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Posts tagged as “Oregon”

Multnomah’s Republicans

Just by way of bookmarking this story out of the Oregonian, about those forgotten political people - the Republicans of Multnomah County. Yes, they're there, and actually in considerable numbers, about 75,000 registered as such.

It's just that they're so heavily outnumbered (more than 3-1, with the gap growing rapidly in recent years).

The story's a good read, for the historic perspective and the viewpoint of a group too seldom acknowledged.

Closing the courts

Among the latest economic impacts: In Oregon, shutting down the courts, one day a week.

Oregon Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz today announced that all state courts will be closed on Fridays beginning on Friday, March 13, 2009. The closures will remain in effect at least through June 30, 2009. Future closures depend on budget decisions the legislature will make later in its session.

“These budget reductions are a huge blow to Oregon’s courts and the people we serve and will affect public safety, the welfare of children, and everyone who needs their day in court,” Chief Justice De Muniz said. “Oregonians will have the unfortunate opportunity to learn how justice delayed means justice denied.”

Not to criticize the courts for the decision - which may be the best of several unpalatable options - but we should note that courts are among the lubricants in our economic system, part of what allows things like the credit system (which is at the heart of our current troubles) to function properly.

‘Into a pit’

Now that the federal stimulus money has been signed off, but before any fallout from it (whatever that is, will take weeks at least to start to be felt), is a useful time for a review of where we are. The view in Oregon is not far off from many: Headed "into a pit," says the chief state economist.

A solid Oregonian overview runs today.

And the signpost reads

There's a real cautionary note in the story of Peter Gearin, the former manager of the Port of Astoria, now convicted of Clean Water Act violations (by running afoul of a dredging permit), with the prospect of as much as three years in prison. The port, which hired Gearin in 1999 and fired him three years ago, probably will have to pay an extensive fine.

If this sounds like a rather specialized kind of situation - not the sort of offense any old public official might do - take a read of the Daily Astorian's rundown of how the whole situation developed. And especially this about the scene in 1999, which sets up all that followed:

The agency was desperate for new revenue sources after losing commercial air service and its vital log-exporting contracts. It had fallen into an economic slump under former Port Manager Jon Krebs, with one business proposal after another crashing and burning as real estate lay vacant.

Sound like the kind of scenario we may be seeing far and wide over the next few years?

Of record, paper and pixel

blue book

Oregon Blue Book

The cover art for the Oregon Blue Books has long been spectacular, and the coastal shot on the cover for the 09/10 edition lives up to the past entries. Probably helps that the secretary of state's office, which publishes the book, gets the pictures by way of a photo contest. Probably also helps that Oregon is so photogenic.

The book appears to be as physically full as its predecessors (copies won't be available until next month), but you have to suspect a lot of the content will migrate, over the next few editions, on line. Already, with this edition, there's a fair amount of web-only material. Which seems likely to grow.

E-FILINGS On a semi-related note, the Oregonian's political blog notes that the Oregon Senate has voted to let people submitting materials to the legislature do so electronically, ending a requirement for print copies.

Mostly. One senator, Sherwood Republican Larry George, cast a protest vote because state agencies still would have to submit paper copies of executive summaries to all legislators. Why that exception, is altogether unclear.

Maybe they can amend that in to the measure when it gets to the House . . .

An odd couple, and an idea

Two Northwest House Democrats turned thumbs down on the conference committee stimulus package. Idaho's Walt Minnick, coming from the Blue Dog conservative side, wasn't hard to understand; like most of the other critics, he thought there was too much spending and too little likelihood the bill would get the job done. And he had the credibility of having developed an alternative of his own: “My bill was a high-powered rifle. This bill is a shotgun, and it will add nearly $1 trillion we do not have to a debt already out of control.” So, siding with the Republicans.

But then there too was the nay from Oregon's Peter DeFazio - for almost exactly the opposite reasons. Too many cuts from the bill for spending proposals, in DeFazio's view.

Of course, no one knows exactly what will work best to pump some adrenaline into the economy.

Some further attention ought to go, though, to one suggestion DeFazio had - a procedural one applying to the Senate.

The idea in the Senate is that to pass controversial legislation, you have to have not just a simple majority (50 senators and the vice president, if all are present and voting) but 60 votes to override a filibuster. The Senate rule basically is that you can't stop a senator from speaking on the floor - for hours or days - unless you round up 60 votes for "cloture." In recent years, we haven't seen many real filibusters, instead abbreviating to the idea that you need 60 votes to force a bill to the floor if the minority says it even might try to filibuster.

DeFazio's suggestion (according to the Bend Bulletin): Eliminate the niceties. If the Republicans, or anyone else, wants to filibuster, let 'em filibuster. Make 'em work for it. Let it all out there. For that matter, entertain us - and point up what's at stake at the same time.

Here's a case where some bread and circuses could actually result in better lawmaking . . .

OR: Prospects for 10

Jason Atkinson

Jason Atkinson

A recommended read on the Oregonian Jeff Mapes blog, about state Senator Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point; Atkinson is a prime prospect for the field of Oregon gubernatorial candidates in 2010.

Should be noted that when he ran for governor in 2006, he finished third - and not an especially close third - in the Republican primary. But that was then. Neither the two contenders who topped him (Kevin Mannix and Ron Saxton) almost certainly are out of the picture for 2010. The dynamic then favored a Republican nominee who would run as the centrist guy (that was supposed to be Saxton), while Atkinson is solidly conservative. But the internal party dynamic may be different next time, especially after the Saxton loss. Atkinson would start this effort with the revival of his old organization, building from there - a better start than most other Republicans not named Smith or Walden would have.

Besides which, there was this: Atkinson displayed excellent campaign skills in 2006, better maybe than his opponents. He delivered a knack for communicating with a centrist tone while not abandoning his essential take on things. He could be a very strong candidate for 2010.

Stimulating Oregon

Will the national stimulus package - assuming it clears Congress in a form somewhere similar to originally intended - actually do the job? Economists seem torn every which direction about exactly what the nation's sagging economy really needs. Something, yes. But what exactly?

The prompt passage of localized stimulus efforts may give us some answers before long. Today's legislative passage of the Oregon stimulus - small by comparison with the national, but $176 million still ain't tiny - may offer some ideas.

The idea is that it would create 3,000 jobs, all of them private-sector. The projects involved are supposed to be ready to go, and should be underway by April 1. That should provide for an early laboratory.

A lot of what's happening economically is psychological - a downer feeling that keeps money in pockets and slows the economy. The idea is that an infusion of this amount of money and jobs might change the way people think.

Will it work? We may know soon.

Three to two

Among the many newspaper cutbacks and diminishments we've been seeing, here's one: The tri-weekly (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) McMinnville News-Register next month will become a bi-weekly (Wednesday, Saturday). And its page size will shrink somewhat, and the individual copy box price is expected to rise.

This may not be as sweeping as it sounds in impact on the readers. The Wednesday edition will be a beefed-up weekday edition, and the newshole (space for news stories) evidently won't be a lot less from where it has been.

But, this is a family-owned newspaper, owned by one of those families still genuinely dedicated to community service. To see this is to see the raw economy getting very raw.

Sizemore’s impact over?

Bill Sizemore

Bill Sizemore

Think of him what you will, Bill Sizemore has been one of they key figures in Oregon politics for a dozen years and more.

He was behind a major property tax initiative in 1996, ran for governor (quite unsuccessfully) two years later, and has worked on a long string of ballot issues ever since; and he has also had legal problems, including a case still underway in court. Through all of this Sizemore's operations have been funded by two monied businessmen, Loren Parks (now of Nevada) and Dick Wendt (of Jeld-Wen at Klamath Falls). they have made it all possible.

But maybe no longer. Carla Axtman at Blue Oregon is reporting that Parks and Wendy seem to have pulled their support. If that's so, it marks prospective big turning point in Oregon's initiative culture.

Stimuli in the states

So what are the prospects for states - the three in the Northwest, specifically - to get from the current iteration of the federal stimulus package?

The Center for American Progress has put together some general information. It's limited in details, but some of the interactive maps do provide some useful material.

Overall, Oregon seems to make out marginally the best. But results vary . . .

bullet Oregon - total $6.3 billion. Of that, 11.9% goes for balancing the state budget, the rest for specific programs and tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: $2 billion (or $529 per person), $1.8 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $50.7 million for EITC increases, $153 m for child tax credits. Spending for unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $1.3 billion ($330 per capita), $835 million for those who lost jobs, $75 million for housing, $312 million for food stamps, $30 million for miscelleneous poverty efforts.

bullet Washington - total $10.4 billion. Of that, 12.8% for balancing state budget, the rest for specific programs and tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: $3.6 billion (or $550 per person), $3.2 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $85.8 million for EITC increases, $288 m for child tax credits. For unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $1.5 billion ($232 per capita), $935 million for those who lost jobs, $135 million for housing, $398 million for food stamps, $49 million for miscellaneous poverty efforts.

bulletIdaho - total $2.5 billion. Of that, 13.3% for balancing state budget, the rest for specific programs, tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: about $900 million (or $566 per person), $.8 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $23.9 million for EITC increases, $79.4 m for child tax credits. For unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $312 million ($205 per capita), $198 million for those who lost jobs, $34 million for housing, $66 million for food stamps, $14 million for miscelleneous poverty efforts.

A big box bill

Jeff Kropf

New legislation is pouring into the three Northwest statehouse, and quite a few proposals (apart from the financial ones now getting almost all the attention) merit some watching. One interesting measure, based around an effort in Maine, appears headed for action of some kind in Salem: A measure that would give critics of big-box stores a few extra weapons.

You might think anything that could be seen as a business blocker would have a hard time right now, even in Oregon or Washington. But oftimes what helps one business hurts another. Consider the rationale offered by Onward Oregon:

Big box stores can either help or hurt local commerce, but communities should make the final decision. Join with our state's small businesses and pass the Oregon Informed Growth Act to give communities the right to protect their local economies.

The Oregon Informed Growth Act empowers communities to accept or deny a "big box" store based on its impact on the local economy. If you own a small business (or if you know someone who does, please forward this email to them), please sign the petition.

The Oregon Informed Growth Act lets our local governments investigate the impact of big box stores (anything bigger than 1.5 football fields). When the WalMarts of the world apply to move into your town, an independent consultant surveys the economic and environmental impact of the development (at the cost of the developer).

The consultant checks if the big box store hurts local business, jobs, wages or the town's carbon footprint. Then the town can weigh in at a public hearing and local officials make the final decision: will the development help or hurt the community?

Sold as a protect-the-local-economy measure, this might have some real appeal. It appears not to have been formally introduced, yet, in Oregon. But we'll keep watch to see what kind of reaction the petition drive gets.