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The Oregonian’s Muddled Mess on Pollution Taxes

September 18, 2014 - 1:18pm

Today’s Oregonian editorial against a tax on pollution (carbon tax) shows an impressive combination of timidity, poor logic, and ignorance.

First, timidity - the editorial starts by arguing the struggles the state has had with Cover Oregon should prevent it from taking on anything hard. It backs up its argument by quoting wild hyperbole of an unnamed industry group.

The editorial is notably silent on the contents of the carbon tax report the legislature had commissioned. The Oregonian’s own news story reported:

The [pollution tax] idea received a far more positive response [than it had recently] from an Oregon legislative committee as a group of economists and scientists provided an overview of a detailed proposal due out Nov. 15.

“This could really help rejuvenate many rural parts of the state,” said Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford. “The devil is always in the details, but I'm tantalized.”

Much of the reason for that enthusiasm stems from the idea that a tax on carbon would be revenue-neutral, meaning that whatever the state collected from taxing various forms of energy would ultimately be returned to members of the public and businesses through means such as lower income and business taxes.

Some background: taxing pollution is one of the most widely supported ideas in economics literature, and is generally used as the perfect example of a Pigouvian tax that improves market signals and functioning. But it's not just theory. After Congress implemented a tax on ozone-layer depleting chemicals in 1989, it's lead to a true environmental success story. The Oregon legislative report noted a pollution tax on carbon could bring two billion dollars to households and businesses each year -- about $550 for every Oregonian.

Why are we even considering this? We know without taking action on global warming, our world’s economy is facing a 5 to 20% loss of GDP – costs that would land disproportionately on the world’s poorest. The World Health Organization estimates global warming will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. None of this reality - that demands serious, bold action - is mentioned.

Next up – poor logic. The Oregonian’s editorial board makes an impressively bad argument: “the effect of such a tax in a single state on global warming would be negligible, and perhaps nonexistent.” This might be thought of as the Zeno’s Paradoxes argument – and indeed, it can be hard to imagine dividing a big problem into small solutions (perhaps the wedge piece visualization from Princeton professors Socolow and Pacala can help).

But it’s just sloppy thinking. By that logic, the editorial board must never walk a mile, because any single step’s progress towards getting a mile is negligible. Similarly, they must never vote, as any single vote’s chance of changing an electoral outcome is negligible. And they must never buy a newspaper, as the chances that purchasing one newspaper will create a vibrant fourth estate are nonexistent. The reality is much different – countries and states and people across the planet are taking actions to fight global warming, and it’s time Oregon did its share of leadership on the issue.

Finally – ignorance. The editorial states “it has the uncertainty that comes with trying something new. Plenty of states have sales taxes, but none have carbon taxes.” That’s an impressive side-step of the existence of state carbon trading markets, and, more to the point, British Columbia’s carbon tax that’s been around since 2008. Just because something is Canadian doesn’t makes six years of experience inapplicable. The outcome, according to The Economist? “BC now has the lowest personal income tax rate in Canada and one of the lowest corporate rates in North America, too.”

Or, according to this piece in the Globe and Mail:

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that B.C.’s policy has been a real environmental and economic success after six years. Far from a being a “job killer,” it is a world-leading example of how to tackle one of the greatest global challenges of our time: building an economy that will prosper in a carbon-constrained world.

Once again, if you want to be educated on the issue of the day, read the Oregonian’s reporters. If you prefer poorly reasoned arguments, read the editorial pages.

Disclaimer: these are my views alone, not of my employer.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Kitzhaber & Richardson reveal fall TV ads

September 17, 2014 - 3:01pm

Both gubernatorial campaigns launched their TV ad campaigns this week. They're definitely worth watching side-by-side.

John Kitzhaber's ad rapidly summarizes his accomplishments in the last four years, and unveils his vision for the future:

Dennis Richardson's ad, by contrast, is about... well, I'm not really sure. It's a mishmash of biographical stuff.

Strangest of all, it closes on the line "Oregon's road to a better future starts with leaders who have a new vision" -- but then fails utterly to tell us what that vision is.

What do you think?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

NY Times on Portland: All the kombucha you can drink, but no jobs.

September 17, 2014 - 8:00am

After years of glowing coverage about Portland, the New York Times Magazine turns the screw and starts musing out loud that Portlandia's "where young people go to retire" riff might have some basis in reality.

But after the provocative lead, the NYT's take is actually quite good:

Portland is not a corporate town, as its neighbors Seattle and San Francisco have become. While there are employment opportunities in the outdoor-apparel business (Nike, Adidas and Columbia Sportswear are all nearby) or the semiconductor industry (Intel has a large presence in Hillsboro), most workers have far fewer opportunities. According to Renn, personal income per capita in the city grew by a mere 31 percent between 2000 and 2012, slower than 42 other cities, including Grand Rapids, Mich., and Rochester. And yet people still keep showing up. “People move to New York to be in media or finance; they move to L.A. to be in show business,” Renn said. “People move to Portland to move to Portland.” Matthew Hale may have all the kombucha he can drink, but he doesn’t have a job.

But the most compelling bit is a small note from David Albouy, economics professor at University of Illinois:

Albouy told me that he has always wondered why Portland doesn’t invest more in its institutions of higher education. If you took Portland’s quality of life and citizens, he said, and added Pittsburgh’s universities, you would come out with a world-class city.

Yup. That's exactly right.

It has always been striking to me that Portland is the only major city on the West Coast without an R1 research university. Seattle has UW. SF, Oakland, and San Jose have Berkeley and Stanford. Los Angeles has USC, UCLA, and Cal Tech. San Diego has UCSD.

Sure, Eugene has UO and Corvallis has OSU -- and Portland has OHSU -- but that's not the same thing as a top-tier undergraduate and graduate university right in town.

After all, top-tier four-year universities attract (and retain) talented young people to the region, which in turn attract major employers and breed startups.

Oregon has to get serious about investing in Portland State.

I've been flabbergasted why we're not doing that. Is it alumni loyalty to UO and OSU that punks PSU at the State Legislature? Is it just a lack of imagination or ambition? Whatever it is, it's hurting Portland.

You know, if it requires changing Portland State to UO Portland or OSU Portland, in order to get this ball moving, I'd be OK with that.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Wehby: When support for rights is no support at all

September 16, 2014 - 9:21am

You’ve seen the headline:

New Wehby Ad Touts Her Support For Equality

Except, of course, she didn’t. What Dr Wehby did was distribute a press release that says she supports equality. Clever, huh? At no point in her ad does Monica Wehby explicitly state that she supports marriage equality.

This is why the Koch Brothers spend millions to support campaigns like this: to develop lies that sound like something they are not. Here’s how the money and wordsmithing suckered one notable Beltway media outlet, “The Hill” —

Republican Senate candidate touts support for gay marriage

By Alexandra Jaffe

Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby is touting her support for gay marriage in a new ad, an unusual move for a Republican and perhaps the only example of such an ad from a GOP Senate candidate this cycle.

But here’s what the Wehby campaign actually says:

I’m proud and humbled to have the endorsement of Ben and Paul. Their courage to stand up for their family, and against inequality is inspiring and embodies the spirit I will serve with as Oregon’s next Senator.

Someone please point out where this is an endorsement of marriage equality. It is not. Wehby does not endorse marriage equality. She does not endorse the rights of Oregon’s GLBTQ community. She does not state that every Oregonian shares the same legal right to create a family via marriage.

She instead posts a video and sends out a press release that encourages people to believe that’s what she has done.

This dancing around an actual endorsement of marriage equality is not an accident. When she wants to endorse a policy matter, she’s crystal clear on that. From her website:

Dr. Wehby will fight to protect all our constitutional rights – including the Second Amendment, which is constantly threatened by outside interests wishing to abolish it. She’s an unapologetic and unstinting champion of the individual citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.

She’s received the endorsement of the NRA, and she is very clear that she supports NRA goals and policies (although who the “outside interests” are that wish to abolish the 2nd Amendment goes unstated; should one assume that she doesn’t believe those who support universal background checks are Americans?).

Oregon Democrats, progressives and political activists: Read this stuff carefully. Monica Wehby is no friend of our causes. She is using Ben West and his husband as political props. I’ve no problem with them endorsing her for the usual political and policy reasons. Being gay doesn’t mean you’re a liberal, or believe in justice, or care about the needs of those most vulnerable in our society. Being gay means you are gay.

It’s not even a guarantee you’re smart enough to avoid being a tool for the Koch Brothers.

But if you think you’re better than the sheeple following Faux News, you can’t look at a headline like this and let it drift past unexamined. To be honest, I paid no attention to the ad or press release until a friend brought it to my attention. I am impressed at the skill behind this snowjob. The Koch Brothers’ money was well-spent. The propagandists got their job done.

We have to be smarter than that, however. Monica Wehby has not endorsed marriage equality, and she certainly has not endorsed full civil and legal rights for GLBTQ Oregonians. If she wanted to do that, she would. She endorsed the NRA’s right to determine gun safety policy. She’s endorsed term limits for the U.S. Senate. She’s endorsed expansion of charter schools and voucher programs. Explicitly, clearly.

Exactly what she’s not done for marriage equality. But she has approved suckering voters.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

It's time for Oregon to lead on paid sick days

September 13, 2014 - 8:00am

By Angelica Maduell of Portland, Oregon. Angelica is a freelance writer, marketer and political activist.

This week marks the beginning of the next great nationwide expansion of workplace rights for women and families. On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed the country's second statewide paid sick days bill. Although this bill and others like it cover men and women equally, it impacts the working family the most. Equality in the workplace is still far from being realized—even 50 years after the civil rights era—but earned paid sick days for everyone moves women closer to achieving that dream.

Currently, we are witnessing the preliminary momentum of a movement building energy from laws passed in Seattle, Connecticut, New York City, Portland & Eugene, OR, and several other cities across the U.S. We don’t know when the tipping point will be reached, but the scales are shifting in favor of working women.

The Need for Paid Sick Days in Oregon

Nearly half of Oregon’s private sector employees don’t earn paid sick days. For these Oregonians, a day off work means they are short on rent and short on food. Taking care of yourself or your sick child should not mean risking your home and your ability to provide. Main Street small business owners understand that particularly well, since they are often family-operated.

If it’s the parent that is sick, they are likely going to go to work anyway. This puts their co-workers at risk of catching their illness, and puts the sick worker at risk for developing something more serious, not to mention the loss of productivity in the workplace. The entire labor force suffers when people can’t afford to take a sick day.

Economic Stability & Paid Sick Days

Working women and families deserve a fair shot at a stable life. They need to be able to afford to take a day off work to take care of family, or go to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of day. If women and working families have financial stability, then workplaces will be more stable, and the entire U.S. economy becomes that much more stable.

When our mothers and sisters succeed, the entire community thrives. Businesses on Main Street rely on the support from the community to keep them growing and strong. A healthier, more financially stable workforce is just what the doctor ordered.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

An open letter to Monica Wehby, Ben West and Paul Rummell:

September 12, 2014 - 11:00am

Dear Monica Wehby,

It's not very hard to read the writing on the wall (polls) when it comes to marriage equality in Oregon, especially after it's a done deal.

But coming out in support of marriage equality after years of the rest of us fighting for a right that should have never been an issue, is better (I guess??) than digging in your heels. I'm sure there were some folks who believed the earth was flat that changed their minds after it was proven wrong.

The proof in the sincerity is to ask, "why now?" Just because you're just now running for U.S. Senator, even though the only record you have is NOT voting in every election. That's really kind of low-brow pandering.

Dear Ben and Paul,

You have every right to voice your endorsement of a candidate of their choosing. I have no qualm nor disrespect for you to endorse a candidate. You said in your TV ad that you thought your candidate was the one who would fight for you and that is what Oregon needed.

But where was your candidate when Jeff Merkley stood up with a very straight spine on the floor of the Oregon House fighting so hard for your rights? When that same Jeff Merkley was threatened with being arrested by the Republican then-Speaker of the House who was openly and blatantly denying you your rights?

Where was your candidate during all that time we were spending every resource fighting for our rights?

It's really hard to judge your candidate on the issues as she has no record on legislative issues that she can stand behind.

The only record she has that we know of for sure is she hasn't voted regularly in elections and she's managed to have somewhat of a police record.

We also know for certain that she is in cahoots with the billionaire Koch brothers and we all know just how much they will fight against LGBT rights, middle class families, health care, and the environment. That's because they spent a lifetime exploiting every opportunity to squeeze every penny they can to put in their own pocket.

You said you spent time with your husband wrestling the issue and then decided to reach out to your candidate.

The result of that was happy hour at the Mint that turned into three hours of enlightenment. Judging from the beautiful production of the ad you appear in, it would seem your family is doing OK. Using your notoriety is your privilege.

Let me contrast your wonderful story.

I'm the trans* daughter of immigrant parents. I didn't get a degree and barely made it out high school. I've pretty much struggled all my life to make ends meet and be a good person. I got into politics because, like you, my rights were non-existent. In the height of a successful career, I got involuntarily outed and lost my job, family, and pretty much everything else.

In 2007, Jeff Merkley reached out to me. Not because of my notoriety, my wealth, or because he was pandering for someone to portray him as some sort of good guy.

Nope, what Jeff Merkley wanted was to hear what I had to say. He wanted to know what more he could to do to help. We didn't meet for happy hour at a swanky bar. He listened and he's worked hard for me every step of the way every single day.

Now there's a guy who stands up every day to do the right thing for Oregon!

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 90, the “Open Primary”: Some facts you might not have considered.

September 12, 2014 - 9:30am

By Barbara Dudley of Portland, Oregon. Barbara is the Senior Policy Adviser to the Working Families Party.

Many people whose opinions I respect have questioned, more or less vociferously, the Working Families Party’s decision to support Measure 90. But I supported that decision because to me it is clear not just that the status quo should change but that the status quo is already changing, dramatically, and it is best to be intentional about the change we want.

For many Oregonians, most significantly including half of the registered voters under 40, the present system isn’t working very well. Young people are disaffected and cynical about electoral politics and only getting more so. We ignore this reality at our peril.

No one is arguing that the passage of Measure 90 will miraculously engage more voters in primary elections, or in any elections, but it does make that a possibility whereas the current system does not. It isn’t working to say to young, unaffiliated or minor party voters, “If you want to participate, just register as a Democrat.” They aren’t doing it. Instead they are deciding that the system is rigged, and from their point of view, it is.

The opponents raise the objection that having the Top Two system will cost more money for party donors and thus bring more money into politics. To translate this, once a Democrat wins a primary in Portland or Eugene, under the current system they don’t have to worry about the general election, often they have no opponent at all, or at most a weak Republican and/or a minor party candidate with no hope of winning. But if two viable candidates go on to the general election, they will have to continue to campaign till the November election. Meaning, they will have to reach out to all those voters who are not registered Democrats. That should not be viewed as a bad thing.

In fact the same people who argue that having a Top Two system would cost political donors more money because they have to reach out to more voters in the general election also argue that it is wrong to have only two candidates emerge from the primaries because only older white voters vote in the primary! You can’t have it both ways.

We in no way dispute the pernicious role of money in politics. Should we move the primary election closer to the general, say to September, as many states have done, to cut down on the cost and on voter fatigue? Absolutely. We would work very hard with anyone who supported that reform. Do we need to introduce other campaign finance reforms as well? You bet! But you can’t argue that a closed primary system which saves donors money because there will be only one viable candidate getting to the November ballot has anything to do with democracy.

At the very least Measure 90 is provoking a little soul searching amongst the Democrats and Republicans and some serious conversation about electoral reform. This by itself is a very good thing. Reasonable people may differ on whether Measure 90 is an improvement over current election law in Oregon, but it helps to know what the current law is and what might change under M90. So in the spirit of having an informed and serious debate on this subject, I offer up a few key facts for the Blue Oregon community to consider:

  • Under current election law (largely chapters 248 and 249), Oregon has a system whereby, for all partisan offices (state legislative seats, federal offices and some county commissions), major political parties have closed primaries conducted by and paid for by the state. Only registered party members can vote in closed primaries.

  • Under current law a major party could choose to open their primary to any registered voters who petition to vote in their primary. Neither major party allows that type of cross voting.

  • Major parties are defined as those which have registrants equaling at least 5% of the total number of persons registered to vote in the state (a little under 107,000). At present only the Republican and Democratic parties have that level of registration.

  • One third of all registered voters in Oregon, including 49% of all registered voters under 40 years old, are not registered Democrat or Republican and thus cannot vote in party primaries.

  • Because most electoral districts in Oregon heavily favor one major party or the other (urban=Democrat; rural = Republican), 85-90% of all legislative races are decided in closed primaries.

  • It seems very likely given current registration statistics that the Independent Party of Oregon will reach major party status before the 2016 election. At that point they too will have a primary election paid for and run by the state. Any registered member of the Independent Party could run in their primary and the winner will appear on the general election ballot. No other minor party (Libertarian, Pacific Green, Working Families, Constitution or Progressive) is at all close to reaching major party status.

  • You must be registered in a major party for 180 days before the primary election in order to run in that party’s primary. Thus major parties cannot cross-nominate candidates of another party except through write-in votes. A candidate who loses in a primary election may not run as the nominee of another party or as a non-affiliated candidate for the same office.

  • Minor parties, which are defined as those having less than 5% of the total number of registrants, conduct their own nomination processes according to their own party rules subject to approval by the Secretary of State.

  • Under current law, minor parties maintain their ballot status in one of two ways: Either they maintain a level of registration that is one tenth of one percent of the total votes in the last gubernatorial election and run a statewide candidate who garners at least 1% of the vote in the general election; OR they maintain registration levels that equal one half of one percent of the total number of registrants (at present that would be a little under 10,700 registrants).

  • As of 2009, Oregon is one of the few states that allow “fusion voting”, i.e. minor parties (but not major parties) can cross-nominate candidates of other parties and up to three nominations accepted by the candidate can appear next to the candidate’s name on the general election ballot.

So what would Measure 90 change?

  • All candidates from all parties (or no party) would run in one primary election. All registered voters would be able to vote in that primary. Only the top two vote getters in the primary would proceed to the general election.

  • The ballot would list the party (if any) in which the candidate is registered, and would indicate which parties have endorsed the candidate and whose endorsement the candidate has accepted. This is a critical difference between this Measure and the Open Primary/ Top Two systems that exist in California and Washington where the candidate’s party registration or party “preference” is listed, but no party endorsements are listed.

  • M90 would not eliminate the role of parties; to the contrary it would give the voters far more information about the candidate, via party endorsements, than is presently available on a primary ballot.

  • Party endorsement processes would be subject to the general rule that “Each political party by rule shall insure the widest and fairest representation of party members in the party organization and activities. Rules shall be adopted by procedures that assure the fair and open participation of all interested party members.” (ORS 248.005) Endorsement processes would be subject to approval by the Secretary of State just as with minor party nomination processes under current law.

  • Minor parties could field candidates in the primary on an equal footing with major parties, or could choose to cross-endorse candidates from other parties. It is quite likely that in some districts, a minor party candidate would advance to the general election as one of the top two candidates as they have in the recent election in Washington State.

  • No party would “nominate” a candidate per se (except for Presidential elections where federal law prevails). Minor parties could maintain their ballot status through registering at least one half of one percent of the total number of registrants. It would presumably be much easier to obtain and retain minor party registrants when those registrants would no longer be barred from voting in the primary.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Senator Jeff Merkley: The Real Champion for LGBT Equality

September 11, 2014 - 1:20pm

By Roey Thorpe of Portland, Oregon. Roey works with the national LGBT equality movement. She is a former executive director of Basic Rights Oregon and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. Before coming to Oregon, Roey also served as a city councilwoman and acting mayor of Ithaca, New York.

I'm guessing that, like me, you were surprised to see that one of the plaintiffs in the court case that won the freedom to marry in Oregon is now featured supporting Senate candidate Monica Wehby in her latest TV commercial.

Everyone has the right to support the candidate of their choice, of course. But I wanted to take a moment to share why, as a long time leader in the LGBT community, I continue to be steadfast in my support of Senator Jeff Merkley and why I believe he is without question the real champion for LGBT equality in this race.

Senator Merkley’s unwavering support for fairness and equality for gay and transgender people dates back to his time in the Oregon State Legislature when I was Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. As Speaker of the Oregon House, Merkley led the effort to pass Oregon’s landmark non-discrimination law. And years before, when he was House Minority Leader, I watched in awe as he stood up in protest as the Republican leaders used procedural tricks to keep our bill from coming to a vote we would have won, and speaking up even as they gaveled him down time after time.

As our US Senator, Jeff Merkley has brought that same passion and grit to the job, and is known nationally as the champion for passing employment non-discrimination at the federal level.

The fight to win the freedom to marry in our state has been a long journey—much longer than any 55-day count down to Election Day could possibly reflect. There have been many champions along the way, including elected officials, volunteers, and most of all the loving, committed couples from all over this state who shared their stories of love and commitment.

Some of those champions were with us at the beginning, while others joined along the way and still others have voiced their support only now that the freedom to marry has been secured. Senator Merkley is one of the people who has not only been with us, but has been leading the way with courage and conviction for every single step of this journey.

All of the plaintiff couples deserve our thanks as we continue to celebrate this landmark decision. But that does not mean we all agree on every political issue. After all, the LGBT community, like all communities, is diverse in our opinions. Building statewide support for the freedom to marry took one of the largest, politically-diverse coalitions the state has ever seen. Our movement was strengthened by bringing together people of all political views, spiritual beliefs, and walks of life and continues to be strengthened by this diversity.

It is important that all of us who care about LGBT equality understand Senator Merkley’s leadership and perfect record. He has never wavered in his commitment to equality for LGBT people and I believe he deserves the same level of support in return. I am so proud that he is my US Senator and hope others will join me in supporting Senator Merkley.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

How Not to Manage Parking (Salem Edition)

September 11, 2014 - 8:42am

Downtown Salem has been facing a newfound lack of car parking.

Is it because Salem is getting many more visitors to the businesses? Nope. Is it because the population of Salem is booming? Nope. It is because Salem simply stopped, by and large, putting limits on parking.

The result: downtown businesses are suffering, as Michael Rose of The Statesman-Journal reported in “Free, unlimited parking clogs downtown district” a couple weeks ago:

Lack of on-street parking in the Downtown Parking District, once a sporadic problem, is a near constant irritant. Business owners rue the day in October when Salem City Council voted [remove limits on parking].... “We just aren’t getting the turnover that is critical to every single business down here,” said Lyn McPherson, co-owner of Whitlock’s Vacuum & Sewing Center.

In essence, the Council cut the price of a good (parking), driving up consumption -– while the supply has remained roughly the same. The result has been predictable –- drivers stuck circling the block, with some choosing to not shop downtown because it’s too hard to find a spot. It's bad for the environment, and it's bad for business.

Moreover, the parking subsidies for drivers are diverting millions of dollars in urban renewal money that could be used for other public priorities:

City officials confirmed that over the past six years, about $6 million in urban renewal funds have been used to pay for capital improvements in the city-owned parking garages, such as replacing worn-out elevators.

Parking isn’t rocket science. It’s actually a fascinating subject, deep in economics, human psychology, urban form, fairness and planning... among other issues. Professor Donald Shoup has studied the issue for decades, and written an 800 page treatise, "The High Cost of Free Parking."

There are significant costs when it comes to providing large amounts of space required to store people’s cars on public streets. In downtown business districts, especially, the best use of that space is not for long-term storage of an empty 4,000 pound piece of metal and plastic.

I wrote about smart parking management, and what San Francisco and Seattle were doing, on BlueOregon three years ago. A more recent article is Rex Burkholder’s forward-looking article on GoLocalPDX about parking in Portland.

But Salem doesn’t have to be a Portland or a San Francisco. It simply needs to follow the success of scores of other American cities its size and price parking.

Pricing parking right means spaces will be available for customers, which is what some businesses need to thrive. Pricing parking wrong (or having a zero cost) can mean no spaces, and fewer customers. That's why Salem’s Parking Task Force recommended paid on-street parking last year. The ability to find a parking spot has value, and most drivers are willing, however begrudgingly, to pay a bit for that value - rather than suffer through an exhausting search for a parking space.

Many citizens signed the petition that pressured the Salem City Council into gutting the minor parking controls they had. One wrote a 20-20 hindsight letter to the editor in February:

I was opposed to adding parking meters to the downtown area and signed a petition to prevent it. I, as many, were unaware that the city would eliminate the two-hour restriction that has caused a parking nightmare to occur.

The City Council recently decided to institute three-hour limits on parking. But hopefully, some citizens will realize it’s time for plan C – a plan includes pricing – and take the leadership needed to get the City Council to adopt that plan. Done right, and the results will be more turnover, more customers, less pollution, and more resources available for city improvement projects.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Measure 90: “Top Two” elections deserve an honest debate. We’re not getting one from the Yes side.

September 6, 2014 - 10:28am

By Bill Bradbury of Bandon, Oregon. Bill is a former Senate President and Secretary of State of Oregon.

For an issue as important as election reform, the need for an honest debate is critical. There are few things as precious as our democratic system, and we shouldn’t subject it to dirty political tricks.

And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening with the Measure 90 (“top two” elections) campaign. Rather than having an honest conversation with voters about how the measure would impact Oregon’s future, the proponents of the measure are resorting to phony Voters’ Pamphlet statements and fake opposition websites.

The Yes on 90 campaign has set up a fake “no on 90” website that mocks the opponents of the measure and is meant to fool voters into thinking it’s the actual opposition campaign. I find this deeply dishonest and deceptive, and no way to have a discussion about something as important as how we elect our leaders.

The Yes campaign has also placed several arguments in the official Voters’ Pamphlet that pretend to be from the No side—these are in the section of the voters’ guide dedicated to arguments opposing the measure. The point appears to be to confuse voters about who’s opposing the measure and why. That’s a shameful misuse of a resource that voters depend on for important information.

Yes, I’m aware that other people in the past have put statements in the Voters’ Pamphlet on both Yes and No sides, but this is the first instance I can think of where a ballot measure campaign has used this tactic to intentionally misrepresent who they are to voters.

This is deeply disappointing, and Oregon voters deserve better than this. If we are going to dramatically change our elections system, we need a fair and honest debate. These fake arguments and websites are designed to deceive and it should not be rewarded.

If the backers of Measure 90 think they have good answers to the many real criticisms presented by opponents of the measure, let’s hear ‘em. But these phony, malicious tactics undermine the seriousness of the measure’s impacts and really only show that the Yes side apparently feels they can’t win in an honest debate.

Find out more about the campaign to oppose Measure 90.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Modern-Day Labor Day: Finding the Humanity in Business

September 5, 2014 - 11:00am

By Angelica Maduell of Portland, Oregon. Angelica is a freelance writer, marketer and political activist.

The modern meaning of Labor Day is lost amongst traffic jams, crowded campgrounds, and forgetful barbecues. For most Americans, it’s simply another 3-day weekend: a day off work. For others, it’s an opportunity for overtime. For many more, it’s a Monday they have to wake up, go to work and get paid the same as every other day.

Many of those who didn’t get the day off are small business owners. These hard-working Americans are on their own in the economy, playing on a field sponsored by multi-national corporations. Outnumbered, they fight to get their voices heard above the clamor of political and profit-focused ideology. Their message proves that there isn’t just one type of business in America, and there isn’t just one voice of business.

Business is made up of individuals. Each individual person deserves the respect we would want for our neighbors, our loved ones and ourselves. Individual Americans, the media and the government need to recognize the humanity that lies beneath the bottom-line.

The Main Street Alliance of Oregon works with small business owners that are taking steps to recognize and nurture the humanity in business. The challenge these small business owners face is that their competition refuses to play by these new rules.

The American people have demanded a rules-change since before Labor Day began. The minimum wage, the 40-hour workweek, and child labor laws were the first basic recognitions of humanity won when Labor Day was young. Now workers fight for earned sick time, affordable health care, affordable childcare, and access to credit.

Each business that takes on these new rules, and each city that passes supportive proposals, is helping to turn the economy away from the single-mindedness that drove us into a recession. Profit on Wall Street should not be the only navigational tool by which we drive the American economy. We need to include employee measurements into the toolbox.

The average American’s level of stress, whether financial, emotional or physical, already silently affects the economy—and the effect has been a shrinking middle class. If we want our middle class to be restored, more businesses need to take a stand and do what’s right for the modern employee. Maybe then the meaning of Labor Day will resonate with every American, and they can celebrate the American value to uphold humanity—even in business.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Cartoon: I'd Like to Buy the World a Koch...

September 5, 2014 - 8:11am

By Jesse Springer of Eugene, Oregon. Jesse is a long-time political cartoonist and illustrator. See more of Jesse's work at Springer Creative.

News Item: The billionaire Koch brothers are bankrolling a multi-million dollar ad campaign against Oregon's incumbent Democrat U.S.Senator Jeff Merkley. Republican challenger Monica Wehby says she has nothing to do with it.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

No, really, Dennis Richardson actually said that.

September 2, 2014 - 5:00am

It's kind of unbelievable. But it's true. Every word of it.

Rep. Dennis Richardson is serving his twelfth year in the Oregon House, including a number of years in the GOP leadership, but he's hardly a household name. Other than being the guy known as "The Spam King", he's barely made a blip on the public consciousness.

Which is why the latest video from the Democratic Party of Oregon is so important -- and so awesomely hilarious.

Check it out. And then, share it with your friends.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Bread and Roses

September 1, 2014 - 2:21pm

A woman that I went to highschool with posted this on Facebook today.

Gratitude on this Labor Day: That I'm able to see some of the most influential grownups in my life—my high school teachers—enjoying wonderful, happy retired lives. Thanks to solid pensions that union backed public teacher jobs in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, earned for them[.] Hoping that the future brings more dignity and financial security to more of our nation's elders.”

This made me particularly happy because we went to a high school where student-teacher relationships were closer than most. But I was also struck by how far today's conversation about labor and Labor Day has moved from “retirement benefits that are good enough for public highschool teachers to live comfortably in their old age.” Today's discussion about labor practices is as much about whether people who are in the prime of their working years can even afford to live and raise their children. In the 21st century we are not building on the 20th century gains for working people, but re-fighting the basic concepts of the 19th. There are differences: rather than fighting about whether or not children can work hard labor in factories, we're faced with whether corporations can monitor every second of a worker's production and fire them for not meeting optimum physically efficient motion targets. Rather than addressing work place discrimination against classes of humans, we are facing the question of whether simply being human (having children, getting sick) is a basis for employers to fire their employees.

Oregon has recognized Labor Day for 127 years, longer than any other state. Every Labor Day there is social media and news coverage along the the themes of “Enjoy a three day weekend courtesy of the Labor Movement,” or “The Labor Movement, the people who brought you the weekend.” But we also need to reflect on what lies ahead, and it looks to be a sorry state of affairs. Up until now, simply being human was not a protected class or a basis for labor organization. But in the age where corporations are “persons” whose purported freedom of religion and speech takes precedence over that of tangible persons, perhaps being a flesh and blood mortal should be protected. Couldn't we still be fighting over pensions? Are there even pensions to fight over any more?

My public school education began over 35 years ago in Michigan, early in the days of organized labor's long decline in that state. I can't honestly say I knew what the occasional teacher strikes were about back then, just that they meant I missed some school. But teacher strikes in Oregon today are about being just teachers able to do their jobs in reasonable sized class rooms, with adequate preparation, even as real wage value is falling. Union representation across the country is declining, and there is a massive transfer of wealth from middle and working class families to not just the one percent, but the wealthiest of the 1%. In the meantime there are people who are celebrating Labor Day by objecting to it and declaring it an occasion of “right to work” activism.

Traditional forms of labor activism (joining unions, striking, robust collective bargaining agreements and focus on long term benefits) are not the only solution for the problems besetting today's workforce. Lack of jobs arising from loss of production capacity, lack of political will to create any meaningful social safety net and numerous other challenges face us. Like my friend, I'm grateful that a generation of adults that I admired and who helped make me into who I am today are comfortable in their golden years. But I am the beginning of the generations who seriously question our and our children's economic security.

There is a song associated with the textile strikes in early 20th century New England. It is called Bread and Roses and the notion is that we fight not just to eat, but for human dignity. Sometimes I feel like we are back to fighting for bread, and roses are a long ways off.

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,

A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,

Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,

For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,

For they are women's children, and we mother them again.

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;

Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead

Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.

Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.

Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.

The rising of the women means the rising of the race.

No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,

But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Big news: XRAY's progressive talk is about to get a lot easier to hear on your radio

August 30, 2014 - 7:00am

Just in time for the fall election season, progressive talk and local music station XRAY.FM is going to get heard in a lot more places in the Portland metro area.

Right now, the 91.1 FM signal is fairly weak -- with a range that primarily covers an audience of 170,000 in northeast Portland, mostly centered on the Gateway District.

After picking up the 107.1 FM signal from MetroEast Community Media, XRAY will add all of Portland west of I-205, Beaverton, Tigard, Lake Oswego, and Milwaukie -- a total coverage of an audience of some 750,000.

That means a lot more access to Carl Wolfson, Jefferson Smith, Adam Klugman, Thom Hartmann and the rest of the progressive talk crew at XRAY.

In the deal, MetroEast CEO Rob Brading will join the board of XRAY. Brading, you will recall, was my personal "Man of the Year" back in 2006 -- when he ran for the Oregon House against then-Speaker Karen Minnis. He lost in a close race, but the million dollars she spent beating him meant that we picked up four seats -- to win a one-seat majority, and put Jeff Merkley in the Speaker's chair. And the rest is history.

Big props to Brading, Jefferson Smith, Jenny Logan, and the rest of the crews at MetroEast and XRAY for putting this together.

Check out the new coverage map:

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Thanks to Measure 85, corporate kicker to kick $43m to Oregon schools!

August 29, 2014 - 9:00am

Oregon's tax kicker is dumb. The idea that we should send tax money back just because the state economist gets the estimate wrong is nothing short of dumb.

But at least, Measure 85 -- approved by voters by a 60-40 margin in 2012 -- makes the corporate kicker a little bit less dumb.

That's because Measure 85 makes it so that when the corporate kicker kicks, the money goes to Oregon's K-12 schools, instead of to the out-of-state corporations that were always befuddled by the random tax refund they used to get.

And it appears that in 2015-2017, Oregon's schools will get around $43 million from the corporate kicker.

As Scott Moore writes over at the Sockeye, "Supporters of the Corporate Kicker for K-12 campaign should take a moment to celebrate. Our victory is a clear example of the power of grassroots campaigns to make Oregon a better place to live."

Good work, folks.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Equality: Celebrate It, Promote It, Use It or Lose It

August 28, 2014 - 12:12pm

This past Tuesday, August 26 was Women's Equality Day. Congress (and more particularly, Bella Abzug) enacted Equality Day in 1971 to commemorate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The 19th Amendment passed in 1920. Oregonian women had already obtained the right to vote in 1912 (still 136 years after the Declaration of Independence). Now, 43 years after the first Equality Day, Oregonians have the opportunity to pass Ballot Measure 89 at the coming November election. Measure 89, the Equal Rights Amendment, will amend the Oregon Constitution to provide that the State and its political subdivisions “shall not deny or abridge equality of rights on account of sex.” Celebrate equality by registering to vote, encouraging others to register and exercising your vote in support of equality. It is the least we can do for our ancestors and our descendants. There is no shortage of new fights, so we should get the older inventory of justice issues off our plates!

People have been fighting and dying in this country for a long time for the right to vote, even while generations of women and people of color had no such right, or the exercise of the right was so severely burdened as to be meaningless. Yet as a nation we have a humiliating rate of voter turnout and a recent Princeton study asserts that the United States is functionally no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. The power of voting may be eroding in this country, but we cannot fight that trend by voting less, only by voting more.

Whenever I think about women's right to vote, I think of my grandmother. She was born in rural Virginia in 1914 and died there in 1992. Had she been born in Oregon, she would have been born with the fundamental right of a citizen to vote for her representatives. Where she was born, she was functionally not a citizen at her birth. She had the right by the time she was old enough to vote and exercised it throughout her life. It took 144 years from the Declaration of Independence for half the population to be included in the democracy. Today, there are certainly living Oregonian women who are older than their right to vote in national elections (94 years) and probably a few who are older than their right to vote even in Oregon (102 years). When my grandmother died, she did not have the inherent right to be free of discrimination because of her sex and today, women of the United States do not.

Equality Day, enacted during the push to enact a National ERA, is almost exactly the same age as I am, within a matter of days. The original campaign to enact a Federal ERA, began in 1923, in the wake of the passing of the 19th Amendment but nearly 50 years passed before the ERA passed the Senate and the House in 1972. An insufficient number of states have ratified it for it to be enacted. (Oregon ratified it in 1973). Therefore, while I was born with the right to vote, I was not born with the right to be protected from discrimination on the basis of my sex, nor is anyone else, of any gender. Moreover the fight has been going on all my life. Even the constitutional right to be protected from discrimination isn't always enough.

In the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, activists began promoting voter registration in that community. Michael Brown, as a black man, was barely old enough to vote, but he had that right and he was constitutionally protected from discrimination as a black man. But he lived in a majority black community, governed by a majority white local government, in which voter turnout was 12%, leading to comments that a 12% voter turnout is “an insult to your children”.

I've actually met people who say with pride, “I don't vote. Those parties are all the same and it doesn't make a difference”. That is an insult to our collective children. It's also an insult to our troops, our veterans, and every civil rights advocate and suffragette who marched, was beaten, hosed down, attacked by dogs, jailed or died for the right to vote. And it does have consequences.

Every Supreme Court decision in the last nine years has been decided by a court that included two judges appointed by George W. Bush. (e.g., Citizens United, which allowed for unlimited corporate money in elections, Hobby Lobby, which allowed employers' alleged religious convictions to define the scope of women's healthcare). The voter turnout in the 2000 election was 55% and in Florida in particular it was 57%. Without even getting into the effect of Reagan and George H.W. Bush's effect on the Bush v. Gore decision, voting matters. It has immediate effects, it has ripple effects. But it is not the only bottom line. Inequality is more complicated than that, which is why the Voting Rights Act was still necessary after the 14th and the 15th Amendment, and why the 14th Amendment contains an Equal Protection Clause.

So let's hear it for cause and effect! Vote for candidates who support equality. Vote for Measure 89. Vote as though your life depended on it. Because it does.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs