More Identity Museums:When Will It Stop?

Everybody seems to want a museum.

Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao an Asian American, thinks Asian Americans don’t get enough attention and respect.

“Our story is inextricably linked to America’s story,” she said in a May 30 Washington Post column.. “Yet our history is too often overlooked, our contributions to this nation are sometimes forgotten, and our right to be here is too often questioned. Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) history is American history. And it is time for it to be recognized as such. “

Her solution? Yet another museum on the national mall in Washington, D.C., a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture. 

It used to be that the national mall, the public lands around and between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol, was a place to celebrate the nation as a whole. Its initial structures included the Smithsonian “Castle” (1855), the Washington Monument (1884), the National Museum of Natural History (1910), the Lincoln Memorial (1922), the National Gallery of Art West Building (1941), the National Museum of American History (1964) and the National Air and Space Museum (1976). 

The mall began to turn to celebrating specific segments of the national population when the National Museum of the American Indian opened in 2004. Then came the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016. 

President Biden set in motion Elaine Chao’s vision on June 13, 2022, when he signed into law a bill (H.R.3525) authorizing a commission to examine how to make a National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Museum a reality and whether to make it part of the Smithsonian Institution.

One problem is that Asian Americans are far from a monolith. Instead, they have a complex history and cultures.  Even the term encompasses dozens of ethnic groups of Asian descent. Just Southeast Asians, for example, includes Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Hmong, Laotian, Burmese, Indonesian and Malaysian. 

 An analysis from Common App, a nonprofit that allows prospective students to apply to more than 1,000 member colleges using one application, noted that the term Asian American can refer to around 50 ethnic groups. “While Asian American was a term established by activists in the 1960s as a means to build political power, it’s also been criticized for obscuring the immense diversity among those it purports to cover…,” notes a Vox article, part of an Asian American identity series.

If built, it would supplement the National Museum of the American Latino. Legislation calling for the Smithsonian to establish that museum passed in Dec. 2020. 

“The new museum will be the cornerstone for visitors to learn how Latinos have contributed and continue to contribute to U.S. art, history, culture, and science.,” according to the Smithsonian. “Additionally, it will serve as a gateway to exhibitions, collections, and programming at other Smithsonian museums, research centers, and traveling exhibition services.”

The next battle is likely to be whether to call the new structure the Latino, Hispanic or Latinx Museum.

Then, of course, where all these museums will be planted in in an already crowded mall is unknown. 

Some might argue that recognition of America’s diversity through such museums is a good thing. I’d offer a “Yes, but”. There’s no question that education about our multifaceted country can combat stereotypes and misconceptions, but excessive focus on identity is not such a good thing when it exacerbates divisiveness and encourage a splintering of the populace.

All this identify politics also leads to even more minority designations. As Amy Chua says in Political Tribes. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition.”

What are craven politicians going to endorse next? A German Museum, an Irish Museum, a Hungarian Museum? The high immigration numbers in the 1800s were largely fueled by German and Irish immigrants. The Hungarian revolution in 1956 led to a burst of Hungarian refugees coming to the United States.

The 1959 Cuban revolution drove hundreds of thousands of Cubans to the United States. Given their concentration in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other politicians seeking the Cuban vote could probably be counted on to endorse a Cuban Museum on the National Mall.

At the rate things are going, today’s pandering politicians, who, as Blake Smith, says, eagerly “offer cultural victories instead of substantive ones,” will eventually advocate the creation of museums for every single racial or ethnic group in America. We’ll need another National Mall.

Portland Rose Festival: Why The Secrecy?

Jesse Albert Currey (1873-1927), founder of the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, OR.

One of the most persistent myths about big special events is that they all generate enormous economic returns for communities.

Event sponsors frequently try to reinforce that perception with much-ballyhooed economic impact analyses. The problem, as the Journal of Travel Research has pointed out, is that “Most economic impact studies are commissioned to legitimize a political position rather than to search for economic truth.”

The formula for economic impact analyses is simple and predictable, says The John Locke Foundation

A special interest group that stands to benefit from the project funds an economic impact study that purports to provide hard numbers on the number of jobs, the increase in wages, and the additional output that will be generated by the project or subsidy. It makes grandiose claims about how much overall economic growth will be enhanced for the state or region generally. 

Once the report is completed, the special interest group that paid for the study will tout these results in press releases that will be picked up by the largely uncritical media establishment, ensuring that the political decision makers and others who determine the fate of the project receive political cover.

Current negotiations over how much the Nevada will contribute to construction of a new $1.5 billion Las Vegas ballpark for the now Oakland Athletics are typical for how the economic impact process works. 

Advocates for the project, who want the state to kick in up to 25% of the cost, argue that public money is justified because of the positive economic impact of the project. 

The Athletics and Las Vegas say they are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas annually to help fill the stadium, an inadvertent admission that the project is likely to draw from tourists the city already pulls in, not new out-of-state visitors, thus limiting any economic boost.

State lawmakers are questioning whether the stadium is worth it., according to the Associated Press. They cite a major league team with the worst record in baseball, financed in-part by a county and state struggling to fund public services including schools, which rank toward the bottom in per-pupil funding.

Economists are also questioning proposed state assistance. “Most spending that happens in and around stadiums is just reallocated local spending, so there doesn’t seem to be much net positive economic impact from the stadium,” J.C. Bradbury, a sports economics researcher and professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia who authored The Baseball Economist, said in an interview with The Nevada Independent.“Anyone who is telling you that there is an economic benefit to a stadium deal is [lying] … I’ve studied this to death. There’s universal agreement.”

The Portland Rose Festival Foundation has been putting out a lot of economic impact numbers, too.

The foundation has been proclaiming for years that the event has a multimillion-dollar economic impact on Portland., throwing out numbers that are all over the map.

A 2001 economic impact study concluded the Festival had an economic impact of $79 million annually.

An internal, informal study in 2006 showed an economic impact of $50-60 million.

In 2009, Rose Festival Executive Director Jeff Curtis estimated the local economic impact of all the Rose Festival events that year would be $60 million.

A study that examined the festival’s economic impact in 2011 (The 2012 Portland Rose Festival Overall Economic Impact Assessment) concluded that the 2011 Festival injected $75.6 million into the local economy.

In comments about the 2023 Festival, the organization has been saying it will have a $65 million economic impact. 

“Our current statement…regarding the impact, takes into account that older information, but is an internally conservative downgraded estimate because the changes that have taken place since then, including; the loss of the Rock n Roll Marathon partnership, the pandemic and other factors like the end of the Rose Cup Races at PIR and frankly, the changing weather patterns,” Rich Jarvis, Public Relations Manager at the Portland Rose Festival Foundation, said in an email.

The fact is it’s difficult to know whether any of the various economic impact numbers that have been put out with great fanfare, and repeated without question by the media, are reliable because the Portland Rose Festival keeps a tight grip on all the reports produced over the years. 

“Our attendance numbers and financial information are proprietary and we don’t, as a policy, release those to the public,” Jarvis said. 

This despite the fact the foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with higher public disclosure responsibilities, and benefits from a subsidy from the city under which it pays just $1 a year for its offices in the former McCall’s restaurant building on the waterfront. A cherished institution, yes, but not one entitled to reject scrutiny.

The foundation’s resistance to disclosure is in stark contrast to the openness of major businesses such as Intel that has made public several analyses of the company’s economic impact on Oregon. It also runs counter to the Rose Festival’s efforts to position itself as a responsible, public-spirited organization.

Of course, even if the Foundation makes the reports public, there’s no guarantee they will be reliable. Economists who study the actual impact of big events often dismiss the economic impact estimates by event promoters as wildly inflated. 

First, in many cases, variations in the estimates of benefits alone, as has been the case with the Rose Festival, raise questions about the validity of economic impact studies.

Then there’s the phenomenon known as the crowding-out effect. Tourists tend to avoid cities where a big event like the Super Bowl is taking place because those events drive up prices on everything from air travel to hotel rooms. 

Some common assumptions may also not be valid. For example, it’s often assumed that mega events stimulate a big jump in out-of -town visitors. But that’s not always the case. Typically, for example, fewer than 20% of the Tournament of Roses Parade watchers in Pasadena, CA come from out of the area.

Data compiled by STR, a global hospitality data and analytics company, do show an 85.5% and 91.8% hotel occupancy rate in Portland the night before and the night of the 2017 Grand Floral Parade. However, the occupancy rate during the entire 17-day Festival averaged only 75.25%, which was actually lower than the 87.25% rate in the 17 days following the Festival. 

Similarly, STR data shows the hotel occupancy rates during the 2018 and 2019 Festivals averaged just 74.1% and 75.6%. 

Many studies also exaggerate the multiplier effect from event-related spending, assuming that it represents additional economic spending, when it may be simply spending by locals who end up spending less elsewhere. In other words, leisure spending is simply shifted from one segment of the marketplace to another, sending the misleading signal that the event is an economic boon.

This is often referred to as the substitution effect, with attendees at an event spending their money on that event instead of on other activities in the local economy. The event simply results in reallocation of expenditures in the economy, rather than in real net increases in economic activity.

Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the Rose Festival’s economic impact analyses, they are unknown to the public if the studies are kept under wraps. The Portland Rose Festival Foundation should do better. 

Florida Travel Warnings by Activists Are Ill-Advised

Activist groups are on the warpath against Florida.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization; Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have all issued advisories warning against travel to Florida.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP said. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

The wisdom of their censure?  Nil. It’s likely impact?  Minimal. 

The experiences of San Francisco and California with ill-considered travel bans are instructive.

San Francisco has already repealed its ban on city business with conservative states. The state may soon rescind its travel ban as well.

In 2016, California decided to restrict state employees from traveling to any state that has enacted a law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identify, or gender expression. It also prohibited state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states on a list.

In the beginning, four states (Kansas, Mississippi, N. Carolina, Tennessee) were on the list of states affected by the travel ban. Eventually the list swelled to almost half the states in the union.

California’s misguided feel-good effort at virtue signaling was stimulated by North Carolina acting to ban transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identity in public buildings. California retaliated by banning state-funded travel to that state and any other state with laws it deemed discriminatory against LGBTQ people.

The travel ban played well with California’s leftists, but as the list of penalized states expanded, the ban grew unwieldy.  

The prohibition meant sports teams at public colleges and universities had to find other ways to pay for road games in some states, university researchers found it difficult to pursue projects that required trips to states on the banned list and  it complicated some of the state’s other policy goals, such as the use of money to pay for people in other states to travel to California for abortions.

In March 2023, state Senate leader Toni Atkins announced legislation that would end the ban and create in its place a program to create inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel less isolated.

“While we recognize what the travel ban accomplished when it was passed, we also must address the unintended consequences and diminished utility that has become its legacy,” said John A. Pérez, UC Regent and Speaker Emeritus of the Assembly.

“But while the arguments for repeal are all legitimate, they miss what to me is the single biggest problem with the ban: Imposing a boycott on nearly half the states in the union further divides us as a country. It exacerbates political polarization and creates obstacles to communication with the very people we need to be persuading,” wrote Los Angeles Times columnist, Nicholas Goldberg.

The activist groups issuing advisories warning against travel to Florida are equally misguided.  While there are clearly divided views on some bills passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. DeSantis, accusing the state as a whole of racism and discouraging travel there is divisive, overreaching and undercuts minority-owned businesses in the state.

In a country with 50 states and more than 332 million people, there are bound to be multiple areas of disagreement. Many might say the diversity of opinions, and the willingness to hear and debate them, is one of our country’s strengths. Different viewpoints, after all, serve as a gateway for discovery.

Activists trying to carve up the country into segments with which they agree or disagree are headed down the wrong path.That kind of thinking just encourages people like the unhinged far-right U.S. Representative, Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA.

On Feb. 20, Presidents’ Day, Greene tweeted: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.”

Thankfully, there is little evidence that travel advisories by activist groups of any stripe have chilled interest in travel to chastised states in the past. Florida reported a record tourism year, with an estimated 137.6 million visitors in 2022 — up nearly 13% from 2021. That trend is likely to continue, despite the activist travel warnings.

As Stacy Ritter, CEO and president of Visit Lauderdale, has said, “…we welcome everyone under the sun.”

The ACLU of Oregon is Out Of Order

David Goldberger would be appalled to see how the ACLU of Oregon has gone astray.

In 1977, he argued one of ACLU’s most controversial cases, defending the free speech rights of Nazis to march in Skokie, Ill., home to many Holocaust survivors.

I thought of him when I came across this Tweet from ACLU of Oregon last night:

ACLU of Oregon⁦@ACLU_OR⁩

📨We were back at it again today, dropping off pink slips to absentee senators. Hundreds of you have completed the form and told your legislators to get back to work! 💥We’ll keep making more pink slip deliveries. Visit to send one!, 3:05 PM

In 2021, the New York Times reported on a luncheon celebrating Goldberger’s career . Goldberger was dismayed to hear a law professor argue that the free speech rights of the far right were not worthy of defense by the ACLU. He was also disturbed by an ACLU official’s argument that it was legitimate for the organization’s lawyers to decline to defend hate speech.

Goldberger, a Jew who defended the free speech of those whose views he found repugnant, felt profoundly discouraged. “I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” Goldberger told the NY Times. 

I have the same concern about the ACLU of Oregon, which has gone astray in furtherance of a progressive political agenda and become, like the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, a wing of the Democratic Party..

The ACLU of Oregon was a key player in securing voter approval of Measure 113 that proposed disqualifying legislators from re-election following the end of their term if they are absent from 10 legislative floor sessions without permission or excuse.

Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, often refuse to hear a case if they find an issue is so politically charged that federal courts, which are typically viewed as the apolitical branch of government, should not hear the issue. 

Cornell Law School cites  Oetjen v. Central Leather Co. (1918) as one of the earliest examples of the Supreme Court applying the political question doctrine,. In that case, the Court found that the conduct of foreign relations is the sole responsibility of the Executive Branch. As such, the Court found that cases which challenge the way in which the Executive uses that power present political questions. Thus, the Court held that it cannot preside over these issues. 

The Court broadened this ruling in Baker v Carr (1962), when it held that federal courts should not hear cases which deal directly with issues that the Constitution makes the sole responsibility of the Executive and/or the Legislative branch.

In the same context, the ACLU of Oregon is out of order inserting itself so aggressively in the political maelstrom of a Democratic effort to prevent legislative walkouts by Republicans from interfering with the Democrats’ agenda.

Trying to justify its support for Ballot Measure 113 before its approval by voters, the ACLU of Oregon argued: “Democracy is diminished when our political system does not address repeated gamesmanship and the continued manipulation of technical rules such quorum requirements, or repeated threats of this type, for the purpose of gaining a political advantage.”

The ACLU of Oregon thinks it should get involved in a ballot measure because it is concerned about “gamesmanship” and “manipulations of technical rules”. Talk about a political issue.

So now perfectly legal maneuvering by a political party to thwart proposals by another party diminishes democracy so severely that it’s acceptable to prohibit the re-election of sitting legislators?

And it’s OK for the ACLU of Oregon to blatantly encourage Oregonians to harass legislators who go against the Democrats’ agenda with “pink slips”?

The ACLU of Oregon has gone way over the line.

4-Day School Weeks: Dumbing Down Oregon Public Schools

Oregon seems determined to undermine academic success in its public schools.

With Oregon’s public school students already suffering from abysmal scores on national reading and mathematics tests, earning declining scores in civics and history tests, and with one in five students failing to graduate from high school in four years, Oregon seems determined to shortchange its young people even further as an increasing number of the state’s school districts are adopting 4-day school weeks (4dsw).

In the 1975-1976 school year, just one Oregon school district operated on a 4dsw, according to the Oregon Department of Education. By the 1986-87 school year, the number of 4dsw districts had grown to 7. 

Oregon now has the fourth-highest number of schools on a 4dsw in the country, with 137 schools across 80 districts opting for the shorter school week, according to EdSource. That’s roughly 11% of the more than 1,200 K-12 schools in the state. The majority of these schools are in rural areas, particularly in Eastern Oregon.[i]

The newest addition to the 4dsw in Oregon is the Imbler School District in Union County near the Blue Mountains. It recently announced it will be moving to a 4dsw in the 2023-24 school year. It will start with a two-year pilot program, after which the program will be evaluated. The Imbler School Board voted that “it was in the best interest of students and staff to move forward with the four-day school week.” 

Imbler High School graduation, 2022

According to the Rand Corporation,  an American non-partisan nonprofit global policy think tank and research institute, qualitative data supports the view that the  4dsw model helps attract and retain teachers. Families and students reported highly valuing the extra time that the schedule allowed them to spend together, and the data showed that, overall, stakeholders experienced high levels of satisfaction with the shortened week.

BUT, Is a 4dsw really “in the best interest” of students?

While a 4dsw is gaining adherents, research is showing that meaningful learning losses result. Less classroom time correlates directly with progressively lower test scores and academic achievement.

Data gathered by RAND researchers shows that even though student achievement at 4dsw districts was generally trending upward over time, this growth was not as large as what the 4dsw districts would have attained with a 5dsw schedule. In other words, there is mounting evidence that children in 4dsw programs fall behind their peer a little every year.

A comparison of English language arts and math test scores showed that students on the 4-day week have meaningfully lower scores, over time, when compared with peers on a five-day schedule. Students in elementary school and middle school that switched to a 4dsw schedule were the most negatively impacted by the change academically.

six-state analysis, published in 2022 by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, found lower student achievement in four-day schools, with larger negative effects among Hispanic students, as well as in those in towns and the suburbs, as compared to rural areas.

A 4dsw “unambiguously hurts student achievement over time,” Christopher Doss, a RAND policy researcher, told the news site, Axios.

Rand also concluded, “Debates about 4dsw adoption should acknowledge that there is only weak support for the three main reasons that districts typically adopt the 4dsw: saving money, reducing student absences, and attracting and retaining teachers.”

The desire to save money, for example, is often a big motivator for choosing a 4dsw, a common assumption being that one less school day will translate into 20% of savings. RAND’s research concluded that most school costs—salaries and benefits—don’t vary by the length of the school week and that switching to a 4dsw would be more likely to save less than 5%.

A 4dsw doesn’t reduce absenteeism either. Kids who don’t show up consistently on a 5dsw don’t become more responsible on a 4dsw. A time series analysis by RAND found no statistical difference between the absenteeism rates of students in 4dsw districts and 5dsw districts.

So much for 4dsw.

[i] The shift to 4-day weeks has been occurring nationally, too. At the beginning of 2020 there were 650 U.S. school districts on a four-day schedule. Now there are 850, according to Paul Thompson, an associate professor of economics at Oregon State University who has done extensive research on the topic. The schedule is most popular in small, rural districts. In Colorado, which has the largest percentage, 124 of the state’s 178 districts (70%) follow a four-day schedule.

Shemia Fagan and Oregon’s Political Rot

Political parties “…are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government…” said George Washington. 

Washington may have preferred that the United States go forward with no parties, but since we’ve got them, the next best thing is to prevent one-party rule that strangles wise and fearless public policy and emboldens the perpetual winners.

That’s where Oregon has failed over a long time and all at once.

The Shemia Fagan scandal is just the latest illustration of rot in the body politic.

Secretary of State Fagan wouldn’t have signed up for a $10,000 a month consulting contract with Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazarest, owners of the La Mota chain of cannabis dispensaries, if she hadn’t thought she could get away with it.  The cannabis entrepreneurs are, after all, high-profile Democratic donors.

Before the Fagan scandal erupted, the Democratic recipients of La Mota funds happily accepted them. Willamette Week’s Sophie Peel did some spade work, revealing La Mota contributions to the following Democrats:

Gov. Tina Kotek – $68,365

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan – $45,000

Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) – $12,500

Senate Democratic Leadership Fund – $10,000

State Treasurer Tobias Read – $1,800

Rep. Andrea Valderrama (D-Portland) – $500

Labor Commissioner Christina Stephenson – $7,500

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson – $1,000

Rep. Dacia Grayber (D-Tigard) – $1,000

Rep. Hoa Nguyen (D-Portland) – $500

Rep. Annessa Hartman (D-Gladstone) – $500

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt – $2,000

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer – $3,500

Prior to the Fagan scandal, none of the Democrats who were recipients of La Mota money were  apparently bothered by the fact the company was failing to pay its bills and taxes, according to an investigation by Willamette Week. Only after the Fagan scandal erupted did Democrats decide campaign contributions from La Mota were dirty money and scrambled to show their purity by pledging to donate those contributions to other worthy charitable causes.

Oregon’s Democratic Party also wouldn’t be so cavalier about all the campaign contributions it took from disgraced executives at FTX, the now bankrupt crypto company if they didn’t think they could get off scot free.

In their unbridled pursuit of power, Tina Kotek and the Democratic Party of Oregon chose to keep company with Nishad Singh, the 27-year-old wunderkind director of engineering at FTX. They welcomed his $500,000 contribution to the party’s campaign coffers in 2022. 

But the wheels of justice have turned since Singh made the contribution. On Feb. 28, 2023, he pleaded guilty to six criminal counts, including conspiring to commit securities and commodities fraud, during a hearing in federal court in Manhattan. 

He also pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. in a campaign-finance scheme in which he made illegal donations to political-action committees and candidates using funds from disgraced cyypto manager Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto hedge fund Alameda Research.

John Ray III, the new boss of the bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, wants the $500,000 back, but the Democratic Party of Oregon has so far refused. 

Fagan’s behavior is also reminiscent of the sudden downfall of Jennifer Williamson, a former House majority leader and a leading contender to be Oregon’s next secretary of state in 2020. Williamson suddenly dropped out of the race, attributing her action to a forthcoming story in Willamette Week about questionable expenditures of campaign funds when she served in the House.  

Then there was Democrat Governor John Kitzhaber, who resigned in February 2015  amid a growing influence-peddling scandal involving him and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, becoming the state’s first governor to resign in disgrace.


Gov. Kitzhaber and Cilvia Hayes

Kitzhaber ‘s resignation came in the face of a state criminal investigation and a string of demands from top state officials to step down.

There have also been questionable actions by other Democratic leaders. 

At one extreme, there was Neil Goldschmidt, a former governor, former Secretary of Transportation under President Jimmy Carter and ex-mayor of Portland. Goldschmidt, while Portland’s mayor during the mid-1970s, had sex on many occasions with a 14-year-old girl. Goldschmidt tried to define his actions as “an affair”. 

He started having sex with the girl when he was 35 and married. She was a babysitter for his young children and the daughter of a neighbor who worked in his office. 

A key element tying all these scandals together is the long Democratic rule in Oregon. It has led too many in the party to act with impunity, just as Richard J. Daily and the Democratic political machine ran Chicago with bare-knuckle politics for 21 years as dozens of politicians fed on the city’s political corruption.

Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982, when Gov. Vic Atiyeh won re-election.  Republican s have also failed to achieve majorities in the Senate and House for ages.

Oregon has been ill-served by the concentration of political power in Democrat’s hands for so long that the party has an overpowering stench to it. As former U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) put it, “Unchecked power pushes parties to excess regardless of which party is in power.”

In Oregon, it’s been the Democrats for far too long.

Nordstrom is Closing two San Francisco Stores. Could Portland be Next?

A long time ago, at a time of retail exuberance, Nordstrom announced it would be opening an avant-garde 300,000-square-foot Nordstrom store in downtown San Francisco’s Westfield Centre at the base of Powell St. in August 1988. 

Inside Nordstrom’s Westfield store in San Francisco

“We’ve been asked to make this a major flagship store for Nordstrom, so the quality level of the building and its merchandise is being escalated in a significant way,” Charles McKenzie, Nordstrom’s project manager, told me for a story I wrote about the company for The Oregonian that ran on June 14, 1987.

More than twice the size of Nordstrom’s downtown Portland, Oregon store, the high fashion emporium in San Francisco was expected to be a long-lasting shining beacon in the magical city by the bay.

So much for that. 

Earlier this week, Nordstrom announced the Nordstrom at Westfield will close at the end of August 2023 and a Nordstrom Rack store across the street will close in July. 

The news came on top of recent announcements that Anthropologie’s Market Street location in San Francisco will close on May 13 and Saks OFF 5TH will shutter no later than this fall.

The dynamics of downtown have changed dramatically over the past several years, and impacted customer foot traffic, Chief Stores Officer Jamie Nordstrom told The San Francisco Standard, with unacceptable levels of disturbance by organized criminals and destitute people.

Blame for the Nordstrom closures has been placed partly on the rise of e-commerce, but more on the deteriorating scene in San Francisco’s downtown core that has contributed to 20 retailers in or near San Francisco’s Union Square shuttering or announcing plans to close since 2020. 

A spokesperson with Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which owns the Westfield mall, blamed the city for “unsafe conditions” and a “lack of enforcement against rampant criminal activity.” 

Sound familiar?

In 1977, Nordstrom Inc. took the wraps off its spiffy brand new $8 million store in downtown Portland. More than 15,000 shoppers and gawkers squeezed into the city’s newest attraction on opening day, Oct. 31.

It may have been just another store to Nordstrom, but it represented a lot more to Portland. As the first new retail building to be built downtown in 15 years, the store served as a catalyst for a spirited revival of downtown as the place to be. 

Over the next ten years, the downtown Portland area bounded by NW Glisan St. on the north, I405 on the west, SW Arthur St. on the south and the Willamette River on the east witnessed at least $906 million in new and rehabilitated commercial and residential development, compared with just $89 million in investment during 1970-1976, according to the Portland Development Commission. 

In 1982, at an Association for Portland Progress luncheon, Bruce Nordstrom, co-chairman of the company, said his company had no intention of building until he received a call from Portland Mayor Neil Goldschmidt. 

Pioneer Courthouse Square, which opened in April 1984, solidified the emergence of a revitalized downtown retail core. 

Nordstrom’s downtown Portland store overlooking Pioneer Square

Now not a day goes by that television, radio and newspapers don’t bemoan the deterioration of Portland’s once lively downtown.

In mid-2021, people described Portland’s downtown to The Oregonian as “destroyed,” “trashed,” “riots” and “sad.”  “Persistent vandalism, accumulating trash and homelessness have soured attitudes about Portland’s economic, cultural and transportation hub,” the paper reported. 

In a poll of people in the Portland metro area commissioned by The Oregonian/OregonLive, residents across the metro area said downtown Portland had become dirty, unsafe and uninviting. Many reported the presence of so many homeless people and their outdoor camping as a particular concern. 

The city had moved far too slowly, for far too long, to address critical needs said poll respondent Myrna Brown, who lived in Southeast Portland, and she wasn’t optimistic the crisis would resolve itself anytime soon.

She was right to be pessimistic. 

Downtown Portland has continued to struggle. As News Nation put it in March, “Two years after riots plagued the city, two years after a pandemic and the push for social justice collided, the model liberal enclave has turned into a social mess.”

A homeless camp in downtown Portland

Chet Orloff, adjunct professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University, said Portland’s mess is partly “because we’ve been so lax in how we’ve unfortunately treated criminals, and we’ve been lax in our support of the police. That has simply allowed people to continue to damage the city.”

 In mid-April, outdoor retailer REI, citing frustrations with break-ins and theft, announced its 35,000-square-foot  Pearl District store, in place for nearly two decades,will close when its lease comes up at the end of February 2024

“You’re really betting on the future when you invest into a retail store,” PSU Professor Thomas Gillpatrick told KGW8-TV. “So what this is really sending a message to all of us in Portland, is Portland looks not as attractive as we have been in the past.”

KGW reported viewers reacting to the REI story said they were fed up with city leadership and the state of downtown.

“Yeah, this is a travesty.,” said one. “Our mayor has done nothing. All these businesses are folding up, leaving, moving on and just plain going out of business and he has done not one thing to help prevent this from happening.”

“What will it take for our elected officials to take concrete action to improve downtown and bring back the vital city I moved to in 1999?” said another viewer “I will not go into downtown Portland anymore, due to the open-air drug use, the ever-present graffiti and trash, the people passed (out) on the sidewalks, and the general sense of lawlessness that pervades downtown.”

“Whether you’re very conservative or very liberal, at some point everybody just gets fed up,” added Chris Ham, manager of Oregon’s Finest , a marijuana dispensary in the Pearl District.

How long will Nordstrom tolerate the situation in downtown Portland?

If it can abandon a flagship store in San Francisco, it can walk away from the once charming Rose City, too.

Shemia Fagan: Another Oregon Democrat Takes A Fall

What is it about some politicians who just can’t behave?

I remember a saying I was told growing up in New England, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your parents to read about the next morning in the paper.” 

Former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who resigned under pressure today, should have followed that advice.

If she had, she certainly wouldn’t have signed up for a $10,000 a month consulting contract with the owners of the La Mota chain of cannabis dispensaries at the same time her office audited state regulations on cannabis businesses. Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) has pointed out that the cannabis entrepreneurs are also high-profile Democratic donors.

According to OPB, Fagan, a single mother with two children, justified taking the consulting job by saying she simply could not pay her bills on her $77,000-a-year state salary.

Some of this behavior, unfortunately, has a precedent among Oregon Democrats.

In 1993, I wrote a story for The Oregonian spelling out how John Kitzhaber, when he was State Senate President, pulled in about $90,000 in speaking fees around the country during his last three years as a legislator.

Kitzhaber had earned approximately $35,000 in honoraria in 1990, about $20,000 in 1991 and about $35,000 in 1992, with payments ranging from $100 to $3,000 per speech, plus expenses. As Senate president, Kitzhaber also was paid a monthly salary of about $1,976 during those years.

Kitzhaber ‘s draw was his advocacy of the Oregon Health Plan, a proposal to reform Oregon’s Medicaid program to broaden the number of people covered by limiting the types of procedures eligible for reimbursement. Kitzhaber authored the plan and shepherded it through the Legislature in 1989.

Fagan’s behavior is also reminiscent of the sudden downfall of Jennifer Williamson, a former House majority leader and a leading contender to be Oregon’s next secretary of state in 2020. Williamson suddenly dropped out of the race, attributing her action to a forthcoming story in Willamette Week about questionable expenditures of campaign funds when she served in the House.  

When will politicians learn?

The West and Russia are Already at War…and the West Must Win

Whenever there’s an article about the West supplying more sophisticated and lethal weapons to Ukraine, there’s almost always a reference to hesitation because escalating the conflict could risk a direct confrontation with Russia. 

As much as political and military leaders might want to argue against the risk of such a confrontation, the reality on the ground, and in the air, is that it is already occurring.

In this month’s Foreign Affairs, in an article titled The Free World Must Stay the Course on Ukraine, the prime ministers of  Poland,, the Czech Republic and Slovakia wrote:

“Europeans were inspired by the visit of U.S. President Joe Biden to Warsaw and Kyiv in February. Biden reaffirmed that while the United States is far away, it is committed to freedom in Europe—and understands, as we do, that Ukraine is fighting for the freedom of all of us. Ukraine does not want to be at war with Russia. Nor do we. But it has become increasingly clear that Russia decided a long time ago that it is at war with us.”

Evidence of Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere is pervasive.

Over the past several months, heavily armed Russian warplanes have repeatedly violated longstanding agreements with the U.S. by flying dangerously close to American jet fighters over Syria and over U.S. forces working in the country, US officials have said.

Russia and the United States have an agreement recognizing certain zones where the US can operate against ISIL (ISIS) fighters in Syrian areas where neither the U.S. coalition with local Kurdish troops nor the Syrian army exerts full control. Russia came to the aid of Syria’s president, Bashar Al-Assad, in 2015 in the Syrian civil war.

In March, an armed Russian Su-27 Flanker jet fighter crashed into a U.S. Reaper drone after spraying it with jet fuel on Tuesday morning over the Black Sea.  The drone fell into international waters in the Black Sea.

Despite established rules designed to prevent any sort of conflict between Russian and U.S. forces operating parallel to one another in Syria, Russian pilots are locking onto U.S. aircraft with their radars and taking other provocative actions on a daily basis, according to officials with U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Task & Purpose news reported on May 2, 2023.

A Russian Su-35 Flanker fighter jet is seen maneuvering unprofessionally within 2,000 feet of a U.S. Air Force fighter jet during an intercept in Coalition Force airspace over Syria on April 18, 2023. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jermaine Ayers).Source: Task & Purpose

“Russian forces have violated deconfliction protocols with Coalition forces almost 100 times in two months, conducting armed overflights of ground forces in Syria 26 times, flying within 500 feet of U.S. aircraft, and in the last week, jamming U.S. aircraft electromagnetic systems,” Air Force Lt Gen Alexus Grynkewich, head of AFCENT, told Task & Purpose“These behaviors significantly interfere with AFCENT’s ability to execute operations safely and effectively and increase the likelihood of miscalculation.”

According to the Rand Corporation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley reportedly has kept a list of “U.S. interests and strategic objectives” in the Ukrainian crisis since late 2021 which includes: “contain war inside the geographical boundaries of Ukraine.” That has already been violated. 

NBC News reported on April 11 that Ukrainian agents have pursued drone attacks inside Belarus and Russia and leaders in Kyiv have considered further targets outside Ukraine, according to recently leaked secret Pentagon documents.

One document marked “Top Secret,” noted attacks allegedly orchestrated by Kyiv on a military airfield outside Minsk, Belarus, and a gas compressor station in the Moscow suburbs. 

On March 2, the Russian government accused Ukraine of sending gunmen to attack villagers in the Bryansk region, days after blaming a series of drone attacks inside the country on Ukraine.

The increasing tension with Russia may play a part in what appears to be an erosion of American support for Ukraine as the battle goes on.

In WWII, The United States declared War on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941. “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory,” President Roosevelt declared.  On December 11, Congress approved a resolution declaring war with Germany. The unconditional surrender of the German Third Reich was signed on Monday, May 7, 1945. Japan signed an official Instrument of surrender on September 2, 1945. 

In other words, for almost five years the Americans persevered in the face of a brutal war with international repercussions. 

Russia took control of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014. It escalated the fight in Feb. 2022 when it invaded and occupied larger portions of Ukraine. President Biden declared the attack “unprovoked and unjustified”, issued severe sanctions against top Kremlin officials and began a NATO-led military assistance program to Ukraine. In other words, aggressive U.S. military involvement  in the Ukraine war has extended for slightly more than 13 months.

Yet many Americans are already wearying of the conflict. 

An April Wall Street Journal poll found that while the number of voters who believe the U.S. is providing the right amount of support has remained stable, at about 35%, more and more think Washington is too involved. 

About 38% of voters said the U.S. was doing too much to help Ukraine, a big jump from 6% in March 2022. Meanwhile, only 20% said the U.S. should do more, down from 46% in March 2022.The erosion in support is particularly noticeable among Republicans. About 60% of Republicans said the U.S. was doing too much to support Ukraine, up from 48% in October 2022, compared with just 15% of Democrats. Even 42% of independents said the U.S. was doing too much.

In my view, this erosion of support is a dangerous trend. If we do not see this through Russia will be emboldened, the independence of former Soviet Republics will be threatened, China’s aggressiveness will be encouraged and western influence on the global stage will be challenged.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Bernard-Henri Lévy, a prominent French intellectual, explained why he was dodging Russian sniper fire in Ukraine to make a documentary there. “In Ukraine, I had the feeling for the first time that the world I knew, the world in which I grew up, the world that I want to leave to my children and grandchildren, might collapse,” he said.

Yes, it might… if we lose our will to win in Ukraine.

Yet Another Multnomah County Tax is on the Ballot: Vote No

Multnomah County Democrats, who have probably never found a tax they didn’t like, are supporting a new capital gains tax on county residents, further burdening an already overtaxed populace.

People who take the time to read their voters pamphlet for the May 16, 2022 election will see Multnomah County Ballot Measure 26-238, “Eviction Representation for All”. The measure would create a program that would provide “free, culturally specific and responsive legal representation, with translation, to persons sued in Multnomah County residential proceedings (including post foreclosure) as well as related housing claims and appeals, including to maintain public housing assistance.”

The program would be funded by a new, adjustable 0.75 % tax on net capital gains of county residents.  The tax rate could be increased or decreased based on the county’s annual reports. 

In other words, the new tax revenue would pay for lawyers to help people fight with property owners. 

Minimizing evictions may be a worthy goal, but not every social problem should generate a new tax on already burdened taxpayers. A realignment of priorities would be preferable

Without a doubt, this measure is a disaster in the making.

Although advocates argue the measure would only tax individuals, not businesses, that’s a fiction. As a study done by Perkins & Co for the Portland Business Alliance concluded, “Businesses organized as pass-through entities such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (except those electing to be taxed as a C corporation), and S corporation are taxed at the individual level. The majority of Multnomah County small business owners reflect the annual activity of their businesses on their individual income tax returns.”

Someone selling their business in Multnomah County would also have to pay the capital gains tax with no other investments to offset any gains. 

The Perkins & Co report also noted that “taxpayers would be subject to this tax even if they were otherwise nontaxable for federal, Oregon, and other local tax purposes. “ For example, retirees withdrawing from their retirement investment accounts might not be subject to federal or Oregon income taxes, but they might have to pay could pay have to pay Multnomah County’s capital gains tax on their savings , reducing their retirement income if their withdrawals are categorized as capital gains. 

Equally disturbing, Perkins & Co. concluded that homeowners selling their residence at a profit would owe the proposed local capital gains tax on all gains from the sale. 

The Cascade Policy Institute has rightly pointed out another flow in the measure — the 0.75 % tax rate is adjustable. “Most of us have been around long enough to know that when a tax rate is adjustable, the only way is up,” Cascade says. 

Resident small business owners in Multnomah County already face a barrage of taxes, resulting in the second highest marginal individual income tax rate in the United States after New York City, and has suffered population losses in each of the past two years. Piling on with yet another poorly designed tax would compound the county’s problems. 

Vote No!