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Updated: 21 weeks 2 days ago

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer draws a challenger

January 26, 2016 - 6:00am

We don't typically cover sheriff's races around here, but this one promises to be a doozy.

On Sunday, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer outraged his fellow law enforcement officers by actually claiming that they should buckle to some of the Malheur occupiers' demands:

He said freeing a father-son ranching team from prison "would be a start. Sending the FBI home would be a start."

On Monday, former Grant County undersheriff Todd McKinley filed to run against Palmer in this year's election -- and specifically called out Palmer's nonsense:

McKinley said he decided to run after witnessing the “audacity of individuals who think they can dictate the course of Grant County, without the input of all.”

“When I took my first oath of office as a reserve deputy on April 3, 2000, it was that I would support the Constitution and the laws of the United States and of the state of Oregon, and to honestly and faithfully perform the duties imposed upon the member under the laws of Oregon,” he said in the statement. “I do not remember that there were any clauses that told me this was optional, and up to my interpretation of the Constitution and laws.”

If they're the only two candidates that file, the election will happen in November. If a third candidate gets in, there will be a May primary followed by a November run-off.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

History Lesson: Federal lands belong to all US citizens

January 21, 2016 - 4:39pm

Let’s review history.

In 1789, the United States Constitution became, not just the law of the land but the basis for the laws of our land. At that time, there were thirteen states and the “western” territories – i.e., all the land that extended to the “frontier”, the Mississippi River.

in 1803, President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France. This vast territory became the property of the federal government.

In 1848, the United States the Oregon Territory was created, following on a series of treaties with Great Britain. Also in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo led to the U.S. gaining most of the territory that would become California and other states, as well as giving Texas its final border configuration.

And of course there were the smaller additions, like the Gadsden Purchase, and the purchase of Alaska as well as the theft of Hawaii. Every bit of this territory became property of the United States government – of the people of the United States.

Every time the federal government purchased or took new territory, they opened that land to settlers and the railroads. There was not a consistent plan that was followed over the years. At times, settlement was used to determine which territories would be free and which would be slave. Lands granted to the railroads were done in a strange “checkerboard” manner that continues to be a bane for ranchers as well as state and federal land managers.

Eventually, new states were created. By the time of the Civil War, there were 34 states, including California and Oregon on the Pacific coast. The 48 continental states – today’s map of the nation, excluding Alaska and Hawaii – was complted in 1912 with the addition of New Mexico Arizona.

Ok, that was quick and dirty and not fully accurate (skipping, for example, the dubious legality of the Texas annexation). But here is what the growth of the United States was based on, from winning the Revolutionary War to the settling of the continent and establishment of a fifty-state union: the federal government acquired land and then determined what to do with them. At no point did a group of people come together, form a nation and then ask to become part of the United States. Via treaty, warfare, and a genocidally enhanced theft of aboriginal lands, it was the national government that acquired every square inch of this country.

Even Texas. Yes, the “Republic of Texas” preceded statehood, but Texas had no chance of maintaining independence as a sovereign nation against Mexico (which had banned slavery in 1829, a key factor driving American settlers in the Mexican-controlled to wage a civil war). Most settlers in Texas wanted to become part of the United States: they sought annexation, thereby surrendering sovereignty of the territory in exchange for the security of being part of the United States.

In short, claims that the states have sovereign authority over all lands within their boundaries are bunk. To underpin this false legal claim with the further claim that states, and individual citizens therein, have a divine right to whatever land they manage to acquire and hold as private party – or seek to hold as private property – isn’t even within the scope of law. The right to worship freely does not transmute into a divine granting of private property.

Not even if you make the claim armed with military-grade weaponry.

The Bundys and their ilk are the worst kind of Americans: they have no regard for the common good and seek only what fits their personal interests. Their legal claims are invalid, and their religious ones are irrelevant. The land their cattle graze (to the detriment of that land’s ecology) belonged originally – i.e., after the treaties, warfare, and theft – and still belongs to the government of the United States as sovereign national territory.

Or, as Woodie Guthrie put it, that land belongs to you and me.

The government of the United States made settling the West cheap for those who could get to that territory, claim the land, and then settle it. Fees for grazing and mining have always been cheap, frequently far less than what market rates would dictate. Not one person who settled the West or came to those lands to exploit the natural resources did so without the benefit of the federal government’s largesse, from wiping out the native peoples to the land to build railroads and telegraphs to economic incentives to leave the safety of settled lands and move west.

The West was not settled; it was subsidized by the taxpayers.

States cannot “take back” federal lands because they never owned these lands. Statehood did not end ownership of lands by the national government. The Bundys’ claims are baseless, and the only thing they have had to back these claims are their own interpretations of the Book of Mormon, a legally false reading of the Constitution, and enough weaponry to keep the government at bay in fear of bloodshed.

Every inch of the fifty United States belongs to the people of the United States. Some has been turned over as private property, but even that ownership is not absolute: government can claim almost any land as long as the owner is compensated. And the lands that have never been given over to private or state control remains fully, and unequivocally, the property of the 318 million citizens of the United States.

Not the tantrum-throwing seditionists trying to steal that land from the rest of us.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

CHART: How do the minimum wage proposals stack up?

January 17, 2016 - 9:00am

Last week, Gov. Kate Brown released her minimum wage proposal. Advocates of a $15 minimum wage promptly called it inadequate.

In an effort to shine a little light, I thought I'd actually stack up the various proposals against each other for you. (Update: I neglected to include the Raise the Wage proposal in my first edition of this post -- so it's now included!)

For starters, under current law, Oregon's statewide minimum wage is $9.25. It goes up every year against the inflation rate, rounded off to the nearest nickel. It didn't go up for 2016, due to a low inflation rate that didn't trigger another nickel -- dropping our ranking from #2 to #8 in the nation.

Raise the Wage Oregon has proposed (IP58) a $13.50 wage in 2018.

Oregonians for 15 has proposed (IP41) a $15 wage in 2019 -- with annual interim bumps along the way.

Governor Brown proposes raising the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 in 2022, also with bumps along the way. In addition, she includes a 15% premium in the Portland metro area -- setting an effective $15.52 wage in the region by 2022.

That's all a bit confusing, so I put together a little chart and a graph for you below.

(An important note: the italicized values are assumed inflation-based increases in the minimum wage. I assumed 2.28%, which is the average inflation we've seen over the last ten years. Obviously, that's a guess -- but it's an educated one.)

So, what do you think? Which option is the right one? How do you weigh the pros and cons on the policy and the politics?

td.mytable {padding: 5px; font-size: 13px; text-align:right} yearcurrentIP41IP58KB-PDXKB-OR 2016$9.25$9.25$9.25$9.25$9.25 2017$9.45$11.50$11.75$11.78$10.25 2018$9.65$13.25$13.50$12.53$10.90 2019$9.85$15.00$13.80$13.28$11.55 2020$10.05$15.30$14.10$14.03$12.20 2021$10.25$15.60$14.40$14.77$12.85 2022$10.45$15.95$14.70$15.52$13.50 2023$10.65$16.30$15.00$15.87$13.80 2024$10.85$16.65$15.30$16.22$14.10 2025$11.05$17.00$15.60$16.57$14.40 2026$11.30$17.35$15.95$16.92$14.70
Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Rare political form: Everyone agrees coal is bad for Oregon

January 15, 2016 - 1:19pm

By Nick Abraham of Portland, Oregon. Nick is the editor of Oil Check Northwest, a local research-focused energy and politics watchdog.

In what has become all too rare in modern politics, Oregon just came to a major agreement, not with a long drawn-out political fight but a calmly discussed deal. A coalition of clean energy advocates and community groups reached an accord with Oregon’s largest utilities to end coal use in the state and transition to 50% renewable energy by 2040, avoiding a potential long and expensive ballot measure fight. While everyone involved has found some common ground on this agreement, things aren’t quite finished. A bill is now headed to the legislature to try and pass through the short session, a somewhat rare feat. With a little over a month, legislators can usually only muster agreements on small items like housekeeping and budgeting. Oregonians typically have to wait for odd years to get anything of consequence accomplished.

Beyond clean energy legislation, there are a rapidly accumulating number of crucial political fights brewing in our state. Minimum wage ballots are set to be filed, tax reform continues to be a long held hope to correct the state’s priorities and the oil industry has threatened to go to the ballot to try once again to weaken or repeal Clean Fuels. All of these battles look to be bloody heavyweight title fights set in either the 2016 ballot or the 2017 session.

But unlike these other efforts Oregon has a chance to take a major step forward in addressing pollution this session. Transitioning utilities towards clean energy has the potential to be a huge win for a state that’s been struggling to reduce its emissions and has had a history of lingering; costly legislative fights on energy policy.

No one will claim this bill completely solves Oregon’s troubles. Large industrial emitters and transportation remain major sources of health and climate exacerbating emissions. But this is an incredibly important step in the right direction and with an agreement already filed; lawmakers could take this as a gift-wrapped legislative victory in a year that ordinarily has few. With utility emissions adequately addressed, the state can turn their focus towards other sources of pollution (and the inevitable clash with oil lobbyists and greased legislators) without piling on opposition from utility companies.

Senators Edwards and Beyer plan to introduce just such a bill outlining a proposal for Oregon to finally put a price on pollution. This is the #1 way almost every expert you can think of tells us is necessary to level the playing field for alternatives to compete with fossil fuel companies, who get to pollute for free.

The list of “must pass” priorities continues to mount, for what must feel like an indiscernible fog of issues. With utilities, environment advocates and community groups all on the same page, legislators have a clear path forward for a big win and set the stage to fully address pollution in Oregon.

Here’s hoping Salem knows a good thing when it sees it.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Governor Brown Proposes to Raise the Minimum Wage to “Poverty Wages Indefinitely”

January 14, 2016 - 5:05pm

In a seemingly cynical attempt to trick the public into thinking the state might actually help low-wage workers out of poverty, Governor Kate Brown has slapped the popular number $15 on her new proposal to raise the minimum wage statewide. Her proposal would establish a wage of $15.52/hr in the Portland area and $13.50/hr in the rest of the state. It sounds terrifically progressive in the headlines… until you learn that the wage increase will take place over six years and leave intact the state preemption against communities setting minimum wages at levels they think are appropriate. This means keeping low-wage workers in an indefinite state of poverty while positioning the State of Oregon as a shield between business interests who prefer not to pay living wages and a growing mass that desperately needs a raise just to get by.

$15 Now! was never an arbitrary demand. As $15 Now PDX correctly pointed out earlier today:  The Alliance for a Just Society already places the self-sufficiency wage for the entire state, including rural Oregon, at $15.99 per hour. According to a 2014 Oregon Department of Human Services study conducted by Oregon State University, the hourly wage needed for a single parent with one child to be able to afford fair market rate, small home-based childcare without being cost burdened is $15 per hour or more in all but four of Oregon’s counties. Obviously, the amount of $ needed for self-sufficiency is going to keep increasing into 2022 and by a sizable amount if cost of living trends continue -- especially with housing costs going through the roof.

Not only is the governor’s proposal woefully inadequate in terms of providing immediate relief to working Oregonians, it ignores the possibility of lifting the state preemption on local governments to allow them to set their own minimum wages. Both Governor Brown and the business community know that Portland (and potentially other local governments) would immediately jump on an opportunity to raise the minimum wage locally. Rather than let communities decide if they want to mandate living wages, we get a proposal that attempts to take advantage of the $15/hr brand in the headlines, but delivers far less.

$15 Now’s ballot initiative ($15/hr by 2019) is already a compromise for providing people with what they immediately need to get out of poverty. The Raise the Wage campaign (around $13.50 over several years while lifting the state preemption) compromises even more. Kate Brown’s proposal barely even registers as a compromise considering the context of the wage debate over the last two years. Instead, her proposal is capitulation: Brown and her people realize that, politically, something has to be done on wages, but don’t have the desire or political will to advocate for a strong proposal that could lift low-wage workers out of poverty. Instead, they attempt to co-opt the brand of $15/hr minimum wage while avoiding the substance and perceived political costs of a larger wage hike.

It’s not progressive. It’s not enough. It’s not right.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Restaurant Owners Have Recipe for Success with Significant Minimum Wage Increases

January 12, 2016 - 3:49pm

There’s Jerry Scott from Elmer’s restaurants, “a northwest favorite since 1960." (PDF)

And Zach Poole of the Pig ‘N Pancake restaurants, serving breakfast (and more) on the coast and in Portland since 1961. (PDF)

And John Lenz, co-owner of Jaspers Café, “the best burger joint in Medford,” which opened its doors in 1976. (PDF)

And don't forget Vickie Irish from Shari’s restaurants, which began in Hermiston in 1978 and has grown to 100 restaurants in six northwestern states. (PDF)

What do they all have in common? They are all board members of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA). And they all run restaurants that thrived in the years following Oregon’s last legislatively enacted minimum wage increase. They each know the recipe for success while the wages of their lowest-paid workers rise.

In mid-1989, the Oregon Legislative Assembly increased the minimum wage 42 percent by January 1, 1991. That three-step increase over (less than) two years is on par with the calls for raising the minimum likely to be introduced in next month's legislative session. Raising the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2018 would amount to a 46 percent increase over 2 years.

Each of the restaurants mentioned above was in business before the 1989-1991 increase, and is still in business today. Some have even grown, opening new locations and creating new jobs.

When the legislature convenes hearings this week and then again next month to discuss the minimum wage, expect ORLA to oppose the increases. No doubt we’ll hear restauranteurs or their lobbyists predicting economic catastrophe.

Oregon lawmakers ought to convene a panel of Scott, Poole, Lenz and Irish and have them explain exactly how their restaurants weathered the 1989-91 increases and the increases since. They know first-hand the recipe restaurants should follow to thrive after a significant legislatively-enacted minimum wage increase. The legislature ought to give them a forum to dispel the fears of the naysayers.

And the next time you hear Negative Nellies from the restaurant industry decry the proposed increase, tell ‘em to follow the same winning recipe for success used by Elmer’s, Shari’s, Pig ‘N Pancake and Jaspers Café.

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

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

The historical roots of Oregon's affordable housing crisis

January 4, 2016 - 10:59am

By Henry Lauer of Portland, Oregon. Henry is a masters in social work student and the co-chair of the National Association of Social Workers Oregon Chapter's Legislative Committee.

Oregon's housing crisis is front and center in our collective consciousness right now. Skyrocketing rents, spiraling property prices, and an intensifying homelessness disaster are all major themes of public conversation. Yet in the flurry of activity, of outcry, of policy proposals, of determined words from courageous advocates – all of which are as admirable as they are crucial – it is important that we not lose sight of the historical context of the present situation.

The Oregon housing crisis probably began in 1805, when Lewis and Clark reached the flowing waters of Oregon. At that moment Manifest Destiny's massive wheels began to grind into action and the indigenous peoples of what would become Oregon, though they might not have known it, were about to enter a housing crisis propelled by blood and fire.

It is important to remember this perspective; two hundred years ago, everything changed forever in the Pacific Northwest.

We can flash forward 50 or so years to the establishment of Oregon as a state. At that heady time, the only housing crisis seemed to be that there was plenty of land and a desire for settlers to come and take it. White settlers, that is. Slavery might not have been accepted in the nascent state, but neither were African Americans, who, if they did not leave, were legally mandated to be flogged until they took the hint. In the new state of Oregon, only Americans of European descent were entitled to benefit from the displacement and genocide of their indigenous predecessors.

World War II brought its own housing crisis, for Japanese Americans. Thousands of innocents robbed of property and livelihood on a thin wartime pretext. Families robbed of their rights and dignity. An ugly bigotry seized the Pacific Northwest, and blameless folk were punished for looking like a distant enemy (one that never so much as landed a force on mainland US soil).

Post-war Portland brought with it the housing injustice of redlining – blatantly discriminatory bank policies that prohibited housing loans to African Americans outside of specified neighborhoods. Housing developers in areas like Lake Oswego explicitly adopted racial exclusion policies. If you wanted to apply to buy land, you had to show up at the office in person. And so it would be easy to gently but firmly turn away anyone with the wrong complexion.

Flash forward to Portland in the 1990's and 2000's and the "beginning" of gentrification, the shoehorning of communities of color out of the very neighborhoods they had been shoehorned into in the first place. I place "beginning" in quotes because, of course, for people of color Oregon's housing crisis was anything but new.

And so we reach the present. When white, middle class folk are feeling the pinch, finally we begin to talk about the problem. And there is a little trickle down from the current dialogue – affordable housing has come into the spotlight, as though it is news that thousands of vulnerable Oregonians cannot afford to live in a dwelling.

