The Portland Tribune
A Portland lawyer Greg Chaimov has sued the state of Oregon to force them to release proposed legislative concepts that have routinely been released in years past. The Oregon Department of Administrative Services in May notified state agencies that the forms would be temporarily exempt from disclosure until Legislative Counsel submits the bill drafts to Gov. Kate Brown’s office for final approval. The deadline for that submission is Nov. 30, “well after the November general election,” according to the lawsuit filed Sept. 5 in Marion County Circuit Court. “We are concerned that this dramatic change in policy is primarily a political decision to prevent public disclosure of legislative concepts that could be damaging to the governor’s re-election effort,” said Rob Harris, co-chair of the IPO. “Especially during an election, there is a strong public interest in disclosure of the administration’s legislative priorities. We believe that good government practice should trump political considerations and call on the governor to reverse this decision.”
Oregon’s government never seems to have enough money. Even with the economy purring in 2017, top lawmakers from both parties warned that the state was headed toward painful budget cuts north of $1 billion. The state avoided those cuts, thanks in large part to tax receipts outpacing expectations. But the dire warnings in the best of times illustrated how little control Oregon’s political leaders seem to have over budget growth. While Buehler says the problem is the state’s failure to curb personnel costs and reprioritize spending, Brown supported a plan two years ago to grow the budget by nearly 30 percent by passing new business taxes.
Should Oregon trim state government spending by around $300 million, particularly by controlling public employee health insurance costs (Senate Bill 1067, 2017)? Called the bill “faux cost control” and voted “no.” “It seems like the solution to our big problems is … more government control, be it rent control, be it gun control or now price fixing of the health care sector,” said Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon who objected to a requirement in the bill that public employee health plans to pay no more than double the Medicare reimbursement for services at certain hospitals.
Should Oregon trim state government spending by around $300 million, particularly by controlling public employee health insurance costs (Senate Bill 1067, 2017)? Signed the bill into law and ranked it among the Legislature’s top accomplishments last year.
After handing out pamphlets touting his support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage, Knute Buehler stepped to the microphone at a recent campaign event and vowed that “opportunity” will “replace poverty” and “hope will replace despair” in the state. And if elected, Buehler added, he would govern with an “open mind and a caring heart.” As Buehler spoke in this working-class Portland neighborhood, Rachelle Dixon slipped into the audience, frequently nodding her approval. That was notable, considering that Dixon is the vice chairwoman of the Multnomah County Democrats, in a year in which Democrats hope to punish Republicans up and down the ballot because of disillusionment with President Trump. “There are Republicans I know for sure ‘I would never vote for this person,’” said Dixon, 51. “But when I look at this man and his voting record, I don’t say, ‘Gosh, I’d be scared to be in the room with this guy.’”
The Bend Bulletin
Just northeast of Roseburg is Colliding Rivers Park, where the Little River flowing north slams head-on into the North Umpqua River flowing south. The spot churns and pops with water and air before merging into the main branch of the North Umpqua, now heading tranquilly west. Knute Buehler still visits the place where he spent childhood summers in the 1960s and ’70s. But over time, he says he’s found new meaning in the forces that come in from the left and the right to form a main stream. “Sometimes, conflict can create incredible beauty at the end of the day,” said Buehler, the Republican state lawmaker from Bend who is the GOP’s nominee for governor. “Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing that right now in politics, because things are not mixing. They just hit head-on and try to go over the top of each other. The strength is in the mixing, be it rivers or politics. Ideally, you get the best of what is coming in from both sides.” Buehler, 54, is hoping his political version of colliding rivers will unseat incumbent Gov. Kate Brown and end Republicans’ nearly 32-year drought in winning the governor’s mansion.
As the state stares down an $830 million funding gap in the state’s Medicaid program, both gubernatorial candidates say they want to find a long-term funding solution. Brown’s health policy plan, released Friday, makes clear, among other priorities, that she wants to expand access to health insurance coverage and do so by “optimizing federal funds, funding the program from a broader revenue base and providing a longer and more stable funding timeline.” Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon, said in his July health care platform that he wanted “stable, long-term and broad-based” funding for the program. “Knute believes that providing low-income Oregonians with health care and fully funding Medicaid is a value that we all share,” Monica Wroblewski, a spokeswoman for Buehler, said in a statement Friday. “He is open to a discussion about the best way to accomplish this, but any solution should be balanced, equitable and permanent. And we should start by making the current hospital assessments permanent.”
“When our government blatantly commits human rights violations while our elected representatives refuse to act, we are morally compelled to take action and stand in solidarity with immigrants, refugees, their children, and their families,” an activist group called the Portland General Defense Committee said in a press release announcing the protesters’ intent to take their cases to trial. “The majority of [the defendants] plan to reject any and all plea deals,” the release continued, “and plead not guilty to all charges on the grounds that ICE is guilty of human rights violations, abusing and terrorizing immigrants, refugees, and citizens.” Most of the protesters were charged with two misdemeanors, including failure to comply with lawful direction of a federal officer and creating disturbances.
Deep into the extraordinary effort to find deported parents who remain separated from their children, attorneys are learning that about two-thirds want their children to stay in the U.S. rather than reunite as a family in their homelands. The decisions show something government officials have long argued: that migrant families from Mexico and Central America who cross illegally into the U.S. do so largely to get their children across. Having the children flown back to their home countries — where many say they are fleeing gang violence — would seem counterproductive to the parents, even if it results in long-term separation. Gelernt said parents with older children tend to lean more toward keeping them in the U.S. because of their vulnerability to gang recruitment. Parents of younger children tend to choose reunification.
Portland City Hall and Multnomah County have estimated how much money is needed to create 2,000 units of supportive housing, the kind of housing that comes with services and is designed to address the needs of chronically homeless people. It’s a big number: somewhere between $592 million and $640 million for the first 10 years. Then they say a sizable investment will be required to keep those services going: $43 million to $47 million a year. More bad news: The need has grown since the county and city started analyzing the number. Over the next 10 years, the county and city probably need 2,400 units, not the 2,000 estimate they started with.
The fast-food business announced Thursday that it’s updating its written uniform policy so it “represents our long-standing commitment to creating a universally welcoming and inclusive environment for our customers and employees alike,” according to a statement from Burgerville Human Resources Director Liz Graham. The new policy goes into effect next Thursday and forbids items on workers’ uniforms that have political and personal messages.
Burgerville executives yesterday instituted a ban on employees donning political flair including buttons that read “Black Lives Matter,” and “Abolish ICE.” “We wear buttons that say Black Lives Matter and Abolish ICE because police brutality, racist deportations, white supremacy, and fascism do not cease to exist when we clock on at work,” Schlenz says. “Burgerville’s motto is ‘serve with love.’ The union asks who do they serve—white supremacists or its anti-racist workers?”
JOBS & ECONOMY
The Bend Bulletin
The rapid hiring in blue-collar sectors is delivering benefits to areas that turned out heavily for Trump in the 2016 election, according to the Brookings Institution, a shift from earlier in this expansion, when large and mid-sized cities enjoyed most of the gains. The biggest drivers of the blue-collar hiring surge are the rebound in oil prices, the need to rebuild after disasters such as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and rising demand generated by a growing economy. In the past year, the economy has added 656,000 blue-collar jobs, compared with 1.7 million added in the services sector. But the rate of growth in blue-collar jobs is speeding up, while service-sector job growth has hovered around 1.3 percent over the past year. “This is massive for us. We’ve been in an economic downturn for years, actually decades, but this could bring an economic boom to the area,” said Tackett, who is program coordinator of the Advanced Integrated Technology program at Ashland Community and Technical College. The good times might not last. Some economists warn the long-term trends still favor big cities and digitally focused industries. There are signs growth may be tapering off in some blue-collar sectors: Home sales have cooled this summer and manufacturers are fearful of Trump’s trade war.
The Bend Bulletin
The minimum wage increases that started four years ago in Seattle are spreading across the country, but economists continue to study — and disagree about — the impact. The latest look at increased wage floors in six U.S. cities, including Seattle, finds that food-service workers saw increases in pay and no widespread job losses. That reinforces the conclusions the same group of University of California, Berkeley, researchers reached in 2017 after studying just in Seattle. Jacob Vigdor, the Daniel Evans professor of public policy and governance who leads research on the Seattle minimum wage at the UW, has his own criticisms of Berkeley’s approach. Vigdor agrees with the Berkeley study’s findings; his own group duplicated them using its own methodology and data. He said the focus on just one slice of the economy may miss the bigger picture as minimum wages rise. “I think it’s the right answer to the wrong question,” he said, noting that the food-service industry represents only about 30 percent of the low-wage work done in Seattle. “It’s assuming the restaurant industry equals the low-wage labor market, and it does not.”
A dire child care workforce crisis amid a booming U.S. economy is compelling many industry players to turn to business tactics more closely resembling Wall Street than “Sesame Street” — including noncompete clauses for child care workers and client families, college tuition incentives for the workers and non-refundable wait list fees for desperate parents seeking day care slots.
Measure 103 is deeply misleading. Proponents claim it would ban taxes on “groceries,” but there is no tax on groceries and nobody proposing one. The truth is, Measure 103 does nothing to lower the cost of groceries. It protects vaping products and private catering from taxes, but it fails to exempt household necessities like diapers, soap, and toilet paper. Even more confusing? The measure actually prevents the legislature from raising or lowering a wide range of business taxes that hit small businesses and family farmers. So while big, out-of-state special interests would get a sweetheart deal, it would be almost impossible to give local businesses and family farms the tax relief so many need.
Measure 103 would ban state and local governments from enacting taxes on groceries including any on food and soft drinks. It would also freeze the state’s corporate minimum tax for supermarkets. Most importantly, though, if passed, Measure 103 would enshrine these changes in the Oregon Constitution.
As advocates for a hunger-free Oregon and longtime board members of Oregon’s statewide food bank, we understand how too often Oregon families struggle to put food on their tables. It’s heartbreaking to see. That’s why we’re proud to be the co-chairs for the “YES on 103 – To Keep Our Groceries Tax Free!” campaign. We have never taxed groceries in Oregon, and we never should. Taxing groceries is a terrible idea, but politicians and powerful special interests – the same ones opposed to Measure 103 – keep trying.
Every successful entity – government, business or family – first sets a vision, and then it uses appropriate financial instruments to achieve that vision. None starts with a fixed pot of money and then decides how to spend it. Families buy houses, cars and college educations with loans. Entrepreneurs get loans or distribute equity to open or grow a business. Governments issue bonds and sometimes run deficits to build and maintain investments and services, in good times and bad. The kicker says: No. We cannot rethink our financing because the government must refund revenue above an arbitrary amount, regardless of whether it has met the purposes for which we have created it. We should give ourselves back the power, through our Legislature, to meet our social contract. The kicker should be repealed.