Friday, June 30, 2006

Working Families Party is Born in Oregon!

This has been news since Tuesday, and so far I've only seen the Statesman Journal cover it (although I certainly could have missed other citations). The Secretary of State has officially placed the Working Families Party onto the ballot in Oregon, allowing them to nominate and seek to elect candidates in general elections:
The Party’s now-official status was earned with the submission of more than 19,000 signatures of Oregon registered voters to the Secretary of State’s office through a signature drive led by ACORN, a community organization, and a number of labor unions. The Party will now be able to nominate candidates for statewide and legislative offices beginning with this year’s general election.

Sponsors of the Oregon Working Families Party say that it will focus on a short list of “pocketbook” issues that affect the family budgets of all Oregonians, including affordable health care, family wage jobs, better schools, wider access to community colleges, universities and job training programs, and secure retirement benefits for working Oregonians and their family members.

Those issues will determine which candidates the Working Families Party chooses to support in upcoming elections.
If you're not familiar with the grandfather of US WFPs, in New York state, you may be thinking, "Big deal. Another fringe party with no shot of winning, offering only the chance to spoil someone else's candidacy by siphoning votes." But establishing the party is only step one. For 2007, Oregon's WFP will concentrate on convincing the electorate to also bless "fusion voting," an innovative way to both support good mainstream candidates, and still have the voices and interests of the smaller parties heard and heeded. In a nutshell, fusion voting allows a party to "nominate" the candidate of another party, placing it on a separate ballot line in addition to the original entry by the mainstream party.

What's the point of this? Suppose that there had been a WFP in Florida 2000, and while they truly felt Ralph Nader was the best candidate, they didn't want to hand George Bush a victory by not voting for Al Gore. On the other hand, they were wary of pledging their support for Gore, only to have that support (and the party's concerns) forgotten after the election. Fusion voting kills both birds with the same vote: a hypothetical Florida WFP could have endorsed Gore, and then--after Gore had been sworn in on January 20th--they could have pointed definitively to the number of WFP votes that put him over the top and said, "Now--what will you do for US?"

In a state with a high number of independents and a vibrant spectrum of voter philosophies, an idea like fusion voting is a natural. Wanna make Ted mindful of the demands from erstwhile Sorenson and Hill voters? Wanna keep Ron Saxton in line by reminding him about the Starrett-heads? Fusion does the trick--and does it without throwing the election into fractional chaos.

The great thing about Oregon's WFP is that they are almost entirely a kitchen-table party. No God, guns or gays--just real issues that impact every Oregonian. No wonder they made the ballot:
Tim Nesbitt, a member of the Steering Committee of the Working Families Party, notes that a statewide poll conducted earlier this year by Grove Insight found that a whopping 72% of Oregon voters say they find the Working Families Party appealing.

“Our issues have broad appeal,” says Nesbitt, “and the major parties would be wise to work with us to solve the problems that are squeezing family budgets.”

The O cyphers on Smith once again

I realize that I've been kind of bitchy to the O lately. But I simply can't understand why the paper of record in this state is so inept at reporting on Gordon Smith.

Jeff Alworth notes on Blue Oregon that Smith was seen cozying up to some lobbyists by hosting a ski trip in Utah.

But did he find the story in the O?


It was in the Chicago Sun Times.

How is it that a newspaper in Illinois is able to keep track of our Republican senator, but our own friggin paper can't manage to do it?

How Hopeless

I'm beginning to regard Bojack's blog (and I have to regard it in some fashion; it scrolls down our sidebar much of the day, just like our stuff) as the bizarro world version of Blue Oregon. First of all, they're both based in the Portland area, and both draw about 2,500 hits a day if memory serves.* And while I enjoy reading BO often and going there and participating in discussion, it's true that sometimes it becomes a self-congratulatory exercise in philosophical superiority, interrupted by pointless, narrow carping on process issues.

At Bogdanski's it's sort of a reverse jutitsu, self-congratulatory exercise in philosophical impotence. From Jack on down to his legion of self-assured commenters, almost every person participating is positive that things are an unalloyed mess in all offices at all levels of government, and we're getting scammed to boot. It's actually a little like the progressive response to the Bush administration, to be honest. What analysis there once was at Bojack to back up and inform on those complaints, however, has lately been subsumed by hack broadsides high on forced comedic touch and low on informational value--Nojack. To wit, in response to a proposal by Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard to mandate biofuel mixing in Portland gas:
Think big! You mark my words, municipal socialized medicine is next. You and Erik should get your heads together -- let's try a hostile takeover of Pfizer! Ban Wal-Mart! We're so-o-o-o-o-o-o "progressive"! Hey, so Jubitz may go out of business -- we don't care! We'll have Joe Weston put a condo tower there!

When it comes to making it difficult to run any business other than ugly real estate development, the City of Roses is truly world-class. Cutting-edge. I'm all for saving the earth, but right now Portland needs to give the whole Oligarchy Alteration Thing a timeout for a bit, while there are still a few taxpaying businesses left.
What the hell? The part that's most offensive to truth is the crack about Jubitz, when The O article made a point of indicating Leonard's willingess to talk flexibility for guys like Jubitz. But look at the text in general--it's a jumble of wild-eyed scare predictions (aaaggh, health care for more people! Kill it!), snarky putdowns, and outright untruths. And in jumps the commenter chorus, dittoing righteously as stewards of good government and watchdogs of waste. Bog even dittos himself, speculating wildly based on an unrelated part of the law that Portland has no jurisdiction to set gas component controls. Give half a man with half a brain half the law book, and you're dangerous by half.

Personally, I'm not sure a simple mandate for biofuel mixing in Portland gas IS a very well thought out position. I like Randy, and he usually does his homework, so I'm willing to listen (although if doing what needs doing for Jubitz to keep the peace means volume seller exemptions, it kinda takes away the whole point of cutting usage if the biggest sellers don't have to use the mix.)

But that's really the way to go about it, isn't it? Healthy skepticism, courteous questions? Hey, it's fun throwing your opinion around and telling everyone you know so much better how to run things--despite never having run for anything of consequence yourself. (Correct me if necessary.) But Bog's bloviations are neither informative nor, in the end, entertaining.

I've shaken the mayor's hand once, but I don't know him. I do have some sort of relationship with the other four commissioners, Saltzman the least (although I said hi when I saw him at Wednesday Farmer's Market, and he said hi back). They are approachable people, and do in fact respond to emails and reasonable blog posts. Randy cut Bog an enormous break by even consenting to give him the time of day after the way he'd been written up, much less going into the den and defending his position calmly and with assertions of fact. Why Bogdanski deserved that much respect for his slashing attack, I do not know. What a shame that politicians running a major American city are willing to engage citizens honestly, and then they just become the subject of cheap shots and ad hominem when they try.

*Don't quote me.

Don McIntire sends sig gatherers to my house to lie to me

Last evening while I'm out on my back deck grilling up some truely delicious steaks and corn on the cob, a young woman knocks at my door wanting to speak with me.

She's carrying a clipboard with petition sheets. She's also rather pretty and dressed casually--just revealing enough to not be slutty.

The young woman then asks me if I'd be willing to sign her petitions to create term limits in Oregon and to create a rainy day fund.

Rainy day fund?

She assures me that in fact the one petition creates a rainy day fund in Oregon so that when the state budget becomes too tight--this new initiative will create a fund for the legislature to use.

I asked to see the petition.

Sure enough, she's carrying the TABOR petition.

I asked her where she learned that this initiative would create a rainy day fund. She tells me that its from Don McIntire and its on his website if I'd like to check it out.

I assured her that I'd seen it and that I'd read the text of the initiative in its entirety. I also explained to her that McIntire had been forced to tell the Oregonian that his initiative doesn't create a rainy day fund. He's been lying to her..and getting her to lie for him in order to get signatures.

Or as we've stated here at LO: Don McIntire is a lying asshole.

Her sig gathering partner then joined us and we essentially had the same conversation.

I asked them if they live in Oregon. They affirmed this to be the case. I asked them to please go home and read the text of the initiative and look for the words "rainy day fund". I assured them they wouldn't find it.

And then I gave them information I have here at my house on TABOR and its effect on state budgets.

I doubt anything I've done here changed much. Those two are just a couple of folks trying to earn some money.

McIntire is manipulating them and the initiative system to lie to Oregonians. They're just pawns in his game.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wayne Scott: It's MY 4th of July, Beyotches!--DEQ Update!

Interesting Rogue of the Week entry for WWeek yesterday:
In the 2003 Legislature, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 667-A, a seemingly innocuous bill dealing with nonagricultural operations on land zoned for exclusive farm use.