I do not recount this dark tale to invoke a sense of guilt or anger (though these are not at all inappropriate responses). I recount it because if we cannot look at the present crisis in the context of its imperialist, racist, and classist roots, we are likely to end up only helping out a narrow segment of those impacted by this crisis – and not the segment most in need. We not only need to support contemporary groups working to redress Oregon’s housing injustices, but we need to keep connecting the challenges of the present with their historical roots. Otherwise, it seems unlikely that we will ever sustainably and completely transform Oregon’s housing crisis.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

How to respond to your "Uncle Bob" this holiday season.

December 24, 2015 - 9:45am

Wondering how to respond to comments by your "Uncle Bob" this holiday season?

Well, Robert Reich can help you with some of the questions.

Of course, there's more answers at www.ocpp.org, and easy to find in documents like this Harpers Index-like tax facts list.

Have a great holiday season.

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

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

We've lost a Portland icon. Goodbye, Ron Paul.

December 21, 2015 - 4:31pm

Portland's own Ron Paul has passed away, at the age of 65.

A restaurateur and a raconteur, Ron Paul is perhaps more responsible than anyone for the foodie town that Portland has become. In 1983, after working in restaurants around town, he opened Ron Paul Charcuterie -- Portland's first.

The word "artisanal" had barely cracked our vocabulary, and hardly applied to food. But today? We live in a city so focused on what's local, what's original, what's fresh, what's handcrafted that there's a cable TV show dedicated to lampooning our "artisanal obsessions", as the Boston Globe put it.

And much of that credit goes to Ron Paul. Would there have been a Pok Pok without Ron Paul Charcuterie? Probably not. Just today, the Washington Post named Portland the #1 food city in America.

Of course, he was much more than a chef and a caterer. He was always a progressive, using social responsible business practices (like covering health care -- a rarity in the food industry). And he became engaged in local politics, serving in the late 90s on a committee that would oppose freeway expansion and champion light rail.

It wasn't long after he closed the restaurant that he became the chief of staff to City Commissioner Charlie Hales. After Hales resigned in 2002, Paul dedicated himself to building support for the James Beard Public Market.

When the JBPM breaks ground in 2018 and opens soon thereafter, it will be a testament to Ron Paul's vision and love of Portland. I'm sad that Ron won't be here to see it, but I'm hopeful that his successors find a way to honor him and his legacy.

Rest in peace, Ron Paul.

Learn more about Ron Paul in this great profile in 1859.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Tick. Tick. Tick. On Your Free Political Donation

December 18, 2015 - 9:54am

It's that end of year time when we're scurrying around getting things done.

Amidst the chaos, make sure you use your Oregon Political Tax Credit!

Oregon is a wonderful place for many reasons, including our unique political tax credit. It's our form of public campaign financing, a small investment in engaging people in democracy.

Yes, Oregon's been doing it for a lot longer than Seattle's cool new public financing effort. And just recently, legislators made it more progressive — cutting out eligibility of single filers making more than $100,000 and joint filers earning more than $200,000.

Here's the Deal: $50/$100 is Yours to Direct

Oregon allows you to subtract donations to political groups or campaigns from your state taxes - up to $50 for individuals, or $100 for couples filing jointly. If you owe taxes, you can subtract your contribution from what you owe. If the state owes you a refund, they will add it to your refund check.

This is a tax credit, not a deduction, so every dollar comes back to you! (Presuming you pay at least $50/$100 in state taxes.)

You can't use this credit for charities. It can only be used to contribute to a political group like Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC, Future PAC, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon PAC, Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, OLCV PAC, BusPAC, etc. -- or candidate campaigns in Oregon, including all those mayoral candidates, legislative candidates, soil and water conservation district candidates, etc.

The explanation from the state is on page 21 of this publication. It's the line 37 credit on Oregon's basic form 40 - so no, you don't need to itemize your taxes to qualify!

And if you — like most regular BlueOregon readers — have already given your tax credit, remind your friends! Pick a PAC to promote and send this on. Fewer than 3% of Oregonians use this tax credit. You might be shocked at how many people haven't heard about it but would love to use it.

Happy holidays. And feel free to mention your own favorite PAC in the comments.

Disclaimer: feel free to talk to your tax advisor if you have one. This message isn't financial advice and all that. Read more at Oregon Tax Credit.com, a site Kari Chisholm created.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs