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Posts tagged as “Barrett Rainey”

Term limit testing

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There are those who believe term limits for elective office will “fix” some of the problems we face with “career” politicians. While the idea is tempting for some reasons offered by supporters, I’m not convinced. In one Oregon county, we’re about to see if term limits are even legal.

Last year, Douglas county voters approved term limits for just their county. Now, one of the best and most effective commissioners in the state is running into the limit wall and taking the issue to court. While her case pertains to only one county in one state, it offers a look at how the issue could play out elsewhere. And where the courts are on the subject.

Susan Morgan has served two consecutive terms. Prior to that, she was in the Oregon legislature for several years. She’s experienced, effective, dedicated to public service and is as good at her job as they come. She is NOT the kind of public servant you want to lose in some “one-size-fits-all” attempt to rid the system of bad apples.

But, as she attempted to file her re-election papers with the County Clerk, she was rejected because of the Douglas County term limiting law. Viewed from the outside, it appears the clerk was simply doing what he was legally bound to do because of the 2014 referendum. So, Commissioner Morgan has filed what can be called a “friendly” action challenging the law.

In her filing, she says two independent legal opinions have concluded term limiting is “most likely unconstitutional because it imposes additional qualifications on the office of county commissioner (in addition to) the qualifications set out in the state constitution.” Further, “the ordinance limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.”

But, even before Morgan got to the filing stage, Clerk Dana Jenkins had been seeking some legal advice to have on hand if/when the term limits issue came up.

The legal eagle contacted opined the limiting ordinance is more than likely “unconstitutional as it impermissibly imposes additional qualifications to the office of county commissioner.” As for implementation, “It is evident the text and context of the Measure are ambiguous. It clearly imposes a term limit of eight consecutive years (but) is not clear...to whom or when the term limits apply and how they apply. It uses undefined and inconsistent terms and addresses similar concepts multiple times but in different ways.”

Term limiting is another “simple answer to a complex problem.” There are several basic reasons to oppose it. One is the loss of “institutional memory” from those who’ve served for some years. That’s often important because it can keep newcomers/reformers from making the same mistakes of the past. (NOTE: The Idaho Legislature is a stark exception to that as evidenced by the continuing waste of tax dollars in repeated losing attempts to fight both state and federal law. And common sense.) Institutional memory is more often than not deemed a good thing in almost any other field - and any other state - and is certainly important in public service areas.

Throwing excellent, long-serving office holders out just for the arbitrary mathematic hell of it also means more power for lobbyists who’re often around for many years. The newly elected would have to rely on the “institutional memory” of professional “civilians” paid to influence lawmaking. Is that how you want the process to work?

That same transfer of power would go to long-serving - but unelected - civil servants who’re also around for decades in their careers. If one such “servant” wanted to thwart creation of a new law - or of some elected lawmaker - he/she could just wait around, outlasting the office holder trying to get something done.

There are many other reasons why the seemingly simple “solution” offered by term limits would not be in the nation’s - county’s - state’s best interests. As the Morgan suit moves through the legal system, I expect many such problems will be duly expressed.

I’ve known Republican Commissioner Morgan for a number of years and would put her in the ranks of the best elected officials I’ve ever met, regardless of office. In some ways, it’s too bad such an effective politician has to be the test case for a bad law. On the other hand, she’s respected all over Oregon because of her tireless work in the legislature and elsewhere. It could be her justifiably respected reputation will assure her legal action is expeditiously handled by the courts before she gets to the absolute filing deadline and Douglas County loses her talents. And experience.

I admire many professionals who support term limits. I just disagree. Besides, we’ve already got ‘em. It’s called the ballot. Use it. It works!

“Off your ass”

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I know many people in many occupations - the vast majority of whom I admire. But, once in awhile, someone comes along who is so absolutely unsuited in a chosen career, you just have to just say “DAMN!” The continued under performance of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is the most worthy example of that epithet as anyone I know.

John Boehner is not just bad at his job. He’s set a new low bar for achieving badness. And crudeness And divisiveness. And spinelessness. And arrogance. And crassness. Actually, his bar is now flat on the floor.

Boehner’s televised “Democrats-ought-to-get-off-their-ass” outburst some weeks ago, betrays what little is left of 240+ years of decorum in the operations of our Congress. You can go back to the “You Lie!” shout from that idiot South Carolina Republican during the President’s “State of the Union” speech a couple years ago. That cretin was not punished or censured for his arrogance and obvious violation of House rules. After that, others of his ilk started spewing more vitriol and verbal garbage into the House record. Spend some time reading that daily log and you’ll find a lot of crap you’ve not heard before. For mental health reasons, I don’t recommend it.

Boehner’s words might be something you’d expect to hear as he talked to other Republicans in his suite of offices. Or the Ohio bar he grew up in. Probably worse. But not on national television and not in your living room.

If those words are meant to express some sort of personal disgust with who he sees as his “foes” in Washington, he ought to seek out those other members of what passes for Congressional leadership these days and say what he feels directly. Facing a scrum of reporters with microphones and cameras is the coward’s way of throwing around verbal abuse without having to look the abused in the eyes, then listen to someone his equal - or better - respond with a few well-chosen and pointed words of their own.

Boehner is no fool. You don’t amass a survival record such as his by being outwitted and outmaneuvered by your adversaries. But, since his caucus was first contaminated with the crazies from the old Tea Party crowd, he’s acted like one - more often that not playing their game rather than his own. If he once thought giving the governmentally-ignorant back-benchers a small voice in the direction of the House was going to appease them, he certainly knows by now appeasement is not part of their square worlds. Yet he’s still being operated like a hand puppet by that vocal minority of minorities.

Boehner’s words and attitude are just part of what’s wrong with too much of our politics these days. People in government with little to no understanding of how that government works or even fulfilling their own job descriptions. Civically illiterate. Just listen to ‘em talk. Painful as that is. Idaho’s Raul Labrador comes to mind for some reason.

Look at all the GOP rabbits running for president. Twisting, turning, denying past positions on issues, pandering, lying. None of them - not one - can utter a statement of personal belief without following up with a whimpering disclaimer if they think you disagree with ‘em. All of ‘em are trying to find some “safe spot” in the midst of the political winds so they can slip under the radar of real public questioning.

Democrats have little to brag about. The whole pack is standing around waiting for the Clinton coronation at convention. Biden, Sanders, Webb, O’Malley not going anywhere. Quick now. Come up with another realistic Democrat. Quick. The next tier for any sort of candidate is so far removed from consideration they’ll be lucky to even get credentials to the convention.

Really, is this the best this nation can do? Are the names out there - regardless of party - names of people you want in the Oval Office? Are they capable of negotiating with leaders of other nations? Are they thoughtful, strategic-thinking heavyweights? Do they have positions on issues important to you that are morally and intellectually honest? Is any one of them someone you’d go to for help or you’d want to confide in?

So far, I haven’t found one. And we damn-well need one. Now!

From that unpunished cretin who hollared “You lie” with no consequences to the “Democrats-ought-to-get-off-their-ass” crassness of Boehner, we’re witnessing the kinds of small-minded politicians who are feverishly dividing a nation. They represent the worst political cancer of perpetuating themselves in office rather than being the cure of honest public service.

There’s a reason why the Koch’s and other billionaires have turned their attentions to the 50 statehouses. They’ve succeeded in poisoning the waters in Congress with people who’ve crippled it. Now, they’re attempting to “breed” the next generation of office seekers in state politics where most in Congress come from. With the full bought-and-paid-for participation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), their work to build an oligarchy they can control is doing real damage to our entire nation.

It’s not just the Democrat targets of Boehner’s disgraceful remark who need to “get off their ass.” It’s the rest of us. Off our asses and into the polling places where we can deliver some electoral justice. Surely we can do better.