Sunday, December 31, 2006

Spanning the State--Auld Lang Syne Edition

Perched at the precipice of 2007, we bid farewell to 2006--the inaugural year for Loaded Orygun and perhaps a shift toward a new Enlightment period for Oregonians.

I'm generally a New Year's Eve curmudgeon. I like to stay home and watch action movies whilst pondering how I'm going to squeeze my holiday weight ass into my jeans. But there are plenty of spots to indulge in New Year's revelry around the state, if you're not a grouch like me.

So with that, its time for the final Spanning the State for 2006!


The Umatilla Weapons Depot in Hermiston is nearly finished destroying it cache of sarin gas. All of the sarin weaponry destruction is expected to be completed by July of 2007--and will be the last of such weapons stored in Oregon.

The Bend Bulletin highlights some of the best photography from their staff of photojournalists. The work of photographer Andy Tullis is especially outstanding, in my opinion.

Conservation groups from Seattle and Maine are challenging the green labels of two Oregon timber companies. Weyerhauser and Plum Creek Timber Company are both certified as using sustainable forestry practices when harvesting timber from their private lands. This label opens the door for these companies to sell their products to large retailers, who demand such certification. The challenges were filed with the Sustainable Forestry Board in Arlington, Va which oversees the certification.

Folks trying to win elective office in Ashland are apparently willing to spend a buttload of cash on their campaign--especially relative to the salary for the respective jobs they're vying for.

The City of Klamath Falls has installed an immediate hiring freeze due to lack of funds from the feds. The funds come from Congress to make up for a lack of timber receipts to the region.

The Medford Mail Tribune hands out its roses and thorns, covering the good and bad from around the state and the nation for 2006.

After many years of below average precipitation, the snow pack in Eastern Oregon is showing promise of a renewed aquifer.

Friday, December 29, 2006

All Hail Beaverus Testicularus!

In case you gave up when CBS switched over from President Ford's funeral service, the Oregon State Beavers have just completed an amazing comeback from 14 points down late in the 4th quarter of the Sun Bowl, tying the game on Matt Moore's 4th TD of the game to Joe Newton with 22 seconds left. Then, in one of the superior badass calls of all time, coach Mike Riley (apparently under advice from Yvenson Bernard)went for two. Miss it and you lose, throwing away OT. Make it and you seal the game. Bernard made good for his coach, pushing it over the line and the magic was sealed, causing broadcasters to already dub it "a legendary Sun Bowl."

Wow! Congrats, Beavs! 10 wins is the sign of an awesome year. And I bet no other coach in a bowl this year does anything as ballsy as what OSU just pulled off. Exciting year for their sports program, to be sure.

Bring on that wine, and syrup, and whatever, Fired Up Missouri! Told ya....

OR Broadcasters Head Abdicates of Public Service

Pardon the intemperate introduction, but what bullshit is this?
Bill Johnstone, president of the Oregon Association of Broadcasters, defended the stations' track record of political coverage, saying the 1 percent of newscast time devoted to state and local campaigns in October 2004 gave regular TV viewers "more than our fill."

He said asking stations to air more stories quoting mudslinging politicians would not serve the public interest. "Very few politicians can tell the truth," Johnstone said.

"Our coverage is certainly adequate," he added, "given everything else that the public has access to — the Internet, the ads they see and hear, the billboards, the unwelcome calls from candidates."
Is that really his response? We're not covering it because the politicians aren't worthy of the coverage? We're not doing our contractual duty because you can get the news elsewhere? That's locker room bulletin board material, and I know Janice Thompson at Money in Politics Research Action Project (MiPRAP for less long but not necessarily short) is clipping that quote for the hearing.

This is the first time I've ever heard the "substandard quality" argument made for a lack of political coverage. It's also an extraordinarily broad indictment of the will or skill in his clients' human resources, that they can't get a real story on candidates and the issues without showing a bunch of mudslinging. You're showing the ads, and that's where much if not most of it comes from (direct mail is even worse, but covering that isn't good TV, I agree).

So don't talk about the "controversy" over the ads. Ask what the incumbent has done for his area--are there good ones and troubled ones? Where is the money going? Who's running the campaigns (if they'd asked that question this cycle, they would have found an extraordinarily small group of people running the entire state's Republican campaign)? Who are the new people? Doesn't anyone do a fucking INTERVIEW anymore? Are the neighbors of arrestees and victims the only people TV reporters trained to ask questions of anymore?

Debates at the legislative level took place all over the state, seemingly every night in October somewhere. If nothing else, can you not cover the simultaneous appearance before the media and electorate of the people who will run your state? Or screw the local races; did ANY TV station do a newsteam roundtable with the gubernatorial candidates?

No one expects the FCC to do anything with this complaint, and I have to agree the simultaneous rupture of the entire Portland television market is an unlikely outcome. But there are steps before the nuclear option, and the evidence is compelling--plus now we have the defendants' spokesman telling us he believes he's relieved of the duty to cover campaigns because others are doing it for them. That's intent in my book--or really flouting of their status, because they know their licenses are ultimately safe no matter what. But revocations DO happen, and they can happen again if people become upset enough about it. Carla and I should file an amicus letter with the complaint. God knows broadcasters could use a wakeup call when it comes to using their licenses. Send your own letter!

Write Your Own Caption--Goobernor Edition

Red Returns!

In a July edition of Spanning the State, we noted that Scio's town mascot had met an untimely demise at the paws of a local canine.

Residents greatly mourned the passing of Scio's avian friend. So much so that had him stuffed:

Big Red, the tiny town of Scio's beloved mascot killed in July by a dog, is coming home to roost for good. A taxidermist has mounted the Rhode Island Red, and the rooster's owners plan an unveiling for January, when 250 figurines made in his likeness should arrive from China.

Sheesh. Red doesn't even get Oregon-made likenesses. Poor banty.

Presumably Red will be come a part of the fixtures at the Scio Feed and Country Store, the place he frequented in town.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Welcome to the fray, Amanda

HD-18: Guerilla guy wins, Tootie MIA

As reported here yesterday, proceedings went down in Clackamas County to replace newly reelected GOP State Representative Mac Sumner, who resigned his seat the day after the election was certified citing health reasons.

LO was fortunate enough to have an "at the scene" reporter from the region, who wrote up a creative and rather entertaining email about the appointment of Mac's replacement:

The 6 county commissioners made their selection today
before a packed fire hall in Hubbard. Mac Sumner was
there, looking like death warmed over and requiring
some assistance from his wife walking and sitting, but
no Tootie sightings. Interesting and strange that
Bill Kennemer (R-Clackamas) opened the proceedings by
discounting a rumor that had supposedly been
circulating via email that contended that he, Sowa and
Wayne Scott(?) had met and decided that he and Sowa
should abstain from voting in order to allow the
appointment to be made by Kulongoski.

And the nominees were:

Jeffrey Faville, the squeaky-clean, earnest young
Republican wearing a suit he apparently bought before
his last growth spurt, tried to convince the
commissioners that, really, he knew lots. His stated
credentials included that he decided he wanted to run
for office when he was six. Quoted George Washington
and Ronald Reagan (this apparently impressed
Commissioner Milne). Stated that Mac Sumner's stands
were similar to his own and seemed to answer most
questions by talking about meth. (In all fairness,
several of the candidates were guilty of this form of
head-banging) Notable quote: "I will give God credit
for anything I achieve."

Vic Gilliam, the older, hardened, better-tailored
version of a once young Republican, dropped the name
of his old boss, Mark Hatfield, at every opportunity,
much to the delight of the several commissioners who
apparently see themselves as "real" political insiders
(ie. those who were once state legislators - Sowa,
Carlson, Milne, and Kennemer). Talked a lot about
Washington, as in D.C., and listed Hatfield and Gerry
Frank as his mentors. Notable quote: a wonderfully
ambiguous statement about the corporate kicker that
this note-taker was unable to translate (is he for
keeping it or eliminating it? - you'll need to check
the proceedings on CCTV and decide for yourselves-
record it so you can hit replay).

Mike Schrock, who received the most votes from the
Republican PCP's, is a home-schooling, bible-thumping,
regulation-hating, Tom DeLay-looking guy who
repeatedly let it be known that he's against light
rail, bike lanes and schools that don't teach
character. His stated credentials included that he
wanted to be in politics since high school and "God
has been schooling him since then". Notable quote:
"Get the State out of the way".

Ken Iverson, the bulb-growing farmer, came dressed as
a regular guy, talked mostly about representing the
natural resource industry of the district in Salem,
and stated fixing Measure 37 as his most important
priority if elected to the legislature. His stated
credentials included growing up in the district.
Notable quote: "Public agencies seem more concerned
with process, not results."

Vic Hoffer, the personable political oddball from Mt.
Angel, listed his past political excursions (he ran
for state office and regularly lobbies for bills he
also helps to write) and his reality T.V. experiences
as an ambulance driver as his credentials. Notable
quote: "He will not be the vote of a lobbyist, he will
vote his conscience." Seemed to lose points with the
commissioners when he answered that he has "hundreds
of number one priorities" he plans to address in

And the appointed, anointed winner of the HD 18
Republican-democratic process is - ta-dah! - Vic

The votes went like this: Milne (Marion Co), Brentano
(Marion), Carlson (Marion Co.), Kennemer (Clackamas),
Sowa (Clackamas) all voting for Gilliam, and the lone
dissenter Schrader (Clackamas) voting for Iverson.

Our reporter requests no byline--thus it appears anonymously.

You can read a much less colorful report on the proceedings here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pot, Kettle, Tootie

The dubiously timed retirement of just elected State Representative Mac Sumner (R-Molalla) seems to have created a circus-like atmosphere in Oregon House District 18.

Former HD-18 Representative Tootie Smith, who was elected to the seat in 2000 and 2002 (and vacated it to run in a losing effort for Clackamas County Commissioner) has got her back up over what she calls "a farce" of a nominating convention.

Smith, who is herself ethically challenged, is supremely pissed off about the Oregon GOP's selection process to replace Sumner according to the Molalla Pioneer (The story isn't in the paper's online archives yet. But the paper's editor kindly agreed to send the story along to me in email. I'm excerpting it and will post a link when its available).

Smith outlined her complaints to the Molalla Pioneer:

"(The convention) was a farce," Smith said. "It was not representative
of the voters' wishes in District 18."

Smith said she thought the results were skewed by the number of
precinct representatives from Marion County.

"Marion County decided to run a slate of ultra conservative,
falling-off-the-cliff people, none of whom had held elected office,"
she said. "… It's unfair for the voters who voted for Mac Sumner. We
need some very stable minded people in the district, and that was
totally lacking."

Smith said she plans to run for the District 18 seat again in the next election.

Sumner said the results of the convention came as a surprise to him.
Although he described the five nominees as "very capable," he said, "I
was surprised that Tootie wasn't at the top of the list." Sumner had
endorsed Smith to be his replacement for the seat.

Smith is a former lobbyist for the Oregon Family Council, not exactly a mainstream organization. Claiming that others are "falling-off-the-cliff" sounds fairly projectionist.

Tootie also rattled off her complaints to the Statesman Journal using similar verbage.

The slate of candidates in line for the job do seem rather whacked. The Molalla Pioneer describes them thusly:

Out of the seven candidates present at the nominating convention, the
five nominees, in order of votes received, were: Mike Schrock of
Aurora, Ken Iverson of Woodburn, Vic Gilliam of Silverton, Victor
Hoffer of Mt. Angel and Jeffrey Faville of Salem.........

Schrock, a landscape contractor, said his three priorities are
abortion, eliminating regulation on businesses and preventing spending

"I ran for this position for one reason — I wanted to be sure that a
conservative, socially and fiscally, would fill this office," he said.

Iverson, a farmer from Woodburn, said he would focus on fulfilling the
needs of rural residents.

"I really believe this district is a resource-based district, with
farms, forests and tree farms, and I think our state has forgotten
that while chasing high tech and everything else," Iverson said. "I
really think it's important that somebody who knows the soil can
represent this district."

Gilliam, who served as a legislative aid to Senator Hatfield from 1976
to 1982, advocated a return to strict Republican party values.

Because Republicans are now in the minority in the Oregon legislature,
he said, "It's going to take some fancy footwork, some guerilla
warfare. … Let's pick the best warrior."

Hoffer has a varied history that includes attending both seminary and
law school and working as a paramedic. He named abortion and gun
control as two of the main issues he would work against.

Faville, the youngest of the candidates, worked as a legislative
assistant in the state legislature from 1995 to 1999 and volunteered
for Mac Sumner's campaign.

When the main issue for two of the five is abortion and another one is looking to be a "guerilla", maybe Smith isn't too far off in her comments. But given what seems to be her own ultra-conservative agenda it seems like little more than sour grapes on her part. And while Sumner won the seat by six points, its hard to believe that the first priority for constituents is abortion and "guerilla" legislative tactics.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I am thinking that Gregg Schumacher is batshit crazy

I used to think he was perhaps he was merely an idiot--or even an asshole. But as a commentor rightly points out, those traits aren't mutually exclusive.

After reading today's Blogtown missive on Schumacher's eviction/evacuation, I've decided the guy has just plain lost his scruples.

Schumacher apparently called a press conference, kept the press waiting (while trying to ply them with hot chocolate--lame) and proceeds to tell the press that his eviction has been dismissed, but he's leaving anyway.

I can't understand why the press bothers to show up for this guy. He apparently lied to the Oregonian about his downtown exit in their original story (or at the very least conveniently left out the eviction part). And now he leaves them twiddling their thumbs waiting around until he decides he's ready to trot his ass out and chat with them.

The Merc hasn't been able to confirm Schumacher's "my eviction has isn't happening but I'm still bugging out" story. If it ends up checking out it'll be one of the few times of late I've seen the guy actually tell the whole truth.

Grays and Humpbacks and Blues--Oh my!

Oregon's beaches can be a batten-down-the-hatches experience during the winter months. Squalls that blow a sideways rain shower are common. But if you can get past the teeth rattling cold and wet, its also prime whale watching time.

Oregon has a superlative set of beaches for viewing the whale migration. Complete with volunteers standing by to assist the whale watching neophytes among us, its prime time to see the world's largest animal (and 18,000 of his closest whale buddies), traverse the Pacific Ocean from their Alaskan feeding grounds to their warm winter quarters off the shores of the Baja Peninsula.

Most of these beauties off the Oregon coast are Gray Whales but Humpbacks can be seen as well, although the sightings are much more rare. Its also possible to catch a glimpse of a Blue, Sperm or Minke Whale too, but that's a genuine lucky sighting.

Chalk this whale watching week as another reason that our unique and beautiful state is one of the best places in the country to put down roots.

Oswego HS Students Believe Civics Class Reflects Reality, Attack Curfew

An interesting story is brewing among the placid waters and stately firs of Lake Oswego, perhaps Oregon's most East-Coast style materialist luxury suburb. With personal incomes twice the national average, and home prices approaching the $500,000 median, the city's 36,000 residents blissfully occupy an island of conspicuous wealth in an otherwise unostentatious state. Spurred by a political action assignment at the elite flagship high school of the state's top school district, students at Lake Oswego High have absorbed from their lessons that they actually have constitutional rights, and that their status as minors and subservients by law to their parents does not necessarily diminish those rights.

The story began to hit the newswires a couple of weeks ago when the students put their assignment into action and appeared before City Council to protest the town's juvenile curfew. Like those of several cities around the state, Lake Oswego's curfew is long standing and until now relatively non-controversial, appealing to parents and public safety officials as a way to keep vulnerable teens off the streets and out of danger. LO's law bars those under 14 from being out and about after 9:15 during the school year, 10:15 for those 15 to 18.

That's not to say curfews aren't a favorite target of liberty advocates and young people, amounting as it does to a nanny state after dark for anyone under 18, where teens may be stopped at will and ordered to verify their purpose or face curfew violation. The First Amendment Center has a good legal backgrounder on curfews and loitering laws in general, and applicable precedents specifically for juvenile curfews. One of them, Nunez v San Diego, a 9th Circuit appeals decision from 1997, is in fact the primary citing the LOHS students are using in their school project/fight against City Hall.

One can only imagine what the adults in this story were expecting, particularly the teachers and the Council--likely that the kids would run through the motions, see how political democracy works (or doesn't), get the grade and move on. I don't guess that anyone was expecting the teens to take it seriously enough to get the ACLU involved on an advisory basis, and to refuse any ground whatsoever when offered half-loaves by Council:
Members of the Lake Oswego City Council agreed to compromise with a group of Lake Oswego High School students who asked them to abolish the city’s teen curfew Tuesday.

But their offer to amend the current ordinance with the teens’ help wasn’t enough to satisfy the group, whose members repeatedly told council they want the curfew abolished permanently.

“Compromise is not acceptable because we can’t compromise on constitutional rights,” said student Hanna Piazza.

Group members, who are backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, said they believe the curfew ordinance discriminates against teens and violates their right to move about freely.

They also told council they feel it’s parents’ responsibility to monitor their own children — not the city’s.

“I’ve had many friends pulled over and cited for curfew,” said student Paul Trompke. “It’s something we found needed to be changed.”
I'm sorry, that's just kick ass. Kids at LO in December are typically thinking more about Vail trips and whether maybe, just maybe a car will be in the driveway on Christmas, than they are about school assignments--but here they are. And it's not because they're simply juiced on the heady wine of dissent; they've got a pretty decent argument.

As the First Amendment site points out, the judicial history of juvenile curfew law is recently pretty contradictory. The fundamental divergence is how to treat the admitted intrusion on juvenile liberty: as a fundamental breach or one that is less serious--and also whether the State must show either a compelling interest or simply a general furtherance of that interest. In general, if the court relied on the latter standard in each case, they ended up favoring the right to impose curfew. If they chose the former set of standards, known as strict scrutiny, the court was be apt to find the curfew unconstitutional. The 9th opted for strict scrutiny in Nunez, and had this to say:
Because parental power is not subject to the constitutional constraints of state
power, minors' lack of rights vis-a-vis parents does not necessarily show that they lack those rights vis-a-vis the state. The Court emphasized the school district's "custodial and tutelary responsibility for children," noting that constitutional rights are different in public schools than elsewhere. Id. at 2392. See also Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 302 (1993). We decline to extend Vernonia to establish that the
Constitution does not secure minors' fundamental right to free movement against the government acting without regard to the parents' wishes.
As far as showing a compelling interest, at first in Nunez the Court appears interested to grant the concept, provided that the State offers evidence in record to show that juvenile crime and vicitimization are affected by the curfew, or at least represent a compelling need that might suggest one. In San Diego's case, the statistics were found highly wanting. Whether LO keeps ready statistics on victimization by age, I'm not sure.

As a generality informed by personal observation however, I'm highly skeptical that Lake Oswego could show sufficient danger--either to kids or from them--to justify their curfew. Just as a barometer, if you scan Clackamas County's (where LO is located) youth crime records from 2005 and 2000 {both pdf}, you'll see that there were 1,380 youth referrals countywide in 2005, 1 in 5 for personally violent offenses. Five years ago, the figure was 2,343, although a smaller percentage were personal crimes. On a comparative basis to other places, this site indicates a virtual crime-free paradise, rated at less than 1/5th the national average for personal crimes. it If the City wants to prove that juvenile crime is a pressing police issue, I'd be keen to see the evidence--but it may not in fact be there.

It's unclear at this time whether Council will begin taking this agenda item seriously, whether the ACLU will formally take up the banner for another test case (they currently have zip up about it at the Oregon chapter's website), and whether the kids will stay focused on the question as the weather warms and dries. But from my vantage point it's worth seeing in court, given the relative safety of the area and a natural libertarian lean in this state. We're coming to expect far more of our late-adolescents these days, particularly as it relates to work and school-sponsored programs such as athletics or drama. With those expectations must also come the respect that they will be able to live up to them, albeit imperfectly.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't let my 13 year old wander around unsupervised in town, but then again that's part of the argument the teens are making--the parents are the rightful deciders of that question. If kids are committing crimes or making too much mischief, that's when the police need to step in. Until then, a free directive to stop and question any driver or pedestrian based solely on their age, is tantamount to convicting them of Driving While Young, another in a list of profile-based police activities that seriously strain the intent of the Constitution to prevent government intrusion without specific suspicion.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Spanning the State--Festivus Edition

Rather than falling under the thumb of the "War On Christmas" pretenders....

Here's hoping everyone has a safe and peaceful holiday season, no matter what you celebrate (or don't).

This week's StS is a quickie as my family's arrival is imminent and I have a massive list of things to do...


If your child is a recipient of child support in Oregon, the times they are a-changing. The state will soon be requiring all support payments to be received electronically. This change is expected to save the state $1.2 million over the next biennium.

Dorothy was right. There's no place like home. Especially after having served in Iraq.

Ashland: Land of liberal letters to the editor!

A mom from Corvallis is trying to get Gordon Smith to give peace a chance, despite being arrested twice for her nonviolent protests.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Waiting on Walden to do the right thing

Update (5:10PM): Looks like Whelan isn't going to contact us with official comments from Walden, at least for now. I'm guessing the House GOP Leadership won't let Greg off his leash. What a disgrace.

Its not an Oregon-centric story, but the heinous comments made by GOP Congressmen Virgil Goode are causing a stir:

Republican Rep. Virgil Goode (news, bio, voting record) triggered angry responses from a civil rights group and some colleagues with a letter this month to constituents concerned about a decision by Rep.-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, to use the Quran when he is sworn in.

"I will not be putting my hand on the Quran," Goode said at a news conference Thursday at the Franklin County Courthouse.

Goode, who represents Virginia's 5th Congressional District, said he is receiving more positive comments from constituents than negative.

"One lady told me she thinks I'm doing the right thing on this," he told Fox News. "I wish more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded."

Goode also told Fox News he wants to limit legal immigration and do away with "diversity visas," which he said let in people "not from European countries" and "some terrorist states."

Goode's ravings are bigoted, nasty and completely beneath any member of the United States House of Representatives. His comments bring shame and dishonor to his office.

Yet no Republican has bothered to speak up against Goode's remarks.

A little while I go, I called Oregon Congressman Greg Walden's office in DC. Walden is the lone Oregon Republican in Congress. I spoke with Walden's Press Secretary Andrew Whelan.

I asked Andrew for an official statement from Walden on what Goode has been saying. Whelan stated that he'd need to contact the Congressman and for now he "doesn't know" what Walden's response is to what Goode is saying.

I wondered aloud to Andrew over the phone: "Isn't this a no brainer? After all, these are some pretty heinous comments that Goode is making.".

Whelan reiterated to me that he didn't know the Congressman's stance.

Honestly, how can Walden not know what the right thing is to say here?

I gave Whelan my cell number and email address. Hopefully he'll have a statement from Walden by the end of the day.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Digging Into the Healthy Americans Act

As Carla pointed out earlier this week, we've mostly stood by as the parade of commentary over Ron Wyden's major health care reform proposal has been debated. Not for lack of interest or editorial reasons, but because we wanted to make sure we understood how the program was intended to work, and whether unintended consequences would impact their plans.

At this stage I have to place enormous blessings on the Senator himself and several of his top staff members, who have repeatedly talked with us by phone including weekend nights, responded to email, endured aggressive questions of accounting and ethics--and did it professionally, candidly and with good humor. It's their job to serve the public in that way, but they can't possibly give that kind of service and patience to every one in their constituency--so we're honored to have the chance to put them through their paces on the program, and we owe them and you a thoughtful response.

At the Senator's proposal website, somewhat abstractly named Stand Tall For America, there are the various testimonials, professionally and among the larger or influential hometown blogs. Carla's preliminary endorsement is there, as are excerpts from DailyKos diaries, and it's where I read about the program first, actually--and my experience was different.

It will be interesting to watch DailyKos react to Democrats in the majority, because it has an insurgent's mentality. They took Wyden's plan apart, they being the hardcore supporters of single payer reform. Because the plan continues to involve the same health care companies delivering the insurance, without a single payer option, to the idealized Left the plan is a sellout insult. Don't get me wrong; I think single payer is the ideal model, and I don't think Wyden's people would necessarily disagree out of hand. But they are frank about political reality, and they see a fight for 51 on this, much less something Bushproof.

That's not necessarily their angle, although of course they intend to press for passage. This is Ron Wyden trying to get rubber to meet road on the health care situation. Ironically, the plan that is the child of multiple work groups and prior programs has been labeled as the plan to stop all planning, and get Senators on record. In a conference call regarding the proposal, Wyden said "elected officials are way too timid," and it is his intent to draw them out. The time for white papers is over!--so reads the white paper, but soon enough it will become a living bill, subject to amendment, stripping or stuffing.

What's the idea? In a nutshell, the burden of contracting for health care will move from your company to you. Your company (or government) will "cash out" of their health care benefit programs, giving you some of the money, and some into a giant health care kitty. The DHS then holds what amounts to a massive nationwide healthcare auction, with up to 30 prescreened insurance providers, all of whom have to provide a basic coverage plan that is "actuarially equivalent" to what federal employees get--rather puffily referred to as "the same as Members of Congress," something that is about as technically true as techinal gets. Nancy Pelosi is not getting an early boot from her hospital bed because the clock is ticking on her coverage. If there is one solid complaint I have about the plan, it's the nomenclature. It's hard coming up with good names, but these in my humble opinion aren't the ones.

So every provider has to offer the same base rate plan, and in addition they must offer it at a single rate, except for geography and smoking behavior. But everyone must be covered (more on that later). You can't be dropped, and you can't be denied. And you will get to buy and own your health care coverage. You will see what it costs, you will pay for it...sort of.

No, I mean you'll definitely pay for it, but you still won't really see what it costs. Some people argue that the best thing to contain health care costs is to make the costs highly visible to consumers. Under the HAA, you pay a premium up front each month, but that amount is not the true cost of your care; it includes reductions made possible by subsidies from employers, the state and the federal government to provide care to those without the ability to pay full freight. If you're one of those people, you know even less about how much care costs, because your care will be partially or even totally subsidized through annual income tax deductions. The deduction slides from 100% down to 0 when you get to 400% of poverty, about $40,000. So if you make more than poverty wages, you get nothing--but if you're at the poverty level, the money you spent on premiums would come back to you in your tax refund. As a result you'll never know exactly how much your care costs, although certainly compared to the typical method of only seeing the employee contribution in your paycheck you'll get a better idea.

Freedom, choice, access and information are the key selling points of Wyden's program, with the primary goal of guaranteeing coverage that goes whereever you go, and does not leave you. Because it doesn't break up the for-profit relationship health providers have with their customers, it relies heavily on market mechanisms and economic truisms to make the plan work. Wyden's model very strongly believes in the price-reducing power of competition. Because the basic plan is the same everywhere, that knowledge gives bargaining power to the consumer, and the vendor is forced to accomodate pricing pressures...theoretically.

That was my first major question with the program: if we're sticking with the private model, in which profit is the aim and cost increases serve that aim, what assurances are there that they won't go all OPEC on us and artificially hold up the price? The answer, according to Wyden's folks, is in distribution of knowledge and the level of competition for market share. If you know what every provider offers, and what the going rate is, as the consumer you can leverage that information to get the best price or the most benefits and service.

OK, fair enough. The plan does not lay any claim to reversing cost increases or holding them steady. They will go up, and they will exceed inflation and wages both. But there is a reasonable argument that the increases will be held down, which is a decent start.

Wyden also expects the increase in choice and information equality to counteract the loss of bulk purchasing power held by employers when seeking an insurance plan. When Schnitzer Steel contracts for insurance for instance, they do so with the force of 3,000 individual policies behind them. Vendors compete based on the idea that they would win or lose 3,000 customers all at once.

When the buying is done by a single person, however, the amount of attention overhead that goes into providing care skyrockets. It's simply not possible to treat every customer like a high roller, and in a world where 99% of Americans would be buying a policy, each individual customer is all but invisible as a buying entity.

But Wyden and his backers believe that current price competition is highly imperfect because of the ability for vendors to cherry pick who to insure. Because of the makeup of its workforce, a company may only find itself eligible for 3 or 4 different packages from vendors willing to take on all of their workers. Without the ability to cherry pick customers however, conceivably any vendor could cover the company's workers, thus improving the competition among vendors for those workers. At the individual level, the theory is that increased choice competition based on equalized product offerings will outweigh the loss of purchasing power when it comes to getting the best rate.

I'm not 100% sure these expectations will hold up; I have a sneaky feeling that once everybody is forced to offer the same basic plan, the demand and supply curves will cease to function, and health care will be subject to discounting and promotions about as often as salt or light bulbs. Insurers won't make their money off the base plans; they'll seek to entice customers to buy a la carte offerings to supplement the basics, and will simply treat the compulsory coverage as an inelastic demand item that they won't mess around with much on price. Could they use their basics plan as a loss-leader, trying to draw in new customers? Maybe, but it's not a given.

Now we get to the part of the plan I'm still having trouble with: cost containment. To some extent it's unfair to judge a plan based on its admitted weakness; the goal of his proposal is not to cut costs per se, but to maximize access and hope cost containment follows. But I'd argue that access is often a function of cost, and if you start by trying to rectify the problems which are causing the cost of health care to continue spiraling upwards, you can improve access to care as a byproduct, and in the long run you'll achieve both goals faster.

Under the plan, since individuals will ultimately be on the hook to pay for their own health care, this means they will be the ones to pay when prices go up--one way or the other, either through increased premiums or increased tax subsidies. And when it comes to dealing with increases, individuals are much less prepared and able to deal with them than either employers or hospitals. Right now, when health care costs go up a company can either try to increase revenue to pay for it, or cut the service level of care. If neither option is palatable, a business might simply absorb the cost on a short term basis, or pay up front and take it back in tax deductions, or when cash flow allows. The same is true of hospital ERs; when they see a non-covered patient, they eat the cost or pass it down the line.

The typical Oregonian simply does not have this luxury of accounting--either they have the money or they don't. If your bill goes up 10% in one year, you'll be paying 10% more for insurance next year. Furthermore, that unlucky consumer faces a losing battle in catching up to costs. Wages are essentially flat in Oregon, and during this Presidency have even gone down in some cases. But let's be generous and say with COLA they're going up an average of 3% per year. Now compare that to the annual increase in health care costs nationwide, running as high as 10-11% per year, and you'll see what I mean--where's that 7% over and above a wage increase coming from? And for every year that wages lag behind health care costs, the worker will fall further behind in controlling them, being forced to pay the prevailing cost and thus making sacrifices elsewhere in their housing? What will they sacrifice?

I must say, the response I got to this thorny question were not encouraging--essentially, that no plan can hope to close the gap between wages and health care increases. To which I gulp and reply, "Yes, I know--so how will people cope with that ever-widening gap?" The supporters' answer is that because costs outstripping wages is a truism, the proposal's moderate controlling of costs, combined with the expectation that wages would rise faster because employers would see such savings from not having to pay for health care, works out to be a better deal than the course we're now travelling. It's a reasonably logical argument, but the gap is already so large and seemingly intractable that I definitely worry about people being able to keep up, under this system.

That said, the argument that we must do something, and soon, is a compelling one--one which makes bogging the proposal down in negative "what if" scenarios a threat to ever getting any kind of movement on health care reform at all. In my many discussions with the Senator and his staff, I haven't totally been persuaded that the Healthy Americans Act produces the best model for reforming health care in the US. That's a problem, because why push for something that may not be the optimal course?

But Wyden makes a strong case that we simply can't afford to wait for ideal solutions, particularly in today's political climate. Single payer as an option is deemed a no-go in the 110th Congress, and who knows how long it might be until some kind of single payer scheme could become acceptable. While costs are a huge consideration, preeminent concern over them may reflect a bias of those who already have coverage, as opposed to those who do not.

By far, the biggest worry for 43 million people is not how much their health care is costing them, but the fact that not having any is making them sick. As with housing, where tis better to be sheltered and destitute than out on the streets with a dollar in your pocket, most people without health care would prefer to get covered first, and THEN worry about how they're going to make ends meet afterwards. And on that basis, it's hard not to see Wyden's audacious plan as a potentially rousing success story.

Loaded Orygun Rocks Missouri's World

Its becoming holy crappingly obvious that there's a lull in the world of political freebasing when a newspaper's politics blog writes about the mostly faux outrage of Ted's college football bet.

The post in question was written by Jason Rosenbaum, who deliberately admits that the only thing better than the Mo Guv's root beer choice is a refreshing bottle of Zima.

You just can't make this stuff up.

And while we're at it, I'm pissed that Jeff Mapes, Janie Har, Michelle Cole or Harry Esteve at the O's political blog were scooped on this. After all, what's more important than a trumped-up rivalry between inferior Zima-loving-Missourians and we Oregonians who actually know what's what?

Being the Christmas season and all, perhaps its time to trot out my generous spirit. I hereby offer to buy Jason Rosenbaum a non-Zima-Oregon-based beverage on his next trip to the Portland metro area. Its time this boy grew up.

I'm extending the same invitation to Roy Temple at Fired Up Missouri, whose faux outraged is only eclipsed by our own faux outrage.

Heck, for Roy I'll even throw in some real Oregon seafood and some of my homemade Oregon blackberry jam.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So Where Will Gordly (I-S23) Be Next Session? A: Everywhere!

Reduced to an army of one by Ben Westlund's "defection" to the Democratic Party of Oregon, state Sen. Avel Gordly (S23) will be the lonely independent, the Bernie Sanders if you will, of the legislature. Back when Westlund was still between political bedfellows, there was talk of a mini-caucus between them, using their moderacy and enviable intellectual and political skills to wield power beyond their numbers.

So much for that idea, although Westlund will likely remain sympathetic to both Gordly's position and her policy ideas. And while Gordly will continue to refuse attendance at any meeting not open to the public (which likely will include Democratic caucus meetings), her voting record is a dead giveaway to her practical alliance with the Senate's left wing. On the subject of legislative nonpartisanship in general, Gordly supports the recommendations of the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature released last month, perhaps picking up the torch left by outgoing Senator Charlie Ringo.

Beyond that sort of meta-legislating, however, what kind of agenda does she have for the 2007 session? If only everyone in Salem were as organized and forward thinking about their plans! We've asked several legislators what they intend to focus on next year, and for the most part have gotten back vague statements of principle and broad areas of interest. Not Gordly--if you want to know what she'll be up to, all you had to do was ask:
Mental Health/Health Care and Access: Champion Governor Kulongoski’s priorities to replace the Oregon State Hospital and to build a community-based network of treatment, housing and related services that meets the needs of Oregonians throughout the state. Continue to work toward the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities in Oregon.

Education: Continue to champion full funding for Head Start for all eligible Oregon children, and for Governor Kulongoski’s Education Enterprise, serving Pre-K through Higher Education. Monitor implementation of SB 300 (Expanded Options) and SB 103 (Multicultural Curriculum/Multicultural Policy). Continue to champion cultural competence and proficiency in education with a particular focus on the quality of schools of education, public and private. Champion increased financial support for the Portland Teacher Program (a partnership with Portland State University, Portland Community College and Portland Public Schools) as a successful model for training and retaining teachers of color in Oregon.

Economic and Community Development: Governor Kulongoski’s Budget includes an additional $ 5.6 million for small business services, including funds for minority and women-owned businesses and businesses in distressed areas. Champion inclusion of these funds in the final legislative budget. Monitor Department of Transportation initiative participation of women and minority-owned businesses in contracting opportunities.

Administration of Justice/Public Safety/Civil Rights/Human Rights: Reintroduce Police Use of Deadly Force and Grand Jury Reform legislation. Work in partnership with Attorney General and Albina Ministerial Alliance. Monitor introduction of legislation and policy discussions regarding immigration/family unification issues. Introduce legislative concepts from Mayor Tom Potter’s Mental Health/Public Safety Panel. Support full restoration of Advocacy Commissions.

Environmental Justice: Reintroduce Environmental Justice legislation and partner with Governor Kulongoski’s office to add environmental justice to his administration’s agenda.

Housing: Champion opportunities for home ownership and affordable housing, particularly housing for vulnerable populations. Continue work with the Oregon Law Center and the Portland Tribune related to unfair evictions of racial/ethnic/low income populations from Rose City Village. Introduce legislation as appropriate.

Other significant legislation for 2007: Legislation will be introduced/supported regarding predatory patrol towing, child abduction, medical record access, prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants. I support the regulation of payday lenders. Many of these lenders are clustered in NE and SE Portland. Monitor and participate in prevailing wage policy discussion.

Concurrent Resolutions: Resolutions will be introduced honoring the legacies of three Multnomah County Judges: the Honorable Mercedes Deiz, the Honorable Roosevelt Robinson and the Honorable Clifford Freeman. Resolutions will be introduced honoring activist/organizers Halim Rahsaan and Carl Flipper, and Tribal elder and Wasco speaker Madeline Bruno McInturff.

Portland State University Legislative Interns:
The first class of interns, all six from the PSU Department of Black Studies, will work on Senator Gordly’s public policy agenda. These interns are: Meggin Clay, Andrew “Julian” Jenkins, Chyerel R. Mayes, Alexis Romanos, Sam Sachs and Sabina C. Shaugnessy.
Clearly, if anyone else is telling their constituents they're going to "hit the ground running" in January, they'd better have their best Nikes on if they want to break out of the gate ahead of Avel Gordly. Whether you happen to approve of her agenda or not, you have to like the attitude of someone who comes in prepared.

Tom would want me to have his award

I'm just sayin

Thomas Jefferson wasn't a tax dodger and as far as I can tell believed that the power to determine taxation belonged solely to the legislatures--and not by ballot measures.

Taxes are the dues we pay for living in this society. I don't think Jefferson felt differently than I do on this one.

Jefferson was a guy who didn't like government having lots of frills..nothing that wasn't absolutely necessary--at least at the federal level. But he was a guy who strongly believed in a strong public education all the way through college. His University of Virginia was the first university to be centered around a library rather than a church. U of V was also the first to expand its academic majors outside of Religion, Law and Medicine.

This is a public university--meaning its run in large part through taxes.

Jefferson wasn't a guy who believed we should do anything and everything to "drown government in the bathtub"--which looks to me like what this dubious "award" is all about.

I'm willing to bet he'd rather have someone who's proud to pay their taxes win an award that bears his name.

PDX at Ground Level

Whilst reading in Portland Transport about the spotting of a SMARTcar in town, and how remarkable that must be given the trials in bringing one to Portland from Europe, I clicked on the link that proved such a car was in town, seen at right.

But the car isn't really the point of this post; it's the site where the picture is posted--a place called Portland Ground, a stunning archive of DIY photography, many of them equisitely composed and brilliantly captured. There are dozens, organized by neighborhood. Other cities and towns are represented, but the large majority are Portland. Here are some of my favorites, but definitely look through them yourself...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Finance Complaint Filed Against Nelson (R-HD24)

Randy Stapilus over at Ridenbaugh Press seems to have been the first one to catch this story from McMinnville today, about a complaint filed against the re-elected Rep. Donna Nelson, in Oregon's 24th House District. Like the News Register, I had heard from people inside the Peralta camp that they suspected her of dumping cash late in violation of her pledge to limit contributions to $2,000. But they were not ready to file the complaint yet, so like the Reg we opted not to say anything about it.

Well, the time has come and Peralta supporter and Democratic activist Debbie Runciman has filed the complaint with the Secretary of State. ">The Reg does a pretty good job of explaining the minutiae of the alleged violations, but the gist is that they are accusing her of taking contributions and then failing to report them until the very end of the election, basically falsifying the October processing dates on her official statements to make them seem as if they'd come then instead of during the summer.

Nelson's plea is that PAC and lobbyist mail is "nonessential" and gets opened after constituent mail, which according to her means it gets put into a plastic tub and nearly forgotten. This is the "I'm just a gentlelady who's doing my best" Nelson, who offers up the rank incompetence excuse hoping to be forgiven for being flighty rather than criminal. And I did say criminal, because while it's unclear whether charges might result, the office comfirms they are applicable and certainly possible. But in any case, that she says in her own defense that she never imagined anyone would even challenge her, much less be competitive, is to paint a picture of someone rather infected with their own status and sense of entitlement, and of these people we are warned to dismiss feats of confidence as gaffes of incompetence.

I'm not aware of anyone who knows more about what's really in the 2006 C&E's than Sal Peralta, so I have no doubt that they know what they found and they have documentation of a discrepancy (The Reg's own investigation produced several of them). So it's left to Nelson to come up with a better excuse than "whoops, behind on my mail."

As Randy says, much more likely to come. If there really is criminal wrongdoing, will she keep her seat? She's already in fragile health as of late, and returning to Salem in the minority and with campaign charges dogging you, may be too much. I don't wish it on her by health of course, but if she manipulated those reports like that she should go anyway. And that would be a Democratic pickup in an open election, not the least reason being that Peralta would almost certainly run.

Uncomfortable Question Of The Day

Not being a climber perhaps I'm unaware of the proper procedures and etiquette. And I'm certain that if I'm misunderstanding the situation some reader won't hesitate to smack me with a reality check.

Isn't it kind of dumb to attempt to climb Mt. Hood in December?

I'm sincerely not trying to disrespect the pain of the families who've lost their loved one or whose loved ones are still lost. But honestly...what am I missing here?


Have at me.

Write Your Own Caption: Not In Jail Yet, Edition

Ted Gets Took on Beavers Bowl Bet

For those of you not familiar with the millieu of postseason sports contests, if the game is a big enough one, typically politicians representing the two teams lay down a wager against each other, usually putting up native goods and treasures rather than money. (If UNLV ever gets back to a championship, maybe the mayor of Las Vegas will offer a comped weekend at the Bellagio, $500 in chips and two passes to see Prince.) Often the wager is in the form of epicurean delights, and that means that whenever an Oregon team finds itself in a postseason contest worthy of an inter-city bet--as both the Ducks and Beavers are this month--the politico from the other team better come correct.

Why? Because Oregon food products kick ass. You know it, I know it, cooking professionals from around the world know it. Free range meats? Check. Wild seafood? Check. Produce to die for? Checkereeno. Wine? You betcha. Beer? Wigga, please. Heck, the best part about beating an Oregon team may be having Ted Kulongoski pay up.

So in a press release befitting the slow news week before Christmas, Ted has announced the betting stakes for the Beavers game at the "Brut" Sun Bowl in El Paso, versus Missouri next Friday:
“Although I may feel a twinge of regret when my alma mater goes down, Governor Blunt has agreed to provide a nice selection of products from Missouri to help me savor our victory,” said Governor Kulongoski, who was raised in Missouri and received his bachelors and law degree from the University of Missouri.

As part of the wager, Governor Blunt has offered Kulongoski a selection of Missouri branded beef, award-winning Missouri wines and an AgriMissouri basket containing Show Me BBQ, Fitz’s Root Beer, blueberry amaretto syrup from Persimmon Hill Gourmet Foods and apple butter from Bekemeier’s Fruit Butters if the Beavers triumph.

In the event of a Tiger victory, Governor Kulongoski has agreed to provide Blunt with a bounty of Oregon goods including a large selection of premium Oregon craft microbrews from the Oregon Brewer’s Guild, three full wheels of globally-recognized Rogue Creamery bleu cheese, and a sampling of fresh Oregon seafood.
Geez, not even the President has had to struggle with a trade imbalance this bad. OK, I'll give Missouri the barbecue; Kansas City has some of the best anywhere, and Oregon doesn't even register on the map. But root beer? Hello, where do you think Henry Weinhard's comes from (Well, OK--Tumwater, WA these days...but damned if we're not taking credit for Henry in Oregon!) This prominent taster considers it among the top 10 nationwide. Or how about my personal favorite, Mt. Angel Root Beer, at 19th place? (Fitz's? 30th place.)

"Award-winning" Missouri wine? Who's giving out the awards, Yogi Berra (born in St. Louis)? I did a quick scan of the 100 best wines of 2005 in the entire world, according to Wine Spectator. You know how many Oregon wines make the list? Four--at #17, 36, 51 and 75 (trailing only California for US wines). I looked extra hard to find that top-notch Missouri wine in the sorry, there wasn't one. What else are they offering up from the show-me state? Blueberries and apples. Yeah, can't find those fresh in Oregon anywhere, can ya? Missouri's governor has gone fruit loops if he thinks his stuff beats out the actual Fruit Loop.

What does Missouri get if the Beavers lose? Some of the best beer in the nation, from the state that has more breweries per capita than any other in the US. Kick-ass cheese. And succulent dungeness crab, since we're in season. How is that fair? If these were two prize packages in the Price is Right showcase showdown, I wouldn't even deign to bid on Missouri's offering. If the men's 10,000-meter winner at Prefontaine got Oregon's package and the women's winner got Missouri's, she'd sue. If we sent Missouri's basket to Guantanamo, they'd hunger strike. If a death row prisoner asked for Missouri's gifts as a last meal, they'd retroactively find him not guilty via insanity. Rachel Ray's "Cooking with Missouri's Delicacies" show would get her cancelled--not only on the Food Network, but they'd kill her talk show, too.

Sheesh--if the Beavers win, that will simply have to be its own reward. Maybe it was his crappy offering that causeed Kulongoski's staff to misspell Missouri's governor's name (it's Blount, not Blunt).** Or maybe they had blunts on the brain*; with the pipeline of "BC bud" coming down from Canada, ours are probably better than Missouri's as well. Ted, if the Beavers lose, no one will blame you if you welsh on the bet (and share Oregon's basket with us!)

*disclaimer--I neither have any personal knowledge of blunts, nor do I have any evidence the members of Ted's staff have, either. Although that would explain his idea about granting transferrability to Measure 37 claimants...

**my bad--his name is actually Blunt. I did double check the name, and found no shortage of mainstream media references to "Matt Blount," but his own website calls him Blunt, so I'm guessing I'm wrong.

Measure 37 set to fuck up Portland (and the rest of Oregon) in a big way

The City of Portland is getting reamed by Measure 37 claims. Unsuprisingly, the claims aren't from little old ladies trying to subdivide their land. Its from major developers trying to makes shitloads of cash by subverting land use rules and city planning.


Once this whole Measure 37 thing finishes shaking out around the state with most claims having to be settled by allowing people to circumvent land use laws--I'm betting we're going to see a major blowback in the form of lawsuits.

I'm guessing these lawsuits will be against the various cities and counties that allow people to ignore land use laws/regulations AND against the people who filed the claims.

I don't see how developers can go around laws that impact their neighbors without pissing off a lot of people. "Pissed off" in this country is congruent to "lawsuit".

Monday, December 18, 2006

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

I'm starting to think that "congenital liar" is a prerequisite for anyone submitting a resume' to Bill Sizemore.

Hashing out Wyden's health care plan

We've been uncharacteristically silent on the issue of Senator Wyden's Healthy American's Act.

I've been quiet because I'm still reading and digesting what there is to know. The legislation itself is 166 pages (yowsa!) and the accompanying 29 pages of material from The Lewin Group is just a lot to wade through and understand. Much of the lingo and rhetoric of health care makes my eyes glaze over so I have to take my time and really read carefully.

TJ has been asking lots of questions of folks in the know via email and phone--and honestly has a greater understanding of this issue right now than I do, I think. But we're not there yet either as individuals or as a team.

I noticed today that Atrios made mention of Wyden's plan:

I've spent some time looking over Ron Wyden's health care proposal. I think it's pretty good, though not perfect. It seems like a reasonable starting point for a discussion at least. Most importantly it puts a marker down to presidential wannabes and motivates them to either support it or come up with their own.

My initial (albeit skimmingly) read through the information lends me to agree with Atrios. This is a place to start the conversation--and its one (among several) we as Oregonians and Americans-in-general must have.

Clark Co. Calls Columbian's Columbia Crossing Coverage Crap

It's not typically necessary, while fulfilling our charge to bring you the best of Oregon politics and culture statewide, to check out-of-state newspapers--even ones close by, like Clark County's Columbian. Our state media are by no means perfect; for instance we had to find out from Chicago's Sun-Times that Gordon Smith went to Utah earlier this month to beg lobbyists for money. But if we had to check every outlet by hand to scan them for Oregon stories, we'd go downright batty forthwith.

...and we'd be pretty stupid too, since Google will do the searching for you automatically, returning periodic updates about your topic via email. One such item came over the wires Friday, with implications for communities on both sides of the mighty Columbia--the Columbia River Crossing Project released the results of a Hibbitts survey commissioned by them to query Clark County's interest in running light rail across the river as part of any new crossing plan.

The reporter's angle, as seems usual with traditional media nowadays, was to parrot back what Hibbitts and the CRC gave them--Clark County residents want light rail now!
Light rail appears far more popular in Clark County today than when it was resoundingly defeated by voters nearly 12 years ago, according to a new poll released Thursday by the Columbia River Crossing study group.

The poll showed 68 percent of Clark County respondents favored extending light rail into Vancouver and farther north as one method of addressing Interstate 5 congestion. In the three Portland-area counties, 76 percent of respondents favored light rail across the Columbia River.

Clark County respondents also supported a new bridge, more lanes and employer incentives for flexible work hours, but opposed tolls.
Did you catch that last line? Respondents supported rail--but also a new bridge and more car lanes. OK, so they're open to the idea of rail now, but in the context of their other responses that hardly translates into the reported sentiment of "bring it on." The paper also tries to fashion the response as a turnaround from a decade ago, when county voters emphatically said no mas to mo' MAX. But that's problematic as well, since that was a specific proposal to spend a specific amount of money on a single, specific mode of transport construction, whereas the survey merely asked if people liked light rail as an option.

One speculation in the article suggests that the apparently increased interest may be due in part to the current cultural millieu, in which light rail is an established part of getting around in Portland metro, that didn't exist as late as 1995. While being as loosely supported as any other conclusion in the Columbian piece, I think it's a reasonable conclusion. But the reporter, in using the Hibbitts release (and CRC's touting of it), appears to have accepted that rationale as sufficient proof that attitudes have indeed changed. This comes despite a valiant attempt by members of Vancouver's City Councill--even rail-supporter Mayor Royce Pollard--to dampen outsized enthusiasm over the results:
[Pollard] doesn't think light-rail supporters should see the poll as definitive.

"I looked and it and said, 'Wow!' and said then 'Wait a minute, let's settle down.' I don't think anyone should be jumping up and dow n. A lot of details need to come out and a lot of people need to get engaged. It's probably pretty valid, but there's a lot more to come. There are good signs, but it's not the end of the game yet."

Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris sounded dubious. She pointed to a section of the poll where respondents were asked, without prompting, what was needed to ease I-5's congestion. Only 13 percent of Clark County respondents mentioned light rail or mass transit while 82 percent mentioned highways and new bridges.
Morris' comment is insightful and, to this survey statistician's mind, probably gets a lot closer to the real feeling of Clark County residents--sure, if you ask "what do you think about having a light rail line into Portland?" people may well respond favorably. But the issue to people is not light rail, yes or no--it's the much broader question Morris points out: how would you like to see congestion addressed? Without being asked specifically about light rail, among respondents it barely came up--as opposed to more car-based solutions, which more than 4 in 5 respondents saw as the way out of gridlock.

It so happens I think that attitude and belief is preposterous, reminding me of Metro President David Bragdon's campaign line that "building roads to stop congestion is like having sex to prevent pregnancy." But this wasn't a policy paper; it was a survey, the premier resultant fact from it being that MAX across the river is still not seen as what's needed to deal with congestion--The Columbian's "we're loving it!" tone notwithstanding.

OK, fair enough, folks on the other side of the Gorge are not champing at the bit to get into bed with Fred Hansen. The online version of the article spurred a flood of comments, and as an Oregonian you may be shocked to see the vitriol with which some Washingtonians reject anything Oregon, and particularly the Portland part. Several were supportive of the idea in their comments to be sure, and others correctly called the survey analysis into question in an intelligent manner--but others simply vented in all kinds of nasty ways against what they see as the enemy to the south. Take a gander at some of them below, and feel the love!
Light rail is 1890's technology choo-choo trains at a tremendously high cost. There is NO WAY trains can do more than make a TINY dent in commuter traffic. Evidence is all over Portland, where traffic jams are still the "norm" and light rail has done nothing but obstruct traffic and cost a hell of a lot of money.

Building more roads and freeways would be cheaper and better serve the public, but idiot liberals don't like that idea. Liberals would rather have you on foot or riding bicycles in the rain after leaving your cave to work or shop.

Face facts - Liberals want to take this country DOWN, not "up".


I would rather sit in My Car Listening to my Sat. Radio and not have to Smell Drunks, Cigarette Smokers, and Listen to Disrespecting Youths, Their Language and their Music. For Me Any Price I Pay for My Car VS the Cost for Light Rail Which Doesn't even Closely Pay For It's Self is Worth Every Penny. Or as Mastercard Would Say......PRICELESS.....


Light Rail is about politics and control pure and simple. Portland wants control of Vancouver and this is there chance.

Light rail will NOT remove any cars from the freeways, it will take off the buses.

As for crime on the line, check with the Portland Police and you will find that the Light rail stops are their highest crime and drug trafficing rates in the areas.

The one that I really wanted to showcase--referring to our flagship city as the "Soviet Socialist Republic of Portland"--seems to have been taken off the board, by persons unknown. But you get the idea. As a final gesture to return the dialogue back to earnest discussions of whether light rail is really pulling its weight as a mode of transportation, I invite you to peruse a pair of fact sheets from Tri-Met covering rail ridership--this customer profile from 2005 {pdf} showing (for instance) that over 80% of Tri-Met riders use either MAX or the streetcar in their travels; tend to use the MAX on almost one out of every three days; do so predominantly by choice and use it extensively for recreation rather than commuting...or this one from October {also pdf}, indicating that MAX riders save Oregon roads from nearly 23 million car trips per year--cutting commuter traffic on the Banfield and Sunset Highways by as much as 26% and saving tons in aerial pollutants in the bargain...

Update, 1pm--
I see Chris Smith over at Portland Transport has The O's story on the survey, including a mighty helpful link to the survey questions and results {pdf, again}.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Les AuCoin Puts the Bow on Gordo's Callow Conversion

We almost never do "this is awesome--go read this!!" shout-outs at LO; most of our readers are smart enough to have probably read whatever it is anyway, before they even got here. Certainly many of them read former Congressman Les AuCoin, and if so you can skip this one. For the rest, treat yourself to what I consider the definitive analysis on Gordon Smith's sudden (and convenient) apparent turnabout on Iraq. We've done several pieces on it, and that's partly because the entire media, traditional and otherwise, can't seem to stop referencing it either. (Russell Sadler has yet another take on it in today's BlueO.) If not a fundamentally major moment in the political history of the war, its bizarrely timed nature lent itself to much speculation, searching for signposts and milestones.

But for us younger folks not old enough to Get Clean for Gene, Les shows that craven, strategically expectant moves like Gordon's are nothing new by quoting McCarthy:
...all I could do is recall the words of an authentic anti-war hero in the late Sixties—Gene McCarthy, the Minnesota poet/senator/presidential candidate. McCarthy coined this political definition of a politician of Smith’s ilk:

“Once the real battle is over, they come in and shoot the wounded.”

That’s you, Gordon. After others braved the wrath of misled voters to help the public see Bush’s sophistry—after they risked their careers to turn the war into a political liability for you and other war supporters—only then did you locate your spine.
AuCoin goes on, devastatingly, to point out any number of points and milestones where Smith could have discovered conscience or felt the pull of reality. That's the sense that really seems to have been infused into the general reaction to Smith's turnabout--where were you until now? If he was looking for people to be grateful or kind for his epiphany, he fucked up.

It was another hat tip to a political wag--this time uncredited--that spurred me to post Les' link: he called Smith's 180 the “earliest deathbed conversion in political history.”

Metaphorically and career-wise, I'd say 23 months early.

Spanning the State--Storm recovery edition

Residents of western Oregon are still in a post-storm hangover after Thursday's mega wind storm. Take a moment to click on the links below that survey damage from around the region:

Astoria Gold Hill Coos Bay Gold Beach Gresham Hood River Keizer McMinnville Portland Metro area (click on "Northwest Storm")

So with that glance at that train wreck, let's Span the State!


As with most other counties in Oregon, Tillamook County is suffering under the weight of a raft of Measure 37 claims. County Community Development Director Bill Campbell notes that the claims may start a series of third party lawsuits against the county and the state for the lack of enforcement of land-use regulations.

The Marion County Assessor's Office has been a tangled mess. A lot of time, money and angst has apparently been spent trying to clean up that office--and its seems as if they're making little headway.

An anti-choice group is advertising in several newspapers from Portland high schools.

The King of Tires in the Pacific Northwest is moving its corporate headquarters from Prineville to Bend.

The daughter-in-law of newly minted State Rep Jean Cowan (D-Newport) has been appointed to fill the recent vacancy in the Lincoln County School Board. Jana Cowan will serve in the position recently held by Billie Jo Smith, who resigned. Cowan's appointment runs until June 30, 2007.

An autistic woman from Yamhill County has learned how to live with her affliction and create a life for herself thanks to the skills she learned as a public school student in McMinnville.

This is just plain cool.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Write Your Own Caption: Ducks schitzo edition

The Oregon Ducks will wear a new helmet design for their Las Vegas Bowl appearance should the helmets be delivered on time.

The new helmet design has a unique paint job that changes color depending on the angle of the viewer and the lighting at the time. It also features silver flames below the paint fleck.

OR Senate Dems announce committee assignments, too

Yesterday we brought you the House assignments and the joint committee assigments.

Today we bring you the Senate:

Business, Transportation & Workforce Development
Sen. Rick Metsger, Chair
Sen. Bruce Starr, Vice Chair
Sen. Ryan Deckert
Sen. Larry George
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, Chair
Sen. Roger Beyer, Vice Chair
Sen. Brad Avakian
Sen. Avel Gordly
Sen. Rod Monroe

Education & General Government
Sen. Vicki Walker, Chair
Sen. Jeff Kruse, Vice Chair
Sen. Rick Metsger
Sen. Frank Morse
Sen. Ben Westlund

Environment & Natural Resources
Sen. Brad Avakian, Chair
Sen. Jason Atkinson, Vice Chair
Sen. Alan Bates
Sen. Roger Beyer
Sen. Floyd Prozanski

Finance & Revenue
Sen. Ryan Deckert, Chair
Sen. Gary George, Vice Chair
Sen. Ginny Burdick
Sen. Rod Monroe
Sen. Bruce Starr

Health & Human Services
Sen. Bill Morrisette, Chair
Sen. Jeff Kruse, Vice Chair
Sen. Gary George
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson
Sen. Joanne Verger

Health Policy & Public Affairs
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, Chair
Sen. Avel Gordly, Vice Chair
Sen. Margaret Carter
Sen. Peter Courtney
Sen. Jeff Kruse

Sen. Ginny Burdick, Chair
Sen. Roger Beyer, Vice Chair
Sen. Jeff Kruse
Sen. Floyd Prozanski
Sen. Vicki Walker

Legislative Operations & Reform
Sen. Rod Monroe, Chair
Sen. Frank Morse, Vice Chair
Sen. Jason Atkinson
Sen. Brad Avakian
Sen. Peter Courtney
Sen. Rick Metsger
Sen. Jackie Winters

Sen. Kate Brown, Chair
Sen. Ted Ferrioli, Vice Chair
Sen. Betsy Johnson
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson
Sen. David Nelson

Special Committee on Land Use Fairness
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, Chair
Sen. Larry George, Vice Chair
Sen. Roger Beyer
Sen. Betsy Johnson
Sen. Kurt Schrader

Special Committee on Health Care Reform
Sen. Alan Bates, Co-Chair
Sen. Ben Westlund, Co-Chair

Sen. Jackie Winters, Vice Chair
Sen. Jeff Kruse
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson
Sen. Bill Morrisette
Sen. Frank Morse

Friday, December 15, 2006

OR House Dems announce committee assignments

This in about an hour ago from Russ Kelley, press dude for Speaker Merkley (I so LOVE writing that!):

Oregon House of Representatives 2007 Committee Assignments:

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Arnie Roblan, Chair
Brian Clem, Vice-Chair
Patti Smith, Vice-Chair
Brian Boquist
Jackie Dingfelder
Greg Macpherson
Ron Maurer

Business and Labor
Mike Schaufler, Chair
Sal Esquivel, Vice-Chair
Paul Holvey, Vice-Chair
Vicki Berger
Chris Edwards
Diane Rosenbaum
Patti Smith

Consumer Protection
Paul Holvey, Chair
Suzanne Bonamici, Vice-Chair
Donna Nelson, Vice-Chair
Larry Galizio
Dennis Richardson
Chuck Riley

Education Committee
Peter Buckley, Chair
John Dallum, Vice-Chair
Betty Komp, Vice-Chair
Brian Clem
Mitch Greenlick
Jerry Krummel
John Lim
Arnie Roblan
Gene Whisnant

Education Subcommittee on Higher Education
Peter Buckley, Chair
Brian Clem, Vice-Chair
Jerry Krummel, Vice-Chair
Mitch Greenlick
John Lim

Education Subcommittee on Education Innovation
Betty Komp, Chair
Karen Minnis, Vice-Chair
Arnie Roblan, Vice-Chair
Peter Buckley
Ben Cannon
John Dallum
Gene Whisnant

Elections, Ethics, and Rules
Diane Rosenbaum, Chair
Vicki Berger, Vice-Chair
Peter Buckley, Vice-Chair
Sal Esquivel
Dave Hunt
Arnie Roblan
Kim Thatcher

Energy and the Environment
Jackie Dingfelder, Chair
Chuck Burley, Vice-Chair
Ben Cannon, Vice-Chair
Terry Beyer
Bob Jenson
Greg Macpherson
Greg Smith

Government Accountability and Information Technology
Chuck Riley, Chair
Chris Edwards, Vice-Chair
Fred Girod, Vice-Chair
Terry Beyer
Kim Thatcher

Health Care
Mitch Greenlick, Chair
Tina Kotek, Vice-Chair
Dennis Richardson, Vice-Chair
Suzanne Bonamici
Scott Bruun
Ben Cannon
Linda Flores
Sara Gelser
Karen Minnis

Health Care Subcommittee on Health Care Access
Mitch Greenlick, Chair
Ben Cannon, Vice-Chair
Dennis Richardson, Vice-Chair
Betty Komp
Karen Minnis

Health Care Subcommittee on Health Policy
Tina Kotek, Chair
Suzanne Bonamici, Vice-Chair
Scott Bruun, Vice-Chair
Linda Flores
Sara Gelser

Human Services & Women's Wellness
Carolyn Tomei, Chair
Scott Bruun, Vice-Chair
Sara Gelser, Vice-Chair
Jean Cowan
Tina Kotek
Ron Maurer
Andy Olsen

Greg Macpherson, Chair
Jeff Barker, Vice-Chair
Gene Whisnant, Vice-Chair
Suzanne Bonamici
Kevin Cameron
Linda Flores
Betty Komp
Wayne Krieger
Tobias Read

Phil Barnhart, Chair
Tom Butler, Vice-Chair
Tobias Read, Vice-Chair
Vicki Berger
Scott Bruun
Sara Gelser
Andy Olsen
Diane Rosenbaum
Brad Witt

Terry Beyer, Chair
George Gilman, Vice-Chair
Carolyn Tomei, Vice-Chair
Peter Buckley
Tom Butler
Tobias Read
Greg Smith

Workforce & Economic Development
Brad Witt, Chair
John Lim, Vice-Chair
Chuck Riley, Vice-Chair
Phil Barnhart
John Dallum
Fred Girod
Paul Holvey

Veteran Affairs
Jeff Barker, Chair
Mike Schaufler, Vice-Chair
Wayne Scott, Vice-Chair
Brian Boquist
Jean Cowan

Oregon Legislative Assembly 2007 Joint Committee Assignments

Joint Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Ocean Policy

Deborah Boone, Co-Chair
Jean Cowan, Vice-Chair
Donna Nelson, Vice-Chair
Wayne Krieger
Mike Schaufler

Joanne Verger, Co-Chair
Gary George, Vice-Chair
Larry George
Betsy Johnson
Bill Morrisette

Joint Ways and Means Committee

Mary Nolan, Co-Chair
David Edwards
Larry Galizio
Bill Garrard
Bruce Hanna
Bob Jenson
Susan Morgan
Nancy Nathanson
Chip Shields

Kurt Schrader, Co-Chair
Margaret Carter, Vice Chair
Alan Bates
Richard Devlin
Avel Gordly
Betsy Johnson
Frank Morse
David Nelson
Joanne Verger
Ben Westlund
Doug Whitsett
Jackie Winters

Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources

Brian Clem
Jackie Dingfelder
Mary Nolan
Chuck Burley
Bill Garrard


Richard Devlin, Chair
Brad Avakian
David Nelson

Ways and Means Subcommittee on General Government

Bob Jenson, Chair
Terry Beyer
Chris Edwards
Larry Galizio
Jerry Krummel

Alan Bates, Vice-Chair
Betsy Johnson
Doug Whitsett

Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services

Deborah Boone
Bill Garrard
Tina Kotek
Susan Morgan
Nancy Nathanson

Margaret Carter, Chair
Alan Bates
Avel Gordly
Ben Westlund
Jackie Winters
Bill Morrisette, ex officio

Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development

David Edwards
George Gilman
Bruce Hanna
Chip Shields
Carolyn Tomei

Betsy Johnson, Chair
Gary George
Rod Monroe
Joanne Verger
Doug Whitsett

Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education

Larry Galizio, Chair
Phil Barnhart
David Edwards
Bob Jenson
Susan Morgan

Richard Devlin, Vice-Chair
Ryan Deckert
Frank Morse
Bruce Starr
Vicki Walker

Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Safety

Chip Shields, Chair
Jeff Barker
Kevin Cameron
Bruce Hanna
Nancy Nathanson

Ben Westlund, Vice-Chair
Kate Brown
Ginny Burdick
David Nelson
Jackie Winters

Damn--We should have thought of this

Props to the cool kids at Portland Metblogs--who've got their own Arabic lettering enhanced tshirts!

What a perfect way to piss off the TSA!

We gotta get us some of these for Loaded O.

Swift gets her day; and her sentence

Oregon soldier Suzanne Swift finally had her day in military court--and it was a plea bargain.

Swift pled guilty to missing movement and being AWOL.

The guilty plea allows Smith to still earn an honorable discharge. She was sentenced to 30 days confinement. She'll also be assigned to a new unit once she completes her sentence.

Thankfully, this is a reasonable outcome for Swift--who had been facing a possible dishonorable discharge.

Unfortunately, the military does virtually nothing to those who sexually abuse women within their ranks. Apparently, the military has archaic laws to deal with sexual abusers in their ranks and are essentially protected by Congress, who refuses so far to step up and force legislation on the military to clean up their act.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The losers of Washington County

The grand old daddy of Oregon's Grand Old Party lays out some strategic advice for the election weary losers in his brood:

What's important is to learn lessons from defeat. From my own experience, I learned far more from my losses than from my victories -- but only when I looked at them honestly and openly. So, perhaps I can start the conversation with a few observations and suggestions for Republicans here in Oregon as we regroup and plan.

Vic Atiyeh is the last Oregon Republican to be elected governor in Oregon and left that office in 1987, almost TWENTY YEARS AGO.

Atiyeh is essentially telling his party to stop nominating hardcore righties, quit letting ideology be the answer to everything--get some real policy ideas--and no more ceding Washington County to the D's.

For those GOPers who give a rip about ever winning again in this state: you'll have to accomplish the first two before you can have a shot at the third.

As a resident of Washington County since the mid-90s, I've lived and worked here long enough to understand the transformation of this geography from purplish red to purplish blue.

Part of the change has to do with population growth. More people are coming here and with a more urbanized population comes a more progressive political mindset, in general. But there is also a strong commitment to the public schools in Washington County, especially in Beaverton. There's a feeling among many residents here that the GOP is doing everything in their power short of C-4 explosives to level the public school system.

Many in Washington County believe that the Oregon Republican Party has broken faith with the citizens. They've lost touch with what really matters to Oregonians in this part of the state.

Its going to take awhile to patch that up.

Unless the GOP is really willing to undergo a serious transformation and demonstrate that they have policy solutions that reflect the priorities of people that aren't just east of the Cascade Mountains, they're going to continue to lose in Washington County.