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Updated: 39 weeks 6 days ago

Where is Ron Wyden on Fast Track and TPP?

January 30, 2015 - 12:06pm

On the night of the State of the Union address, about a dozen Measure 92 advocates watched President Obama on a large screen TV in Blitz’s sports bar. They liked what they heard. Obama’s impassioned appeal for an increased minimum wage, guaranteed paid sick leave and free community college elicited nods of approval, thumbs up, even a smattering of applause.

And then . . . this: “Today, our businesses export more than ever . . . We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.”

Immediately, a chorus of boos erupted from the crowd. They knew exactly what he was talking about – Fast Track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Among most Democrats and progressive independents, Fast Track and the TPP are quite possibly the most widely hated proposals on the political horizon. As I pointed out in a Blue Oregon column a year ago, over 550 organizations, including labor, environment, health, consumer protection, sustainable farming, senior citizens and others, signed on to a letter to Obama expressing their vehement opposition.

Last year’s Fast Track bill would give Obama authority to sign trade agreements first, then restrict Congress to limited time for debate, forbid a filibuster and prevent anyone from making amendments – only an up or down vote allowed. Congress’s power under the Constitution to regulate commerce? Delivered on a silver plate to the executive branch.

The TPP has been secretly drafted almost completely by corporations and their trade groups for the past five years. All the public knows is what’s been leaked, but the leaks provide a glimpse into the veritable Niagara Falls of corporate give-aways at the expense of ordinary citizens For example, the Measure 92 advocates knew what could happen under the TPP if Oregon passed a law requiring GMO labeling. A foreign corporation could sue Oregon or the U.S., based simply on the claim that their future profits could be diminished.

Meat companies in Canada and Mexico have alreadychallenged U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements. Last October, the WTO agreed and the future of the law is now threatened. These highly popular COOL rules allow consumers to make educated choices about knowing where their food is coming from. Most Americans would be astounded to learn that laws our government passed can be superseded by WTO and other trade agreements. TPP and TTIP would make this bad situation even worse.

Mitch McConnell and John Boehner already favor Fast Track and the TPP. All those Republican howls about Obama seizing too much power from Congress have become predictably silent when it comes to pleasing their corporate campaign donors.

The key Democrat in the debate is Ron Wyden, the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee. When Fast Track legislation was introduced last year, Wyden stood firmly against it, denouncing the lack of transparency. But where is he now on Sen. Orrin Hatch’s newest version, which appears to be very similar to last year’s?

He’s certainly made encouraging statements at town halls earlier this month. In Beaverton, he asserted “The days are over where trade agreements are kept secret from the American people.” In Grants Pass, he elaborated, saying that “We can put this stuff online. There’s no reason why all of you – the American people – ought to be in the dark about what’s in these trade agreements. I want enforcement, I want transparency, I want more Congressional oversight so that people can be accountable to the public.”

Sounds great, right? But when a Jobs with Justice volunteer asked him specifically where he stood on Fast Track, he danced all around it, refusing three times to give a direct answer. His “Trade done right” mantra, unsupported by specific protections, was wearing thin.

Here are a few detailed questions for Sen. Wyden, all based on leaks from the TPP draft:

Will he oppose provisions that would:

• Ban or restrict labeling, such as for cigarettes or for country of origin or GMO food?

• Prevent financial reforms, such as limiting the size of banks, reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, or a financial transaction tax, as proposed by Rep. Peter DeFazio?

• Extend the length of patents to drug companies, delaying generic drugs and making them more expensive?

• Settle disputes by tribunals made up exclusively of corporate lawyers whose decisions supersede any national law and any government court?

Moreover, are any of the above deal-breakers for him?

Wyden says he supports transparency, but he’s never said when: Will he insist on putting the TPP text publicly online BEFORE Fast Track is debated and voted upon in Congress?

He’s shown courage before, taking lead roles in confronting the NSA’s spying on ordinary citizens and defending net neutrality.

He’s now at a defining moment for trade agreements. He can either capitulate to Wall Street (as Obama has apparently done) or he can defend all the rest of us on Main Street.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Which statues should represent Oregon in the U.S. Capitol?

January 27, 2015 - 6:00am

The US Capitol's Statuary Hall features statues of Oregon pioneers Dr. John McLoughlin and Rev. Jason Lee.

In 2013, a campaign fired up to replace Lee with Senator Mark Hatfield. After legislation died in 2013 and 2014 to make that happen, the Governor created a commission to review our contributions to the Capitol.

In a bit of a surprise move, the commission has now recommended returning both statues to a "place of honor" here in Oregon.

The statues would be replaced with two of the following four nominees: Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, suffragette Abigail Scott Duniway, Gov. Tom McCall and Sen. Mark Hatfield.

The commission will take public testimony on Wednesday, March 4. They're also accepting feedback via the Oregon Historical Society website.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Sucking the Air Out of the Room

January 26, 2015 - 7:28am

By Jenifer Valley of Happy Valley, Oregon. Jenifer is a stage 4 cancer survivor and cannabis clinician.

I would like to see marijuana treated more like wine or beer. I support regulation, but I don't want to see regulations imposed on marijuana users that we don't see with other products that adults use that are demonstrably more dangerous. I want the market to be open to innovation and to a wide variety of business models. I do not want to see areas that don't allow legal businesses because they are fostering illegal businesses by doing so. I want to see standards that apply to everyone, not special rules just for marijuana.

It is important to remember that Oregon is one of the top 10 marijuana producing States, but has traditionally not been an export State according to Drug Availability Steering Committee Reports (DASC) dating back 20 years or more. We consume what we produce. Oregon, along with California, was the first State to experience multi-thousand plant plots known as mega-grows in our National forests. These mega-grows were put in place by Mexican cartels as well as several other foreign factions, according to the HIDTA reports. We are talking about a multi-billion dollar industry, based on the fact that DASC and HIDTA assume they confiscate between 10%-25% of the crop and confiscation rates have been substantial since 2006. In order to wipe out this illicit market, we must allow the legal market to feed the market. If you average out the harvest for the last 6 years of available data, Oregon has averaged 171,924.667 plants per year confiscated (remember, that is 10%-25% of the crop according to best estimates by DASC & HIDTA) which means we have to produce at least, bare minimum 4 times that amount to even begin to meet the need and eliminate the illicit market.

