on the Clackamas County Democrats' website discusses Hall's latest politically-driven folly. According to the blog, when same-sex marriage became legal in Oregon this May, Hall both stopped performing civil marriages [part of her duties] and refused to sign all marriage certificates -- instead stamping them 'CLACKAMAS COUNTY CLERK'.

This appears to violate Oregon legal procedure, calling into question the validity of all marriages in Clackamas County performed since May 19 of this year.

Marital status can have profound legal and financial impact on couples. It appears that Sherry Hall has prioritized her politics above the vital interests of the people she was elected to serve. While we all have the right to our own opinions, elected officials have a duty to act in the public interest according to established law and rule.

To act otherwise is dereliction of duty.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs