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Thanksgiving Thoughts on Measure 92

November 25, 2014 - 9:13am

The final results of Measure 92, which would require the labeling of genetically engineered food, are in:

No 753,473 50.03%
Yes 752,664 49.97%

Difference 809

The morning after Election Night, the No lead was almost 46,000 votes. This has shriveled as virtually every county’s late votes have come in at a higher Yes rate than the earlier ones. This photo finish is well below the approximately 3,000 threshold required to kick in a state recount, which should begin on or around Tuesday, Dec. 2 and end within two weeks.

To be sure, it’s challenging to reverse a decision. An 809 vote difference out of 1.5 million ballots is miniscule, but still formidable when considering Oregon’s clean election system. With this many votes, however, it’s almost inevitable there will be some human and machine error. For example, the 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State initially found Dino Rossi winning by 261 votes, but the recount gave Christine Gregoire the final victory by 129 votes.

Most media coverage of Measure 92 has been about the numbers, which are certainly riveting. But what’s missing is the human element, the untold story that’s the foundation for everything that’s happened.

On the last day that voters could correct their ballots, Tuesday, Nov. 18, I was canvassing in Yamhill County, seeking people who were supportive to ask them to correct their mismatched or missing signatures.

It hadn’t been going well. Many people weren’t home, so all I could do was leave a note asking them to drive to the elections office in McMinnville to take corrective action by 5:00 p.m., a real long shot since many were working. Moreover, I had made several wrong turns on way-out-there dirt roads and was cursing the inadequacy of Google maps in the hills of Oregon wine country.

Then, on my next-to-last stop around 3:00, I met Casey. He lived in a small, well-worn home and was watching a basketball game on TV when he answered the door. I explained that he’d forgotten to sign his ballot, the election was extremely close, every vote counted, and could he please drive to McMinnville before 5:00 to validate his ballot?

He listened, looked sympathetically at me, and said, “You know, you’ve come all the way out here just to talk to me. The least I can do is go sign my ballot.”

All I could blurt out was repeated thank you’s and “You just made my day” as I floated away with the thought that at least I got ONE confirmed Yes for the day.

But once I got in my car, the inevitable doubts descended. Yeah, he said he’d go to McMinnville just to send me away happy, but he’ll probably just go back to his game on TV.

After my last stop, (sigh, no one home again), I drove to the elections office myself to meet my contact person to give her my list of names and results. And as I walked in, there was Casey at the counter, an hour before the deadline, waiting to sign his ballot. I called his name and thanked him profusely again. He just looked at me and smiled. This Casey hadn’t struck out.

Here’s to all the Casey’s of Oregon, who talk to strangers at their door, then go the extra mile (in this case, miles, literally) to exercise their right to vote for what they believe in, the right that so many people worked and died for.

And here’s to all the hundreds of Yes on 92 volunteers, who spent hours in the wind and cold, and, in central Oregon, tons of snow. Volunteers like Martha, who drove down from Seattle to make phone calls and go door-to-door for four days, even as far as Benton County, where the campaign needed her most. Volunteers like Lucinda, who called the Secretary of State’s office herself, got the list of voters with invalid ballots in western Washington County, all 179 of them, and went out to meet them on her own.

Here’s to all the people who place principle over profit, enthusiasm over cynicism, hope over despair.

And here’s to Oregon, a state that allows, no, encourages these shining stars of humanity.

As I write this, it’s still a few days to Thanksgiving, but I don’t think I could feel any more grateful than I do right now.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Merkley explains to Fed official: Ending too-big-to-jail means "putting people in jail"

November 25, 2014 - 7:00am

OK, this is just a little bit awesome. On Friday, the President of the New York Fed, William Dudley, appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection -- and our own Senator Jeff Merkley.

In his opening statement, Dudley claimed that "too big to jail" is no longer the way things work. That's the opening that Merkley was looking for. Especially since the number of people who have gone to jail is exactly... zero.

The whole video is just truly epic -- but this is the segment that's the big highlight:

William Dudley: I think we've actually set a new precedent that no bank is too big to be found guilty if they've committed a crime.

Jeff Merkley: OK, but that doesn't involve jail. 'Jail' involves putting people in jail. Ordinary Americans would find it fascinating that this plea agreement which basically involved a financial payment -- a fine -- constitutes ending too-big-to-jail if nobody is going to jail.

Watch the video:

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by Senator Jeff Merkley.
Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

It's official: Measure 92 heads to recount with No leading by 809 votes

November 24, 2014 - 10:24pm

The Secretary of State has confirmed what we've suspected might happen -- Measure 92 is going to a recount.

The final unofficial count is 752,664 votes in favor and 753,473 votes against -- an 809-vote difference. That's 49.973% for Yes and 50.027% for No. That 0.054% margin is well under the 0.2% margin that triggers a formal recount under Oregon law. In Oregon, a recount is a full statewide every-single-ballot recount.

While 809 votes out of 1.5 million cast is a tiny margin, it's very rare for recounts to change the outcome of elections.

In 2008, Oregon had a statewide recount for Measure 53 (civil forfeiture). In that case, the initial margin was nearly the same -- 0.056%. After the recount, the winning side expanded it's margin to 0.070%.

According to FairVote.org, there have been only 22 statewide recounts nationwide since 2000. Of those, just three changed the outcome. The median shift was just 0.015% in either direction.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Whose life matters?

November 24, 2014 - 8:40pm

It’s just a couple of hours after the announcement that Darren Wilson gets off free for the murder of Michael Brown — and yes, that’s how I see it. An armed cop against a kid with no gun, and he blew him away. And in the aftermath of the prosecutor announcing that his grand jury would not bring any charges against Wilson, many are asking, “Do black lives matter?” While I understand why that question matters, and why it matters tonight, in the big picture, it’s not the right question.

The right question is, “Whose life matters?”

Every day, white kids die and no one gives a damn. White kids are shot with guns – by their parents, by their siblings, by themselves – and our country does fuck-all about it.

Every day, white kids die of preventable diseases. Some are killed by idiot parents; some are killed by government policies that sanction the slow, torturous death of starvation. White kids are beaten to death. They are slaughtered in so many different ways, every day.

Each day, white men by the dozens take a gun and end their struggle with depression, anger, substance abuse, and mental illness, spurned by a medical establishment that gives them no regard.

Every day, white people die in hundreds of stupid and easily preventable ways, but our corporate overlords have an obligation to profits that makes human lives expendable. Another item on the ledger sheet.

It’s not just white lives that are disposed of daily in such horrific manner. It’s white, brown, black, red, yellow, and every other shade possible of human skin color. Some peoples in some places – Native Americans on their reservations, for example – are more likely to die of certain causes. Some people in other places – a black teenager walking on the street at night in just about any damn town – invite the fear and bigotry of law officers to manifest a justice system that is no such thing.

The question shouldn’t be, do black lives matter? Of course they do, otherwise the outcry over Michael’s murder wouldn’t be as loud, long and anguished as it is. Millions of white Americans actually do care about black lives. Millions of white Americans care about all lives, as do millions of Americans of every ethnic background.

All lives matter. The human race just happens to value other things as well, and that gives too many people an excuse to kill and to condone killing. Today, an unjust set of laws in the hands of a prosector who didn’t want to indict a white cop condones the unjustifiable murder of a teenager with black skin. That death happened months ago, and today we learn that there will be no justice for Michael Brown and his family.

There will be no justice for thousands of other Americans who die today because not enough of us give a damn to do anything about it. Black men and white men have been gunned down by cops in Portland without justification and without justice. People of every ethnic background will suffer poverty, deprivation, dehumanization, illness, homelessness, and death in Portland; and we won’t do much about it. Rage against the injustice in Ferguson. Lament how awful life can be. Decry the lack of justice in America. But don’t actually do something meaningful.

Tonight, in Washington, DC, President Obama posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two white men and one black, murdered 50 years ago in Mississippi as they worked for civil rights. How bizarre, and maybe how appropriate, that they were honored on the same day Darren Wilson’s crime was washed away by a prosecutor in Missouri.

The murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner helped lead to the passing of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act. Let’s hope Michael Brown’s murder results in more than anger, despair, and injustice.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Tim Hibbits: Measure 92 going to a recount

November 20, 2014 - 11:34am

According to pollster Tim Hibbits, the Measure 92 campaign is headed for a recount. Hibbits had previously declared -- on the day after election day -- that it had failed. From KPTV:

After analyzing the final election returns released by 15 counties on Wednesday, Hibbitts noticed a trend that had a higher percentage of "yes" votes than previous returns.

This also comes as the Yes on 92 campaign has been reaching out to 13,000 voters whose ballots had signature problems and weren't counted.

The Secretary of State's office released the names of contested ballots for the first time this year and Hibbitts said that could be playing a role in making the margin even closer.

“The only thing I'm certain about right now is there will be a recount,” said Hibbitts. “The margin of error is 3,000. I'm completely comfortable it's going to be way inside of that; we are going to go to a recount.”

This latest development does not include more than 13,000 ballots still being counted in Multnomah, Lane and Deschutes counties.

Wow. It still seems to me that the gap is too large -- but if Hibbits is right, we could be in for a long slog ahead.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Portland City Council: Do your job. Don't punt.

November 19, 2014 - 10:27am

Portlanders are beginning to beseiged with the message that we “have” to vote on the street fee being proposed by Hales and Novick. My response: Sez who?

People forget that in the U.S., we govern by "representative democracy". We elect representatives to act on our behalf in government. We do not govern by direct rule. Direct rule by the people is unfeasible in so many different ways, from the vast range of issues involved to the size of our polities (i.e., too many people) to the fact that few citizens have the knowledge needed to make good policy decisions.

