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The Intel SIP deal is a terrible deal for taxpayers

5 hours 19 min ago

By Jody Wiser of Portland, Oregon. Jody is an advocate for progressive tax policy at Tax Fairness Oregon.

What kind of a water cooler is Blue Oregon, that no one has brought up Intel’s SIP deal?

Intel has asked for, and may well get their second dose of 30 year “tax certainty.” Following Nike’s lead, last December Intel got their Oregon income taxes sealed at pretty much nothing for 30 years. Next they decided to out-bargain the Washington County Commissioners and the Hillsboro City Council on getting the same low property taxes they’ve had for the last 20 years….with no cost of living adjustments since 1993. And while prior Intel deals have been good for 15 years, this time they want 30 years, with certainty about taxes on up to $100 billion in investments.

Tuesday in the Washington County Commission’s and the Hillsboro City Council’s open comment periods a few of us raised concerns about the Intel SIP “deal.”

Next Tuesday evening, after but 15 days, and immediately after the mandated one public hearing, the two groups of electeds will vote. They are set to make a 30-year commitment to Intel. They’ve provided no answers to why 30 years or why $100 billion of investments? $100 billion is 4 times what they’ve invested to date.

Mind you, Intel isn’t promising to invest $100 billion and to keep at least 17,500 Oregon employees for the next 30 years, in fact they aren’t promising anything with the agreement. But were Intel making those two promises, it still wouldn’t be a fair deal.

Why? Because none of the base numbers for taxes and fees have been increased for inflation -- since 1993. Intel says they need a $100 billion deal because their equipment costs are rising.

Well, costs have and will continue to rise for public services as well.

We recommend three changes to get to a fair agreement:

  1. Adjust all figures in the agreement for inflation and include annual CPI increases once signed. The amount Intel will pay will go up at least 75% from the current proposal.
  2. The $100 m property tax base, when CPI adjusted from 1993 becomes $175 m today.
  3. The $2 m Community Service Fee increases to $3.3 m, and rising annually
  4. The $2 m cap on the Community Service fee would be increased to $3.3 m rising annually.
  5. The $2.87 m Guaranteed Annual Payment adjusted from 1999 to 2014 and becomes $4.11 m.
  6. Reduce the dollar value of the agreement to no more than $25 billion of investments. That effectively gives Intel $43.5 billion of additional “investment certainty,” since $18.5b of the current $25b agreement remains unused.
  7. Reduce the number of years the agreement can be utilized to the next 10 years.

These are the kinds of changes we believe the Commission and City Council should be thinking about…and for more than 15 summer days.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Ernst & Young finds Oregon has nation's lowest total effective business tax rate

August 20, 2014 - 6:00am

Oregon has the lowest “total effective business tax rate" in the country, according to a study (PDF), conducted by the accounting firm Ernst & Young on behalf of the Council On State Taxation (COST). The accounting firm found that the total state and local taxes paid by Oregon businesses amounted to 3.3 percent of Oregon's private sector economy in fiscal year 2013, the smallest such contribution among all states.

The study purports to include all taxes businesses pay: corporate income and excise taxes; property, sales and use, and license taxes paid by businesses; personal income taxes on business income passed through to the personal income tax (such as those taxes paid by owners of S-corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships and limited liability companies); unemployment insurance taxes; and other business taxes.

Click image to enlarge.

It is important to remember that this is a study conducted to advance the interests of an association of multistate and multinational corporations that lobbies for lower business taxes in states across the country. COST represents about 600 corporations, including major Oregon employers such as Nike, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, US Bank and Xerox (PDF).

The study's authors are not transparent about their methodology. The numbers come from the authors' black box, so there is no way to evaluate the reliability of the numbers, particularly with regard to property taxes and the myriad of tax subsidies that businesses receive, such as property tax abatements.

Moreover, the COST study ignores the incidence of the business taxes it is measuring. For example, many economists would conclude that some, if not all, of the sales taxes paid on business inputs are passed on to consumers and and that at least some of the incidence of unemployment compensation taxes is on workers in the form of lower wages.

To its credit, the COST study concedes that comparing total taxes to a broad measure of the economy such as private sector gross state product is "not a clear indicator of the competitiveness of a state's business tax system in terms of attracting new investment."

Previously, using a different metric for comparing states, COST pegged Oregon as having the second lowest taxes on new investments by business.

Oregon's lowest-taxes-in-the-nation rank takes into account the modest personal and corporate income tax increases put into effect by Measures 66 and 67 approved by voters in 2010. Add the fact that Oregon's economy has performed exceedingly well, and you realize that Oregon need not give corporations or their owners and executives more tax subsidies.

Isn't it time to ask profitable corporations to contribute meaningfully to support the public structures that make Oregon a great place to live, raise a family, work and build businesses?

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

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Yakama Nation to Coal: And Stay Out.

August 18, 2014 - 6:51pm

Governor Kitzhaber's Department of State Lands has issued a landmark denial of Oregon's only proposed coal export terminal, keeping millions of tons of coal right where it belongs - buried in the ground.

Back in May the Yakama Nation protested that the coal terminal proposed for their traditional treaty recognized fishing grounds up on the Columbia Rover, near modern day Boardman, was an attack on the water, the salmon, their way of life, and a contradiction to the idea of living in balance with our surroundings.

The Australian coal mining company in question, Ambre Energy, denied the tribal claims in comments to the media and in filings to state regulators.

Evidently the claims by the coal company about where tribal fishing rights do or don't apply were not pursuasive.

In their findings released on August 18th the Department of State Lands had the final word on the matter:

"The agency record demonstrates that the project would unreasonably interfere with a small but important and and long-standing fishery in the State's waters at the project site."

In response to this news Yakama Chairman JoDe Goudy made the following statement:

"This is only the beginning of what I expect will be a long fight. Yakama Nation will not rest until the entire regional threat posed by the coal industry to our ancestral lands and waters is eradicated. We will continue to speak out and fight on behalf of our people, and for those things, which cannot speak for themselves, that have been entrusted to us for cultivation and preservation since time immemorial. Today, however, we thank and stand in solidarity with the State of Oregon, and celebrate its decision to protect the Columbia River from further damage and degradation."

So what's next?

The Columbia River could still be impacted by two remaining coal export terminals.

Up in Bellingham, Washington the proposed coal terminal will rumble 9 loaded coal trains down the Columbia River Gorge every day. Up there the fight against has also been taken on by local tribal leaders.

Lummi Nation Chairman, Timothy Ballew II, had this to say about today's good news from Oregon:

"The State’s action makes a strong policy statement by recognizing Tribal Sovereignty and the Treaty Rights of the Columbia River tribes. Such decisions are few and far between. This is important not just for the Yakama and Umatilla but all Indian fishing tribes. Together we can, and will, protect our way of life."

And we've still got a coal proposal on the Columbia River, just over in Longview, Washington, that will barrel 8 loaded and uncovered coal trains a day through Portland. That one may be the most likely threat left on the radar. Just this week the Longview coal terminal supporters just threw a summer picnic for 300 of their closest supporters - for a terminal that hasn't even seen a draft EIS yet.

According to the spokesperson for the coal company, Millenium Terminals, “We wanted to find way to say thank you to folks in the community.”

I guess it must be all about who you include in your definition of community.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

State of Oregon Denies Ambre Coal Export Permit

August 18, 2014 - 3:14pm

Huge news, buried in a calendar of decisions. The line from Oregon's Department of State Lands said simply this:

"Permit denied Aug. 18, 2014"

The requested permit was for a removal/fill permit to allow the construction of a huge coal export terminal, owned by Australian-owned Ambre Energy. From Power Past Coal:

Each year, Ambre Energy would bring more than eight million tons of coal by rail from the Powder River Basin to the Port of Morrow where Columbia River barge traffic would double to accommodate carrying the product through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

From The Oregonian:

Oregon's Department of State Lands on Monday dealt a serious blow to Ambre Energy's proposed coal export project, denying a key permit needed for construction in the Columbia River....

The terminal would create a key link for Western coal producers anxious to find new outlets for coal that is no longer wanted in the United States. Coal terminal opponents had pinned their hopes on the department's decision and celebrated it.

"Oregonians today should be proud that our state stood up to protect salmon, fishing, and clean water over dirty coal," said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper...

More background is available from Climate Solutions and Power Past Coal, including this powerful quotation:

“Northwest communities and leaders agree: coal exports are not in the best interest of the region. Throughout Oregon and the Northwest, thousands of business owners, elected officials, doctors, faith leaders and others have demanded that Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon protect Oregon families and frontline communities from the dangers of coal exports. Today, those calls were answered,” said Arlene Burns, city council president of Mosier, Ore.

Over 20,000 comments poured into the Division of State Lands, asking for the permit's rejection. Governor Kitzhaber urged its denial, and the permit's denial was expected for months. Years of work organizing, investigating, and unveiling the problems with the proposal finally resulted in today's decision.

It's a wonderful day in Oregon for a clean energy future. One where dirty, global-warming causing coal is not given a helping hand.

While appeals and other steps could happen, the Northwest battles against dirty coal mainly turn north, to proposed export terminals in Washington State at Longview and Bellingham. Meanwhile, Oregonians continue to build a clean energy future -- one future generations will be proud of.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are mine alone; not of my employer.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Will Affordable Housing Exist in Portland in Ten Years?

August 16, 2014 - 10:01am

By Cameron Whitten of Portland, Oregon. Cameron is the Board President at Know Your City, an economics student at Portland State University, and a community advocate.

Last week, Willamette Week wrote about the Murrays -- a family who survived 30 years of mass displacement to become the last African Americans living on a block of Northeast Portland. Soon there may be none, as the family wrestles with foreclosure due to a predatory mortgage scheme. Unfortunately, this story of loss and injustice happens too often and is consistently invisible.

Who else does it effect? Well, most of us, actually. Fun Fact: the average apartment rent in Portland rose over six percent in one year. Just. One. Year.

Portland was named in 2011 as one of the top 10 American cities with the fastest rising rents by the research firm, Reis Inc. We as a community are witnessing housing choice disappear at an alarming pace, as both new and old housing becomes less and less affordable. The shift is visible in North and inner-East Portland, which was once home to low income families and people of color and has changed at a dramatic cost to racial and economic cohesion.

For decades, local leaders and community members have raised awareness about past injustices that disrupted the livelihood of working class Portlanders: red lining, eminent domain for the Rose Quarter, the Models Cities Program, Legacy Emmanuel Hospital expansion, etc.

What we don't talk about enough, is what's happening now. Our goals for affordable and safe housing continue to be threatened by activities that stem from a local, regional, and statewide level. Here are a few examples.

Last week, Portland City Council voted 3-2 to waive building fees (System Development Charges, or SDCs) from developers in Old Town Chinatown in exchange for a promise to provide some affordable housing, most of which will sunset after ten years (according to the Portland Housing Bureau's FAQ on their SDC exemption program: “a project must maintain affordability for a period of 60 years for the number of exempted units”). Think about that- after ten years, there is no guarantee this housing developed with government discounts will be accessible for lower income workers, while developers still benefit from the agreement.

Here's another example. Last year, the regional government Metro invested $300,000 into a transit-oriented subsidy for a development called the Radiator, a large-scale mix of office and retail space just north of the recently opened New Seasons in the gentrifying Boise neighborhood. Only recently, thanks to the work of new Councilors, has Metro dedicated funds to even begin examining how regional policies impact access to affordable housing.

Even in the State Legislature, a coalition of affordable housing advocates and non-profits have rallied to repeal the 15-year-old law that prevents local governments from using Inclusionary Zoning as a tool to promote affordable housing. Although the Legislature's party lines have changed since the 90's, efforts to repeal the ban have fallen short against a powerful real estate lobby in Salem.

We are losing our community legacy to gentrification at a time when we needed action the most. Where is our vision to move forward?

Think about the pain the Murray's endure as they grapple with potentially losing their home of 33 years. Then, remember the thousands who've already lost the battle to gentrification. We need to do better- locally, regionally, and as an entire state.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The Oregon Airspace Initiative & Visiting F-18s - Are We Overarmed?

August 15, 2014 - 5:54pm
Is it Necessary to Have Fighter Jets Flying over Portland in August, or Ever?

In the discussions that we're having about whether or not the police are overarmed it seems prudent to question the necessity of the Oregon Space Initiative of our local Air National Guard. The other day this came in the mail from the Cully Neighborhood Association:

Cully Association of Neighbors

Dear Neighbor,

Visiting Military Jets - Training Flights August 3-23, 2014 Portland International Airport

Portland/Vancouver metro area residents may notice a temporary change in aircraft operations due to additional military jet operations in and out of PDX from August 3-23, 2014. Visiting military jets (F18/Hornet) will be included in the daily training exercises routinely performed by the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard. The addition of this aircraft type may influence the typical noise exposure in the communities surrounding PDX.

Thank you for your understanding during these temporary conditions.
Related Link: Noise Management at PDX

Cully Association of Neighbors

A Few Problems

Here are a couple problems with having jets visit the Portland area during August - or, really, anytime.

  1. It's the month we're more likely to be outdoors - due to hot weather. The problem here is that the noise from the jets is unpleasant - and it happens multiple times a day. If you're out in your garden picking tomatoes, this is not a sound you want to hear - I'm not sure what the effect of extra spent jet fuel in the air does to the toxicity of the air/soil - but I imagine it's not great. Cully, which is one of the neighborhoods closest to the base also seems to be a place where a lot of organic gardening is going on. What is the extra noise from these jets doing to increase the discomfort of people who live near the base? What does the added spent jet fuel do to the safety of the produce?

  2. We're heating the planet - those 3 weeks we just had with extremely hot weather? I think most would agree, humans have something to do with that. Adding in more jets to the mix, probably isn't doing much to cool things down. Here's an interesting article on the military assault on the global climate.

  3. Are we safe? Are these jets making us any safer? Would they keep us just as safe if they were based 100 miles away in a less populous place? I probably wouldn't even have thought to write if the jets weren't taking off and leaving at all hours of the day and night.

Note: you can reach the public affairs office of the 142nd Fighter Wing, here: 503-335-4104 and via email, here 142FW.PA@ang.af.mil - and they, and the PDX Noise Hotline pdxnoise@portofportland.com do take note of our communications and take them into account.

  1. Jobs. If this is about the hundreds of jobs that this base brings to the region - are we just doing this to employ people?

  2. Overdoing it. We usually have 6 F-15s at this base and now we have 18 (F-15s and F-18s). Is this necessary? Does it make sense to have this many fighter jets taking off and landing so close to an urban area? Is this typically done? And, if so, perhaps it's something that should be discussed on a national level.

I would like to hear what you think about this situation and whether it falls into the category of having more arms around than are needed. And, if this issue concerns you, please let the Air National Guard and PDX Noise Hotline know your concerns.

A friend wrote me and asked me to mention that he was hiking in the Mt. Hood wilderness areas today and heard jets flying overhead twice. The impact is harsh. Three things - 1. What's the impact this has on tourism? 2. What's the point of having a wilderness area if we're going to have low-flying fighter jets screaming overhead? 3. How does this impact other species?

8.19.14 - Correction: The jets at PDX are F-15s. The Visiting jets are F-18s.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

How much wilderness is enough? In Oregon, we need to do more

August 13, 2014 - 7:00am

By Brent Fenty of Bend, Oregon. Brent is the Executive Director at Oregon Natural Desert Association.

This coming September marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. It was a landmark bill when passed, representing a growing awareness that the Industrial Age was quickly changing the world around us. Therefore, for ourselves, future generations and other species that depend on wild places, we would set aside land and rivers in their natural state.

The follow-up question to this effort was and continues to be: How much is enough? The answer is clearly different for each of us. As someone who was raised in a church-going home, I've always admired the idea of tithing, and in my mind setting aside at least 10 percent of our world as wilderness is a form of tithing. Others can argue for less or -- I would hope -- more, but what I am confident of is that Oregon has not protected enough wilderness yet.

Oregon lags far behind our neighbor states in the amount of wilderness it has protected. Only 4 percent of the state is currently protected as wilderness; this is less than half of what Washington and Idaho have protected and nearly four times less than what California has protected. We clearly have a wilderness deficit.

What is also clear is that most of Oregon's wilderness is in our forests. A mere 1/3 of a percent of Oregon's high desert is currently protected as wilderness, and that is because nearly 3 million acres of public lands known as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) have sat in limbo for more than three decades in the throes of congressional inaction.

I have heard some suggest that the remoteness of Oregon's high desert will ensure that areas like the Owyhee Canyonlands will remain wild. This sprawling area on Oregon's eastern edge is larger than many eastern states; the Owyhee's rolling hills, roaring rivers and red-rock canyons represent the largest stretch of wildlands in the lower 48 without permanent protection. It's also a stronghold for the imperiled Greater sage-grouse and home to the largest herd of California bighorn sheep in the nation. Yet remoteness will not keep it safe. It is obvious that there is no place on land, and perhaps now even in our oceans, where development cannot reach. Already in the Owyhee Canyonlands, threats like mining, unmanaged ATV use and the prospect of oil and gas development loom on the horizon.

I recently had the opportunity to raft down the Grand Canyon. As I floated through Marble Canyon, I was startled to see bore holes, drilled into the canyon walls in preparation for a dam planned decades before. There was also paint marking where the walls of concrete were to be poured. It reinforced for me that our natural treasures only still exist because some have had the foresight to fight for their protection. As Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed upon creating what was then Grand Canyon National Monument, "I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it."

In this 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, I encourage you to celebrate the desert wilderness we do have and the wonderful people who had the foresight to come together to protect these areas -- Steens Mountain (14 years old), the Oregon Badlands (5 years old) and Spring Basin (5 years old). But we also need to do more for the areas that still need to be protected.

You're also welcome to join ONDA to discuss the past and envision the future of wilderness at the 27th biannual Desert Conference, Sept. 19-20 in Bend. We invite you to hear from some of the best minds in conservation, science, art and history in inspiring, thoughtful panels and discussions. Participants will also journey into the field on guided hikes. We'll confer on how we can follow the example of those early wilderness leaders and protect desert places before pressures from development overwhelm them. The ideas and energy from this gathering are important to developing effective, workable solutions for desert conservation.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Ruling: Ted Wheeler can't run for Treasurer again (but what about the Bill Bradbury precedent?)

August 12, 2014 - 6:00am

It's long been assumed that our state treasurer, Ted Wheeler, would run for re-election in 2016. But as it turns out, he's ineligible. At least, that's according to a legal opinion (pdf) issued by Oregon's attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, in response to a request from Secretary of State Kate Brown.

First, let's recap our recent history:

In March 2010, Treasurer Ben Westlund passed away while in office. Governor Ted Kulongoski appointed Ted Wheeler, then Multnomah County Chair, to the job. Wheeler was then on the primary ballot in May 2010 and the general election ballot in November 2010 -- winning an election to the second half of Westlund's term. In 2012, Wheeler was elected to a full term as Treasurer.

The first part of Rosenblum's opinion isn't particularly complicated. It basically points to the plain language of the Oregon Constitution, Article VI:

There shall be elected by the qualified electors of the State, at the times and places of choosing Members of the Legislative Assembly, a Secretary, and Treasurer of State, who shall severally hold their offices for the term of four years; but no person shall be eligible to either of said offices more than Eight in any period of Twelve years.

By the end of 2016, Wheeler will have served six years and just over eight months. It seems obvious that he wouldn't be eligible to run for another term of four years.

So, why is this news? Why did we need a formal ruling on it from the AG?

Well, it's not quite so simple as the above.

Neither of the recent Oregonian articles (here and here) explained this, but those of us wondering about the question kept looking to the precedent set in 2004 when Bill Bradbury ran for re-election as Secretary of State. By the time he was done, he had served a total of nine years and two months -- which is, after all, more than eight years.

Let's remember that history:

In November 1999, Secretary of State Phil Keisling resigned. He had been re-elected in 1996, so his resignation came with some 14 months to go. Governor John Kitzhaber appointed Bradbury. Then, in November 2000, Bradbury won his first full term. Then, in November 2004, he ran for re-election.

So, why wouldn't the Bradbury precedent apply in the Wheeler case? After all, if Bradbury could serve more than eight years -- despite the plain language of the Constitution -- why couldn't Wheeler? Or was a mistake made in allowing Bradbury to run for re-election?

As it turns out, there's a small but critical difference between the Bradbury scenario and the Wheeler scenario. The AG's opinion doesn't directly reference Bradbury, but draws a bright line between the two situations.

According to the opinion, the time period between an appointment to a vacancy and when a successor is elected (including to a partial term) does not count against the eight-year limit. But once a formal election happens, the clock starts to run.

It actually comes from an entirely different part of the Oregon Constitution; Article II, Section 12:

In all cases, in which it is provided that an office shall not be filled by the same person, more than a certain number of years continuously, an appointment pro tempore shall not be reckoned a part of that term.

So, in the Bradbury case, that first 14 months didn't count; he was just an appointee. But for Wheeler, while the first 9 months didn't count, once he won that 2010 election, he was no longer an appointee and the clock started to run. And at the end of his current term, he'll be at six years -- and ineligible to run again.

Mystery solved. And the answer is fairly elegant. Even if not entirely satisfying to fans of the State Treasurer.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 90: A No-Win Scenario (The Sequel)

August 4, 2014 - 5:28pm

Not long ago, BlueOregon celebrated its 10th anniversary, and Kari asked contributors to reflect on their favorite columns. While my post from late October 2008 may not be my most well written, it is truly the most relevant.

Nothing presented in the intervening 6 years has softened my opposition to the "Top 2" primary system. The experiences of California and Washington have only served to fortify the arguments of those opposed, and debunked the optimistic speculation (i.e. messaging) of those that are again trying to cram this down voters' throats.

In brief, passing 90 will neither increase voter participation nor create a friendlier environment for "minor" parties. What it will do is grease the skids for only the most well funded candidates to enter the fray, let alone emerge from it. The arguments from 2008 still ring true:

Measure 65: A no-win scenario, October 28, 2008

Measure 65 is the like proposing amputation to cure a hangnail, effecting a package of unintended consequences that will limit voters’ choices rather than enhance them. Whether a voter identifies with a party or not, the field of candidates under Measure 65 could be severely trimmed well before the Primary vote even occurs, and Oregonians will be deprived of choices because of it.

Instead of Democrats (or Republicans) in a given district being able to decide whom they like best in a field of 3 or 4 in the existing system, there would be a natural tension and pressure to limit major party candidates to no more than 2, and maybe one. Threatened will be the opportunity to select a candidate from a field of quality individuals from various backgrounds.

In a “top two” system, each party would be forced into a game of strategy months before the March filing deadline. Pressure from parties, and from moneyed interests (often from out-of-state), would be enormous, and the chances of enthusiastic, qualified but un-vetted candidates entering the process would be limited. Potential candidates would have to decide whether their candidacy would actually be in conflict with their social and altruistic goals, because too many candidates of a particular stripe could ensure that ALL of them lose, even if that stripe most accurately represents the District.

The situation created by Measure 65 is a no-win scenario. Either a potential candidate from a major succumbs to the pressure from the party and decides against running, or s/he takes the chance, runs against the favored candidate and risks eliminating both.

Smaller parties could put forth candidates, but as long as Republican and Democratic Parties exist, smaller parties will NEVER see their candidates advance to the general election. Measure 65 does nothing to enhance the viability of the Green, Working Families, Independent Party or any other small party registered in Oregon. Measure 65 will further limit their impact and silence their voices.

The majority of voters in Oregon have consciously chosen to affiliate with particular parties based on shared values and philosophies. We rightfully expect to be able to choose our own party’s nominees along with other similarly aligned Oregonians. Likewise, the non-affiliated voter has consciously made that choice, in effect declaring that s/he is not interested in participating in the partisan primary process. Skewing the system so radically doesn’t “solve” any problems for the unaffiliated voter; it simply creates a huge problem for all Oregon voters.

The Multnomah County Democratic Party has voiced its strong opposition to Measure 65. As Democrats, we share core philosophies, yet possess a wide range of viewpoints. We believe ALL these viewpoints should have the forum for expression in the primary election, and that primary voters should be enabled to vote for whomever best represents their philosophies.

Measure 65 limits the choice Oregon voters deserve.

We encourage Oregonians to vote NO on Measure 65.

2014 update. The Oregon and Multnomah Democratic Parties have not made their endorsements for the 2014 ballot measures, but will be doing so within the next 2 weeks. I do not speak on behalf of either.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

End Oregon's Death Penalty

August 2, 2014 - 9:00am

By Tom Markgraf of Portland, Oregon. Tom is a long-time advocate and activist, and has served as a board member for various social service agencies in Oregon for the last 20 years.

Once again, a convicted killer’s execution has been botched. And while that person may have been a brutal murder, the US Constitution guarantees no cruel and unusual punishment.

Certainly the hour and fifty-one minutes after the injection of poison that slowly killed him must be considered cruel.

And in today’s world, killing prisoners should be considered unusual. 140 other nations in the civilized world have abandoned killing prisoners.

Today, Oregon has 34 prisoners on death row. 33 men, one woman. Governor Kitzhaber imposed a moratorium during his tenure. But that could be over anytime.

America is among the five nations that kills the most prisoners. The other four are Iraq, Iran, China, and Pakistan. Not exactly beacons in human rights.

But if you don’t believe killing prisoners is barbaric and diminishes our very humanity, there are practical reasons to stop killing human beings.

Killing people costs a lot of money. Far more is spent to execute a person than to keep him or her in prison for life. A 2011 study found that California has spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1978 and that death penalty trials are 20 times more expensive than trials seeking a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

No credible evidence exists that shows capital punishment deters crime. If killing criminals deterred crime, then the American South -- where 80% of US executions take place -- would have the lowest murder rate. But the opposite is true; the South has the highest murder rates.

Even the US Supreme Count admits mistakes will happen and innocent people will die. It doesn’t say just how many is acceptable.

The governor of Illinois decided that none was acceptable, and commuted to life in prison every death row inmate because the justice system was so flawed. In a system that rewards convictions, quite often prosecutors withheld evidence, the police didn’t tell the truth, and inexperienced attorneys were assigned to capital cases and didn’t put up reasonable defenses.

Since the Innocence Project began in 1992, over three hundred inmates have been released by introducing new evidence including DNA testing. Almost 40 of these were capital cases, including innocent men who were scheduled to die.

Race really is a factor in determining who is sentenced to die in this country. In 1990 , the General Accounting Office concluded that "in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e. those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks."

Oregon’s death row racial makeup is different from the rest of the nation in that it nearly reflects our true population. 27 inmates are white. Three African American, three Hispanic and one native American.

What if, instead of spending millions on killing criminals, we could use that money to help the families who are victims put their lives back together, with therapy, counseling and restitution? Wouldn’t that be a more positive, effective use of money?

In every state with the death penalty, jurors have the option of sentencing murderers to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It’s cheaper to tax-payers and keeps violent offenders off the streets for good. More important, it allows mistakes to be corrected. In California, where 3,300 criminals have this sentence, seven people sentenced to life without parole have been released because they were able to prove their innocence. Oregonians need to end the death penalty for humane reasons, then just for financial and practical sense.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Women Won’t Let Richardson and Wehby Get Away with It

August 1, 2014 - 11:45am

By Alicia Temple of Portland, Oregon. Alicia is the Program Manager for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.

Gubernatorial candidate and State Representative Dennis Richardson claims abortion shouldn’t be a state issue. Senate candidate Monica Wehby claims abortion shouldn’t be a federal issue. Yet neither one has affirmed that a woman has a constitutional right to make personal medical decisions without the interference of politicians. Why should Oregon women trust them?

Let’s be clear: These Republicans have carved out a convenient position that allows them to play both sides of a serious issue. Regardless of what Richardson and Wehby might say on the campaign trail, reproductive freedom is under attack on the state level and on the federal level. Across the country, states have enacted more abortion restrictions in the past three years than in the previous decade. At the same time, Congress has prioritized a dangerous, unconstitutional abortion ban despite a veto threat from President Obama. And now they’re coming after birth control, which has widespread medical and economic benefits for women.

So we have to ask: Are Richardson and Wehby simply ignorant about this unprecedented effort to roll back the clock on women? Or are they deliberately pretending that it doesn’t exist?

Richardson must recognize that he has a terrible voting record for women’s health, because he’s already running from his past. According to an April news report, “Richardson said he…considers abortion law to be a federal issue, not one he’d deal with as governor.” He told The Oregonian: “My positions on social issues are my own. As governor, I will keep my oath to enforce the laws that are on the books.”

Actions speak louder than words:

  • In 1990, Richardson wrote in a letter to The Oregonian, “A woman relinquishes her unfettered right to control her own body when her actions cause the conception of a baby.”
  • In 2005, Richardson introduced a fetal “personhood” bill.
  • In 2006, Richardson was chief sponsor of Ballot Measure 43, which would have endangered young women’s health by requiring parental notification prior to an abortion.
  • In 2007, Richardson was one of only nine House members to vote against a bill requiring insurance companies to cover birth control and requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraceptives to women after a sexual assault.
  • In 2009, Richardson was one of only 19 votes against medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education.
  • In 2013, Richardson accepted a $20,000 donation to push the radical agenda of Oregon Right to Life, which includes restricting birth control and banning safe, legal abortion – even in cases of rape and incest.

Meanwhile, Senate hopeful Monica Wehby is also hoping to obscure her out-of-touch views on women’s rights. According to The Baker City Herald, she claimed at a candidate forum in January, “I believe [abortion] is a personal decision between a woman and her family, not a woman and the federal government.”

Despite her desperate attempt to appear moderate, Wehby is campaigning on a platform that is clearly wrong for Oregon women:

  • Wehby opposes the Affordable Care Act, the greatest advancement for women’s health in decades. About 360,000 Oregon women are now eligible for lifesaving preventive care without co-pays; women can no longer be charged more than men for health care; and women can no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions like breast cancer, domestic violence and even pregnancy.
  • Wehby supports the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the bosses at Hobby Lobby who want to interfere with their employees’ access to birth control. Paying out of pocket for birth control would cost a typical woman $66,000 over her lifetime.
  • Wehby opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes in employment discrimination law so that women receive equal pay for equal work. The gender wage gap costs a typical woman $431,000 in lost wages over her lifetime.
  • Wehby opposes increasing the federal minimum wage, which would be a major step toward eliminating health disparities and increasing economic opportunities. Women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers, the vast majority of whom receive no paid sick days.
  • Wehby was “mentored” by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who believes abortion providers should be executed. She is also aligned with women’s health opponents Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. One of her surrogates, Tea Party radical Ben Carson, has even suggested that Wehby is only pretending to be pro-choice just to get elected.

Clearly, Richardson and Wehby have taken a page from the national Republican playbook in trying to erase the “war on women” from memory. Just listen to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, whose offensive remarks are the political equivalent of the playground taunt “I know you are, but what am I?” In January he told the Republican National Committee: “The Republicans don’t have a war ON women, they have a war FOR women…. Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido.”

The 2012 election was driven by a historic gender gap, and this year promises to be no different. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon will work tirelessly through November to educate voters about where candidates stand on the medical and economic issues that will affect their families. We will defend women’s health champions like Governor John Kitzhaber and Senator Jeff Merkley. And we will fight back against corporations coming between a woman and her doctor.

Oregon women have had enough of politicians who want to treat us like second-class citizens. We are watching and we are voting in 2014.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Greg Walden: Not exactly a superhero.

August 1, 2014 - 8:30am

As everyone knows, Oregon is a place crawling with superheroes.

There was that time that Congressman Earl Blumenauer intervened when a kid assaulted a light-rail passenger and wound up chasing him down the street until the cops showed.

And the time that Sam Adams -- then a caped crusader, er City Commissioner -- was roaming the streets at night and came across someone lying in the street needing assistance.

Or the time that former all-state linebacker and campaign manager Andy Darkins saw a purse-snatching through the Greg Matthews campaign office window -- and chased down the perp in his bare feet.

And of course, Governor John Kitzhaber is his own category of superhero -- who has, at least twice, leaped into action to provide medical assistance to someone in need.

Which makes Congressman Greg Walden so sad by comparison. Check out this video from his Democratic challenger, Aelea Christofferson:

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The Income Inequality Oath: First, Do No Harm

July 31, 2014 - 9:36am

Often I am asked, “What can we do to address income inequality?”

There are a number of good ideas for confronting income inequality, which now stands at historic highs.

In my view the first thing to do is to “do no harm.” Don’t enact policies that will exacerbate the problem. This is particularly true in the area of tax policy, where decades of tax cuts and subsidies favoring the well-off have contributed significantly to rising income inequality.

In every Oregon legislative session, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle bring forth proposals to cut taxes for the wealthy outright or provide some new tax subsidy for the rich. For example, a seemingly perennial effort — fortunately rebuffed thus far — is to give favored tax status to capital gains income.

Capital gains income is income derived from the profitable sale of stocks, bonds, real estate and other capital assets.

A cut in the income tax on capital gains would not just be a tax cut for the rich; it would be a tax cut for the very rich. Indeed, the wealthiest 1 out of every 1000 Oregonians (the top one-tenth of the wealthiest 1 percent) reap about half of all capital gains income.

So what can you do to help confront income inequality in Oregon?

With candidates holding fundraising and campaign recruitment meetings as the fall election season approaches, it’s a good time to engage them. Ask candidates whether they will pledge not to exacerbate inequality. Ask them to take the income inequality oath to do no harm. Ask them to promise not to cut taxes on the already well-off, be it by cutting the income tax on capital gains or any other means.

Bring this capital gains infographic (JPG; a PDF version is here) to meetings with candidates and pass it on to your friends and neighbors via email and social media and ask them to join you in calling on candidates to take the income inequality oath to do no harm.

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

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

OR-SEN: It's just a fantasy.

July 30, 2014 - 3:16pm

I've long understood that there is an alternate "reality" (and yes, those quotation marks are meant to be there) for many Republicans. The GOP is not alone in this regard. But in my experience, they're far and away the group with self-identified adherents skating dangerously out of the realm of anything resembling a fact-based existence.

Always the optimist, I hope for better. But the full-court press for Monica Wehby by the well-heeled factions of the GOP elite class borders on psychosis.

To wit:

Simon Maloy, Salon:

One contest that has remained constant, however, is the Senate race in Oregon between incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley and his Republican challenger, neurosurgeon Monica Wehby. Merkley remains the heavy favorite, despite a gargantuan amount of hype surrounding Wehby’s candidacy. The strange thing is that Wehby-mentum soldiers on despite any real indicators that she’s fielding a credible challenge to Merkley.

Part of this is due to the largess of outside conservative and libertarian groups, who are still pouring money into the race. The Koch brothers just recently opted to boost their overall spending in support of Wehby, partly because her policy positions are simpatico with those of the broader Koch empire, but also because the Koch brothers don’t really have to worry about prioritizing when it comes to political spending. But Wehby-mentum refuses to die also because conservative pundits have convinced themselves that Obamacare’s unpopularity is so potent a force that it will take down an incumbent Democrat in a solidly blue state.

Maloy goes on to note what can only justly be described as "insane" piece by George Will, gushing over what he seems to think is her impending coronation as Oregon's junior senator because...Obamacare, I guess. This despite Wehby's 14 POINT drag behind US Senator Jeff Merkley, mind you.

If the Koch brothers want to dump money into feeding the black hole of the GOP in Oregon, that's certainly up to them. But it seems cruel to me for them (and George Will and Karl Rove) to raise hopes for Wehby's prospects. This race was all but over after Wehby's very public, very self-inflicted wounds.

The public has a short memory. But not that short.

Senator Monica Wehby is just a fantasy. It's not the real thing.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Why the Working Families Party is supporting the Oregon Open Primary ballot measure

July 30, 2014 - 9:54am

By Steve Hughes. Steve is the State Director of Oregon's Working Family Party.

The Oregon Working Families Party supports the Oregon Open Primary ballot measure. We believe that for too long the political system has been rigged against working people, and we see the adoption of this measure as a step toward empowering more voters and enabling a diverse set of voices to set the governance agenda of the state.

As a minor political party we understand as intimately as anyone that election rules matter, and as an organization with a fundamental belief that change comes from the bottom up, we believe that progressive change can only be accomplished if we fundamentally change the game on our broken elections system.

Building independent political power

The WFP is about building independent political power for working people. We have been leaders in the campaigns to win sick days for working Oregonians, we are fighting to make the dream of a college education attainable through our campaign to pass Pay it Forward in the Oregon legislature, we worked with family farmers to pass “Aggie Bongs” in the Oregon legislature to open up sources of financing for small scale farms, and we have been leading champions to create the Oregon State Bank to invest our tax money in Oregon, not Wall Street.

Since the successful passage of fusion voting in Oregon in 2009, we have engaged in electoral activity and issue advocacy designed to advance these issues as pieces of public policy. As a political party we embrace the value of elections, but as political observers we see something else very clearly: in Oregon politics most of the action is in the primaries. Working Families Party members, like all minor party members and unaffiliated voters, can’t participate in those primaries, even though our tax dollars pay for them.

Legislative district lines are drawn to ensure dominance by one major party or the other in all but a few swing districts. Unconstrained amounts of money are then spent by a handful of groups in the remaining swing districts. What results in those few swing districts could be compared to a mini version of the arms race that takes place in Ohio and Florida during presidential elections, while the rest of the state is politely set to the side.

As a minor party that cares about both the process AND policy outcomes, this system seems—to put it bluntly—crazy.

He who writes the rules…

Interestingly, primary elections were once part of a Progressive Era reform movement to diminish the ability of Gilded Age party bosses to hand-select party loyalists for the ballot. By giving rank and file party members the chance to select for themselves which candidates should be on the general election ballot, primaries actually served the purpose of diminishing the influence of the political machines of yester-year.

However, the legislative districting process in Oregon has been used by the major parties over the years to draw an election map full of “safe districts” for one or the other of the major parties. Add to this that the number of people voting in Oregon primaries has been steadily declining since 1960 (the first year for which the Secretary of State publishes statistics) as more people—especially young voters—become completely disaffected from the two party status quo. This means that most important decisions for who will govern the state are made by a very small number of primary voters in a tightly controlled closed primary system of the two major parties. For much of the state, the general election is rendered a mere formality.

Election rules matter. However, nothing stays frozen in time, and yesterday’s democratic reform can shift and atrophy. The rules we have in place right now are a far cry from the spirit of the Progressive Era a century ago. And while we do not believe that Top Two is a panacea for the issue of falling turnout, we are also unconvinced by dire predictions of turnout falling off a cliff if Top Two should pass. Furthermore, we have yet to see anyone demonstrate an actual causal relationship between Top Two voting systems and decreased turnout.

Our experience as a minor party

We can argue over hypotheticals until the cows come home, but none of those discussions actually speak to our lived experience as a minor political party in Oregon. We have spent a great deal of time and resources over the last year and a half growing our base of registered WFP voters from approximately 3500 members at the end of the 2012 election cycle, to over 10,000 members coming into the 2014 election cycle.

The conversations we have had on the street reveal just how deep the vein of political disaffection is that so many people feel when they look at the current state of our politics. Many, especially the young, don’t see the point of registering at all. Paul Wellstone put it best: "When too many Americans don't vote or participate, some see apathy and despair. I see disappointment and even outrage. And I believe that out of this frustration can come hope and action."

We agree.

The bottom line for us as a minor party which has chosen to support the Oregon Open Primary is this: we believe this proposal not only protects but enhances our ability to participate meaningfully in selecting who will govern our state, and what issues they will elevate in their governance. Unlike the measures that have passed in California and Washington, this version of Top Two maintains the integrity of the role for political parties by permitting party endorsements to appear on the ballot. It also enhances fusion voting, allowing multiple party endorsements, to give voters more information about what a particular candidate stands for. And, of course, it opens the door for WFP members and all others who are not registered as either a Democrat or a Republican to cast votes in the primary races that decide so much of who governs this state.

We fully agree that other reforms are needed to improve access for working people to our democratic system. Three that come to mind are public financing of elections, same day voter registration, and moving the date of the primary election closer to the general to avoid protracted and costly campaigns. We will join with any and all to support these efforts. But for this measure that will be decided directly by Oregon voters, we say Vote Yes on the Oregon Open Primary.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The Costs of Extreme Weather: Fire, Flood, and Drought: Who pays?

July 29, 2014 - 1:03pm

By Diane Hodiak of Bend, Oregon. Diane is an environmental advocate who supports pricing carbon: a solution that will help the economy and the environment.

Have you heard of the 97% of scientists who agree that carbon release into the air is causing climate change and extreme weather events? Wonder who the other 3% is?

It's the fossil fuel industry (oil, coal, gas). These corporate giants are paying scientists who use phony science to reach false conclusions. They fund legislators, trade groups, and other 'influentials' who also deny that we have a problem. Instead they create bills to support the fossil fuel industry, thereby downplaying the role of clean energy solutions. Many believe that this 'big bluff' deflects blame and responsibility. It also hides the true costs of carbon release.

So, why are these corporations so determined to bluff their way out of this? Because the damages from carbon release are huge, by any stretch of imagination. Consider increased insurance premiums due to property damages from fire and flood. What about the losses incurred by tourism, (which includes ski industries, restaurants, and lodging) due to lack of snow?

Drought and lack of water is now shortening the growing season. As a consequence, less product is going to market and Oregonians are paying higher prices in the store and in restaurants. Nursery and greenhouse products, considered by some to be Oregon's most valuable agricultural sector, is also affected But, these are really just the tip of the iceberg. (which,by the way, is melting) It's hard to find a sector that is not affected by carbon-caused climate change.

Fortunately, Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund are fighting back. They hope to hold fossil fuel companies liable for the damages occurring from misleading information and their interference in solutions being proposed by government. Targeting executives and board members, these nonprofits have written to 36 of the largest oil and gas companies, as well as concrete manufacturers. They are asking that these corporate game-changers should be personally liable for their role in the 'big bluff.'

Perhaps fossil fuel companies will eventually pay for these wrongs, like the tobacco and asbestos industries. But this may take years. Unfortunately, until we do something, our costs will only continue to rise. Many believe the time has come for comprehensive programs that reduce the carbon being released to our atmosphere.

One possible solution, putting a price on carbon, is being considered by the Oregon legislature. A recent study by Portland State University,'Carbon Tax and Shift', states that a carbon tax would significantly reduce harmful emissions. Coupled with tax cuts to businesses and individuals, a carbon tax would produce more jobs and a boost to Oregon's economy. That sounds a lot more promising than the accelerating drain to all of us, from the costs of climate change.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Oregonians to Legislature: Close the Con-way Loophole

July 29, 2014 - 8:17am

Some 1,500 Oregonians have signed a petition asking Oregon lawmakers to close a tax loophole used by some corporations to get around the state’s corporate minimum tax, allowing them to pay nothing in income taxes.

The tax loophole is costing the state about $40 million in lost revenue in the current budget cycle, according to state officials.

Oregonians know that it’s wrong for profitable corporations to pay no income taxes, especially when Oregon children sit in overcrowded classrooms and college students face unaffordable tuition.

At least 24 corporations that made a profit in Oregon in tax year 2011 — including eight with profits of over $5 million — paid no Oregon income taxes for that year, the Oregon Center for Public Policy’s analysis of the most recent Department of Revenue data showed. These corporations paid nothing, even though Oregon has a corporate minimum tax, which voters increased when they enacted Measure 67 in 2010.

Corporations that pay less than the corporate minimum tax do so by taking advantage of a tax loophole created when the trucking company Con-way, Inc., prevailed in a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Revenue. For its 2009 taxes, Con-way used tax credits to wipe out any taxes on its Oregon profits. The state’s minimum tax enacted by voters in 2010, however, required Con-way to pay a $75,000 minimum tax based on its $79 million in Oregon sales. Con-way went to court, arguing that it should also be allowed to use leftover tax credits to eliminate its $75,000 minimum tax bill. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed, approving a loophole that has allowed dozens of profitable corporations to reduce or eliminate entirely their minimum tax obligation.

The Oregon Legislative Revenue Office puts the cost of the Con-way loophole at about $40 million this budget period and projects that the loophole will drain about $18 million during the 2015-17 budget period and about $19 million during 2017-19. The impact is greater this budget period because a number of corporations are filing amended returns for earlier years based on the Con-way loophole.

So far, over 1,500 Oregonians have signed a petition asking lawmakers to “close the Con-way Loophole.”

When Oregon voters said "corporate minimum tax" in 2010, they meant that all corporations, especially profitable ones, should contribute something — a minimum amount — toward the common good. Lawmakers must fix the drafting error in the law to uphold the will of the voters.

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

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Sign the petition: Hands off the internet!

July 29, 2014 - 7:00am

When Clear Channel killed progressive talk on KPOJ, our community was shocked, surprised, outraged, and motivated to action.

Big corporations control the TV and radio airwaves and it's really hard for nonprofits and startups to get on the air. Carl Wolfson and our friends at XRAY-FM are doing their best, but even they're having trouble getting the kind of broadcast reach that KPOJ used to have.

Now imagine if that were to happen to the internet.

Right now, anybody can start a website. Anybody can create a blog or a small business and start trying to find an audience. Here at BlueOregon, we did exactly that ten years ago.

But the FCC is considering rules that would change everything. The FCC could allow the telecoms -- Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner -- to make "fast lanes" at a premium price. And where there's a fast lane, there's always a slow lane.

Just imagine if activists and advocates had to rely on fuzzy video and slow-loading blogs, while big corporations could deliver sharp, high-quality video and fast-loading content.

That's not good for the internet. That's not good for democracy.

BlueOregon Action is standing with Senator Ron Wyden, Congressman Peter DeFazio, and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici -- along with allies around the Pacific Northwest -- and saying NO. No fast lanes. No slow lanes.

We need net neutrality. We need a fair and open internet.

Sign the petition -- and let's make sure the FCC hears us loud and clear.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

A Democratic wave year? In the State Senate, don't rule it out!

July 28, 2014 - 10:00am

By Kelley Meck of Portland, Oregon. Kelley is a campaign professional turned law student.

There are 100 days until polls close -- are you excited yet? Were you thinking of this year as the biggest pick-up opportunity for Democrats in the Oregon State Senate in recent memory? If not, you may need to re-think how you think about Oregon elections.

The conventional wisdom is that midterm elections aren't big opportunities for Democrats to pick-up seats. As far as the State Senate is concerned, the conventional wisdom is completely wrong. The usual reasoning is that high-turnout favors Democrats, and presidential elections get higher turn-out, so subsequent midterm races see losses for Democrats. And that's generally good reasoning, where politicians elected in presidential years next face election in midterms. But in Oregon, state senators are elected for four-year terms, so if a seat is a midterm election this year, it was a mid-term election last time too. So in Oregon, the comparison isn't between midterms and presidential years, it's between this midterm election and the last midterm election.

Stop and think, and you'll recall 2010 was a Republican wave year. In fact, it was arguably the biggest Republican wave year ever. Let's say you count seats in state legislatures nationwide. Around the country, after 2010 the Republicans held 3,941 state legislative seats, more than at any time since 1928, when they held 4,001 seats. Making a more recent comparison, in the massive Republican wave year of 1994, Republicans gained about 500 seats. In 2010, Republicans gained over 700 seats.

So what does that mean for the State Senate in 2014? It means this year, at the State Senate, the pendulum is probably going to swing the other way. Republicans have to play defense, and the Democrats are on the attack. It also means that the Democrat's best opportunity to pick up a couple seats and break the 15-15 vote logjam in the State Senate is this year. Not 2016.

Counting Election Day, there are 100 days between now and when polls close this November. BlueOregon readers already know the State Senate is frequently the place where progressive bills go to die. Progressives who miss the chance to get involved with this election may be missing their best shot at making progressive political change for Oregon.

Here are just two of the races the Democrats could win, and you don't have to look further than the May-June fundraising totals to see that these candidates are attracting real support:

Sara Gelser (D), SD 8, which includes Corvallis, Philomath, Albany, Tangent, Millersburg, and portions of unincorporated Linn and Benton Counties.

In May and June, Rep. Gelser's cash donations amount to $22,421, outraising her opponent Betsy Close's fundraising for the same period. Even more strikingly, Gelser appears to have about twice the warchest for this race, although she's been raising money for less than a year, possibly due to Sen. Close's being considerably more conservative than her district.

Jamie Damon (D), SD 20, which includes Candy, Gladstone, Oregon City, Beavercreek, Mulino, Boring, Charbonneau, Jennings Lodge, and Barlow.

Previously a Clackamas County Commissioner, Damon raised $23,160 in May and June, far exceeding the $13,850 raised by her opponent, Sen. Alan Olsen, in the same period. She still has some ground to regain, since Sen. Olsen has raised over $100k over his four years of incumbency; but the momentum is clearly on her side.

Two other races where this may be a great year for Democrats are in SD 26, where Rob Bruce is challenging Sen. Chuck Thomsen, and in SD 15 where Chuck Riley is challenging Sen. Bruce Starr. These races are still just heating up, and both Bruce and Riley need to step up their fundraising if they want to introduce themselves to voters come the fall. But these are both seats where, once you remember that 2010 was a fluke year, you have to recognize a strong possibility for a Democratic pick-up.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Independent Party voters indicate support for progressive policies

July 28, 2014 - 7:58am

By Sal Peralta and Robert Harris. Sal is the secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon. Robert is a long-term attorney in Washington County has been active with the IPO since 2011.

Last week, the Independent Party of Oregon completed its 2014 primary election and member survey. 1,700 members participated in the survey and 1,100 of those people participated in the election.

These are engaged citizens who self-identify as politically Independent. In this election, they sided with the Republicans who went 8-1-1 in contested races. In 2012, the Democrats won every contested race for the IPO nomination and went 10-2 in general election races involving cross-nominated Independent-Democratic candidates.

But this post isn’t about analyzing the nomination results. Instead, I want to focus on the survey results and emphasize some good news for the BlueOregon community.

The IPO's survey process is not scientific, (though it was recommended to us by staff at the Institute for Applied Industrial Mathematics) but we believe that it represents a decent cross-section of engaged Oregonians who are frustrated with both major parties. They were reasonably well informed, having been delivered a statewide voters' pamphlet that was distributed to the Independent Party's full membership and being marketed to by the various campaigns.

These are the policies that obtained 65% or greater approval – super-majority support -among all IPO voters.

  • 83.7%: Require that political advertisements identify their main sources of funding
  • 79.0%: Increase vocational training opportunities for students in high schools and community college.
  • 74.4%: Ensure that tax dollars spent to encourage economic development return more benefits to the public than they cost.
  • 73.4%: establish limits on political campaign contributions.
  • 70.6%: elect to office candidates who are not Democrats or Republicans.
  • 68.3%: The state should look at ways to make college more affordable.
  • 66.5%: reform the state primary election so that more voters can participate.

And these policies received majority support.

  • 63.6%: Protect farmland and increase diversity of agricultural products.
  • 63.5%: Reduce government spending.
  • 53.5%: require labels on food containing genetically modified organisms
  • 51.2%: Provide tax credits to employers that engage in new construction for the purpose of expanding their workforce in Oregon.

What was interesting to us is the degree to which people who supported Dennis Richardson agreed with policy goals that are supported by many progressives.

Here are policies that Richardson voters approved:

  • 84.9%: Require that political advertisements identify their main sources of funding.
  • 81.4%: Increase vocational training opportunities for students in high school and community college.
  • 77.4%: Ensure that tax dollars spent to encourage economic development return more benefits to the public than they cost.
  • 70.8%: Establishing limits on political campaign contributions.
  • 66.0%: The state should look at ways to make college more affordable.
  • 64.3%: Protect farmland and increasing diversity of agricultural products.
  • 64.4%: Reform the state primary election so that more voters can participate.
  • 57.6%: Provide tax credits to employers that engage in new construction for the purpose of expanding their workforce in Oregon.

IPO leaders have long believed that if we take the position that hot button issues are matters of personal choice and not party policy then it becomes easier to identify a populist agenda for which coalitions can be built across traditional ideological, social, and party lines.

In the areas of education, campaign finance reform, tax breaks for corporations, and how government can help grow the economy, there is a great deal of cross-partisan consensus. Oregonians want higher education and vocational training to be more accessible to more people. Oregonians want to protect the diversity and strength of our agricultural economy. People want a political system that is transparent and fair. And they want citizens to have a bigger voice than they currently do in our political process.

And therein lies the core mission of the Independent Party of Oregon. We seek to identify these broadly popular policies and build coalitions to help move these issues forward in a way that will survive the vagaries of electoral politics.

And so, we begin the very difficult process of working with our nominees in the coming weeks and months to build a consensus agenda for Oregon. One rooted in a shared understanding about the direction that we need to move as a state on the economy, the role of government in economic development, consumer protection, and transparency.

One idea that we believe whose time has come is the “Taxpayer Return on Investment Act” (TRIA). TRIA is proposed legislation that Rob has worked on with Jody Wiser and Tax Fairness Oregon over the past 8 months. It corresponds to the super majority approved policy of “Ensuring that tax dollars spent to encourage economic development return more benefits to the public than they cost.”

There will be other ideas discussed and added in the coming weeks and months. But one thing is clear, there will be new opportunities and new coalitions built from the work that we are doing.

The existence of the IPO may not always be good for some Democratic candidates. But it may just be good for people who simply want better policies. If you are one of those people, we'd like to hear from you. For folks who prefer to avoid the noise in the comment section, you can email the IPO at contact@indparty.com

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs