GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Teachers and education advocates across the state will flock to several rallies Wednesday in a bid to pressure the Oregon Legislature into passing a $2 billion corporate tax package to buoy K-12 funding and push for more money for universities and community colleges. The protests — portrayed as a walkout by educator unions in the weeks leading up to the event — have forced several school districts across the metro area to shutter for the day. Most, including Portland Public Schools, will add another day at the end of the academic calendar to comply with state classroom hour regulations. The rallies are the latest in a series of protests by teachers and education advocates pushing for what they say is much-needed stability in the state’s K-12 funding mechanisms.
From checking in at a polling place on a tablet, to registering to vote by smartphone, to using an electronic voting machine to cast a ballot, computers have become an increasingly common part of voting in America. But the underlying technology behind some of those processes is often a black box. Private companies, not state or local governments develop and maintain most of the software and hardware that keeps democracy chugging along. That’s kept journalists, academics, and even lawmakers from speaking with certainty about election security. In an effort to improve confidence in elections, Microsoft announced Monday that it is releasing an open-source software development kit called ElectionGuard that will use encryption techniques to let voters know when their vote is counted. It will also allow election officials and third-parties verify election results to make sure there was no interference with the results.
The backers of a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay say they are slashing their projected spending by half and delaying the facility’s planned startup by a year as they wait for state and federal regulators to decide on key permits. In its first quarter earnings call, Pembina Pipeline Corp. executives said they still feel the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and the 230-mile Pacific Connector pipeline are economically viable. But the company wants to limit its spending on the $10 billion project before receiving permits and making a “final investment decision” — industry parlance for the decision initiating financing and construction. The company plans to spend $50 million on the project this year, half its previous forecast. Tasha Cadotte, a local spokeswoman for Pembina, said the company has made great progress with engineering, land acquisition and commercial negotiations with potential customers.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A report from the Oregon Employment Department shows that from 2013 to 2017, more people have moved to Oregon than have left. Although Oregon saw migration flow between every state in the nation, it was mostly between nearby western states. Oregon also saw an influx of people from specific career industries. Oregon gains the most residents from California. On average, 39,320 Californians move to Oregon annually. But an average of 19,523 Oregonians also make the move south, leaving Oregon with a net gain of 19,797 new residents from California every year. The state with the second-highest net “in-migration” number (the difference between people moving from a state and Oregonians leaving for that same state) is Hawaii.
City economic development agency Prosper Portland has hired as its chief financial officer Adam Lane, previously the chief financial officer of Ecotrust, a nonprofit under investigation for more than a year by Oregon Department of Justice prosecutors over its handling of state tax credits. At the time Lane was in charge of Ecotrust’s financial activities, the nonprofit inflated a project budget to obtain $4 million in state tax credits, according to a 2018 investigation by Business Oregon, the state economic development agency. Ecotrust representatives have said no wrongdoing occurred. An Oregon Department of Justice spokeswoman said this month that a civil investigation of Ecotrust is ongoing.
In late January, a small group of residents held a protest beneath the object of their collective scorn: a small cell antenna mounted on a utility pole at a busy intersection near Roosevelt Middle School. “We don’t want it here. … This technology is way, way, way stronger than all of our other technologies,” protester Bekki Brucker told a local television reporter. The technology is 5G, short for 5th Generation, the next iteration of cellular communication that promises blazing-fast speed and could, if you believe the prognosticators, redefine our relationship with the internet. There is no 5G service in the local area — it only just launched in a few major cities — and there’s no timeline for when it will be available locally. Telecommunication companies are laying the groundwork for it, however, having installed more than a dozen small-cell antennas and associated equipment in Eugene so far. These locations now help provide 4G LTE service, the current iteration of the technology, to customers but could be part of a local 5G network in the future.
Hood River News
Hood River County Residents have already started receiving their ballots for the May 21 Special District Election and have no doubt noticed that it includes two revenue measures: 14-65, a Public Health and Safety Five Year Local Option Levy, and 14-66, a Prepared Food and Beverage Tax. (See sidebars for details on each measure.)
Last week the Oregon House approved a new $2 billion tax on Oregon sales, very similar to the one voters rejected in 2016. Don’t be fooled by its “for the kids” campaign. It’s a brilliant ruse: only big terrible corporations will pay this new tax and our schools will magically become fully funded with a bevy of programs and support.This sweet lie hides the bitter truth: Schools will remain underfunded until politicians do the tough work to reform the Public Employees Retirement System. For any Oregonian in the last decade who has listened to politicians in Salem promise the moon if we just open our wallets one more time – it’s the same story, different day. We have more tax money flowing into our state government than ever before, but the money never makes it into the classroom. Where has all this new cash gone? Where will it go? It’s going into pensions, payroll and benefits. As the Oregonian’s Ted Sickinger has detailed for years, Oregon’s behemoth government employee pension debt and employee benefits are sucking the life out of our schools and public services.