Yet time after time, when those we elect go through a deliberative process, one that at times includes being shamed for their initial decisions; when they work with the public, interest groups, etc; when they spend countless hours studying an issue in all its messy detail; and then they come up with a plan that the entire government body agrees on (or a majority does) — our elected representatives do that painstaking work we don’t want to do and then we turn around decide to turn the final decision over to the most uninformed, ill-disciplined, unqualified body of people possible. The voters.

That is not democracy. That is stupidity.

No matter how outraged they are about “raising our taxes”, the voters won’t become informed on the complex range of issues involved in devising this fee. They will watch a few tv news segments that probably lack any substance (and may contain false info). They will throw away all the expensive propaganda that is mailed to them. They’ll get angry at all the online "garbage", unfriend people on Facebook over it, and, otherwise waste their time not becoming informed.

When ballots are mailed, over half the voters will ignore them. Of the minority that does vote, a plurality will make up their mind based on their “gut” or their hatred of taxes or the belief that there’s already plenty of money and it’s just being wasted or you can’t trust politicians. The majority of votes cast will be little more than capricious guesses. The result?

Shitty public policy that may or may not reflect the public will. And will not fix a single pot hole but will continue to cost taxpayers more, now and in the future, as damage to vehicles continue and costs are kicked down the road to future taxpayers.

So, Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman and Amanda Fritz: Suck it up and do the job you were elected to do. If you do not have faith in your ability to make an informed decision that is in the best interest of the people of Portland, resign and let someone fill the seat who does. Maybe a group of Outraged Citizens will be able to refer the new fee to the voters; or maybe the people of Portland will surprise you and decide to trust your informed judgment.

If enough petitions are gathered to refer this to the ballot, that’s a stain on the voters themselves who put you in office and then believe that in their vast ignorance they can do a better job with almost none of the resources you used in doing your job, the people’s business. But don’t you dare run and hide from your obligation to serve the people by copping out on this. I’m no fan of Charlie Hales, but at least he’s got the guts to move this forward and try to get it right. He and Steve Novick, of whom I am a fan, took their lumps on Street Fee 1 and have now presented a much better version that has, from what I understand, the full Council’s support.

(The Portland Business Alliance opposes it, so that must mean it’s on the right track.)

Now have the guts, and the integrity, to stand behind your colleagues and your own judgment. If a small group of voters want to foul up the system by circulating petitions, let them. Do your job. Vote for the fee, or vote against it, but don’t punt.

We didn’t elect you so you could pass your responsibilities back to us.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Punditology 2014: Which political nerd reigned supreme?

November 18, 2014 - 10:45am

At long last, it is time to report on the results of the 2014 Punditology Challenge.

It's two weeks after election day, but we had late calls on a number of US House seats -- not to mention the delayed election results out of Alaska, and our own race in SD-15. (Congrats to Chuck Riley!) Thanks for your patience.

First, a note about our conventional wisdom.

As usual, as a group - all 201 of us - were mostly right, except when we were wildly wrong.

This year, we were right on 25 out of 27 races here in Oregon. But we were terrible on the national scene, getting just 8 out of 18 right.

Overall, our consensus picks -- had a single individual made them -- would have placed in the top 20. As usual, as a group, we're smarter than most of us are individually.

  • As a group, we picked every single Oregon ballot measure correctly. We picked every single Oregon House race correctly. We picked every single Oregon Senate race right, except Chuck Riley defeating Bruce Starr. The only other race we got wrong was for Clackamas County Clerk. (GAHHHH! Sherry Hall survived!)

  • And while we got Kitzhaber (win by <10%) and Merkley (win by 10-20%) right, of course, we had no idea that Jeff Merkley's win would be a 17-county victory. Just 9% said it would be 14 or more, and our median pick was 10 counties. For Kitzhaber, our median call was 8 counties, and he got 7.

  • In the US Senate races, we were sure of victories by Kay Hagan and Greg Orman, and we fairly evenly split, but called it in favor of Mark Udall and for a run-off in Georgia. The wipeout got us.

  • We were even worse on Governor's races, getting it wrong in Alaska, Florida, Georgeia, Illinois, Kansas, and Maine.

  • A bit of good news (that's really bad news) is that we correctly called the historic GOP majority in the House, with a 37% plurality pegging it at 240-245 (it's now at 244, with three still in play.)

Go back and review our conventional wisdom here.

Now, on to the real question you care about: Who won? Which political nerd reigns supreme?

Top marks, with 40 of 51 correct, go to Jake Oken-Berg and Nathan Rietmann. Jake ran for Mayor of Portland in 2000 and now serves as an aide to Senator Merkley. Nathan is an attorney in Salem, who once represented Bill Sizemore. Tiebreaker goes to Jake - who pegged Aelea Christofferson's vote total at 60,000. (It was actually 72,186.)

Congratulations, Jake! We bow down to your crystal ball!

Runner-up honors, with 39 of 51 correct, goes to Richard Gray -- a contracts manager at the City of Portland.

Our third tier of punditologists, four people with 38 of 51 correct, includes Metro's Ken Ray, attorney (and self-described "recovering politico") Joel Shapiro, Rep. Brent Barton, and lobbyist Meredith Shield. Big credit goes to Ken Ray, who damn near nailed the tiebreaker -- calling it a nice, round 72,000 votes.

And there were nine in our fourth tier, each with 37 right: John McGovern, Jamal Raad, Jared Mason-Gere, Jon Bartholomew, Jesse Cornett, Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, Josh Goldberg, Julie Fahey, and Logan Gilles.

Jon Bartholomew stands out as having beat everyone on the state level -- with 28 of 31 right; and Barbara Smith Warner (a former Wyden aide) beat everyone on the federal level -- with 15 of 20 right.

The median number picked correctly? 31 out of 51. (Me? I got 28 right. Yeah, I'm an optimist.)

Honorable mentions go to James Sunshine and Teddy Keizer. They called the Christofferson vote total at 72173 and 72123 - just 13 and 63 votes off the current count.

Thanks to everyone who participated. We'll do it again in two years!

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

No, really, Monica Wehby wants to run Obamacare in Oregon. Really!

November 18, 2014 - 6:48am

Hilarious? Sad? Some of both, I guess.

It seems that Dr. Monica Wehby -- who ran as a single-issue anti-ObamaCare candidate -- called Gov. John Kitzhaber and offered herself up as a candidate to run the Oregon Health Authority.

From the O:

A day after losing her bid for U.S. Senate, Monica Wehby picked up the phone and reached Gov. John Kitzhaber on his cell. ... According to multiple sources, she asked about a job opening: director of the Oregon Health Authority.

Here's Rachel Maddow's take (fast-forward to 2:25). It's kind of awesome.

And here's another important reaction that seems spot-on:

Jeff Heatherington, president of FamilyCare Health Plans, chuckled when he heard about Wehby's interest.

Heatherington, whose company contracts with the state to provide managed care to low-income families on the Oregon Health Plan, said the Health Authority needs a strong administrator to clean it up, then manage it with a great deal of political know-how.

"About $16 billion runs through the Oregon Health Authority," he added. "You don't put a novice in there."

You can't make this stuff up.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 92 - November 18th Deadline for Contested Ballots

November 16, 2014 - 1:58pm

From Rick North of the Yes on 92 Campaign:


Click (and share this link) to find out if you or someone you know has a contested ballot that can be corrected and counted. Voters who forgot to sign their envelope or whose signature doesn't match must go to their county office by Nov. 18th.

Measure 92 is still alive, and if the trends continue, it’s going to start kicking soon. Check out the number of votes we’ve been behind and the dates:

November 11: Down 6,634 November 12: Down 6,371 November 13: Down 5,182 November 14: Down 4,539

There are about 20,000 votes statewide either “challenged” or just not counted yet. Again, I won’t sugar-coat this. We still only have a slim chance of pulling ahead, but with each passing day, our odds keep getting better. And the possibility of triggering a recount, which is at around 2,900 votes or less, is very real.

The deadline for submitting challenged ballots is next Tuesday, Nov. 18. On that night, county elections officials will send their final vote totals to the state. The Secretary of State is expected to release the statewide totals then or Nov. 19.

That’s not a typo – we’re only down 4,539 votes. This is out of 1,486,373 votes cast, a razor-thin difference of 50.15% to 49.85%.

Four days left, and I don’t have a clue how this will turn out. What I do know is that the volunteers, donors and staff of Measure 92 are doing everything in their power to make this happen."

To keep up to date on this issue, please visit the Oregon Right to Know campaign website @ http://oregonrighttoknow.org/challenge-ballots/

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

National Democrats look to Merkley's win for lessons

November 14, 2014 - 11:20am

In the aftermath of the big wipeout last Tuesday, Democrats are doing the ol' "soul-searching" and "post-mortem" thing. It's the long-running battle between the corporate-oriented moderates and the progressive populists.

Nevermind that it was mostly a function of being in the sixth year of a presidency, which always means defending the Senate seats that were won in a change election -- on top of which, it was a home game for Republicans. (If the 2012 election were held only in the 2014 Senate race states, Mitt Romney would be President.)

Nonetheless, as Democrats back in DC are trying to figure out the lessons learned, some are pointing to Senator Jeff Merkley's success as a model for how a progressive and populist campaign can actually connect with voters. From the NY Times:

There were a handful of bright spots in an otherwise dismal year for Democrats, and progressives are holding up as models the success of three Senate candidates who ran as populists: Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator-elect Gary Peters of Michigan.

Mr. Merkley won by 19 percentage points with a campaign centered on the loss of well-paying jobs, the spiraling cost of college tuition and his opposition to trade deals that he said send jobs overseas. While Democrats nationally were losing whites without a college degree by 30 percentage points, Mr. Merkley narrowly carried that bloc of voters.

“We didn’t lose them here in Oregon because we talked about what they care about,” Mr. Merkley said.

What do you think? Is Oregon an anomaly? Or should the rest of the country learn a lesson from what happened here?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Oregon now one of just four states where you can get stoned at a gay wedding

November 8, 2014 - 9:00am

Well, 2014 was an eventful year for Oregonians. The voters legalized recreational marijuana. And a court legalized same-sex marriage, right before the voters were going to do it themselves.

