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Posts published in “Jorgensen”

Truth be damned

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Labor Day is just around the corner, and typically represents the start of campaign season. As such, candidates and campaign staffers hope to head into it with positive momentum.

A campaign that seems to be having no such luck is the one for Oregon’s Measure 97, a proposed corporate tax that is projected to bring as much as $6 billion per biennium into state government coffers. The measure had originally taken the form of Initiative Petition 28 before qualifying for this November’s general election ballot.

Recent weeks have seen multiple claims made by the measure’s proponents to be proven patently untrue. The press has taken notice, and the general public may not be far behind.

Supporters have sworn up and down from the beginning that the funds that would be raised through the measure’s passage will go towards bolstering public services. However, those of us who are familiar with the legislative process know full well that short of a constitutional amendment, it is not possible to bind future legislatures. The executive director of Our Oregon, the measure’s primary sponsor, is a former one-term state lawmaker. One would expect him to be aware of this. I suspect he may be.

The lawyers who work in the office of Legislative Counsel (LC) certainly are. A Statesman Journal article published in early August verified LC’s contention that the Legislature would be free to spend that money however it sees fit. The Democratic co-chair of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee was quoted in another article as admitting that some of those funds could be used to cover the $885 million in projected cost increases for the state’s Public Employees Retirement System, which is not mentioned anywhere in the measure.

An Oregonian article from late July used public records to show that Our Oregon tried unsuccessfully to strong-arm and silence the Portland State University economists it had paid to study the measure into minimizing its impact.

That revelation was mere child’s play compared to the findings of a Statesman Journal article released in mid-August. According to that story, a complaint was filed against Our Oregon with the Secretary of State’s Office alleging that the organization illegally interfered with a signature gathering effort for another ballot measure.

The trend of increasingly unflattering news coverage continued last week. Veteran political reporter Jeff Mapes, formerly of the Oregonian and now with Oregon Public Broadcasting, did a story quoting Governor Kate Brown as conceding that consumers would have to bear some of the measure’s substantial costs. This flies in the face of other claims made by the measure’s supporters, who allege that the billions raised by the measure would somehow magically not be passed on to the average Oregonian through price increases. That claim is, of course, contradicted by economics, common sense and everything of the sort.

But even worse was a Willamette Week article that came out on Friday stating that an estimated annual $100 million of the funds raised from the measure may be constitutionally required to go to the state highway fund and used only for transportation purposes. The measure’s supporters didn’t include transportation as one of the areas that the funds would go towards, but one of its spokespeople finally acknowledged in that article that some of the money could go to other uses.

Despite all of this, state officials have refused to change the voter’s pamphlet statement in support of the measure to correct the misleading inaccuracies. This is only possible because legislation requiring those statements to be true was rejected during the 2015 legislative session by majority Democrats in both the House and the Senate.

I’ve also seen Facebook ads from proponents of the measure claiming grassroots funding support, which is beyond laughable. A previous article stated that all of the $1.5 million initially raised to support the measure came from two $750,000 checks from two of the state’s most powerful special interest groups. I personally know grassroots activists from one end of Oregon to another, and can assure you that most of them would be unlikely able to cut any check in that amount.

So is this measure really necessary? It probably depends on who you ask. The Taxpayers Association of Oregon has determined that this is the number one tax and spend state in the U.S., with state and local governments spending more per capita than our neighbors and 39 other states. Oregon governments spend nearly double what their counterparts in Utah do, and well above that of Washington and California.
It was also confirmed to me the other day by an analyst with the non-partisan Legislative Revenue Office that state tax collections are at historic highs.

We heard much of the same rhetoric from the same people back in 2010, with measures 66 and 67. Most of it was about corporations paying their “fair share,” although I’ve yet to hear anybody, anywhere, give an exact figure as to what exactly that should be. I’m not holding my breath waiting for them to do so, either.

Voters gave the benefit of the doubt to the measures’ supporters and passed them both. But low and behold, it did not solve the state’s seemingly permanent funding crisis. Oregonians didn’t see any resulting improvements in state services. Instead, what they received was the continued widespread abuse of children in foster care, the payout of multiple whistleblower lawsuits and a governor resigning in disgrace amid federal investigations into alleged influence peddling.

At the end of the day, Oregonians deserve to know the truth about the decisions they will have to make in the election. Whether they will ever end up actually getting it remains to be seen.

Wheels of justice grind

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It was just about impossible to escape the news Monday that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted for the e-mail scandal that has hung over her campaign for months.

Conservative activists took to social media platforms like Facebook in mass to express their dismay at the FBI’s announcement. Missing from my particular news feed was any sort of celebration from Hillary supporters. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening; it just isn’t in any of my social circles, apparently.

In the political world, people tend to release favorable information to the public on Monday mornings so it can dominate the news cycle all week long. That was the Clinton campaign’s strategy a few weeks back, when they decided that the contested Democratic primary race with Bernie Sanders was over and no longer worthy of any discussion. Perception is reality in politics, and they wanted to come out of an otherwise sleepy weekend with the public convinced that Clinton’s nomination was a done deal. Near as I can tell, that strategy succeeded. Whether Sanders and his supporters feel the same way, I’m not sure.

These latest developments came shortly after former President Bill Clinton surreptitiously ran into Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona, presumably to talk about grandchildren. Never mind that Lynch was a Clinton appointee, as the former president elevated her to the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999. Or the fact that we, the people, weren’t supposed to know that such a meeting ever took place. I would chalk it up to coincidence, but I’ve long since learned that there is no such thing when it comes to politics, especially at the higher, winner-take-all level that the Clintons have successfully inhabited for decades.

July also appears to be going well for former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, as the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision vacating his conviction on 11 counts of bribery-related charges. That conviction carried a two-year prison sentence. McDonnell may not be completely off the hook, though, as his case was returned to lower courts and he may still face a second trial.

The news of McDonnell’s courtroom triumph may have been unsettling to some of my fellow Oregonians, as his case was held up as the closest parallel we had to that of our former governor John Kitzhaber. It has long been speculated by Republican activists, operatives and even elected officials that the FBI’s nearly two-year-old investigation into Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, may not actually result in any criminal charges being filed. Once again, perception is reality, and seeing Clinton and McDonnell emerged unscathed from the same judicial gauntlet that has given the U.S. the world’s largest prison population is hardly encouraging for those of us who want to believe in the system.

Kitzhaber’s quest to create a perception of innocence has met with a couple of recent setbacks. It was revealed in late June that subpoenas have been issued to officials at the state Department of Energy regarding the controversial Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) debacle that was at the center of his administration’s scandals. Those officials will likely be called to testify around the middle of the month.

Also publicly disclosed around the same time was the tidbit that the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has contracted with an outside firm to audit the BETC program, which should be concluding in the next few weeks. Documents from an internal review conducted by the Department of Administrative Services into the department’s tax credit programs have also been released, and helped form the line of questioning from lawmakers during the Department of Energy Oversight Committee’s last meeting. So far, that body has heard presentations about every one of the department’s various divisions and why we couldn’t possibly live without them.

All that aside, Kitzhaber is facing a completely different challenge, and it’s on a much deeper level. News reports Monday morning stated that his 18-year-old son, Logan, was involved in a car crash near Lincoln City on the Fourth of July. This was a matter of weeks after the young man graduated from high school. Initial press articles characterized his condition as “critical,” and stated that he was taken by air ambulance to OHSU Hospital, but has since been released to recover at home with his family.

Back when Kitzhaber’s e-mails were released last year, I was curious enough to look through them, seeking clues as to the downfall of the man who had served as governor for most of the 22 years I’ve lived in the state. Most of it was pretty mundane, and centered on his thoughts involving health care and education policy.

But there were some gems hidden among all the back-and-fourth between Kitzhaber and his top aides. Among them was that he is a loving father who cares deeply about his young son. Any time Logan was mentioned in that correspondence, Kitzhaber made clear that his son’s health and well-being was more important to him than any of the political power he had accumulated over the years. As a father, I could relate, and almost felt bad for Kitzhaber when looking at the purely human aspects of what he must have been going through at the time.

A well-established cliché states that the wheels of justice turn slowly. I’m sure it’s been agonizing for Hillary and former governors McDonnell and Kitzhaber to be in the public spotlight amid criminal investigations into alleged wrongdoing. Clinton and McDonnell can probably breathe a little easier than they could last month. Kitzhaber, however, still remains in limbo, near as I can tell. For the time being, he has much better things to worry about, and could probably use a similar bit of good news right about now to offset this more recent tragedy.

Don’t drink the water

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It was announced last week that Portland Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Carole Smith plans to retire after the end of the next school year. This came as no surprise to me. In fact, I called it weeks ago.

Smith’s golden administrative parachute means that that she’ll probably make more from the state’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) than most people earn working 40 hours a week.

All of this might have something to do with a certain water-related scandal of some sort. We can’t call it Watergate, because apparently that’s already been taken.

The story, of course, is that Smith and other PPS officials knew for years that there was lead in the water of drinking fountains at literally dozens of Portland schools and didn’t bother to tell anyone.

Parents are understandably upset about it. There was a meeting a few weeks back, and my friend Bruce Broussard was among those in attendance. Bruce is a Vietnam veteran and a small business owner who also happens to have grandchildren in Portland schools. He ran as the Republican candidate for Portland mayor and took fourth place, despite not raising or spending much money, and is also the host of Oregon Voters Digest on Portland Community Media. I occasionally appear as a guest on his show.

Bruce was hoping to get some answers from Smith at that forum, which was moderated by Sen. Mike Dembrow (D-Portland). And when Dembrow tried to change the subject and move on, the angry parents in the audience turned on him all at once and nearly booed him out of the building five times in the space of three minutes.

The teachers union is also pretty unhappy. They do, after all, exist to ensure safe working conditions for their members. It’s not quite the same as the t-shirt factory fires that helped cause unions to be formed in the first place, but it’s not an ideal situation, either.

Another function of those unions is to negotiate their members’ salaries, although teachers everywhere are chronically and notoriously underpaid. Smith was seemingly able to negotiate her generous compensation package on her own and presumably without the help of any union representatives.

There seems to be a certain set pattern in Portland these days, in which officials know about clear environmental hazards and choose to do absolutely nothing about it. The other great example of this is the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) dropping the ball on preventing pollution in Southeast Portland.

I was at one of Governor Kate Brown’s press conferences at the capitol not too long ago when a reporter asked her about the situation.

“Hey…isn’t that near your neighborhood?”

When Dembrow was asked about all of this at the meeting, he indicated that some state funds would have to be involved as part of the solution. That will probably end up being the case.

The state’s reaction to the DEQ issues leaves much to be desired, as the agency announced surprise inspections of businesses throughout Oregon who had nothing to do with the Portland pollution problem.

These events have caused much of what I’ve seen while working in the Legislature the past few years to make much more sense. That body is, after all, dominated by Democrats from Portland, where layers upon layers of big government are still somehow inadequate to protect the city’s residents from pollution and its children from lead in the water at their schools.

Public officials with six-figure salaries well above those of the average taxpayer fail to do their jobs, are never held accountable and ultimately ride off into the sunset, paid with pensions. Those pensions are far beyond what the average Portland resident who pays for it all will ever make. It means that people like Smith and those DEQ officials will be paid more to not work than most of their tax base does to work just hard enough to stay poor.

Those residents then get mad—and understandably so—and call legislators like Dembrow to demand that the state do more to hold polluters accountable. They, in turn, pass laws in kneejerk response that threaten the very existence of struggling small businesses in rural parts of the state. The people there end up suffering, even though those parts of Oregon are among the most pristine on Earth.

That is, unless there are catastrophic wildfires going on. This was the case about a year ago. There were multiple fires burning in the rural district represented by my boss, and elsewhere in the state, too. A DEQ official was in the office explaining the modeling used by that agency as part of environmental legislation like the controversial Low Carbon Fuel Standard. He claimed that one-third of Oregon’s carbon output was from transportation.

“How much is from catastrophic wildfires?”

None, as it were. Presumably, that’s because they can’t tax it. Because the state is going to need as much money as it can get if it’s going to keep paying elaborate pensions to officials like Smith and those fine folks at DEQ.

Those retired officials can then move from Portland and Salem to the rural areas, and be among the best-off people in those communities. They would probably be pleased that they won’t have to rely on the local economies there to subsist, after Portland legislators and DEQ officials under their direction put their last remaining industries out of business.

But once enough of that happens, there won’t be a tax base to fund their lavish lifestyles anymore. People like Smith would then have to come out of retirement and put their sharply honed skills to work in whatever remains of the private sector, where incompetence of the kind they’ve demonstrated typically leads to termination.

Success, on the other hand, results in your business being targeted and shut down by DEQ.

This is the same agency that can’t protect you from pollution in the state’s largest city, where kids and teachers are exposed to lead in the drinking water at their schools, and officials who know about it fail to take action and respond to the scandal by announcing their retirements.

The cycle will keep repeating itself as expensive failures add up, unless and until we demand better from our leaders.

Brown’s bad week

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Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber broke his typical silence earlier this month via social media to publicly criticize his successor.

A recent post on Kitzhaber’s Facebook page took Governor Kate Brown to task for her position on Initiative Petition 28, or rather, her lack of one.

“With all due respect, I find it hard to understand how any public official or candidate for statewide office could be neutral on a measure that would bring about the most sweeping change in Oregon’s tax system since Ballot Measure 5 passed in 1990,” Kitzhaber wrote.

Brown became Governor in February 2015 after Kitzhaber resigned amid federal investigations and allegations of corruption and influence peddling. She is up for election this November to serve out the rest of Kitzhaber’s very brief fourth term in office, and is neither supporting nor opposing the corporate tax measure.

Instead, Brown’s office has released a plan on how to spend the money that the measure’s passage would bring into the state’s coffers, a move that apparently did not impress Kitzhaber.

Multiple media outlets picked up on the post and wrote stories about it, which creates a conundrum for Democrats seeking office at the state level. If they support the measure, they risk drawing the ire of the business community. Opposing it could upset some of the same special interest groups that typically fund their campaigns.

Kitzhaber’s swipe at Brown, and the media’s reaction to it, means that avoiding taking a stance on the measure is simply not an option.
It begs the question of what, exactly, is Kitzhaber’s motivation. Is he seeking redemption? Perhaps. But if that’s the case, he still has a lot of work ahead of him.

An Oregonian article released last week cited a poll showing Kitzhaber with a 23 percent approval rating. That’s not great by any measure, but it’s still much higher than that of his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Her favorability rating is at five percent, though I have no idea who any of those few remaining supporters might be.

Could it be that Kitzhaber is out for revenge? I suppose it’s possible. Brown was among the Democratic leaders who threw him under the bus before he stepped down, and you could physically hear the hurt and sense of betrayal in his voice in the recorded announcement of his resignation.

I actually don’t think it’s either of those things, and have another theory: Maybe Kitzhaber still cares about the state and the people in it, and made his comments out of genuine concern for them.

As someone who deeply loves Oregon, I’ve been very critical of Kitzhaber over the past couple of years. However, under our system, people are innocent before proven guilty. While he presumably remains under investigation, Kitzhaber has not been charged with any crimes. Neither has Hayes.

And in this case of IP 28 and Brown’s position on it, Kitzhaber happens to be completely correct.

He pointed out in his post that the measure was “written by pollsters rather than economists, and is the product of ballot title shopping.” Kitzhaber even managed to take a swipe at former rival Bill Sizemore, who unsuccessfully challenged him for the Governor’s office in 1998.
Those written remarks by Kitzhaber set off a series of seeming setbacks for Brown and her administration, which happened in rapid succession.

Brown was panned in the press days later by another prominent Oregon Democrat, Congressman Peter DeFazio, over an entirely unrelated matter. It also came out in the media around the same time that Brown will not be debating Republican gubernatorial nominee Bud Pierce at an Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) conference in July.

Our sitting incumbent governor shouldn’t be afraid to debate a political newcomer, should she? After all, Brown has been a public figure in Oregon politics for quite some time, having served in the Senate prior to being Secretary of State and Governor. Pierce, on the other hand, has never held elected office. He is, however, extremely sharp, surprisingly good off the cuff and getting better at campaigning literally by the day. His campaign has also released a poll showing him trailing Brown by just a couple of points and, between the two of them, he’s obviously having a much better month.

This isn’t the first time a gubernatorial candidate has opted to skip out on the debate at the ONPA conference. Republican Chris Dudley passed up the chance to share a stage with his opponent during the 2010 election. That opponent? None other than John Kitzhaber himself, who may very well have the last laugh by the time all of this is over.

Portrait of Kitzhaber’s legacy

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The official portrait of former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber continues to hang in the hall of the state capitol in Salem. It’s still there, alongside those of his predecessors like Ted Kulongoski and Vic Atiyeh, and right next to the office he occupied for longer than most of the people who have ever held it.

Kitzhaber’s portrait was particularly popular among tourists to the building in February 2015, in the days surrounding his resignation amid federal investigations and allegations of corruption and influence-peddling. Groups of people and individuals would pose for pictures with his portrait, taking selfies in the anticipation that the scandals and controversy would ultimately result in it being taken down.

Not much has been said publicly about the man in recent months, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation tends to be tight-lipped about its work. Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, occasionally break their silence with recorded video statements, social media posts and interviews in which they disclose very little while loudly proclaiming their innocence. Hayes even took a job with a startup magazine in Bend, an unusual career choice for someone with literally no background in journalism and who has blamed the news media and its members for her very public downfall.

The latest reminder that the trials and tribulations of John and Cylvia are nowhere near over hit this week like a one-two punch. First came the call from Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform for a criminal investigation into the disastrous $305 million Cover Oregon debacle, in which federal dollars were spent developing a website that never functioned or signed a single person in the state up for health insurance coverage.

Cover Oregon was supposed to be one of Kitzhaber’s crowning achievements and accomplishments, as he and others in the state’s political leadership were eager to have the state be the first in the nation to fully implement the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Instead, Oregon taxpayers get the privilege of paying for attorney fees years later as the state and software giant Oracle fight it out in multiple court cases and venues and point the finger at each other in an attempt to assign blame for the fantastic failure that followed.

The fact that the state didn’t have to build a website from scratch is often lost upon many during discussions on this issue. I had actually reported in December 2012 in an Estacada News article that former State Representative Patrick Sheehan grilled Cover Oregon officials about that decision during a committee meeting. Patrick, who has a background in website development, had received live product demonstrations from a company that could have licensed existing software to the state for $6 million and customized it for another $6 million. His concerns about the state wasting money were met with seeming derision by officials who were later fired or resigned in disgrace. They flippantly told Sheehan that they weren’t worried about wasting money, because if the state ran out, it could simply ask the federal government for more.

All of the constant calls for somebody, somewhere, to investigate what happened during Kitzhaber’s tenure as the state’s chief executive officer have grown into a chorus. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has, not surprisingly, never seemed to be very eager to investigate the man who appointed her to her position. But those of us who have been screaming for it all this time have become quite hoarse, in the hopes of eventually being heard.

At the end of that same news cycle came a story from The Oregonian newspaper that Hayes has been ordered by a judge to pay $128,000 in attorney fees to that publication after her failed attempts to keep her e-mails from being disclosed. That dollar figure is nearly the same amount that her consulting business supposedly made in a single year not all that long ago during her stint as First Lady. It’s also a full six figures higher than the amount she apparently disclosed to the Internal Revenue Service for that same year. As a former longtime reporter, I’m sure that it’s substantially more than she’s bringing home through her current occupation.

As these events unfolded, members of the Legislature convened at the capitol for a week of interim committee meetings. They include the Department of Energy Oversight Committee, which was formed in the hopes of figuring out what happened with that agency’s Business Energy Tax Credit boondoggle during Kitzhaber’s administration. Several state agencies have faced turnover at the director level in recent months and colossal budgetary shortfalls loom on the horizon for the Oregon Health Authority, Department of Human Services, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Public Employees Retirement System.

That’s a stark contrast to the legacy that I’m sure Kitzhaber was hoping to leave behind. In the meantime, though, his official portrait remains in its current location, much in the same way that former governor Neil Goldschmidt’s did until its removal.

I suppose the possibility exists that Kitzhaber’s may still someday be taken down. And maybe it will be placed alongside Goldschmidt’s so the two of them can hang together. Such a scenario might be the most fitting end for it once this whole situation has finally been resolved.

Costs of gentrification

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I recently celebrated my 36th birthday with some friends in an increasingly trendy Northeast Portland neighborhood. The occasion was also somewhat bittersweet, as it was our group’s last hurrah in the Alberta Street area.

My friends have lived on the street for the last eight years. Since then, we’ve seen the historically African-American neighborhood slowly transform over time as gentrification took place.

All of that culminated a few weeks ago, as my friends were given a no-cause eviction notice amid rising rents as Portland and its residents grapple with that city’s affordable housing crisis. One of my friends is actively seeking a place near his new job in Beaverton, another area where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find reasonably priced housing.

The other is returning to her native Texas after coming to Portland a decade ago to attend college. Her stints at Portland Community College, Portland State University and Concordia University have culminated in six figures of student loan debt, more than enough credits to graduate, yet no actual college degree from any of those three institutions.

We all watched as more specialized boutique stores opened up in the area and the neighborhood’s traditional identity gradually faded away. A house directly across the street from my friends’ studio apartment was purchased for $110,000, fixed up for another $100,000 and later sold for four times that amount.

A highly publicized gang-related shooting in the neighborhood last year still wasn’t enough to drive those housing prices and costs down, or the demand for any of it.

Against that backdrop, Metro continues its refusal to expand the Urban Growth Boundary. This happens despite the fact that vacancy rates remain at extremely low levels. There’s also the ongoing denials from politicians and bureaucrats about the correlation between the prices of land and their ultimate effects on housing costs due to policy decisions that were made in the 1970s that have somehow become sacrosanct.

While reminiscing about our time in the area, we realized that every time we spent money at one of these new stores, we were helping to fund the gentrification that is now pricing our friends out of the neighborhood. The success of those stores caused other stores to move in, which raised the property values further and further.

At one point, we shared a laugh over another revelation—if we had just pooled all the money we otherwise would have spent at a local bar that had since burned down, we could have invested it in some real estate. It’s entirely possible that we could have bought the apartment complex that is now being refurbished to make way for tenants willing to pay more to live there.
It’s truly sad that our group of friends will no longer have a foothold in the Alberta Street neighborhood. The fond memories of our shared experiences will soon be the only connection we’ll have to it.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and find another part of Portland to hang out in, at least until other people discover it and the whole gentrification process starts all over again. And perhaps we’ll have to repeat that process a few more times until Portland and its leaders come up with sensible solutions for the same problems that past decisions appear to have caused and made worse, at the expense of working people throughout the city.

After all, if these trends continue, they’ll eventually run out of neighborhoods to kick residents out of while welcoming the next rounds of new developments, specialized shops and condos that are well beyond the financial reach of the people who have called these areas home for years.

Kasich in Portland

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Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich held a town hall meeting Thursday, April 28 at The Castaway in Northwest Portland.

A few hundred people were in attendance, including Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville), some Salem lobbyists and an entire line of television news crews.

Kasich arrived to a standing ovation, flanked by Lake Oswego City Councilor and Republican state treasurer candidate Jeff Gudman.

Gudman took to the microphone and told the audience that the only way for Republicans to win the White House in November is to nominate Kasich. He praised Kasich’s “outstanding service” to Ohio and his “incorruptible character.”

Introduction Kasich to the crowd was Ron Saxton, who ran as the Republican nominee for Oregon governor in 2006. Saxton echoed Gudman’s prior remarks about Kasich’s electability, citing the last 16 polls showing the Ohio governor beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Kasich began his remarks by stating that he started his bid for the presidency with no name recognition and is being outspent 50-1, but still placed second in four of the last primaries.

His overall message was a sharp contrast to that of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, and probably very deliberately so.

We have problems and they’re easy to fix, Kasich said, but anger, division and politics are getting in the way of solving them.

Kasich described how he was 30 years old when first elected to Congress. His stint on the Defense Committee saw the military rebuilt, the Berlin Wall fall and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein pushed out of Kuwait, and Kasich said those successes were due in part to statesmanship.

“We didn’t function much as partisans,” he said. “That was when we could figure out how to work together.”

In that time, Congress balanced the budget for the first time “since man walked on the moon,” Kasich said. “They haven’t done it since I left.”

Since becoming governor of Ohio, Kasich said that state went from having a 20 percent deficit in its operating budget to a $2 billion surplus and has gained 420,000 jobs.

“We’ve left no one behind,” he said, adding that the mentally ill, addicted and developmentally disabled are all now being helped.

Kasich recalled how there were initially 17 Republicans seeking the presidency, including several other governors. He said he would go to debates and not get called on and was largely ignored until about eight weeks ago.

“And I’m still standing,” he said.

In his remarks, Kasich said he wanted to be someone who can talk about the way things can be. He characterized his campaign as being about lifting people up, not name calling or bullying them, an indirect reference to many of the controversies that have followed the Trump campaign.

An audience member asked Kasich about Trump during the question and answer portion of the meeting. Kasich predicted that if Trump didn’t have the nomination won by July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, that the developer and reality television star would be unlikely to end up with it.

Kasich cited Trump’s high negative ratings among married women and 15 polls showing him losing to Hillary and getting “crushed” in the Electoral College. He added that Trump’s nomination could result in Republicans losing the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court.

“I’m not taking the low road to the White House,” Kasich said.

A Libertarian option

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As Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his followers rallied in Portland and the three-ring Republican primary circus centered on allegations of mistresses, two of the major candidates for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination were in the Portland area for a debate last Friday. (photo/Scott Jorgensen, left, and Gary Johnson, courtesy Jorgensen)

The Libertarian Party of Oregon’s chairman, Ian, is a longtime friend of mine from our days together at Grants Pass High School, so I asked if there was anything I could do to help prepare for the event.

In this case, helping turned out to mean picking former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson up from the airport and driving him around to a few radio interviews. My past experience as a handler in a Congressional campaign and as a legislative aide at the state capitol in Salem apparently qualified me for these duties.

Our voyage included a trip to downtown Portland to the Alpha Broadcasting studios for an interview with conservative talk show host Lars Larson on KXL-AM. Johnson conducted another live radio interview on the phone as we neared the studio.

In his phone interview, Johnson characterized both major party frontrunners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, as “polarizing.” He’s not alone in thinking so, as a recent Oregon Public Broadcasting story showed both with high negatives among the state’s voters.

Johnson spoke about immigration, with his stance providing a stark contrast to that of Trump. The former Republican governor of a border state, Johnson declared the idea of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico “dumb.” Where are you going to put it, he asked, on either side of the Rio Grande? In the middle of that river?

Minutes later, we were in the Alpha Broadcasting studios with Larson, where Johnson discussed domestic fiscal and tax policy.

We did lunch after the interview, Johnson’s treat, and I took him to the Embassy Suites hotel that was hosting the debate. My arrival in the lobby was just in time to take Johnson’s rival, Austin Petersen, to a radio interview with Jayne Carroll just down the street at KUIK-AM.

I found out on the drive that Petersen and I are around the same age, and his campaign headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas is not too far from where I lived for a couple of years back in the late 80s.
The debate that night was attended by around 50 people of multiple generations, and started with a standing ovation being given to a World War II veteran in the audience.

In his opening statement, Johnson hailed Uber and Airbnb as entrepreneurial models of the future, and bragged that he vetoed more legislation than the other 49 governors combined while serving in office, including thousands of line item vetoes.

Petersen discussed his background growing up near the town of Liberty, Missouri and his volunteer efforts raising $1 million for the presidential campaign of Libertarian icon and former Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas). That led to a stint in D.C. as a volunteer coordinator for the LPO for Petersen, who told audience members that he also supported Johnson’s 2012 Libertarian presidential bid.

The two candidates answered a series of written questions submitted by audience members, covering a variety of liberty-related topics. Petersen summed up his, and the overall Libertarian philosophy, as “don’t hurt people, don’t take their stuff.” He held a copy of Easy Guide to the U.S. Constitution during the debate, and occasionally waved it around and used it as a prop.

Johnson stated that the biggest threat to the nation is debt, and pledged to submit a balanced budget to Congress if elected. He said the anticipated 20 percent reduction would be “unprecedented,” but added that many functions could be turned back over to the states, which could serve as “50 laboratories of best practices.”

The candidates’ messages seemed to resonate well with the audience, but may be able to reach well beyond that.

Johnson mentioned in his remarks that he is suing the Presidential Debate Commission in an attempt to get third party candidates included in those events. Earlier that same day, the story broke in the press that Johnson polls in the double digits when added to the Trump-Clinton equation.

If Johnson prevails in his lawsuit, and apparent voter dissatisfaction with the major party candidates continues, it could provide a real opening for the eventual nominee of the Libertarian Party, or other possible third-party alternatives.

The new Oregon session

A discussion on the new Oregon legislative session by Ridenbaugh author Scott Jorgensen.