Say No to Non-Citizen Voting in Multnomah County

The proposal by Multnomah County’s Charter Review Committee to allow non-citizens to vote in county elections is a sign not just of progressive overreach, but of moral rot.

It is a sign not of appreciation, but of contempt, for liberal democracy.

The idea makes a mockery of citizenship, removing the long-standing linkage between the responsibilities of citizenship and voting rights. And while the idea might appeal to the rabid left, it’s likely to alienate the broad middle whose support will be essential if the Committee’s entire reform package is to be approved.

Just as unrestricted immigration to the United States was once standard and legal voting by noncitizens was once common in as many as 40 states, limitations or prohibitions in both arenas have been in place for almost 100 years. In that same vein, federal law prohibits contributions, donations, expenditures(including independent expenditures) and disbursements solicited, directed, received or made directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals in connection with any federal, state or local election.

The Charter Review Committee members, all appropriately listing their She/Her, She/They, They/Them, He/Him pronouns on the committee’s website, are essentially a cabal of overzealous progressives intent on remaking the body politic to advance their agenda.

A review of the committee’s membership, who are appointed are appointed by state senators and representatives who represent districts in Multnomah County, reveals an organization more akin to a left-leaning social justice advocacy non-profit than a county charter review body.

Samantha Gladu (She/They), for example, is described as “…committed to addressing power inequities by building representative and progressive anti-racist leadership.” Ana I. González Muñoz (She/Her)…works at Latino Network as the Director of Community Engagement & Leadership Development” and her … professional and personal commitment revolves around serving her community to advocate for equity, inclusion, and social justice.” Jude Perez (They/Them) “…is the Grants Manager at Seeding Justice…an organization that practices community-led grantmaking to distribute funds to grassroots groups that are working towards long-term, systemic solutions, and community-centered strategies to dismantle oppression in Oregon.”

While they and the other committee members unanimously supported the effort to legitimize and implement non-citizen voting and have expressed lofty theoretical sentiments for its adoption, beneath the surface it is little more than a power grab, an effort to further the political fortunes of specific ethnic groups. 

As Ronald Hayduck, a professor at San Francisco State University who endorses non-citizen voting, has written, for allies it is important to drive “home the potential benefits of non-citizens to forge progressive political majorities.”

The practical downsides of non-citizen voting are rarely mentioned. 

When a spokesman for the New York City Law Department told the Wall Street Journal the New York ruling “… is a disappointing court ruling for people who value bringing in thousands more New Yorkers into the democratic process,” he inadvertently revealed a major problem with allowing non-citizen voting. 

Ricardo Lujan-Valerio, a policy director to Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio and former policy associate at ACLU of Oregon, told OPB he estimated the committee’s proposal “…could potentially affect up to 100,000 people if the final definition of ‘noncitizen’ includes the roughly 22,000 undocumented residents living in Portland.” It’s not clear if that estimate includes not just undocumented people in the county illegally, but also people admitted to the US legally, but not yet US citizens.  

That many non-citizens added to Multnomah County’s voting rolls could result in a substantial dilution of the power of the county’s citizen voters.

Justice Ralph J. Porzio, a State Supreme Court justice on New York City’s Staten Island, raised the dilution issue when, on June 27, 2022, he struck down a law that would have allowed non-citizens to vote in local elections in New York City, saying it violated the State Constitution.

“This Court finds that the registration of new voters will certainly affect voters, political parties, candidate’s campaigns, re-elections, and the makeup of their constituency and is not speculative.,” the judge said in his ruling. “The weight of the citizens’ vote will be diluted by municipal voters and candidates and political parties alike will need to reconfigure their campaigns. Though the Plaintiffs have not suffered any harm today, the harm they will suffer is imminent, and it is reasonably certain that they will suffer their claimed harm if the proposed municipal voters are entitled to vote.”

“Voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure…The addition of 800,000 to 1,000,000 non-eligible votes into municipal elections significantly devalues the votes of the New York citizens who have lawfully and meaningfully earned the right to vote pursuant to constitutional requirements.”

Some liberal politicians may express support for non-citizen voting because they see a pool of potentially supportive voters for their re-election. But they should be careful what they wish for. 

The New York Times wrote recently about an unexpected turn of immigrants in South Texas away from leftist Democrats and toward the GOP. 

An article titled How Immigration Politics Drives Some Hispanic Voters to the G.O.P. in Texas noted:

“Democrats are destroying a Latino culture built around God, family and patriotism, dozens of Hispanic voters and candidates in South Texas said in interviews. The Trump-era anti-immigrant rhetoric of being tough on the border and building the wall has not repelled these voters from the Republican Party or struck them as anti-Hispanic bigotry. Instead, it has drawn them in.”