We may be the least church-going state in the union, but it seems we're all about the biblical mandate in Leviticus 20:13:

If a man lays with another man he should be stoned...

Vox.com did the research and reveals that on Election Day, Oregon (and Alaska) joined a very select club -- those states where you can attend a legal same-sex wedding and consume recreational marijuana at the same time.

At this time, Ohio allows neither, even though their state capitol is just two blocks from the intersection of High and Gay. Go figure.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

On Pollution, the Difference Between Cost and Price

November 7, 2014 - 9:55am

The Oregonian's editorial board continues its bumbling assault on Oregon's effort to fight pollution, this time through a misleading equating of cost and price.

Today's editorial attacks the effort to make Oregon's fuels cleaner, arguing it will raise costs of "everything else people do with their cars."

While the assertion that prices (what the O calls costs) will go up is questionable, the statement misses the basic difference between something's price and its cost. Roughly, the price is the amount of money exchanged for a good. The cost is what it takes to produce a particular product or service - a calculation that needs to include externalized costs, costs imposed on those outside of the transaction.

The clean fuels standard would mean some costs that have been externalized become internalized. That is, the polluter, who previously imposed costs on others by polluting, pays for his or her pollution (or avoids that cost through polluting less). If one believes in the power of market signals, it's the sort of effort that needs to be applauded. While The Oregonian argues the clean fuels standard would subsidize some, in fact we're currently subsidizing polluters.

The editorial further tries to quantify what having clean fuels will cost Oregonians, while ignoring how global warming, if unchecked, will deeply harm our economy and personal well-being, as well as resulting in millions of deaths across the globe. And it continues its absurd Zeno's Paradox argument, as if global warming, a problem created by millions of decisions and policies, can only be addressed with a single, planet-sized silver bullet, instead of many policies and jurisdictions doing their parts.

This all comes on the heels of the starkest warning yet by the world's scientists on the urgency of addressing global warming. From The New York Times:

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the report found.

In the starkest language it has ever used, the expert panel made clear how far society remains from having any serious policy to limit global warming.

The earth's atmosphere will change, oblivious to The Oregonian editorial board's sloppy claptrap and amateur economics. As we know, Mother Nature bats last - and doesn't give a hoot about what anyone says about such things. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said,

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message,” Mr. Ban said. “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Let My City Go!

November 6, 2014 - 11:16pm

The election story in Oregon is about the Democratic gains in the state legislature, which ensure a solid majority and eliminates the Betsy Johnson “I’m against everything” roadblock to progressive legislation. Already, I’m intrigued by what I hear from the rumor mill regarding carbon taxes, background checks, and especially a potential repeal of the current state preemption on inclusionary zoning, which allows cities and counties to require a percentage of new construction to consist of affordable housing. In Portland, this is a much needed tool for protecting precarious workers and the poor from what so far has been a tsunami of rising rents and shiny, new expensive housing as a consequence of the current development boom.

While inclusionary zoning is extremely important in Portland’s quest to create a just and equitable city, the residents would also benefit immensely from the repeal of two other state preemptions: (1) minimum wage, and (2) rent control.

Though the Oregon Democratic Party’s platform fails to mention raising the minimum wage, Democratic politicians, such as Brad Avakian, have hinted that a minimum wage of $12 could be on the way. Regardless of what happens at the state level, Portland needs to be able to raise the minimum wage right now (preferably to a nearer-to-living-wage of $15/hr) to help working families offset the enormous increases in the cost of housing and basic goods and services. Already, the $15/hr frame is winning in Portland, with Multnomah County agreeing to pay its employees at least $15/hr and seasonal parks workers and Home Forward employees successfully negotiating an above $15/hr minimum wage. In addition, numerous members of city council (who I’m sure weren’t just posturing because they thought the preemption would prevent the possibility of acting on the sentiment) have claimed publicly that the minimum wage must be raised in Portland. The stage is set and we just need the legislature to allow us to govern ourselves.

Rent control is also an important tool in a city that currently does little more than nothing to protect renters. In Portland, development policy is completely aimed at satisfying developers (including large and corrupt realty companies) and financiers. At present, the best the working class can hope for is that supply and demand dynamics will lead to lower prices (which is a highly dubious assumption for reasons I won’t get into at present). Even the affordable housing programs in Portland are woefully inadequate and exclude large swaths of the working poor who are being priced out of the city. In Seattle, socialist Jess Spear was able to move newly re-elected Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp to support the removal of Washington’s rent control preemption. Oregon Dems should follow his example and lift this state’s preemption on rent control.