The bill included an amendment from Scott that lets his aerial fireworks company, which puts on Fourth of July shows at venues such as the Blues Festival on the Willamette and Oaks Park, operate regularly on farmland instead of needing to get temporary-use permits each year from local authorities. Typical fireworks operations on farmland that require permits include storing fireworks as well as testing, shipping or directly selling them.

But the bill applied only to aerial fireworks companies in continuous operation on land zoned for exclusive farm use since Dec. 31, 1986. And Western was the only business that met that standard, according to at least two legislators who voted for SB667-A, Sen. Gary George (R-McMinnville) and Rep. Gary Hansen (D-Portland).

Nick Smith, a spokesman for the House Majority Leader office, says the bill was written to ensure that Western would be able to continue operating in Scott's Clackamas County district but adds, "Rep. Scott has never used his public office to promote his business or potentially disadvantage his competitors."
Let me translate Mr. Smith: "Yes, he did write the amendment to help his company, but he's never done anything to promote his business or disadvantage his competitors--like, say, writing an amendment that helps only his company, thus disadvantaging his competitors."

As far as the (non self-serving) idea behind the amendment goes, I think it's fine. If you have a business where you store fireworks, and the best place to store fireworks is on open farmland, it's not convenient to have to keep applying for permits to use the land every year. Perhaps if the use of the land for storage is temporary--ie, that given the nature of the fireworks business there are no fireworks on the land year round--the best way to express the law would be to favor those companies who maintain a relatively permanent presence on the location in which they store the fireworks.

But Scott isn't addressing the difference between temporary use and permanent use. His amendment picks a timeline for relief from the law that is worse than arbitrary--it's designed specifically to allow him relief, but none of his competition. Here's the law as it ended up being amended. Scan through the other list of uses that are allowable on "marginal lands." The vast majority of exemptions have no conditions on them at all. Of those that do, it's fairly easy to see what they're designed to do: comport with changes effective on July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year; establish substantial business need (by setting a threshhold for business sales relevant to the exemption); or to indicate local need (such as making sure that a greyhound kennel is likely to service a greyhound track somewhere nearby).

The difference in Scott's amendment is that the bar is set so that only he can meet it. While setting (for instance) a threshhold of $20,000 in recent annual farm income will mean some potential users won't qualify for the exemption, the threshhold is theoretically obtainable by anyone. And if the exemption is only for permanent landholders engaged in a consistently operational business, it's possible for fly by night companies to establish their bonafides on the land and qualify as well. But it is literally impossible to go back and occupy the land 20 years ago.

What Scott is doing here is what I'd call reverse grandfathering. When a new rule is set, it's often customary to "grandfather" in those people or businesses who had already existed and behaved under the old rules. It wouldn't make sense to tell a 19 year old who'd been drinking booze under rules letting him drink at 18 that'd he'd have to stop and wait two more years because the age was moved to 21, or to hold back students enrolled under one set of graduation requirements because those requirements have changed. Grandfathering implementation of a new rule is eminently defensible. With his bill, however, Scott has taken businesses who MIGHT have been eligible to qualify for an exemption, and forever removed that possibility.

So next week, as you watch a Western Fireworks display somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, enjoy the colors and noises--but don't be blinded by the craven attempt to make sure WF displays are the only ones you see.

Update, 4pm--
Mike Caudle, running against Scott in HD 39, saw the WWeek article as well--and is making a campaign issue of it. Smart move.

Update, 11pm--
It looks like WWeek has misdirected its coverage of this story some, and thus our own reporting. I confirmed with Western Fireworks that Wayne Scott was indeed the President (and that Shelley Visser, a complaining commenter in the WWeek online version of the story, is an owner). That part checked out.

In information from RINO WATCH and my own subsequent research, the Willy seems to have misstated the company given the special break--it's not Western Fireworks Inc., but Western Display Fireworks LLC who got the exemption. Wayne Scott is not in fact the president of that company. There is no documentation to accompany RINO'S other allegations of fact, but they claim that there's no financial connection between the two companies. It's unclear what, if any, financial interest Scott has in WDF in addition to his status with WF. WF websites do link to WDF and refer to it as "our sister company," so there is filial association at minimum. And clearly, while Scott's amendment does a major favor to his sister, and crushes suitors for his sister's business in the bargain, Willy Week may need to bump this one down from graft to intense cronyism.

A final, somewhat tangential notation: while Google-trolling, I came across a DEQ violators report from August 2002, about a year before WDF got its special break. Guess who's on it for "Illegal treatment and disposal of reactive hazardous waste (display fireworks)?" Way to punish the wrongdoers--give them a monopoly!

Statesman Journal offers up some kick ass reporting

In some what of a contrast to my previous post, here's a great bit of journalism from Statesman Journal writer Steve Law:

Sponsors of Measure 26, a 2002 reform that required paying signature-gatherers by the hour, turned up the heat on backers of nine initiatives that they allege are illegally paying petitioners by the signature. Measure 26 sponsors publicly identified the eight campaigns targeted in an elections complaint they filed Friday, with a ninth one added Tuesday, and urged heavy fines for initiative sponsors who violate the law.

Measure 26 won't be upheld "until chief petitioners are held accountable," said Tim Nesbitt, a former labor leader and a co-petitioner of the 2002 reform.

Excellent work. Factually correct, well written and concise.

While Law didn't write about checking in on signature gatherers, he doesn't allow run away inscinuations of political retribution muddy up his piece. In fact, he nails Bill Sizemore (a target rich individual if there ever was one) by quoting him:

That could mean criminal sanctions or several-thousand-dollar fines against prominent initiative activists, such as Bill Sizemore, or even his mother, whom he enlisted as a passive co-petitioner on his initiative to bar insurers from using credit ratings to set policy-holder rates. Sizemore welcomed the effort to pursue heavy fines or criminal sanctions for paying petitioners by the signature.

"I think that's exactly what our side needs to have that prohibition declared unconstitutional," Sizemore said.

This makes it sound like Sizemore may be deliberately attempting to thwart state law. He's obviously thumbing his nose at it. Perhaps this will get the SOS' attention and move Sizemore's initiatives to the top of the scrutiny list.

(h/t: Kari Chisholm)

The Oregonian shovels BS our way--and it stinks

I read through yesterday's Oregon writeup on the M26 petioners press conference and wondered if the writer and I had been to the same event.

The piece starts out badly and goes downhill in a hurry:

Our Oregon, a largely union-backed coalition of liberal groups, held a news conference in Portland to unveil the details of complaints it has filed against the sponsors of nine petitions. The group accused the sponsors of violating Measure 26, the 2002 state constitutional amendment that outlawed the practice of paying signature gatherers based on the number of signatures they obtain.

"The integrity of our initiative process is being threatened," said Tim Nesbitt, a former president of the Oregon AFL-CIO and one of the sponsors of Measure 26.

The press conference was held by the chief petioners of Measure 26. That was made clear by those who spoke and by the press kit each attendee received. Those same people are the ones that filed the complaints with the Secretary of State. Our Oregon facilitated the press conference--that was their role in its entirety, according to Tim Nesbitt (who I spoke with yesterday to clarify on this).

Is it too much to ask for the newspaper of record in this state to get the basic facts of a major news story correct?

The story isn't a complete mess. There are some tidbits that manage to be accurate:

Last week, John Lindback, director of the Elections Division in Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's office, warned the sponsors of initiative petitions to comply with Measure 26 and told them that they could be held responsible for the actions of their signature gatherers. He criticized Arno Political Consultants, a California company that is gathering signatures for several conservative-backed initiatives.

On Tuesday, Lindback released a letter from Steven Churchwell, a lawyer for Arno, who said the firm was discontinuing a bonus system that Lindback had questioned and would revise a portion of its employee handbook that Lindback had said could easily be interpreted as a pay-by-the-signature scheme.

Our Oregon's complaints probably will have little or no effect on the November ballot. Lindback said the investigation is likely to stretch beyond Nov. 7.

3 whole paragraphs with only one major fuckup! Woo-hoo!

The last paragraph should read "The Measure 26 chief petitioner's complaints probably will have..." Other than that, its excellent. The individuals using Arno--the entity that seems to be causing the greatest share of this dustup have been warned by the SOS. So claiming ignorance on this isn't going to fly.

Another bright spot:

In the four years since Measure 26 was approved by voters, one civil penalty has been imposed for violations. There are also potential criminal penalties for violations that have never been invoked. But Lindback said there are no provisions in Oregon law to remove a qualified initiative from the ballot regardless of the methods used to get it on the ballot.

This is an important point. There is very little in the way of punitive motivation for petitioners to follow this law. If they pay their workers by the signature--they can be fined. But as long as the signatures are valid they're still counted toward making it on the ballot.

The Oregonian piece then rolls down an inexplicable hill of disaster by capturing quotes from petitioners whose initiatives are a part of the complaint. As if getting a quote from Tim Trickey, who is under investigation with the SOS for possible nefarious conduct with signature gathering is an authoritative person from which to gather quotes. But nowhere is there any "on the street" investigation of the signature gatherers to determine if the complaints may have any validity.

How hard is it to schlep down to the Multnomah County Library or Pioneer Square to check on the signature gatherers? Jeez.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Portland Transit Mall Reroute Now Final

After surveys, public comment, and a fair bit of hoo-hah over which businesses will have their business destroyed by the move, and which streets will become utterly impassable during the reconstruction of the Portland Transit Mall, TriMet has developed its "final" plan. Wanna see it? (Hint--click on the graphic to view it bigger, then click it AGAIN to zoom in even more).

The upshot is that 85% of the regular traffic will simply be shifted from 5th and 6th to 3rd and 4th. Some things will be different--there will be fewer stops, not all stops will have shelters, and some loading zones will be moved--but they claim all stops will be accessible to the disabled, and the number of buses serving the public on those routes will not change. Any comment? Too bad! Too late!

I don't think anyone relishes the change, but they have to go SOMEWHERE, and this option was deemed better than sending some lines to 10th and 11th. Clearly, Naito Parkway and 2nd Avenue will become the preferred routes for cars on the east side of Downtown at rush hour, so here's hoping the redo of Naito is done by the end of the year...

Gordon Smith, Ignoregonian

Clearly, Gordon Smith has decided that if he's in for a penny he's in for a pound, and is casting his lot with lockstep vote after lockstep vote on a host of largely symbolic bills designed to motivate conservative voters by their failure. (Yes, it sounds a little bizarre to me too, but that's their plan.) He bit on the shiny apple of gaybashing in supporting a constitutional discrimination amendment, and did the double dip of stay the course votes for Iraq. Remember, Smith used to claim he was pro-gay. And he hasn't been in step with the majority of the state on Iraq since forever.

There's also the very non-symbolic rejection of the fair minimum wage bill last week, opting instead for a series of business tax cuts that upped the wage to a level below inflation...and a dollar below Oregon's very popular minimum. And even that failed, because there weren't enough other bonehead Republicans to try to pass that off as a minimum wage hike.

The latest indignity to actual pressing needs is his Yea vote on the consitutional flag burning amendment. Now, the conservatives will say it merely gives Congress the power to decide how the flag shall be treated, in a marvelously stilted argument that supposes Congress' power to decide about the flag shall include things like passing unconstitutional laws related to it. They wish to place rules regarding the flag in a Constitutional vacuum--since it's already been decided that burning is a protected act.

Does anyone really believe that Oregonians were hungry for another (failed) attempt to keep a dozen twits per year from burning a flag? More pointedly, does Gordon Smith believe it? Does he have any idea or recall about the things he promised Oregonians (like "I'll protect choice" and "I respect the gays")? Is he the least bit sensitive to the overwhelming concern in Oregon that we are pushing failed policy mindlessly forward? Has he foregone any pretense of moderation that is so crucial to his continued employment with the Senate?

Oh, and here's the latest smart vote: against net neutrality. Considering the huge funding he gets from the telecom industry I can't say I'm surprised, but as a representative of the Silicon Forest that's a stupid, stupid vote. Think Google feels good about moving into The Dalles, with Gordon Smith fighting against them? Is it sensible to take on Microsoft in the Pacific Northwest (especially when they dropped $26,000 into your hopper this cycle)? Is that good for Oregonians?

But hey--he (along with Wyden) did get us enough pork to keep deepening the Columbia for transport. Hooray!

Why is this man being given a virtual free pass by major state media? Just because he's not up for re-election for two more years, it's your collective job to keep reminding us of his votes on each of these bills, ridiculously symbolic or not. Do it, please.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Westlund signatures update: Blaszak a go-go!

Following the big press conference today, I took a few minutes to introduce myself to Democracy Resources big cheese Ted Blaszak.

He was flatteringly nice to LO and says he reads us. So he can't be all bad, eh?

I asked Blaszak about Democracy Resources signature gathering efforts for Indy Goob Candidate Ben Westlund. We've been tracking Westlund's progess on signatures to get on the ballot. Its looked to us like he was having trouble gathering the necessary number in time.

Blaszak assured me that this wasn't the case. He stated that most of their workers are out with ballot initiative petitions. Once the deadline for initiative petitions passes, Blaszak assured me their whole staff would be moved to the Westlund petition. He indicated that they'd have the required signatures in "about a week".

He also said that those of us who are hand wringing over this probably don't know much about how the signature gathering thing works.

So I guess its time for me to sit my ignorant ass down and watch the thing unfold.

Update: (5:45PM)Just watched my Ti-Vo'd Melica Johnson version of the press conference on KATU. It was a very good story. My only complaint was that she didn't get the Meek angle completely correct. The way the clip plays, it looks like Meek is saying that the M26 petitioners are against his ballot initiatives. Meek is talking about Our Oregon when he makes those allegations. But in the end that may end up making Meek look nuttier--because there isn't evidence that the M26 petitioners give a rip about Meek's stuff one way or the other. Will update on Donahue at KOIN when I view it.

A dilemma of mediawhore "morality"

The freak show that is the Fred Phelps picketing entourage is planning to descend on Oregon to defile the memorial service for PFC Thomas Tucker who was killed in Iraq.

According to Basic Rights Oregon, the Phelps Freakshow will likely be kept far away from the proceedings:

This message comes from a dear friend of Basic Rights Oregon, Becky Groves, President, PFLAG Central Oregon:

As some of you know from the news reports, the Westboro Baptist Church ran by Fred Phelps ( and his family is planning to demonstrate at the Memorial Service for my cousin, Pvt. Thomas Tucker who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in Iraq last week. If you know anything about this church, they have been picketing gays' funerals and AIDS victims' funerals for many years. Now their target is military funerals. It saddens me that my family must endure their hateful protests at a time that is excruciatingly painful for Tommy's parents and his sister. Fortunately, the Patriot Guard ( has been following the Phelps clan around to military funerals and blocking their view from the family. They will also be in attendance at Saturday's 1:00 PM Memorial Service at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds Expo Center. I am deeply grateful for what they have been doing.

I was unaware of the Patriot Guard Riders until I read this. Their mission statement says it all:

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us.

We don’t care what you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a "hawk" or a "dove". It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is. You don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect.

Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives.

1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.

2. Shield the mourning family and friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.

What a fantastic group of individuals. They have opportunites for folks to donate to them at their website. A worthy cause indeed.

This is one of those situations where I really struggle with how the media should handle this event. Showing up to disrupt a funeral like this is newsworthy and people need to know about this vomitous asshole and his clan. But on the flip side, that's what these people crave: media attention. They want to be seen and heard. I hate to see them get what they want out of their nefarious action.

Update:(5:22PM) Looks like the Phelps Freakshow will attempt to disrupt a second funeral for a soldier in Clackamas, too.

If hell exists, there's a special place set aside for assholes like Fred Phelps.

M26 petitioners go after alleged initiative petition violaters

[Update:For some unknown reason, the black hole that is Blogger won't publish the hyperlink correctly for the website representing initiatives 8 & 37. Please visit to view that site.]

The chief petitioners behind Oregon's Measure 26 law (which bans paying petition signature gatherers by the signature) held a press conference this morning. The conference was held to call for the Oregon Secretary of State's Office to investigate evidence of Measure 26 violations by nine of the currently circulating initiatives. The two petitioners that held the conference were Ellen Lowe and Tim Nesbitt. Both spoke at the conference.

Ted Blazack of Democracy Resources stood alongside Nesbitt and Lowe as a circulator of Measure 26 when it was an initiative.

Nesbitt says that they aren't interested in shutting down the initiative drives. He says the Secretary of State should conduct "timely investigations" and levy the requisite penalties of $100 per signature for those sheets gathered in violation of M26.

The allegations of wrongdoing are being made against:

Initiative #6: TABOR

Initiative #8 and #37: Campaign Finance

Initiative #14: Tax Reduction

Initiative #23: Insurance companies using credit ratings

Initiative #24: Judicial elections by geography

Initiative #39: Term limits

Initiative #57: Emminent domain

Marijuana law change: Citizens for a Safer Portland

Some of the initiatives are using Arno Political Consulting, whose employee manual states that they give pay incentives if larger numbers of signatures are gathered. Arno is working with initiatives 6, 39, 14, 23 and 24.

The complaints against all the intiatives by the M26 petitioners in fact appear to have their genesis in the bonus structure set up by the various signature gathering companies and the subcontractors they use. Information provided by Lowe and Nesbitt include testimony by signature gatherers themselves:

Sig. gatherer: Like, for the rest of his employees I think he is paying by signatures but he says it was approved by the state. He's got it if you get this many signatures a week you get paid this hourly rate. If you get this many a week, you get this hourly wage.

And its that immediate week. So if you came in with 200 signatures, he would pay you X amount per hour for hour for that week.

According to this testimony, the more signatures a person brings in, the more they are paid. Similar testimonials are provided throughout the press kit provided by the M26 petitioners.

Among those attending the press conference was attorney and activist Dan Meek. Meek is one of the main backers of Initiatives 8 and 37 having to do with campaign finance reform. Meek spoke up after the press conference to Koin News'Mike Donahue, saying he thinks the allegations against his particular effort are baseless. And in typical Meek style, made sure he got his statements on camera. I'll be checking in this evening to see if Meek made it into Donahue's report on channel six.

I recorded Meek telling Mike Donahue that the reason for the claims is Our Oregon's stance against his initiatives (The press conference was held in the Our Oregon offices). I was informed however that Our Oregon just lent the space and wasn't directly involved in the press conference. Meek further alleged that Our Oregon was "politically opposed" to every one of the initiatives on the alleged violations list. (I'll be curious if Donahue uses that quote and does the requisite research) However Our Oregon isn't opposing the marijuana intiative. In fact I can find nothing about it at all on their site.

Further, the only intiatives that Our Oregon seems to be actively working against are #6 and #14. Some of the others get small mentions on the website, but don't look to have any concerted focus by Our Oregon against them.

Meek says that they're using a company called Petitioning.Net(which has a really horribly managed URL...note it when you click on it). I'm still trying to reach someone from that organization to discuss their pay practices.

It would appear that even if the Secretary of State's office does investigate these violations, there is very incentive even with punitive enforcement to follow the law. The fines can add up, certainly. But given the money schemes and access many of these initiative backers have--its unlikely to be much of a deterrant. Nesbitt says that the Secretary of State won't say that he'll toss out valid signatures even if they're gathered illegally.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Oregon State Wins National Baseball Championship!

Joyous congratulations to the OSU Beaver baseball team, which completed an amazing season of heart and grit by defeating the UNC Tar Heels in Game 3 of the College World Series Final, 3-2 (2-1). Going 6-0 in elimination games, the Beavers pulled off one of the more amazing feats in college sports: winning the CWS from the loser's bracket.

In a perfect example of the mental and physical tenacity that spread throughout the OSU dugout during the postseason, "closer" Kevin Gunderson came in with one out and two on in the UNC 9th--having pitched a career high 5 2/3 innings on 78 pitches the night before--and went groundount/flyout to save the game and the title.

If there's one small regret in their triumph, it's that it came as a gift in the form of a muffed throw by the Tar Heels second baseman, allowing the winning run to score in the Beaver half of the 8th. I feel for the kid who surely feels like he cost his team a title, and UNC played extremely well throughout the tournament and would have deserved the victory.

But for all the stress and pressure they had to endure to get there, you gotta give the Beavers the benefit of something breaking their way. They did the job when it needed to be done, and there's no reason the Beavers couldn't have won without benefit of the error. So best to the Heels, but major congratulations to the boys from Corvallis. If you want to see them and congratulate them in person, you can mass up at Pioneer Square Portland at noon, 3pm at Parker Plaza in Corvallis. There was good support for the Lady Pilots when they won the soccer championship, but I bet the city's living room will be packed to the gills to welcome the rounders home.

Way to go, guys. Way to go.

Update, 1AM--
As you might expect, the Gazette Times has some of the best reporting on the reaction and the story behind the truly inspiring Beavers run. OSU sports may have changed forever. Two good pieces by Cliff Kirkpatrick: adescription of the heart and determination of the entire team and coaching staff; and one with a more game-score approach.

Breaking: Update on Westlund signature count

In comments to this post, press liason Stacey Dycus informs us that the Westlund campaign is currently at 6,793 signatures.

That's 1248 signatures since the June 19th reporting.

Given the problems that Democracy Resources is having holding on to petition signature staff, will they get enough in time for the deadline?

BREAKING: M26 Authors File Illegalities Claim on 8 Petitions

In a 10:45am press conference tomorrow at the offices of Our Oregon (1125 SE Madison, Suite 210), the chief petitioners of Measure 26, along with the head of signature gathering organization Democracy Resources will present what they claim is evidence of violations of M26:
In the heat of the signature-gathering season, the streets of Oregon have seen widespread fraud, including systemic violations of the ban on payment per signature by at least eight initiative campaigns.

The sponsors of Measure 26 - the 2002 ballot measure that banned payment per signature - have filed an expansive election law complaint in response to a request last week from Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Included in the evidence are statements from signature gatherers for several campaigns stating that they are getting paid per signature in violation of the law.

Ted Blaszak, owner of Democracy Resources, will join the Measure 26 sponsors. Blasak’s company pays legally and by the hour. Because he follows the rules he is losing workers and cannot compete in the unfair environment created by lack of enforcement.

“We hope that there will be a swift and aggressive investigation of this complaint,” says Ellen Lowe, a Measure 26 sponsor. “And we call on all chief petitioners to stand up and be accountable for violations of Measure 26.”

Under state election laws, the chief petitioners are responsible for violations of state election laws. Under Measure 26, the chief petitioners could be fined $100 per petition sheet collected illegally.
Having established a bit of a relationship with Chris Iverson, the Chief Petitioner for one of the targeted petitions (on effectively decriminalizing marijuana enforcement in Portland), I immediately asked him for comment. [Disclaimer: I have volunteered to help collect signatures for this petition, since I believe in it. I've put in maybe 2 hours, and gotten six signatures.] Iverson appeared unconcerned, based his statement regarding the matter:
We do not pay by signature. We have a complicated formula that pays by validity, territory AND number of signatures. As a matter of fact we lose lots of money every week because we have to pay people who don't turn in any signatures and still charge us for hours.

I have done nothing wrong and expect to be fully cleared of any 'charges' against me.
Note that Iverson admits that the number of signatures IS a factor in how gatherers are paid; he is relying on the premise that because it's not the ONLY factor, he's in the clear. However, going back to the KATU story we reported on last week, at least one gatherer is claiming that they are being paid bonuses specifically on the signature count:
"It's 10 dollars an hour, but if I get more than 10 signatures an hour, say I get 26 signatures, I get 26 dollars an hour," [gatherer "Shalisa"] said. In addition, if she gathers 250 signatures in the next three weeks she'll receive a bonus of $225.

"They just really want the signatures," she said.
While Iverson doesn't believe he's done anything wrong, he believes that DR owner Blaszak is just upset with him:
Blaszak is pissed because he treats his people like shit and they all want to come work with us. We also pay a little more then them and our initiative is the easiest one to get people to sign. Plus all the people that work on our campaign are totally into what we are doing. Blaszak has many 'mercenaries' who will work on any issue as long as it pays enough. This is why he is filing the complaint.
This press conference could turn out to be pretty damned interesting--which is why Carla will be there, and give you a full report when it's over.

Westlund part 3: Mistakes, flip-flops and energy exuberance.

[This is the third of a three part series based on my interview with goobernatorial candidate Ben Westlund. Part one is here. Part two is here.]

The Westlund campaign has certainly worked hard to reach out to the progressive community in Oregon. Westlund has a reputation for pissing off Republicans both in his home region and with the GOP legislative leaders in Salem. That reputation is earned I think in part by his stances on taxes and revenue generation for the state budget. My investigation of Westlund's record indicates that Westlund has generally scorned the deep budget cuts brought on by conservatives.

That record certainly plays well with beleagured Oregon progressives who've watched in horror as school budgets and state services/programs fall under the legislative ax.

A closer look at other parts of Westlund's record make things a lot murkier.

Certainly Westlund's positions on Measure 36 vs. SB1000 don't entirely add up. Westlund carefully characterizes support for 36 as a "mistake".

Unfortunately, that's not the only mistake.

Westlund also characterizes his previous opposition to Payday Loan regulation as a "mistake". To use the anti-Kerry vernacular: Westlund was against Payday Loan regulation before he was for it:

Westlund:That first vote was a mistake. During a session we're drinking out of a firehose. It doesn't mean I wasn't aware of the issue and I'm not trying to hide behind that. But we were working on a couple of other big things.

Dycus: It didn't really hit our radar.

Westlund: We working on things including trying to create renewable/sustainable energy programs and keep the biodiesel program alive.

The issue of energy security is one where Westlund says he'd really like to sink his teeth. Watching him talk about it in fact made me think that perhaps Ben if we could (literally) plug into Ben's excitement on this topic--we could light the Willamette Valley:

I am thrilled. I am excited. I can't tell you how much of an opportunity I think this is for Oregon. This IS Oregon. For every reason This is jobs. This is enviornment. This is energy independence. For every buck worth of gas we put into our tank we send what...97-93 cents out of state?

This is just nuts when you have a huge potential in Oregon. We're ideally situated geographically in terms of wind,solar, geothermal, biomass, biodiesel and even wave technology. There's a big time scientific institute--can't think of the name--did a study on the west coast and Oregon is ideally suited for wave (energy) technology.

The stuff OSU has got going is incredible!

That exclamation point is no exaggeration. Westlund truely exudes a child-like excitement when discussing the possibilities of Oregon and renewable energy technology.

On other areas of a more politically social nature, Westlund characterizes himself as having a prochoice position on abortion. As we've discussed here before, Westlund's rather cagey responses via press liason Stacey Dycus have pushed many strongly prochoice Oregonians to glance askew at Ben. Westlund's support of three antichoice bills in the Senate have given many pause. And the couching of Westlund's support hasn't especially thrown a strong light on where Westlund truly stands.

Would a Governor Westlund support Oregonians continued access to full abortion services? Based on his record, it doesn't look good. And since the Senator hasn't come forward to answer these questions himself--its tough to say for sure.

Finally, I asked Westlund to offer up the political case for how he wins the Governorship (skipping the platitudes, please). Here's what he came up with:

First of all this is not without precedent. Its happened multiple times before in the last 10-12 years. In states where all these conditions are present, independent candidates have won 4 of the last 7 (or if we count Angus King 5 out of the last 8) independent bids for gubernatiorial office.

Two of the conditions are constant in Oregon: One, you have to have a high voter turnout. Two, you have to have a high percent of independent registered voters. The fastest growing segment of the Oregon electorate is independent. We're now like second or third highest independent registration in the country.

Then you have to have a strong climate for change, right track/ wrong track. As you can well imagine Oregon's numbers are some of the highest wrong track numbers ever. Then you have to have poor choices presented to the voters coming out of the major primaries. I know that a Ted supporter or a Ron supporter would challenge this contention. But its my contention that those are poor choices for the voters.

Then you have to have a strong, centrist candidate.

When you have all 5 of those conditions in place then independent candidates for governor have won 4 out of the last 7 or 5 out of the last 8, depending upon how you want to slice it.

As of May 5, 48 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans answered, "wrong track" on a poll asking that right track/wrong track question.

And to keep our readership updated: Westlund's effort to get on the ballot is currently sitting at 5,545.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Spanning the State--fry an egg on the sidewalk edition

Summer has arrived in Oregon with a vengeance. Temperatures are expected to hit the high 90s in the Portland area and the Gorge. Things should be a little cooler in Central Oregon and the mountain regions.

The decision to spend huge sums of cash to effect the political process is causing a rift in the Grand Rhonde tribe. This extremely well done O piece goes into the problems between some tribal elders and the current elected leadership. One tribal elder is quoted as saying,"I couldn't care less if that casino burned down tonight". Its a fascinating peek into the clash between money and cultural values.

The Bend Bulletin has a nice tribute to PFC Tom Tucker who was killed while serving in the Army in Iraq. Tucker's death has angered and saddened many Oregonians to the core. But its also brought the war home to us in a way that other soldier's deaths haven't.

We're often told how state government is wasteful and should cut the budget. But rarely is anyone who makes these claims able to point to a budget line item and declare how much cash should be spent instead--or that it should be cut entirely. However those of us who say the budget has been cut too far can point to areas of state government and offer up specific examples.

Columnist Mike Green of the Ashland Daily Tidings paints the scary scenario of what would happen if Bush refuses to step down after the 2008 elections. It actually seems plausible after reading Green's piece. Ugh.

Apparently due to the ability of more folks to get into wooded, isolated areas, attacks on Forest Service workers are way up. And the Forest Service continues to undergo budget cuts, allowing them fewer workers. Another example of inappropriate budget cutting.

There are some really cool ideas to make Jackson County Fairgrounds in Medford into a concert venue and community gathering place.

Brookings-Harbor School District closed its doors this week due to a budget shortfall. All school facilities were closed and employees weren't paid.

A resident of Joseph won the June 21 Megabucks drawing of $8.8 million.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

NW Republican, Demonizing the Process

I know Carla took a well deserved swipe at NW Republican earlier today, but I'd already been working on a story that's developed over the last couple days regarding the end-games on Oregon petitions, and--surprise--NWR is part of the noise on this one as well.

'Coyote' has been on a smear campaign against unionism as of late, calling them out for such "thuggish" behavior as reporting potentially illegal signature gathering on several of the anti-tax crowd's initiatives. He's taking special aim at Patty Wenz, Director of Our Oregon, which is indeed taking an active role in monitoring the business of signature gathering, fraught as it has been in the past wtih fraud and money laundering--not coincidentally, perpetrated by the same anti-tax folks. (He then veers off into an incoherent ramble about William Jefferson in Louisiana and Dean Logan in Washington; what they have to do with unions I can't fathom--and don't get us started on the ridiculously disproven claims you make about the WA goobernor's election, Coyote, because we will BURY you on it).

Part two of the Persecution Complex Special Report came on Thursday: now Coyote is accusing the Portland Police of being in on the crackdown against them:
Last night, a twelve person door-to-door canvassing crew working on five initiative petitions was sent home by the Portland police, because the circulators were not wearing name badges. The circulators were about one hour into a six-hour shift when several Portland police officers began rounding them up and forcing them to stop circulating or be arrested.
The officers were entirely without legal authority for shutting down the signature drives for not wearing name badges.
Well, that's mighty serious, I thought. Why would they do such a thing? Coyote goes on to mention a Supreme Court ruling against requiring badges, which is odd considering Oregon doesn't even have a law requiring them. Naturally, I wanted to find out what PPB had to say.

I contacted Detective Paul Dolbey, the bureau's public information officer, and asked him if he had any information on the claim. He noted that I was the second person to ask him that, and that the report supposedly came from Alameda in the Northeast Precinct. Dolbey was unable to find record of a dispatch matching any reasonable description of the described events, but promised to continue looking and get back to me.

The absence of a report doesn't mean it didn't happen, of course. The officer could have declined to file one. It might have been an off-duty cop who flashed a badge and did indeed try to intimidate the canvassers. Or it might not have been a cop at all. Coyote doesn't seem to entertain that idea, referring specifically to Portland Police. So where's the evidence?

The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes (who I assume was the first person to ask Det. Dolbey about Coyote's claim) covers the issue in The O's Political blog, reaching essentially the same conclusion: there's no substantiation for the claim. And I'll ask again--what the heck does this have to do with unions, or Patty Wentz? Even John Slevin, who was apparently leading the "waylaid" canvassing crew, admitted to Mapes that he had no evidence of any organized effort against them.

In a somewhat related story, an Our Oregon press release was reported at Blue Oregon and The Merc yesterday, wondering why a group of people carrying large yellow signs was patrolling downtown Portland yesterday. On my way back from the City Club Friday Forum, I saw them as well (but didn't get a chance to blog on it until it had already been broken), and wondered who was backing them. The signs feature a pair of glasses and the phrase "read BEFORE you sign." I actually figured they WERE the result of Our Oregon, since I believe in the process of signee education for petitions where deception is the basis for getting signatures.

Nope--turns out that, depending who you ask, backing is coming from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and/or the Portland Business Alliance. Why? Apparently out of the broad belief that the net effect of petitions being on the ballot is that it hurts business. Given what's being suggested for placement now I'm not sure how they end up with that perspective, but regardless, once again it has nothing to do with unions.

So, Coyote. Can I ask? What ARE you going on about?

Of course teacher's unions support the sex trade. Duh.

I suppose it would be really easy for me to write stuff on this blog accusing people of shit while providing no evidentiary links or demonstrate that I've done the appropriate research--but then that would be lazy, dishonest and diminish my credibility.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes that so seriously.

Over at NW Republican, Coyote accuses the Vancouver Education Association of denying a teacher's request to send her fair share dues to a charity that is trying to eradicate the child sex trade.

The obvious inference is that the Vancouver Education Association supports the child sex trade.

The noninference is that the VEA didn't allow the contribution because the founder of the charity is a Republican.

Both of these accusations are very serious.

The author of the piece provides three hyperlinks within the body of the post. None of them provide any evidence to support the accusations. Further, nothing within the body of the post tells the reader how the author came to this knowledge or how the reader can verify the accusations.

I recognize that the groupies of NW Republican are anti-union. That's more than obvious. But they shouldn't have to make stuff up to prove their point. Or at the very least, they should provide evidence to back up their accusations.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bus Project Partying, Brading-ing This Weekend

It's a big weekend for the Bus Project and BusPAC, the groups that toss young people onto a biodiesel bus and descend on an unsuspecting community with a mass canvass for progressive candidates. This weekend is one of the biggies--"License to Drive" will actually not use the bus, as folks drive themselves to east Multnomah in support of Rob Brading for District 49. Brading, as many know, is seeking to upend Speaker Karen Minnis and spearhead the effort to retake the House from the Republicans. I'm hitching a ride and heading up that way to help out; I'll let you know how it goes.

That's the service work. The payoff event is DRIVE, a fundraising gala to close down Machineworks in the Pearl. It's pretty cheap if you're a student, reasonable for a charity event even if you're not. The Retrofits, who I was unduly harsh on for their pre-performance at Candidates Gone Wild, will be part of the entertainment. (Honestly, I loved their actual participation in the event, carrying the show musically along.) The last couple years have purportedly been some fairly packed and happening shindigs, so check that all out if the mood strikes.

There's also a longer term, more mundane but crucial project going on at tBP. Willy Week reports web-only on the 1,000th new young registrant signed up by Building Votes, another Project affiliate. The idea is to use "block captains" to register their immediate neighbors, particularly in areas with secure access. As with most everything else the focus is on getting young people interested in politics--getting them hooked so they become lifelong public citizens. There is so much disincentive to be involved right now, it's imperative not to lose hope and create a generation of truly jaded and jaundiced non-voters. Bus Project succeeds by making politics both real and relevant, and empowering to people still trying to find their niche and voice in society. The programs remind me for some reason of the chorus from the REM song These Days:
Fly to carry each his burden
We are young despite the years we are concern
We are hope despite the times
All of the sudden, these days
Happy throngs, take this joy wherever, wherever you go
But you don't have to be young to participate. As I said, I'll be there Saturday, and there are plenty of opportunities to be only marginally put upon for work, but with great impact. Do yourself and everyone a favor, and think seriously about getting personally involved in the 2006 elections. If you think things suck as they are, you have to work for change.

Ready....get set...broil.

Record breaking temperatures are on the way in the next few days.

I thought about shucking off responsibility for the day and head to the beach--but there's too much going on here.

But we may try to make it out to the new Tillamook Forest Center. Some tall trees and groomed trails might make the heat more bearable.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Beavers Make College World Series Finals

Congrats to Oregon State, who did the unlikely in advancing to the championship of the College World Series from the loser's bracket. The opening game loss to Miami put OSU in a win-or-else situation for four straight games, and boy did they come through. On consecutive days, the Beavers not only beat the top ranked team for much of the season (Rice), they shut them out...both times. No team has pitched consecutive shutouts in the CWS since 1992, a huge feat when you consider the use of aluminum bats that push up scores in the college game.

Number two starter Jonah Nickerson was dominant tonight (the ESPN guys said he pitched "a whale of a game," yuk yuk), but the team owes its position to the two unknowns who went deep into their 2nd and 3rd elimination games, saving the bullpen and giving the OSU bats a chance to win the game.

The Beavers now take on undefeated North Carolina in a best of three series starting Saturday in Omaha, NE. The Tar Heels will undoubtedly be favored, since they are well rested and haven't lost a game--but if there is mojo afoot in Omaha, it definitely rests with the team in black and orange. Good luck, guys! You've already done your state proud; now bring home the first ever baseball title for Oregon.

Pushing OR to See the Light, From Those Who Can't

It's been a very difficult year and a half for Sherry Rhoades, one of the teachers exposed to high intensity UV radiation from a broken metal halide bulb, at a conference in a Lake Oswego elementary school gym. The pain is constant, and the sensitivity to light strong. On Tuesday, the women--backed by Tualatin state Senator Richard Devlin--regathered in the same Bryant gym to tell their stories and urge the state to become serious about the dangers of the commonly used lights among governments, particularly schools.

What are metal halide lights? Here's a good description:
In striving for adequate lighting levels with cost-efficiency, many industrial and storage facilities have found high intensity discharge (HID) lighting to be advantageous. Most new manufacturing and storage buildings use this type of lighting, and many older buildings are being retrofitted with these types of fixtures and lamps.

HID lamps have a gas-filled quartz or ceramic arc tube, surrounded by an outer glass envelope or bulb. Light is emitted when an electrical current is applied between two tungsten electrodes inside the arc tube. The flow of current across the electrodes creates an arc which vaporizes the metallic contents inside the arc tube, raising the temperature and pressure inside the tube, with visible light emitted.

Lamps or bulbs of this type include mercury vapor, sodium vapor (both low & high pressure), and more recently metal halide...metal halide lamps produce a color that most people find acceptable for interior lighting, at close to the efficiency of mercury or sodium vapor bulbs.
Note the references to energy efficiency and new retrofits of old fixtures. Indeed, it's been considered green in Oregon--by advocates and executives alike--to switch over to HID lamps, particularly metal halide. They burn with a broad, bright light that makes them perfect for large indoor spaces, like gyms.

But what isn't often discussed about them is their potential danger:
While metal halide lamps solve a color balance problem, they are a potential ignition problem. The pressure inside the arc tube may reach 70 to 90 psi, and temperatures near 2000 F, both significantly above the temperature & pressure of sodium or mercury vapor lamps. Failure of the quartz or ceramic tube can permit hot fragments to fall. If the fixture does not have something to catch these hot fragments, they can be expected to land on combustible materials, with an ignition likely to occur. If employees are working directly beneath one of these fixtures at the time a violent failure occurs, the falling hot fragments could cause a burn injury.{emph mine}

Lamp failure can occur spontaneously, particularly as the bulb ages, or it could occur from the fixture or lamp being struck by an object such as a lift truck moving stock. The causes of spontaneous failures are not well established. Variations in product quality of lamp components is one theory, while certainly temperature extremes from improper lamp use or incorrect product selection are a possibility.

HID lighting devices (fixtures) are recognized by the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) and listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Inc. However, the main thrust of their efforts is in seeing that the fixtures are properly installed for the intended use, and that the ongoing operating temperatures of the devices do not set fire to nearby combustibles. The issue of a fire ignition from a lamp failure has yet to be addressed. UL's standards at this time do not test lamp failure modes. Nor does UL test every HID lighting fixture manufactured today; It is possible to purchase HID fixtures which are not UL listed. {emph me again}
Here, as so often we humans are prone to do, we have made the aesthetic, feel-good choice over the more efficient, safer one. There are cooler burning, cheaper, safer HID bulbs out there--but we don't like how we look under them. So we use metal halide, and we whistle past the graveyard on its safety, even as we install them in our schools.

The accident at Bryant was shocking even at first, but it became something of an outrage when the predicted fading of effects from the exposure did not happen. It appears that at least some of the women have suffered permanent or at minimum long-term damage. And after the accident became reported around the state, at least one other case, in a Douglas County middle school in 2000, had surfaced. Five years had gone by, and it's unclear whether any district grounds staff anywhere in the state have had any reaction to what has happened--either then, or now. Oregon OSHA put out a bulletin warning of the dangers, but left them on a website and encouraged people to spread the word themselves.

So what's been the upshot? I would be surprised if any school district in the state had done a comprehensive review of their lighting inventory and monitored their use of metal halide since the Lake Oswego accident, much less taken the recommended step of replacing the bulbs with models that would burn out immediately if the protective cover failed.

Which is where Devlin comes in. He recommends the state be willing to pay for replacements if the manufacturer will not exchange them for newer, non-extinguishing models. And he further wants to try exempting metal halide manufacturers from liability shielding based on a statute of limitations. That's not something that's going to happen in a 2007 legislature where the Republicans still hold the House, so be warned. Are your kids and teachers being needlessly exposed to potential threats from radiation and fire? And if so, why? What IS the official response in Salem to this issue? Does it even register? Here's hoping Devlin not only registers it but passes his proposals through the favorable Senate, and then pressures the House to follow suit.

Update, 2pm--
I guess The O's editorial board thought the same thing as I did, because they made largely the same points and call to action this morning. There are a couple of things in their story that are useful; they list the website put together by one of the victims and her husband: The O also indicates that some school districts have, in fact, taken steps to review their lighting inventory and replace some of their stock--among them, Beaverton and West Linn/Wilsonville. Good for them.

Gagging Lars Larson: Do we care?

There's an interesting exchange happening over at Oregon Media Insiders regarding KXL sales staff dictating content to conservative radio bigmouth Lars Larson.

When I first read about this, I was a little surprised that Lars would allow it to go on. He doesn't seem the type to shut up and take it. But then he does seem like a pandering conservative whore, too. Maybe whore trumps personal pride in the conservo radio biz.

The comments on OMI were what really drew me in. Especially this one:

Let me get this straight. A guy who is no longer a journalist and not held to the same standards, who in truth is purely an entertainer, was prohibited from attacking an advertiser.

This is the same guy who does celebrity endorsements for ads that run during his show.

And you're outraged?


I was surprised at how much this one hit home for me. I think many of us are lulled into this notion that radio talk show hosts are disseminating news. That's not the case. They're giving a news related opinion--often having turned and twisted to the point of justifying inane stuff.

In reality, what's happening with Larson isn't a censoring of the news. Its a censoring of his opinion.

And while I wouldn't put up with that myself if I were him--its not an unethical or immoral breach by KXL. Its certainly going to give KXL listeners one less thing to get their panties in a twist over as well.

Gordon Smith votes down minimum wage

Continuing his practice of padding his conservative cred, Oregon's GOP Senator Gordon Smith voted against the minimum wage increase.

And once again, there's no mention of it in today's Oregonian.

But you can bet if Smith bucks the GOP on some other issue--the headline will be splashed above the fold.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Bill Sizemore Innocence Project

It seems our favorite political sleazebag just can't get enough of freebasing the limelight. And here I thought cockroaches shunned light.

Apparently not.

Bill is in a hurry to do some historical revisionism in the apparent hope that he'll be able to redeem himself with Oregonians.

Either that, or he thinks we're stupid.

Don't miss the comments at piece linked above. That's where you'll see the need for a big can of RAID.

Bites For Rights

Tomorrow in cities around Oregon, restaurants will be donating 15% of their day's proceeds to advancing basic rights for all Oregonians.

Bites for Rights is a great cause. I know you Bendites are just dying for some of that delicious Be-Bop Biscotti. If you live in Eugene, head over to Sweet Life Patisserie for an espresso and a sweet.

The entire restaurant list is here.

Minnis: Your $100 is More Important Than Our Schools

Like George Bush ordering the Good Ship Iraq to continue sailing into the Perfect Storm (hmmm, maybe it was George Clooney I was thinking of), Karen Minnis is ready to ride anti-tax militancy to her political vindication/suicide:
Oregonians voted overwhelmingly to put the kicker law in the state Constitution six years ago because they don't trust government. It was their way of ensuring some spending control by their elected leaders.

Thanks to voters, the state can spend your kicker only by either a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people themselves. I will honor voters' wishes and their previous votes against higher taxes on Measures 28 and 30, and strongly oppose any attempt by the state to keep the personal kicker.

The governor's comments and the like-minded editorials that followed are important because they highlight a basic philosophical divide. While some people are deeply frustrated that the kicker money must be returned to taxpayers, I agree with those who say that the kicker is their money and should be returned to them.

This is truly a Rovian strategy, in my opinion. Like trying to turn Iraq into a net positive for the election, Minnis is spearheading an Oregon Republican effort to convince voters that they're still the only ones to be trusted with the keys to the state treasury, while seriously fumbling those keys in the House.

I would love to see what evidence Minnis has, that indicates voting Yea on a giveback of taxes amounted to mistrust of government. It was sold as a rebate for good times, which would be antithetical to mistrust--why mistrust a government whose revenues were bulging? But it's the meme that matters: Republicans don't trust government, so everything that hinders government is a good thing in their eyes.

So we have mistrust, now let's throw in "higher taxes." Where are the higher taxes? According to Minnis, if you elect not to forgive legitimately owed taxes, you are "raising taxes." Of course, this is equivalent to when you get a raise: by making more money that is subject to taxation, you are raising your taxes on yourself, and thus you are bad, very bad. If you drive more and buy more gas, you are suffering a tax hike on gasoline. See, profligate driving is actually a liberal fault! It's a clever ploy, sort of like dressing up a tiered internet access system as "net neutrality."

We have a very smart readership, so forgive the brief explanation on why suspending the kicker is not a tax hike. First of all, you DO owe the money. Underforecasting revenue is no different at all than a salesman underestimating yearly commissions. If you have a better year than expected and make more, do you give the money back to your customers? Or more relevantly, do you expect the IRS not to tax you on your additional income? It's not your money, no more than the rest of the money you send in as part of your tax obligation--so why pay any tax at all, under that argument?

That's all the kicker money is---additional, unforseen income. When did this become bad news to people? Hooray! We can go back to full school years with enough teachers for 20 kids per room and basic stuff like music and PE and full day kindergarten. We can put more than one guy on State Patrol duty for the Oregon coast. We can get poor kids regularly vaccinated on the Oregon Health Plan. Hooray for us! We worked hard, and now we can tend to ourselves and take care of some overdue business. Because don't kid yourselves people, by no stretch of the imagination do current budget levels represent met needs in even the most basic and crucial areas of state responsibility.

She admits people hate the kicker, but says it's because it works. Well, DUH. It works to the tune of siphoning $2 billion in rebated personal revenue since 1983, one link in the chain of government funding destablization plans like Measure 5 and the kicker.

The basic kickback from an estimated $460 billion refund turns out to be around $100. Meanwhile, if you're in the top bracket, you can look forward to upwards of $5,000. And hey, did I mention that the feds will come take a bite from your hide once you get your kicker check, since you've received unforseen additional state "income?" Wonder who that will hit disproportionally hard?

But perhaps my favorite part of Minnis' full throttle command on keeping the kicker was her financial logic:
If the kicker money were not returned, state spending would increase at an unsustainable rate. Even with the kicker being returned to taxpayers, state government is projected to have $1.073 billion more to spend in 2007-09 than it did in 2005-07, thanks to our improving economy.
If I have this right, not returning the money means state spending will increase--but returning the money didn't keep $1 billion more from being spent. And beyond that, what kind of made-up reality suggests unsustainability? If the kicker money exists at all, that means revenues are rights. By definition, spending COULD increase at a sustainable rate, because it's being sustained by the presence of a kicker. At worst it would remain flat at some point when the kicker doesn't materialize at all. To which I wonder: so?

Finally, if she's so philosophically opposed to suspending the kicker as a rebuke of the voters' will...why is she dead silent on the question of the CORPORATE kicker? They passed that one, too.

Gordon Smith's anemic poll numbers

Even with all the media absenteeism on his Bush-lockstep voting record, Gordon Smith appears to be facing eroding poll numbers.

Smith is sitting at a 47% approval with a 41% disapproval.

According to Survey USA, Smith's favorable numbers are on the decline and unfavorables are on the rise.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden is at 56% approval with a 33% disapproval.

To put the poll in an even greater context, 14 of the 20 Senators with the highest approval ratings are Democrats, 5 are Republicans and one is an Independent (Jeffords of Vermont, who caucuses with the Dems).

What's it all mean? Smith is suffering from Republican fatigue. His positions haven't changed all that much--he's still your garden variety conservative who tosses the high profile moderate bone to the constituency every once in a great while. So it seems to have little to do with his voting record or issues.

Its apparent that the nation in general is finding Republican rule is wearing thin. Oregonians look to be in step with the rest of the nation on that finding.

Sig Gatherer Admits Payment Per Hancock--KATU

Here's a story that seems to be moving quickly. KATU did what advocates have been pressing the traditional media to do since initiative season started--monitor the gatherers. It took one TV reporter about a day to make a solid case for two serious allegations: that one prominent gathering company was paying on the basis of signatures, and that the state was letting it slide:
KATU News obtained a copy of Arno Political Consulting's employee handbook which lists how much the California company pays its signature gatherers. Payment ranges from $13 for 9-12 signatures gathered per hour to $64 for 46-50 signatures per hour, clearly laying out a formula that the more signatures gathered, the more money a person makes.

Arno officials would not comment on camera, but a manager for the firm said their lawyers presented their plan to the Secretary of State about a month ago and their payment structure was given a green light.
Elections Director John Lindback, clearly feeling cornered in the video interview {wvx} , struggled to say that they had to let it go so that minimum performance standards could be set. Which sounds good at the 9-12 signature level...but what "minimum" standard is set when the company is willing to shell out $64 per hour? And where do bonuses come in anywhere? And what the hell does any of that have to do with the very obvious truth that payment is being offered on the basis of signatures delivered? See for yourself. {pdf}

By the time the story aired, the Secretary of State's office had gone from unavailable, to issuing a letter to ARNO expressing concern about the payment arrangement and worrying about the legality of it all. So kudos to those who raised the issue for the media to check out, and to KATU for presenting a clear case and getting immediate results.

Decidedly lower marks go to ARNO, who really should know better--but at least they can say that they presented the plan beforehand and got the go-ahead. Which means the axe of blame really falls on Bill Bradbury's shop. How can you look at such a plan and not see conflict with Measure 26? What kind of lame excuses are you having your people offer in defense of such shoddy oversight? What else do you people at SoS have to do during June in an off year? Good luck trying to collect on violations from the chief petitioners, noted political sleazebags Tom McIntire and Bill Sizemore. The best you can do is curb further abuse, ASAP.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Westlund Pt 2: Mr Fix it, or not?

[This is part two of a three part series based on my interview with Oregon goobernatorial candidate Ben Westlund. Part one is here.]

The question of whether Ben Westlund has the ability to build consensus and bring all sides to a common ground is a matter of some debate. Westlund's supporters certainly say that he can.

But a man who articulates a disdain for the "very partisan, self serving, feather-their-own-nest...monopoly parties" may find that while dissing the parties attracts some disaffected voters, it may actually be contributing to partisan rancor rather than correcting it.

One of the topics we covered at our interview was immigration.

There are two types of immigration coming into America that people should be concerned about. The worst are those coming across our borders to do us harm. Somehow we don't seem as concerned about those type of immigrants that can actually do us damage. What we seem to be concerned about are those immigrants coming across the border to work hard.

These people are coming here for the same reason that our families came here. And folks from the Irish Potato Famine came here. And the original peoples that inhabited the continents--to improve the quality of their and their families lives.

What concerns me about the latter are the people demonizing this whole segment of human beings for short sighted political gain in the next election cycle. Undocumented workers don't cost this society they contribute to this society.

What should happen to businesses who hire illegals?

I don't think the onus should be put on the business. The way to solve this is to secure our borders. What are you going to do--get people to go home? That's why the kids were out protesting. These naturalized citizens born here--you're going to send Mommy and Daddy home? We've got 12 million undocumented workers in this state. They're not going home. They're here.

To address those that are here we have to address some type methodology where they can earn their citizenship.

Westlund bristled when I asked if this meant "amnesty":

Not amnesty I didn't say anmesty. I said a program where they can earn their citizenship. Go to the back of the line in terms of those who've applied legally. But a real, sincere, no-trickery program to allow them to gain citizenship.

The way you prevent the continued onslaught is to secure the borders. It prevents undocumented workers from continuing to come. But more importantly it prevents those who are thinking about doing us harm from coming here.

But what does "secure the borders" mean? Westlund says he doesn't know. Its the federal government's problem. And while the governor of Washington says she'll allow the Washington National Guard to go the border if they volunteer for that duty to assist the President with border security, Westlund says he'd look to the federal government alone to solve that problem.

There are vagaries here, to be sure. Westlund aptly expresses the reasons most illegal immigrants flow into the country: to get a job and improve their life. But he doesn't make the connection with the fact that they get a job because businesses are willing to hire them. "Secure the borders" is a very conservative answer to a problem requiring a progressive solution: sanction businesses who hire them. Its also not a very well thought one.

Another area where Westlund has trouble is Measure 36. According to Westlund's press liason Stacey Dycus, Westlund agreed to sign off on the voter's pamphlet on Measure 36 when he was still in cancer recovery in the hospital. The campaign now characterizes that signing as a mistake.

A mistake indeed. While I understand that Westlund was still recovering, this is analagous to saying "the dog ate my homework". I have trouble buying into the idea that Westlund didn't have at least an inkling of what he was signing on to by his prominent endorsement of Oregon's anti-gay marriage Constitutional Amendment.

Nevertheless, Westlund talks about this as an impetus to his march away from the Republican Party of Oregon:

I can do the big tent thing even while they're bashing me on my tax increases. I can understand and simply disagree with people when they're doing the social conservative thing: prolife vs my prochoice position. I understand those are heartfelt, deeply personal issues. So is the gay rights issue. But wait a minute. Let's not "are you pregnant?" "Should you get an abortion?" "Is that fetus a child or a baby"? Those are different discussions than you're validity as a human being. When you start demonizing not just the gays--you can see it now in the undocumented worker issue. This whole demonizing of whole segments of society. That was the final straw. It isn't just the increasingly espoused dogma that's not good for Oregon. The real tipping point is this increasing intolerance and dissrespect of the family of human beings. That was the big one.

I can certainly relate to a disgust with the GOP over their lack of tolerance and respect for the human race, in general. That's an easy one. But it raises questions in my mind about why Westlund would ever consider signing on to an amendment banning gay marriage--when he articulates such a strong compassion for his fellow man whether they be gay or straight? It doesn't make sense.

And prochoice? That's something to ponder in the third and final post of this series.

Here comes the sun....

Hyping meth

Two stories regarding methamphetamines have crossed my desk in the last 24 hours. This must mean I'm supposed to blog about them. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Today's Statesman-Journal notes that the number of meth lab seizures has plummeted by a factor of 30 percent nationwide. The drop is credited to the changes involved in the selling of cold medicines. Oregon has seen a 60 percent drop.

The other story is a news piece in Slate Magazine sent from Bill Nothstine via email. The story claims that the meth problem in the US has been genuinely hyped and has never been the major epidemic that the media and government have claimed.

Both are interesting and worthy reads.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wyden introduces Senate resolution Bush's Iraq plan

Wyden wants us out of Iraq before 2009.

From the Senator's press release of today:

Wyden introduces resolution opposing President’s stated intention of keeping troops in Iraq until at least 2009

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today introduced a resolution to express the sense of the Senate that “the President’s March 21, 2006 stated intention that ‘future Presidents’ will determine whether there are American troops in Iraq undermines the preparedness of the United States military to respond to other crises and should not be supported.” In March 2006, President Bush gave a press conference and discussed Iraq. The following exchange took place between a reporter and the President:

Question: “Will there come a day -- and I'm not asking you when, not asking for a timetable -- will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?”

Answer: “That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq.”

Wyden’s resolution is being offered as a stand-alone piece of legislation as Congress is debating the ongoing war in Iraq.

“To restore the preparedness of the American military to respond to significant security threats, and to assist the Iraqi people in assuming responsibility for their country's future, I oppose the President's plan to keep American troops in Iraq until 2009,” said Wyden. “If President Bush intends to keep troops in Iraq until after the next President comes into office, Congress should vote on that proposition.”

In April, Wyden co-sponsored legislation that would express the sense of Congress that the United States should not establish permanent military bases in Iraq or exercise control over the natural resources of Iraq.

Also that month, Wyden went to the Senate floor to call for a Congressional vote on the President’s plan and budget for American’s continued involvement in Iraq. Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, cited the need for Congress to have a role as a “co-equal branch of government” in the handling of Iraq. (see Wyden’s full statement here

Wyden was one of only 23 U.S. Senators to vote against going to war with Iraq.

I think Bush fully intends to start withdrawal this Fall, just before the elections. It will be couched as a victory (even though no war supporter has been able to articulate exactly what victory looks like in Iraq).

When Democrats want withdrawal its "cut and run" and "timetables". When Bush withdraws, it will be "victory".

Wyden's resolution likely won't even get a reading.

Multnomah County casino won't make the ballot

Looks like the Grand Rhonde Tribe will have one less casino to submarine. At least for now:

Backers of a proposed casino in east Multnomah County said Monday they will wait until 2008 to ask voters to change the state Constitution to allow what would be the state's first non-tribal gambling complex.

Roger Gray, the political consultant for entrepreneurs Bruce Studer and Matthew Rossman, said backers simply ran out of time to qualify initiatives for the Nov. 7 ballot.

The group sponsoring this particular casino initiative have pulled a TABOR by refusing to reveal who the money people are behind this plan. Gray says the backers will reveal who the funders are "later on this year".

Slapping a bandaid on cancer

The Merc picked up on the latest campaign pledge from Indy goobernatorial candidate Ben Westlund to levy heavy penalties on signature gatherers who break the law. Penalties would also reach the sponsors and treasurers of the initiatives, according to Westlund.

Westlund is promising to crack down on people by enforcing existing laws. Which sounds great. But there's little in the way of specifics so far from Big Ben on how it'll all shake out.

Its easy to pay lip service to the popular idea of cracking down on rogue signature gatherers and their masters. But that's really all it is at this point. There has been no serious discussion from any candidates.

How do I know this? None of them are talking about the fact that the Secretary of State's office doesn't have a full time investigator. Bradbury has tried to get more funding--but the legislature has thus far spurned his requests for more funding. There's not enough money.

But there's enough for the kicker checks. We can definitely do that, right?