Subject: December 20, 2018 Daily Clips
The Bend Bulletin Editorial Board
New bills are being considered for the January legislative session, and it’s the same old story. Oregon legislators have found they can get away with introducing bills without attaching legislators’ names to them. And that’s exactly what they are doing. There are even big tax changes up for consideration, and legislators are introducing them without clear accountability.
Legislators are hiding who is behind the effort to swipe money from taxpayers by trying to bring an end to the kicker tax rebate. There is nobody’s name attached to the bill. Legislators are hiding who is behind a proposed change in how property tax is calculated, driving it up. Nobody’s name is attached to the bill. Legislators are hiding who is behind a proposed increase in the corporate minimum tax. Nobody’s name is attached to the bill. There are many more tax changes, but you get the idea. It’s like Oregon legislators have adopted the omerta as the way to do the public’s business. It’s not for your benefit. It’s for the benefit of legislators. If nobody can be held accountable for a bill, voters don’t know who to vote for or against. That’s nonsense. If legislators wanted to insist on accountability, they could easily forbid any bill or legislative concept from being considered unless a legislator or group of legislators clearly put their name on it. State Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, led an effort to end the practice. Democrats rejected it. Politicians and state officials complain about lack of trust in government. Nothing corrodes public trust like efforts by legislators to conceal accountability.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Strap in, the 2020 presidential campaign is about to start in earnest. The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday that it will hold its first sanctioned debate in June 2019. There will be 12 Democratic primary debates, one a month from then on, skipping August 2019.
State officials could have saved up to $1.6 billion during a two-year period by being smarter shoppers, according to a state audit released Wednesday, Dec. 19. But, auditors said, old technology and outdated practices largely prevent the state from digging into whether it is spending each dollar of taxpayer money wisely. Auditors looked at all information technology purchases in 2016 and 2017 by 10 state agencies whose buying is subject to oversight from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services. They found the state bought 1,300 24-inch Dell monitors for prices ranging from $176.40 to $241.15 and could have saved over $16,500 by always paying the lowest price. In another example, the state paid 131 different prices for the same surge protector, ranging from $65.90 to $173.98. While focusing on technology, the auditors used their findings and other research to conclude that Oregon could have trimmed up to 20 percent of $8 billion in state government purchases in the 2015-17 budget. The Administrative Services Department has “price agreements” with vendors to set prices for good bought by the state. The state encourages agencies to negotiate for lower prices. But auditors found that state buyers use multiple systems to track spending and don’t follow consistent buying practices. Some state agencies monitor spending in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Only two state agencies regularly analyze individual purchases, auditors found. “Without the ability to analyze detailed purchase data for all procurements, Oregon is unable to identify opportunities for potentially millions of dollars in cost savings,” auditors wrote.
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon is still on track to gain a sixth seat in the U.S. House, according to elections experts studying new Census Bureau population estimates released Wednesday. Kimball Brace of Election Data Services in Virginia said he projects that Oregon should gain another seat with about 140,000 people to spare. That’s relatively close, but not as close to the margin as it is for some states. “There are still some potential changes coming that could impact Oregon,” he said. These include population changes caused by a disaster or an economic shock — or big differences in what the Census Bureau turns up when it attempts to count the entire population in 2020.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Two months ago, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson announced he would no longer be doing a central part of his job. While undergoing treatment for what he’s called a small, cancerous brain tumor, Richardson revealed on Oct. 15 that he planned to stop attending meetings of the Oregon State Land Board. A deputy would attend in his place, he said, voting alongside Gov. Kate Brown and state Treasurer Tobias Read on matters concerning state-owned land. The decision didn’t fly. After receiving legal advice from the Oregon Department of Justice, Richardson walked back the change on Dec. 17. When the Land Board met the following day, he participated. The change was minor, but in a Capitol that for months has speculated on how cancer might be affecting Richardson’s abilities, his reluctance to attend the Land Board meetings is notable. It also raises a delicate question: How should elected officials facing serious health challenges balance their right to privacy with being candid with a public that has a stake in their success? “Your decision about your condition is your business,” said former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, speaking generally and not specifically about Richardson. “But the public clearly has a right to know that you are performing the job of secretary of state effectively.”
Oregon lawmakers will try again to repeal the state’s gigabit tax break, a four-year-old incentive now widely considered a mistake by members of both parties. Legislators unanimously created the tax break in 2015 in hopes of luring Google Fiber to bring its super-fast internet service to Portland. When Google jilted Portland a year later, Comcast and Frontier Communications moved to capitalize and claim the tax savings for themselves. Efforts to repeal the tax break stalled at the finish line during the short legislative session last winter, but lawmakers think they have a better shot this time out. “I feel like our chances of passing this are a lot, lot better,” said Rob Nosse, D-Portland, who has filed one of two bills for the 2019 session to repeal the tax break. “I feel like my peers understand and know it’s not necessary.”
Governor Kate Brown is looking at potentially reopening the Willamette Falls locks, which would let boats travel beyond the falls. In her 2019 proposed budget, $7.5 million is set aside to help repair the locks, which were shut down in 2011. The money comes from federal sources along with the Oregon Lottery. The locks are 145 years old and they were closed down after they fell into disrepair.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Trees have dark canopies extending to the sky, absorbing sunlight like they’re supposed to. All that energy from the sun warms the trees, which, in turn, melts the snow near their trunks. Trees also prevent precipitation from ever reaching the ground. Snow gets caught in the upper canopy, where it’s exposed to the sun and the wind. It evaporates before it can become part of the snowpack. To examine the ways forest cover affects total precipitation, Nolin focused on one ecosystem: the Detroit Reservoir on the North Santiam River. Climate change has already dramatically altered the Santiam Watershed. “We don’t have to look to the future to see declining snowpacks; we can see it in our own backyard,” Nolin said.
Residents were baffled over whom to contact about trash, needles and other issues they saw along multi-use paths and sidewalks that run along highways. The city had no jurisdiction to clean up homeless camps, and the Oregon Department of Transportation was hard to get ahold of and slow to act, residents complained. Meanwhile, homeless people who wanted an out-of-the-way spot to stay for a few nights said that they were never referred to social services and often didn’t know whose cleanup schedule they would be rousted by. After more than two years of frustration from people who live in houses and in tents along interstate corridors, the city of Portland will take over campsite cleanup duties from the state transportation department.
Mayor Ted Wheeler assembled an arsenal of statistics showing progress to place more Portlanders in government-supported affordable housing units during his year-end news conference at City Hall. At the top of his list: Some 1,800 people will ring in the New Year under the roof of one of 800 units of affordable housing orchestrated by city officials this year. The city hopes to create another 1,000 units in 2019. Flanked by Housing Bureau director Shannon Callahan and the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ Marc Jolin, the mayor told reporters he believes homelessness is not a perpetual problem in society and that a solution can be achieved. “On the sticks and bricks side, we know we have the resources for at least the next year and beyond,” he said Friday, Dec. 14. “The real question is how do we work collectively.”
The Bulletin Editorial Board
Internal auditors are agency employees whose work helps assure the public that money is being spent wisely. They may track cellphone billing information, as auditors with the state Department of Corrections did earlier this year, according to the Portland Tribune. In that case, auditors found no one informed the agency’s cell service provider when people left the agency and the agency was no longer responsible for their cellphone bills. The lapse, they said, had cost the agency $41,466 over the previous five years. Internal auditors do more than just uncover wasteful spending. They can also see that agencies are complying with the rules and laws that govern them. They are a bulwark against fraud, mismanagement and other problems that cost the state, and ultimately the taxpayers, money. Oregon law requires large state agencies to have internal auditors, though more than a dozen do not. Lawmakers can change that when they meet in 2019, and they should.
Portland Tribune Editorial Board
Incoming city Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty wants to pull Portland out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. We respectfully disagree. But even more to the point, we wonder why this issue should rise to the top of Portland’s to-do list as a new City Council prepares to take office in 2019. Following the November election, the balance of power on the City Council will shift to the left, as Hardesty replaces longtime Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Hardesty made the terrorism task force a campaign issue in the fall, saying she wanted to get the city out of the cooperative arrangement because it could conflict with Portland’s status as a sanctuary city for immigrants. Hardesty’s concern about immigration enforcement was answered well by FBI Special Agent In Charge Renn Cannon during a recent interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Cannon pointed out that the JTTF doesn’t enforce immigration laws unless there is a potential terrorism connection. “If somebody asks me, can you guarantee the JTTF will never be involved in an immigration arrest, no I can’t guarantee that,” Cannon told OPB Radio. “What I can tell you is it’s exceedingly rare here in Oregon. And what I can also say is: I can guarantee that the Portland police on the JTTF are not involved in immigration enforcement.” Given these assurances, which have been echoed by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, we see no conflict between JTTF participation and state and city policies regarding treatment of immigrants. The city has been in and out of the JTTF over the past two decades, with little visible effect on everyday life in Portland.
As the former interim director of security at Portland Public Schools this year, I saw firsthand the courage, commitment and dedication of our school resource officers. I have also seen the amazing courage, dedication and commitment of school staff, vice principals, security personnel and principals who stand in the face of threats to their school communities every day when resource officers aren’t there. The agreement between Portland Public Schools and the City of Portland is a much-needed investment in safety and security, and in the relationship between police and the community.
The Portland School Board should rethink its decision to pay for police officers in schools. Our experience, borne out by studies, is that police are deployed in schools in haphazard ways, rarely receive appropriate training in education law, adolescent psychology, or de-escalation strategies, and respond in ways that undermine the educational mission of a school. Parents are not made aware of what behaviors can put their children in legal jeopardy. Moreover, there is very little evidence that putting more police in schools actually makes them safer.