The Oregon Blog
Under grey skies, self-medicating with black coffee


Thursday, July 31, 2003  

Lots going on. Kafoury and Reinhard dueling in the Oregonian. The ACLU launching a legal attack on the Patriot Act from our fair state. The beer tax apparently going down. Ron Wyden outing John Poindexter.

Great topics all, and yet I'm getting slammed here in the real world and won't be able to muse on them. I'll do my best, time permitting, as the week progresses. Meanwhile, the usual suspects probably have it covered (see the blogroll).

posted by Jeff | 9:04 AM |


Tuesday, July 29, 2003  

Via TAPPED, we get this link from the Federal Election Commission, which details all donations given to political candidates and PACs. So care to know what some of the local luminaries are donating?

Vera Katz. Just two donations, $250 and $300, to Darlene Hooley.

Bob Pamplin: nothing too much surprising here, except possibly the donation to John Ashcroft in '99 and 2000.

John Kitzhaber: A donation of $500 to Dorothy Lamm, a Colorado Dem.

Bill Sizemore, Don McIntire, Lars Larson, Karen Minnis: no personal gifts.

More:

Phil Knight: Mostly Republicans, including Molly Bordonaro and Gordon Smith, but also Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.

Molly Bordonaro: Rick Lazio (ran against Hillary), Dubya, Gordon Smith, Charles Starr.

Serena Cruz, Eric Sten, Jim Francesconi, David Bragdon: no personal gifts.

Who else?

posted by Jeff | 12:56 PM |
 

Karen Minnis launched a PR campaign for the GOP school budget in the Oregonian today (actually, it's a reprint from a July 26 Statesman Journal editorial). And, like the budget, it was lame. But the remarkable thing is that, on the page opposite, the editors have taken the surprising step of refuting the Speaker's claims. They seem to have published Minnis for the sole purpose of calling her out.

For starters, Minnis tries to rub a bit of soothing salve on the Republican wound:

Republicans are also willing to provide schools $5.3 billion in state support -- a 3 percent increase over last year's funding. That's the same level of funding the governor is now calling for. The only difference is how we get there.


The Oregonian calls her a liar:

The GOP's school spending plan is a whole lot less than advertised. It's not $5.3 billion, the bare minimum that schools need to avoid more lost school days, fewer programs or larger class sizes. It's not even the "$5.05 billion in cash" that House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, describes in an op-ed column on the facing page.

It's really $4.91 billion, puffed up with hopeful assumptions, fuzzy math and political gauze.


Minnis counters that it's really the same amount of money:

Republicans are willing to provide schools with $5.05 billion in cash, but schools will reap about $300 million in savings from reforms of PERS and reforms of health care costs and other efficiencies already made by the Legislature. This is real money that most school districts are already including in their budgets.


The Oregonian calls her a liar:

Read the fine print. Minnis' "$5.05 billion in cash" includes $50 million that lawmakers will send not to schools but to the Legislature's Emergency Board, contingent on federal education spending. There's no guarantee that schools will see a dime of it.

It includes $84 million that lawmakers hope to save by cutting in half the discount now given to those who pay their property taxes early. The Legislature has not yet approved the reduced discount, and the $84 million figure is, at best, only an educated guess.


Minnis scrambles, distorting facts to give the false impression of widespread agreement:

Considering that most districts based their budgets on the state only providing $4.8 billion, schools will have adequate resources to ensure a full school year and keep class sizes from growing. In fact, Gov. Ted Kulongoski has said that $5.05 billion would be sufficient to prevent "further erosion of our school system . . . and sets the expectation that class days will not be reduced with this funding level."


The Oregonian didn't address this one, but I will: Minnis knows damn well that Kulongoski has long since revised his earlier statement that $5.05 will be adequate (he's been stridently calling for $5.3)--but she's hoping no one else does. As to the claim about schools, I have no idea what she's talking about: the schools are wild-eyed about getting the $5.3 billion at a bare minimum.

Minnis wraps up the argument with the old "woe be da po' taxpayer" saw:

Oregonians have been asking "where has the money been going?" in our school system for a long time despite consistent increases in funding. The Legislature has discovered where the money has been going: PERS, health benefits and salary increases. By freezing salaries, as the governor has called on school districts to do, combined with the savings from reforms of PERS and health care enacted by the Legislature, schools will have adequate resources to continue providing our children a quality education.

The governor and the Democrats say they, too, want $5.3 billion in funding for schools, but what they really want is much higher -- $5.6 billion, which is what schools would receive under their proposals. That's a 19 percent increase in funding over last year and would require a large tax increase to make it a reality. With record unemployment and an economy suffering from the devastating effects of 17 years of tax-and-spend leadership from the governor's office, Oregonians can ill afford the huge tax increases Democrats want.


To which the Oregonian responds:

If House Republicans want to argue that in a down economy this state cannot afford to spend more than $4.91 billion for schools, that's an honest argument. Let them take responsibility for yet another round of school cuts. But don't cling to ridiculous spending triggers and insist with straight faces that this is a no-cuts budget for schools.

Oregon schools require more than $4.91 billion in hard cash, plus a serious trigger to produce more if the economy improves. The Senate needs to inject a dose of reality into a House of illusion.


In the Minnis piece, there's a denoument of bravado the Big O lets slide:

The best way state government can restore trust with Oregonians is by exercising the same kind of restraint Oregonians are forced to exercise in these tough times. Republicans are willing to make tough votes for additional revenue, and provide schools adequate money to provide a good education, but we will not support the massive tax increases proposed by Democrats.


But I won't. It's one of those nice declarative statements (even coming as it does after a load of obfuscation and misdirection): House Republicans take responsibility for this legislation. They think this is responsible governance, and they want suspicious Oregonians to judge them by it.

