Oregon Blog Updates
Very interesting story about some of Oregon's timber dependent counties, their very low property taxes and their sprints toward a fiscal cliff:
Officials in Curry, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Lane and other timber-reliant counties face the prospect of financial insolvency in coming years as county timber payments from the federal government end. The counties relied heavily on the payments, intended to compensate for the drop in logging in federal forests, to formulate county budgets.
Certainly, these counties have a revenue problem due to a lack of timber receipts. But it's more than that. These counties also have the lowest property tax rates and some of the lowest incomes in the state. Their local government infrastructure is unraveling-and they refuse to step up and pay to mend it.
Right now, the legislature is considering policy that would allow the state to step in and take over for public safety, elections and other services. In other words, the rest of us would be paying to take care of these counties.
It's arguable that some people in these areas simply can't afford a property tax increase due to their low incomes. But is it fair or reasonable to expect the rest of the state to pick up the tab? Should these residents be forced to pay higher taxes to cover public safety and elections?
Or should they be required to live within their means--with no public safety services and no infrastructure to provide for elections?
The tipping point has arrived, it seems.
It’s been an incredibly bad week of press for the CRC. It's as if the public has finally woken up to realize the emperor has no clothes.
Andrea Damewood’s cover story in this week’s Willamette Week details how the Governor’s top adviser on the CRC has been paid over $417,000 by the private contractor designing the mega-highway.
Kitzhaber has made McCaig, 58, his top adviser on the CRC... But she is not a state employee. McCaig’s paycheck is signed by the CRC’s biggest contractor, David Evans and Associates, which profits by the project going forward. To date, McCaig has been paid $417,000.
The story also brings into the light the CRC’s history as a Neil Goldschmidt-the-lobbyist project, that “Elected officials who have spoken to Kitzhaber say that while he publicly endorses the CRC, in private he dislikes it,” and “Patricia McCaig has never done what state law requires of those who get paid to persuade legislators: register as a lobbyist.”
"The long journey of the CRC—and McCaig’s role promoting it—is a telling story of the way in which a huge, deeply flawed project can still move forward via power politics and a whole lot of spin."
Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org details a huge problem something I’ve complained to reporters about for years: we’ve spent over $168 million but have no good visual portrayals of the CRC. Instead, the media inadvertently shill for the mega-highway by showing a side view of a tiny bridge on a sunny day as an “illustration” summing up the five-mile freeway expansion.
In his impressive piece, Maus writes:
You'd think that with all the support for the Columbia River Crossing down in Salem, lawmakers and their constituents would have a good idea about what their votes — and their tax dollars — will be going toward. But for some reason, CRC and ODOT staff have hidden the project from public view. Despite spending nearly $170 million on consultants and planning thus far, detailed renderings and/or visualizations of key elements of the project are nowhere to be found.
This is not typical of other large infrastructure projects across the country and it begs the question of whether or not CRC and ODOT staff are purposefully pulling the wool over our eyes.
Maus also offers up a visual about the massive impact this project would have. It’s must-see (and read) journalism.
Former Reps. Katie Eyre and Jefferson Smith are teaming up as part of a radio ad campaign, outlining the many reasons people from both sides are upset about the boondoggle and putting the half-billion dollars “on your credit card.” They talk about the job losses from the mega-project, the non-existent plans to pay for the project, and that we can do better.
The mega-project is apparently running into its’ first eight-to-nine-figure cost overrun, even before it has started. That’s right – it’s projected to have to pay upriver firms, whose products can’t fit under the new design, $30 to $116 million in compensation for building what’s effectively a wall between them and their customers. It may not end there – cue the lawsuits. In The Oregonian:
Told of the estimate Tuesday evening, however, company representatives reacted in disbelief, saying the range, and other figures in the application, were too low.
"All their figures look very low to me," said Jason Pond, chief executive officer of Greenberry Industrial.
Up north in Seattle, we had a front-page headline that could soon be coming south. Yesterday The Seattle Times reported: “State admits costly mistakes on 520 bridge.”
Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond also said the problems likely will force officials to miss their December 2014 goal for opening the floating section of the new six-lane bridge. “I’m hopeful the project will be done within 2015,” she said.
The new costs, yet to be determined, will reach the tens of millions of dollars, and the bill will go mostly to the public rather than contractors — because the most severe cracking was triggered by what Hammond described as the state’s own design errors.
She doesn’t know if the price of the fixes and delays will reach $100 million...
The final costs aren't clear, and the project is not yet done. But just like the CRC, there’s a huge financing hole in project, of $1.4 billion. Again, cost overruns and construction problems on these mega-projects are completely predictable; 90% of mega-projects go over budget.
As we start another mega-project in Seattle, we’re already running into problems there. From King 5 news: “Rush to start Viaduct work resulted in millions in extra costs.” This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.
A KING 5 investigation found that after a year of design work, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) made a major, last-minute design change that affected nearly every element of this phase of the job.
The change resulted in an avalanche of change orders for Skanska, resulting in new work and re-dos... Missing details, unfinished designs and changes to accommodate the overpass design added costs. The $114.6 million contract ended up costing the state $122.7 million.
Project that 7% overrun on the CRC, and you’re at $280,000,000. Again, the overall costs aren't complete; but the tunnel hasn't even reached the more technically difficult parts of its construction.
According to Oregon legislative leadership, this mega-highway boondoggle shouldn’t require a stop at the Ways and Means Committee, which normally reviews everything with greater than a $50,000 impact on the Oregon state budget.
Hoping that Oregon pays only half of it, and cost overruns are low, it will only after all, have 40,000 times the impact that normally triggers careful review.
It's time for some real leadership from the Oregon Senate, in slowing this mess down. Here's hoping they can bring some sanity into the discussion.
Congratulations on your appointment and confirmation. As you undoubtedly realize much of the fervor surrounding your confirmation process had everything to do with enduring frustrations regarding Afghanistan, Iraq, and the squandering of an historic opportunity for implementing a new global network of nations united in emphasizing reason over passion, peace over war. President Bush will carry the burden of his decisions with him through history – over 35,000 of my fellow veterans will carry that burden – like your generation of warriors did – in the daily activities of everyday life as we seek out meaning and a new life.
I write this letter asking for your consideration on several matters. First, I ask you to make a point of visiting with the enlisted force throughout your travels. You are the only Secretary of Defense to have served as an enlisted soldier during wartime: this is an essential strength for the coming years. The flag officers are professional warriors that will do the best they can, through the perspective they have – and we need more than this to effectively combat the threats inherent to the 21st Century. Please remember the frustrations of war-making that can only be understood from the “field” level. It will be a critical force multiplier in the political fights with the Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon to come.
Second, please consider asking Congress to establish a “Truman-like” commission for oversight of military contractors. Over the past decade we have become captured by the seductive warmth of big programitis: we have a Littoral Combat Ship program in search of a mission it can accomplish will leaking in excess of $37 billion in overruns; a single-engine F-35 “Joint Strike Fighter” with an original $39 million per copy estimates exceeding $120 million per copy; and a structure of acquisition development that appears to favor the appearance of capabilities rather than actual, proven combat reliability. We need less sizzle, more steak. We need 21st Century tools for 21st Century warfare. However, at present the revolving door at the Pentagon empowers a paradigm that builds weapons systems a few people “want” rather than what we “need” and the seeks to justify the decisions after the fact knowing that large programs once established are difficult to stop. Only the Congress carries the “purse-strings” and only Congress can provide a structural and systemic approach to identifying and solving the problems. With your advocacy we can build a stronger military (like Truman did during World War II) while securing the purchasing power of increasingly scarce resources.
Third, please review the recent decisions made to cut the reserve component. As a veteran of over 20 years in uniform with time spent on active duty as well as in the Air National Guard, I am proud of all our military personnel. We are a great team with immense diversity and reach. Throughout my career I have served across the globe in peacemaking, war-making, and operations other than war. Technology has provided us invaluable benefits in training and weapons employment, but it has also equalized the battlespace for our enemies. The realities of the present – and future, are vastly different than our past. We cannot afford to spend monies the way we used to spend them. We must become better stewards of our dollars in terms of programming – and better stewards of our personnel. Simply put, I am weary of the Pentagon’s recent decisions regarding personnel. With very little research, decision-makers have put forward significant cuts to the National Guard and Reserves. This is not a plea from a guardsman, but rather a request from a fellow warrior: require the Pentagon to do the studies: dollar for dollar the National Guard/Reserves are a better value for precious resources. We cost less to sustain; we are responsible for the same training and proficiencies; and right now the active duty has proven itself unable to effectively fight wars without us. There is a place for a small full-time force with duties of rapid response, the strategic enterprise, and training. But there is also a place for an expanded reserve component.
For many years I have witnessed the differences in treatment between the active duty and the reserve components. It is never at the unit level, it is usually the result of a small minority of full-time officers that fear the potential impact of a proficient, professional full-time force. And not surprisingly these past few years the full-time decision makers have prioritized big weapons systems over smart weapons systems and the full-time force over the National Guard and Reserves. It is an ironic choice for the Pentagon to make. The “price” of the entire Air National Guard (which includes air sovereignty responsibilities) is a little more than the costs associated with a couple of weeks of sustained operations in Afghanistan. Since 9/11 we have proven ourselves able partners during disasters here at home, as well as effective warriors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our current budgetary straits provide you an opportunity for a thorough review of the relative value of the National Guard and Reserves in comparison to the active duty force structure. We are now in an era where we can revisit the values and virtues of the pre-Cold War paradigm: of a nation that maintains routine responsibilities with a dedicated small full-time force – and a vast national network of part-time warriors for surge operations during times of war. We have proven ourselves adept at sustaining war-making requirements while providing our communities with a force multiplier during times of regional crisis.
Over the next four years the US will make a series of historic decisions as we “reset the force.” I urge you and your team to consider the potential benefits of asking Congress to help the Pentagon weed out the corruption inherent in our big weapons systems procurement; of directing an “apples” to “apples” comparison of value between full-time and part-time force structures; and of using the next four years to remake the US Department of Defense into the organization built for the 21st Century. Bureaucracies exist to sustain themselves; it is the nature of the beast. And all things being equal the Pentagon likely views each new Secretary as a temporary tenant. You have spent your life fighting for things you believed in. I beg of you to remember your time in Vietnam all those years ago and use this opportunity at the helm of the most powerful military machine in human history to do what is right – especially when it isn’t easy. Think of the young men and women in the field and make the kinds of decisions flag officers are ill-prepared to even consider. Few people have been given the kind of responsibility bestowed upon you; none has been better prepared for the scale, shape, and size of the transformation needed.
Thank you for reading this letter. I urge you to set a vision for the kind of defense structures and systems we need and not accept the status quo – we are not prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century and we have little time to prepare for the next contest.
Paul L Evans, (OEF/OIF Veteran, Citizen) 744 Main Street East Monmouth, Oregon 97361
This is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs . It is a brilliant and simple way to look at the human condition, and what we all need in life. Currently, I would argue that we have a society that is designing individuals, and not a society designed around the individual's needs, at least not all the time. We are going about government and control systems in the wrong way, in a lot of cases. See if you can find any examples. I think the prison system is one example; if people were satisfying their needs better there would be less crime.
We are pushing down with control systems like flying death machines a.k.a drones, the Patriot Act, secret torture prisons and so on. Again, if these needs were being satisfied on a larger scale for individuals, we would simply not have to use such draconian top-down control systems.
This may seem obvious to many who work in government to help society satisfy these needs for individuals. I would argue that when these needs are not met for individuals, it causes massive problems that feeds the perceived need for more government -- like exploding prison populations.
We can do better, and we should.
I feel like starting with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and designing out and up from the individual, is the correct way to look at social problems. I hope you agree. Food for thought anyway. :-)
Yesterday, Governor Kitzhaber took time out from the National Governors Association winter meetings to talk about Oregon's work to reform Medicaid and reduce the cost of health care.
Of course, they also asked him about the looming sequester - and the Guv had a a few choice words for the way things work (or don't, really) in Washington DC.
Check it out.
By Lisa Marie White of Portland, Oregon. Lisa Marie is a registered nurse, a board member of Bike Walk Vote, and describes herself as "a citizen actively engaged in promoting healthy communities in Portland and all of Oregon."
They’re aggressive, sometimes dangerously so, and destroy our air quality, communities, and planet.
They’re in the way, run stop signs, and ride without regard for others on the road.
Regardless of which trench (or, god forbid, in the inhospitable in-between of No Man’s Land) you find yourself, you’re likely tired, frustrated, angry, and just looking to get home alive.
In the lengthy and unnecessary war between car drivers and bike commuters, no real progress has been made. It’s time to draw down forces and start working together towards a more prosperous future for everyone.
I often hear gripes from the bike community, admittedly at times my own, that car drivers are inconsiderate and dangerous. I have indeed been harassed on bike boulevards (streets supposedly dedicated to people on bikes), drivers laying on the horn and riding behind me for block after block, perhaps not realizing that their momentary expression of annoyance has permanently damaged my hearing. Or those, too many to count, on their cell phones, putting all road users at risk.
Or the driver who followed me for an entire mile, pulled up alongside riding slowly with his window rolled down, yelling expletives, taunting me, and threatening my life for no reason at all. Some of these interactions have made me deathly afraid, and these sorts of actions are completely inexcusable, but I’ve had just as many drivers stop to let me cross a busy street, smile and wave, pull over to apologize for almost hitting me (she was so sweet), or do nothing at all except drive the speed limit and pass me when it is safe.
I love to ride my bike. It is safer than most believe, it costs the city less in upkeep costs (so more of our taxes can go to schools, paving roads, etc.), I actually meet and interact with neighbors and strangers along my ride, plus I save lot of money every year. Not to mention I save myself years, and everyone else money, in healthcare costs by staying active. I’m no better than anyone else, nor am I worse. I’m just a person who happens to love riding my bike. I’m glad I can choose to do so, and hope more of my community members will choose to ride along, too.
Yes, cars break down roads faster than bikes and they pollute our air and water with some pretty nasty carcinogens, not to mention the detriment to the cohesiveness of communities that lie along busy roads and highways (they’re linked to increased crime, too). But in many communities, we’ve left people with almost no option but to get around by car. In fact I was a car driver until the last few years, my Ex-Husband, a dear friend and wonderful person, drives a car to get to his job where no public transit or bike lanes go, and my parents, also lovely and caring, drive, too.
Does that fact that they drive a car in a culture where most activities for the past 50 years centered around cheap oil make them bad people? Why wouldn’t one try to have understanding for people forced to pay extra thousands of dollars a year to sit in polluted air?
Bike commuting is incredibly enjoyable, and it is a failing of our government to not provide safe routes that are available to everyone in all of our communities, but since the 1950’s our government has invested in unsustainable expanses of highway and suburban development while dismantling and defunding public transit, all of which normalizes and encourages driving for trips that the automobile is not best suited.
Driving as primary transit has come about through a combination of cultural norms, government inaction, short-sighted planning, and lack of understanding of personal responsibility/impact, and that’s my point: If you live in East Portland, of course you drive your car. You likely can’t even walk your child to school, since your neighborhood probably doesn’t even have sidewalks.
And waiting behind a cyclist when you commute to work downtown, after driving that expanse because there is no other feasible option… I can understand your frustration. Violence and aggression are never justified, but frustration? Who wouldn’t feel it. In fact our roads aren’t streets anymore; their design feeds into the perceived but inappropriate unwelcomeness of people on bicycles.
And yes, some cyclists blatantly run stop signs, which is not OK (I generally end up with a rolling stop, and I think most car drivers, if honest, do, too.), but just as many and more, myself included, follow posted traffic signs. And all of us, regardless of mode, make mistakes.
Streets used to be designed for horses. Then some were designed for bikes. Then public transit. Then cars. In the last iteration, room for all other modes was wiped clean, in fact sidewalks were reduced in size to make way for parking, making it less hospitable to exercise your innate proclivities to WALK. A driver’s natural tendency to see the bike as unwelcome and out of place? It’s rooted in our poorly planned and usually myopic street design.
A SYSTEM FOR EVERYONE: PROVIDING MORE OPTIONS
People on bikes are obnoxious vagrants who don’t pay their fair share. People in cars are dangerous jerks who ruin everything wonderful about our communities.
The truth is that at these extremes, we lose sight of each other. Our anger and fear and frustration have prevented us from seeing another human being, now merely a projection of past grievances and caricature rooted in daily emotional fluctuations. Take away the car, take away the bike, and you have two members of the shared community just trying to get home alive and unmaimed.
I believe that we all want the same thing: a transportation system that is speedy and efficient, doesn’t cost too much to maintain, and gives us the opportunity to enjoy our commutes and communities. Realistically, our current system is unaffordable, and it will take people thinking beyond the car for the majority of trips, especially inner city travel, to create transportation budgets that are financially sustainable (and happen to promote public health, the local economy, and environmental protection).
But for right now, let’s rise above the few things that separate us and see our commonality. Put aside your frustrations and anger and be kind to each other out there. Drivers: try taking one or two trips a week by foot or by bike (like to the store or taking your kids to school) and be patient with pedalers and pedestrians. Cyclists: ride respectfully and respond with kindness, not anger.
I’m ready for an era of peace and prosperity, and I think Oregon is, too.
I'm proud to have been a constituent of Rep. Lew Frederick, one of only two Democrats (Rep. Tomei the other) to have been willing to vote No, and speak truth to power about the polluting Columbia River Crossing mega-highway project.
Everyone understands the huge power of the lobbies pushing this project, but few were courageous enough to stand up to them.
In his floor speech, Rep. Frederick notes the neighbors opposed to this project, the deeply wrong process, the burden on those next to the massive freeways, the high pollution, the health problems caused by those freeways, the project's plan to increase congestion in the neighborhoods, and the freezing out of alternatives from analysis for "a pre-determined outcome."
"Frankly [the CRC] revictimizes residents in my district."
Watch the video.
Send Reps. Frederick, Tomei, and the nine Republicans who voted No today (Esquivel, Gilliam, Hanna, Hicks, Krieger, Sprenger, Thompson, Whitsett, and Whisnant) a thank-you note.
Sources in Salem tell me that State Rep Julie Parrish (R-Tualatin/West Linn) was circulating this flyer around prior to Friday's Tuition Equity vote.
The hand written notes on the top, in case you can't read them:
"From the desk of Julie Parrish" (with her signature underneath, I guess)
The hand written notes along the right hand side:
"Colleagues: I'm sharing this on behalf of a constituent who wants us to be reminded of some of the more difficult issues created by a failure of the Federal government to do comprehensive immigration reform, which ends the patchwork being created by state governments."
The accompanying mug shot of a bad guy in the country illegally complete with a narrative on his rap sheet is there as well.
Can someone please explain to me what this has to do with giving the children of undocumented immigrants (who go to school here already and whose parents are very likely paying taxes) paying equal tuition rates?
And if it's not meant to be against tuition equity, then why in the world do you circulate it before the vote?
Is there a more incompetent elected official in Oregon? I don't think so.
As Big Bird teaches us, "everybody makes mistakes", but this is ridiculous.
If there's one thing - one single, solitary thing - that an elections official should know, it's the date of election day.
But if you're Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall, screwing up the ballot deadline on the cover of the voters pamphlet is just another screwup in a long line of 'em.
In the latest embarrassment for the Clackamas County Elections Office, Wilsonville voters pamphlets for the March 12 special election ask voters to return the ballots no later than March 13, 2012.
The county will pay about $1,800 to send the corrections.
The ballots are actually due by 8 p.m. March 12, 2013, which is the date of the election.
By Steve Hughes of Portland, Oregon. Steve is the state director of the Oregon Working Families Party. Last fall, he wrote "The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for Shemia Fagan".
The debate over Earned Sick Days in Portland is nearing its denouement, with a final hearing and council vote just around the corner. When the ordinance passes in Portland, the campaign will move to the state level. In a very real way, a victory in Portland sets the table for a larger statewide fight.
The opposition to legislation that would allow workers to take a day off if they or a family member is ill has read like a screenplay for the movie Thank You For Smoking ... with perhaps a Portlandia twist. Reviewing the tactics of the opposition is therefore instructive in terms of learning about the ways in which business interests like Chambers of Commerce and conservative editorial boards (to name a few) still wield out-sized influence in local—and ultimately statewide— policy making.
Delay: Force additional process to bog down forward momentum
For business interests that regularly belly-ache about too much process, too much red tape, too much touchy-feely-kumbaya-hand-holding in the City of Portland, it is rather amusing to hear them now claim that there has not been ENOUGH process to develop the Earned Sick Days Policy.
So let’s unpack that a little. The process to pass Earned Sick Days in Portland began over a year ago. While the Fritz-Saltzman commission is now in the news, what is being overlooked is the fact that months ago City Hall convened stakeholder groups of businesses (on both sides of the issue) and advocates to hash out a draft policy. No one got everything they wanted in those stake-holder meetings, but a workable compromise was crafted.
For months some of the business interests that are now so publicly opposed to the sick days ordinance refused to participate in this process. Calls to them went unanswered. Emails to them languished in their inboxes. However, realizing at a late date that the policy did in fact have legs, these business lobbies exercised their power to force an EXTRA process.
Let’s be very clear: the Fritz-Saltzman commission is not a truncated, rushed process, as some of the business lobbyists that are on the commission now complain—it is additional process on top of what has already been a year-long conversation in the City of Portland.
Defer: “This is a matter best left to the state”
If you fall for this one I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you. Opponents have argued that they absolutely support sick days for everyone but they really just feel it should be passed at the state level. Hmmm.
Does anyone believe they will suddenly support something they have fought so hard just because we change venues? Do we believe this when Associated Oregon Industries is already on record from over a year ago saying they that they would oppose sick days in Oregon in any shape or form. In fact, AOI announced their opposition not in response to anything even happening in Oregon, but rather in response to online tweets about the passage of an Earned Sick Days ordinance in Seattle!
But, setting my skepticism aside for one second, I am willing to grant that it is absolutely correct when some of these business interests argue it would be easier to administer a consistent policy in all jurisdictions of the state. However, I would argue that the way we get there is by passing the strongest possible law in the state’s biggest city, and then using that as leverage to pass a strong bill for all of Oregon against the already public opposition of the AOI.
Distract: Cite bogus “studies,” “facts,” and “experts.”
This is perhaps the most distasteful aspect of the opposition to the Portland Earned Sick Days ordinance, and the one that most closely mirrors the tactics pioneered by Big Tobacco and picked up by the Chemical Industry and those who are fighting climate change legislation.
The opponents of Earned Sick Days are now touting a “study” out of Connecticut, the first place in the U.S. to pass statewide sick days legislation. The think thank that produced the bogus report is called “Employment Policies Institute” (EPI), conspicuously named to nearly match the real and widely respected “Economic Policy Institute” (EPI). Funded by corporate interests, the “Evil Twin” EPI study makes the predictable argument: Connecticut’s sick days law is killing jobs.
On its face, this is annoying. But the fact that some business news outlets, such as the Portland Business Journal, then report it like it’s real data is destructive.
Meanwhile, the real data from the Connecticut Department of Labor reports that employment has only grown since the passage of the paid sick days law in Connecticut in the Leisure and Hospitality and Education and Health Services sectors.
It’s time to take action
The right to take a day off from work when you or a family member is ill is already guaranteed by 145 other countries around the world. When approximately 40% of U.S. workers don’t have this basic right (it goes up to 80% in the service sector) the time for the “thank-you-for-smoking” tactics has long since passed. After a year of waiting, working people are looking forward to action from the Portland city council, and ultimately the Oregon legislature, to pass this most basic labor standard.
After having a banner day with Oregon House passage of Tuition Equity, the legislature moves on this week to consider a some pretty controversial stuff--not a lot of light reading here, to be sure.
On the House side, the Columbia River Crossing is expected to continue its freight train run through the body with a floor vote on Monday. The bridge is on a $3.4 billion greased fast track, having skipped the usual route through the Ways & Means Committee.
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hear public testimony on measure to change the state constitution and ban the death penalty in Oregon. The measure would potentially appear on the 2014 ballot. The House also begins looking at efficiency measures to streamline government, reduce redundancies and examine middle management numbers.
A couple of things to watch in the Oregon Senate: look for a Wednesday hearing for SB 558, which will improve the foreclosure mediation process by extending it to judicial foreclosures. Big banks found a loophole in the 2012 foreclosure reform bill and some have acted in bad faith, denying struggling homeowners critical access to alternatives. This bipartisan bill will close that loophole and hold banks accountable.
On Friday, the Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on the Earned Income Tax Credit. Oregon's EITC is scheduled to sunset this year. Sen. Diane Rosenbaum is taking the lead on a couple of bills to renew and expand the EITC with the goal of working families have more income and staying out of poverty.
Three Senate Republican bills from Sens Olsen and Thomsen that would roll back corporate and capital gains taxes have been introduced. Keep an eye out for those. Sen Doug Whitsett introduced a slew of bills that would substantially weaken the PERS system, requiring public employees to contribute up to half of their overall pension. Abridged Senate GOP: Tax cuts for the people who have money! Less money to those who already don't have very much! Let them eat cake!
I know it's late to be writing about the Super Bowl, but I also know my Raven fan friends (Stephanie Vardavas for example) won't mind being reminded.
So in December, the Center for Science in the Public Interest expressed its displeasure with Beyonce' for her multimillion-dollar deal to advertise Pepsi, including during the Super Bowl. The Center told the singer that each additional sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by 60 percent. That each soda consumed per day increases the risk of heart disease in men by 19 percent. That drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases one's risk for type 2 diabetes by 25 percent. That diabetes, in turn, can cause complications including amputation, erectile dysfunction, blindness, coma, and early death. Food writer and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman rebroadcast CSPI's call to Beyonce' in his column.
I heartily approved of CSPI and Bittman's message: that Beyonce' should make a bold stand for public health by leaving the money on the table and ending her relationship with Pepsi. But then, watching the Super Bowl, I received an uncomfortable reminder that one of Portland's iconic businesses needs to hear the same message that CSPI and Bittman delivered to Beyonce'. Wieden+Kennedy needs to understand that it's not cool to be advertising Coke.
Let me make this perfectly clear (as Nixon used to say): I don't like feeling that I have to criticize W+K. Wieden+Kennedy is great for Portland. They provide good jobs. They're a 'traded-sector' business, meaning that they sell their services to out-of-state businesses (like Coke, for example) and bring the money home; thus, unlike another restaurant or a sports stadium, they add to, rather than simply rearrange, the city's wealth. They're brilliant. They're hip. I'm glad they're here.
But one of the biggest threats to the economy of the United States, including Oregon, including Portland, is rising health care costs. And cost aside, obesity, heart disease and diabetes are pretty yucky. They're not cool. They're not hip. They're no fun.
So I think it would be really, really great if Wieden+Kennedy announced: "You know what? Shilling for Coke is not us. It's not cool. It's not Portland. So we're going to stop doing it, and we hope our competitors in Big Advertising will join us in ceasing to work for Big Soda."
I think that if Wieden+Kennedy did that, they'd become even hipper. In fact, I think they would become The Most Interesting Ad Agency In the World.
In his State of the Union, President Obama passionately laid out a key problem America faces: our crumbling infrastructure, including 70,000 structurally deficient bridges (note: the current CRC is not among them). Jon Stewart highlighted the problem on The Daily Show, “The Bridges are Death Traps.” President Obama:
”So, tonight, I propose a ‘Fix-It-First’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.”
In his 1997 State of the State, Governor John Kitzhaber said this:
"It's time we challenged the idea that says we can build our way out of congestion by adding more freeway lanes. That didn't work in Seattle or Los Angeles and it isn't going to work in Oregon."
In 2011, ODOT Director Matt Garrett gave compelling, under-reported testimony, where he clearly laid out the long-term funding problem faced by ODOT and how we are failing miserably to maintain what we have, while revenue is falling and costs increasing. Sounding like a CRC critic, Garrett said:
“... the credit card bill will continue to come due... this is just a fiscal reality. And it demands that we pivot.”
As a candidate, Mayor Charlie Hales told the Portland Business Alliance:
“I don't believe the current version of the bridge is fundable, buildable and consistent with our values.”
Every one of these leaders would want to call themselves green and supportive of the environment. But unfortunately they've crumbled under the pressure from the highway lobby.
Their transformation evokes Robert Lewis Stevenson’s novella, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The novella is a study of split personality, where the good Dr. Jekyll struggles with his alter ego, Mr. Hyde.
Kitzhaber as Mr. Hyde. On Friday, Willamette Week’s editor Mark Zusman told OPB Kitzhaber has privately told people he hates the mega-project; we should expect an article this week.
They’re not alone. A recent three-part expose by McClatchy, “U.S. Keeps Building New Highways as Old Ones Crumble”, calls our record “a politically-driven road building binge.”
Under political pressure from the highway lobby, many of our well-meaning elected officials are retreating from previous positions. They’re writing apologetic (and not so apologetic) excuses for supporting the boondoggle, most of which point to the supposed "triggers" meant to control the mega-project in HB 2800 (the unfunded CRC bill).
It’s been a long time since the days when Governor Tom McCall railed against this approach:
“Some highway engineers have a mentality ... that would run an eight-lane freeway through the Taj Mahal. That is our problem.”
“I simply say that Oregon is demure and lovely, and it ought to play a little hard to get. And I think you’ll all be just as sick as I am if you find it is nothing but a hungry hussy, throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that’s offered.”
This weekend Joe Cortright has another piece in The Oregonian explaining how the mega-project is a bad deal for Oregon. One of the Oregon’s leading economists, Cortright calmly lays out the facts about the blank check boondoggle, and HB 2800. Cortright explains:
“In reality, the fine print makes it clear [the CRC bill’s triggers are] an illusion... The state's financial liability is open-ended and unlimited.”
He notes the game is the oldest trick in the highway lobby’s book – and how it was a favorite of highway-pusher Robert Moses: “He'd take a small amount of money and get the project started, and then dare the Legislature not to fund the rest of the project and leave it unfinished.”
The Moses reference is somewhat obscure. For the curious, check out “The Power Broker,” Robert Caro’s Pulitizer Prize-winning biography of Moses. Here are a few excerpts from it that might sound familiar:
“[Moses realized] once you did something physically, it was very hard for even a judge to undo it.... once you physically began a project, there would always be some way found of obtaining the money to complete it. ‘Once you sink that first stake,’ he would often say, ‘they’ll never make you pull it up.’” (p. 218)
“[W]hat if you didn’t tell the officials how much the projects would cost? What if you let the legislators know about only a fraction of what you know would be the projects’ ultimate expense?” (p. 219)
“Once they had authorized that small initial expenditure and you had spent it, they would not be able to avoid giving you the rest when you asked for it. How could they? If they refused to give you the rest of the money, what they had given you would be wasted, and that would make them look bad in the eyes of the public. And if they said you had misled them, well, they were not supposed to be misled. If they had been misled, that would mean that they hadn’t investigated the projects thoroughly, and had therefore been derelict in their own duty. The possibilities for a polite but effective form of political blackmail were endless.... Once you got the end of the wedge for a project into the public treasury, it would be easy to hammer in the rest.” (p. 219)
“[Moses] had told the Legislature that one million would be the cost of the Long Island program. He knew that actually the million would pay for only a fraction – a small fraction of the program.... with the million, he drove a lot of stakes.” (p. 220)
“We will do the planning, he said. We don’t need your help. We don’t need your suggestions.” (p. 275)
“When he had asked the Legislature for money for the parkway, Moses had said that two miles of an ocean drive was all he had in mind. Now he revealed that he actually had been concealing a few other miles – ninety-eight, to be precise.” (p. 311)
“The allocation was for building a bridge, not roads, and while the allocation did permit expenditures for bridge ‘approaches,’ that word traditionally referred only to the ramps... Moses persuaded... ‘approaches’ could be defined as ‘approach roads.’” (p. 392)
While urban design professionals have explained all along how the CRC is a highway-expansion design from the 1950s, the CRC’s politics are firmly rooted in the Moses model of 1920s and 1930s.
Of course, Moses wasn’t the first bully. As Caro notes about robber barons: “They were the men who had blackmailed state legislatures and city councils by threatening to build their railroad lines elsewhere unless they received tax exemptions, outright gifts of cash – and land grants.” (p. 148) Sound familiar? It echoes the year-after-year claims of urgency about federal funding for the CRC.
On Monday, the House is poised to make this boondoggle a “Special Order of Business.” That is a telling title for this homage to highway fetishists, a push for a Mr. Hyde-like decision in the face of the climate crisis, to press hard on the accelerator instead of the brake. For HB 2800 is indeed a special order of the highway lobby. The grasping wastrels Governor McCall warned us about are rejoicing.
It's not too late for our Dr. Jekylls to reappear. Our leaders can find their wisdom of old, and stand up to the highway lobby. For the future of Oregon, I hope they do.
UPDATE: I've swapped out the original Tom McCall video I linked to in this page for the Think Out Loud piece. Watch the body language and listen for specifics. Do you feel comfortable voting for most expensive project in the region's history based on this discussion?
Once again, the Oregon Legislature will consider a bill to have Oregon join the National Popular Vote compact. In short, SB 624 would be a state law that would change the way that Oregon awards its electoral votes. (You see, the Constitution allows states to determine how they are to be awarded.)
NPV would mean that Oregon would award its seven electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. But the new system would only go into effect once states representing 270 electoral votes are part of the program -- ensuring that this isn't a way for one party to screw the other, but rather a guarantee that the national popular vote winner would win the election. (And they're halfway there, with commitments from 8 states representing 132 electoral votes - including Washington and California.)
Of course, there are technical hurdles. What do you do if the vote is too-close-to-call? For example, most states require a recount only if their state's vote is super-close. But the total vote can be within 0.1% even if all 50 states have solid majorities. What if there are court challenges? And so on...
On the one hand, the electoral college completely distorts our elections - with some states getting lots of attention (Ohio, Florida, Nevada) and most other states getting completely ignored. It effectively disenfranchises any voter that lives in a state that is a landslide vote for the other side. On the other, I'd really dread a nationwide recount -- especially if elections are run by the states, or worse, by the counties; and according to wide variations in election law.As for stupid maps..
NPR's Robert Krulwich, one of the best science reporters ever, even went so far as to call it "a crazy but rational solution". Nevermind that Mitt Romney would have won under this map (since Democrats tend to be packed into cities).
Look, one of the main problems with the electoral college is that small states have disproportionate power. That's because the number of electoral votes is the number of House members plus two Senators. Nationwide, each electoral vote corresponds to 577,977 people -- but in Wyoming, for example, each electoral vote corresponds to 189,433 people. So, folks in Wyoming have three times the electoral power than the nation as a whole.And my slightly-better solution...
But there's a relatively simple solution to that problem - at least, a partial solution. And it doesn't require abolishing the electoral college, or moving to a national popular vote, or redrawing state boundaries. It won't require a constitutional amendment either. Just a law, passed by Congress.
The simple solution? Just double -- or triple -- the size of the House of Representatives. There's nothing magical about 435 members of Congress. It's just a number set by statute. In fact, it used to go up every census, until 1911, when Congress decided that 435 was enough. (It briefly popped up to 437 when Hawaii and Alaska came in between censuses.)
If we were to double the size of the House to 870 members, the Electoral College would go to 974 -- and the disproportionate effect of the Senate would be cut in half. Nationwide, each electoral vote would correspond to 318,792 people. Each of Wyoming's four electoral votes would represent 142,075 people - down to just 2.2x their appropriate representation.
If we were to triple the size of the House to 1305 members, the Electoral College would go to 1409 -- and the disproportionate effect of the Senate would be cut even further. Nationwide, each electoral vote would correspond to 220,091 people. Each of Wyoming's four electoral votes (yup, still four) would still represent 142,075 people - now down to just 1.5x their appropriate representation.
And incidentally, if we were to double the House, Oregon would actually jump from 5 members to 11 - and tripling would get us to 16. We're one of the states that has absurdly overstuffed congressional districts (having missed a sixth seat in 2010 by just 45,000 residents.)
Of course, doubling or tripling the size of the House would have all sorts of other unintended consequences. But if we're talking about redrawing state lines after every census, well, mine is the less-crazy idea of the week.
By Chuck Tauman of Portland, Oregon. Chuck is a trial lawyer, political consultant and lobbyist. He is also the President of Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon.
Big tobacco continues to reap record profits from selling an addictive product that, when used as intended, kills its best customers. With a business model that is both simple and simply repulsive, they prey upon the young and disadvantaged in hopes of creating an addiction to nicotine and a lifetime dependence on their products and the income stream that goes with it.
Frankly Oregon hasn't done enough to protect our children and our communities from these drug pushers. But this legislative session there is an opportunity to make a real investment in fighting back.
For the past 15 years I have been on the front lines of the fight against big tobacco. Both in the courtroom as a trial lawyer in the two headline tobacco cases in Oregon and in the court of public opinion as President of the Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon (TOFCO), Oregon's leading anti-tobacco advocacy group, I have looked big tobacco in the eye and they are evil. In the late 1990's I was privileged to be part of the trial team that beat Philip Morris in the first major tobacco trial in Oregon. That case went to the US Supreme Court three times resulting last year in a significant recovery and an infusion of more than $56 million to Oregon's general fund. The second case, also against Philip Morris, involving the "low-tar cigarette fraud", was retried last year with another victory against big tobacco.
I was there in 1998, when 46 states, including Oregon, and the big tobacco companies entered into a legal settlement (Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement or TMSA) estimated at $221 billion over the first 25 years, to compensate states for past and future smoking-caused expenditures. The intent of the TMSA was clear: Prevent and reduce tobacco use, especially among children, and address the financial toll of tobacco on states.
When Oregon's share of TMSA dollars reached Oregon in 2003, polls showed that 85 percent of Oregonians supported spending those funds on tobacco prevention and cessation. Unfortunately, Oregon decided to use TMSA dollars to pay bond debt. Unbelievably, not one penny of Oregon's TMSA money (over a billion dollars to date) has been spent on tobacco prevention or control. Make no mistake: big tobacco hailed this as a big win. Failing to invest TMSA dollars in tobacco prevention gave them another decade worth of addicts.
For the first time in a decade, we have the opportunity to invest TMSA dollars toward the original purpose: compensating Oregon for taxpayer money spent on patients and family members with tobacco-related diseases and reducing tobacco use especially by Oregon's children. Our neighbors to the north and south have wisely invested their TMSA dollars in tobacco prevention, education and cessation and have seen an incredible return on that investment by saving millions, sometimes billions, in medical costs but more importantly by saving lives. Washington State's tobacco prevention program saved the state more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program. Over the 10-year period, the program prevented nearly 36,000 hospitalizations, saving $1.5 billion compared to $260 million spent. California's tobacco control program reduced health care costs by $134 billion, over 50 times more than the $2.4 billion spent on the program.
Of the $1 billion on TMSA payments receive by Oregon to date, NOT ONE PENNY has been spent on tobacco prevention.
But Oregon, this year, has a chance to make things right, to fulfill the promise of the TMSA and keep faith with the will of Oregon citizens. A proposal currently before the 2013 legislature lays out a plan for investing $120 million in proven prevention strategies and improving children's health. Championed by a broad coalition of leading tobacco control and health advocates, the TMSA proposal would go a long way toward making up for the missed opportunities over the last decade.
Tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death in Oregon, each year accounting for nearly 7,000 deaths and close to $2.4 billion in health costs. Oregonians have always known the right thing to do - use TMSA money to fight big tobacco. Let's hope the Legislature has the political will and wisdom to restore Oregonians' trust and fulfill the promise of the TMSA to invest in tobacco prevention and the cost of tobacco-related disease in Oregon.
The Nike Deal that went down last December ought to go down in history as a clear example of a state cutting an unnecessary sweetheart deal with a corporation — granting a concession for something that the corporation was already doing.
If you recall, in mid-December 2012 Gov. Kitzhaber took Oregonians by surprise when he announced a special legislative session to enact the Nike Deal law. Rushed through in less than one week, the law gave the Governor the power to cut a deal with Nike to lock in place for 30 years a 90+ percent cut in Nike's taxes that Nike and the Loophole Lobby won a few years back.
In the December 19 contract that the Governor and Nike quickly signed after the special legislative session closed, Nike got the State of Oregon's promise that the formula by which its state income taxes are computed will stay in place for 30 years. For its side of the bargain, Nike promised to create 500 jobs and invest $150 million over five years.
The contract, however, states that Nike’s investment in Oregon “commenced on January 1, 2012.” Thus, the contract language shows that Nike was already expanding in Oregon well before it extracted a concession from the state.
A recent article by Allan Brettman in The Oregonian confirms that point.
Brettman, who reviewed documents between the state and Nike obtained under a public records request, reported on the drafting of the agreement. He explained that in late November — before the Governor called the special session — Nike’s lawyers and lawyers with the Oregon Department of Justice met at Nike’s headquarters. Nike’s lawyers came to the meeting with a document in hand that already contained “the basics” of the deal that Nike and the Governor would ultimately sign after the special session.
Subsequent to that meeting at Nike, Oregon Department of Justice lawyer Keith Kutler and Nike’s attorneys made some drafting changes to the document, “[b]ut the basics of the pact were all there” in the initial draft that Nike’s lawyers wrote. One of those basics was the January 1, 2012 date:
And, like others who viewed the hastily prepared deal, Kutler wondered about a phrase in the agreement saying Nike’s financial commitment to “Project Impact” commenced on Jan. 1, 2012. A year earlier.
In his emailed, marked-up copy to Gary, Kutler highlights “2012” and in the margins writes, “Should this be 2013?”
No, Nike informed the state. It wanted credit for work and spending that already had been taking place in 2012.
So there you have it, Nike’s new slogan: “I was already just doing it.” Nike extracted a concession from the State of Oregon for something the company was already doing — spending money to expand in Oregon.
For Governors and legislatures around the country dealing with tax-dodging and subsidy-seeking corporations, their new watchword ought to be "Don't get Nike'd."
Great news! The Oregon House has now passed the tuition equity bill, HB 2787, sending it along to the Senate for final passage.
The vote was 38-18 - that's five Republicans joining 33 Democrats voting in favor. No Democrats voted against. The five Rs were Cliff Bentz of Ontario, Vicki Berger of Salem, John Huffman of The Dalles, Mark Johnson of Hood River, and Julie Parrish of West Linn.
The vote wasn't without controversy, as Republicans pushed a "minority report" - an alternative proposal. From the O's Yuxing Zheng:
House Republicans unsuccessfully proposed an alternative version that would have let the bill expire in 2016 and limited tuition equity to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. by July 1. Republicans also wanted stricter guidelines on how students would demonstrate they intended to become lawful residents.
That minority report was defeated 33-23 - which means that five Republicans voted first in favor of the minority report, and then in favor of the bill as proposed.
Update: Governor John Kitzhaber hailed the vote. From a statement:
“I applaud the House for its bipartisan vote in support of House Bill 2787, which provides tuition equity for all Oregonians. Thousands of young people attend our schools, work hard, get good grades and graduate from high school, but are then denied equal access to community college and university. By removing roadblocks to their post-secondary education, we open new opportunities to them and the opportunity for our state to capitalize on the investment we've made in these students through the K-12 system. Every Oregonian deserves their shot at the American Dream, and I appreciate the hard work of so many Oregonians to make this possible. I look forward to signing the bill.”
Last year, Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) was forced not to run for reelection after allegations surfaced that Wingard pressured an aide to have sex with him and that he was supplying alcohol to minors.
That hasn't stopped Wingard from still trying to look like a legislator on Twitter:
Stop pretending, Matt. You've got other things to worry about anyway, like the fact that your online charter school is graduating students who can't read and write.
This week a bill that would provide the People of Oregon with an opportunity to vote for securing necessary resources for critical veterans’ services was “dropped.” Soon it will be given a number and sent to a committee.
Mike Francis from the Oregonian explains that the measure seeks to set-aside 5% of the proceeds of the Oregon Lottery (roughly $27 million of the $549 million generated) for education, employment, health care, housing, transportation, and other critical programming for the 330,000 veterans living in neighborhoods (and under bridges) throughout Oregon.
It is a bill that received significant bipartisan support: 41 cosigners in the house, 19 in the senate. And if the bill were to be voted upon today – it would likely pass both chambers.
However, it appears that some may be silently conspiring to kill this measure (and those like it). I hope this is merely a nasty rumor. Evidence of such skullduggery would be easy to identify and track.
It would be manifest in the emergence of a vague narrative targeting the scale, shape, or size of the measure – but not the purpose. Whisper campaigns depend upon staying in the shadows limiting the risk for being identified as an anti-veteran interest.
There are a few legitimate issues with the measure. Some will argue that lottery proceeds should not be used to help veterans because such policy would encourage gambling among an at-risk population. That is a sound argument – for abolishing the lottery. It is a harder task to justify some programs over others – all funded through addiction-building.
Others will argue that veterans should wait – until the economy strengthens for such ambitious efforts. That too is a sound argument if the economy is contracting and budget revenues are being cut. But there is a projected increase in revenues. We have been waiting and we have waited long enough.
Over the past years the veterans’ services agenda has made great progress – but on the edges. Veteran advocates understood the financial quagmire Oregon faced and sought to find solutions that could be implemented through leveraging resources and extraordinary partnerships.
The low hanging fruit is now long gone.
A little over four years ago, Governor Kulongoski’s Task Force on Veterans’ Services identified the needs and potential funding sources associated with a comprehensive approach to programming.
A little over three years ago, we were told to seek alternatives to General Fund resources.
In 2012 we were told that the alternative funding source identified was not an acceptable choice.
This year Governor Kitzhaber has endorsed a plan to offer a veterans’ game within the current Lottery programming. He should be commended for this decision. It could help realize $300,000 to $500,000 for critical needs. However, this first step cannot be the last.
Not so long ago the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs had over 400 employees throughout the State of Oregon, there are less than 100 now. This is a measure of our relative commitment to veterans – during a time of prolonged combat operations overseas. We had more ODVA resources during peacetime…
It must be understood that the proceeds from this measure would not be a “full-employment program” for ODVA but rather apportioned throughout the education, employment, health care, housing, and transportation networks. We have developed robust networks and partnerships that steward resources well – we just need the resources to make these advancements accessible for the veteran community.
After considering the politics I am certain that voters will have the opportunity to secure veterans funding in 2014. I hope the Legislature will pass it to the ballot. If this does not happen because the power brokers in Salem kill it, it will likely be sent to the ballot in 2014 with a larger price – and be passed in no small part because of the intransigence of the leadership in Salem.
This is a fight we do not need; a fight we should not want. The older I get the more I recognize I do not know. But I do know this: I would not want to be the legislator blamed for denying the voters of Oregon an opportunity to secure funding for our returning heroes. It is a fool’s errand with no upside and a lot of downside.
For good or ill, the last few years out of government has taught me a few things. Chief among these lessons is that “inside the building” rationale – doesn’t always play well – outside the hallowed halls of Capitolville.
Main Street will not see the $27 million price tag for veterans as an unreasonable amount.
Truth be told, there are some people hoping this measure fails in the Capitol so that a Faustian Choice of “Parks or Veterans” can be offered to the voters – and likely done so with a partisan twist.
As a former mayor, school board member, and current classroom teacher – I get the arguments associated with resources. More than most, I understand the impacts of budgets upon our children, communities, and environment.
That said, with the anticipated uptick in projected revenue, I know it will be a hard sell in 2014 to justify a vote denying veterans services – when we had more money than originally anticipated.
In 2014 we will be ending our experience in Afghanistan, our own troops (just mobilized) will be recently returned, and the 30,000 or more to be cut from the active duty force as a result of the reorganization in the Department of Defense will be struggling through reintegration in our communities and neighborhoods.
We have all become accustomed to the interest groups flexing their respective muscles during April and May – it is time where the halls of Capitolville are flooded with concerned citizens seeking to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. In many ways it is a fun time because citizens from across the state come to participate in their government.
Veterans have already demonstrated their commitment; we carry it with us every day. Over the past several years we have been content to allow the government to do the right thing – when it could. But we still carry the memory of “The Bonus Army” and we are weary.
This April and May could be the beginning of a very different approach to advocacy. Many of us cannot walk as fast as we once could, and our voices may be softer because of age or injury – but veterans know an honorable fight when we see it – and we know we must act now or watch this latest generation of returning veterans be lost.
22 veterans a day are committing suicide because they don’t see another alternative – and the war in Afghanistan isn’t even over yet. Just wait until the 9/11 warrior generation has to make sense of being sent to war (while everyone else went to the mall), for two wars that in the end have far too little to show for the sacrifices made.
Our veterans have served mulitple tours over the past decade in conditions most of us would not accept and cannot understand. They went because We the People sent them... Our veterans are not seeking special treatment, but rather the tools for reintegrating into the society they helped defend.
Given the sacrifice of blood and time, 5% of the Lottery seems like a pretty fair deal.
Good policy is good politics. We should get this bill passed, quickly and use it as an opportunity to unite our community.
This bill is a win/win/win anyway you slice it. It will happen and it would make far more sense if people across the aisles could work together to make it proof-positive that the Oregon Legislature has the courage to do what’s right.
The fact is that this bill would impact existing programs funded through the Lottery. In the short-term, beaches, economic development, education, fish & wildlife, and parks would have to share.
But the Lottery was always envisioned as a facilitator for resourcing for the General Fund. It started out as an economic development vehicle. And veterans’ services has a demonstrable $1,000.00 (or more) return on investment for every $1.00 in state spending.
Right now we are in the initial stages of a coming fight that doesn’t have to be fought. There are sufficient numbers of the Legislature that have signed onto the bill that left unmolested, it could pass easily.
The concerns about the bill are appropriate and understandable, but insufficient to cause it to fail. The 5% could always be negotiated (a little), but in the end it is a far better thing for us to do through the Legislature than in spite of it.
For the moment there are at least 333,000 eyes watching what comes next.
By State Representatives Joe Gallegos and Jessica Vega Pederson. Rep. Gallegos represents the Hillsboro and North Plains area of Washington County. Rep. Vega Pederson represents the Parkrose area of East Portland. Both were elected in 2012.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when your activism is making a difference. Oregon Democrats should look to the state House of Representatives today in Salem to see years of hard work result in a vote to expand education and improve Oregon’s workforce.
Today, the House of Representatives is expected to pass House Bill 2787, otherwise known as tuition equity. This policy would provide in-state tuition to students who have grown up here in Oregon but are undocumented because their parents brought them to this country as children. These students performed well enough to gain admission to Oregon colleges and universities. But without this measure, they would be forced to pay out-of-state rates – triple the in-state tuition cost. For many of these students, paying out-of-state tuition is simply not an option, and so they are cut off from their hopes of attending college.
Tuition equity has won enthusiastic support of all the major statewide business organizations. They know it will support a strong economy by producing the highly skilled workforce Oregon needs to stay competitive. Higher education gives Oregonians the increased earning power that can help create a better quality of life.
Oregon’s university leaders also support tuition equity. They say tuition equity reflects the same spirit of our public university system, which aims to provide access to education regardless of stature or status. Young immigrants should not be denied access to affordable higher education because of their parents’ decisions. We need to educate the youth who grow up here with a dream to succeed in the state they know as their home.
For years, Democratic legislative leaders worked heroically on this issue. Senate President Peter Courtney and Representatives Michael Dembrow and Chris Harker fought to expand higher education access, only to hit a brick wall of mainly misguided Republican opposition in the House.
Thanks to many BlueOregon readers, Democrats took over the House last fall. As two of the new members sent to Salem in the 2012 election, we know how hard it was to restore a Democratic majority. We’re so gratified to see this effort poised to pass the House today, with the Senate and Governor expected to finalize it soon into law.
Please join us in celebrating the this milestone by watching today’s vote in Salem, viewable online here starting at 11 a.m. and watch your new House majority at work. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter.