Can’t We Talk? Paris, Portland and Protests

Portland is turning into Paris

paris_youthsprotest

A Paris protest.

Protests are a recurring presence in Paris, a nearly constant inarticulate howl of anguish.

If it isn’t nurses demonstrating against budget cuts and staff shortages or faculties mobilizing against proposed university reforms, it’s protests over French labor reforms or the arrival of a controversial foreign leader.

As in Paris, protesters and counter-protesters outraged at all sorts of things turn up everywhere in Portland at all sorts of venues these days. Former president George H.W. Bush once called Portland Little Beirut, a description that still holds.

portlandprotest

A Portland protest.

In early November protesters gathered on Waterfront Park demanding that Robert Mueller’s investigation be protected from interference by the Trump administration and objecting to the selection of Matthew Whitaker as acting Attorney General.  Indivisible Portland and Nasty Women Get Shit Done PDX organized the protest, which even drew Sen. Ron Wyden who chanted “this is what democracy looks like” with the crowd.

In October, protesters marched to protest police use of deadly force after Portland Police officers on patrol near the intersection of SW 4th Avenue and Harvey Milk shot and killed a 27-year-old man.

Also in October, police in riot gear broke up a fight at a Portland protest between the right-wing group Patriot Prayer and leftist Antifa counter protesters.

During June-July, protesters set up camp behind the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building on Portland’s South Waterfront, insisting that ICE be abolished. The protesters vowed that their camp would continue operating until ICE shut down, but Portland Police cleared the protest encampment in late July.

The right to protest is a long-standing protection afforded by the U.S. constitution, but protests, many of which spiral out of control, have become a primary means of communication in Portland.

Don’t like the results of an election? Take to the streets, block traffic, assault people. Object to how the city is handling homelessness? Disrupt City Council meetings with shouted grievances.

Bothered by police actions? Camp out in front of Mayor Wheeler’s Portland Heights home, spread refuse, write “ACAB” (all cops are bastards) in chalk on his sidewalk, brag online about urinating in front of the mayor’s house in full view of police. It’s no wonder Wheeler was recently overheard muttering that he can’t wait for his term to be over.

Frankly, all this is getting us nowhere. A shift to civil discourse intended to enhance understanding would accomplish so much more.

“Civility is simply demonstrating respect for the dignity of our fellow humans— even those humans with whom we have sharp disagreement,” Rabbi Steve Gutow said at an Episcopal Church’s event, Civil Discourse in America. “Civility is allowing others to speak, and having the humility to admit that we may have something to learn. Civility favors truth over cheap gain, and patience over knee-jerk judgment.”

Given the complexities and nuances of the many issues before us, it’s often unclear what is right or wrong, what is ethical, or what the consequences of a policy will be compared with what is intended.

Unlike unruly protests, respectful exchanges of diverse viewpoints that reveal our common humanity and avoid demonizing the “other”support civic mutuality and critical empathy, strengthening democracy.

In disruptive times like these, that’s what we need most.

As James Calvin Davis said in In Defense of Civility, “When we open wide the doors of public discourse, when we extend civility and respect to all citizens and demand it from them as well, we lay the groundwork for an enriched public discourse that might just make some progress, some move toward greater understanding on the issues that most divide us.”

 

 

 

 

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Hold on Oregonians. A tax tsunami is coming.

 

TaxTsunami

A tsunami of taxes is about to wash over Oregon.

The Democrats’ supermajority takeover of the Oregon Legislature, along with Kate Brown’s reelection, are the reason.

So, if you’ve seen your pay go up because of Trump’s tax overhaul (which, by the way, Democrats in Congress want to roll back) or a pay raise, get ready to see your gains disappear.

A Joint Interim Committee on Student Success that’s been touring the state gathering ideas on education policies and spending has already come up with an expensive wish list that includes:

  • Expanding career-technical education programs, including funding the $300 million that voters approved for high school programs with Ballot Measure 98 in 1916.
  • Extending the school year.
  • Fully funding the latest version of the Quality Education Model  all at once or over a specific period, such as three years. This could include: limiting class sizes (requiring more teachers and facilities); increasing the counselor-to-student ratio; adding counselors, librarians, TAG specialists, arts, music and physical education teachers; increasing spending on Pre-K programs; and reducing class sizes in the early grades and in schools with larger shares of students with higher needs.The State School Fund requirement to fund K-12 schools at a level   recommended by the Quality Education Commission (QEC) is estimated at $10.734 billion in the 2019-21 biennium, $1.963 billion more than the funding required to maintain the Current Service Level—that is, to keep up with inflation and enrollment growth.

An activist Legislature controlled by the Democrats, and supported by a Democrat governor, may also:

  • Modify Measure 5 to increase property tax revenue.
  • Seek a new gross receipts tax or value-added tax charged to businesses.
  • Set a cap on greenhouse emissions and require companies to buy pollution permits to cover their emissions.

And let’s not forget the likelihood of new sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, including e-cigarettes, as proposed in the Oregon Health Authority’s draft 2019-21 budget.  That budget proposes increasing the cigarette tax from $1.33 to $3.33 a pack and the retail price of beer, wine and cider by 10 percent. The new taxes would cost consumers an estimated $830 million to help cover growing Medicaid costs.

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Then, of course, there are the measures just passed in Portland and the Metro Area, including:

  • Measure 26-201, Portland Clean Energy Initiative. Created a 1 percent surcharge tax or gross receipts tax on large retailers to pay for clean energy projects and job training. Before Nov. 6, supporters of the measure estimated it would cost affected businesses $30 million a year while opponents estimated it could cost affected businesses up to $79 million a year.
  • Measure 26-199 authorized $652.8 million in bonds to fund affordable housing in Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties. The regional bond will cost 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $60 per year for a home with an assessed value of $250,000.

And don’t forget the multiple local money measures on the ballot on Nov. 6.

Voters in the North Clackamas School District, for example, approved Local Option Levy 2018, a levy intended to address an anticipated $17 million operating shortfall to maintain current programs beginning in 2019. The levy will be collected through a property tax charged at a rate per $1,000 of assessed will be up to $1.63 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Homes with a median assessed value of $221,800 will pay up to $30 per month.

And in Eugene, voters in Eugene School District 4J passed Measure 20-297, a $319.3 million school improvement measure. Property tax rates will increase by about $0.66 per $1,000 of assessed value. Property taxes will increase by about $11 a month or $135 a year for the median homeowner in the district, with an assessed property value of $204,000.

And how about off-the-cuff proposals from politicians, such as Jo Ann Hardesty, who will be sworn-in as a Portland city commissioner in January. During her campaign she said she’d like to put a $2.50 tax on Uber and Lyft rides, which would, of course be paid by passengers.

Because the bulk of a tsunami lies beneath the sea surface, tsunamis are hard to detect when they travel across the open ocean and they can arrive unexpectedly. So consider this an early warning. Even if you can’t see it yet, a tax tsunami is coming.

Oregon voter turnout: not really all that great

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A multi-university study has concluded that voting in Oregon is easier than anywhere else in the U.S.

But despite Oregon’s efforts, the fact is voter turnout isn’t all that great.

In the just concluded 2018 midterm elections, 1,99,142 Oregonians voted. That was just 61 percent of the state’s voting-eligible population.

The voting-eligible population includes all persons eligible to vote regardless of voter registration status. The voting-age population is all persons over the age of 18, including persons who are ineligible to vote, such as non-citizens, felons (depending on state law), and mentally incapacitated persons. Registered voters are persons who have recorded their name in the voting register and are entitled legally to cast a vote.

When talking about election turnout, state officials and politicians are usually referring to the percent of registered voters who vote so the number looks better.

In the just concluded 2018 midterm elections, for example, registered voters totaled 2,762,622 and, as noted earlier, 1,902,953 ballots were turned in as of Nov. 8, 2018, according to the Secretary of State’s online election report. The Secretary of State reported that this translated into 68.88 percent turnout.

This number is deceptive, however, because a lot of Oregonians in the voting-age population haven’t registered. If the number for Oregon’s total voting-eligible population, 3,113,178, is used instead, then, as noted previously, the turnout was 61 percent. That’s not bad, but it’s disappointing because it means four of every ten voting-eligible Oregonians skipped voting.

Still, that’s far better than the 49.2 percent turnout for the U.S. as a whole, less than half of those eligible after $5.2 billion in political spending.

And it is certainly better than the historic national rate. In fact, the last time more people turned out for a midterm election was in 1914, when 50.4 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.Midterm turnout was at its highest level in 104 years, according to an analysis first obtained by Axios. A little more than 49 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2018 elections. The last time more people turned out in a midterm was in 1914, which was when 50.4 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

The following table, using data from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division and the United States Election Project, shows Oregon’s voting-eligible population and actual voters in other recent general elections:

Year    Voting-eligible pop.   No. of voters      Percent      

2016          3,024,174                     2,051,452           61.7

2014          2,887,517                     1,541,782            50.9

2012          2,836,101                     1,820,507            63.1

2010          2,760, 607                     1,487,210           53.9

2008          2,700,327                      1,845,251            68.3

2006          2,628,937                      1,399,650            53.2

2004         2,550,887                      1,851,671             72.6

2002          2,495,730                        1,293,756          51.8

2000          2,364,402                        1,559,215          65.9

 

 

 

(Correction: added maps) Kate Brown’s Victory: Another Tale of Two Oregons

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Two Oregons are alive and well.

All Knute Buehler needed to do on Nov. 5 was look at the county-by-county maps of Oregon’s past gubernatorial elections to see that he had a tough row to hoe to become Oregon’s next governor.

Take a look at a map of the 2014 election for governor:

John Kitzhaber: Blue; Dennis Richardson: Red

oregongovrace2014

And here’s a map of the 2010 election for governor:

John Kitzhaber: Blue; Chris Dudley: Red

oregon2010govElection

The 2018 election played out in the same pattern, with the Democrat (Kate Brown in this case) carrying Lane, Benton, Lincoln, Clatsop, Washington, Multnomah and Hood River counties.

And, as in the past, Multnomah County really saved the Democrat’s bacon, giving Brown at least 241,524 votes and Buehler only 71,903. That kind of margin for Brown is pretty hard to overcome.

Buehler overwhelmed Brown in counties such as Linn, Douglas, Josephine, Coos, Klamath, Umatilla, Union and Crook, but the voting population of these counties was far too small to swing the election in Buehler’s favor.

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Nov. 6, 2018 Election Results for Governor of Oregon

 

County Brown Buehler Starnes Rpt.
Multnomah
241,524
71,903
5,334
93%
Clackamas
85,679
93,823
4,472
92
Washington
104,056
74,934
4,097
63
Lane
94,957
66,690
5,584
100
Jackson
41,233
50,738
4,126
93
Marion
43,178
50,557
2,799
100
Deschutes
39,050
48,300
2,662
100
Linn
15,894
32,182
2,213
100
Douglas
11,536
31,878
2,421
89
Yamhill
17,274
23,705
1,458
91
Benton
26,023
14,645
1,190
100
Josephine
11,797
23,808
1,679
83
Polk
14,799
18,603
1,033
100
Coos
9,442
16,231
1,263
100
Klamath
6,190
18,863
1,348
91
Lincoln
12,367
9,738
803
100
Umatilla
6,941
14,987
874
100
Clatsop
8,389
7,834
576
100
Columbia
6,582
8,867
679
61
Tillamook
5,569
6,561
458
100
Union
2,854
7,941
439
84
Crook
2,234
8,423
417
88
Curry
4,056
6,365
435
96
Wasco
4,476
5,753
418
100
Hood River
6,286
3,711
263
100
Malheur
2,122
5,960
362
100
Jefferson
2,564
5,427
379
100
Baker
1,557
5,995
345
100
Grant
641
2,919
151
80
Wallowa
1,018
2,511
136
92
Morrow
829
2,510
162
80
Harney
577
2,714
124
67
Lake
415
2,411
141
74
Gilliam
218
690
46
100
Sherman
188
729
32
100
Wheeler
158
593
38
100
Source: New York Times

The numbers are in and they aren’t good for Special Olympics Oregon

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Earlier this year it became clear that Special Olympics Oregon was struggling through a long-term financial crisis. Britt Carlson Oase, the organization’s chief executive officer, told The Oregonian that its financial condition had worsened in 2017, but it wouldn’t know how much worse until the Independent Auditor’s Report for the year was completed.

That report by CPA Richard Winkel is finally in. Now we now know how bad things really were in 2017.

According to Winkel’s report, Special Olympics Oregon’s revenues in 2017 totaled $6,8 million, down $1 million from 2016. Meanwhile, 2017 expenses totaled $8.1 million, about level with 2016. That left the organization with total net assets deficit of $417,196, substantially less than its total net assets of $944,000 at the end of 2016.

One sign of the organization’s problems in 2017 was a decline in contributions. During the year ended December 31, 2017 the organization received $618,610 in contributions from direct marketing, down from $870,838 in 2016. Total contributions were also down, slipping from $2,534,178 in 2016 to $2,203,519 in 2017.

Another indicator of trouble is the situation with its line of credit. According to Winkel’s 2017 report, Special Olympics Oregon maintains a line of credit for up to $1,000,000, secured by all of the organization’s assets and bearing interest at 3.5%. The line was extended to mature on April 20, 2018. At December 31, 2017, $1,000,000 was outstanding.

The agreement with the bank requires that the organization maintain a minimum tangible net worth (interpreted by the bank to mean total net asset balances) of not less than $1,000,000, measured annually. The agreement also requires that, for 30 consecutive days during the calendar year, the aggregate principal advances outstanding under the note should not exceed $500,000.

As of and for the year ended December 31, 2017, the organization was not in compliance with either covenant. In September 2018, the short term note payable was renegotiated with the lender forgiving $500,000 and the remaining balance refinanced through a short term note with a private lender that has not been disclosed. The short-term note is payable at the earlier of December 2019 or on demand. The note bears interest at 2.195% per annum and is unsecured. Interest is payable at maturity.

Then there’s the “going concern” requirement. The management of non-profits are required to assess whether there are conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the organization’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the financial statements are issued.

Winkel’s reportsaid that the 2017 financial statements reported a decrease in unrestricted net assets of $886,142 and a decrease in total net assets of $1,361,493. That followed decreases in net assets in 2016, 2015 and 2014. As a result, the organization’s cumulative unrestricted net assets deficit has increased from ($1,304,800) at December 31, 2016 to ($2,190,942) at December 31, 2017.

In addition, during 2017, outstanding trade payables grew by $325,601 and the line of credit increased by $348,768. At December 31, 2017, current liabilities exceeded current assets by $1,619,913. All of these factors affect the organization’s liquidity, the 2017 report said.

“The Organization’s ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on many factors, including successful efforts to raise additional contributions and grants and successful cost reduction plans,” the report concluded.

Steps Special Olympics Oregon is taking to address the “going concern” issue include: new management; dramatic cost reductions, including staff downsizing; moving to donated office space; and pausing the Summer and Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 State Games.

Margaret Hunt, CEO of the nonprofit from 2003 to May of this year, portrayed the organization’s current troubles as part of the normal ebb and flow of a typical nonprofit’s finances. “There are always ups and downs in the nonprofit world,” she told The Oregonian.

Financial reports make clear, however, that Special Olympics of Oregon has been in trouble for years and that 2017 continued the trend.

Will 2018 be an improvement? Can the organization dig itself out of this mess? A lot of kids and parents are staying tuned.

The Eagle has landed: a message for our times

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This time of divisiveness, outrage, combativeness and disillusionment is a good time to look back at a time of hope, lump-in-your-throat patriotism and pride in America when we set a moon landing as a goal and achieved it.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” President John F. Kennedy said in a rousing speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962.

At 10:56 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong, born in the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, planted the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbed down the ladder and proclaimed: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” (› Play Audio)

The astronauts left behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs that reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

I still remember being glued to the television through the entire tense and thrilling event, transfixed by the sublime vision of Americans on the moon, in the living room of my family’s Connecticut home.

I was vividly reminded of that time of optimism and common purpose during another tumultuous period in our history when I watched Steven Spielberg‘s movie “First Man” yesterday. (View trailer)

Retelling the story of the American space program from its initiation in the 1960s to the Apollo 11 mission through the lens of Armstrong’s life, the movie unfolds the setbacks, obstacles and tragedies that led to the ultimate triumph and launched us into a new era of science, technology and discovery.

It’s important to remember, though, that the ’60s were also a time of ferment. President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were slain, race riots broke out, urban decline was on the upswing, and the country was going through the national trauma of Vietnam.

On top of all that, protests against the draft were escalating, Cesar Chavez was pushing for agricultural boycotts, the Bay of Pigs Invasion failed, the Cuban Missile Crisis had Americans fearing nuclear war, the militant Black Panthers emerged and National Guardsmen shot and killed four Kent State students at an anti-war protest.

As one historian put it, “In the 1960s, dissidents shook the very foundation of U.S. civil society.”

But America came through it all.

The same will hold true today if we commit to a better future. America can still be the shining “city upon a hill” that John Winthrop, an early pilgrim, described.

“In my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace,” Ronald Reagan said in his farewell address. “…after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm.”

So, take a break from your hectic life and spend a couple hours in a darkened theater watching “First Man”. You will celebrate America’s triumphs and emerge with a strengthened belief that this too shall pass.