I couldn't agree more.

posted by Jeff | 9:24 AM |


Thursday, July 24, 2003  

On the Minnis Debacle (as it will hereafter be known), a few facts. By failing to conclude negotiations and finish the budget, the Speaker has likely added six weeks onto the legislative session (that's what it added in '93, according to my LDT). That's a month of workdays at five days a week, and it costs $22,000 a day to legislate (or play tiddlywinks, or whatever the hell it is they're doing), or $650,000. Ask yourself: is it worth it?

Also: according to LDT, the special budget committee passed out the lowball schools budget ($5.05 billion; Dems and the Guv wanted 5.3), and now it will go to the full House for a vote. Minnis's play is that the Republicans will muscle it through. Interestingly, if they do, it's their heads. They went through a legislative maneuver to ensure they could pass this budget, so there's no passing the blame on to the Dems. Will the suburban Republicans feel the heat? Tune in tomorrow at 8:30, when the House considers it.

As for me, I'm out the next day or two, so have a nice weekend--

(And don't forget to tune into 90.7, the 'BOO, tomorrow at 9 am for the smashing new radio hit, "The Rogue Hour!")

posted by Jeff | 4:11 PM |


Wednesday, July 23, 2003  

"The Rogue Hour"

On Friday at 9:00 am, all those in the Portland metro area need to find a radio and tune into 90.7 KBOO. I've been working with a bunch of folks to put together a progressive radio show which debuts then. We'd love to have a decent audience, so I'm calling out all the folks--tune in and listen!

If you like it, let me know. If you think it needs work (which it probably will), definitely let me know. We're hoping that the audience is large and gives us a little momentum. Surely there's room on the dial for one progressive show. But it takes ears, so tune in.

You can also listen online.

posted by Jeff | 3:44 PM |
 

Well, the little bird was right; yesterday Karen Minnis did reject the Democrats' plan, and sent her proposal back to her Democrat-free special budget committee. Unilateralism, it seems, isn't just for the White House.

The Statesman Journal has a great article that details the differences between the Democrat and Republican plans. A couple of things to note. The difference between the two was $300 million, not chopped liver, but only two and a half percent of the total, proving that the devil is in the details. Also, despite pretty serious (and seemingly sincere) efforts by all concerned to hammer this out, the result was dripping acrimony. Last night, the Speaker and the Governor traded letters. Good reading, but they bode ill for coming to terms on that last $300 mil.


Letter from Kulongoski to Minnis

Dear Madame Speaker:

It is unfortunate that you and the Republicans have decided to abandon bipartisan budget efforts at this juncture. Your actions today ensure that this process — already slow — will be reduced to a glacial pace.

As I have told you on numerous occasions, we need to ensure a full school year, adequate class size and preservation of essential programs for every school child in Oregon. Based upon my revised budget and various assumptions about operating costs in our schools, I said that a $5.3 billion school budget was essential to meet those objectives. We cannot abandon Oregon's children and thereby the future economic health of this state. You are correct — the school doors are to open in six weeks — but when they open, they need to be filled with opportunity, not the hollow shell that your budget will ensure.

I have also said that we cannot ignore public safety, seniors, and the disabled in our state budget. I would like to work with you to put together a budget that serves all Oregonians, and affords them the dignity and respect that they deserve.

I have worked very hard this year to show the people of Oregon that state government can be accountable and efficient. We have reformed PERS, streamlined our agencies and cut costs throughout government. Your actions today — which ensure that we will have the longest legislative session on record — undermine these efforts to prove that Salem is accountable.

I urge you to begin working with the Democrats in the House and everyone in the Senate to come to a conclusion on this budget, so that our school doors can open on time, criminals will not be released from jails and seniors and disabled will have adequate services.

Sincerely,

THEODORE R. KULONGOSKI
Governor



Letter from Minnis to Kulongoski

Dear Governor Kulongoski:

I am insulted by the condescending and demeaning tone of your letter. The Legislature is an equal branch of government and does not require lecturing from the Executive.

I want to remind you of something you said just three months ago: “I do not define leadership by raising taxes. I do not think that is what the public wants, nor do I think its good public policy.”

Governor, what this building has so desperately lacked is consistent leadership from your office. You have said for months that we cannot build trust with Oregonians by insisting on higher taxes, yet you and Democrat lawmakers have insisted on spending levels that leave no other choice but dramatically higher taxes.

It is time to move forward. I did not take the step I did today lightly, but did so because it has become clear that Democrat lawmakers in the House and Senate will not agree to a bipartisan budget unless that budget raises taxes on Oregonians to support — what would be in these difficult economic times — irresponsible levels of government spending.

Your intransigence in budget negotiations and your unwillingness to agree to lower, and more responsible spending levels have not helped the situation. As you suggested several times in our recent meetings, the House will now move its own budgets.

Republicans agree that $5.3 billion is adequate to fund our schools next year, but your insistence that savings from PERS reforms and other cost efficiencies — which you have supported and championed — not be counted despite the fact that school districts across the state are budgeting these dollars, is disappointing and disingenuous.

The best way state government can restore trust with Oregonians is by exercising the same kind of fiscal restraint that Oregonians are being forced to because of our poor economy. Republicans are willing to make tough votes for additional revenue, but we will not support the massive tax increases that would be required to support Democrat spending demands.

Frankly, I am disappointed that your only contributions to the revenue discussion in the last month have been that we capture half of President Bush’s tax cut and grab $200 million from local governments. Neither suggestion is acceptable to my caucus. Nor, would either suggestion come remotely close to restoring trust with Oregonians.

I continue to be hopeful that we can yet come to a fiscally-responsible agreement that will meet the needs of our citizens. My door is open, and I welcome realistic proposals to bridge our differences. But in the absence of such, the House will meet its constitutional obligation and pass a balanced budget.

Respectfully,
Karen Minnis

Speaker
Oregon House of Representatives

posted by Jeff | 3:26 PM |
 

Off the top of my head, mayoral odds:

Earl Blumenauer 3-1
Jim Francesconi 5-1
Thomas Lauderdale 10-1
Eric Sten 20-1
Emma Goldman 100-1

posted by Jeff | 12:14 PM |
 

"I will never be a lame duck," Katz said. "People will have to deal with the mayor, and I'm still the mayor."

Nevertheless, no Vera in '04.

This was expected; if she were planning to run, conventional wisdom held she'd have announced already. Instead, she was prolonging lame duck status as long as possible. This will free up Earl Blumenauer to run, leading to a battle royale. This, at least, is something to look forward to.

posted by Jeff | 12:04 PM |


Tuesday, July 22, 2003  

A little bird just told me that the Speaker has rejected the Dems' proposal and is sending the Republican budget back to her special budget committee (sans pesky Democrats). This means that, as we creak toward early August, the budget talks look to be grinding to a halt. The special-budget-committee gambit may eventually profit the Republicans some (who can say), but one thing's for sure: it's gonna make the process go sloooooowwwwwwwly.

I've been a fire-breather lately with my thoughts on the Republican legislature, so I'll spare you all that. "Not good," how bout we call it?

posted by Jeff | 4:05 PM |
 

Oh, and while we're on the topic of "bold leadership," how about the political payback Republicans are trying to dish out to Bill Bradbury. Still burning over what they see as favoritism in redistricting (favoritism?--they oughta check out the Texas situation), they're going after Bradbury's auditing power:

Despite hard feelings from the 2001 redistricting battle, the Republican lawmaker who is leading the effort to take away many of Bradbury’s auditing duties said the move is based on policy, not politics.

Rep. Randy Miller said the redistricting flap didn’t enter into his thinking when he proposed deleting $3 million from Bradbury’s budget for audits and having the Legislature conduct those audits instead.


No, of course not. Never crossed his mind. Matter of fact, Randy Miller can't think of a single guy in the world he finds more delightful than Bill Bradbury. He just loves the guy.

"[Bradbury's] just trying to deflect attention from these commonsense proposals," said Miller, a West Linn Republican who is co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget-writing panel.


Commonsense proposals like rejecting federal grants when the state's in the largest financial crisis in its history. Miller's all about common sense, after all.

posted by Jeff | 11:26 AM |
 

Nicholas Kristoff, writing last week in the Times, reported on one of the tragedies of the budget crisis.

The unlucky ones among us, like Douglas Schmidt, will never recover. A 37-year-old epileptic, he depended on drugs that cost $13 a day and were paid for by the state. State budget cuts meant he lost that benefit, and he ran out of pills in late February.

A week later, he had a severe seizure, his heart stopped, and he suffered permanent brain damage, leaving him in what doctors called a "persistent vegetative state."



Back when the crisis was first unfolding, and slack-jawed yokels like Don McIntire were gleefully saying things like "Now I want to see that calamity," a lot of us pointed out that people would die as a result of shortsighted ideologues trying to score a political victory. Where's McIntire now? I'd like to hear him account for the responsibility of a state unwilling to pay for life-sustaining medicine. I'd like to ask him if that is really his priority: kill people to save money. Let's not pretty it up--that was the choice.

But let's say that in the confusion of the moment some people less idiotic than McIntire were justified in not understanding the ramifications. Well, many of us also said that "saving money" by not funding these programs would cost a hell of a lot more down the road. Cue Kristoff:

The bills so far for treating Mr. Schmidt? About half a million dollars, borne by taxpayers.



Nice work. You've destroyed a man's life and you've cost taxpayers millions. That's bold leadership.

This is the same kind of bold leadership we continue to have. Randy Miller decides to cause a little more suffering by waving off federal grants. With a billion-dollar gap between Democratic and Republican budget proposals, Karen Minnis yawns and meets the Democratic proposal to meet halfway with an offer for an extra hundred million, take it or leave it.

It's fiscally irresponsible, it's morally indefensible, and it's an embarrassment to the state.

posted by Jeff | 10:11 AM |


Saturday, July 19, 2003  

Well, here it is, 7:20 pm and I have really big news for Portlanders. Sadly, I just got the news, but here it is:


Dennis Kucinich is comin' to town!



Portland Area Volunteer and Supporter meeting
11am-Noon Sunday July, 20
Oregon Pioneer Building
320 SW Stark, Room 202
Portland, Oregon


Sorry the news wasn't sooner--I'll tell you how it went.

posted by Jeff | 7:29 PM |


Friday, July 18, 2003  

Now, onto Brett's analysis, which I'll attempt to address with far greater brevity. There are two things he mentioned I find interesting. The first is this:

The media are liberal through and through, for the most part. Take, for instance, this faux "controversy" over the whole Niger/uranium thing.... And even if it was unreliable, there is absolutely zero evidence that Bush had any knowledge it was inaccurate. Yet, the media has taken the "Bush lied" meme and run with it until it's now essentially established fact. That's what I mean by the liberal media.


There's very little chance you and I will look at this and conclude the same thing, Brett. What you describe as "liberal," I describe as "Clintonian"--that is, right of center. When I listen to the news, I know damn well it's not liberal, because I am a liberal, and I almost never hear stories that come from my point of view. But these are subjective terms, and the issue has been well addressed by Alterman and Goldberg et. al.

But what we can discuss is the Niger claim, thanks to your generosity of offering it as an example. I think the facts are far from out, but let's go ahead and limit the discussion to those already established: the President made a claim in the State of the Union address that was not credible (or if you prefer the verbally parsed, "didn't rise to the presidential level of certainty"). You called this a non-story because it was "essentially invented by the media." Thus the evidence of a "liberal" bias.

The purpose of the press it to investigate and report the news. All journalists would endorse this. Ahhh, but you would wisely then note that reporting involves selection--and it's here that we have bias. So in your view, investigating whether the President lied to promote invading a sovereign nation belies a liberal intention. Then let me ask you this: if even this level of investigation is evidence of a liberal slant, wouldn't you argue that any investigation critical of the President is liberal? If the press shouldn't investigate possible lies about going to war, seems like all other investigations--faulty data supporting tax cuts, bad science justifying an air pollution bill, bad projections about how high the deficits are going to be--are definitely off limits. I mean, that's just piddly little stuff by comparison.

An example, let's leave this President out of it. Let's say generic President X lies to promote a war. But in this case, his lie is intended to allay fears of nukes. So President X assures the country that there's no worries, a disinterested press gives him a pass, and we invade. Ooops. Turns out the gamble behind the lie goes bad: the dictator nukes the southern part of his country at the point of invasion where an ethnic minority lives, and a million people are killed, including 150,000 US troops. Now, wouldn't you say the press had dropped the ball by not investigating in this case? Would you have said it was best not to have "invented" the story? (The only thing that's different in the two examples is the outcome: in Iraq, you feel fine because the outcome was good [it wasn't, but that's a different debate]. Oh, and because you know this President's a Republican.)

The second thing you said that intrigued me was: "Every one of these protests turns into a referendum on the war." (In fact, I was there too, and while the crowd was definitely tilted toward the bearded and braless set, there were people from all walks of life, and many political stripes there. Including a good group of folks angry about the Death with Dignity business.)

I agree with you that all the stuff linking the war to Ashcroft missed the bigger point. Lefties, like righties, aren't always exactly on point. But people sense that the war was used to justify a great number of injustices, most of which have been perpetrated by the DoJ. They intuitively understand that were it not for people's fear and the war, Ashcroft and his statue-covering, oil-anointing, prayer-meeting antics would be regarded a lot more skeptically. Instead, he's got carte blanche to skip the Constitutional footnotes (those damn Bill of Rights), and start jailing people he doesn't like. So I'm more willing to cut those folks some slack. Their rights are being trampled. They're mad and they're off message, but they know something's wrong.

(Well, that wasn't brief after all.)

posted by Jeff | 7:45 PM |
 

In the past few days, a couple of readers have left some fairly interesting comments (interest being defined here, unilaterally, by me). Thought I'd devote a blog to them.

First we had Klug, who questioned the definition of "neo-conservative." These are the folks infesting our government, mainly at the highest levels, particularly within the White House. Klug called them "Northeastern, relatively liberal, not allied with Southern conservatives, interested in a smaller, more effective domestic agenda for the government and a relatively hawkish internationalist foreign policy."

Now, first a disclaimer: I haven't made much of a study of conservatism, and my understanding of what distinguishes a "Neocon" from his run-of-the-mill boneheaded, un-ideological rightwing brethern is dim. (I think there's a lot of gray area in any case--"Neocon" being an appellation applied to a group to describe a cluster of beliefs, rather than an ideology that the group uses as its philosophical base.) Furthermore, I think I agree with 90% of what you've said. Nevertheless, it's the ten percent that niggles.

First, the definition of conservatism I'm using. It's a political philosophy that emphasizes reliance on the individual to solve his (their) own problems, rather than looking to a collectivist or government solution. It holds the virtue of competition more than cooperation to resolve social ills--thus belief in a free market. It does not favor radical or rapid change, but fidelity to established norms. The purpose of the state is to protect the citizens and the moral values of the country; therefore conservatives advocate for a strong military and foreign policy focused principally on national self-interest.

The Neo-cons, as I understand them, have a radical view that bears almost no resemblance to historic conservatism. (Radical in the dictionary sense: "Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions.") I agree that in the Bush administration, they're mainly focused on foreign policy, in a fairly obvious and understandable sense. (Here they are closer to the old definition of conservatism than in other views; however, I regard the heavily interventionist, hawkish view as pretty heterodox.)

I think their views in domestic policy are less defined, but we have a hint of it from Bush's national agenda. I would describe every single measure he's proposed as attempting to accomplish one of five goals:

1.) To strengthen corporate power relative to government oversight (or the reverse; weakening government to benefit corporations;

2.) To reallocate federal funds so that they go to the wealthy;

3) To strengthen the position of the executive branch relative to the judicial and legislative within the federal government;

4) To reduce individuals' rights as citizens;

5) To enforce a Christian moral agenda.*


(I'm tempted to say that it's limited to the first three; when I first wrote this, that's how I had structured it. Reducing individual rights and enforcing a Christian agenda may merely be fringe benefits to policies whose principal intent is one of the top three. But I'm waffling on that one.)

Interestingly, these five goals are similar to proposals we see on the state level, too. This is why I lumped the "anti-tax, anti-poor, anti-elderly, anti-everything neo-conservatives" together in the original post. It was an emotional outburst, but I stick by the intent. Obviously, you can't come out with an overt policy that accomplishes the goals of the neocons (the five goals)--you'd be run out of town on a rail. So instead of that, you call yourself "anti-tax." Right before you cut taxes benefiting the mostly poor, you call yourself a proponent of "personal accountability." You're "pro-business" and "tough on criminals."

The disconnect is that the professed goals--anti-tax intent, say--are not borne out by the policies. Oregonians don't pay extreme taxes, and based on total tax burden, we have a flat tax. The anti-taxers--surprise!--don't reduce taxes for the majority of Oregonians. But they do accomplish their secret goals: they transfer benefits to the wealthy and/or to corporations. If a true conservative emerged in Oregon, I think s/he'd be horrified by what's gone on. Local businesses carry a massive tax load, and multinationals pay nothing. Our forests are gutted to the benefit of out-of-state corporations. Services are badly enough funded that we are in risk of jeopardizing schools (aka "future workers"), and do damage the middle class (aka "customers"). This doesn't benefit competition or individual self-determination.

So I'd call this crop of Oregon legislators "neocons." I do think the old Hatfields and McCalls were conservative (if sometimes also progressive). They adhered more or less to the definition I gave above. Now, though, state Republicans are generally much more akin to Bush on issues of policy.

I better stop here, because this has already rattled on WAY too long, particularly when we mostly agree. Thanks for your thoughts, Krug, and forgive this overblown treatise.

[*I just received an email that reminded me to be clear on my terms. My fifth point was "to enforce a Christian moral agenda." The writer pointed out that this is a fundamentalist Christian morality. I had completely neglected to qualify that. So often fundamentalist Christians are lumped with all other Christians. Leaving aside issues of theology, I think a major distinction between these groups exists politically, and I don't believe for a moment that non-fundamentalists wish to enforce their religious views as law.

A bad oversight, and my apologies to all--]

posted by Jeff | 7:09 PM |


Thursday, July 17, 2003  

John Ashcroft will be in Portland tomorrow.

[US Attorney General John] Ashcroft also plans to meet with the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force and hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, Duckett said.





That's the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse at 1000 SW Third Avenue in downtown Portland. He's speaking at 11:30; probably wise to start gathering at 11.

Let's make it a peaceful, powerful statement of our patriotic support of civil liberties and the Constitution of the United States in the face of the Department of Justice's misguided agenda!






Police think that this late announcement means it won't be possible to rally a large-scale protest:

A Portland Police Bureau spokesman said officials learned about the visit Tuesday, so he was not certain whether activists would have time to plan a large protest.

"This is a very short notice event," said Sgt. Brian Schmautz. "To my knowledge, the public is just now learning of it. We are monitoring the situation, and we will be working with the federal government to provide the appropriate security and crowd control."


Wanna see what kind of crowd we can get? Bloggers, get your engines started! Let's see how fast and far we can the word out. We absolutely MUST have a strong presence there tomorrow. Mebbe I'll even print out the Ashcroft Dossier for distribution (anonymously, of course).

posted by Jeff | 11:04 AM |


Wednesday, July 16, 2003  

Incidentally, I've posted a prettied-up version of the screed on rejecting federal funds on Political State Report, my first posting there.

posted by Jeff | 3:04 PM |
 

Yesterday I got an email from my legislative deep throat, who I begged to tell me what was going on with the legislature. LDT (as the source shall hereafter be called, to aggrandize this blog and make me feel vaguely Bernsteinish) offered a nice bit of verboten info, which I shall use to sharpen my understanding of the legislature, but not divulge. A lot of what LDT told me, though, was what you'd expect: a description of floundering. There was some policy-by-policy breakdown, but the best (or at least snappiest) description was this:

We take two steps forward, we take five steps backward, we take 3 steps to the right and 3 steps forward…and where did we end up? We haven’t advanced forward at all, but we’ve shifted to the right.


LDT was also slightly wary at the shot I took at legislators for computergate. I think what LDT was hinting at was not that these things aren't embarrassing--they are--but any spending looks bad "at a time when we are laying off social workers, teachers, kicking grandma out onto the street, and yanking troopers from the highways." It's not malfeasance or even a case of poor prioritization--it's just bad timing. All of that is true.

But here's the citizen's view: it's not so much that these embarrassing gaffes happen, it's that there's not even a good-faith effort to offset them. If we saw our legislators up all night, wrangling and working through this stuff, and then still coming up empty, we'd at least understand they were trying. But instead, they don't show up to work, or show up and work only an hour or two, they push through incredibly peripheral laws, and then they play political games and each party tries to blame the other. It's as if Salem had been taken over by 15-year-olds. It's all about the "gotcha" and not at all about solving Oregon's problems.

(Nevertheless, LDT, this is not a criticism of you or your insight. We on the sidelines will continue to welcome your view from the inner sanctum.)

posted by Jeff | 2:12 PM |
 

Yesterday I criticized legislators for their failure to get things done (even to the degree that a tax-and-spender, big gubmint, bleeding heart like me could near the snapping point). And so what do we read about in today's (not so) funny pages?

Surprise and anger built Tuesday amid reports that money-strapped Oregon may be forfeiting millions of dollars because legislative leaders look askance at accepting federal grants.


Oh yeah! This is exactly what we needed to restore a little confidence. So what was so offensive it caused our fearless leaders stand boldly and with shining principle against? Let's see:

-> "Oregon has lost out on more than $6 million in federal money available for land acquisition to protect forests and tidal wetlands in six counties. None of the projects had generated local controversy..."

-> "Among the grants at stake is $2.25 million aimed at helping Oregon lower its rate of obesity, the highest among Western states. "

-> "Dr. James Lace, a Salem pediatrician, said the Legislature also nixed Oregon's effort to win a $1.6 million grant to help Oregon schools and county clinics prevent whooping cough through vaccination."

-> "Miller has been criticized by other legislators for rejecting a $3 million grant application for control of lead-based paint. “I doubt they have a lot of lead paint in Lake Oswego,” said Rep. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, referring to Miller’s affluent suburban district." (That example from the Statesman Journal.)


In comments to yesterday's post, Klug and were debating the nature of conservatism in Oregon. By any name, this kind of thing is deeply offensive: "It’s a fabulous way to expand government. These guys are out of control on spending. They’re running a huge deficit. Is it my job to add to that deficit?" That's Randy Miller, R-West Linn, who's using the President's deficit--the result of transfering huge amounts of federal dollars to the wealthy--as an excuse to reject federal dollars to help Oregon's sick and obese.

You betcha, this is the kind of thing that just makes you proud to be an Oregonian. Wait a second, maybe proud isn't exactly the word I was looking for...

posted by Jeff | 1:51 PM |


Tuesday, July 15, 2003  

You ever feel like your conscious and subconscious are actaully seperate, dueling minds? Today I read the news that the legislature is going to ask voters to approve $2 billion in bonds to help clean up the PERS debt, and my subconscious did a funny little thing (shocking enough that my conscious got wind of it): it said, "Screw 'em, I'm not voting for it."

I fear that this is the state of mind most Oregonians have slid into: that we have so little faith in the efforts of our elected representatives that we actually want to punish them for their shoddy service. (And their service is shoddy, make no mistake about that. Yesterday Harry Esteve wrote about the how little effort and negotiation legislators are putting into resolving their troubles; today there's an article about pallets of new computers arriving at courthouses--salt in the wounds of those who see their services and jobs cut.) But here's the rub: I think that's the unspoken strategy of the anti-tax, anti-poor, anti-elderly, anti-everything neo-conservatives. And playing into it is bad for progressives who care about addressing Oregon's problems.

Conservatives actually make no bones about it. They dislike government and want it smaller. They're thwarting the system because it serves this end. So progressive legislators (who are not all Democrats) are left hostage to this strategy unless they can come up with some solution.

My suggestion for progressive legislators is to get organized and get creative. Get your policies in order and then start making some noise. When Eugene Mayor Jim Torrey went on a tour of Oregon, it got a fair amount of press. Imagine if progressive legislators did the same thing, taking their message to the towns of recalcitrant neocons. There's nothing like press to put the pressure on. In the age of MoveOn and the internet, I figure we could come up with a few other ways to put some pressure on. But lacking leadership, citizens have a hard time mobilizing to put pressure on.

I don't know, this is a wandering post. I'm dispirited by the whole damn thing.

posted by Jeff | 11:04 AM |


Friday, July 11, 2003  

Speaking of the Trib, they're reporting today that Enron rejected the City's bid for PGE.


The city of Portland's bid to acquire Portland General Electric has been rejected by Enron Corp., the utility's bankrupt parent.

The city's offer which reportedly totaled $2.2 billion and at least one other bid were deemed inadequate, according to Martin Bienenstock, Enron's bankruptcy counsel.


Shocking! Enron, corrupt and bankrupt, doesn't want to sell its only worthwhile, money-generating asset. Go figure. The best option has always been turning PGE into a Public Utility District. Now that the specter of PGE becoming a jointly-owned company of 2,000 of Enron's creditors (I'm not joking about that figure), it really looks like the best option. The measure will be on the ballot this September, and now the choice is clear.



posted by Jeff | 1:45 PM |
 

As a follow-up on the MARC discussion, there was an article in the Porltand Tribune on the Fourth of July that identifies options not considered by the city. Will Macht, a professor at PSU, taught a class last year at the College of Urban and Public Affairs in which graduate students developed proposals for the Coliseum site. It's pretty fascinating work, and one design in particular is intriguing. (I'm just going to quote the whole section from the Trib's article.)

Headquarters hotel
At the intersection of three light-rail lines, the two main interstate highways and the high-speed rail corridor, and served by more than 12 bus routes within Fareless Square, a 650-room headquarters hotel built within the glass box would permit conventioneers to take light rail straight from the airport to their hotel and convention center and easily go downtown.

When intercity high-speed rail is built, the hotel's west side would become the front door to Portland.

Reusing the enormous glass box, measuring 3 1/4 blocks square and more than seven stories high, the project is conceived as a hotel inside a botanic garden.

Unlike enclosed central atrium hotels, four glazed-corner atria would look out over the city and across the Willamette, each forming a microclimate representing the diversity of Oregon biomes.

Every room would have a view. Cafes and restaurants would fill the base of each atrium and would become inviting places open to the public 24 hours a day -- much more accessible than even wholly public uses.

Unlike the potential headquarters hotel sites across Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from the Oregon Convention Center, the coliseum is visible from Interstate 5 and from downtown, primary criteria for hotels. And since a headquarters hotel cannot survive on convention business alone, its short five-minute walk from the convention center through three existing public plazas gives it just enough separation to attract Rose Garden visitors, business travelers and tourists.

The hotel is feasible because the city owns the land, building and parking, which it need not finance; improvements can be financed with tax-exempt revenue bonds, and no new taxes or subsidies are required.



What's interesting to me is that the city didn't consider this plan. While I like the MARC in concept, there do seem to be a few barriers. This proposal, on the other hand, seems to be win-win. It makes money, it serves the community, it supports (if not attracts) tourists, it knits together the Rose Quarter/Convention Center, and it uses the public transportation there.

The big question is: Why isn't the city considering it?

posted by Jeff | 1:35 PM |
 

A match made in heaven: Bordonaro will lead Bush’s Northwest push

posted by Jeff | 12:46 PM |


Thursday, July 10, 2003  

Quixotically, all the news lately has led me to blog less. I keep trying to note in my head all the things I'd like to write about, from the current PERS situation to yesterday's (oh so generous) vote in the House to offer rape victims emergency contraceptives to Steve Duin's (fairly reasonable) assault on Republicans and Reinhard's (bizarre, ongoing) assualt on blacks. And that's just today's news. There was a batch yesterday, too.

So, how bout a few quickie words on each. You can supply the analysis you imagine I'd give, and if you like it, credit me with it. Otherwise forget it--I'd never have said that.

Contraceptives
This piece of legislation is being hailed as a triumph of bipartisanism. Let's see, the legislature decided to offer contraceptives--not abortions or RU 487, but contraceptives--to rape victims. And surprisingly, everyone agreed. In our current climate, doing the most obvious, least controversial thing gets you hailed as Lords of Cooperation. Next: Republicans and Democrats agree: grandma's apple pie is yummy.

PERS
Lords of Cooperation? Whoops, I guess they've left the building. This is a real piece of work. (Actually, it's possible I don't understand it, because it strikes me as such a preposterous proposal I haven't really bothered to study it.) The House is proposing to transfer all retirement bennies for public workers to 401k-type plans. The Senate thinks they better toss in some reliable pension funds there, too. Just in case, you know, the stock market looses a third of its value again. But House Republicans say no. It's their way or the highway. Correct me if I'm wrong (and I probably am), but isn't a 401k plan just stocks? Isn't that just a transfer of state funds to business?

Steve Duin
Let's just cut to the chase, 'cause Duin says it all:

The perfect metaphor for Salem -- in all its misguided, self-serving glory -- is tough to find, but I think we have another Top 10 finalist: invoking the attorney-client privilege to prevent the public from knowing how lobbyists lead legislators around by the nose....

[Bend Republican Representative] Knopp and [Legislative counsel] Chaimov have decided the taxpayers who pay their salaries have no right to know which private, special interests are shaping Oregon law.



That's right, you rotten little punk voters, ya ain't got no right to know!

Reinhard
Cop shoots citizen, Reinhard attacks friends of the deceased. And surprise, surprise: a lot of them are black.

posted by Jeff | 3:13 PM |


Wednesday, July 09, 2003  

So Earl wrote about redistricting in the New York Times. Analysis?

posted by Jeff | 9:44 AM |


Tuesday, July 08, 2003  

It sounds like a truly representative group gathered last night at the Capitol to advise congressfolk about sales taxes. It was a fairly cool thing that the legislature solicited opinion, and it sounds like many politicians found it useful. But read to the end of that story and you'll find a depressing final sentence:

House Speaker Karen Minnis said earlier that no proposals coming out of the committee would go into effect for the current 2003-2005 budget.


It's nice thing to reach out to the lowly citizens, those insignificant chumps you're supposed to be representing. But you'd like at least the appearance from the House Speaker that they actually gave a damn.

posted by Jeff | 2:13 PM |
 

More on the Republican hanky panky: as the tipster predicted, so it has come to pass:

Trying to put heat on Democrats in state budget talks, the GOP-controlled House pushed through a rules change Monday to streamline the way it adopts budgets.

The new rule allows the House to pass its own spending bills instead of working out deals with the Senate via the joint Ways and Means Committee.

The move came after a week of direct negotiations between the governor, House speaker and Senate president failed to yield any breakthrough in approving the 2003-05 state budget.


The Republicans are playing legislative chicken with this one. They hope to push through a tax package without Senate (read: Democrat) negotiations. Although they eventually have to get Senate approval, my guess is that House Republicans are figuring that time is on their side: with a complete budget on the table and time running short, they're hoping to get the lion's share of concessions.

Well. Could be; could also backfire badly. Left to their own budgeting, Republicans will be on the hook for whatever they produce. Given the service-funding problems, Oregonians might find it a stingy offering. I know there'll be one blogger at least who'll be prepared to hold them to their document. So we'll see.

As a historical note, in the 86-year-old process for deciding budgets jointly, Congress has only done this once, in 1993. That was also the longest session in Oregon history.

posted by Jeff | 1:54 PM |
 

Quite a bit on the docket today, so no dilly-dallying. First: PERS reform. The Senate and House passed different versions, only one of which seems viable. The House version (surprise--the unviable one!) substitutes a sound, responsible retirement package with a 401k-style crapshoot. The Senate plan keeps part of the 401k, but adds secure benefits. In the usual bluster, House Republicans said they wouldn't accept the Senate's amendments.

I have news for you: public employees aren't going to give up everything to save money for a system mismanaged by conservative anti-government ideologues who now wish to punish the workers. The House has made some concessions to reality by considering sales tax (holding their noses and shifting as much of the cost to the poor as possible); they're going to find that they have to suck this one up, too. Hot on the heels of the Enron/PGE scandals, public employees are going to have a very clear memory of what can happen to 401k accounts. And they'll demand more.

posted by Jeff | 1:43 PM |


Friday, July 04, 2003  

Speaking of fun

The reality, it looks like to me, is that we're in for a long, entertaining wrangle. Everything's split up nice and fair--Republicans with the House, Dems with the Gov, both parties with the Senate--but this is going to turn out to me be more than just the protracted stalemate of last summer.

On the one hand, House Republicans are feeling a little leery about hanging up schools once more. After hiding in the woods for years, Oregonians have finally flushed them out into the open. Oregonians want better services--particularly schools--and they see the 'phants as standing in the way. To fix this, it's the Republicans who are proposing the sales tax, which is, if anything, a fine bit of showmanship. (Cynics might argue that because it has no chance of passing, the GOP gets credit for trying without having to make hard choices. But of course, I'm no cynic.) As part of the show, the House is inviting people into the big top on Monday to voice their opinions about sales tax.

But on the other side, you have a Democratic governor who adamantly maintains that he will support no tax increases, placing him (apparently) at odds with Congressional Dems, who wish to restore funding. (Cynics might argue that Kulongoski is playing both sides against the other, knowing that the result is going to be a slight tax increase that will satisfy neither the anti-taxers nor the adequate-servicers, but which will place him beyond accountability.)

Fun? I guess you have to be a little weird to enjoy the political shenanigans we're likely to witness over the next few months. Call me weird; I'm looking forward to it.

posted by Jeff | 11:08 AM |
 

Follow-up on the Hanky Panky angle:

The House Rules Committee met briefly Thursday to set up the procedure that would allow the House to advance its own budget bills without using the joint Ways and Means Committee.

On a party-line vote, the committee passed a rules change that would allow any House committee to hear a budget bill. Currently, only the Ways and Means Committee — and its various subcommittees — hear budget bills.

Ways and Means is made up of House and Senate members. By bypassing Ways and Means, the Republicans, who have a 35-25 advantage in the House, can craft and pass their own budgets.



As my tipster predicted, it wasn't greeted with uniform delight.

"The speaker has her own agenda," Kulongoski said. Minnis appears to have her own view of how to move the budget along, he said, and may need to try it and potentially fail, then return to the negotiating table....

"She wants to be queen of the universe, and that's fascinating," said Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. "But it will just delay the process."



So thanks to the anonymous tipster who gave me the heads up on this first. It looks like just part of the fun we can expect in the coming months.

posted by Jeff | 10:57 AM |


Thursday, July 03, 2003  

BREAKING NEWS -
Republican Hanky Panky?


I just received an email I will quote directly. I haven't been able to verify it or anything about its sender, so regard it lightly. Still, it's worth considering:

___________________________________________
I thought I would give you a little pre-press heads
up about something sneaky that just happened here
before the wonderful July 4th weekend.

The House Rules Committee passed a rule out of its
committee just a few minutes ago that deletes the
provision of the House Rules requiring all budget and
appropriations measures to be referred to Ways &
Means. This inevitably means that the Speaker plans
to shut down Ways & Means shortly after that rule is
passed and push through the budget in a special
committee comprised of members of her choosing. This
rule will come up for a final vote on Monday which
only requires a simple majority vote—it’s bound to be
a heated debate. The Speaker obviously believes that
she has the votes in the House to push any budget that
she needs to. Unfortunately, there still is the
Senate evenly split and if the Republican caucus can’t
pull up to 3 Dems over to their side, those budgets
that the House will push over to the Senate will
either just lay to waste or be defeated leaving us
with nothing or conceivably shutting down the State
while we bicker until doomsday. A similar situation
happened back in the 1993 session which was also one
of the longest sessions in history. We’re in for a
long long haul and it’s getting more dirty and ignoble
with every day that passes.

Keep up the great job on the Oregon Blog. Hope to see
a great post on this.
__________________________________________

All right, here's the post. If it's true, you just ensured it was a great one. Thanks.

posted by Jeff | 12:47 PM |


Wednesday, July 02, 2003  

We'll be arguing taxes for the next few years, so let's throw this into the mix: PSU prof Anthony Rufolo yesterday told the House Revenue Committee that relying on income tax isn't a bad way to go. It's the not having a rainy day fund that's boneheaded.

This will come as confirmation to those of you--Fred, Jack--who insist that the income tax is the way to go. Yeah, yeah, I know--it is progressive. I'm all for progressive taxes. I still don't see how a truly progressive income tax is likely to happen any time soon. We're in (one hopes the tail end of) a profoundly anti-tax phase of politics, and the people who are most anti-tax are the wealthy--exactly those who would pay the most under a progressive income tax, and those who have the money to fuel candidates who prefer the gut-government position.

So the question is, should one cynically support fiscal expediency and go for non-progressive or regressive taxes, knowing they are likely to be adopted, or stick with the ethically-pure income tax? The reason I balk is because the people who will be affected in either case are the most vulnerable. I worry that holding out for a progressive tax means sacrificing the elderly, hungry, poor, and uninsured in the short term.

(Oh, and Ignatius, sorry: "But Rufolo said there also are solid arguments for establishing a sales tax. It would garner some taxes from the 'underground economy,' or people who evade income taxes by not reporting income, he said.")

posted by Jeff | 2:42 PM |
 

Stink to remain
There are two ways to police a community, and one stinks. The first is to regard the city as a community of citizens who require protection and safety. The second is to regard a city as a community of law-breakers whom you must stomp on to maintain security.

The Kendra James shooting (accidental homicide?) once again reveals that the Kroeker/Katz policing strategy is the second (that would be the stinker). Time after time, incidents arise in which police act violently on the scene, then try to spin their way out of it later. The May Day protest. Jose Mejia Poot. The Bush Protest. And now Kendra James.

Steve Duin has an article today that describes the second phase of the Kroeker policy--spinning after the violence (transcript of the meeting Duin writes about here). It's depressing and depressingly predictable. Offered the opportunity to reform the practice, to reach out to the community they serve, Kroeker and Katz instead danced away from accountability. Indicating, apparently, that the policing practice will remain unchanged.

posted by Jeff | 2:29 PM |


Tuesday, July 01, 2003  

And then in the Klamath Basin, water functions as political gasoline. Man, that's an ugly situation. Just seems to get more volatile. More here.

posted by Jeff | 1:48 PM |
 

Meanwhile, the battle over PERS continues. There is no issue less thrilling than PERS reform, but if you care to forge ahead anyway, try this article, which discusses what the PERS board plans to do, and this one, which discusses the PERS board's efforts to push through changes despite legal challenges.

Boring--yet critical.

posted by Jeff | 1:45 PM |
 

There's more news than you can shake a stick at today. I'll try to work through the good stuff.

First, a report from the Statesman Journal about the exodus of state employees. Anyone near to any state agencies knew this was building. The numbers, though massive, aren't even that surprising.

As of June 27, about 9,790 public employees had filed to retire in 2003 — more than one-third of them in June. That far exceeds the previous yearly record of 6,843 set in 1999.



Well, why not? A rapacious and irresponsible legislature is now reneging on agreements it made with these employees. Love PERS or hate it, it's seriously uncool to say, "well, we've tried to trash state government for years, and now that we've done it, we're gonna pull out of our contracts with you."

What this means is that a huge number of highly qualified employees will leave work just when the government is in big trouble. Institutional memory goes with them. Government agencies will now be less efficient and services will be slower and delivered with more mistakes. Meanwhile, new employees will have to be lured in who have seen double-dealing politicians make bad on promises. That is, if they can be lured at all--hiring freezes prevent many agencies from filling the gaps.

posted by Jeff | 1:37 PM |
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