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Posts tagged as “Oregon”

First take/out

So now it's come to this: The remnant of the occupiers at the Malheur bird refuge are now pleading to just be let out.

More or less.

Though most communications from the refuge are cut off, the two Idahoans in the group, a married couple from Riggins, did get on the phone with the Idaho County sheriff, Doug Giddings. Giddings was somewhat sympathetic, saying the couple hadn't been bad actors back home. They're "have been very good citizens in Riggins. They’re not criminals — well, they are now. But they’re not some militia, this armed militia. They want the heck out of there. They never planned to be in there in the first place but now they can’t afford to leave. They have to defend themselves.”

Actually, they had the chance to leave some time ago, when not only the FBI but also the former sit-in leader, Ammon Bundy called on them to go. They declined.

What Ammon Bundy, now imprisoned in Portland, probably could and would tell them now is that actions have consequences. And maybe that the picture isn't always pretty when a fantasy construct bumps into the real world. - rs

First take/Finicum

The shooting death Tuesday evening of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, the spokesman for the group that has occupied the Malheur bird refuge in Oregon most of this month, winds up providing some thoughts and lessons, some of them unexpected.

Any shooting death is a tragedy, his included; this was a human being with family and friends entitled the same measure of dignity as any of us. But as Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo noted, it's a special shame when it happened because of his devotion to a cause that is nothing more than bonkers. He did not die in service to a real cause; he died in service to a fake one. We all should deserve better than that.

Marshall pointed out other kinds of lessons too, however: "The thing that struck me most about last night however was something very specific: social media allowed one to watch the mythology of Finicum's martyrdom emerge and congeal in real time. I never participate on Twitter anymore, not since last Spring. But I went on just to watch the stream. And within two hours you went from Bundy's third hand claim that Finicum was shot in cold blood while trying to surrender to this being heard, accepted, validated and become gospel for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of members of the digital hard right. I cannot help but note that I spent a good deal of time checking the bios of the people who were embracing this hardest. At least half explicitly identifying themselves as Ted Cruz supporters in their Twitter bios."

The weight of evidence seems to say, as at least two witnesses (not from law enforcement) reported, that Finicum, who almost certainly was armed (the occupiers often boasted about how they were always armed and ready for conflict), "charged" the officers, and then was shot. But probably we won't have to rely on guesses or weight of evidence for long. It's hard to imagine that video of the arrest scene wasn't taken, and will make its way online.

When (presuming that) it is, a question: Will actual visual evidence matter to these people, or will it - like any other facts or evidence that doesn't fit in the world view - simply be dismissed as another massive government conspiracy?

Probably, which shows how badly our social media bubbles are serving us.

But social media also had another impact on this story, which in many parts of the media centered on the pranks being played on the occupiers. A massive Facebook group called Snacks for Y'AllQuaeda pranked them with satire (and shipments of dildoes) and turned the attempt by the occupiers to make a serious point into a national laughingstock.

One group participant reflected, "We knew what they were capable of, and how it could end, but we choose to point out the absolute ridiculousness of their beliefs and how their real life actions exposed them as hypocrites of the highest order. A collection of welfare queens, tax cheats, ex-cons, stolen valor poseurs, Sovereign Citizen, Constitutional Grand Jury, arrogant ass-turds. And I think it worked. Others recognized it too, the mainstream everyday folks. And everybody knew it was time for this idiocy in the high desert of Oregon to end."

Social media cutting in various directions. - rs

Coffee with an IPO candidate

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I had a nice one hour chat with Independent Party of Oregon candidate for Governor Cliff Thomason this week in Beaverton.

Before I met Cliff, I read his website to see what issues were important for his campaign.

Local Control: This is an issue that Cliff highlighted in our conversation as well. And it seems to be near the top of his list. He wants to return more control of schools to the school districts. And he proposes that a large percentage of lottery dollars generated in each county be returned to the counties as sort of block grants. Now, the lottery dollars are used for economic development programs as directed by the State office in Salem.
Green Jobs: However, the green jobs he’s referring to are more “green” as in chlorophyll rather than “green” as in Solyndra or BETC. He wants to promote the wine industry and industrial hemp. As well as agri-tainment, which would incorporate agricultural experiences and tourism.

A State Bank: A progressive populist idea that is gaining traction statewide. Did I mention that Cliff is an industrial hemp farmer? The marijuana industry needs to have secure, safe, lawful banking services. The idea of a State Bank has been around for a while, and offers some real benefits. With the legalization of Mariuana, the State Bank idea has additional potential uses that no other entity could provide.

Anti Corruption: Cliff’s anti corruption page on his website is called “Kitzhaber Crew” where he talks about the corruption of our system by the good old boys and girls of the Democratic Party.

My first impression of Cliff is that he’s friendly, open and astute. He’s a businessman from Grants Pass. I’ve met a lot of businesspersons from middle class suburban and small to mid sized towns. They are pillars of their communities, members of their Chambers of Commerce and they fill the volunteer positions on city boards and commissions. Regardless of their political ideology, they love their communities and care about their neighbors. They are also much smarter than many urban denizens and deep blue politicos who live east of the tunnel and west of I-205 believe. Maybe it’s the loafers, camelhair blazers and American flag pins on the lapel that confuses some PDXrs.

We talked for an hour and could have talked longer. He was most intense when he talked about the urban rural divide and the need for more local control. And how different Josephine County and Grants Pass are to Portland and the upper valley. He even talked about how different Grants Pass is from rural Josephine County.

He had just come back from a KBOO podcast recording, and was wondering how well he did. He was asked about his position on the minimum wage, which is an escalating minimum wage based on age. We debated that for a minute, I don’t think I convinced him of my position, and he didn’t convince me of his. But at least he has thought about the minimum wage and the need to increase it for working families, while also considering the effect on non metropolitan employers.

I could tell many of his economic ideas were conservative and asked him what differentiated his candidacy from a GOP candidate. He admitted that it was harder to find many economic policy differences, however he said that social issues are not on his agenda or To Do list. He wanted to find common ground, not wedge issues that divide people.

Cliff comes from the “Rindependent” part of the IPO. That is, those slightly to moderately right of center populists who are economically conservative and socially agnostic or even socially libertarian. (As opposed to the “LIndependent” wing of the IPO, progressive populists who prefer Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton. Or to “MIndependent” IPO members who are policy moderate populists who seek to reform the democratic process itself as the way to improve substantive policy.)

Cliff will appeal to a large number of IPO voters from rural and small town areas, especially in southern and eastern Oregon. But his support for a State bank should also draw support from progressive independents as well as the powerful marijuana industry. His anti corruption message will win support from all IPO members. Heck, all Oregonians. But, I’d suggest he refocus it onto systemic corruption that both the Democratic and Republican Parties and their donor bases benefit from. (But that’s the MIndependent in me speaking there)

He should rethink his position on the minimum wage. A better option would be to simply allow local governments to increase their minimum wage to up to $15/hour. And/or an increase in the Oregon earned income tax credit which would focus wage increases on working families living below the poverty level.

He needs to address more of the concerns of urban voters. I get that a lot of rural voters rightly believe that the State Government ignores issues important to them. The way to highlight that is by making sure you talk about urban and rural issues. Show us how it’s done. The cost of housing and homelessness – issues that effect mostly urban areas – are issues that our governor has to address. He needs to remember that he still needs the votes of LIndependents in the IPO primary and moderates and urban voters in the general election.

How will Cliff fare?

With the Democrats offering Kate Brown, and the GOP so far offering just Dr. Bud Pierce, the IPO should be pleased that Cliff Thomason is running for its nomination for Oregon Governor. He certainly represents a large number of IPO members philosophically and has some interesting ideas that Oregonians from all over the political spectrum could support. Particularly his backing for a State Bank and more green jobs.

Not really exploded

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When people talk about Oregon’s “budget” they are generally talking about Oregon’s General fund Lottery fund budget. That’s the budget the State Legislature votes on and adopts every two years, and includes education, public safety and most human services expenses. (The General Budget is not to be confused with the all funds budget, which includes all the federal funds transfers, general budget, lottery budget, expenses from trust accounts, and dedicated fees and expenses. The Legislature has little control over the all funds budget.)

This is an analysis of Oregon General and lottery funds Budgets from 1999-01 biennium to the current 2015-17 biennium.

So is the Oregon General funds budget out of control? Are we throwing more and more money at education? The answers I think are probably not, and an emphatic no.

For this analysis, I chose 1999 as a starting point. For a couple reasons. First, it was after all the Measure 5 and 50 phased in when the state started picking up the majority of State education spending for all schools. If you start earlier, it would look like there was enormous growth in education spending, but that’s misleading. M5 and M 50 capped property taxes and education spending was largely transferred from local districts to the State. So taxpayers did see more State tax dollars going to education starting in the 1990’s but they also realized a reduction in local taxes because their property taxes were held down. Using pre 1999 budget data would therefore create and apples to oranges comparison unless I was to delve into all the local property tax relief taxpayers received. Ain’t gonna do that.

And, 1999 was also a good year for the economy. There was steady growth, low unemployment and the 2001-2003 downturn wasn’t contemplated. Similar in many ways to our recent economic long and steady growth.

The Budget hasn’t gone off the rails. In fact, through the 2013-15 budget it was been below the inflation and population adjusted average. (By the way, this is the TABOR formula that many conservatives argue we should adopt). The most recent 2015-17 budget is high historically, but when you compare with other post recovery budgets (1999 and 2007), not terribly so. And of course, many will argue that the budget should be accelerating at a higher than average rate to get education spending back up to where we need it to be.

I was rather surprised of two things. First, that all candidates talk about education but fail to prioritize it in their budget. Second, in spite of consistent complaints from some candidates about out of control spending and how we should quit throwing money at schools, K-12 and higher education have actually been the big losers in the budget battles over the past 16 years. Its public safety and human services that have been the big gainers. Both in inflation adjusted dollars, and as a percentage of the total Oregon State Budget.

I’m not arguing that we should cut human services. What I am arguing is that if there is out of control spending, it hasn’t been on schools. It has been on public safety and courts – and most probably a large part has been on incarceration costs – and on human services.

So the next time an incumbent claims that they are protecting school funding, or someone argues that we just keep throwing more and more money at schools, you can share this post with them.

First take/Oregonian

It's been a couple of years since we dropped our Oregonian subscription, the combination of price increase and diminished product having become too great a disincentive to continue. We'd start again tomorrow if we could get the paper we had back, say, even five years ago. But that ship seems to have sailed.

And the Oregonian marketing department seems to know it; it's been well over a year since we've heard from them, by phone or mail or anything else, soliciting back our business. Usually, if you're looking for new customers, old customers are a good place to look.

We do look at the paper much of the time - a neighbor shares many copies of it after finishing with it - and the content seems ever thinner. And then there was the report a few days ago about the latest round of buyouts, which eliminated nearly all of the last few publicly-visible and well-regarded (in these quarters anyway) names, like columnist Steve Duin and political reporter Jeff Mapes.

The paper will soldier on. But it will get weaker in all regards. And it's giving people ever fewer reasons to come back, or to hang in there. A sad thing. - rs

First take/corporate taxes

Over the last few days the word has gone out, through a variety of media: Raise Oregon taxes significantly on major corporations, and a bunch of them may leave the state. That's a tough argument against the tax initiative now underway.

It doesn't seem to have hurt support for the measure though. A DHM Research poll conducted just before last week shows twice as much support (60% to 30%) as opposition to the measure. What it would do would tax sales (of tangible goods) and services above $25 million in the state; the idea would be to capture substantial tax revenue critics say has been escaping for some years.

The group Our Oregon, which is backing the initiative, said that "Just looking at Oregon, we know that in 2012, nearly 400 corporations exploited a loophole to bring their tax bills down to zero. That cost us $9 million dollars in much-needed revenue. Oregon taxpayers have handed out $6 billion in corporate subsidies. That money could have gone to our schools (which have been hit with devastating cuts in recent years), or to services for our seniors. It could have made healthcare more affordable, or made waiting lists for state services a bit more approachable."

There will be plenty of opposition; the poll was financed in part by someone apparently interested in supporting an "alternative" proposal. And it is true that support for ballot issues tends to drop as time wears on, and a lot of time remains before the vote.

The argument that a bunch of corporations may pick up stakes walk from Oregon feels a little hollow, though. We heard the same kind of argument a few years ago that wealthy people would flee the state if voters passed an income tax increase on upper incomes; the voters did, and the flight didn't happen. It wasn't a big enough factor to outweigh the other costs and loss of income. Most likely, neither is this one. - rs

First take/4 million

Oregon has reached four million residents, according to the new Census estimates. It took 22 years to add its most recent million people; the new estimate is as of July 1.

This is, remember, the state where former Governor Tom McCall asked people to come and visit but not stay. Plenty do stay, however.

The Portland State University population center reports this:

According to the preliminary July 1 population estimates, Oregon’s population increased from 3,962,710 in 2014 to 4,013,845 in 2015*, or by 51,135. This increase represents a 1.3 percent change, slightly higher than in the previous year (1.1 percent). The increase in 2015 is around 7,500 higher than added in 2014, but still not quite reaching peak pre-recession growth of 58,000 in 2006.

Population growth consists of two factors: natural increase (the number of births minus the number of deaths) and net migration (movers-in minus movers-out). From 2014 to 2015 net migration accounted for roughly 80 percent of Oregon’s population growth. During the past several years, natural increase has been contributing a shrinking share of population increase. Because of a declining fertility rate, the number of annual births has increased only slightly in recent years; and the number of annual deaths has risen at a faster pace due to the wave of aging baby boomers.

The counties that experienced the largest gains in population from 2014 to 2015 have the largest populations. As in the previous many years, Multnomah and Washington counties added the highest number of persons — each adding around 11,700 and 10,000 residents, respectively. Clackamas, Deschutes, Marion, and Lane counties each added over 3,000 to their populations; Jackson County added over 2,000; and Yamhill, Linn and Benton each added at least 1,000 to their counts. The population increases in these ten counties contributed to 88 percent of the statewide population growth this year. Almost half of Oregon’s thirty-six counties experienced increases ranging over 100 to under 835 persons. Nine counties saw little population change in the past year (less than a 100 person change).

No huge shocks here. But clearly growth is continuing apace. - rs (image/Anders Sandberg)

Why Alley won’t run

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Will Allen Alley run for Governor in 2016? Here are the reasons he won’t.

Oregon GOP is a distinct minority today: Running for a statewide office in Oregon as a Republican is already an uphill battle. T he GOP now makes up just 30% of the voting population. Democrats are at 38%. NAV and Independent Party together are 29%. The NAV/IPO voters typically break 55% Democrat and 45% GOP. Minor party candidates and “others” typically make up 2- 3% of the vote. That means the Democrat is going to start off with a 10% advantage (Dem: 53%, GOP: 43%, Other 3%.) And, meaning that a GOP candidate will have to get some Democratic crossover voters, hold the GOP vote, and win the i/Independent voters by over 20% (At least 60/40)

The GOP vote is declining: And it isn’t getting any better. For the period from May 1, 2014 until February 1, 2015 (9 months), 101,892 new voters (never before registered) registered in Oregon. I am assuming this largely represents younger voters and new to Oregon voters.

But Alley Represents a different GOP: Yes, he does. He is pretty moderate, has solid business background and hasn’t risen within the GOP ranks based on his orthodox political views. He has proven he can work cross aisle in Salem. Of course that means he also won’t get the wholehearted support of the most important GOP base, the social conservatives. The GOP has built it’s GOTV and small grass roots on social conservatism and nativism. They will work for Alley, because they despise Gov. Brown and all she stands for. But they won’t go to the mats, and once it becomes apparent Alley is a long shot, they will regroup and devote themselves to either their local rural candidates or one or more ballot measures that feature the red meat conservative issues.

Gov. Brown has had few missteps: Democrats like Gov. Brown, and other than her temporary waffling on clean fuels, are pleased with her leadership. She has done little wrong to incur the wrath of most Democratic voters. And she has done little to surprise i/Independent voters. Not that they are all in her corner, but consistency and lack of surprise goes a long way with less motivated voters.

The Independent Candidate: Here is probably the straw that will stir the drink for Mr. Alley. The Independent Party of Oregon is now a major party and it’s nominations will be on the May primary ballot, giving all it’s candidates a real boost in the arm. The only current announced IPO candidate for Governor is Cliff Thomason, a rural Oregon businessman who is putting together a campaign based on rural agriculture, green jobs and local control. Thomason will definitely attract disaffected Democrats who won’t vote GOP because of social issues and many rural independent voters. These are the exact voters a moderate GOP candidate will need to defeat an incumbent Democratic Governor. If polling shows that an IPO candidate on the ballot can attract even 5-10% in a three way contest with Mr. Alley and Gov. Brown, the math gets worse for Mr. Alley. Likely much worse.

While Mr. Alley is probably the strongest GOP candidate for Governor, all these factors will likely make Mr. Alley decide to opt out of the 2016 race.

Alley may be looking ahead. In 2018 there will be another election for Governor. That race will be after a 2017 legislative session where Gov. Brown will either have signed brutal budget cuts or have handed out the $5 billion in tax increases if the Our Oregon ballot measures passes in 2016. And importantly, with Motor Voter the IPO will likely have lost major party status and lose the primary ballot access. This will be the analysis for all GOP candidates of course, including Knute Buehler and Julie Parrish, should they desire to run for statewide office.

So while 2018 may be a busy D versus R election, the 2016 race for Governor may be equally interesting if it comes down to a three way race between Democrat Gov. Brown, Republican Dr. Bud Pierce and Independent Cliff Thomason. In fact, if that’s the lineup, the IPO candidate may do much better than 5-10%.

First take/session

Oregon legislative days for this month are cranking in, with what's looking like a preview of the regular session in February. What's on deck? The loud protests calling for a statewide raise in the minimum wage (which otherwise isn't slated to be raised this cycle) are getting top attention, and seem to be the leading Democratic issue. Representative Brian Clem had a useful comment about it, though: "Inside the building, the noise will probably be about minimum wage. I see it as rural versus urban — can we have one statewide minimum wage policy?" Or put another way, is there a way to separate it out? Other hot topics mentioned more by Republicans are led by PERS - which will be a big budget topic in the next biennium - and transport funding. Whatever else, the next session is likely to be devoted to very practical matters. - rs

First take/California

The hottest recent Oregonian story as measured by heated comments must be the piece about the vandal who's been slapping "No Californians" stickers on house for-sale signs. After the story made its way down to California, a bunch of Californians responded with the predictable "we'd never want to move there anyway" type comments. Some of the idea behind it may come from worries about gentrification and costs of homes, especially in the Portland area, being driven upward; although prices of homes in California are more widely variable than many people think. (San Francisco's through-the-roof prices aren't typical.) Some may have to do with ideas about who these Californians are; but in a state with tens of millions of people, who can say what's a typical Californian? The biggest fact about California is that it's big, and diverse, and the variations are vast. Of course, if you want to go back to the Tom McCall pull-up-the-drawbridge approach, covering entrants of any kind, that would be another argument entirely. - rs (photo/Alfonzo Jimenez)

A ‘top one’ primary

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In Oregon and nationally the independent movement continues to gain momentum which, here in Oregon with its closed primary, presents a real challenge to democracy.

In 2014, some voters rights activists got the Top Two primary Measure 90 on the ballot, which if passed would have changed Oregon’s closed primary to an open top two primary. It failed after the Democrats and Republicans joined forces to argue it was an infringement on their right to have their members select their own nominees.

But Oregon could have a primary system that protected a political parties right to select it’s own representative, allowed minor parties to preserve their place on the November general election ballot and still gave independent voters an equal vote and meaningful participation in the state financed May primary elections.

The Top One Primary wouldn’t replace Oregon’s closed Democratic and Republican Primaries. It would supplement it. Democratic and Republican party members would be allowed to vote for their party’s nominee in a closed primary with the winner moving onto the November ballot as their party nominee. Democrats and Republicans should be satisfied.

However, along with the closed major party primary, the state would also conduct an open Top One election.

Who would vote: The top one would be open to all non affiliated voters, and to any minor or major party voters whose political party opted into the top one election. So all voters in Oregon would be able to participate in the Democratic or Republican closed primary, in the top one primary, or in their minor party’s nomination process. All Oregonians pay for the primary election. All get to vote. An equal right to participate for all voters, without having to join a party they don’t want to belong to. And party unity is preserved for those major and minor parties who decide to hold their own nomination processes.

Who Could be candidates: Any registered voter would be able to run in the top one primary. Regardless of party affiliation or lack of affiliation. While there is a valid argument that a party should be able to decide who gets to vote for their nominee, there is no valid reason for a party to be able to say which of their party members can stand for election before the voters through an alternative nominating process. And, an optional provision would be to allow a candidate for their own party’s nomination to be a candidate in the Top One open primary as well. This would provide for cross nominations that are now allowed in Oregon. So, the winner of the Republican Primary may also be the winner of the top one open primary if they chose to opt into their party election and the Top One primary.

The benefits:

All voters feel like they have an equal voice and equal vote.
All taxpayers who finance the primary election would be able to fully participate
It may be less expensive and more predictable to run elections with a Top One than under current law which allows each major party to open or close their primary.
Political parties could protect their right to nominate their own candidates
A Democratic or Republican who felt they stood little chance of winning their primary (a pro choice Republican, an PERS reform Democrat), could opt to run in the top one primary without having to re-register.
If we also allowed a candidate to be included on both their party closed primary ballot and the top one open primary, then they couldn’t just run towards their base. They would have to appeal to the moderate independents if they wanted both their party and the top one nomination.

Imagine a Ballot in November that included the Democratic nominee, representing 38% of Oregon voters preference, a Republican nominee representing 29% of Oregonian voters preference, and the Top One candidate representing 29% of Oregonians preference. Imagine if major party candidates were allowed to be on the open top one primary ballot as well as their party closed primary ballot. In a swing district where the predominant party nominee generally wins by 8% the primary campaigning of both the dominant and less dominant party candidates may change because both would have to campaign and communicate with the independent voters in their district, not just their partisan bases.

Preserve Party prerogatives and rights. All voters have meaningful participation. Encourages consensus campaigns, not just campaigns to the partisan base. Provides a path for moderates from both major parties a chance at securing a major nomination, major media coverage. Most importantly, it provides real options in November for not only independent voters, but for Democratic and Republican registered voters who prefer consensus to confrontation.

Whats not to like?

(For purposes of this article, my reference to major party includes only the Democratic and Republican Parties and not the Independent Party of Oregon which just recently reached major party status)

First take

A little sad to see the selling out of Dave's Killer Bread in Milwaukie, Oregon. It' been an independent for about 60 years, starting as Nature Bake. It has one (large) bakery in Oregon. It came by its current name after its co-founder, Dave Dahl, ran into some legal problems; but the bread long has been considered to be of high quality, and holding to high organic standards. That's what led Flower's Foods of Georgia to seek it out and buy it: Customers are much attuned to the kind of bread Dave's produces. Sales price was reported at $275 million. Of the sale, Dahl said, "It is bittersweet but I've been working on getting my head right for the baby to grow. It's happening. And now I'm just going to kick back, and watch it grow and enjoy my life." He's straight up about it. - rs