If we want to be the most equitable city in the nation, we can’t just attempt to make Portland barely affordable for the lucky ones. We have to go above and beyond what is currently the political common sense and do everything we can to improve the lives of residents. Right now, that means controlling costs, ensuring affordable housing, and mandating a living wage. In three simple steps, the Oregon legislature can get us closer to that reality.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

This too will pass

November 6, 2014 - 10:41am

By Naseem Rakha of Silverton, Oregon. Naseem is a former political reporter for public radio, her stories often heard on OPB and NPR. She is the author of the acclaimed novel, The Crying Tree. Learn more at NaseemRakha.com.

It was election night. Early results were coming in from Rhode Island, South Carolina, New York. I woke up my dog and we went to the pond and sat, watching a storm roll in and listening to redwing blackbirds shout out warning. It was warm out. Too warm for early November. My memories of previous election nights are mainly of cold rain and wind slapping me hard while running from one political party to another trying to get in interviews and record speeches for a story for public radio.

Democrats typically would gather at some unadorned union hotel, often the Hilton, where there'd be dip with chips, veggies, squares of cheese, and a free bar with cheap wine and beer. Republicans would be blocks away, nestled in some Grand Barron of a place, dim lights, arched ceilings, filigreed pillars, and, of course, a cash bar with the hard stuff. At the parties, I would poke at balloons and phone in updates, while speaking with politicians and their supporters. When the results finally came in, I would tape the oh-so-predictable platitudes, while watching red, white, and blue clad people spout red, white, and blue clad tears.

Now, no longer a reporter, I just stay home and give half an ear to NPR while they talk exit polls, approval ratings, and the death of the Democratic party. This too will pass, I tell myself. This Republican wave. This handing over power to a group of bullies who seem to have far more ideas on how to take down a country than build it up.

This too will pass.

But it's hard, even for this former geologist—who still takes comfort in human's miniscule imprint on geologic time—to accept. We have given the reigns of Congress over to people, many of whom who do not believe in the science of global warming or evolution, people who wait eagerly to sell off our natural resources, who believe corporations are as human as the people they supposedly represent. These are politicians who work to make it harder to vote, not easier, harder to get a college degree, harder to drink clean water, or get health care, or earn a living wage. People who measure the character of a person by their commitment to guns and god, not intellect, nor compassion nor logic. These are individuals who serve the rich, and eschew the poor; and eat three square meals of fear every day, then fart it out all over the country on radio, on TV, in magazines, over the internet. They tell us it is not disparity of wealth we should crusade against, but immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, the homeless, the disabled, single moms, Planned Parenthood and young black boys. Don't fear fracking, fear hoodies, fear Ebola, fear taxes, fear liberals, fear liberation. Don't vote Democratic—it is too close to the word demon.

It was during Iowa Senator-elect, Jodi Ernst's acceptance speech that I finally gave up my half hearted election night vigil, and went to bed. My, this too will pass, mantra falling flat against her shrill words. "We are heading to Washington and we are going to make them squeal." The words lifted straight from the 1972 Academy Award winning film, DELIVERANCE, where deep in the hills of Georgia, toothless attackers force Bobby Tippie, played by Ned Beatty, to "squeal like a pig" while being raped. Of course, I am sure Jodi Ernst, who grew up castrating pigs and presumably making them squeal in the process, would say she was not referring to that movie at all. Not that that would make her statement any more acceptable.

This too will pass, I tell myself. This woman. This partisan bullying. This unhealthy way we have of treating elections like gladiator games where the goal is to make the other team squeal, rather than reach out and cooperate to help the people in the stands, millions of us, waiting there, shouting out, hoping we will be heard.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

A bloodbath. But not in Oregon!

November 5, 2014 - 10:09am

Oregon once again proved that things look different here.

Senator Jeff Merkley's resounding victory was huge, but was by no means a certainty. In the years to come, some will chalk up his victory as a "gimme" -- but it was hardly that. Everyone on Team Merkley -- including hundreds and hundreds of volunteers -- worked very, very hard to make it look that easy. Amazingly, his margin of victory was larger than that of Cory Booker, Dick Durbin, Chris Coons, Tom Udall -- and none of them faced millions in attack ads from the Koch Brothers.

Our entire congressional delegation was easily re-elected, including Rep. Peter DeFazio who faced a $675,000 superpac onslaught in the last week of his race.

As Senate President Peter Courtney said last night, Oregonians chose the Democrats to govern again in Salem. They returned John Kitzhaber for an historic fourth term -- and by a bigger margin than 2010. Our Senate majority is now up to at least 17, with Senator-elect Sara Gelser on her way. (The SD-15 race between Bruce Starr and Chuck Riley is still too close to call, though Starr is leading narrowly.) Our House majority is up one seat to 35 -- with the addition of Rep.-elect Paul Evans.

The big shocker of the night in Oregon was the failure of Treasurer Ted Wheeler's campaign for Measure 86 -- the endowment for student aid. It was seen as such a sure thing that I didn't even bother to put it in the Punditology Challenge. It lost badly, 58% to 41%. I expect the post-mortem will be about that phrase "incur debt" in the ballot title.

As was widely expected, Measure 87 (judges) passed, Measure 88 (driver cards) failed, and Measure 89 (equal rights) passed.

The top-two primary, Measure 90, wasn't even close -- with 68% of voters rejecting it. The story that will reverberate for months to come is the legalization of marijuana -- as Oregonians voted 56 to 44 to be the third state to make the leap.

And finally, while the Oregonian has called the race for the No on 92 side, with just a 17,000 margin, I'm not so sure. Stay tuned on the GMO labeling measure.

What's your reaction? What else are you paying attention to?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Election Day: Discuss!

November 4, 2014 - 3:08pm

It's election day, and the polls have already started to close (in the eastern half of Kentucky, where the polls close at 6 p.m. eastern.)

Use this thread to discuss rumors, complaints, and actual results as they roll in -- both across the country and right here at home.

Here's a map of poll closing times across the country, courtesy of Daily Kos:

So, what are you paying attention to?


Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Election Night Parties!

November 4, 2014 - 2:21pm

It's election day! And that means that tonight, it's time to celebrate with the winners and console the losers -- and make plans for whatever comes next.

Here's a list of all the public parties we could find. It's definitely not comprehensive, so feel free to add more parties in the comments. The more the merrier! (But please don't post private parties at candidates' homes without their permission.)

  • The main Democratic Party of Oregon party is at the Portland Hilton, 921 SW Sixth Avenue. There, you'll find Jeff Merkley, John Kitzhaber, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Yes on 88, and No on 90.

  • Peter DeFazio and local Lane County candidates will be at Cozmic Pizza, 199 W 8th Avenue, Eugene.

  • The Yes on 89 campaign will be at the Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland.

  • The Yes on 91 campaign will be at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, Portland.

  • The Yes on 92 campaign will be at Leftbank Annex, 101 N Weidler St., Portland.

  • The Yes on 90 campaign will be at Sentinel Hotel, Renaissance Room, 614 SW 11th, Portland.

Good luck to all those that have been working hard for tonight's victories!

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Punditology 2014: Our collective, conventional wisdom

November 4, 2014 - 6:54am

Phew, Election Day is finally here. And, as promised, here's the conventional wisdom from 201 people who think they're smart enough to call 'em all in 2014. Our participants include journalists, lobbyists, campaign hacks, political consultants, elected officials, and a whole lot of political junkies and activists.

An important caveat: In years past, we've learned that the Punditology conventional wisdom is usually right -- but when we're wrong, we are spectacularly wrong. It is certainly possible for everyone to be surprised. (And if your favorite campaign is on the wrong side of the C.W., get to work today, and prove us all wrong!)

Also, note that these percentages say nothing about the expected vote totals. If 100% of us think that a candidate is going to win 51% to 49%, the number you'll see here will be 100%.

To the predictions!

First, our in-state federal races and the gubernatorial race:

There is a strong consensus about the Governor's race. 98% picked Kitzhaber to win, though 76% said he'd win by less than 10 points. 19% of us think he'll 6 or fewer counties; 24% say it's 7, 28% say it's 8, 15% say it's 9, and 14% picked 10 or more. The median pick is 8 counties.

There is also absolute unanimity about the Senate race. That's right: 100% of punditologists say Merkley wins. 16% say he'll win by 20 points or more; 81% says it's more than 10 but less than 20 points. 19% of us say Merkley will win 8 counties; 10% say it's 9, 23% say it's 10, 10% say it's 11, and 27% say it's 12 or more. The median pick is 10 counties.

And yeah, 100% of us say DeFazio will win -- 85% calling it a win of more than 10 points. 100% of us say Schrader will win -- 57% calling it better than 10 points.

Second, the federal races outside of Oregon:

  • Alaska: 60% picked Dan Sullivan (R)
  • Colorado: 53% picked Mark Udall (D)
  • Georgia: 43% picked David Perdue (R) leads, runoff election (11% call it outright)
  • Iowa: 71% picked Joni Ernst (R)
  • Kansas: 66% picked Greg Orman (I)
  • Kentucky: 80% picked Mitch McConnell (R)
  • Louisiana: 48% picked Mary Landrieu (D) leads, runoff election (15% call it outright)
  • New Hampshire: 88% picked Jeanne Shaheen (D)
  • North Carolina: 77% picked Kay Hagan (D)

41% of us think the GOP will end up with 49 or fewer Senate seats, while 44% think it's 51 or more -- and 14% are pegging it at 50. In fact, the median pick was exactly 50 seats. (Oh, wouldn't that be fun.)

But our picks don't quite match up to that. If our collective wisdom is right, that's just two GOP pickups among these races -- but a loss in Kansas. And if we also toss in Arkansas, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana -- all above Nate Silver's 95% confidence level -- that, folks, would be just 49 seats for the Republicans (assuming Orman caucuses with the Democrats, or no one at all.)

As for the U.S. House, just 20% of us think the GOP will hold steady or lose seats. 35% think the pickup is five or fewer seats. 37% think it's six to twelve seats. And 6% think it's thirteen or more.

Third, the gubernatorial races around the country:

  • Alaska: 51% picked Sean Parnell (R)
  • Colorado: 84% picked John Hickenlooper (D)
  • Connecticut: 81% picked Dannel Malloy (D)
  • Florida: 79% picked Charlie Crist (D)
  • Georgia: 43% picked Nathan Deal (R) leads, runoff election (30% call it outright)
  • Illinois: 89% picked Pat Quinn (D)
  • Kansas: 63% picked Paul Davis (D)
  • Maine: 70% picked Mike Michaud (D)
  • Wisconsin: 65% picked Scott Walker (R)

If our picks are right, then we're calling a bunch of big Democratic wins in the statehouses. If that comes to pass, it's surely a bit of a curiosity, as compared to the Senate races. (Why? Well, it's obvious when you realize it -- we're dealing with the 2010 Tea Party class of Governors, but the 2008 Obama class of Senators.)

Fourth, the Ballot Measures:

  • 85% predict that Measure 88 (driver cards) will fail
  • 94% predict that Measure 89 (equal rights) will pass
  • 78% predict that Measure 90 (top-two primary) will fail
  • 77% predict that Measure 91 (marijuana) will pass
  • 71% predict that Measure 92 (GMO labeling) will fail

Fifth, the Oregon Senate* races:

  • SD-3: 87% picked Alan Bates (D)
  • SD-8: 87% picked Sara Gelser (D)
  • SD-11: 98% picked Peter Courtney (D)
  • SD-13: 79% picked Kim Thatcher(R)
  • SD-15: 67% picked Bruce Starr (R)
  • SD-20: 67% picked Alan Olsen (R)
  • SD-26: 82% picked Chuck Thomsen (R)

And that jives with our median pick of 17 Democratic seats in the Senate. 7% project 15 or fewer seats; 24% project 16 seats; 48% project 17 seats, and 20% project 18 or more.

Sixth, the Oregon House races.

  • HD-20: 68% picked Paul Evans (D)
  • HD-25: 67% picked Bill Post (R)
  • HD-29: 69% picked Susan McLain (D)
  • HD-30: 88% picked Joe Gallegos (D)
  • HD-40: 85% picked Brent Barton (D)
  • HD-51: 92% picked Shemia Fagan (D)
  • HD-54: 78% picked Knute Buehler (R)

Barring any shockers, those picks suggest a one-seat Democratic pickup (due to Paul Evans) and a 35-seat majority. But oddly, our median projection is 34 seats -- which suggests that most of us have at least one pick that's running against the consensus.

4% are projecting a Democratic loss of the majority. 7% think we're back to 31-29. 19% think it's a two-seat loss and a 32-seat majority. 19% think it's a one-seat loss and a 33-seat majority. 27% say we sit tight at 34 seats. 16% say it's a one-seat pickup to 35 seats. And 7% think the Democrats lands a 36-seat supermajority.

Finally, the local races:

  • 54% of us think David Robinson is going to finally end the reign of error of Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall.
  • 94% of us are projecting a win for the Portland Parks bond.
  • 80% of us are projecting a win for the Metro density measure.
  • 91% of us are projecting a win for the PPS levy.

Oh, and the tiebreaker:

  • The median number of votes for Aelea Christofferson in the 2nd congressional district is 72,123 votes -- with 23% of us projecting her total between 70,000 and 80,000 votes (though 16% projected her total as less than 5000 votes, go figure.)

And now, we wait. And work.

Good luck, everyone!

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Punditology 2014: Which political nerd will reign supreme?

November 1, 2014 - 10:37pm

You're smart. You're political. When people whisper, "that's what THEY say," you're the one they're talking about.

With just a few days left in this election, it's time for the 2014 edition of the Punditology Challenge

Will John Kitzhaber and Jeff Merkley win big? What about marijuana, GMO labeling, and the top-two primary? Will the Democrats lose the Senate? Could Mitch McConnell and Scott Walker lose? And oh yeah, is this the year that Clackamas County finally ousts their incompetent and corrupt county clerk?

Correctly predict the the election results and we'll make you famous. There's no money in it, but if your crystal ball is the finest of them all - we'll bow down before your greatness and proclaim it to the world. (But don't worry. Unless you're among the top punditologists, we won't tell anyone you participated. Got a broken crystal ball? Your secret is safe with us.)

The deadline for your picks is Monday at 5 p.m. So make your picks now, before it's too late!

Good luck!

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Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

OR-SEN: Koch Brothers commit new $200k ad buy against Merkley

October 31, 2014 - 10:06am

Even as Monica Wehby circles the drain, the Koch Brothers can't resist one more parting shot before they slither away, via their American Future Fund. AFF is bankrolled by the Koch boys.

The two have dropped $200k on a new anti-Merkley ad, because apparently they can't think of anything nice to say about Monica Wehby. Not that I can blame them for that.

It's the same old recycled crap they've been dealing out all over the country.

You can help Jeff out by throwing some non-Koch money his way.

In other news, apparently the AFF is not well-funded enough to actually fill out the copy on their "About" page, unless AFF is actually a dessert menu.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs