Oregon Blog Updates
By Rob Nosse of Portland, Oregon. Rob is a Democratic candidate for the Oregon House of Representatives in HD-42 (inner southeast and northeast Portland.) Learn more at RobNosse.com.
As a candidate, I’ve been spending much of my time talking to voters in my district about the issues that matter most to them. Not surprisingly, they share the concerns my husband and I have about economic fairness and opportunity, health care, and of course, education.
Recently I’ve had a number of conversations with my neighbors about the prolonged inability of the school district and the Portland Association of Teachers Association (PAT) to agree on a contract. This received a massive amount of attention from concerned parents and community members— and rightfully so. As a lifelong labor organizer and as a parent, I was moved to see our community rally and stand strong with our teachers. I’m grateful that we didn’t have to walk to the line or keep our children out of school, but that is something I, and many of you, were ready to do if need be.
The PAT contract impasse was just a symptom of a much larger problem facing our community. Despite the recent funding increases the state legislature has allocated for education, Oregon’s education system is still terribly underfunded, causing Oregon to have the third-largest class size in the nation. Class sizes have a direct impact on education outcomes. With all other factors being the same, research shows, the larger the class, the worse the outcomes. Small class sizes allow for higher levels of student engagement, increased time on task, and the opportunity for high-quality teachers to better tailor their instruction to the students in the class.
Rather than addressing the problem head on, we’ve continued to ask our teachers to take on more and more, forcing them to give each student a little less with every additional student they accept into their class. We are continually sacrificing our children’s and society’s long-term gains and success for short term savings. We owe it to future generations—of both students and teachers—to continue the long past due community-wide conversation our teachers have started.
I’ve spent my career advocating for workers and fighting for fair contracts. It’s frustrating and a perfect example of why some issues, like funding for our education system, access to healthcare, and equality, shouldn’t be negotiated contract by contract. We need a community-wide solution.
In some ways, the most frustrating part of this problem is that we know what the solution is -- tax reform -- but we lack the necessary political will in the legislature. It shouldn’t be difficult for our elected officials to vote to close corporate tax loopholes that currently allow big corporations to shelter profits overseas, to ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share, or to engage in a thoughtful conversation about eliminating the kicker in order to create a long-term, stable, and secure funding source for our education system.
I’m running in HD 42, inner SE and NE Portland, one of the most progressive districts in the state. This district will most certainly elect a progressive Democrat to replace Representative Jules Bailey. I’ve entered the race because a safe district like this deserves a true leader who has the experience necessary to stand up to special interests and take the lead on the tough issues progressives in Oregon want to achieve. We need more than a good Democratic vote. We need a progressive champion. I’ve spent my life as an activist, working on issues like education funding, universal health care and equal rights. And for nearly two decades, I’ve worked as an advocate for nurses and other working people across Oregon. I’m running for State Representative to give a voice to those who have been left behind and to stand up for Portland’s progressive values.
By Lisa Naito of Portland, Oregon. From 1998 to 2008, Naito served on the Multnomah County Commission. She has also served in the Oregon Legislature and on Metro Council. Learn more at Hooley & Naito.
Ten years ago today, couples lined up around the Multnomah Building in southeast Portland to wait in line to be married. Same-sex couples drove from all over Oregon and beyond to come to Portland to have the opportunity to marry, a right taken for granted by everyone else. I had the opportunity to witness the historic first weddings and they were moving celebrations of love and commitment. On that first day, over 400 couples were married. One couple had been together for 47 years and they were filled with joy at the prospect of being treated fully as citizens in their lifetime.
I stood together with fellow Commissioners Maria Rojo de Steffey and Serena Cruz Walsh to support the decision of Chair Diane Linn to grant marriage equality. It was the right thing to do, both morally and legally. Our actions were based on a solid legal opinion issued by our County Attorney Agnes Sowle that the privileges and immunities clause of the Oregon constitution required us to treat same-sex couples equally under the law. Charlie Hinkle of Stoel Rives, one of the top constitutional lawyers in Oregon, issued a second opinion in agreement with the County Attorney. Shortly thereafter, Benton County also issued marriage licenses to same sex couples with the brave decision of Commissioners Annabelle Jaramillo and Linda Modrell for marriage equality.
The backlash was immediate and shocking. People called our offices using abusive language with our staff, personal threats were made against us and I was concerned about the safety of my high school age son, telling him to look out as he came home from school. On the political front, the leading newspaper called us unfit for public office, and recall campaigns against us were started by opponents of marriage equality.
The early court decisions were in favor of equality. Judge Frank Bearden issued the first court ruling in the country to fully recognize marriage licenses for same sex couples. He ordered the State of Oregon to register the marriage licenses of the thousands of couples who had applied for them. Unfortunately, the Oregon Supreme Court, while not ruling on the issue of the constitutionality of a discriminatory law limiting marriage, did issue a ruling that marriage law was a state issue. They closed the door on marriage equality at the county level.
Some people have criticized us for a faulty “process” and blamed us for the passage of Measure 36. However, opponents of marriage equality had already been organizing for months to pass a ballot measure. Elevven states had ballot measures that election year limiting marriage to a man and a woman. All the measures passed. It was a national campaign targeting gays and lesbians. Additionally, Measure 36 failed in Multnomah County, so it could be argued that hearts and minds changed in our community after witnessing couples marry.
Oregon will soon have marriage equality... again. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s decision not to defend Oregon’s marriage ban because it will not withstand a federal constitutional challenge means it is just a matter of time for Oregon. We have an awesome Attorney General!
As an elected official, I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and Oregon. That is what I did ten years ago. Discrimination was unconstitutional back then, just as it is now. In 2004 I wrote, “I know that history will prove our actions to be right and just.” I believe it has.
For years, the Portland region has been at the whim of a small group of companies like Comcast, Qwest, and Verizon that dominate the area's broadband market. Comcast, in particular, has near-monopoly power when it comes to broadband in our area, and has a terrible reputation with consumers and regulators.
Enter Google. The search engine giant is surveying the country, looking for a few new places to introduce Google Fiber. This is Google's new Internet connection with speeds of 1 gigabit per second – roughly 100 times the current U.S. average. And they're looking to the Portland metro area.
Google Fiber would give Comcast and the rest a serious run for their money. Faster internet means more than just snazzier entertainment options. It unlocks the potential for new ideas that we can barely dream about -- and the jobs that those new ideas would create. It also means that Comcast -- known for its customer-service failures and prices that climb inexorably, even as service stays flat -- would finally face some serious competition. This is a fantastic opportunity to give consumers a choice, which means power over corporate bad guys who run roughshod.
This critical infrastructure supports high-growth, middle-class jobs that help Portland compete globally. It also has the added benefit of putting us ahead of Seattle (which isn't on Google's list), making us more competitive in the Pacific Northwest.
The same company whose lawsuit made it possible for corporations to side-step Oregon’s corporate minimum tax turns out to be a federal corporate income tax avoider, as well.
The trucking company Con-way had a negative effective federal income tax rate over the 2008 to 2012 period, despite making $587 million in profits over those five years. In other words, Con-way made money by filing federal tax returns.
That’s one of the findings in The Sorry State of Corporate Taxes: What Fortune 500 Firms Pay (or Don’t Pay) in the USA And What they Pay Abroad — 2008 to 2012 (PDF), a report released by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). The Sorry State of Corporate Taxes (PDF) looks at the profits and federal income taxes of the 288 Fortune 500 companies that were profitable in each of the five years between 2008 and 2012.
Con-way is not unique in its tax-avoiding ways. The report identifies 25 other profitable corporations that had a negative effective federal tax rate for that entire five-year span. Of the 288 consistently profitable companies examined in the report, 111 paid zero or less in federal income taxes in at least one year from 2008 to 2012.
Con-way also knows how to avoid Oregon’s corporate income tax. Con-way reported Oregon sales of $79 million for tax year 2009. Instead of paying Oregon’s $75,000 corporate minimum tax, the corporation went to court (PDF) and obtained a loophole that allowed it to pay nothing — zip — in Oregon corporate income taxes.
Since then, a fleet of corporations have taken advantage of the Con-way loophole, taking millions of dollars away from schools, community colleges, worker-training programs and many key public structures that create economic opportunity and enhance the business climate.
State lawmakers need to close the Con-way loophole and put the minimum back into the corporate minimum tax that voters approved.
But that’s just one loophole. Ending corporate tax avoidance here in Oregon will require further steps.
One important step is requiring corporations to disclose to the people of Oregon how much, if any, Oregon taxes they have paid. We know that Con-way didn’t pay any federal taxes because that information appears in documents filed by publicly traded companies under federal transparency provisions. We also know, thanks to its lawsuit, that Con-way didn’t pay any Oregon corporate income taxes in at least one recent year. We don’t know, however, which other corporations are using the Con-way loophole to avoid state taxes altogether.
We need a disclosure law to find out the names of all corporations driving through the Con-Way loophole.
Until we take serious steps to prevent corporate tax avoidance, Con-way and other profitable corporations will continue trucking along, avoiding even the most minimal responsibility for the common good.
In the wake of last week's announcement that AG Ellen Rosenblum won't defend Oregon's discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage, a few things seem clear:
Grassroots marriage activists want Oregon United to move ahead with the ballot measure to repeal our constitutional marriage ban. I don't have anything quantitative for you, but based on the conversations I've been having and watching the social media, it seems like an overwhelming consensus.
I've reached out to the marriage campaign, and here's what I learned: They've not "suspended" their campaign (as WW reported). Rather, they're taking a moment to figure out next steps. And keep in mind, in addition to the measure that would remove the discriminatory ban from our constitution, there's a pro-discrimination measure that's been proposed as well -- so we've possibly got a two-front battle ahead too. It's not surprising that advocates are regrouping and strategizing based on a new political environment.
And finally, I'm not sure how I missed this, but there are new poll numbers from the campaign. Support for the freedom to marry is at its highest point now -- with 55% support in Oregon. Check it out:
Of course, even as we're seeing 55% support now -- there's still 41% opposition. So, there's still a long way to go in Oregon to ensure that all Oregonians feel welcomed, no matter what happens in the courts.
All in all, I'm hopeful that Oregon United continues to push the campaign to remove discrimination from our constitution. Civil rights should have never been put up to a popular vote, but since they were and Oregonians voted to put discrimination in the constitution, we should reverse course now and vote to take it out.
After a long winter's worth of short, grey days, many Oregonians start to get an itch to get out in the fresh air. Given the wildly diverse geography of our state, there are SO MANY amazing options for soaking in the natural beauty of Oregon, it can be hard to choose.
1859 Magazine has compiled a short list of winter hikes that can soothe (or even inspire) your savage beast and help you shake off those winter blues. From the rough high desert trails at Sutton Mountain near Fossil to the lush waterfalls along Highway 30 in the Columbia Gorge, there's something for every lover of Oregon.
And now, let's Span the State (some more)!
There's a lot of cringing from certain parts of our state when it comes to protecting native species (think Spotted Owl). But that short-sighted view can often be harmful to the very thing those same eye-rollers truly seek to protect: their bottom lines. One example: the Oregon sage grouse. This rather goofy looking bird, known for it's mating dance, happens to require habitat that is particularly helpful to cattle ranching. In Ontario, the Malheur County Natural Resource Conservation Service is putting saving the bird's habitat as one of their big priorities.
A popular subsidy in St. Helens appears to have avoided budget cuts. Senior citizens in the Columbia County burg receive a $20 subsidy every two months on their water bill. The St. Helens City Council decided against a proposal made last year to end the city’s subsidy of senior citizens’ water bills in favor of an income-based assistance program. The subsidy costs the city about $160,000 per year. The proposal would have come on at a cost of $84,000. But outrage from the city's elderly residents cowed the city council, which will hold a formal vote later this year.
Two brothers from the Hermiston area are hoping to open a marijuana dispensary in Baker City. Bud and Ted Minton are interested in purchasing property on Court Ave, despite the Baker City Council's known efforts to ban such dispensaries in their town. On a side note: the Oregon House Judiciary Committee is taking up Senate Bill 1531, which would allow cities to regulate such dispensaries but not ban them.
Thursday night, President Obama delivered this message at a DGA fundraiser:
If there’s one message I want to deliver today to every Democrat and every person who’s interested in supporting Democratic policies, it’s that you got to pay attention to the states.
You have to stay focused on what’s happening in the states, and you especially have to pay attention to what’s happening in the states during midterm elections.
Because we know how to win national elections, but all too often, it’s during these midterms where we end up getting ourselves into trouble, because I guess we don’t think it’s sexy enough.
But the fact of the matter is, is that that’s where so much of the action is.
So, adopt a campaign already. Sign up. Volunteer. Donate. Just pick one (or two or ten) and let's get to work.
Yesterday, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced that she would not defend the Oregon Constitution's discriminatory "one man, one woman" marriage clause in federal court.
The Department of Justice has determined that "the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review." In short, the marriage ban is indefensible.
The Oregon United for Marriage campaign reacted as you might expect -- they're thrilled! After all, it means that it's likely that Oregon's marriage ban will be struck down long before election day in November.
As a result, Oregon United announced that they're pausing their campaign. Specifically that they have "decided to hold on to our signatures" to qualify the ballot measure.
It's unclear to me why they'd do that. After all, it's entirely plausible that the Supreme Court could rule that all these federal judges overturning marriage bans are going too far, that states have the right to determine their own marriage laws. Were that to happen, Oregon's constitutional ban would be right back in effect.
Seems to me that having come this far, the campaign should keep on trucking to the finish line. Sure, it might ultimately be legally a moot issue -- but giving Oregonians the chance to affirmatively vote down our marriage ban would be a strong statement in favor of equality.
Then again, maybe we're reading too much into Oregon United's announcement. It certainly seems reasonable to stop, catch one's breath, and take stock of the situation. But having done that, it seems clear to me that the right answer is to keep on moving forward.
I've reached out to Oregon United for additional info.
No word on how quickly Judge Michael McShane will move ahead with a decision. At this time, oral arguments are scheduled for April 23.
by Allen Amabisca of Washington County, Oregon. Allen is a candidate for Washington County Commission Chair. He recently retired from Intel, where he worked in finance and accounting, and he has been actively involved in civic issues for years as a member of the Hillsboro School Board and an officer with a local farmland conservation group. He lives in unincorporated Washington County with his wife Cherry.
Today, in the State's biggest land use decision in recent memory, the Oregon Court of Appeals released their order to reverse and remand the overreaching, sprawl-promoting land use plan that my opponent helped craft.
This is a big win for the people of Washington County, and the entire state of Oregon. It is a lesson to current county leadership that aggressive policy dictation, without meaningful citizen participation or regard for the laws of the State of Oregon, is not only a massive waste of taxpayer money and time, but it is also embarrassing and illegal.
I know not everyone is a land use wonk like me, so let me back up and explain the context for this decision.
Here in Oregon, we have a comprehensive set of land use laws that require the counties, in cooperation with the local and regional governments, to go through a public process every five years in order to designate which land can be developed in the future, and which land must be reserved for farming and agricultural uses.
It seems pretty straightforward, but there are a number of factors that are required to go into this decision, from the fertility of the soil - because we want the best soil to be reserved for farming - all the way to the inclusiveness of the process - because we want a land use plan that reflects the values of all Oregonians, not just those who can afford lobbyists.
Basically, today’s court ruling declared that Washington County used "pseudo" (read: arbitrary) factors to decide which land could developed, and so the court sent everything back to the county level to be re-done using a legal and inclusive process.
This is not only a victory for the people who live and work in Washington County and the entire state of Oregon, but for our democratic process. Today, a warning signal was fired loud and clear that the leadership of Washington County and officials statewide should heed: When you aggressively overreach, there are consequences. When you ignore the law and the voices of your constituents, you are not only being disrespectful, but you are wasting our time and our dollars on avoidable, lengthy legal battles.
The cost of sprawl is no longer affordable. We cannot afford more congestion. We cannot afford blank check developer tax breaks that siphon taxpayer dollars away from programs and services that benefit our small businesses and our citizens. We cannot afford the destruction of our high value farmland that powers Oregon’s second largest industry - agriculture. And we certainly cannot afford a process that marginalizes businesses, workers, families, farmers, and regular citizens in favor of a select few, big-moneyed interests.
Our local economy needs a leader that will involve small businesses and the community to create a plan that promotes all of our industries - agriculture, manufacturing, and housing. Today’s court decision is a bold call for such new leadership, and when elected I pledge to craft a 50-year vision for our region that truly promotes balanced growth while protecting our high value farmland.
Together we can make a plan for Washington County, and Oregon, that we can be proud of.
Wow. This is just so bad.
The map is from Mother Jones magazine. Among the examples of the impact of the high rate of vaccine opt-outs is this horrifying one:
On Vashon Island, Washington, 17 percent of kindergartners failed to receive their shots in 2013 due to a "personal/philosophical" exemption. That's nine times the current national average. The year before, Vashon Islanders accounted for 16 percent of all whooping cough cases in Washington's King County, despite housing just one percent of its population.
It's been said before, but I'll repeat it: This is not simply a personal decision that folks are making for their own families. There are lots of people in every community -- infants, elderly, sick, allergic -- who cannot get the vaccines. People who opt out of vaccines for nonmedical reasons are dramatically expanding the likelihood of infection for everyone who can't be vaccinated for legitimate reasons.
Oregon, we can do better. This is a not one of those situations when it's cool to be weird.
Once upon a time in Oregon, we made decisions about the Urban Growth Boundaries in our state every five years using soil classification. We did it this way because Oregon has some of the best farmland in the world. This high value farmland stayed protected and conserved while allowing urban growth to take place in a way that minimized sprawl. But it also made it difficult for developers to make long term decisions about what they'd like to do.
So the Oregon Legislature conducted an experiment. They gave the three counties in the Metro region an opportunity to create a 50 year urban and rural reserves plan. A process was to be conducted to allow the counties a chance to draw the map, deciding on which land would be set for urbanization and which would remain rural for the next five decades.
The legislature failed to put rails around how local jurisdictions would manage the process. In hindsight, that was a very serious mistake. House Bill 4078, now in the legislature, may be the first catalyst toward fixing it.
Multnomah and Clackamas Counties conducted extensive public outreach, soliciting citizen involvement in an open process that actually considered the concerns and desires of residents. Washington County, on the other hand, basically tacked maps to a wall and invited residents to find out how the county and developers had planned to divvy up urban, rural and "undesignated" reserves.
Metro failed to rein in Washington County. Four years ago (almost to the day) I wrote about this failure and made note at the time that this was a mess. High value farmland in Washington County was being placed into urban reserves in large chunks, much higher than Metro's own advisory board was recommending. Still, the Council allowed it to go forward, ignoring the many voices from Washington County asking for things to be scaled back.
The Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission also failed to scale back urban reserves. And so, the whole reserves map went to court because of a serious failure of leadership. The process remains bogged in the courts to this day.
Washington County, which has now even stopped pretending that developers don't own County Chair Andy Duyck lock, stock and barrel, has grown impatient. Thus is born HB 4078, a bill in the legislature intended to subvert the court process and codify the urban and rural reserves.
In 2011, legislators warned the players in this drama that they would need to fix the issues with the map or that there was a good chance that the legislature would go in and do it themselves. After all, it was the legislature that allowed this experiment in the first place. Citizen outcry continued to be loud and angry with Washington County and the other levels of government weren't responding.
Fast forward to 2014. The legislature decides to keep its promise.
That's exactly what's happening now with HB 4078. But now A deal is being sought by legislators, farmers and developers that would allow the less controversial pieces of urban reserves to move forward, while placing the very controversial Washington County tracts into rural reserves. Unsuprisingly, Washington County and Metro are having a serious temper tantrum over it.
In their arrogance, the conservative members of the Washington County Commission (Duyck, Bob Terry and Roy Rogers) have allowed to unravel the very thing they said they wanted: the ability for their developer friends to build a long term vision. Unfortunately, Metro and LCDC didn't push back and has left the legislature (or the courts, if the process was allowed to play out), no choice.
So what happens after this? The legislature has some options. They can tweak Senate Bill 1011, the law allowing for the urban and rural reserves. They can rescind the law and go back to the old UGB process. Or they can leave things as they are and hope that the local jurisdictions have learned their lesson.
Somehow I think that last option is probably not the one they'll choose.
Details are still hazy, but the Oregonian's schools reporter Nicole Dungca is reporting that after a marathon 23-hour bargaining session, the Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers have reached an agreement.
Signatures still need to be applied to paper, but this is a very welcome development. As previously planned, schools will still be let out early on Wednesday, but students will be seeing their regular teachers in class on Thursday morning.
Arsenic. Cadmium. Mercury. Bisphenol A. Formaldehyde.
These are just some of the potentially toxic chemicals in products intended for use by children. Chemical and toy companies don’t want you to know about it.
Right now in Oregon, manufacturers aren’t required to tell us about potentially toxic chemicals that are in products intended for children. There’s a heated battle in the legislature and chemical company lobbyists are working hard to convince legislators that it’s simply too big a burden to tell us what’s in these products.
Oregonians deserve to have ALL of the information when it comes to chemicals in products, especially those used by children. Claims by chemical and toy manufacturers that it’s just too big a burden are ridiculous. Washington State already has a very similar law. Our kids deserve the same protections.
Last week, the the Kansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill to allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Brought by conservatives cowering against the fear of impending marriage equality in their state, this deep red state considered codifying anti-gay segregation into law. The state senate reined the whole thing in on Friday, however. Apparently allowing public safety officials to pick and choose which people they serve and protect based on sexual orientation was just too much, even for Kansas.
Lest you think this type of public policy is the providence of states where conservatives rule: think again. Oregon has it's own version of this circulating now as a petition, and they're gathering signatures. This proposal, along with the one in Kansas, is being sold as honoring "religious liberty".
No. This is not about religious liberty. This is about segregation. "Separate but equal" should never be public policy in Oregon.
And now, let's Span the State!
Oregon has our own direct connection to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The opening ceremony sweaters worn by the US Olympic Team were made with yarn from the Imperial Stock Ranch near Shaniko, Oregon.
A charter school hoping to open its doors in Cannon Beach has been denied its application by a unanimous vote of the Seaside School Board. The charter school plans to appeal. The school board noted a long series of problems with the proposal, not the least of which is a series of fiscal deficits expected to accrue. At no point in the proposal does the school show operating in the black.
The vacant Civil Stadium in Eugene will have its fate decided this Wednesday when the Eugene School Board votes to select either the city of Eugene, Fred Meyer or the Eugene Family YMCA to buy or lease the stadium property. Eugene School District Superintendent Sheldon Berman has recommended to the Board that they select the city of Eugene, but the Fred Meyer team says they'll stick around even if they're not chosen in case the deal falls through. Despite neighborhood protest against the opening of a Fred Meyer store at the location, the potential financial benefits for Fred Meyer are tremendous.
The Wallowa County Chieftan hosts a folksy, if not confusing column from Barrie Quallie, a cowboy from Wallowa County. Suffice it to say the piece demonstrates a tremendous gift for storytelling. This story focuses on Quallie's high school classmate Donnie Burns who "had won the County Spelling Bee when he was in the eighth grade. His next big win was the pinochle championship in San Quentin." The confusion for me comes in what is meant to be the lesson of this piece. But see what you think.
By Don Gavitte of Portland, Oregon. Don is a history, government & philosophy teacher at Grant High School. He is the founder of UPSET (Underfunded Parents, Students & Educators Together) and a Democratic candidate for the House in District 42.
I am not a union building rep, and there are many people who have always been more involved in PAT organizing and advocacy than me. However, I was at the Schnitz for the strike vote, and what I experienced and how I feel about it needs to be explained. For personally, my full-throated approval to strike comes from a place deeper than contract language, displeasing sound bites from PPS, or numbers on a spread sheet. I also believe many teachers feel exactly as I do (feel free to confirm this at a Friday happy hour near any PDX school).
Firstly, there is no way to really spin it. The vast majority of PAT members were in attendance last Wednesday evening and we overwhelming voted to strike with a clear voice. I met a lot of people that night I haven't seen in years - and by the amount of hugging, back slapping, and overall exclamations heard in the lobby, I wasn't alone. In the theater, there were open mikes and a few colleagues spoke passionately about why they would vote no, others spoke with equal passion about why their vote would be the opposite. Most of us just listened and applauded upon agreement. The union leadership obviously had a longer program planned, but it was truncated by chants to cut the speeches and get to the vote.
The main reason I, personally, am willing to strike is not because of any single benefit or money issue. I am willing to strike because I feel I have no other choice. I feel that our profession is being eroded out from under us. I feel that we have to take increasing responsibility for pedagogical outcomes in the face of decreasing professional authority. I constantly hear that the relationship I have with my students is the single most important aspect of my work, but yet it seems that every year there is more interference in how that relationship is fostered and nurtured. This interference comes from state mandates, district mandates, federal suggestions that come with chunks of money (thus, essentially mandates) - I'm not even going to get started with corporate efforts to influence what happens in my classroom. Look! There's Bill Gates, let's all pay attention to what he thinks schools should do, he invented a well-known operating system!
Sarcasm aside, these are the issues at the root of my yelling "yea" to strike. They are why I take such things as transfer policies, the definition of "incompetence" and overall workload stipulations very seriously. If we hold here the floodgates can't open, and our profession can stay intact.
Moreover, the fight PAT has with PPS district leadership is hardly something unique or anomalous. Medford is already on strike. Portland State professors are in tense negotiations, and we all know what happened in Chicago in 2012. As I type this, scores of school districts and unions around the country are in late stage remediation and the issues are the same. As a teacher I feel that my profession and the work I have chosen to dedicate my life to is in jeopardy. I feel that educational leadership doesn't realize how much blood, sweat and tears has gone into keeping schools legitimate in the face of the illegitimate budgets we have faced here in Oregon year after year. It is the very stuff that data can't capture, there is no column to list "Heroic Effort When Nobody was Looking." I feel that educational leadership trusts corporate test and curriculum salespeople more than they do my collection of college pennants and letters I've received from grateful students. If we want our high schools to be more successful in getting kids to college, why don't we just let Susan Bartley come up with the plan? Never heard of her? Well, without any state or district help she pretty much turned things around at Franklin High School in SE Portland by founding and building the Advanced Scholars Program. She is someone who should be making state level decisions, she is a true professional that doesn't wait for someone else to define what 'excellence' is, she is not following a mandated rubric, and she's not alone in Oregon schools.
Ultimately, I can't strike on something like "let me teach, I'm a professional dammit" if you want to help, hire some more of us, contract language doesn't sound like that, but that's how I feel.
By State Senator Floyd Prozanski of Eugene, Oregon. Floyd is a graduate of Texas A&M University and has a law degree from the South Texas College of Law. He was first elected to the Oregon Legislature in 1994 as a State Representative and now serves in the State Senate. Senator Prozanski works as a municipal prosecutor and serves on various boards and commissions. An avid cyclist and home-brewer, he lives in Eugene with his wife.
If you are not a felon or a person who sells guns to felons, you should support SB 1551. It will limit felons’ easy access to guns by closing the remaining loophole in Oregon’s successful background check law for gun purchases.
Oregon passed its first background check law in 1989. It was limited to gun transfers that occurred through a gun dealer. Voters added gun shows in 2000 when they passed a ballot measure. Since then, all sales and transfers of guns at gun shows – including transfers between private individuals at gun shows – require a background check on individuals receiving the guns to confirm they are not felons.
When someone passes the background check without any issues, Oregon State Police destroy the collected information within 10 days of approval. Information is only kept longer – up to five years – if a felon fails the background check or if someone passes, but has a flagged issue that held up their approval (i.e., an out of state conviction). For all approvals, including those delayed and then approved, there is a 99.3 percent purge of information. The other 0.7 percent is not immediately purged because they are retained for up to five years to expedite future purchases.
The failure to require background checks on guns being transferred between individuals outside of a gun show has created a huge loophole that allows felons easy access to firearms. This loophole allows felons to bypass background checks. Recent polls continue to show that the vast majority of Oregonians (80 percent) favor universal background checks for all gun transfers. Clearly, Oregonians do not want felons to have easy access to guns, and it’s time to close this remaining loophole.
According to the Oregon State Police, in 2012 more than a quarter of a million guns were lawfully transferred in Oregon – 256,988. That same year, 2,378 gun transfers were denied because the buyer failed the criminal background check. In 2013, OSP approved 261,128 transfers and denied 2,215 due to felony convictions. That means each month in Oregon, an average of 190 felons are denied access to guns because of background checks, while more than 21,000 lawful transfers are completed.
Unfortunately, some opponents continue to spread false and misleading information about the bill. SB 1551 is not a registration bill. The bill only expands the existing background check law to cover all private transfers, not just those that occur at gun shows; it establishes a family exception, sanctions, and it provides immunity to retail stores who run a lawful background check for private transfers. That’s it.
Instead of relying on what anyone tells you, please read the bill for yourself here When you read the bill, you will see the new proposed amendments (in bold text) inserted into the existing statute (regular text). Many of the arguments that have been raised against the amendments are actually arguments against the existing law that has been in place for 24 years!
Some opponents question the need for the background checks to include specific information (such as make, model and serial number) about the actual gun being transferred. That information is used to determine if the gun being transferred is stolen. Hundreds of stolen guns have been recovered through this process.
The opponents also claim a person will not be able to loan their gun to another person without first running a background check. That is wrong. As stated in the bill, background checks would only be necessary when a firearm is sold, leased or gifted to an individual who is not a family member. We will still be able to loan our guns to friends and family members without running a background check. We can continue to handle, use and possess each other’s guns while hunting or at a shooting range without running a background check.
I have owned guns for over 40 years and I support Oregon’s background check law. I understand some felons will still gain access to guns through illegal means, but I also know that the law has denied about 190 gun transfers to felons per month over the past two years. Also, knowing that my sister’s murderer is a felon, I want to take every reasonable step to deny him and other murderers, gang members, violent sex offenders and fugitives from having access – let alone easy access – to guns. It’s time to close the loophole. It is time to deny felons easy access to guns.
A snow plow #fail is not an indictment against all government, of course, but this particular futz-up illustrates why the margin for error for government is so slim. And rightfully so.
This is N Vancouver as you approach Legacy Emmanuel Hospital, a few blocks south of N Fremont. There is a parking area on the right, a motorized vehicle lane on the left, and a bike lane in between. This is one of the busiest bike routes in the city and one I use almost every day.
The bioswale and pedestrian island were built in 2013 to upgrade safety at the intersection, which is in the middle of a long S-curve, with an entrance to a parking garage on the right and a stop-lighted intersection just beyond. Cars, trucks and buses are funneled to the left; bikes to the right; pedestrians have a safer, more visible crossing and bicycles entering N Vancouver have lane guidance just beyond the island. Despite the lack of lights, the improvements work well.
Until this happens. The snow plow that cleared off N Vancouver, including the bike lane, simply piled the snow at the end of the parking area, up against the bioswale. As a result, the bike lane was walled off. Not exactly The Wall from the Game of Thrones, but not safely passable, either. Here’s a better view from a bicyclist’s perspective:
As the snow got softer and slushier, plowing through that tiny gap became a bit easier, but still very dangerous. For many, the safer alternative was to swing left into traffic with the cars and other mechanized death machines. When “safer” becomes a choice between jumping into the motorized vehicle lane or risking a crash on a hazardous surface, then what we have is a Portland Bureau of Transporation fail.
Portland bike riders are used to this: construction and maintenance workers of all kinds with no understanding of what bicycle road safety requires. The dumbest, of course, is “Bikes on Roadway” signs plonked right into the bike path – with plenty of space to the side – forcing bikes onto the roadway. There are so many different ways crews can increase the hazards for bicyclists, and those of us who ride daily discover them on a regular basis.
In all cases, the failure to maintain safety for Portland’s bicycling citizens is, at root, a failure of good government. Whether it’s training, management, or give-a-damn concern, every time the safety of riders is put at risk in this way, we discover another government has failed to fulfill its basic mission to protect the welfare of citizens.
Obviously this is not on the same level as the lack of regulatory oversight that led to the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, or the current poisoning of West Virginia’s drinking water. Local bike riders are used to this treatment and these conditions; we’re prepared to deal with these hazards and most of us have the skills to cope. That doesn’t make this acceptable, however. The potential for tragedy is too great:
Five years ago, following the last “snowpocalypse”, I was riding my bike to work; the bike path from the Ross Island Bridge to SW Kelly (a horrible ride, but that was my only route) took me on the sidewalk along SW Hood. And on a Friday morning, after three months of post-snow gravel being tossed on the sidewalk, my tires slid out from under me as I made the right turn onto Kelly. I slammed to the ground, breaking my shoulder.
That gravel should have been swept off SW Hood after the snow had melted. The sidewalk should have been cleaned off. Neither occured until the following week — when I called PBOT and notified them of my injury and how it occured.
I probably should have sued the City. I didn’t.
Government has a primary responsibility: protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. As progressives, we believe this is a fundamental requirement, and that’s why we support programs like WIC, food stamps, the EPA, food safety inspections and so on. Government fails on this basic duty in two ways: failure to act and acting improperly. In 2009, I was injured by government failing to act; this past week, thousands of us were put at risk by government doing its job badly.
This is not about me and what I’ve had to put up with; it’s meant to be illustrative of why government matters, and why competent government is critical. The Tea Party has its roots in racist anger, but it connects with many citizens who are just pissed off with government. When government gives these angry people a good reason for their anger, it also strengthens their illegimate reasons (“Look how bad the Obamacare website is — and those regulations are killing jobs!”). Government #fail is a body blow to democracy.
Portland city government doesn’t have the resources it requires to get done everything it needs to; Oregonians, like most Americans, have been willfully strangling their governments for decades. The lack of sidewalks in easty county, the state of our schools, the inability to feed all our children are all failures of Oregon’s citizens to support and fund an equitable tax structure.
But not blocking bike lanes isn’t about taxes. It’s about simple competence. PBOT employees have to do better. Private construction crews have to be instructed not to endanger bicyclists and pedetrians. These are objectives that can be fulfilled by the simple step of giving a damn. When a worker endangers the public and his superiors are clueless about it, then we see government not caring about the people it’s there to serve.
That is a brutal fail that has to end. Otherwise government itself, democratic government, is the one under threat.
Coal. It just seems like one of those obvious, not-in-my-house, kinda things, doesn’t it.
Well, so, it may come as a shock to learn that just yesterday Governor Kitzhaber’s DEQ gave their final approval for air, stormwater, and water quality permits for Morrow Pacific's Columbia River coal export terminal.
Now, before you tweet, email, and call Governor Kitzhaber to express your outrage, wait till you hear the rest of the story. It actually gets worse… before it gets better.
If it’s a shock that the DEQ has now green-lighted millions of tons of coal dust as being just fine within the confines of some fairly narrow permit scopes, then it has to be nothing short of mind-boggling that for over a year now the DEQ has maintained that those same millions of tons of coal dust just doesn't merit the DEQ's best water quality protection review - the 401.
What could possibly go wrong, right? SMH.
Well, I bet, then, that you can imagine the cheers, shouts, and high-fives erupting from Oregon’s clean air and clean water advocates as we heard the good news yesterday that Governor Kitzhaber’s DEQ finally reversed itself and declared - at long last - that coal pollution just might harm water quality on the Columbia, and as a result the DEQ is now requiring the coal company to attempt to get a 401 Water Quality Certification – raising the biggest roadblock yet that the DEQ has put in front of the coal train fast track.
So how’d we get the Governor’s DEQ to make this huge reversal?
Well, you likely already know because you likely were a part of it. The DEQ's tally of the more than 16,000 public comments received on these coal permits is land-sliding 82% against coal.
OK, though, does the cynic in you might wonder if public comment made the difference?
Well, no need for reading tea-leaves. Just take a look at what the DEQ said on the record:
"After considering the comments received, DEQ has concluded that a further water quality certification - called a 401 certification - is appropriate for the project" ~Oregon DEQ 2.11.14
Well done, BlueOregonians, well done.
But the threat from coal exports is not dead yet.
Yes, Oregon’s 401 permit standards have already worked to block the Bradwood LNG terminal on the lower Columbia River. And it sure would be nice to see the 401 process go 2-0 against fossil fuels and block coal exports next. But the clean water watchdogs already worry that this newly required 401 Water Quality Certification, while a good framework, may already be too narrowed in geographic scope to assess all the pollution risks that it should.
So what do you think happens next?
Will Governor Kitzhaber's DEQ keep ultimately approving coal permits on the Columbia?
Or will the Governor draw the line?
You tell me.
Better yet, tell the Governor.
By Joe Cortright of Portland, Oregon. Joe Cortright is a long-time opponent of the Columbia River Crossing, testifying publicly against the CRC at City Council, Metro, the City Planning Commission and the Bi-State Commission in 2008.
Since 2010, Mr. Cortright's firm Impresa has been retained by Plaid Pantry to prepare economic analyses of the CRC.
Cortright is Chair of the Governor's Council of Economic Advisers, has been a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the principal of Impresa, Inc. an economic consulting firm; Cortright is a nationally recognized expert in regional economics and transportation policy. Impresa counts among its current or past clients CEOs for Cities, the Knight Foundation, the National Governor's Association, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Port of Portland, and the Portland Development Commission.
Treasurer Ted Wheeler will be asked by the Legislature to weigh in on the financial merits of the proposed Oregon-only Columbia River Crossing. Here are six reasons he should tell them to walk away from this risky deal.
First, Oregon-only doubles the risk. Compared to the version of the CRC adopted with great reservations and extensive conditions less than twelve months ago, this version doubles the financial risk to the State of Oregon because of Washington's exit from the project. In addition, legal questions surrounding Oregon's legal ability to undertake construction in Washington State and to collect tolls from Washington State residents further increase these risks. If anyone had any doubts about this project a year ago, those have been doubled by this change alone.
Second, CRC Cost estimates can’t be trusted. Actual costs of transportation megaprojects routinely exceed their budgets, on average by a third, according to the best available scholarship. ODOT has a demonstrated track record of huge cost-overruns on its major projects. Its Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville Project has experienced a 200 percent cost overrun, which has added more than $200 million to that project's cost. Already the CRC is years behind schedule, and its planners have made repeated mistakes--first pursuing an "open-web" design that their own experts pronounced un-buildable, and then ignoring repeated warnings from the Coast Guard and designing a bridge too short to accommodate the needs of river users. These errors have already led to extensive delays and additional costs, even before construction has begun. It is imperative that the financial plan for this project allow for likely cost overruns of as much as $1 billion or more, and it has not done so.
Third, ODOT has no meaningful capacity or strategy to manage project costs or prevent cost overruns. For the past several years, it has repeatedly testified that it would rely on Washington Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) allegedly superior capability to manage megaprojects, and specifically its "Cost Estimate Validation Process (CEVP)." That process, of dubious value, given the current problems with the two Seattle area megaprojects—the Alaska Way Deep Bore Tunnel (a disabled tunnel boring machine) and the SR 520 Floating bridge (leaking pontoons)—which the CEVP process failed to anticipate or prevent. The CRC has not carried out the CEVP risk-assessment process in more than two years. In addition, the federal government's independent Project Management Oversight Consultant has not issued a report in more than six months. And in its communication with you this fall, ODOT simply ignored its demonstrable failures in controlling costs on the Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville project. An agency that cannot even acknowledge its existing management problems will find it impossible to solve them. To wit, the agency asserts that design-build contracting will insulate this project from financial risk, yet ODOT's only large-scale experience with design-build contracting was the Pioneer-Mountain Eddyville project, which has experienced huge cost overruns.
Fourth, CDM Smith revenue estimates are frequently over-optimistic. CDM Smith has a demonstrated track record of frequently over-estimating the revenues from toll projects. Projects that have relied on or had their financial projections vetted by CDM Smith in California, Virginia and Texas have gone into bankruptcy or had to be restructured. As the major bond rating agencies have recently opined, over-estimation in endemic in toll-financed projects. While you may not feel that your office has the technical capability to second-guess the accuracy of the Smith forecasts, that is not the relevant question. It is clear that even in the best of circumstances, there is a substantial risk that Smith is wrong, and it is very much in the state's interest, and within the authority and expertise of your office, to assess the consequences to the state's budget and credit of undertaking that risk. What happens to project finances and the state's credit rating if, as is highly possible, CDM Smith is wrong?
Fifth, Tolling I-5 will produce unacceptable traffic diversion. The CDM Smith estimates show that tolling the I-5 bridges will produce enormous traffic diversion to I-205; on the order of 40,000 to 50,000 additional vehicles will use I-205, jamming it to capacity. If this project does not work as a transportation investment, it is highly likely to fail financially. We know that this is true because of the experience with the proposed tolling regime for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Deep Bore Tunnel in Seattle. There, the Washington Department of Transportation claimed--based on studies very much like the Smith estimates--that tolling could contribute $400 million toward construction costs. Only after the project was approved, did WSDOT undertake further analyses, which confirmed the concerns about diversion. Tolling to produce $400 million, while feasible, they determined, would cause unacceptable traffic impacts; therefore, the amount of money to be generated from tolls has been cut, first to $200 million and now to only $140 million. Claims that there is ample "headroom" to increase CRC tolls, without consideration of how tolling will affect traffic flows, are idle and misleading at best. Unless this project's toll regime is consistent with a functioning regional transportation system, it will not be implementable in practice, with the result being that the state will be responsible to make up the revenue shortfall, which is exactly what has happened with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Deep Bore Tunnel.
Sixth, ODOT's financial model is broken and unsustainable. By its own reckoning, it has relied excessively on debt financing, and will, over the next few years have to reduce by half its capital outlays. It has gone from spending about 2 percent of its state revenues on debt service a decade ago, to now facing the prospect that it will spend 35 percent of its state revenues on debt service. This project would add to that debt burden. At the same time, the agency has over-estimated its revenues, by a cumulative amount over the past five years, of half a billion dollars. The department’s dire financial straits and dwindling resources are plainly presented on its own website: This record of financial profligacy should prompt a prudent financial advisor to counsel caution and retrenchment, not taking on further debt and a larger level of risk.
By Rachel Gowland of Eugene, OR. Rachel is the tuition and affordability director for the University of Oregon student government, and the fundraising chair for the UO College Democrats.
It is official: Portland teachers have now voted to authorize a strike, and Medford teachers have already been striking for a few days. As is widely known, Portland teachers are pushing for smaller class sizes; in Medford teachers are fighting for adequate preparation time. I think we can all agree that these are reasonable requests for our teachers to be making and that the respective school boards should listen and cooperate. With regards to these contract negotiations, however, the point that I wish to make is a little bit larger.
Once settled, the educational standards determined by these contracts are not an isolated 'Portland' issue, nor is the strike occurring in Medford only about Medford teachers and classrooms. These conflicts set precedent for education standards throughout Oregon. Teachers in both Medford and Portland have made it very clear that being given the tools to educate students well is their priority. They are both fighting against declining standards brought on by larger class sizes and less preparation time, which is a statewide problem. What is more, both the Medford and Portland teachers' unions have demonstrated the willingness to resort to a strike in order to achieve their goals. They are undoubtedly setting an example for how other teachers and school boards will negotiate contracts across the state in the future.
Not only is this a statewide issue, it is an issue that transcends education at the K-12 level. As a senior and student leader at the University of Oregon, I can personally attest to the barriers to a college education not only for students on my campus, but for students across the state. The hurdles that we face, such as a lack of preparedness and diversity on campus, do not begin at Freshman Orientation. They begin in kindergarten.
Fifty student classrooms and overexerted teachers are factors that will decrease the number of students who qualify to go to college, and the students who do get accepted will be under-prepared. Only the students who have additional resources to compensate will get ahead. Thus far, this conversation ignores the fact that the past few legislative sessions have been dominated by questions of funding for universities and elementary schools alike.
Anyone concerned with private governing boards (a band-aid at best) or the development of Pay It Forward (an innovative new idea for funding Higher Ed) should be alarmed by what is happening in Medford and Portland.
Finally, these strikes are drawing attention to a problem that is ultimately too big to be solved simply by settling contracts.
However, the idea that teachers are or will be packing up their personal belongings and vacating their classrooms in not one, but two Oregon cities is troubling. After facing years of divestment in their classrooms, our elementary and high school teachers are finally saying enough is enough. It should be noted that Medford and Portland teachers are simultaneously going on strike only one year after our institutions of higher education were restructured largely for the purpose of finding more revenue.
These strikes should cause us to stop and consider just how bad things have really gotten.
Striking Oregon teachers will never fix the system, though they have certainly brought attention to the massive leak in the proverbial pipe. Realistically, the only solution is for taxpayers to enact broad reform that will adequately fund education at every level. Medford and Portland teachers are speaking up. I, for one, support them.