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


Wednesday, March 31, 2004  

[Gay Marriage]

Multnomah County Public Meetings on Gay Marriage

Tonight
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 4-6pm and 7-9pm
Multnomah Building, First Floor Commissioners Boardroom 100
501 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland

Don't read all about it here tomorrow--I can't go. (Bix will have all the coverage, anyway.)

posted by Jeff | 2:18 PM |
 

[Media]

This guy Ed Schultz is absolutely channeling Rush Limbaugh (I'm talking Air America again). His diction, emphasis, cadence--everything. It's freakin' me out.

posted by Jeff | 12:14 PM |
 

[Portland Mayoral Election]

EXCLUSIVE - The Oregon Blog interview with Portland Mayoral candidate Brad Taylor.

As part of the Oregon Blog's continuing series, today I have a three-part interview with a candidate for Portland mayor, Brad Taylor. Brad's candidacy isn't well publicized, so give this interview a look. If you want to meet him in person, he'll be appearing at these locations over the coming couple weeks:

March 31, 7 p.m.
Southwest Neighborhoods Candidates' Forum
7688 SW Capital Hwy.

April 10, 2:00 p.m. - 11:00 a.m.
S.E. Uplift
3534 S.E. Main

The interview is broken into three parts:

Part One: Background and Priorities
Part Two: Economy
Part Three: Policy and Vision

Enjoy.

posted by Jeff | 9:22 AM |
 

EXCLUSIVE - The Oregon Blog interview with Portland Mayoral candidate Brad Taylor.

Part One: Background and Priorities

Oregon Blog: Most people don't know much about you. Tell them a little about who you are, your background, and why you're qualified to be the mayor of Portland.

Brad Taylor: I am a husband, a father, a friend, a social justice activist, and a professional social worker. My past is a series of diverse and often times complex relationships with other individuals as well with the world around me. For much of my life, I have considered myself a student. I graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Black Studies (in 1998 a major in Black Studies was not an option). I also took many classes from the Women’s Studies Department (at the time neither a minor nor major in Women’s Studies was an option). I have hitchhiked, bussed, drove, and flown across our country several times. I spent 10 weeks traveling alone through SE Asia. I have vended in the parking lots of rodeos, rock concerts and air shows. I spent my formative years growing up in Las Vegas Nv., and I have worked in a Casino. My life’s experience has taught me to be an active and attentive listener, how to accomplish what I set out to do, and how to be flexible enough to adjust to tomorrow’s uncertainty.

I see myself as qualified to lead our city. Presently I am a member of a Mobile Crisis Team that responds to mental health emergencies within Multnomah County. I am responsible for coordinating and conducting the Outreach efforts downtown. I spend half of my time speaking to individuals who sleep outdoors, in shelters and in transitional housing. I also attend city meetings to advocate for individuals who I work with, and to discuss policies and solutions that deal with issues of poverty and homelessness. I am a member of the Portland/Multnomah County ten-year plan to end homelessness, and I co-facilitate the work group that is focusing on Outreach and Engagement.

I possess the communication skills necessary to solicit ideas and information, and I am able to articulate my ideas effectively. Currently I interact with several city departments and bureaus, including the Portland Police Bureau and neighborhood and business groups. I feel that I can identify and express our common ground as well as our points of contention in a productive way.

I have developed a vision for our city, and I am excited to share my optimism.

OB: What are your central priorities for Portland? How will you accomplish them?

BT: Empower Citizens. Enrich our Community. Develop Innovative Solutions.

Most importantly, each individual should be able to meet their basic needs (sitting, sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom) with dignity.

As Mayor, I will empower Portland’s citizens by giving neighborhood associations more responsibilities, resources and support. Each neighborhood association should have a stable time and place to meet. A simple meal and childcare opportunity should be provided to erase the main barriers facing residents who do not presently belong to their neighborhood association. Each neighborhood association should have several community-elected members who have access to a specific government liaison, as this will give weight to the neighbors’ concerns. A police officer or other city representative should attend each meeting.

Getting individuals involved will enrich our community. Ideas for doing this are: offering no-to-low cost (sliding scale) recreational, artistic, and athletic opportunities; designing and developing mixed use/mixed income buildings and neighborhoods; developing a public transportation system that directly competes with cars by being fast, frequent, comfortable and inexpensive; and giving citizen’s access to the governmental process. Additionally, we as a community will be better served in the long term once we establish environmental mindfulness as the norm in our city’s development and maintenance.

Innovative Solutions will emerge once we have diverse, invested voices in the conversation. Personally, I would like to see Portland become the center of the Environmental Development Movement, with groups and individuals coming here to teach, learn, develop, and implement progressive environmental technologies and practices. Additionally, I think we can raise the standard with regards to community policing, conflict resolution, and responsible urban growth and development.

posted by Jeff | 9:18 AM |
 

EXCLUSIVE - The Oregon Blog interview with Portland Mayoral candidate Brad Taylor.

Part Two: Economy

Oregon Blog: Portland has suffered through some long years of a down economy, and a lot of people are anxious about the future. What will you do to get things jump-started?

Brad Taylor: I will implement a City Jobs program that will offer non-traditional employment and schedules that will serve as resume and skill building opportunities. This program will also give individuals the opportunity to earn references that can be used when searching for longer term, more regular employment. This program will be an avenue for individuals to earn their stay in a shelter or transitional housing, as well as help make ends meet through a financial crisis. The work will touch on various skilled labors, as well as more general work.

Additionally, I will encourage and support small businesses. As a rule, I believe that if a business owner lives in Portland, and thus spend their earnings in Portland; they should pay less money in fees and taxes than a business that ships profits out of the community. I will work to develop more ways that the city can support local agriculture, art, and products through community fairs and by utilizing fee waivers. I will advocate for a sliding scale tax and fee collection on small, local businesses for the first two years of operation.

On a larger scale, I will attract stable and responsible industries and companies, both with regards to the environment and to workers. Portland must attract stable, family wage jobs that are not detrimental to our environment.

OB: As times have gotten tough, Portland's most vulnerable citizens have been placed at greater risk. What is your plan to help those who can't make ends meet, who are uninsured, and who may be homeless?

BT: Our city must offer an effective crisis prevention opportunity. As families find themselves choosing between heat and food or hygiene supplies and school supplies, they should have an effective way to solicit support. If support is available at this stage, homelessness may be able to be avoided. Once a person or family becomes homeless, immediate assistance should be offered. Although I agree with the Housing First model, I also will advocate for a First Night of Homelessness model. Currently shelter lists can flow into two or three months. By the time a social worker can offer help, the person is already integrated into a street culture, and thus has a harder time finding work or housing.

The preventative and pro-active ways to address homelessness that I propose are: eliminate legislative language and practices that name a person deviant based on their homeless situation; ensure one’s ability to meet his/her basic needs with dignity; offer short term preventative supports to avoid homelessness; offer meaningful work opportunities; provide the logistical resources to allow a person to better their own situation without the direction of an agency; having agencies available to offer support; ensure access to meaningful drug and alcohol treatment; provide safe and accessible ways for women and children to leave abusive situations; and establish peer mentor programs. These can be housed within a Community Support and Event Center that offers restrooms, showers, access to no to low cost meals, access to medical and mental health providers, and are supported by existing social service agencies. Volunteers will manage many of the responsibilities, with money coming from Grants and Events. The events can range from author’s readings, musical concerts, community theater, and community events. By mixing the events with the support services, a person will not feel stigmatized by entering.

Also, I will help to coordinate a “traveling health fair” composed of volunteers and interns from local hospitals, clinics and schools that will directly serve the under and un-insured residents. This fair can visit a different city quadrant each week, and will provide basic health screening, care and referrals with a focus on preventative measures.

Importantly, as a city there needs to be ample access to affordable housing and living wage jobs. As Mayor I will strongly advocate for these, as well as design financial incentives for developers to include affordable housing and mixed use, pedestrian friendly components of developments.

OB: Oregon is among the national leaders in rates of hunger. What can Portland do to make sure its citizens have enough to eat.

BT: Increase locally grown food. This can be accomplished by maximizing the work of programs such as Community Gardens that work to provide gardens to households, schools and communities. Additionally, by adding a food component to neighborhood association meetings, city meetings, and community events, we as a city will see greater community involvement as well as healthier citizens. As a community, we must ensure that all of our city’s children have access to ample nutritious foods.

We can develop a local version of food assistance by offering low cost access to this locally grown food, as well as to foods donated, to lower income households.

posted by Jeff | 9:14 AM |
 

EXCLUSIVE - The Oregon Blog interview with Portland Mayoral candidate Brad Taylor.

Part Three: Policy and Vision

Oregon Blog: Mark Kroeker left a mostly negative legacy on the Portland police force. What kind of changes would you make?

Brad Taylor: Our officers need more training. As Mayor, I will advocate for: pairing younger officers with more experienced officers while establishing a two-to-a-car norm; increasing bike and walking beat patrols; have officers routinely attend neighborhood association meetings; developing an effective Citizen Review Board that is composed of community members who are trusted both by the citizens and officers and by giving them access to all pertinent police information and by making their recommendations valuable.

Additionally, I would like to develop a Ride-Along program that gives citizens the opportunity meaningfully interact with the PPD.

OB: Although it looks like schools may have somewhat more money than they expected this year, long term, things still look grim. What can you do to help ensure Portland's children are getting a good education?

BT: The number one predictor of student success is the teacher to student ratio. To help ease the burden of teachers, I will develop a way for the city to provide trained, screened, and skilled volunteers to match with schools needs. As a community, we possess talents, skills and passion. By investing these in our children, we are positively affecting our future.

Also I would like to see community gardens at each school, teaching kids how to grow food and eat nutritiously. And each student should have meaningful opportunities to engage in sports, art, recreation, volunteerism, and having and being a mentor.

OB: Vera Katz, despite big ambitions, will leave a number of major initiatives on the table for the next mayor (MARC, MLB baseball, the tram and South Waterfront development). Do you support any of Katz's initiatives? How will you determine which of these are priorities?

BT: I do not support bringing Major League Baseball to Portland. I feel the South Waterfront development must include affordable housing. I am not convinced that city residents support the Tram. I support MARC and would make it a priority as Mayor.

Basically, as Mayor I will establish priorities that reflect the community’s needs and values, while inserting the vision of my platform.

OB: As Portland continues to grow, how will you manage its transportation needs?

BT: Portland requires a holistic transportation plan that allows public transportation to directly compete with automobiles. Not only must public transportation be faster, safer, and less expensive than cars, it must also be more comfortable and convenient. A rider, who expects to be able to sit down, read the paper, and drink a beverage will feel more at ease than a driver of an automobile who is stuck in gridlock traffic will. Additionally, by developing service oriented Park and Rides, a person could, for example: drive three miles to a Park and Ride, take a bus or train into the city, return to the Park and Ride and purchase groceries, rent a video, go to the post office, pick up dry cleaning, and buy a snack all before getting in his/her car for the three mile drive home. The person would have driven six miles, started the car twice, gone to work and still taken care of all of his/her errands. Place affordable housing on top of the service stores and another problem is addressed. Making the building environmentally sustainable as well would be an example of holistic, long-term development.

Importantly, our city must take the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians seriously. Bikeways and walkways should be separated from cars and buses wherever possible to provide safety, allow for faster riding, and making the ride more enjoyable. It is not acceptable to have bike lanes disappear, change into turning lanes, and share space with buses. Bikeways and walkways must be designed with a standard that makes them safe for children and adults.

In Portland, alternative transportation should be the norm.

OB: What kind of city do you hope to leave after your tenure?

BT: One that is governed from the roots up.

OB: What would Portland look like if you are an effective leader?

BT: Portland will be established as a global model of urban development that maximizes environmental and economical sustainable practices.

OB: What else would you like the voters to know about you?

BT: Humor is my guiding emotion. Love is my greatest asset. Questions are my beloved hobby. And Optimism is my gift to my children.

posted by Jeff | 8:54 AM |


Tuesday, March 30, 2004  

[Media]

Tomorrow at 9:00 am, tune your radios to 620 am, where you will hear the first day of (voice of a monster truck announcer) Air Amerrrrrrrrrrrica. I'm skeptical that it'll be worth a damn, but I plan on taking a radio into work tomorrow to give a listen. The cool thing is that Portland is one of just 5 cities actually broadcasting it live (I think it'll be available via the internet, but I don't have a link at present). If anything holds value, it'll probably be Unfiltered, with Chuck D or The Majority Report, with Janeane Garofalo. Marty Kaplan's hour-long show could also be a good idea. Fasten your seat belts.

The lineup, according to Julia at the American Street (not clear whether this is actually an East Coast lineup, or if we pick up the feed after the first show):

Morning Sedition: 6:00-9:00am
This is a fast paced morning show that will entertain and engage audiences with wit and political satire. It will feature the latest news, offering up to-the-minute interviews with newsmakers, analysis and strong opinions.

Co-Host: Marc Maron

Co-host: Sue Ellicott

Co-host: Mark Riley


Unfiltered: 9:00am- 12:00pm [Not on the air in Portland]
Air America’s midmorning program is a showcase for conversation about the political and culture state of the union. Unfiltered introduces listeners to fresh new voices not available in mainstream media.

Co-host: Lizz Winstead

Co-host: Chuck D

Co-host: Rachel Maddow

The O’ Franken Factor: 12:00-3:00pm 9:00-Noon
After debunking right-wing propaganda in his bestselling books Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, Al Franken is taking the fight to America's airwaves--and he's doing it drug-free. With his co-host, veteran radio personality Katherine Lanpher, Franken will deliver three hours a day of fearlessly irreverent commentary, comedy, and interviews. Franken and Lanpher have a mean streak a smile wide. The O'Franken Factor will energize fans, infuriate liars, and deliver the truth--in what Al Franken likes to call the Zero Spin Zone.

Host: Al Franken

Co-host: Katherine Lanpher

Producer: Billy Kimball


The Randi Rhodes Show: 3:00-7:00pm
Randi Rhodes has spent the last 20 years burning up the airwaves in southern Florida with her pointed and provocative brand of talk radio. Combining live interview, call-in and commentary, Randi engages her audience with a passionate presentation.

Host: Randi Rhodes


So What Else is News?: 7:00-8:00pm
Based in Los Angeles, this is a one-hour program showcasing the intersection of politics, media and popular culture. This program will feature analysis and reports from the presidential campaign, as well as a daily reporters’ roundtable on how the news of the day is affected and reflected by the media. Marty will also cover the spinning of the news with a regular segment called "The Corrections." This is also the place to hear the political voice of Hollywood, with celebrity guest interviews from the entertainment industries.

Host: Marty Kaplan


The Majority Report: 8:00pm-11:00pm
This program will introduce new, younger voices and opinions, with live guests from the world of politics, the arts and entertainment.

Host: Janeane Garofalo

Co-host: Sam Seder

posted by Jeff | 6:45 PM |
 

[Blogospherics]

Some interesting doings in the blogohood.

Rob Salzman brings this great news to our attention (hey, you gotta pay for those tax cuts somehow!):

Nearly 2,200 low-income families in Portland and thousands of others around Oregon could lose their federal housing assistance in the next five years under cuts proposed by the Bush Administration, according to new data released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) in Washington, D.C.

Full Article

Next, in a 2000-word opinion, b!X decides to endorse Phil Busse. For careful readers of the Communique, you know this was a tough decision.

In other words, perhaps what Portland needs at this particular moment in its history is someone who can see that the puzzle pieces fit together to form a big picture.

Since b!X's recent fame has far exclipsed our little blog over here, I feel bound by envy to point out that the Oregon Blog gave the Busse campaign its first official media endorsement. (Yeah yeah, that and three bucks will buy you a bad cup of coffee at Starbucks.)

Chuck Curries wishes to recall the Oregonian editors.

Is there any kind of public referendum that could be used to recall the editorial board of The Oregonian? We could start small and just recall David Reinhard. Would anyone really miss him? In his place we could put Darcelle, Portland's famous drag queen. Darcelle is much nicer than Reinhard, more articulate, a better dancer (I'm just guessing on this part), and a lot more compassionate. I'd read Darcelle's column any day.

Finally, I'd like to draw your attention to the new OSPIRG blog. Normally these kinds of things get started because a group thinks--hey, we should start a blog because, well, because everyone else has. And then it immediately begins badly sucking because they haven't clue one what a good blog is. Not so OSPIRG blog, which is updated daily and has interesting, topical content. Check it out.

posted by Jeff | 1:01 PM |


Monday, March 29, 2004  

[State Senate Election]

In what I hope will continue to be a continuing series, below is an interview with Ross Carrroll, a Democratic candidate for District 28 in the Senate. As in the past, I sent Mr. Carroll questions, and he emailed me back the responses. Below is the full, unedited text of the interview. To introduce it, I’ll include here a brief note Mr. Carroll included in his email.

________________________

Jeff and readers of the Oregon Blog:

I'm happy to participate in your dialogue. Thanks for the opportunity to communicate with readers outside of my region.

I should have a Web page up soon. When I do, I'll send you back a note and hope readers will visit. In the meantime, I look forward to talking with you through your Blog and through individual email.

Thanks,

Ross Carroll

posted by Jeff | 11:38 AM |
 

EXCLUSIVE - The Oregon Blog interview with District 28 (Southern Oregon) Senate Candidate Ross Carroll.

Part One

Oregon Blog: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ross Carroll: I'm 56 years old. A little over a year ago I took early retirement from Oregon Institute of technology, where I taught communications for nineteen years. I left because of threats to PERS and because I wanted to do something different. I had no thoughts of becoming involved in politics, but began work to help pass Ballot Measure 30. From there I went on to become Chair of the Klamath County Democratic Central Committee. Then, when no one else had filed for state senate from our district, I decided to become a candidate.

A little personal information: I've been married to my wife for twenty-nine years. I love jazz and have since I was a kid. I play trumpet well enough to fool a few people. I ride motorcycles and have traveled and camped in every corner of Oregon and most of the West. I have a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Management from the University of Oregon. Running for public office is the scariest thing I have ever done voluntarily. It's also the most exciting.

OB: What are you running for?

RC: State senate from district 28, which includes all of Klamath, Lake, and Crook counties and parts of Deschutes and Jackson.

OB: The district you're running for (28) is a large one that includes much of rural Southern Oregon. Besides water issues (which I'll ask about separately) what are the major issues confronting folks there?

RC: Rural Oregon is fighting for its life in many ways. Our biggest problem is jobs. We rely almost entirely on small business, usually closely tied to natural resources and agriculture. We've been hit very hard by the recession. With job losses and dropping revenues, like all of Oregon, we face cuts in government services. Rural schools face special problems when budgets drop.

OB: District 28 had been represented by Steve Harper, who is part of the group of experienced legislators who has decided not to run for re-election. How will a Carroll candidacy differ from a Harper candidacy? What will you offer constituents who have sent Harper to Salem for 8 years?

RC: Steve Harper and I could not be more different. Harper is an anti-government senator known for promising that he would vote for higher taxes "when pigs fly." He was an obstructionist on the senate budget committee who wore out the patience of even his own party members. He is abrasive and seems unable to negotiate or compromise. I do not believe he has an understanding of the vital role of government in areas such as education, public safety, transportation or public health.

In contrast, I see government services as vital to our economic health and quality of life. I know how to negotiate and compromise. I'm most interested in finding solutions, not taking the hard line and making grandstand gestures.

OB: The GOP has fielded three candidates, Jeff Ritter, David Penicook, and Doug Whitsett, so you don't know who you'll be facing. So in general terms, what do you offer that these Republicans won't?

RC: As above, I hope to go to Salem in search of solutions that will work for Oregon. I believe in politics as the art of compromise. My three opponents each represent the hard-line, Kevin Mannix-style anti-government wing of the Republican party. They are already campaigning on platforms that include "no new taxes" and cutting government spending.

OB: In 2002, Kevin Mannix beat Ted Kulongoski by a 3-1 margin in Klamath County. Does a Democrat have a chance?

RC: Yes, a Democrat has a chance. I will have to win-over a good number of Republican voters. I will also have to run a low-budget but effective person-to-person campaign. I entered the race hoping to make the Democratic party a more visible alternative to the usual politics of rural Oregon. I've found that there are many like minded progressives in Eastern Oregon and that even many registered Republicans are tired of the dysfunctional legislature. I hope to be a candidate who can rise above party affiliation and traditional notions of liberal versus conservative. I hope to attract voters who are more interested in practical solutions than inflexible ideologies.

OB: Large portions of the electorate are disconnected from politics, feeling that it is no longer the tool to address their needs. What would you tell them?

RC: Decisions made in local, state, and federal government affect each of us every day. It is discouraging that big money and big media seem to have taken control of our political system, but I find that more and more people are becoming energized to get involved. Here in Klamath County, our Democratic Central Committee meetings have gone from attendance of less that ten people just five months ago to over seventy enthusiastic people at our last meeting. Democrats have also networked with other local and state organizations such as the Klamath Basin Peace Forum and the Rural Organizing Project.

The challenges of effective democracy are different today than in the past, but grassroots activism is still the best way to engage individuals to make a difference. Is Fox News a greater challenge today than Tammany Hall was over a century ago?

posted by Jeff | 11:26 AM |
 

Part Two

EXCLUSIVE - The Oregon Blog interview with District 28 (Southern Oregon) Senate Candidate Ross Carroll.

Oregon Blog: Oregon is confronting some very serious funding shortfalls due to the failure of Measure 30. What solutions will you offer to ensure critical services are funded?

Ross Carroll: The next legislature needs to address ground-up tax reform. The first and easiest step will be a rainy-day fund to provide more stable funding for state programs through our boom-or-bust economic cycles. Beyond that, I consider everything to be on the table. I've found that the Oregon Business Association has been a strong voice for responsible tax reform. The OBA recognizes the link between a healthy state government and a strong business climate. They strongly supported Measure 30 and I believe will be a force for change in the next legislature. Their Website offers provocative ideas.

OB: Are there any services you would consider cutting or departments you would consider reducing funding to?

RC: As with tax reform, everything must be on the table in spending reform. Government efficiency is not something we achieve on Tuesday and then start funding vital programs on Wednesday. Government efficiency must be an ongoing goal. Conservative legislators do us a great service by watching every dollar and insisting on maximum return for our tax investments.

Having said that, I believe many vital government services are underfunded. Schools, public safety, and public health have all been drastically cut since the recession began in 2001. We've lost 750 teachers in Oregon in the last year alone. The State Patrol has dropped from 700 active troopers in the 1980s to 300 today. Abused kids and convicted felons both get lost in the system and go unsupervised because of the impossible caseloads of public employees. Last year, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Oregon last in investment in higher education. We received a F in affordability and access to college.

Despite the complaints about high taxes, in fact Oregon has a low rate of state and local taxes, and studies show that the corresponding low quality of government services is a disincentive to business growth. The Oregon Center for Public Policy concludes that business look at mostly the same factors that individuals look at in deciding to relocate: good schools, safe neighborhoods, good opportunities for arts and recreation, attractive neighborhoods. All of these are provided for the most part by government.

OB: Looking longer-term, how can Oregon fix its revenue woes?

RC: We need ground-up tax reform that is fair, that encourages business investment that stays in Oregon and promotes job growth, and that provides stable funding for vital government services. To achieve that, we need to elect legislators who state that as their goal.

OB: One of the biggest issues for your constituency is the water situation in the Klamath Basin. What is your position on water allocation there?

RC: We live in a desert. Like all of the West, we face the problem of inadequate water supplies to meet all the needs and demands of our region. The water crisis in the Klamath Basin is just the most recent and most visible test of our ability to find solutions to difficult problems.

I don't advocate any one position on water allocation. Rather I advocate general goals and processes for reaching them. Our goals should include early assessments of the amount of water available for a water year. Water use for agriculture should be determined by maximum participation of stakeholders. Agriculture is not only a vital part of our local economy but an essential part of our rural quality of life.

At the same time, our goals must include preserving the natural environment of our region. Environmental quality is also of vital importance to our economy and way of life.

There are already many groups in the Klamath Basin working to find durable solutions to our water problems. They need our support. On the other hand, individuals or groups which take extreme, inflexible positions on any side of the water issue do a disservice to our communities.

OB: No matter what position you take, you'll have an angry group who thinks you're dead wrong. What will you tell them?

RC: "Please don't hurt me!"

I suppose some people will be angry even at the notion of dialogue, negotiation, and maximum involvement of local stakeholders. There are radicals on the water rights side of this issue and radicals on the environmentalists' side. By definition, radicals aren't fond of compromise.

I have to hope, though, that most people in the Basin recognize that we face difficult and complex problems that are best addressed through local dialogue. The Bush administration and Congressman Walden have already taken significant steps to provide economic relief to the Basin. They have also encouraged local processes to find local solutions to our problems. This is a difficult time in our region, but it is also a time of great opportunity.

OB: With an intractable problem like water in the Klamath Basin, it seems like it's a no-win situation. Do you have any plan to begin building bridges on both sides?

RC: As I noted above, there are already many groups and individuals in the Klamath Basin who are actively working to build these bridges. I think the worst thing our next senator could do would be to take a strong stand for one particular solution. No one speaks for all of the agricultural community. No one speaks for all environmentalists. No one speaks for all tribal members. I can only encourage those who are already working to find solutions to continue their vital work.

Sometimes even advocating compromise has resulted in personal threats. Still, I stand with and for those who do the hard work of working together to find solutions.

OB: Most of the people who read this blog live in the Willamette Valley. Why should they care what happens in an election in District 28?

RC: They are going to have to live with the representatives we elect!

Beyond that, Willamette Valley residents should recognize that Oregon doesn't end at Eugene in the south and the Cascade Mountains to the east. We here in rural Oregon share many of the same problems and values as other Oregonians.

Much of what I've talked about above involves working together to find solutions to common problems. The first step in that process means coming to see ourselves as all part of a community, diverse but interconnected. The legislature, in a perfect world, could be the locus of building that sense of community. In an imperfect world, the electoral process provides the forum for talking about these issues.

posted by Jeff | 11:07 AM |


Saturday, March 27, 2004  

[Portland politics]

The Problem with Vera

Two articles in the Oregonian, one yesterday and one today, do a great job of explaining the failures of Vera Katz in process and policy.

Yesterday's article describe how, with just 9-months left in her lame-duck administration, Vera plans to try to complete 15 major initiatives.

Vera Katz, just nine months from retirement as Portland's mayor, won't slash her long list of projects for the remainder of her third term, ignoring critics who say she needs to narrow her agenda....

The list is heavy with big-ticket redevelopment projects, most within walking distance of City Hall. The initiatives range from a business recruitment fund to obtaining public ownership of Ross Island to devising a plan for building affordable housing.

Vera was never short on ideas. From covering over I-405 to bringing streetcars to Portland, Vera always had something big she wanted to try. The trouble is that they seemed more in service of ensuring a legacy for Katz than meeting a larger vision for where the city should be headed. The result is that after 11 years, Vera has a long list of project accomplishments to her record, even while the city feels rudderless. There was nothing in that vision to knit the projects together, to create a harmony of initiatives that changed Portland fundamentally. Instead, we have a lot of cool new toys but no direction. That Vera's plan remains one of trying to complete a laundry list of unrelated big-ticket items, not turning the city around organizationally, is perfectly in line with her style of leadership. If she wished to ensure a clear legacy, she has.

In the second article, Vera is described as "fuming" while watching Nick Fish and Sam Adams debate the direction of the city.

Both candidates, Katz said after the debate, are "bereft of ideas" as they dish up what she termed a government-bashing message to voters....

"I think it hurts the public's trust in government by having candidates who should know better run against government," said Katz, who is retiring when her third term ends in nine months.

Actually, they're not bereft of ideas. Rather, they have the impertinence to disagree with her ideas. This is Vera's biggest failing. One has the sense that policy initiatives are more about Vera than they are about the city. Her history is one of unilateral disregard for public imput, an imperious demeanor, and a contempt of disagreement. She was so thin-skinned that media who were critical of her were frozen out of city hall.

In fact, most folks at one time or another felt the sting of Vera's freeze--witness the way she defended her wildly inappropriate selection of Mark Kroeker as police chief. So here she is at the end of her tenure, and she has few supporters. Citizen blocs from business leaders to peace activists have all been on the wrong side of Vera's wrath. Her "secretive" approach to governance made Portlanders feel left out of the loop. Then, when she was unwilling to back off her poor decisions, they felt further isolated. It's no wonder most of the hopefuls trying to fill her seat are talking about "dialogue" and "conversation."

I suppose it's generally the case that 12 years of one politician leaves an electorate ready for change. Vera has certainly prepared us for it.

posted by Jeff | 10:04 AM |


Friday, March 26, 2004  

I also want to discuss the Oregonian article about Vera Katz's massive agenda for the next nine months, but I'll get to it later today.

posted by Jeff | 10:08 AM |
 

I also received an email from another candidate who's not well known: Brad Taylor. His web site's a bit skimpy, but I've offered to do an interview with him for the site, so stay tuned.

posted by Jeff | 9:56 AM |
 

Quite a bit of Portland mayoral news to mention today--apologies to everyone living and yawning outside the metro area.

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the danger I saw in dismissing "minor" candidates (read: those without massive war chests who the media refuse to cover). In response, candidate Phil Busse wrote:

A few quick responses: First, why should people believe in my candidacy? I think that the campaign has been like a job interview. We have been the most public campaign - that is, we have hosted public events from movie nights to concerts to pie parties. We have invited everyone into our campaign. I think that sort of accessibility is important. It directly addresses concerns that people have expressed about the current mayor and city council.

I think that people need to look at our ideas and proposed projects before they decide whether to believe in my candidacy. We have purposefully been as comprehensive and open as possible with our ideas. I hope that people make an informed choice about the upcoming election. It is going to make a huge difference on the future of Portland. I truly believe that the city has been asleep at the wheel for the past few years. With social issues, with our economy, with our environment, we need to wake up and make some important decisions soon.

The candidates that I have spend the most time with - James Posey, Tom Potter, Jim Francesconi - are all good, stand-up men. I truly like each of them and have enjoyed meeting them. But we each have a very different set of ideas. (Actually, I'm worried about Potter's lack of concrete plans, but an absence of a plan, I suppose, can be a plan.) I really think that voters need to research and continue to pay attention and find the ideas that they feel best represent the direction they would like to see the city go.

Our strategy? Well, right now, we're in Phase Four. Yup. Four. We've been in P-4 for the past two weeks. Phase Three was about pulling together ideas, researching other cities and figuring out what issues are most pressing to the city. Phase Four is about getting our message out (read: marketing). We're at events like our Wedding Party handing out information about our platform on same-sex marriages and the GLBTQ community. We were at the antiwar march last Saturday handing out 3000 fliers on what role we believe city council has in international, moral and ethical considerations. We're on the ground. We're also in theaters now! That's right: Look for our pre-movie slides at Laurelhurst (thanks Laurelhurst) and Cinemagic.

We believe that we have put together good ideas and a solid platform. Now we need to tell more people about us.

posted by Jeff | 9:34 AM |
 

Despite my recent run of very bad predictions, I nevertheless climb back on the horse. Here is how Utah, Denver, and Portland will finish the regular season, according to a detailed statistical analysis I conducted yesterday. (Actually, it was more the "visual inspection" model.)

8*. Utah, 43-39
9. Portland, 42-40
10. Denver 41-41
_______________
*Last playoff spot.

So now that you have my prediction on the books, you know at least one scenario that won't come to pass.

Blazer fans, you're welcome.

posted by Jeff | 9:18 AM |


Thursday, March 25, 2004  

While I've got unions on my mind, check this out:

Bill Sizemore knows that wars can be profitable for wartime profiteers. So the anti-union activist has re-declared war against public employee unions and is asking his former contributors to pay for it.

In a fundraising letter to his Oregon Taxpayers Union mailing list last week, Sizemore wrote: "It is time to stop playing footsy with the public employee unions. We need to recognize that there is no legitimate reason for them to exist, and eliminate them entirely."

Sizemore’s letter asked for contributions to fund a campaign for initiative #116, which would eliminate public employee unions in Oregon. And, in a rambling, five-page rant, he repeats the charge of U.S. Secretary of Education Rodney Paige that the National Education Association (NEA) is a "terrorist organization" and expands that charge to accuse the NEA and its affiliates of "an act of war."

It'd be dark if it weren't so hilariously pathetic.

posted by Jeff | 10:32 AM |
 

I've been meaning to comment on last week's Willamette Week about Portland State University. I have a more-than-average interest in PSU--it's where I work. If you read that article (I'll try to link later--WW's site, as usual, is inaccessible), you probably took away a sense that PSU is in great shape. It read something like those old filmstrips--"University on the move!"--all excitement and shiny future. That may be the case (and landing an $8 million gift last week suggests so), but it obscures a present that's far from healthy.

Let's start with the labor dispute. The WW glossed over what is a pretty hairy fight over pretty hairy issues. (Notwithstanding a correction this week, the graph they used to illustrate faculty pay is a good example. The scale was so large that salaries looked roughly the same for PSU and other universities. An accurate reflection? Read on.) Here are some of the relevant facts:

- Faculty have been without a contract since Aug 31, 2003, and the administration has essentially quit responding to most of the faculty's issues, forcing mediation.
- PSU faculty salaries are in the lowest 10% of doctorate-granting universities, and lower than OSU or OU, despite the cost of living in Portland.
- Faculty have little role in university governance. PSU can violate its own constitution without faculty input; it can hire or fire faculty, department heads, and deans without faculty input; and decisions regarding tenure are made by the administration.

These problems are exacerbated by a university of haves and have-nots. While the article highlighted the hiring coups of the hard sciences, this isn't true in other departments, where salaries are so low they can't compete for the best talent.

PSU is also hampered by a structural problem dating back to when PSU was the runt of the state university system. Fearful that a Portland-based university that offered a full range of graduate offerings would hurt their own enrollment, OSU and OU lobbied the legislature to prevent PSU from offering duplicate Ph.D. programs. So, if you want to pursue a Ph.D. in English or Anthropology there, tough beans. That was a bad decision decades ago, and it's a horrible one now, particularly in light of the fact that only 17% of PSU's funds now come from the state.

So PSU may be a "university on the move." I hope it is--and see signs that it may be. But the WW should have done a better job of pointing out that its present ain't so hot.

posted by Jeff | 8:57 AM |


Wednesday, March 24, 2004  

In the face of the ever-expanding influence of wealth in politics, it seems like elections are a foregone conclusion. It's easy to tell who's going to win--you just look to see who has the most money. That money's great for hit pieces to swing elections in the final days, but it's even more important earlier in the campaign. Dollars raised, far better than any other metric, show the "seriousness" of a candidate. Thus unto the wealthy are bestowed media attention, invites to special interest groups, invites to debates, and of course, more money (useful for those hit pieces in the final days...).

It's not a bad metric, after all. I mean, the only other measure to use involves pesky and complex facts about policy positions. And we know few people have the time or inclination to actually consider policy. (Otherwise, how do you explain the current President?) For those with little money, this is an ugly reality. Because, on the other side of things, the money race further disadvantages the poor. The thing you need to raise money--exposure--is not available to you until you raise money. But you can't raise money unless you get a little exposure.

All is not lost, however, for these rules of finance and elections are actually more like guidelines. You don't have to search your brain much to remember that Howard Dean, the wealthiest Democratic candidate, got his butt whooped in the primaries. And of course, there are the classic example of the upsets. The most recent--and the most relevant--was when Jesse Ventura won a remarkable upset bid in Minnesota. In September of 1998, he was polling at 2.7%. Two months later he won the 3-way election with 37% of the vote. Ross Perot similarly captured the voter's attention in '92, and in the summer was leading Clinton and Bush. Had it not been for his scary paranoia and extremely poor Veep selection, he might well have won the election.

There are a number of good candidates running for offices they have no business thinking they can win. Yet some of these candidates should win--if we count factors like policy positions instead of dollars. One is Phil Busse, who may offer his thoughts on "viability." Another is John Doty, whom I interviewed earlier. Over the course of the coming weeks, I hope to provide visibility for other candidates who have been written off by conventional wisdom. Your task, should you choose to do participate, is to consider voting for these candidates (where applicable). Because the bottom line isn't about dollars, it's about votes. The more we consider all the candidates, the more our votes will mean. And the less, coincidentally, a candidate's bank account will mean.

posted by Jeff | 11:02 AM |


Tuesday, March 23, 2004  

Prime Time Baby!

The other night I was enjoying my new cable television (yes, I know, welcome to the 21st century) when I saw an ad for the Oregon Lottery on Comedy Central...prime time no-less. I recently did some work on a local, commercial insertion program for a (now) bankrupt company so I knew this slot couldn't have come cheap (and not just the time slot -- the commercial itself had to have cost quite a bundle also). So, in the interest of half-hearted journalism, I logged onto Comedy Central's website, commited some minor fraud by impersonating the *ahem* "Lead Marketing Manager" for my company, and sent away for a media kit. Well, I've been waiting over three weeks now for that damn media kit...needless to say, my journalistic integrity is slowly being dissolved by lack of patience.

Sorry folks, I'm from the microwave generation...

So, without number to back it up (I promise they will come when my media kit arrives), I'm going to rant about the cost of running commercials about the lottery while the state is in the middle of a budgetary crisis.

First let's see what the lottery actually funds...the following is from the Oregon Lottery's website:





"What do Oregon's public schools, businesses, workforce, state parks and salmon
all have in common? They all receive Lottery profits to help them prepare
for the future!



Prior to the current biennium (2003-05), all Lottery profits went to helping
fund Oregon's K-12 schools, and to strengthening Oregon's economy. Constitutional
amendments approved by Oregon voters in 1984 and 1995 earmarked Lottery profits
for economic development and public education. In November 1998, 65% of Oregon
voters approved another Constitutional amendment that added parks and salmon
restoration to that list of allowable uses of Lottery proceeds.



Since the Lottery began in 1985, over $3.4 billion in Lottery profits has
gone to public education and economic development programs throughout Oregon.
During that same time, players have won over $8.5 billion in prizes, and almost
$2 billion has been paid to Oregon businesses for services and supplies needed
to operate the Lottery."


All of this is extraordinarily cool. The lottery helps us get funding for programs that normally lack -- schools, salmon, and business all have serious problems in Oregon. Even more so with the current budget crunch and the failure of Measure 30.

The big issue here is how that money is spent: Do Oregonian's really need to be told that they have a lottery and that they can go buy a scratch-off ticket at their local scary-mart? I'm fairly sure that the huge billboards and voluminous signs outside every corner convienance store do a fine job of promoting the state lottery, but, even if they don't, do we need to spend thousands of dollars to have professional marketers do the promotion for us? (Again, I'm flying without numbers here, but those commercials looked hella expensive)

The cost of educating a child in Oregon, per year, is approximately $6,828 [source]. If that commercial cost $10,000 dollars to produce then that's nearly 1.5 children going without an education this year. I know, that doesn't seem like a lot, but I am willing to guarantee that those commercials cost more than $10,000 and that it costs quite a bit more to run them in multiple time slots on prime time Comedy Central. And, there will be more than one commercial made and ran this year if lottery officials stay true to form.

So, rip this apart if you will (I expected as much). Without numbers I'm flying low on the "lame" radar.

If nothing else folks, let's debate it. What do you think? I may be off my rocker...

posted by iggi | 6:25 PM |
 

More Busse campaign news. He now has his platform online. It's 109 STINKIN' PAGES and it's .pdf, but it's online. If you're like me, ain't no way in hell you're gonna read it. (Maybe that was the plan.)

He also has a far more digestable blog up and running. You may excoriate him for verbosity there.

posted by Jeff | 3:49 PM |
 

Thinking Phil, but not sure? I doubt any other candidate will make this promise:

Did you know if you get six or more people together, Phil will join you for coffee to talk about how our campaign--and your ideas--can make our city better. And the coffee? It's on him. Just call HQ, 503-249-0283 (And, you didn't hear this from us, but sometimes Phil will even bake a pie--and we're talking good pie.)

At the very least, you might as well have him come to your house and put up a lawn sign.

Phil wanted to let you all know he is willing to come to your house and put up a lawn sign. All you have to do is email him (phil.busse@meformayor.com)! It's also a good chance to chat him up about the campaign.

And they say candidates no longer make house calls.

(All of this is legit--I'm not making it up.)

posted by Jeff | 3:48 PM |
 

Oh, and while we're on gay marriage (still), on the national front, legislators there have decided to back off earlier language in their own proposal to sew bigotry into the US Constitution.

The revised proposal, like the original, would define marriage as between a man and a woman. But new language, backers said, would specifically allow state legislatures to continue to determine what benefits same-sex couples could get.

And that, dear friends, takes us through the day's gay marriage news.

posted by Jeff | 12:30 PM |
 

While we're on gay marriage, there was a story in today's print edition of the O describing the legislature's plan--or not--to address the issue in a special session. Karen Minnis hasn't decided yet whether to plunge the House into even more violent antipathy. Presumably, she'll be waiting to see how the bigots do on their effort to qualify a measure for the ballot.

(Guess what? I hope she doesn't. A shocking position, I know.)

posted by Jeff | 12:24 PM |
 

This is an interesting decision:

Benton County commissioners reversed themselves Monday and then some, voting in an emergency session to stop issuing marriage licenses to anyone -- even heterosexual couples -- until the Oregon Supreme Court rules on whether gay marriages in Oregon are legal.

Benton County is participating in a complex move orchestrated by AG Hardy Myers to push a challenge to Multnomah County's decision to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Apparently, he didn't want the confusion of a non-participating county in the mix. Still, it's interesting that Benton decided to quit issuing all licenses. They're sticking to their guns--equal treatment for all.

The decision by Benton County was unanimous.

posted by Jeff | 12:18 PM |


Monday, March 22, 2004  

There's a local MoveOn-like organization forming called Onward Oregon. They're still in beta testing of their site, but you can check it out here. At the moment, they're trying to build an email list, so if you feel so inspired, cruise over and sign up.

I'll talk more about the project when they're further along. (I've seen the more complete beta site, and they look like a welcome addition to political activism.)

posted by Jeff | 8:56 AM |


Thursday, March 18, 2004  

Al Sharpton was never a serious candidate for President. He didn't bother to set up a national campaign. Nevertheless, he is an active candidate and he has more delegates than Dennis Kucinich. So why isn't Bill Bradbury putting him on the ballot in Oregon?

If Oregon isn't going to bother to schedule elections early enough for our votes to count, the least the Secretary of State can do is include the names of all active candidates.

posted by Jeff | 9:47 PM |


Wednesday, March 17, 2004  

In case any of you are checking the blog before heading out for a wee dram, here's a tip that ain't no blarney. The Irish Ale recently purchased by Guinness that's made it into some bars around town is spelled Smithwicks. But it's pronounced "Smitticks." At least, that's what the publican told me when I was at the County Cork last week.

posted by Jeff | 6:01 PM |
 

The Rove Gay Marriage-Maneuver

With the news that Benton County has joined Multnomah County in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples--even after Hardy Myers opined that it was in violation of state law--I think we can say things are getting interesting. This is the year of interesting. In December, who would have thought John Kerry would breeze to an easy nomination (secured yesterday in Illinois)? The gay marriage dispute is still early in the first quarter, and I'm not about to predict how it will all play out.

I will observe, however, that Karl Rove's plan to pursue a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was badly misguided. If it was designed to win him Oregon, anyway. The master of strategy didn't understand Oregonians if he thought this would tip the state in the President's direction.

First, he acted too quickly. The potency of the wedge issue is in its immediacy. With 8 months left until the election, this gives Oregonians a long time to consider it. If past "shocking" gay watersheds are any indication, the pattern will lead to acceptance, not outrage. When Ellen Degeneres executed her famous sitcom outing, the din was intense. But within a couple years, Americans outraged by Ellen were happily amused by Will and Grace. Eight months from now, gay marriage is likely to seem a lot more normal to Oregonians than it did a month ago. Altering the US Constitution, however, will still seem a radical and extreme move.

He also didn't anticipate that Oregonians generally don't cotton to federal dictates that trump their own carefully considered decisions. If anything, the Bush amendment proposal will just remind Oregonians that this administration tried to quash the Oregon Health Plan, Death with Dignity, and medical marijuana. Or that, when things got really tough with school funding, the President not only failed to help, but further failed to fund his own mandate of No Child Left Behind.

Finally, Rove misunderstands Oregon "morality." We are not cut from the same Texas cloth that values control and punishment. Rather, we tend to trust each other; we extend each other great freedoms of action and speech. There's a reason gay marriage is regarded by most to be a violation of the Oregon constitution--because it specifically expresses our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law. Rove and Bus were hoping that the response to gay marriage would follow the Texas mode of puritan outrage. It's the kind of issue that clearly divides Texas constituencies. But not so Oregonians. Right and left, conservative and liberal, we all cherish our rights more than our need to control. The wedge may separate all the wrong constituencies here.

posted by Jeff | 12:21 PM |
 

While we're on the topic of gay marriage, I'll post the big news for posterity.

CORVALLIS, OR 2004-03-16 (Oregon Considered) - Benton County has become the second county in Oregon to allow same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses. The three-member board of commissioners made that decision Tuesday after two and a half hours of emotional testimony....

County commissioners also now have four legal opinions from government attorneys: The Multnomah County counsel, the legislative counsel and the state attorney general. Now Benton County Vance Croney has told commissioners that state law clearly does not allow counties to hand out marriage licenses to same sex couples. And unlike the attorney general, he does not predict a court will toss out the law as unconstitutional....

County chair Linda Modrell says from the testimony she heard she's convinced that denying marriage to gay couples is unconstitutional. "I regard marriage as a contract and that the sacrament takes place in whatever religious institution you subscribe to. That and just basic human rights are what led us to go that route."

Commentary later today.

posted by Jeff | 9:10 AM |
 

Congratulations to Bix, whose commentary appeared in yesterday's Portland Tribune. He's been at the center of the gay marriage story, and has provided substantial original content. This was a great reward for all his effort.

Bloggers are moving up!

posted by Jeff | 9:05 AM |


Tuesday, March 16, 2004  

For some reason, the beer companies have once again put me on the press release circuit. (I used to write "The Mash" for Willamette Week.) Last week, even more suprisingly, BridgePort dropped off a sixer of their newest offering, Ropewalk Amber. I figure it's the least I can do to offer them a review. Here goes.

If Ropewalk were a car, it would be a Miata--a stylish if somewhat underpowered little number. It's apparently based on the first recipe the brewery ever made--anyway, that's what Foyston wrote in his column in the A&E (the press release was more interested in its "whimsical packaging"--as if beer drinkers care). It makes sense. After 20 years of beer drinking, Oregon palates have opened up somewhat. We now like our beers big and hoppy. Ropewalk, by comparison, is a mild little pale that would have pushed envelopes in 1984. Now it's just a tasty session. It's slightly sweet, with a mild taste of hops, but no bitterness. You could easily put a couple away in the same time your buddy sipped his IPA; afterward, you'd be no worse for the wear. Brewer Karl Ockert is known for making some of the most authentic English ales in Oregon, and this is a perfect example. If a Londoner took the Max from the airport and stopped off at a pub, he'd wonder if Ropewalk had come on the plane with him.

I assume it's aimed at the Flat Tire (errr, Fat Tire) drinkers. If you're one, give Ropewalk a try--it's a far better product. It has none of the tinny thinness of Fat Tire. A fine session.

Ropewalk Amber
BridgePort Brewing
4.5% ABV

posted by Jeff | 3:36 PM |


Monday, March 15, 2004  

Tre Arrow nabbed.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A fugitive radical environmentalist has been arrested by federal officials on charges of bombing logging trucks in 2001, the FBI announced Monday.

He was apparently detained in BC on an unrelated charge, and when his fingerprints were forwarded to the feds, they realized it was the tre-ster.

posted by Jeff | 4:41 PM |
 

This is pretty cool:

The Democratic Party of Oregon selected three people as candidates to fill a vacancy left by Rep. Deborah Kafoury.The Multnomah County Commission will choose from between JoAnn Bowman, Tom Markgraf and Joe Smith....

Markgraf is a policy analyst for U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. Smith is a retired prosecutor from Pendleton and former chairman of the Oregon Democratic Party.

Joe Smith is also Jefferson Smith's father--and has been working closely with the Bus Project in sort of a big-picture-cum-experience advisory capacity. He helped out on the radio show we did last summer, and I enjoyed his thoughts and perspective. Any of the choices would be strong, but I'm pulling for Joe. Go man go!

posted by Jeff | 8:50 AM |


Friday, March 12, 2004  

Hardy Myers, the Oregon State Attorney General, today gave his non-binding opinion on the question of gay marriage. In very brief, he said Multnomah County's decision clearly violates state marriage law but state marriage law appears to violate the Oregon Constitution. His words:

"We can summarize our conclusions as follows: (1) current Oregon laws prohibit county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; (2) under current law, the legal status of being "married" carries with it legal rights, benefits and obligations; and (3) the Oregon Supreme Court likely would conclude that withholding from the same-sex couples the legal rights, benefits and obligations that--under current law--are automatically granted to married couples of the opposite sex likely violates Article I, section 20 of the Oregon Constitution; but (4) because of the uncertainties about the Article I, Section 20 analysis that the Oregon Supreme Court would bring to bear on the question, it would be unwise to change current state practices until, and unless, a decision by the Supreme Court makes clear what, if any changes are required."

Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution reads:

"No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens."

Hardy Myers has a reputation for clear, objective reading of the law, and he appears to have given such an opinion. Reading it, a couple thoughts come to mind.

As a matter of strategy, granting all Multnomah County citizens the right to marriage licenses will force state law to come into compliance with the Oregon Constitution. I wrote last week that the decision was clearly a political one. Viewed in that light, the decision has obviously fast-tracked civil rights. Myers' opinion doesn't equivocate about whether the law currently affords same-sex couples the right to marry. In just two paragraphs, he provides evidence it does not.

"Although this section does not state expressly that a marriage must consist of a man and a woman, other statutes that provide context for it leave not doubt in this case.... The legislature has not defined 'husband' or 'wife' for purposes of chapter 106, but we see no basis for giving them other than their 'plain, natural and ordinary meaning.'"

What Multnomah County did was Constitutional, not legal. A funny distinction, but there you have it. To remedy the situation they made a political, not legal, decision. In terms of advancing civil rights, I'm prepared to say it was a good one. This issue should be clarified soon.

The second thing Myers makes clear is that while people may have attachment to the word "marriage," in a legal context, it is a specific designation. He makes a distinction between social value and legal value.

"Under current Oregon law, marriage carries with it a number of rights and responsibilities. Those benefits and obligations are automatically available to opposite-sex couples who choose to marry, but they are denied to same-sex couples who are otherwise similarly situated."

For those who wish to amend the Constitution, they'll have to install language that specifically removes rights from those Oregonians. Thanks to Myers' transparent, non-political language, we have a better idea of what's in front of us. Are Oregonians prepared to remove rights? It wouldn't be the first time, but I don't know that the state is itching to repeat past transgressions.

posted by Jeff | 5:09 PM |


Thursday, March 11, 2004  

I bring you news of Peter DeFazio's press conference this afternoon, which I crossposted at the American Street.

The Heretic Speaks

Serendipity smiled today. I was doing some work this week at a state building in NE Portland, and this afternoon, just down the hall, Rep. Peter DeFazio held a press conference about the economy. What luck! Naturally, I sidled over.

The economy is always in the eye of the beholder, but perhaps no more so than right now. John Edwards talked about "two Americas" as a metaphor for winners and losers in the Bush economy. But one could easily use it as a metaphor to describe belief systems--religion versus science.

In the religion corner (we're talking metaphor here, remember), we have the pro-"trade" crowd. Here Trade is God: omnipotent, omniscient, beneficent. We reward Trade by shifting all federal dollars to the producers of wealth (if not goods), the theory being that with a modest investment we will get back vast multiples of dollars--money that will benefit us down to the last Wal-Mart associate. Putting federal dollars toward things like social services is folly--how can it ever multiply like Trade? Furthermore, workers are line items on the expense side of the spreadsheet. They are regarded as obstacles to Trade. Reward them not directly, but through the manifold benefits Trade will bestow later on, when we're all wealthy.

On the science side of things are a shadowy and dangerous cabal who appeal to logic. With their pointy, evil heads, they cast away the Faith of Trade and whisper Newton's heresy about actions and reactions. They argue that the economy is a massive Ponzi scheme that will eventually (some say soon!) implode.

Peter DeFazio is a member of this group.

In the press conference today, he argued that economists have it wrong.

Our current trade deficit, that is the amount of money we are borrowing from overseas to finance the purchase of goods, many of those goods manufactured by formerly U.S.-based corporations that have now seen fit to chase cheap labor and lack of environmental standards and other things overseas, is $1.5 billion a day. Mr. Speaker, $1.5 thousand million a day.

Now, how is that sustainable? That is $1 million per minute of U.S. wealth that is flooding overseas, giving unbelievable leverage to foreign governments over the U.S. dollar.

Just one last point on this, and then I am certain we will get on to other things. What do the economists say? Oh, do not worry, it has always been this way. What will happen is the U.S. dollar will decline, our goods will become cheaper, and then we will begin exporting again. But as I said to a number of these economists, none of whom can answer this question, I said, I understand how that used to work when we made things, but when we do not make things anymore, how does that work? If the dollar gets cheaper, then all of those imported goods we are buying become more expensive. We will see inflation in the United States. We will see the dollar continue to drop. We will see higher interest rates in the United States. We will see the dollar continue to drop.

(That's actually taken from a speech he gave last month; but it's essentially the same.)

But DeFazio didn't stop there. Going back to his treasonist Newtonian logic, he suggested that the current model of rewarding companies who move production overseas actually endangers national security. Boeing, for example, is beginning to strategize about moving production to China. But if the deal follows other trade deals, they'll have to divulge sensitive details to the Chinese. Boeing is, of course, a major US defense contractor. "We're giving the Chinese technology today that they'll use to threaten us in 20 years," he said (roughly--that's a paraphrase).

Of course, this is Trade apostasy. It relies not on the knowledge that Trade is always omnipotent and good, but a twisted notion that somehow what we do today may somehow affect us in the future. And badly.

The press conference was attended by all kinds of media. I saw at least five broadcast cameras trained on the slight, egg-headed congressman. Yet as I write this (three and a half hours later), I see no updates about his speech. Instead, a low-level staffer who worked for DeFazio 11 years ago is getting the news--she's been accused of being an Iraqi spy. Perhaps the media isn't excited about his deviation from the Faith of Trade.

If we're lucky, I bet the local news channels mention he was in town today "criticizing the President about jobs." The Ponzi Scheme will remain safely intact.

posted by Jeff | 3:53 PM |


Wednesday, March 10, 2004  

I remain swamped. As quickly as things are happening, this is a bad week to be unable to blog. Damn life.

posted by Jeff | 7:50 AM |


Tuesday, March 09, 2004  

Civil Unions for All

In the debate about whether the constitution should sanction gay marriage, I haven't heard anyone flip the argument. Namely, what business is it of government to sanction marriage at all? The actual benefits government affords to married couples are secular (and mainly financial). From a civic point of view, the contractural bond has nothing to do with religion or morality.

The complaint against government-sanctioned gay marriage isn't contractural, it's religious. By sizeable margins, most Americans endorse civil unions. The beef isn't really with the rights granted to the civilly-joined--it's that marriage implies a moral or religious endorsement. (Why the complainers don't complain about weddings conducted by justices of the peace isn't as clear, but let's leave that aside for now.)

A modest proposal: government should grant licenses for civil unions. County officials don't ask what will happen under the sheets, they just check to make sure everyone's over 18. Seems that reasonable people can agree that, really, government shouldn't have much more of a role.

The sacrament part of it falls under the purview of religion, and governent can happily keep its nose out. Let the sacrament be judged by those who actually all believe the same general rules--practitioners of religious faiths.

Inheritance is the business of government, theology the business of religion. The two seem to function so much more ably when they don't conflate their purpose or scope.

(Crossposted on Notes on the Atrocities)

posted by Jeff | 7:41 AM |


Sunday, March 07, 2004  

The Bad News

Other fiindings from the Oregonian's poll give me the willies. On the issue of gay marriage, there's this finding: 72% call gay marriage an important issue to resolve this year, "regardless of whether you support or oppose same-sex marriage." Unfortunately, the results don't include breakdowns by group (pro-, anti-, and pro-civil unions). It would be interesting to see if three-quarters of all groups feel it's important. I regard this as bad news because it means so many of the really important financial woes confronting the state are likely to take a back seat. A discussion of taxation and spending, the most critical debate the state needs to have, is less likely to happen in a deeply polarized climate.

Another dodgy stat is this: although Kerry's ahead of Bush by 5% (45%-40%), Ralph Nader is polling at 5% and 11% are undecided. In the absence of a Nader candidacy, that 5% goes to Kerry. Because of Kerry's middle road position on gay marriage, this could become a single-ssue litmus test for voters who now have the Nader out. It is almost certain to drive up his number (however marginally), which could be significant in a close race. The real group to watch are the 11%. (Though I wonder what percent of likely voters is actually undecided. Eleven percent seems awfully high given the stark difference between the candidates.)

Finally, the percent of Oregonians who believe "things are headed in the right direction" is a measly 25%. Not surprising--that's at least one thing we can all agree on. But for a state in such deep trauma, with such little hope for healing and coalition-building, the gay marriage debate comes at a costly time. I waffle on this one--civil rights are always hard to fight for, and I deplore the notion that they should wait on the right political climate. On the other hand ... well, I guess I'm just worried about the damage the fireworks may cause.

Oh, one last thing I think it's important to note. Polls have become increasingly inaccurate. The use of cell phones by a wired and young segment creates a natural self-selection of the population, skewing results. How often in the past 4-8 years have we seen polling data before an election turn out to be totally off the mark? Further, the Oregonian has offered no information about this study's methodology. Based on this report, we don't know anything about the respondents. Although some of the findings are so pointed that they are hard to dismiss (the "importance" and "right direction" questions), I'm leery about putting too much stock in the results.

posted by Jeff | 11:07 AM |
 

The Good News

Despite the screamer headline ("54 percent in Oregon oppose same-sex marriage, poll says"), the Oregonian today reports hopeful findings from a poll on gay marriage. In fact, only 34% are "opposed to any legal recognition of same-sex couples regardless of what form it takes or what it is called." Another third are in favor of gay marriage. The final third "oppose same sex-marriage but support the idea of civil unions between same-sex couples."

In other words, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is likely to be opposed by something on the order of 60% of Oregonians, depending on the scope of the change.

posted by Jeff | 10:49 AM |


Saturday, March 06, 2004  

Multnomah County Gay Marriage Update

It's been an interesting week in Portland, my hometown. As most of you know, the Multnomah County Commissioners made a decision late Tuesday evening that the state constitution did not bar same-sex couples from getting married. Beginning Wednesday morning, they began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Here's what's happened since.

Wednesday, March 3
Multnomah County begins issuing marriage licenses. The immediate reaction is widely varied and intense.

Thursday, March 4
Seperate from the issue of whether gay marriage is a right guaranteed by the Oregon Consititution, a cacophany of critics slam the "process." The Multnomah County commissioners met privately with each other and offered no opportunity for public feedback. They consulted legal advice and determined that they had no legal right to deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. Even one member of the commission wasn't in the loop (though a week before their announcement, it was reported in the news). Afterward, this process is called "star-chamber stuff" by some foes.

Editorial staffs across the state use the process issue to dodge the larger question--and no punches are pulled:

What arrogance. What self-indulgence. What breathtaking gall." The commishes employed a "dictatorial approach."
--Oregonian (Portland)

The implications for the impromptu violation of the democratic process in Oregon has very sinister implications for the rule of law in this State.
--Glendale News (Southern Oregon)

Every once in a while, political reformers try to encourage young people to start voting. The question somebody should ask is: Why? What's the point?On some important issues, as we have seen in Oregon, voting hardly matters.
--Democrat-Herald (Albany)

The Multnomah County commissioners have disgraced the Oregon Constitution and broken their pact with the public.
--Statesman Journal (Salem)

Anti-gay foes (an active political bloc) spring into action and use the process issue to drive support for proposed initiatives that would amend the constitution to ban gay marriage. Meanwhile, hundreds of couples receive marriage licenses from the County. Across the street, anti-gay protesters wave signs like one appearing on yesterday's Portland Tribune: "Can [Will?] you escape the wrath of God - Matthew 23:33"

Friday, May 5
The debate rages on talk shows and blogs. Oregon bloggers, a vast and well-informed lot, see their hit totals spike, and on at least one blog, a city councilman joins the discussion. Other Oregon communities begin to discuss with how they'll grapple with the question of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Today
Now that everyone's settled down a little, it appears that the county commissioners may well win the "process" question after all. In today's Oregonian, two articles give an evenhanded consideration of the legal issues (seemingly refuting their earlier, ill-advised tough talk). From the first:

Multnomah County leaders endured months of public hearings and meetings before they adopted a domestic partner registry for couples, including gays, four years ago....

