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

Friday, November 28, 2003  

I appear to be getting not as much work done as I imagined this week. More on the tax issue next week.

posted by Jeff | 3:28 PM |

Tuesday, November 25, 2003  

[The following is another policy discussion based on proposals/white papers presented at the Oregon Bus Project's recent Engage Oregon conference in Hood River. For a general discussion of the conference, go here.]

Toward a functional tax structure

All right, let's talk taxes. That's the elephant in the room of any policy discussion--so we might just as well talk directly about it. There are two components to this equation: revenue and spending. In the 90s, despite a hobbled, patchwork tax code, Oregon muddled through with a respectable balance sheet because Portland was flourishing as the "silicon forest." The economy was robust, and it hid the faults. The tax code's faults finally got a fine airing when the silicon forest died and revenues plummeted. What resulted was a battle royale--Republicans trying to cut services, Democrats trying to increase revenues. The problem, though, isn't only that the balance sheet doesn't balance--it's mainly because that package of fees and taxes (and the constitutional limitations thereupon--thanks Don and Bill!) haven't been looked at as a whole in decades.

But if you read this blog, you already knew that. The question is: what can be done, and is anyone working on it? I'm delighted to tell you: a lot and yes.

Two-part Solution: Part One
The first thing is to stop the bleeding. Idiots like Don McIntire (don't like that harsh word?--read this and see what you think) and Kevin Mannix refuse to live with the bipartisan plan passed by the legislature this summer to raise taxes and cover critical services (those funds that left schools closed, put criminals back on the streets, and left medically-needy people without services--and therefore sometimes dead). So a group called Our Oregon Coalition has a plan to defeat Mannix's ballot measure recall of those taxes. It's critical, because repealing those increases will set us back months or years in terms of coming up with stable funding. Don't believe it? Go to the website and read their materials--there's not enough time or space to detail it all here.

Two-part Solution: Part Two
The second piece is reforming the tax structure so we have stable, progressive, and adequate revenue streams to fund Oregon services. There will be a huge debate about what services need to be funded and at what level. Perfectly reasonable. But it's time for Oregonians to demand that half-assed legislators get their houses in order: it's not okay to go through whipsaw funding so that some years we're flush and refunding money, and others we're in a 15% deficit. Legislators love to compare their experience in "the real world" with how they'll run government. On this issue, anyway, we can demand it: no one would ever consider running a business under the budgetary rules that govern Oregon.

In the post below, I'll discuss some of the funding issues confronting the state.

posted by Jeff | 4:07 PM |

[The following is another policy discussion based on proposals/white papers presented at the Oregon Bus Project's recent Engage Oregon conference in Hood River. For a general discussion of the conference, go here.]

How Oregon's Taxes Work

Everything I'm about to tell you is a rip-off of a program Citizens for Oregon's Future has put together. I've talked about most of this stuff on the blog before, but I've never seen it arranged as clearly or as elegantly. I don't think they'll mind me stealing.

Oregon has essentially a two-tier tax structure: income tax and property tax. Most other states have three streams, with sales tax added in the mix. Because almost all of state services are funded through the income tax, Oregon's tax structure is unstable. When revenues fell due to unemployment beginning two years ago, we had absolutely no reserve nor any other funding source to turn to. All flexibility in funding state services (education, the judiciary, law enforcement, social services) comes only by cutting programs. Thanks to the "kicker," if the state ever exceeds projections, excess money is returned to the taxpayer, rather than going into any kind of reserve. No state is more dependent on a single fund source than Oregon.

Property Taxes
Oregon's first tax was a property tax. Since 1930, when an income tax was introduced, it funds local jusrisdictions, not the state general fund.

How it works. Property tax rate times property value=tax revenue. Property rates are set by law, and value by assessment and law.

The rate at which property tax could be valued was limited by the famous Measure 5 in 1990: taxes can only be assessed at $5 per thousand of value to fund schools, and $10 per thousand to fund local jurisdictions.

The value of assessed property was capped by 1997's Measure 50, which placed a baseline of value on 1995 assessments. The increase could only be 3% per year, no matter how much the value of the property increased. Also, property was not reassessed for the purposes of property tax valuation at the sale of the property. Thus it is that a number homes in North and NE Portland have only modest property taxes associated with them, while elsewhere in the city, homes with the same value may pay two or three times as much. (Our house, which would be assessed at probably $150k, has only $900 of property tax; this would be over $2k in Sellwood, for example.)

Income Tax
The income tax was introduced as a progressive tax in 1930 (those who earn more pay more) and is used for the State General Fund (53% for education; 25% on human services; 17% on public safety; state "bureaucracy" [administration] acccounts for 2%). Personal income tax--that is, what individual Oregonians pay--contributes 88% to the General Fund. Corporate income tax contributes only 4%. Lottery (4%) and other taxes (4%) make up the balance.

How it works. Effective income tax rates in Oregon range from 1.6% to 8%, and are based on taxable income (gross minus exclusions and deductions).

Why is the cost of government going up?
More people are using services. Since 1990, Oregon's population has increased 25%, and this is the single biggest factor in increased cost. More people needing roads and schools and cops and social services.

More people are in the pokey. Hey, remember when we decided minor marijuana offences meant serious jail time--turns out that's expensive! Since 1996, Oregon's prison population has increased by 2,000.

We now pay for disabled people. Federal legislation regarding disabled folks means states are now required to provide more services (that's a good thing).

Things cost more. Mainly medical things--to the tune of 15% per year for perscriptions and care. Goods and services also increased by 50% during those rolicking 90s.

We agreed to pay those stinkin workers. Deals made to workers under the PERS system seemed like a good deal before the bubble burst. But like every pension plan in America, returns on investments plummeted, causing the state to have to lay out more dough.

*Cough, cough* I think we've got a touch of something. It's called Baumol's Cost Disease, and it mainly means that the things the state spends its money on--teachers, cops, judges, and caseworkers--haven't seen the kind of productivity gains we've seen in the tech sector. While that new computer the e-tailer uses has reduced his costs by 90% from 1990, we still need one teacher for every 20 students (or 25, or 30--well, you get the point).

All right, give it to me straight: what can we do??? Fair enough, but you'll have to check back tomorrow.

posted by Jeff | 4:04 PM |

Powell's workers and the company are locked in a battle over wages and benefits, and if things don't resolve before Friday, the workers are threatening a one-day strike. On OPB this morning, the workers didn't do themselves any favors on the PR front. They sounded self-interested, vague, and sullen. A little advice to my union brothers and sisters: be careful.

Health care is apparently forcing the issue. Workers want a 19% increase in pay over three years, and Powell's is offering 9%. But the sticker seems to be on bennies.

Management's most recent proposal would bring wage increases, but would raise each employee's monthly health costs by $26 -- from $33 to almost $60 a month for an individual, from $250 to $277 for a family.

In addition, employees would take on more of the cost burden of prescription drugs -- with co-pays doubling, or in some cases quadrupling.

As we know, health care is skyrocketing at something like 15% per year. This dispute is a familiar one. The balancing act, for workers, is to make sure the businesses take on the lion's share of the costs--politicians (particularly rapacious, feed-the-health-care-and-insurance-industry GOP) won't be motivated to change laws if businesses aren't part of the chorus putting the screws to them--without doing actual damage to the company that employs them. Bookselling is, after all, a brutal business--particularly for indies (even large ones).

To be clear, all workers should be in unions so that they can bargain collectively and fairly.

But a word to the wise: workers need to recognize that they're not in it alone. Their supporters are their fellow workers who will either support them in striking or not. They're also the same folks workers will want to be happy customers most of the time--so trashing the business they work for isn't such a hot strategy. In that OPB piece, the union rep sounded cavalier and a little insufferable:

"When we put together our wage and economic package, we put together something that we thought was reasonable, it was doable. It didn't have a lot of fat on it. It was basically the status quo with a few bells and whistles that we felt we needed....

"The company came in with a proposal that was just an unbelievable takeback - just gutting the health care and gutting our wage structure. It was just such a lowball proposal there was no way we could meet in the middle. I agree that there's been a lot of what could be construed as movement on management's side, but really what's happening is that they're getting closer to something that's reasonable."

Bells and whistles you felt you needed? "Unbelieveable takeback?" Bad, bad PR. There are a lot of Portlanders who work for not much and don't have bennies to be arguing over. This kind of talk inflames them. A far better approach is to put it all on the table: what does the average worker earn now and what would these new increases cost? People are swayed by arguments of fairness, not entitlement. Throwing a bone to Oregon's most popular business wouldn't hurt, either. It's not clear that in a battle between sullen workers and a popular, apparently negotiable business (Powell's has upped their offer; the workers have not), the workers would win broad support.

For the sake of all workers, I hope the highly visible Powell's employees get their PR act together.

posted by Jeff | 8:32 AM |

Monday, November 24, 2003  

I had posted a fairly long entry on the Oregon tax structure. Then Blogger went down and I lost it all. (But at least it's free!) Expect that tomorrow. Sorry--

posted by Jeff | 6:07 PM |

Friday, November 21, 2003  

White Paper: The Tillamook 50/50 Project

If the Marquam Bridge project was controversial, the Tillamook Forest initiative seems to provide the most opportunity to find common ground. In a nutshell, here's the idea: the Tillamook forest was logged and burned through the first half of the last century. In 1948, the state funded a bond measure to help restore the Tillamook Burn, and over the course of the next 25 years, Oregonians planted 72 million (!) Douglas Fir seedlings there. In 1973, Tom McCall dedicated it as state forest land--and it now comprises 83% of state forest land. The Tillamook 50/50 plan is an initiative effort to split the forest into conserved forest, and open 50% up to sustainable harvest.

Currently 80% is open to timber harvest, but because of legal challenges and other barriers, little has been harvested there. This proposal would have the effect of actually increasing the number of board feet harvested annually. I have a question about the goal of sustainable harvest--definitions and parameters there are not clear. On the other side, the protected land would provide habitat to a number of endangered species. Seven of thirteen rivers that support healthy salmon runs flow through the forest there, and it is a source of drinking water for much of Northern Oregon.

What I really like about the proposal is the effort conservationists have made to indlude logging in the proposal. In Oregon, it would be possible to pass a ballot measure that would completely eliminate logging. But logging itself isn't bad--in fact, we now know it's a valuable way to protect the health of forests. Moreover, logging is part of the state heritage, and many towns in rural Oregon would love to have logging support some of their local economies. It's a way to serve almost all the interests of Oregonians.

Go poke around the website and see what you think. Unfortunately, the information there isn't quite as complete as the materials we got at the conference--nor as balanced. The website seems to disparage logging more than the other materials, to, which is a shame. Still, good info.

By the way, your thoughts on that last proposal were amazing. I anticipate your comments here with interest.)

posted by Jeff | 9:07 AM |

Thursday, November 20, 2003  

If I have a chance this evening, I'll post on a white paper about the Tillamook forest. It was one of four critical proposals we heard, and one I'm particularly excited about. In the meantime, I notice that our fine friend Phil Busse finally got his mayoral webpage professionalized. By which I mean, of course, that he linked back to the interview he did for the Oregon Blog (that's really just self-promotion masquerading as a link).

posted by Jeff | 3:21 PM |

Wednesday, November 19, 2003  

Well, since speedways don't seem to be arousing intense interest, how about a policy paper from the Engage Oregon conference? Just to mix things up, I'll start out with what should be a fairly controversial issue: removing the Marquam Bridge and Interstate 5 from the East Bank of the Willamette in Portland.

The proposal was offered by Riverfront for People, who have a fairly radical vision for East Bank. Their proposal would accomplish two general goals: beautification and economic development. It's early in the planning stage, so the solutions are many, but all would accomplish those goals. The beautification argument is straightforward enough, but the economic argument isn't as obvious. The group's rationale:

We have a vibrant Downtown on the West Side of the River. In a 198 acre section from the River back to 6th Ave., there are more than 12,000 jobs and $2.9 billion in real estate value. More than 25% of these jobs are high-paying jobs. We want to create a similar bonanza on the East Side. On the East Side, however, the freeway and the railroad tracks present significant barriers to developing housing and a real urban neighborhood of integrated mixed uses -- commercial, industrial, retail and residential. Today the land value of a similar 198 acres on the East Side is less than 1/5th of the West Side, and the total assessed valuation is about l/9th of the West Side.

A new kind of neighborhood would blossom on the East Side if the freeway and dozens of ramps did not separate the neighborhood from the River. We believe that in the 43 acres of land the freeway and ramps occupy today, we could build 6,000 to 10,000 units of workforce housing. This kind of neighborhood would attract creative, dynamic, entrepreneurial people who would incubate all sorts of new knowledge economy businesses in the inner East Side back to 7th Ave. These new residents will be "urban", and will want to work near where they live. We believe the industrial sanctuary should be maintained in the area from 7th Avenue to 12th Ave., where most of the jobs, including many high-paying manufacturing jobs, are today.

There are some assumptions there I personally question, but we'll come back to them in a moment. Let's finish off the proposal, first. The transportation issue is next. Although they have several options online, the one they presented at the conference was Option A. From the white paper:

While there remain examples of simply removing freeway capacity, Riverfront for People does not believe this to be a viable option for Portland. We advocate installing a new tunnel under the Willamette that would connect to another tunnel that would run under Grand Ave and reconnect with surface roads near the current intersection of I-5 and I-84. The new tunnel under Grand would have three decks. The top deck would accommodate rail traffic and the bottom two would house the freeway.

The cost of such a project is, of course, very high. I heard $1-2 billion in discussions (I could find no guesses on the webpage, but that's reasonable--it's very early in planning). Let's use the $2 billion for fun.

This was the only purely Portland paper we heard, and it didn't get the kind of hearing it might otherwise have because of it. No doubt state and federal money would go into it, so it is an Oregon project. Moreover, economic growth in Portland does eventually help the rest of the state, though the dairy farmer who's lost his job and is working at Wal-Mart may fail to see how. But never mind all that--what about the proposal on its own merit?

My issues are two, and they may well be answerable. (Any proposal of this size will face tougher scrutiny than I'm about to give.) One: I'm not convinced that the district as it currently exists isn't a vital part of the city. Two: downtown is clearly a nexus for jobs and commerce, but does this mean that doubling the space will create twice the number of jobs and commerce? The west side of downtown is currently struggling; surely if there were enough people looking for more shopping and office space it would be better-utilized.

I also question the priority of such a project given the difficulties the state now confronts. Poke around the drawings at the website, and it's easy to become engaged by what the East Bank could become. Yet it doesn't conceal the fact that it seems to be solving a problem that doesn't really exist. And then there's that $2 billion price tag. So, call me skeptical.


posted by Jeff | 3:56 PM |


So here's the big question: are 145,000 going to go to Boardman to watch car racing? The Morrow County Commissioners are hoping so. Morrow County has but 11,585 folks (five and a half people per square mile), so a project like this must be regarded as a significant undertaking. There will probably be a net gain of jobs--some of them good--and it will be a benefit to the county financially. But the costs might be steep, too. Locals fear the onslaught of fans, and then there's the noise, which will be intense. For folks used to a little elbow room and quiet, a racetrack is likely to be a mixed blessing.

Anyone reading from Morrow County? Thoughts? Interesting development...

(Thanks to Beefy for the link.)

posted by Jeff | 10:31 AM |


posted by Jeff | 10:29 AM |

Tuesday, November 18, 2003  


I had planned to write about one of the proposals we heard at the conference today, but I've forgotten all the materials. Instead, allow me to reel with the rest of you from the news that Enron's going to sell PGE to Oregon Electric Utility, a Texas-backed group whose partners include outspoken PUD critic Neil Goldschmidt. B!x, of course, has the whole story with relevant links.

Neil Goldschmidt: "So there's a very high value, I think to the idea that an energetic, competitive private enterprise can succeed here and I guess what I want to say is the debate we just had I think at least for the moment in this community is over."

As the news filters out, the critics are, ah, critical:

"Man, this exposes Neil's little civic-minded op-ed piece in The Oregonian on Oct. 31 as even greasier than it first appeared. Of course he didn't want the people's utility district to succeed -- there were many, many dollars of potential profit for himself at stake. You would think he would have disclosed that in his message to the voters. Ick!"
--Jack Bogdanski

He was influential in the adoption of light rail in the metro area, and was involved in many other political movements, but most recently has forsaken politics for the realm of business, where he has made a name for himself. For example, he was instrumental in the con job transaction which resulted in Willamette Industries being sold to Weyerhauser, thus removing a major corporate office from Portland.
--AB Craghead

Let me add my own soundbite: The anti-PUD folks were all snakes asking for a ride across the river. The trusting turtles who allowed them to climb aboard (that's something like 70% of voters) just got bit. But like the snake said, "What did you expect, I'm a snake?" Well, what did you expect?

posted by Jeff | 3:47 PM |

Monday, November 17, 2003  

Engage Oregon Conference, Overheard


"There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who let things happen, and those who wonder what happened."
--Matt Hennessee

"Tom McCall proposed a sales tax in the 70s and it got beat 8 to 1, but his popularity shot up 15% because at least he was leading."
--Phil Kiesling

On those with whom Democrats could find common ground. "Almost everyone's getting screwed by this President; some of them just don't know it."
--Peter DeFazio

"We're [the Democrats] not governing! It doesn't do any good to discuss an issue in all the particulars and get into how we'd perfect and enact it--we're not governing! We don't need policies, we need a message!"
--Peter DeFazio (as best as I could reconstruct it after he'd said it)


There's $20 billion in an unemployment trust fund, but Bush won't touch it. Instead, he's borrowing money to pay for his tax cuts. Where's he get the money? During the Clinton Administration, Republicans endowed a "lock box" for social security 6 (7?) times because they didn't want him using the budget surplus on social services. That's the money Bush and the Republicans are using.
--Peter DeFazio

Population growth in Portland in the past decade: 24%. Land development growth in the last decade: 3%
--Bob Stacey, 1000 Friends of Oregon


Holding open primaries. In this scenario, people running for primaries would all run together. So, if there are, say 5 candidates running in one district running for the State Senate, they run all together as in a run-off election. The top two candidates, from whatever party, then meet in the general election.
--Phil Kiesling

Instead of having sister cities with foreign cities, Oregon could have sister cities at home as a way of bridging the urban-rural divide.
--Matt Hennessee

posted by Jeff | 3:42 PM |

All righty: the Engage Oregon Conference.


First, a little background. The organizers are the Oregon Bus (don't call us the New Progressives) Project . The Bus Project got started in 2001 when a group of progressives (don't call 'em Democrats) bought a bus and spent weekends driving to swing districts to canvas for progressive candidates. As it amped up for this election cycle, it's started to expand its horizons and do more than knock on doors. This conference was a part of that.

What we did. The structure of the conference was pretty cool There were three central elements: high-profile speakers to inspire (Phil Kiesling, Matt Hennessee, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and keynote speaker Jim Morin, Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist from the Miami Herald), workshops to inform and organize, and then the coolest part: consideration of policy papers as a way of prioritizing the focus for 2004. The workshops included local politicians and community organizers--good ones, too, like Diane Linn and Bob Stacey from 1000 Friends of Oregon.

But the really cool part was considering the policy papers. It was also the most inspiring. For a year I've been whining: Why doesn't someone try to bridge the urban/rural divide by bringing loggers and environmentalists together?; Why doesn't someone put together a proposal for fixing the Frankenstein's monster of Oregon tax policy?; Why doesn't someone try to fix the campaign finance laws? Well, they have.

For the next few days--for as long as it takes, I'm going to discuss those proposals. Some of them were just marvelous, some surreal. One was even sufficiently strong to make me flip my position on it. I'll put links up on the blog that connect to the issues, where available. I encourage anyone who has an interest in these issues to look into the initiatives and get involved. As Peter DeFazio pointed out, 18% of registered voters cast a ballot for George Bush in 2000. The way we defeat him (and his coterie of necons, both local and national) is by getting involved. There is a lot of good work going on, and they always need more help.

posted by Jeff | 3:25 PM |

Much good news to report on the Engage Oregon conference. I'll post this afternoon with an in-depth report, but there's a thumbnail at "Notes" now.

posted by Jeff | 10:17 AM |

Thursday, November 13, 2003  

A last-minute shout out to anyone who's been sitting on suggestions: now's the time to let me know. I'm headed off to Hood River in three hours. Thanks to those who mentioned ideas and general themes. Even though you were not all approaching them from the same direction, I was seeing some themes emerge: working to build rather than tear down, working toward understanding rather than attacking, finding common ground (which everyone seems to think exists), and trying to encourage transparency in the way we work. Good stuff, and much of what I've been thinking, too.

Sometime Sunday or Monday, expect my report.

posted by Jeff | 12:19 PM |

Wednesday, November 12, 2003  

So Kevin Mannix knows how to fund schools with more dough without raising taxes and repeal the $800 million tax increase from the last legislative session. What's his plan?

There are several options for reforming state government, which can free up revenues for education and other critical services," Mannix wrote. "Many of these options are under review, and I will outline those options in the weeks ahead."

In other words: don't worry about it, just trust me. Mannix wants people to sign the initiative to put the budget cuts on the ballot, but he's not willing to tell them what his solution is.

