GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
The Bend Bulletin
The Legislature will start meeting the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Usually lawmakers don’t go to business in Salem until February. But a law passed last year moved the start earlier so the odd-numbered-year “long session” can wrap up by June 30. In 2017, the session spilled over into the July 4 holiday, much to the consternation of many lawmakers in both parties.
When Oregon’s next labor commissioner is sworn in, the state’s governor and attorney general, both women, will be administering the oath of office. It’s significant, Gov. Kate Brown noted on Friday, because Labor Commissioner-elect Val Hoyle is also a woman. “For the first time in Oregon history, a majority of statewide elected executive offices will be held by women,” Brown’s office said in a statement.
Oregon rent increases could be capped at 7 percent, plus inflation, under landmark tenant legislation to be considered this session by the Legislature. A document obtained by WW, which includes concepts for the legislation, also contains what may be a more significant provision: Banning no-cause eviction notices after the first year a tenant lives in a unit. The bill, which will introduced in the Oregon Senate, is sponsored by Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham), “[Senate President] Peter Courtney intends to sign on,” says Rick Osborn, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats. “It shows a strong commitment from Senate leadership to this.”
The Bend Bulletin
In the Eastern Oregon region, 56 percent were registered Democrats. Each region of the state was at least 50 percent Democrat. But, Republican Tom McCall handily won the 1966 gubernatorial election with more than 55 percent of the vote, losing only three counties. More than 50 years later, Oregon’s political landscape has changed dramatically — and the urban-rural divide couldn’t be more apparent. Multnomah County is more liberal than ever with 71 percent of voters registered as Democrats. Eastern Oregon has gone the opposite way, with only 41 percent of voters registered as Democrats. Democrat Kate Brown won re-election by more than 7 percent statewide, but she was chosen by only seven of Oregon’s 36 counties. What once was only a 3 percent political registration gap between Eastern Oregon and Multnomah County has now skyrocketed to more than 30 percent.
Kotek said she has always acted swiftly and seriously on allegations in the House. She doesn’t agree with the portrait the BOLI report painted of her and Courtney, but said they will work to protect Capitol workers. “This is a really important issue,” she said. “I don’t want anyone feeling unsafe in the Capitol.” “I frankly wish he did more work,” Kotek said. “His investigation was very limited and based on a few sources. I don’t know why he didn’t take more time. Maybe it had something to do with him leaving.” Going forward, Kotek said time will tell whether she and Courtney can build back any respect lost by their caucuses. But she also saw a silver lining in the airing of the Capitol’s darker side. “If there is any upside to this conversation, it is now front and center in a really public way,” she said. “This is going to help us move forward.”
In the report, Gelser recounted a conversation she’d had with Kotek, in which she said Kotek told her that Gelser’s allegations against Kruse were complicated by Gelser’s “likeability.” “She’s like, people don’t like you and I was talking to a Republican today and they’re like, you know, this would be a problem but [Gelser]’s just not very likeable,” Gelser told BOLI. The issue of whether female politicians are “likeable” became a major issue in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, and the word is often code for denigrating behavior for which male politicians are praised or at least not criticized. When U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced her candidacy for president earlier this week, Politico drew heavy fire for immediately commenting on her “likeability.” Today, Kotek issued a statement apologizing to Gelser and, as she did yesterday, taking issue with other parts of Avakian’s report.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
“I do think when you see everything listed together, it’s a disturbing picture of things,” Kotek told OPB. “But I also know that we’ve dealt with each one of the cases individually through our existing process.” The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) issued the report on Thursday concluding legislative leaders knew about substantial sexual harassment happening in the state Capitol and didn’t do enough to stop the behavior. Kotek questioned the thoroughness of the investigation. “I was expecting something that was a little bit more comprehensive. I don’t think it was a complete investigation at the end of the day,” she said. “I mean the labor commissioner didn’t even interview me, so I’m not sure it actually covered everything he wanted to cover in terms of providing a balanced perspective on all the viewpoints.”
When state Rep. Diego Hernandez heard a rumor in May 2017 accusing him of keeping a list ranking women lobbyists at the Oregon Capitol by attractiveness, he asked legislative attorneys to investigate. After interviewing 21 staffers and others, legislative attorneys found no evidence that such a list ever existed, according to a Sept. 15, 2017, letter from Deputy Legislative Counsel Jessica Santiago. Yet the unsubstantiated claim was included in a bombshell report issued Jan. 3 by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries accusing legislative leaders of ignoring prevalent sexual harassment at the Capitol. The report resulted from a complaint that Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian filed with his own agency on behalf of legislative staffers and interns who said they were the victims of sexual harassment. “As a victim of harassment in my freshman year in the Legislature, I feel thrown under the bus by Brad Avakian,” Hernandez said in a phone interview Friday, Jan. 4.
NATION & WORLD
The Associated Press
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is missing arguments for the first time in more than 25 years as she recuperates from cancer surgery last month, the Supreme Court said. Ginsburg was not on the bench as the court met Monday to hear arguments. It was not clear when she would return to the court, which will hear more cases on Tuesday and Wednesday, and again next week. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the 85-year-old justice is continuing to recuperate and work from home after doctors removed two cancerous growths from her left lung on Dec. 21. Ginsburg was discharged from a New York hospital on Dec. 25. Chief Justice John Roberts said in the courtroom Monday that Ginsburg would participate in deciding the argued cases “on the basis of the briefs and transcripts of oral arguments.”
The Associated Press
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Sunday the U.S. military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group, and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States. Bolton, who traveled to Israel to reassure the U.S. ally of the Trump-ordered withdrawal, said there is no timetable for the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria, but insisted it’s not an unlimited commitment. “There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton said. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
With the partial government shutdown in its third week, White House officials and congressional leaders again failed to make progress toward a resolution during talks on Sunday. In the latest proposal put before the House Appropriations Committee, President Trump remains steadfast in his request for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall with Mexico. NPR’s John Burnett reports, “The White House is asking for 234 miles of steel barrier, which works out to about $24 million a mile.” However, in what could be read as a gesture to appease Democrats, the Trump administration is now offering $800 million in aid to address humanitarian needs at the border, including better medical care and additional facilities for processing and holding those in temporary custody considered to be the most “vulnerable population.” In a PowerPoint presentation, the White House states that 50 migrants per day are referred to medical providers.
Wyden will introduce legislation this year to allow U.S. political candidates and lawmakers to use campaign funds to fund cybersecurity of their personal and political accounts and devices. In mid-December, the Federal Elections Commission gave Wyden the green light to use campaign money for what would otherwise be considered a personal expense. Under old federal election rules, candidates could not use campaign funds for most “personal” expenses. “In 2017, the FEC recognized that elected officials face heightened physical security threats and permitted the use of campaign funds to protect against those threats,” Wyden said. “Given the growing cybersecurity threats posed by foreign governments hacking the personal accounts and devices of elected officials, it is common sense to permit these same funds to be spent on cybersecurity as well.”
If you are a health advocate, and Oregon Health Plan member, or a contracts lawyer, then you have a chance to help the state get the details right of how it spends billions in coming years. Oregon on Friday kicked off the biggest bout of contracting in state history and at the same time allowed the first detailed public look at how –for years to come– it intends to administer the multibillion-dollar program. The OHP provides health care to one in four Oregonians, the most needy among us, using private-sector firms that operate like insurance companies. Even if you’re not among the low-income people served by the program, you’re probably helping pay for it. In 2017 state coffers provided $2.3 billion of the Oregon Health Plan’s $8.4 billion in overall spending. The state disclosed for public comment the draft solicitation that will offer companies and nonprofits a five-year pact to oversee a portion of the privatized Oregon Health Plan, with the opportunity to comment closing on Jan. 14. The move is about more than a contract. It signals the potential to further Oregon’s quest to improve care while also saving money, the goal of legislative reforms in 2011 and 2012.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Environmental groups have withdrawn from an effort to update Oregon’s plan for managing gray wolves days before a final meeting of stakeholders, throwing the future of negotiations over wolf management and protections into question. Ranchers, hunters and wolf conservation advocates have been in talks with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife over an update to the rules governing the protection and management of the state’s wolf population, including when and how wolves can be killed. But Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity are now pulling out of the process and plan to oppose the state’s plan, according to a joint letter filed with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office. “We feel the process is so broken and the plan is so bad that there really isn’t a purpose for us to show up to this next meeting,” said Oregon Wild Executive Director Sean Stevens. “We know the direction they’re trying to go and it’s not trying to find an honest consensus around the plan.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s chief of staff Michael Cox has resigned, four sources in and close to City Hall tell WW. Cox led the mayor’s office for six months and been on Wheeler’s staff for more than four years, including during his tenure as Oregon treasurer. It was not immediately clear what triggered Cox’s departure. The mayor faced blistering reviews of his first two years in office. Among other matters, Wheeler has faced criticism for the staffing of his office. Last month, Cox disclosed a relationship with a subordinate in the mayor’s office—but Wheeler changed the organizational arrangement of his office to accommodate that relationship.
The Bulletin Editorial Board
Val Hoyle, the Lane County Democrat and former legislator who takes over leadership of the Bureau of Labor and Industries on Jan. 7, won’t have time to ease into her new job. A report from the bureau, released Jan. 3, demands her immediate attention. The BOLI report finds the Legislature is a hotbed of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment and that legislative leadership and administrators were aware of the problems and sought to hush them up. Oregonians can thank outgoing BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian for uncovering the mess. He was the complainant in the case and the report largely upholds his charges. Now it’s up to Hoyle to finish what Avakian started. She may ask for a deeper look into some of the charges in the report, or she may decide the information is as complete as it need be for action. Either way, she cannot simply relegate the report to a back shelf somewhere to gather dust. Lawmakers deny many of the findings in it, and that alone calls for further action, as do the finding themselves.
Mail Tribune Editorial Board
Less than a month before the 2019 session convenes, a Bureau of Labor and Industries investigation has concluded the Oregon Legislature is a hostile workplace, and legislative leaders have done far too little to change it. Among the most alarming findings of the five-month investigation are charges that women in the most powerful leadership positions in the Capitol downplayed accusations of sexual harassment. Hoyle, like Avakian, is a former legislator, who should know as well as anyone what the Capitol culture is like. The hostile environment the BOLI investigators describe is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. The Legislature is a unique environment with complicated power dynamics, but it is still a workplace. Hoyle should use the power of her office to make it a safer one.
As I take office as Oregon’s Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, I am truly honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of the state of Oregon. The labor bureau’s mission represents values that Oregonians hold dear: equality, fairness and opportunity. I am excited to lead our dedicated staff in standing up to protect those who are most vulnerable. I will do so unapologetically. As labor commissioner, I will be a staunch defender of the civil rights of all Oregonians. I will safeguard and support the rights of Oregon workers to organize and bargain collectively. I will ensure that employers are following the law, and that workers are paid the wages and benefits they are owed for the work that they do. I am committed to ensuring that all Oregonians, regardless of whether they work at a multinational corporation, a small business or the state Capitol, are able to feel safe and free from harassment of any sort.
The Oregonian Editorial Board
There is nothing like a great public education system to change futures and fortunes for children. The ability to access quality schools with dedicated teachers, challenging curriculum and attention to individuals’ needs is one of the most foundational pieces of an American dream that recognizes the potential of every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, family income or immigration status. That faith in the promise of education is the primary reason our editorial agenda year after year highlights the need to improve Oregon’s struggling schools. But we are more optimistic than in recent years that Oregon leaders will invest big in students in 2019. Our call to make transformational change in education – structured around what students, not adults need – comes at a time when foresight and pressure have created a rare window of opportunity for Oregon to act.
Oregonians who live in the southeastern part of the state have more voting power in state legislative races than residents of Lane County — about 5 percent more in House races. It’s all thanks to the Snake River Correctional Institution and the way governments count prisoners in the census. The Legislature has considered fixing that discrepancy in the past but has repeatedly fail to end prison-based gerrymandering. It can’t afford to wait another year. When the Legislature draws congressional and state legislative districts every 10 years, it relies on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The census counts prisoners as living where they are incarcerated, not where they came from. That leads to voting power differentials. When lawmakers get to work in a couple of weeks, ending prison-based gerrymandering should be a priority. The next census and redistricting are right around the corner, and corrections officials will need time to develop and test a system that provides accurate data. If it doesn’t happen this year, Oregon will likely have to wait another decade.
The Bulletin Editorial Board
Bend’s first elected mayor in nearly a century was sworn in Wednesday night. Sally Russell, who won election in November, will have more duties and a bit more power than her predecessor, who was chosen from among council members. Russell will not only set the tone for council meetings, she’ll set the agenda as well. If she’s wise, she’ll concentrate on the practical and leave the dreaming to others.
The Bulletin Editorial Board
Federal employees in Central Oregon, at least some of them, have been out of work now for about two weeks. They can apply for unemployment, of course, but doing so will require that they look for jobs. They shouldn’t have been put in that predicament in the first place, and the problem should be solved quickly.