Because, county leaders say, the registry required a new law, which demands public hearings and action. By contrast, approving same-sex marriage was an administrative decision, an interpretation of current law.

The second article is , a law professor from the University of Oregon. commentary from Robert L. Tsai

Every elected official in Oregon takes an oath to uphold the laws and constitutions of the state and the nation. In fulfilling these obligations, public officials must independently interpret and apply the law every day in cities and counties around the state (the attorney general may offer his opinion but has no power to settle the legal issue). Invariably, there are real differences of legal opinion. Until a court of final resort has resolved the issues, there is room for good-faith disagreement about the scope of state law and requirements of the constitution.

Some time next week, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers will issue his opinion on the commissioners' decision. One lawsuit has already been filed to stop the county from issuing further licenses, and more may follow. Expect the next stage of the battle to be legal. Meanwhile, anti-gay activists are chomping at the bit to start collecting signatures for their ballot measure. I'll keep you updated on the happenings.

(Cross-posted on Notes on the Atrocities)

posted by Jeff | 11:11 AM |


Friday, March 05, 2004  

Two themes are clearly emerging in the gay marriage debate: the issue and the process. They're not always clearly distinguished in discussions, however. As Bix points out, discussing whether the Mult Co commishes botched the process is a lot less controversial than discussing gay marriage. He's right; they are different issues. On the other hand, they're not separate issues.

The Multco commishes are elected politicians. What they do is political, and to remove the politics from the equation isn't quite right. Gay marriage might be an issue of civil rights, but the decision to grant licenses was a political one. When they made that decision, the commissioners lit a political fuse, and the explosion may be unpredictable.

One example. Even before this decision, anti-marriage backers were working to qualify a measure for the ballot to prevent gays from marrying in Oregon. Based on some commentary from OPB's political analyst Bill Lunch, it sounds like qualifying the measure is going to be hard work. The timeline to get 100,000 signatures by July is extremely short. Originally, the groups trying to put the measures on the ballot were responding to the President's call for a similar US Constitutional amendment. So the political context of the initiative effort was that a fringe group of conservatives was responding to a non-issue Bush had manufactured to get traction in the election. I believe Oregonians wouldn't have been predisposed toward the measure. But now, as the rest of the state watches the Mult Co battle, the reality of gay marriage isn't hypothetical. When those same petitioners ask for signatures, they're likely to be preceived as more moderate and rational than they would have without the Multnomah decision.

An example from the other side. If Multnomah County had not made this decision, it is likely that the courts wouldn't have been compelled to address it anytime soon. The initiative would likely have failed and the issue would have gone through a drawn-out process. Radical social change tends to happen when those without rights demand them. Without the impetus such a decision provides, who knows when gay Oregonians would have had the opportunity to marry. Subsequent legal issues of inheritance, taxation, and parenting (among many others) wouldn't get challenged in court and gays would continue to float in legal limbo.

Either scenario could play out, and we're not going to know whether the commissioners' decision was a good one strategically.

I have some reservations. On the other hand (I believe that's the third of this post), I drove past the County building this morning and saw the line snake around the block. If you've formed an opinion about gay marriage without visiting the courthouse (and you live near Portland), I think you need to go down there. Public policy is often an extremely dry, abstract subject. Water rights--what fun! But the people standing in the rain down there this morning weren't abstract. They were just ordinary citizens going to a municipal office for a document available to almost every American. And it's a document that doesn't affect anyone but the two people to whom it's issued.

There's something profoundly sobering about these facts when you see your fellow citizens standing in the rain. I know there are people across the street waving signs that say "Can [Will?] you escape the wrath of God - Matthew 23:33" (as seen on the front page of today's Portland Tribune). But leaving zealots aside, I bet most Oregonians would feel real warmth and generosity and wish the smiling, wet faces a happy wedding. Through that lens, it's hard to fault the commishes.

posted by Jeff | 12:55 PM |


Thursday, March 04, 2004  

And then there's this, which the Multco commishes may not have anticipated (unless, I guess, they'd thought about it).

Marriage licenses for same-sex couples aren't available in Douglas County. And they won't be even if Attorney General Hardy Myers decides that gay marriages are legal in Oregon, Douglas County Commissioner Dan Van Slyke said this morning.

The county is prepared to defy any order from the state mandating the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples, said Van Slyke, speaking as chairman of the three-member Board of Commissioners.

| link |

Whoops.

posted by Jeff | 4:25 PM |
 

Reactions to the Multnomah County decision from around the state were not kind. Some hard thinking needs to be done about the process and its effect statewide. (Read through these--they're interesting.)

Glendale (Josephine Douglas County)

Rule Of Law Meaningless In Multnomah County, Oregon. Governor Kulongoski Shrugs His Shoulders

As if Oregon's image wasn't already tarnished sufficiently by its self-induced economic disaster and its paralyzed legislative process. Now, democratic process in Oregon has been deliberately violated by four of five county commissioners in Oregon's most populous city, and the Governor made no effort to defend democracy in this State.

If the democratic process can be ignored by Multnomah County commissioners and remain unenforced by the Governor of the State of Oregon...democracy is not safe here. The implications for the impromptu violation of the democratic process in Oregon has very sinister implications for the rule of law in this State.

Albany

Every once in a while, political reformers try to encourage young people to start voting. The question somebody should ask is: Why? What's the point?

On some important issues, as we have seen in Oregon, voting hardly matters. Sometimes that's because the voters didn't follow the proper procedure, as when initiatives are struck down after the fact. Other times it's when judges decide that laws mean the opposite of what they say.

Eugene

But the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners is not the Supreme Court. It does not have the power to overturn statutes that it believes conflict with the Constitution. On the basis of its lawyer's opinion, the commissioners have decided to adopt a novel marriage policy, one that is not found in any of Oregon's other 35 counties. If all counties claimed the right to interpret the Constitution for themselves, Oregon would have a patchwork of conflicting laws dealing with everything from abortion to forest practices.

Such overstepping will lead to overdrawn counter-reactions, including President Bush's proposal for an anti-gay-marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution and proposed Oregon ballot measures to limit gay rights. Multnomah County officials would have been well-advised to let the question of gay marriage work its way through the Legislature and the courts, leading to a resolution that is consistent, statewide and publicly supported.

Salem

The Multnomah County commissioners have disgraced the Oregon Constitution and broken their pact with the public.

They did this not by approving gay marriages — history may prove them right on that count — but by secretly scheming. The majority of commissioners went behind the backs of the public and of their colleague. They disregarded a central tenet of law and society: The end doesn’t justify the means.

posted by Jeff | 3:59 PM |
 

Based on a survey of Oregon blogs this morning, it looks like we have broad agreement that Multnomah County did the right thing in granting marriage licenses to gay couples. (Blarg, Short Pier, Blue Hell, Illusionaire, Muse, Jack, Pablo, Chuck, Pac Views, and, of course, Bix, to name a few.)

A different question, not much addressed, is this: did the county do it in the right way? I am not excited about calling the enterprise into question, but if the Josephine County Commissioners had used the same process and outlawed gay marriage, I think I'd be a little upset. The Oregonian eviscerated the commissioners today. ("What arrogance. What self-indulgence. What breathtaking gall." It went on to call the process a "dictatorial approach.") But epithets aside, the editors make a strong case:

Had the county acted carefully, strategically -- and, oh by the way, democratically -- fence-sitters in Multnomah County might have been persuaded by hearings and testimony that the county's action was reasonable. Instead, the board lived up to every surreptitious stereotype that right-wing conspiracy theorists have about gay-rights activists, infiltrating the mainstream, working their will.

I assume we're going to hear more about this story as time goes on, and some of it will mitigate the worst of these charges. But even if it does, the old dictum about ends justifying means applies to everyone. Without decrying the decision, a separate discussion about process seems in order.

[Update: here's an interesting photo I discovered of the Multnomah County Commissioners. I can't imagine it will make people regard them more charitably (full disclosure: I went to college with Serena Cruz, and think, all things considered, that she's the bees knees).]



[Update #2: In my survey, I missed the persistent Ben Henick, who yesterday wrote: "from where I sit, the lack of a public discussion prior to the MCC's decision smacks of activism on their part." There you have it.]

posted by Jeff | 10:13 AM |
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