Remember when he first started the campaign for governor--he rolled out a passel of initiatives that would require big revenue increases. Then, of course, promptly backed off of them when the anti-taxers howled and the Dems cheered. Mannix is good at PR. Not so good at balance sheets.

Needless to say, that ballot measure is a horrible idea, and I hope no one's falling for the "ah, just go ahead and sign it--that way voters can decide!" line. It's all more of the same bad governance we've come to expect from the far right.

posted by Jeff | 12:00 PM |

Monday, November 10, 2003  

If you were to want to communicate one thing to me about making politics work in Oregon, what would it be? As I prepare for the conference later this week, my mind is turning to how we can work toward an Oregon consensus. My sense is that the answer isn't in the issues--whether you're sufficiently anti-tax, say. Somewhere deeper in the hearts of Oregonians there lies the solution. We all came here for a reason, we mostly love it for a reason, and surely we want to preserve it for a reason. How can we all be so far off the page?

Is there anyone reading who's beyond Portland's urban growth boundary who'd like to enlighten me? I feel like I'll be better prepared to confer this weekend if I have my head wrapped around those common-ground elements. Thoughts?

(The query's not limited to those only outside Portland--just a special plea to inventory your thoughts in case you happen to be.)

posted by Jeff | 3:38 PM |

All right, this is an improvement.

posted by Jeff | 3:37 PM |

Friday, November 07, 2003  

There's a conference coming to Hood River next week sponsored by the New Progressive Network (aka the Bus Project). The idea is, I think, to map out a strategy for building progressive coalitions throughout the state for coming years. They apparently have a bit more space and are encouraging folks to come. I'll excerpt something from an email I received today:

Dear friends of Oregon,

We write to invite you to the Engage Oregon Conference next weekend November 13-16. It will be our mutual pleasure to address the assembly at this first ever conference hosted by the Oregon Bus Project and the New Progressive Network at the Hood River Inn (1108 East Marina Way, Hood River, Oregon). We want to commend the efforts of the young people who organized this event. And we hope to see you a good number of you there.

Two reasons make the conference seem particularly timely. First, Oregon is facing a crossroads. We need to restore Oregon's position as incubator of forward-thinking, fair-minded, people-centered public policy.

Second, engaging new people and connecting them to existing leaders is critical to sustaining grassroots efforts over time. Indeed, the organizing of young leaders has been critical to Oregon's progressive heritage.

We who live in Oregon know that it is a special place, and we know that we need to work together so that it will continue to be one. So we urge you to join us, and the other guests who will gather in Hood River, as we work to move Oregon forward.


Congressman Earl Blumenauer & Congressman Peter DeFazio

In the coming week, I'll comment a little bit more on what I expect at this conference. They've dropped the price to $95, and you can get a room at the hotel for $60--a fairly cheap way to get a court-side seat to the political process. Having worked a little bit with the NPN folks, I think I can say that if you do show up, you'll have a voice. We're a year from the election, so this is a great time to get involved. Consider yourself invited.

posted by Jeff | 2:31 PM |

Writing this month in the New Yorker, John McPhee discusses the difficulty in predicting the future.

William Shawn, [the New Yorker's] editor absolute for a great many years, used to tell his nonfiction writers that the world’s worst subject was the future. Hard to tie down, the future could too easily come loose and take off on unexpected vectors. While he did not in any way wish to intrude on a writer’s sovereign franchise to think through ideas that might occur, it would nonetheless, he felt, be best to avoid the future. Reacting to a proposal of mine, he once slightly modified his position, informing me that the future was actually the second-worst subject in the world, the worst being the Loch Ness monster.

Three times McPhee managed to write about developments presumed to happen in the future. Thrice he was wrong, the most recent ocassion being this year, when he wrote about the USGA's plans for the Russian Tea Room. He continues:

Three swings at the future. Three consistent whiffs. Mr. Shawn may have had a point. Mr. Shawn seems to have had such a cogent point that it has set me feverishly to work. Abandoning all unfinished projects set in the near, middle, and deep past, I intend to complete as soon as I can—certainly in this autumn of 2003—a detailed description, in the future definite, of the second Administration of George W. Bush.

And so while he's writing that piece, I'll note another prediction, along with its rather bold pay-off should the predictor happen to be wrong:

"If Dean wins, I will buy an entire keg of good Portland microbrew for you and your buddies, Emma. It will never happen."

--Jack Bogdanski, 6 Nov '03

I'm thinking Wassail.

posted by Jeff | 10:53 AM |

Wednesday, November 05, 2003  

No shocker here, but the PUD got hammered. So the question of "by how much do you need to outspend your opponent to guarantee a win?" is somewhat below sixty times as much. Maybe a mere 42 would have done it.

Winners, of course, claimed that "This is a pretty strong mandate that not only did (voters) not want this little tax, but, more importantly, that they didn't want a PUD." Actually, it was a mandate of only one thing, far as I can tell: the progressive vision of direct democracy through ballot initiatives is officially dead, in case anyone was unclear.

The initiative process, founded by starry-eyed idealists who thought that a truly progressive polity meant a direct one, has become exactly the opposite. The people, who may well be able to get an initiative on the ballot, no longer have any hope of passing legislation that has well-heeled opposition. And just about every progressive, civic initiative will have strong, well-heeled opposition. The only utility the initiative process has now is as a cheap alternative for powerful interests to directly pass legislation without the meddling of pesky legislators. Just create a private group called something Orwellian (as the power companies did when they created "Citizens Against the Government Takeover"), dump millions into it, and voila!--your very own law.

I've long remained ambivilent about the initiative process. It's brought us things that make us unique--Death with Dignity and the Bottle Bill. Those days are, I fear, over. The risk is too high in any case: because of the horrible legislation that does pass even while something like Death with Dignity also passes just isn't worth the price. I'd rather try to get issues like the bottle bill passed by the legislature--and make Lon Mabon do the same with his proto-fascist schemes.

Any chance we can have one more initiative--to amend the Constitution and be done with them?

posted by Jeff | 4:27 PM |

Tuesday, November 04, 2003  

As you all know, I'm a Kucinich supporter. (As is Shawn/Iggi. Fred, himself a Rogue, is a Dean man.) Despite this and the fifty bucks I sent off to him, I know that the odds are long to his election. Thus it is that I'm probably playing a waiting game before joining Fred on the Dean team. And, thus it further is that I find our friend Jack Bogdanski's analysis of said candidate, well, interesting:

"Dean? Great campaign so far, but he's not electable. Let's take the Democratic Party way back over to the left, he says. He's entirely too honest. It's refreshing, but so was Nader. Dean's a Dukakis waiting to happen."

And then in the comments to the post: "In which case it's four more years. Because Dean can't win."

Now, I fancy myself a bit of a pundit. I correctly predicted that the Iraq invasion would be a cosmic debacle, for example. So, just for the fun of it, let me say now that not only do I think Dean has a big lead in the primaries, I think he's got by far the best chance in the general election. To put a fine point on it: here, exactly one year from the election, I predict the Howard Dean will become the 44th President of the United States.

I'd even be willing to put a beer on it, for any takers out there.

posted by Jeff | 4:19 PM |

This is fine, fine news:

A state judge in Salem has upheld as constitutional a voter-approved measure that bans the so-called bounty system of paying signature gatherers.

Donny Mac is, of course, not pleased and may appeal. Actually, I think that's bluster--he can't win and he just didn't want the soundbite to be "Damn you, Oregon Constitution! One day I shall have my revenge. Curses!"

Instead, it's Patty Wentz who has the winning soundbite. It took a long time, but it seems a formidable challenger has emerged to the petition-mad anti-taxers. (Check out their "rogues" page. Nice.)

posted by Jeff | 3:52 PM |

Monday, November 03, 2003  

So what do you make of this Oregonian series about the Nine Oregons?

I like the idea--particularly after the last two legislative sessions, when it seemed like Kitzhaber may have been right about the state being "ungovernable." When I started reading the article yesterday, I mentally bookmarked their divisions for this post--Edutopia?

But having read the first two installments (Portlandia, Southern Oregon) I have a bigger criticism: there's no info here. What did we learn about Portland? It's economy drives the state, a shift from the past, when the extractive industries in the rural districts produced the money, and Portland was a financial center. Southern Oregon? It used to be a logging region, but now the economy's dependent on tourism and hospitals.

I'm minimizing a bit. The articles are long and so there's sure to be a few facts sprinkled in. But what I was excited about was more than just a list of facts about the regions. What are the roots of the political environment? How do these relate to other regions? What can regions do to reach agreement with each other? Oregonians are actually pretty well versed on the facts of their state. What they want is insight.

Having read these articles, I'm still waiting.

posted by Jeff | 6:11 PM |