“Our parents came in a certain way — they came in and worked, they became citizens and didn’t ask for anything,” said Ramiro Gonzalez Jr., a 48-year-old rancher from Raymondville, on the northern edge of the Rio Grande Valley. “We were raised hard-core Democrats, but today Democrats want to give everything away.”

Republican candidates in South Texas appealing to Latinos “…are building on a decades-long history of economic, religious and cultural sentiment that has veered toward conservatives,” the story said.

CNN recently reported a similar shift, saying voters of color are backing the GOP at historic levels, with Democratic support from Asian AmericanBlackand Hispanic voters much lower than it has usually been. Part of that is because of the changing demographic makeup of voters of color. “They’re a lot more Hispanic than they used to be,” CNN said. “At the same time, they’re a lot less Black. Hispanic voters don’t support Democrats as much as Black voters.” 

Multnomah County advocates of non-citizen voting and their political allies should take heed.

DeFazio and Schrader: are they vulnerable in 2018?

What are they smoking?

That was my first thought when I learned Republicans think Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) will be vulnerable in 2018.

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s Chairman Steve Stivers announced on Feb. 8 that DeFazio and Schrader would be among the party’s initial 36 offensive targets in the House of Representatives for the 2018 midterm elections.

defaziovulnerable

Rep. Peter DeFazio

The Committee’s goal is to keep Republicans in control of the House

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Rep. Kurt Schrader

so they can pursue their agenda in areas such as healthcare reform, a stronger national defense, and job growth.

DeFazio has represented Oregon’s 4th Congressional District since 1987. The district, in the southwest portion of Oregon, includes Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, and Linn counties and parts of Benton and Josephine counties.

oregon4thdistrict

Oregon’s 4th District

In his first race, DeFazio won with 54.3 percent of the vote. He won his next 16 races with comfortable leads, with a high of 85.8 percent in 1990 and a low of 54.6 percent in 2010. After a 2011 re-districting gave Democrat-heavy Corvallis to the 4th district, DeFazio won 59.1- 39 percent.

Democrats figured the Corvallis shift guaranteed DeFazio a permanent seat and his seat did seem safe when he won in 2014 with 58.6 percent and in 2016 with 55.5 percent.

Further hurting Republicans has been their failure to put up a strong opponent.

With a weak bench, the Republicans have run the same man, Art Robinson, against DeFazio in each of the past four elections. You’d think they would have learned. The first time, 2010, Robinson lost by 10 points, the second time by 20, the third by 21, the fourth by almost 16.

So, is DeFazio really vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? Maybe.

Consider how Donald Trump did in DeFazio’s district.

Trump handily defeated Hillary Clinton in Coos, Curry, Douglas, Linn and Josephine counties. In Douglas county, Trump racked up 64.6 percent of the vote versus Clinton’s 26.3 percent.

Hillary carried only two liberal enclaves, Lane County, home of the University of Oregon, and part of Benton County, home of Oregon State University, but that was enough.

In the end, Hillary barely carried the 4th District with just 46.1 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 46 percent, a margin of just 554 votes.

That suggests the Republican problem is their candidate and his/her messaging, not the dominance of Democrats.

If the Republicans could recruit a strong moderate candidate able to make persuasive arguments, DeFazio could be in trouble.

As for Schrader, he has represented Oregon’s 5th Congressional District since 2008. The district, in the northwestern portion of Oregon, includes Lincoln, Marion, Polk, and Tillamook counties as well as portions of Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties.

5thdistrictschrader

Oregon’s 5th District

In his first race, Schrader won with 54 percent of the vote. He won his subsequent races with 51.3 percent, 54 percent, 53.7 percent, and 53.5 percent. In 2011, the Oregon State Legislature approved a new map of congressional districts based on updated population information from the 2010 census, but it hasn’t had a meaningful impact on Schrader.

In 2016, Trump took Marion, Polk and Tillamook counties. Clinton carried Lincoln, Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties, winning heavily populated Multnomah 73.3 to 17 percent. In the end, Clinton carried the 5th District with 48.3 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 44.1 percent.

Schrader’s winning margins to date have been consistent and comfortable, but not breathtaking. They would likely have been higher without the presence of multiple other party candidates in the general elections, who have been draining principally liberal votes. In 2016, for example, the Pacific Green Party took 3.4 percent of the votes. In 2014, three other parties captured a total of 6.7 percent of the vote.

Although voter registration trends aren’t consistently matching actual election trends, Schrader’s district is becoming increasingly Democratic, though also more non-affiliated.

In Nov. 2012, there were 158,885 registered Democrats, 148,464 Republicans and 89,539 non-affiliated voters in the district. By Nov. 2016, it had shifted to 176,868 registered Democrats, 155,430 registered Republicans and 135,233 non-affiliated voters.

Is Schrader as vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? I don’t think so. Even though he’s been in Congress fewer terms than DeFazio, his district is likely safer for a Democrat, and becoming more so.

How about DeFazio?

I know, he’s been in office for 30 years and just keeps rolling along, seemingly invincible. But I think he’s more vulnerable than he looks. He hasn’t so much been winning as the Republicans have been losing with uninspiring, ideologically rigid candidates.

My advice to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Don’t divide your limited resources in an effort to capture both seats. Instead, focus on finding a strong moderate candidate to run against DeFazio in 2018, building a war chest sufficient for a credible race and running a sophisticated campaign.

Dennis Richardson showed a Republican can win in Oregon. If the right things fall in place, the 4th District could be next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing fast and loose: Multnomah County and the Wapato Jail

wapatojail

The still empty Wapato Jail

Has Multnomah County been flouting the law in its management of the Wapato jail?

In 1996, Multnomah County voters approved a $79.7 million public-safety bond measure to deal with inmate crowding and predictions of rising crime.

Of the total, $43.9 million went toward construction of the $58.4 million Wapato Jail in North Portland. The 168,420 sq. ft. jail was completed in 2004…and has sat empty ever since.

Now some folks, including Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, want to turn the jail into a giant homeless shelter. But other county officials are adamant the jail is unsuitable for such a use.

A major reason is because county officials have chosen to do what was convenient, rather than what was right.

When property at the County Sheriff’s office or other county jails broke or got too old or just needed replacing, rather than buying something new, the county ransacked Wapato.

“What people think is out there is a fully functioning building with kitchens and everything. It has none of that. It’s been stripped bare,” County spokesman Dave Austin told KGW-TV. “What we did was, if the sheriff’s office in their other three jails had a need for something — you know a big stove, an oven, a dishwasher — if those broke, we didn’t spend taxpayer dollars and buy new stuff. We went and took the stuff from Wapato.”

It would cost taxpayers at least $5 million to $7 million to replace all the stuff that was spirited away and get Wapato ready for occupancy, Austin told KOIN 6 News.

That’s right. County employees have ripped off $5-$7 million of Wapato property for other uses.

The problem is the 1996 bond measure for Wapato didn’t say that after the county built the jail, it could loot it.

The Dec. 17, 1996 Official Statement, the offering document delivered to prospective investors for the $79.7 million of bonds that were sold in the public market, specified that the bond proceeds would be used for the following:

  • Increase jail beds to end unsupervised early release of prisoners
  • Secure treatment facilities for mandatory drug and alcohol treatment of offenders
  • Computer systems and high-tech equipment for tighter tracking of criminals
  • Restructured booking facilities to eliminate delays for police
  • Expansion of the juvenile justice complex
  • Child Abuse Center

 In 2003, the State authorized the County to shift from building the bed alcohol and drug / work release / mental health beds to building 300 jail beds, instead, raising the total number of Wapato jail beds to 525 and committing $58.4 million to the project.

Wapato Jail was finally completed in July 2004.

But one thing didn’t change with all the machinations. There was still no provision allowing for the Wapato jail to be raided of contents worth millions so they could be shifted to other facilities.

A California case supports the view that such slippery shenanigans are prohibited.

In 2008, voters in the San Diego, CA Unified School District authorized $2.1 billion in general obligation bonds for school projects listed in a 96-page pamphlet. Later that year, voters challenged the District’s use of general obligation bond proceeds for the acquisition and installation of field lighting for the football stadium at a local high school.

In 2013, the California Court of Appeal determined in Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School Dist. that the school district’s failure to make explicit reference to the installation of stadium lighting within the site-specific section of a bond project list rendered that expenditure unlawful.

Maybe some folks involved in pillaging the Wapato Jail should be in it.

 

Stuck: running in place in Oregon

I work in Hillsboro, OR where evidence of a strong economy is everywhere. It’s tempting to assume that family income must be growing by leaps and bounds in Washington County, too, and to extrapolate and assume all is well statewide.

Not so much.

In fact, even Washington County isn’t doing that great, despite the presence of Intel, which has been growing like kudzu, feverishly sprouting buildings and good jobs.

Way back, growth in the U.S. economy was accompanied by income increases across the board, improving the lot of the poor and expanding the middle class. Everybody shared in the rising tide.

middle_class_family

But that hasn’t been happening for a long time. Now a lot of people find themselves working harder, but just treading water.

“Over the past 25 years, the (U.S.) economy has grown 83 percent, after adjusting for inflation — and the typical family’s income hasn’t budged,” according to a recent analysis by the Washington Post. “In that time, corporate profits doubled as a share of the economy. Workers today produce nearly twice as many goods and services per hour on the job as they did in 1989, but as a group, they get less of the nation’s economic pie.”

The result? In 81 percent of America’s counties, median family income is lower today than it was 15 years ago, the Post analysis revealed.

What about in Oregon? I decided to look deeper. The data shows that in 25 Oregon counties, the inflation-adjusted median family income is lower today than it was 15 years ago.

That’s true even in Washington County where median household income, adjusted for inflation, actually peaked in 1999 at $72,787. That year was also the peak for such wildly dispersed counties as Clackamas, Deschutes and Malheur.

The situation is even worse in counties such as Baker and Lake where median family income, adjusted for inflation, hit its peak 35 years ago.

If you really want to hit bottom, there are six counties, including Curry, Lane and Wheeler, where medium family income, adjusted for inflation, peaked 45 years ago. That’s right, almost half a century ago, when Richard Nixon was inaugurated President and the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., took their first walk on the moon.

So what we have in Oregon is an economy in which few of us are really better off economically then we were years ago.

Here’s the county-by-county breakdown of when median household income, adjusted for inflation, peaked in each of Oregon’s 36 counties and the level at which it peaked.

Oregon-county-map

County Peak Year Amount
Hood River 2013 $56,725
Sherman 2009 $52,664
Washington 1999 $72,787
Clackamas 1999 $72,264
Columbia 1999 $63,555
Yamhill 1999 $62,070
Polk 1999 $59,218
Benton 1999 $58,558
Deschutes 1999 $58,159
Multnomah 1999 $57,733
Marian 1999 $56,673
Linn 1999 $52,326
Crook 1999 $50,759
Jackson 1999 $50,734
Clatsop 1999 $50,289
Jefferson 1999 $49,678
Tillamook 1999 $48,026
Wallowa 1999 $44,726
Josephine 1999 $43,406
Malheur 1999 $42,525
Morrow 1979 $57,126
Wasco 1979 $54,645
Harney 1979 $54,318
Umatilla 1979 $50,513
Lake 1979 $49,714
Grant 1979 $48,786
Union 1979 $48,006
Lincoln 1979 $47,053
Baker 1979 $42,760
Lane 1969 $52,736
Coos 1969 $52,171
Gilliam 1969 $49,892
Klamath 1969 $49,511
Curry 1969 $49,042
Wheeler 1969 $40,675

SOURCES: U.S. Census and American Community Survey. Amounts in 2013 dollars.

The Oregon Convention Center Hotel: Let the people decide

It’s a classic government argument to justify dumping dollars into a construction project. “It will mean JOBS.” How can you be against jobs?

In the case of the proposed government subsidies for a convention center hotel in Portland, Metro President Tom Hughes has gone even further, arguing at a 2013 Labor Day picnic sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council that hotel critics are engaging in “class warfare” to “keep families from putting food on their table.”
Good grief! What’s next, accusing critics of  “taking food out of the mouths of babies.”

Actually, what was next was a devious ruling from the Multnomah County elections department that critics can’t go to the county’s voters to seek to overturn the Multnomah County Commission’s approval of taxes to go towards the hotel’s construction.

“The initiative and referendum process is reserved to the people of the county relative to the legislative acts of the Board of County Commissioners,” said Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott. “The subject of the Petition filed… relates to the exercise of the Board of County Commissioner’s Executive and Administrative powers.”

“I want to build a hotel,” Hughes said at the union Labor Day picnic. “I want it to be built by union workers, and I want union workers running it.”

And he wants it so bad that he doesn’t want citizens voting on it, calling the decision of critics to seek a public vote “short-sighted and selfish”. A public official is opposing the public having a say.

That reminded me of a statement made by Iroquois Indians to the English in the mid-1700s when they felt the English were not listening to their deep concerns: “You ask us…to have faith in you…But how can we have faith in you and believe in you when by the very actions you have taken you have plugged up our ears and thrown sand in our eyes and sewn our lips together?”

Hughes even fell back again on the jobs mantra, this time upping the ante by throwing in a taunt that the critics didn’t care about minorities. Failure to go ahead with the hotel deal would harm “members of the minority and historically underserved communities of North and Northeast Portland,” he wailed.

The validity of Scott’s decision is now being considered by the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Hopefully, it will do the right thing and let voters have a say.