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Posts published in “Oregon”

The Battle of Rainy Day vs TABOR

The advocates of what we here will call Measure 48 - no spin involved in that - aren't wasting time after absorbing fire the last few days. The addition of the measure, which seeks to hold state spending to predefined limits, to the November ballot has yielded a spate of news stories (and blog items from locations including this one) as well as pressure on candidates to take sides, for or against. And Measure 48 took a blow when the Republican nominee for governor, Ron Saxton, said that he will not support it and will vote against it.

Too much has been invested to stop or slow down, however. A post on Oregon Catalyst together with associated comments usefully outlines two of the next lines of attack we'll be seeing as the battle over definition and framing gets underway.

Measure 48 is a whole lot like something called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights - acronymed TABOR - which got an extended statewide workout in Colorado from its passage in 1992 until last fall. What happened during that period is that public finance in Colorado tanked, to the point that by last year many of TABOR's leading 1992 advocates - including the Republican governor - were pleading with the voters to put it on the shelf, lest public finance be wrecked for a generation. The voters, opting not to accept hundred of millions of dollars which would have gone into their pockets, obliged. That's the track record.

It is true that Measure 48 isn't a photocopy of Colorado's TABOR; it focuses more on state government and provides for some setaside funds. Some of the roughest edges are worn down. But the guiding principle is the same. The Oregonian's editorial page (edited by Robert Caldwell) seized on that today, and its linkage of Measure 48 to TABOR was quickly attacked in turn by a TABOR advocate.

With little similarities between Colorado's TABOR and our M48 this November, Caldwell has shown once again an extraordinary ability to discard the truth and ethics in pursuit of manipulating a public vote. Nothing new about that, but today Bob truly wallows with election charlatans as he takes his early dishonest shots at M48. Wishing to taint the measure and complicate the otherwise simplistic framework of M48 Caldwell doesn't want voters to know details such as:
TABOR limited ALL State and local government taxing appropriations (collections) in Colorado.
M48 will only limit State spending leaving excess collections for a rainy day fund.
TABOR disallowed any Rainy Day Fund.
M48 makes one automatic as collections will certainly exceed spending.

The argument over technical differences between 48 and TABOR may bog down, however, so the measure's advocates also have another weapon handy: Framing the measure as the Rainy Day Amendment - a measure setting up a rainy day fund. (Who knows, the strategists probably figured: It might even draw in a few unwary liberals that way).

This will be hard-fought. And the winner will either have convinced the voters that Measure 48 is just a Rainy Day Amendment, or that it's a whitewashed version of Colorado's TABOR. The battle is joined.

Review time

One of the documents in the relicensure procedures in the Idaho Power Company Hells Canyon Dam case is now out.

Hells Canyon Dams DEISThe Draft Environmental Impact Statement in the case is available on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission web site. Comments are due by October 3. In its summary, FERC said of the relicensure,

Under the staff alternative, the project would be operated as proposed by Idaho Power, but with the following additional operational constraints:

Subject to reconfirmation in 2009, releases from the project to augment downstream flows for the purpose of enhancing juvenile fall Chinook salmon migration conditions.
Additional ramping restrictions during the fall Chinook rearing period.
Stricter reservoir refill targets after the flood control season.
Warmwater fish spawning protection levels in Brownlee reservoir.

The relicensure is one of the quietest big stories in Idaho - its made the news hardly at all. But that's no excuse for not paying attention.

Measure rundown

There's the line of thought that in states like Oregon, where ballot issues pop up by the bushel, you're better off voting against all of them. (There's a good argument about just that on Blue Oregon.) Evidently, a lot of people do; something like two-thirds of them tend to fail. It's a reasonable default situation.

That said, not all do, and not all should. And blanket voting is simply another way of saying one is unwilling to do the work of separating the crystalline from the crud.

Herewith, an early and quick rundown of the measures that make the Oregon ballot this year, our take on what lies ahead. Expect the biggest debate on Measure 48; hope for spirited debate on all, especially the most obscure (and sometimes treacherous) financial measures.

Measure Will it pass? Should it pass?
39 - No eminent domain for private sales yes yes
40 - Constitution: Elect Supreme Court, Appeals by district yes close call
41 - Allow state tax deduction equal to federal exemption unclear no
42 - Ban insurance company use of credit scores for rates yes yes
43 - Parental notification on abortion of minor children yes leaning yes
44 - Expand Oregon prescription drug program yes yes
45 - Constitution: State legislators term limits close call no
46 - Constitution: Procedure on campaign finance law probably no
47 - Campaign finance rules, adds requirements probably no
48 - Constitution: TABOR state spending limits leaning no no


Comments not only welcome, but encouraged. Consider the above a first take likedly to be extended and revised a couple of months from now.

Echoes from Hells

reviewHistory usually does not repeat itself, exactly, but it does send waves of recollection off into the future. We have a hard time learning from history, it seems, until after it smacks us more than once.

Brooks bookUseful history books can at least soften the shock, and Karl Brooks' new (and first) book on the Hells Canyon controversy may do that, since its timeliness has worked out well. One of the underreported developments in Idaho and Oregon now underway is the renewal of Idaho Power Company's licenses for the Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon Dams on the Snake River; the almost certain ultimate approval of those renewals does not lessen their importance (or render insignificant the terms attached). The lack of current controversy would seem to tell many Idahoans and Oregonians that the dams on the Snake involve no dispute.

But they once did, ferocious dispute indeed, and not where you might think. The battle running from the late 40s to the late 50s centered not on the environmental question that might be a centerpiece today - whether to build a dam (or more than one) on such a fine stream of freeflowing river. The issue then was over whether the federal government or Idaho Power, both experienced dam builders, should do the job - and win control of a key piece of electric generation in the Northwest.

Our Paradox Politics touched on the subject briefly, from the standpoint of Idaho politics. But now Karl Brooks has given it the full book treatment, and this thorough review turns out to be unexpectedly timely. (more…)

The TABOR line

Though it was apparently in a specially-released state, it isn't on Ron Saxton's web site, much though we looked. But maybe there's good reason for that . . .

Ron SaxtonThe topic is the state spending initiative, slated as Measure 48, and certain to be hotly debated between here and November. We have no hesitation in declaring this one a dog of the most mongrelly sort, for this reason: It's been tried elsewhere and failed abysmally. (We've addressed this before.) Under the label TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights), it was passed in Colorado in 1992 with strong support from the elected leadership of the Republican-led state. By 2005 those same officials, including Republican Governor Bill Owens, were supporting a ballot issue to table TABOR - put it on hold for five years - because the state's finances had fallen to ruin because of it. One of the other political effects of TABOR was to help shift a state that seemed strongly Republican into one, in the last few years, moving fast into the blue column - anti-TABOR Democrats won a Senate seat there in 2004 and have swept the state legislature.

But in other states which haven't yet experienced the wonders of TABOR, there's still a strong Republican base in support of it. Now, in Oregon, it's qualified for ballot status, and will be a top subject of discussion. So, if you're Ron Saxton, Republican nominee for governor, what do you do? Agree with the Democratic incumbent, Ted Kulongoski, that it shouldn't be passed, and thereby drive a wedge between your most enthusiastic party members and yourself (and united them with minor-party candidate Mary Starrett)? Or endorse it, risk losing the Great Middle, and support what you know isn't supportable? (more…)

District delimiters

You have to wonder if the advocates of the just-certified Initiative 24 recognize the double-edged nature of their proposal.

The initiative's idea is this: The members of Oregon's Supreme Court, which has seven justices, and Court of Appeals, which has 10, would be elected from districts around Oregon, rather than at large. The effort seems to have special appeal among people in rural areas, especially east of the Cascades: The justices and judges always seem to come from the Portland-Salem axis - and if not exactly all of them, then certainly a whole lot of them. You can understand the frustration.

One problem with the idea though is that, once elected, the judges and justices are going to live in and operate out of Salem anyway. If they weren't Willamette Valley types before their election, they will be afterward. Unlike state legislators or even members of Congress, they won't be headed back to their districts to hear from constituents.

The up-side to the initiative, from the rural interest viewpoint, is that they'd be guaranteed a presence on the court. The downside is the limitation of that presence. On even the 10-member Court of Appeals, all of Oregon east of the Cascades would get just about . . . one seat. And that's as much as they'd ever be able to get; under the present plan, you could in theory elect judge after judge from the big wide open. They'd get less than that on the Supreme Court. Meantime, under the new plan, the Portland metro area's domination of the courts would be locked in.

Before Oregonians cast their ballots on 24, someone might want to point this out.

The Kropf opening

Does the dropout of Jeff Fropf from re-election to his House seat open a new House opportunity for Oregon Democrats?

Jeff KropfThe snap presumption seems to be that no, it doesn't. After rummaging through the stats, the area and the candidate situation, we'd conclude that the seat likely will remain Republican next term. Like but not definitely - Kropf's leave-taking has opened an opportunity for Democrats that hadn't existed previously.

Kropf is a native of the Albany area and long has been involved in real estate and run a farm near Sublimity, east of that city at the feet of the Cascades. Since his first election to the House in 1998 with 59.7% of the vote, he has had no trouble winning re-election, and his seat has been slated as safe Republican since. He has been one of the more flamboyant House members and made some headlines for flying an immigration watch on the border with Mexico; none of it has done him harm politically, and probably helped.

He filed for re-election this year, and he hasn't been considered at risk. But in the last few years he has also been a radio talk show host, part time, at KXL in Portland (occasionally subbing for Lars Larsen), and he has said he's interested in pursuing that line of work. It came to a decision in recent weeks when he and the station learned he'd have to give his opponent this year, Democrat Dan Thackaberry, equal air time, or pay his campaign the equivalent. Faced with the choice, Kropf ended his re-election bid rather than give up the radio show. Quote from Kropf: "I have to think about my future, and it isn't in politics, and it's likely to be in radio." (Will the show lose some of its spark when its host isn't an actual state official? But that's another matter.)

The Republicans have until August 29 to replace him; the decision probably won't come for another couple of weeks at least. Local Republicans said they're not worried about losing the seat, pointing to the 43%-34% Republican edge in voter registration. (more…)

Community service

We of the blogosphere often take delight in the shortcomings of the mainstream print press (yes, true even of your scribe, who toiled among the printing presses for a decade and a half), bemoaning the too-frequent absence of really useful community journalism.

But it does happen, and it should be celebrated when it does. With that in mind, check out the recent story in our local paper, the McMinnville News Register, about the group called Thugz Off Drugz and the trouble it has had finding a place to operate in McMinnville.

We have a second agenda as well in pointing out this story.

In a time when so many people, so much money, such stringent enforcement and so many jail cells are devoted to dealing with the War on Drugs, how do our communities deal with efforts to actually solve the problem by ending addictions? Read this story, and then explain how serious about drug abuse we really are.

Bloggy O

Read the print edition of the Oregonian and you'll usually find references to blogs attached to a negative descriptor of some kind. (This is still commonplace around the print newspaper world.) At the same time, the electronic side of the O is getting increasingly bloggy.

Oregon Media Insiders comments: "This is obviously a beta site or I'd make snarky remarks about the date/time and weather functions. Interesting to watch the print publications scramble to catch up on the blog front. We've got the Trib and the Merc hyperblogging, now here comes the O. Will WWeek enter the daily blog race?"