However, we must also consider that we will be creating an enormous tourist draw. Vale, Colorado has found that 90% of its marijuana revenues come from tourists, rather than local consumers. Oregon needs to emulate their example and offer opportunities for tourists to come and enjoy our food, wine, beer, cannabis and natural beauty.

Oregon currently has the lowest prices on cannabis, and we need to keep that in place by having clear, concise streamlined regulations that allow business to flourish. Making the market too difficult to enter supports the illicit market and does not support job creation on the local level. We want small businesses and start-ups to be able to enter the playing field and create family businesses much like our beer and wine industry has. We also have to recognize that there is a lot of out of State investment pouring in and it is on very large levels. The market needs to have the flexibility to explore many different models.

The recreational market must not consider the medical market competition. The two are not the same. We do not tax medicine. We should expect to see an increase in enrollment in the OMMP. Now that there is a legal medical market, patients are more willing to try this medicine, and doctors are more willing to sign applications. Doctors have had time to see that medical marijuana addresses the three primary drivers of Healthcare costs (Pain management, chronic disease management, and end-of-life care) and improves outcomes. Doctors are also finding that medical marijuana does a better job than dangerous pharmaceuticals and is safe; it doesn't cause stroke, heart attack, or death which reduces their medical liability. It reduces patients' doctor visits, hospital visits and prescription drug use, mostly because it improves patient outcomes.

Both markets should consider the black market to be competition, and the reality is that moratoriums and high taxes designed to keep legal commerce out, will serve to protect and preserve existing illegal commerce. In Washington, we saw the black market double their prices and still under cut the legal market enough to cause a glut of legal marijuana that people won't buy because the established black market supplies them just like it always has except that the price went up. Since it is so much cheaper than the legal alternative, people will go back to their old dealer rather than pay the ridiculously inflated prices leveraged into place by those who don't want prohibition to end. They can scream all day that they are protecting their community, but all they are really protecting is the black market they claim to hate. Methinks they doth protest too much. The reality is the only way to shut the back door is to open the front door: a secret black market dealer will never be able to compete with a legal market that isn't priced out of affordability.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

$15 Minimum Wage Means Real Gains for Workers

January 23, 2015 - 4:48pm

A raise is a raise. And if the legislature raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour, over half a million Oregon workers will see bigger paychecks — extra money that will help their families get ahead.

Some opponents of raising the minimum wage cite the so-called “benefits cliff” as reason the legislature should do nothing. They use the sad fact that relatively few workers would lose more in public benefits than they would gain from the wage increase as an excuse to keep the minimum wage frozen at below poverty levels.

The problem that some workers lose more in public benefits than they gain in their monthly paychecks, however, pales in comparison to the gains that Oregon workers as a whole would experience from the legislature raising the minimum wage to $15.

It is true that for a small number of low-income working families an increase in hourly wage levels (or an increase in hours worked) can result in less net income each month. Why is it a small number? Because it includes only those who have children in child care who are poor enough and lucky enough to be receiving state-subsidized child care. That program, for which there is a waiting list, serves only about 9,000 families each month.

The vast majority of the more than 500,000 or so workers who would benefit directly from the legislature raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour don’t have child care expenses. And even among workers those with children, many don’t benefit from state-subsidized child care. That program helps only about 10 percent of all kids in child care.

That’s not to say that the benefits cliff is not a problem. It’s a problem, but one that exists whether or not the legislature raises the minimum wage. A loss of benefits can occur when employers have people work more hours or choose to give raises. Do those who beat the benefits cliff drum in opposition to raising the minimum wage also urge low-wage employers to hold down the hours for their employees and not raise their wages? I doubt it.

To fix the benefits cliff problem the legislature must bolster the child care subsidy program. When families work more hours or earn a wage increase, they should truly get ahead, not fall backwards. Lawmakers need to put more money into the program, both to better phase out the benefit to eliminate the cliff and to help more working families struggling under the weight of child care expenses.

Those problems, however, are no excuse for the legislature to delay boosting to the minimum wage to $15. Governor Kitzhaber and others in the business community have called on Oregon to reduce childhood poverty. Raising the minimum wage to $15 is the most assured way to accomplish that goal.

Too many working families are in a deep economic hole because employers don’t pay them enough for their work. Raising the minimum wage to $15 will do just what lawmakers want it to do: put more money in the pockets of a large number of working Oregon families.

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

Think Traffic's Bad Now? Fund Highway Expansion Initiatives.

January 23, 2015 - 6:24am

By Karli Petrovic of Portland, Oregon. Karli is the communications and membership coordinator for 1000 Friends of Oregon.

There's a reason why the statistics published in the Portland Business Alliance's 2014 Economic Impacts of Transportation study are attention-grabbing: The possibility of spending 69 hours per year in traffic and congestion by 2040 is enough to persuade even the most ardent public transit advocate to support the construction of massive superhighways. After all, who wouldn't want an additional $928 million in annual economic output and sales or 8,300 new jobs as a result of an improved system? These statistics were reported in the Portland Tribune's Jan. 6 article, "Think traffic's bad now? Just wait."

The problem with these striking figures is that they can empower people to vote for initiatives that won't actually decrease congestion. Here at 1000 Friends of Oregon, we advocate for an alternative view. Despite the long-held notion that building more roads means fewer drivers on each, research has shown that more roads actually mean more drivers. People who might usually hop on their bikes start reaching for their car keys. Need a real-world example? Ask people in Los Angeles how much they enjoy their daily commutes.

This isn't to say that Oregonians shouldn't support transportation legislation. But we need to be smart about how our tax dollars are used to make improvements. To illustrate this point, let's look at the proposed Columbia River Crossing (CRC). The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) was a plan to redesign five miles of freeway and interchanges including the Interstate 5 Bridge. It required Oregonians to approve a $2.79 billion project that would decrease biker and pedestrian safety, support costly urban sprawl from Portland into Southern Washington, and increase pollution (especially in certain communities of color). This is a small sampling of the problems that would have resulted from a project that purported to alleviate congestion on the I-5 Bridge. Inaccurate traffic analysis and projections -- in addition to overly ambitious new job totals -- contributed to the misconceptions about how effective the project would be.

The lesson here is to take the same cautious approach when supporting proposed transportation legislation in 2015. And there are some great initiatives that perpetuate the ideals Oregonians value: reduced greenhouse gas emissions, more prevalent bus services and safer walkways and bike paths. How do we know these are the issues people care about? Both millennial and Baby Boomers are "voting with their feet" by walking, biking and bussing more and driving less. One package of transportation funding proposals from the Oregon Transportation Forum includes funding the $100 million multi-modal ConnectOregon program, the $75 million transit service for senior and disabled Oregonians, and the $20 million youth transit access program. The plan also requests additional funding to fix existing roads and highways. Both Transportation for Oregon's Future and 1000 Friends of Oregon support these elements of the package. I strongly urge you think about these initiatives and what really makes sense when it comes to reducing congestion and improving business operations.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Why I am running for Portland Community College Board

January 22, 2015 - 7:05am

By Courtney Wilton of Portland, Oregon. Courtney is a current PCC board member running for election this spring.

My name is Courtney Wilton and I'm a member of the Portland Community College Board of Directors. I represent Southeast Portland and am running for election this spring. If you didn't know that I completely understand. The college and its daily works are off the radar for most folks as they worry about things like public safety and street fees. Yet, despite its low profile pretty much everyone agrees what PCC does is extremely important.

What does Portland Community College do? The short answer is a lot of vital things. For starters, it provides high quality college transfer credits to local residents at a fraction of the four year university cost. PCC also delivers vocational training to people who need a job and don't have the luxury or interest in waiting four years to get it. It further provides opportunities for a lot of people who are vulnerable ' high school students who have dropped out or are simply not thriving in the traditional K-12 model, recently laid off forty-something factory workers who desperately need retraining, and a myriad of other people with great promise and work ethics, but not much else. In 2008, local taxpayers gave a nod to PCC's importance by approving a $374 million bond request. Thanks to their generosity the college has recently been able to expand workforce training, upgrade numerous classrooms and technology, and add more space for students. The 'more space for students' includes a major expansion of the Southeast Portland campus on SE 82nd Avenue and Division, a game changer addition to the neighborhood.

Why do I want to continue my role on the Board? Because I understand the importance of what Portland Community Colleges does and am dedicated to do what I can to make it even better. Board positions like PCC's are on a volunteer basis. Members' compensation for countless hours and commitment is the satisfaction of hopefully strengthening a crucial public institution. And, that's fine with me. A long time ago my parents and oldest sister came to Oregon with very little. My parents had no education past high school, no US citizenship and not much money. But they worked extremely hard, were very determined, fortunate and ultimately succeeded. Because of their foresight and the sacrifices they made, my sisters and my lives have been virtual cakewalks in comparison.

Community College students remind me a lot of my parents. They are determined and investing huge amounts of time and money in hopes of fulfilling a better future for themselves. They are betting PCC is a good investment. Yet, education is definitely a leap of faith, now more than ever given its increasing cost and tough job market. But the idea that if you work hard and persevere you will be rewarded is fundamental to who we are as Americans. It's in part what differentiates us from other countries where lineage or political connections determine your fate rather than effort and merit. So, I'm afraid we can't disappoint these students. We must hold up our end of the deal. That means PCC must succeed, or students who put their trust in it will not.

Did I tell you I had opposition? I do, and they are impressive. One, Michael Sonnleitner, is a member of the PCC faculty, a PhD and Fulbright scholar. The other, Anita Yap, has won awards for her extensive community involvement. I like them both and admire their commitment to public service and courage for running. My background is a bit more mundane. I've spent most of my career in public finance, currently as CFO for Energy Trust of Oregon, and before that in financial, operational and human resources management roles at Clackamas Community College and David Douglas School District. Before that I worked as a CPA. I understand how government operates, I'm thrifty and have a pretty good feel for anything financial. That's a helpful skill in these times and a dimension that I believe brings value to the Board.

What's most encouraging to me is that this May voters will get to choose among three interesting candidates for a seat that normally goes unopposed. Perhaps that will lead to more discussion about PCC and its crucial role? Conceivably PCC's low profile, and the role of community colleges in general might even be elevated a little? I certainly hope so. The successful candidate will ultimately join the current Board of dedicated individuals who I have been proud to serve with this past year and have the opportunity to provide leadership to an exceptionally dedicated faculty and administration. Portland Community College, and the community it supports deserves nothing less.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Patenting Oregon Prosperity

January 21, 2015 - 9:00am

By John Deer of Gresham, Oregon. John is a retired Portland firefighter and senior inspector.

The Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank, published a February 2013 report entitled, “Patenting Prosperity”. The report details the invention activity of a little over 350 Metropolitan Statistical Area’s (MSA’s) from 1980–2010. (An MSA is the region composed of a city of more than 50,000 population and its most important neighbors.)

The report finds that high-patenting MSA’s have important advantages:

  • Workers have an average $4,300 more annual income than low patenting areas,

  • Higher productivity growth,

  • Lower unemployment rates, and

  • The creation of more publicly-traded (large) companies.

Patents, according to Patenting Prosperity, are also valuable by themselves:

  • The average patent is valued at just over $500,000 and provides important loan collateral.

  • Businesses with patents receive 14 times more venture capital money than those without patents.

While Oregon has two high-patenting areas – Corvallis, number 4 nationally and Portland, number 26, what if many more areas could become a magnet to inventors?

Maybe Oregon could offer on a much smaller scale, what we have offered on a much larger scale, for decades, to developers? That is, Tax Increment Financing (TIF). (TIF is a system that essentially uses the taxes created by improved property values of a new development to pay for some of the cost of development.)

Perhaps Oregon could allow an inventor to use all of their personal taxes (property, income, fees, etc.) for funding the creation of their patent(s) and business. I call this concept, Patent Tax Increment Financing or - PTIF. The legislature might create Innovation Zones where PTIF could be used.

It would work something like this:

Let’s say that an inventor has $100,000 of Oregon taxable income, lives in Oregon, and pays $3,500 per year in property taxes and $9,000 in income tax. Total tax, $12,500 per year. If this $12,500 were used to pay off 15-year, 5% state revenue bonds, about $125,000 would be available for developing the patent into a product or service. And hiring Oregon workers, of course. It might be required that Oregon tax revenue would receive a net gain from employee/business taxes.

Alternatively, Oregon might create a reserve fund to backstop larger borrowing. As an example, $125,000 used as a 20% maximum liability reserve would make a $625,000 loan more possible.

In conclusion, let me quote Peter Drucker, perhaps the greatest management thinker of the last century, “Innovations had better be capable of being started small, requiring at first little money, few people and a ... limited market. But ... a successful innovation aims at leadership.”

Maybe Oregon can enhance our innovation leadership with PTIF.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

We’re Going to Hell and Still Can’t do Math – Minimum Wage, Poverty Wage and Living Wage in Oregon

January 20, 2015 - 1:12pm

A few months ago I wrote about “middle class” policy objectives. “Middle class” is a vague concept but is generally understood to include some financial security, home ownership, and perhaps the ability to go on vacation. So what would it take to give people in this country and this state a fair shot at the absolute basics: feeding our children, keeping a roof over our heads and maybe growing old with basic human dignity?

I did some quick math to check how badly the deck is stacked and it’s ugly. Let’s start with one of the most basic building blocks of economic survival: wages. As of January 1, 2015 minimum wage in Oregon is $9.25 an hour (Federal is $7.25). Working forty hours a week, that is $370 a week and roughly $1480 a month. If one works fifty weeks in a year (with the remaining two weeks being unpaid sick time, unpaid holidays and unpaid vacation combined) that is 2000 working hours. At $9.25 that is $18,500 in a year. Federal poverty level (the base line for calculating eligibility for programs such as Medicaid, housing assistance and so forth) for a family of four is $23,850.

Last year OPB covered the struggles of the working poor in Oregon to make ends meet and find housing. To cut to the chase, a full-time minimum wage job in Oregon does not make enough money to pay rent. It also doesn’t make enough money to pay for food, particularly if one must also pay for rent. Calculating eligibility for SNAP (“food stamps”) is done based on an income and housing cost formula. Assuming a full time minimum wage job and $1000 monthly rent, no utilities except phone and no additional costs or income, a family of four is eligible for roughly $497 per month in food stamps. $1000/month is not enough to get a two bedroom apartment in the Portland area, but is higher than the monthly estimated state wide average. If one pays rent of $1000 (with all utilities included), one has $480 per month left to spend on every single other expense a person has. For a family of four that’s four dollars a day per person. (Not counting food, because there’s the $497 in food stamps. Yay.)

Four dollars per day to cover telephone, transportation (either mass transit or car/gas), clothing, school supplies and any emergency what so ever. We’ll assume this family of four gets Medicaid. But childcare is inconceivable in this scenario (particularly in Oregon) and certainly there are no entertainment or similar expenses. A single carton of Target store-brand diapers costs $37.99. The average price of a gallon of milk is nearly $4.

Just for grins, try another scenario: Two wage earners earning $9.25, working full time, two kids who are old enough to be in school, but who still need some childcare. Rent costs of $1100 (which still doesn’t buy much in Portland), which includes heat but no other utilities. Just plugging in $300/month in child care cost (which would barely cover a little afterschool care), one is still eligible for $224 in food assistance. That leaves $13 per person per day to cover gas, school supplies, clothing, utilities, phone and substantial food costs.

As a Policy Matter We Have Apparently Decided Starvation is Okay

Think now about how surreal this scenario is. Oregon does not require that people working full time make enough to avoid starving or being homeless. (Whether people who receive food assistance can avoid starving either is an open question). Consider some more details.

Oregon minimum wage went up $0.15 at the beginning of this month. BOLI announced the 2015 “upward adjustment” in September. So last year, Oregon allowed people to earn $300 less per year. There is no realistic budget for any of life’s necessities in these quick calculations (done using the Oregon DHS food stamp calculator). A monthly TriMet pass for an adult costs $100. At one time it appears that Corvallis offered a nominal fare for people with Oregon Trail cards. There does not appear to be a system where if one qualifies for SNAP, one simply gets a bus pass. (Note that even having a public transportation infrastructure is a luxury).

Major, but normal, financial fluctuations take the situation from impossible to catastrophic. For example, having a preschool age child. Or just having unpaid parking tickets.

All of this is why low wage work actually costs Oregon money. Paying people inadequately costs money. It costs tax dollars in the form of housing subsidies, food aid and Medicaid. It costs in terms of lost economic activity and it costs in the long term because of lost potential from a more productive, healthy, stable workforce.

Consider now the minimum wage discussions in this country. Seattle’s “highest in the country” minimum wage of $15 hour won’t go fully into effect until 2021, at which point its value compared to inflation is open to question. If it went into effect today, it would be worth $30,000, which is about 130% of poverty level for a family of 4.

According to the MIT living wage calculator, the living wage for a family of four (2 adults working 2080 hours a year, not 2000) is $19.76 an hour for Portland. In Riddle or Baker County it is closer to $18 an hour. Why didn’t I skip the whole first part of this discussion and just bust out the living wage calculator? Because the raw conclusion as a whole isn’t sinking in anywhere.

The reality and the vision of America as a middle-class country are eroding, but worse than that, we have no plan or policy to just keep people from starving. If we are patting ourselves on the back for raising the wage to $15 an hour in an expensive urban area (that's if it survives court challenge), we apparently don’t even have the frame of reference to detect the problem. Americans are becoming poorer, hungrier and sicker (and less educated). We can figure out how to solve the problem (assuming we can do math), but if we don’t, we will all pay the price.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Speculating out loud: Who will run for Mayor of Portland in 2016?

January 20, 2015 - 6:00am

In just 20 months, Portlanders will vote for mayor once again. While Mayor Charlie Hales is expected to run again, he told the Oregonian last week that he's "not ready" to announce his plans. Curiously, he has less than $4000 in the bank -- and only raised $500 in 2014.

Meanwhile, the former mayor, Sam Adams, has taken a new job in Washington DC working on climate change. While Adams says he's plans to keep his Portland residency, one assumes his new employer is expecting him to stick around for a while. So, an Adams for Mayor comeback seems unlikely.

So, BlueOregon readers, let's speculate out loud. Who might run for mayor? Who should run for Mayor?

I'll start: I think Congressman Earl Blumenauer would make a great mayor. He ran for the job in 1992 and, even in Congress, clearly spends a lot of time thinking about urban places in general, and Portland in particular. He declined to run in 2012, but winning back the majority in the House seemed more plausible then.

Oh, and Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale mused aloud recently about running for mayor himself -- a prospect that would delight just about everyone, even if they wound up voting for someone else. From Artslandia:

I feel like I have the right temperament to put together the right sort of staff that’s really representative. I just don’t see anybody else in the city that has that … even though I think that sounds weird as I say it. But I think that I do have the right temperament for it.

But that would require the band to retire.

...The thing is, I make a great living with the band. I would be taking a huge pay cut. I have a mortgage to pay and a construction loan to pay off. And 20 people rely directly on the band as a source of income. So you look at it from the standpoint of … do I want to travel around the world, play in every major city, get applause every night, get lots of love and make people happy and then flitter away to the next place, and have enormous flexibility in all ways? Or do I want to work under fluorescent lighting, facing angry constituents every day and hostile people who have no sense of anything? Looking at it that way, obviously … but still, for me, I still would love to run the city.

What do you think? Who do you hope runs for mayor? Who do you think will run?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

On Fairer Revenue, the Willamette Week Fuels Hyperbole and Cynicism

January 16, 2015 - 11:00am

Oregon’s most influential journalist Nigel Jaquiss seems to have a one-sided bed, getting out on the wrong side of it every day and then going downstairs to have some cynicism on his cornflakes. He’s a delight to read when you agree with him, but hard to stomach when you don’t.

This week Jaquiss wrote a hyperbolic article about various proposals to improve Oregon’s revenue stability and fairness, published in the Willamette Week.

Oregon has a more volatile revenue system than most states, and has a tax code chock-full of loopholes that disproportionately benefit the rich and powerful.

But Jaquiss (and whoever writes the headlines) sets up his article about reforming this mess as “Opening the tax floodgates” and “Hold onto your wallets, Oregon Democrats... want to raise your taxes.” Seriously? Why not just run the Republicans’ press release (mentioning a "tax tsunami") and go grab a beer?

Jaquiss’ story starts off by removing, as so many journalists do these days, the actual actors. He writes, “Oregon gave its Democrats more muscle.” Not “Oregon’s voters” or “Oregonians,” just the state. C'mon, writers. Actions need actors (no more "people were killed" - tell us who killed them).

He then makes a demonstrably false statement – “[Democrats] can push through pretty much whatever they want.” That’s a disservice to readers, who should know revenue increases require three-fifths majorities under Oregon’s Constitution. Democrats don’t have that in the House (they’re a seat short) and only nominally have it in the Senate (one Democrat often bucks the caucus). Since the article is about revenue increases, it’s kind of a key point. We also have powerful interests who can spend unlimited amounts on campaigns to kick legislators out of office if they get angry, or refer issues to the voters and buy those campaigns as well. There are real limits to getting things passed.

The article's troubling framing and odd assertions continue. In talking about limiting the amount of mortgage interest owners of expensive houses can deduct from their taxes, the subhead talks about the taxing the American Dream. While the realtors and homebuilders have done a great job of branding homeownership as some sort of ultimate patriotic duty we should all aspire to, it’s an advertisement rather than an description.

Jaquiss then asserts a $10,000 cap on home mortgage interest deductions is “dead on arrival because 62 percent of Oregonians own homes.” That’s a non-sequitur. To pay more than $10,000 on home mortgage interest at today’s 3.5% rate, you’d have to be in the near the start of a $285,000 loan (and if you paid 20% down, that means a $353,000 home). The median Oregon home sales price is $240,000. So this won’t impact most home buyers at all, nor buyers of more expensive homes after they’re paying more principal and less interest. Even those above the limit pay just on the interest above $10,000. Do we really need to be giving major tax breaks to people with mansions, and declaring any efforts to improve that system dead on arrival because people own homes?

Jaquiss frames efforts to cut the amount of pollution from fuels, as the clean fuels standard would do, as an effort to save the polar bears. As the billions we spend on dirty fuels get shipped out of state, one could also frame it as an effort to build local Oregon jobs while helping save human lives. Global warming may devastate polar bears, but the World Health Organization estimates it will also kill 250,000 people a year and various projections show global warming will deeply harm various Oregon industries, from fishing to tourism. Maybe that’s worth cutting pollution a bit.

On a third issue, Jaquiss concludes an effort to end the kicker would hit Oregonians, “nearly all of whom benefit from sporadic windfalls.” Sure, people like to get checks in the mail simply because economic forecasting is imperfect. (As Markus Ronner said, prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.) But at what cost? The question is net benefit – might we benefit more if those funds go to education and public safety? We may like getting checks, but do Oregonians actually benefit?

Sadly, articles like this are often just journalists trying to do their job in the pay-per-click world of hyperbole, overstatement, and conflict creation. The chosen headline is probably more shareable, clickable, and has more SEO oomph than a more accurate headline would. Of course, one could write a more shareable pro-tax reform headline, something like "Mansion owners and polluters may lose some sweetheart deals."

The Willamette Week's framing undercuts our ability to accomplish important things, like improving equity, protecting our planet for our kids and the world’s poor, creating stability, and sending accurate economic signals. Or, say, getting Nigel a better bed.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Paulie Brading, 1948-2015

January 16, 2015 - 7:00am

Our friend and colleague, Paulie Brading, has passed away. She died peacefully of complications of cancer last weekend.

Paulie was a lifelong and accomplished educator -- working as a teacher and principal in four states. Even in retirement, she jumped in and served on the Medford School Board (where, decades earlier, she had started her career teaching first grade.)

She was the chair of the Jackson County Democratic Party and was a delegate to the 2008 national convention.

And, of course, she was a BlueOregon contributor for more than five years. Paulie authored 173 columns here, with her special brand of commentary on national politics, hard-hitting talk for Congressman Greg Walden, and regular insights into politics from the southern end of our state. She had a style all her own -- and her contributions to our little digital community will be deeply missed.

Her family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Family Nurturing Center (to prevent child abuse) or to the Boys & Girls Club of the Rogue Valley.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 24, at 2 p.m. at the Imperial Event Center in Medford.

A full obituary is available at the Medford Mail Tribune.

Rest in peace, Paulie. We'll miss you.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Sworn in for fourth term, Kitzhaber cites RFK as inspiration for fighting inequality

January 13, 2015 - 5:50am

On Monday, as most Oregonians were gearing up for the big game (of which we will not speak), the 2015 Oregon Legislature was sworn in -- as was Governor John Kitzhaber.

His speech is absolutely worth watching. In his fourth inaugural (and his 13th speech, at least, as Governor to the Legislature), he dispensed with the pleasantries and challenged the Legislature take on inequality.

Throughout his 2014 campaign (on which I was a digital strategist), I was struck by how often Gov. Kitzhaber would cite equity -- the fight against inequality -- as a core principle of his work as governor. Not because it's unworthy, of course, but because so few politicians in America actually talk about poverty in meaningful ways.

In his inaugural address, Kitzhaber cited his inspiration:

I was a 21-year-old college student when Robert Kennedy ran for president. And it was a campaign unlike any I have witnessed before or after: a campaign that truly focused on equity and opportunity.

It was a campaign about unrepresented farm workers in California; about poverty and hunger and children starving to death in the Mississippi Delta and on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. And it was a campaign that asked profound and often disturbing questions: about a GDP that measured wealth but not well-being; about why such contradictions could exist in the wealthiest nation in the world; questions about who we were and how we wanted treat one another as Americans and as fellow human beings.

The campaign lasted only 82 days from when he announced until he was assassinated on June 6th. I was inspired because of his passion and sincerity and his courage to speak from the heart and to say what needed to be said. And from the moment he died in Los Angeles I knew I wanted to commit my life to public service.

And to me, the core message of Bobby Kennedy's last campaign was this: if a sense of common purpose is the one essential ingredient necessary to build community, and if community is what brings people together to do things collectively that would be difficult if not impossible to do individually ... then the strength of a community is inversely proportional to the level of disparity – the level of inequality – that exists within it; that we allow to exist within it.

What does this mean today?

One of the most basic premises on which our nation was founded is the belief that hard work will be rewarded with a better life. Yet for a growing number of Oregonians this is simply no longer the case. In the midst of this economic "recovery" a growing number of people are now trapped in low-wage and/or part-time jobs on which they cannot possible support a family – and with no hope of getting ahead. Why?

Why are one in five Oregon children still living in poverty? Why do over 30 percent of Oregon children face food insecurity on a daily basis? Why is poverty among Latinos 27% and poverty among African Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and people with disabilities over 30%? And most importantly why is that acceptable to us?

Watch the full speech. It's just 19 minutes and absolutely compelling.

Also, breaking news: Kitzhaber announced that this would "complete the arc" of his public service. In other words, Kitzhaber fans, don't expect him to run for a fifth term in 2022 or 2026. Or, for that matter, for President of the United States in 2016.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

A stranglehold on sour grapes

January 12, 2015 - 10:59am

This is truly awesome. From the Oregon Catalyst website:

Dems further tighten stranglehold on Oregon

by Dan Lucas

Last month’s election further consolidated what the Oregonian’s Steve Duin has called the Democrats’ “near-monopoly on political power” in Oregon. Democrats have returned to super-majority status in the Oregon Senate – an advantage they’ve enjoyed for 3 of the past 5 election cycles. Starting in January they will hold 18 seats to Republicans’ 12 seats.

In the Oregon House, Democrats have moved to within one seat of super-majority status. Dems will hold 35 seats to Republicans’ 25 seats.

Notice the headline" “Dems further tighten stranglehold on Oregon”. This is false, of course. The Dems did not do anything that the Republicans did not also attempt; that is, try to win elections. The problem for the Catalyst, Art Robinson, Monica Wehby, and the entire Oregon GOP is this: the Dems won more often than did the Rs.

Oregon voters gave the Democrats more seats in the Leg. The Dems did not stage a coup, steal votes, or otherwise commit dark crimes of nefarious intent. The campaigned and won. Republicans campaigned and lost.

We call it “democracy”.

And we call the Catalyst “whiners”.

Right-wing Republican boohoos aside, casting the results of a fair & free election in these kinds of terms is toxic to the program of democratic representation. It’s one thing to question the outcome of elections with a turnout of 30% and restrictions in place as we saw in many states in November. In Oregon, we had over 60% turnout, every votes from the comfort of home over a three-week period, and the results are not controlled by black boxes but by the same dot-counting machines we have had over twenty years to verify. Turning a fair election into a dastardly plot by a single political party is to spit on the the constitutional process of our state.

Not to mention the voters represented by those who were sent to Salem.

I’m not happy that Republicans like Kim Thatcher, Julie Parrish, and Ted Ferrioli are in the Leg. But they got there the same way, and on the same grounds, as did Lew Fredericks, Sara Gelser, and Chip Shields. Their seats in the Leg are legitimate; they provide legiatimate representation to the voters of their districts. I may not like Sen Thatcher’s politics – I find her attitudes loathsome, in fact – but she is duly elected. The folks who sent her to Salem for (god help us) four years are to be respected as much as I feel I am for voting for a smart, well-informed, progressive who is dedicated to the principles and goals I am.

Those of us on both sides of our ever-growing political divide could adopt that same attitude, I think we’d be better off as a polity. I wish I could count on those behind the Catalyst to adopt that attitude, but I ain’t holding my breath. I’m just going to do that for myself.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Ducks vs. Buckeyes smacktalk from Oregon and Ohio leaders

January 7, 2015 - 6:00am

As everyone knows by now, the Oregon Ducks will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the national championship in college football.

It seems that Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has a few words about Oregon's Duck mascot -- which then led to a retort from State Reps. Tobias Read and Val Hoyle, State Senators Chris Edwards, Lee Beyer and Bill Hansell, and Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey.

Check it out:

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

As people flock to Oregon, prospects for a sixth congressional seat perk up...

January 6, 2015 - 6:00am

Once again, the Census Bureau has released estimated population numbers for each of the 50 states.

And the Census numbers jive with the anecdotal data from United Van Lines released last week -- that Oregon is the #1 state in the country for inbound moves (as a percentage of all moves)

Every year around this time, I let my inner nerd out to play with the numbers to see if Oregon is on track for a sixth congressional seat.

You see, for years, we've been hovering right on the bubble for a sixth seat. In 2007 and 2008, we were just ahead of the line -- but by 2009, the projection had us slipping behind again. And when the full Census was conducted in 2010, our sixth seat ranked #442 -- seven spots away from the magic number of 435.

Now, if the Census were held today, we'd be stuck on at five -- our sixth seat ranks #439, as it has every year since 2011.

Of course, the Census isn't today -- it's in 2020. And the question is: what will population look like then?

Here's the thing -- Oregon always seems to outpace the nation when economic growth is strong nationally, and we always lag the nation when the nation is doing poorly. That's why we slipped back in the 2009 estimate and 2010 count.

Anyway, here's how it plays out:

  • If the 2014-2020 trend matches the 2010-2014 trend, then we're outta luck, stuck at #439.

  • But if we keep up the pace we've had for the last two years, then we're right back on the bubble at #436.

In other words, in order for Oregon to win a sixth seat, we're going to need to outpace the rest of the nation just a bit more. But not much.

In 2000, Oregon was 1.22% of the nation's population. In 2010, 1.24%. Right now, it's 1.25%. If we get to 1.27% or so -- just another 30,000 people -- we'll hit that magic #435.

Another analyst, Kimball Brace at Election Data Services, projects that Oregon 6 would sneak into the top 435 -- albeit right on the bubble. But Brace also notes, rightly, that major events -- like Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 recession -- can have a major impact on population growth and shifts.

In other words, stay tuned.


Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Civil disturbances

January 4, 2015 - 3:47pm

Sen Ron Wyden’s staff was not prepared for what happened at his annual Multnomah County Town Hall, held at SCC Southeast on Saturday afternoon. When "Hands Up Pdx" demonstrators took over the meeting and stopped the Senator from taking questions, his staff scrambled for a way to regain control and let the town hall proceed.

They failed.

In the end, the town hall was abandoned. The Senator met privately with anti-TPP activists; Rep Alissa Keny-Guyer, who was supposed to have served as moderator but was relegated to observer, noted the iron of those folks getting a more direct opportunity to share their concerns with Wyden than they would have otherwise. After most attendees had left, a number of protesters and activists gathered together in what amounted to a singing-to-the-choir (as most public demonstrations tend to be).

No one got to ask a single question of the Senator. I’m not sure anyone’s mind was opened or changed. Some were angry with the protesters; one woman was angry that Wyden didn’t respond to the “organic” nature of the moment and turn over the microphone to the protesters to let them speak. He did, actually, for far longer than I think many United States Senators might have done. Can you imagine John McCain or Mitch McConnell standing amidst “Hands Up” protesters for half-an-hour seeking a resolution to such a standoff? In the end, anger and frustration trumped civil discourse. Or at least cancelled a town hall.

But in that peculiar kind of Portland way where even anger of this kind doesn’t devolve into the nastiness we see elsewhere. Anger, frustration, and not even the slightest hint that violence might be possible.

As I wrote on Facebook when first sharing the top photo, no one has a more just cause than Hands Up/Don’t Shoot. We know all too well in Portland how quick police are to resort to deadly violence. Across the country, the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and far too many others – not to mention the unjustifiable incarceration of so many people of color that the United States ranks as the world leader in the imprisonment of its own people – have led many African-Americans to believe they’ve reached the kind of turning point that Dr King and his peers faced.

In case, like me, you were too young or too distant to experience the civils rights movement of the 1960s, you can do so now, here and today. Hands Up is not going to shut up or go away. Nor should they. There is nothing civil about civil disobedience. Disrupting the town hall was upsetting to many, and I’m not sure how productive it was, but whatever mistakes are made, what Hands Up is doing is no different than what the young people did who sat down at the lunch counters half-a-century ago: demanding real change.

(Sidebar: When I see anger white people among the Hands Up protesters being part of those who wouldn’t allow the event to continue and let other grievances be heard, I get cynical. Like me, they are in little danger of being stopped for the crime of being white; they stand in a place of privilege in the eyes of the police. White people can and should stand in solidarity with African-Americans in this movement, but we will never be on the front lines as they are: our skin color will never make us the kind of target people of color are in the United States today.)

Afterwards, a woman talking to Rep Keny-Guyer said the current power paradigm needs to be changed. Paradigms, of course, cannot be changed by an act of will; they are meta-concepts that develop and shift over time (go read Kuhn). What we can do is change how we act.

Senator Wyden needs to meet with the protesters, of course, and he said he would; but he also needs to speak up on their behalf in the town he has chosen to make his home and raise his children. He cannot stay silent; he must be a voice for justice. The other Democratic members of our Congressional delegation need to speak against injustice in Oregon, and not in MLK Day conceptual terms that disturb and change nothing.

Activists on other issues, such as the TPP or the environment, have to look beyond the parameters of their own issues and begin to understand how all these issues are interconnected. It’s no accident that in our country, the worst polution generally occurs around communities of color or poorer communities. Trade agreements like the TPP don’t affect the high-paying white collar jobs or even local trades unions that build things “here”, but they undermine entire communities by impoverishing large segments of the workers upon which our capitalist edifice is presumably constructed. We are all in this together, in the same damn boat. Leaders and activists in labor, the environment, education, economic issues and more have to understandthat Hands Up and their organizations are connected and must support one another — both will lose.

Local elected Democrats have to speak up more. Yes, Lew Frederick has done so and has legislation being prepared for the Leg session that starts next month, but that’s what we’d expect from a man who integrated his high school in Atlanta. What about his colleagues? I know he has plenty of support, but it’s been too quiet. The City Council is giving the appearance of resisting the changes to the Police Bureau that the feds have ordered. The Multnomah County Commission deals with many of the street-level issues that are the results of institutionalized racism, and their efforts are, for the most part, well-intentioned. Where’s their voices?

Emails to constituents do not count as speaking-up.

And the rest of us, ordinary citizens struggling to cope with the on-going economic downturn, the recession that will not end, have to, every now and then, act in solidarity with those suffering injustice. I’m not saying we must all go out and chant “Hands up, don’t shoot?” (something I find unsettling coming from white mouths). But how many Portlanders have contacted the Mayor to demand that real changes be brought to OUR police bureau? (Cops that get paid with Portland taxes and live elsewhere, then insist the leaders and citizens of this city cannot tell them how to run the police bureau; how surreal is that?)

White Oregon has to stand in solidarity with Oregonians of color. This is no longer optional. The blood of Michael Brown, the last words of Eric Garner, the video of Tamir Rice being summarily executed by a white cop, the treatment of people of color across this country has to, at some point, lead all of us to act differently. To think differently. To stop being accomplices in the crimes against humanity with our silence.

And yes: count me guilty.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Bill Moyers highlights Oregon enviro lawsuit in his final broadcast

January 3, 2015 - 8:00am

Friday night, the great Bill Moyers ended his broadcast television career -- after 44 years. In his final broadcast, he cited a lawsuit brought by an 18-year-old Eugene resident, Kelsey Juliana, and a UO law professor, Mary Christine Wood, that uses the doctrine of public trust to assert that the State of Oregon isn't doing enough to combat climate change.

It's an interesting legal theory, and one we should pay attention to. But what struck me were his closing thoughts -- particularly meaningful at the dawn of a new year:

[D]emocracy, too is a public trust – a reciprocal agreement between generations to keep it in good repair and pass it along. Our country’s DNA carries an inherent promise for every citizen of an equal opportunity at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our history resonates with the hallowed idea – hallowed by blood – of government of, by, and for the people. Our great progressive struggles have been waged to make sure ordinary citizens, and not just the rich and privileged, share in the benefits of a free society. In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” ...

So as the next generation steps forward, I am tempted to think that the only thing my generation can say to them is: we’re sorry. Sorry for the mess you’re inheriting. Sorry we broke the trust. But I know in my heart that’s not what they ask or expect. So instead I recommend to them the example of Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, another of my heroes from the past. He battled the excesses of the first Gilded Age a century ago so boldly and proudly that he went down in history as “Fighting Bob.” He told us, “…democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle.” I keep asking myself, what if that struggle is the palpable reality without which this world would be truly barren?

So to this new generation I say: over to you, welcome to the fight.

Watch the whole clip:

There's more over at Raw Story.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

What do you want the 2015 Legislature to take on?

December 30, 2014 - 8:00am

Next year, the Oregon Legislature will convene with 18 Democrats in the Senate and 35 Democrats in the House. As I mentioned last week, Oregon was the only state where Democrats gained seats in both houses of the legislature.

A bit of a historical sidenote: 2014 was only the fourth election in the last five decades to break the trend in the Oregon House. The others were 1974 (post-Watergate), 1982 (Reagan recession), and 2006 (Bush broke America). What happened in Oregon in 2014 was stunning -- even more so considering that a Democrat was in the White House. If that's not a mandate, I don't know what is.

In 2016, we can expect Democrats to expand those majorities even further. After all, it will be a presidential year, and Oregon Democrats almost always gain legislative seats in presidential years. So, Democrats can afford to be bold.

So, the question is: What will Democrats do with their strong election mandate? What are your priorities?

Here's an incomplete list of random thoughts from me. I'd like to hear yours.

  • Raise the minimum wage.
  • Make low-wage employers pay a fee to offset the costs they impose on the social safety net.
  • Pass some reasonable gun safety legislation.
  • Do whatever needs to be done to keep moving the ball forward on health care.
  • Pass GMO labeling.
  • Pass the low-carbon fuel standard and take action on climate change.
  • Make a big investment in Portland State and our community colleges.
  • More school funding to reduce K-12 class size.
  • Basic infrastructure -- roads, bridges, water systems.
  • Stop toxics in products for children.

I'm sure I've missed some very important things.

So, consider this an open call. Whether you're a professional advocate or an interested citizen (and especially, if you're a legislator), let's hear it: What are you hoping to see from the 2015 Oregon Legislature?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Why things were different in Oregon

December 22, 2014 - 7:00am

2014 was always going to be a tough election year. The sixth year of a presidency almost always is.

Add to the usual political dynamics these factors: The economy isn't making as strong a recovery on Main Street as we'd like. That -- along with panic over Ebola and Isis -- caused low approval ratings for the President among swing voters.

So, why were things different in Oregon? How did we re-elect Jeff Merkley by a huge margin? How did we re-elect John Kitzhaber by a strong margin, despite the late-breaking scandals? Why was Oregon the only state where Democrats gained seats in both houses of the Legislature?

To me, the answer is crystal clear: Democrats in Oregon were unafraid to stand up for our values. That's true for Jeff Merkley and John Kitzhaber -- and that was true all over the state in legislative races. Here's the House majority leader, Rep. Val Hoyle, writing this weekend for the O:

For me, the big takeaway from last month's elections is this: Voters in these House races rejected the politics of fear and negativity. Voters said no to over-the-line, often racially charged attacks, and they discarded the outright falsehoods in our opponents' ads.

But voters needed something to vote for, and I'm proud to say that House Democrats ran our campaigns on a clear vision of a future economy in which every working family has a shot at prosperity. We presented an agenda of investing in our schools and critical services, while making sure that we're holding government accountable. This is what made the difference.

Of course, running on our values does one more thing -- it mobilizes the volunteers that hit the doors and the phones. And we know that volunteer door-knocking is the single most powerful campaign tool we have.

We couldn't have succeeded in this election without the dedication of our many volunteers, who put in countless hours knocking on doors and making phone calls in support of candidates they believe in. In the last five days alone, we knocked on more than 50,000 doors in key races to make sure that voters turned in their ballots.

Around the country, in one high-profile race after another, Democrats tried to win on single-issue shibboleths, by running away from President Obama, and by trying to be lite Republicans. Not here.

Sure, in Oregon, things do look different here. But that's not an accident. It's because we do things different here, too.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Nike Tax Deal and the Killing of Entrepreneurship

December 19, 2014 - 8:00am

The Washington Post has been running an excellent series on what ails the middle class, called Liftoff & Letdown.

The fifth installment in the series, The great start-up slowdown, examines the decline of entrepreneurship — the start-up of new businesses — in our nation.

One of the key factors that the article cites for the decline in entrepreneurship is the fact that entrenched companies “are ramping up their efforts to win favors from the government — tax breaks, spending contracts or industry regulations that favor their firm over potential competitors.” This practice, which economist William Baumol calls “unproductive entrepreneurship,” diverts resources away from more productive uses — from practices that would create more jobs.

And what example of “unproductive entrepreneurship” does the article cite?

The Nike Tax Deal.

As The Washington Post explains:

Look at shoes, for example. In December 2012, state lawmakers in Oregon met for a one-day special session. They considered exactly one bill, which they passed and the governor signed. The bill allowed the governor to ink a contract with the state’s most iconic big company, the shoe and apparel giant Nike. The company agreed to create 500 new jobs. The governor agreed to lock in a favorable tax system for Nike for the next 30 years. Any new shoemakers that spring up in the state will need to contend with tax uncertainties that their largest rival won’t be sweating. (Only one other company reached a similar deal: tech giant Intel.)

The claim that the Nike Tax Deal would create jobs was laughable from the start, as the company was already moving forward with its expansion plans and refused to release its consultant's economic analysis report.

Nike is undoubtedly Oregon’s greatest story of successful entrepreneurship.

So it is particularly sad to see that the Nike Tax Deal now stands as a classic example of unproductive entrepreneurship, a legislative act that aids in the killing of entrepreneurship statewide.

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