Governor Brown has mishandled nearly every aspect of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, and still she sticks to her course. Her administration's mishaps range from giving seniors mixed messages on when they could receive the vaccine to sluggish distribution. Now, she is on pace to botch school reopening.
Is this a lot to do about nothing? In a virtual press conference on December 28, 2020, the World Health Organization and Dr. Fauci publicly stated that “health officials do not know if COVID-19 vaccines prevent infection or if people can spread the virus to others after getting vaccinated.” FDA granted emergency use for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines based on clinical trials showing a reduction in severity of symptoms, but WHO officials say, “while it appears the vaccines can prevent clinically symptomatic COVID-19 clinical disease, there is no clear evidence COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing asymptomatic infection and transmission.”
So why all the fuss over the vaccine? Is it the need for Governor Brown to appear she has successfully manage the pandemic? Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod (R-Lyons) “I share the Governor’s eagerness to open schools, but not at the expense of lying to seniors.” After all Governor Brown set the standard for her to get criticized.
The Governor first told seniors that they would become eligible for shots starting last week. She then changed course after she mistakenly counted second doses for first doses. Teachers are now set to receive vaccines before seniors in an attempt to return kids to school this school year. In early January, a group of teachers’ unions sent the Governor a letter demanding access to the vaccine before schools reopened. But now, they are moving the goalposts; The Portland Association of Teachers and other local teachers’ unions are balking at returning to in-person instruction.
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To date, there has been no agreement with school districts and teachers’ unions to ensure schools will actually reopen once teachers are vaccinated. “If teachers are going to jump the line ahead of seniors, they must go back into the classroom.” Girod continued his hit on the Governor, “The science says this vaccine is effective. We cannot allow politics to get in the way of getting our kids back to school.”
“The Governor continues to say that she trusts that teachers will return to the classroom, but last time she relied on others to fulfill her plans, she ended up lying to seniors. She should not set parents and kids up for disappointment. Her words are empty until there is a guarantee that kids will get back to regular instruction. No agreement, no cutting in line – that’s the deal. We need to see something in writing.”
When will Governor Brown face her responsibility to parents and students and iron out with teachers’ unions a plan that will put kids back in the classroom? More than vaccines, we want leadership that is transparent and trustworthy.
It’s questionable whether the tax was intended for them
Under Oregon tax law, the Deaprtment of Revenue is responsible for the annual assessments of certain transportation, communication, and energy properties for property tax purposes. These annual assessments are sent to the county assessors and tax collectors for the billing, collection, and ultimately the distribution of property tax dollars.
In 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the Oregon Department of Revenue central assessment of Comcast as “data transmission services” under Section 308.505(3) of Oregon statutes. In late 2020, the DOR stretched the definition of “data transmission services” to cover radio and television stations which would add an enterprise valuation tax on Oregon TV and radio broadcasters. The legislature never intended broadcasters to be centrally assessed and HB 2331, proposed by State Representatives Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles) and E. Werner Reschke (R-Malin), provides a fix by explicitly exempting broadcasters from the assessment. The bill is mostly just adding the phrase “Communication” does not include over-the-air broadcasting to current law.
The DOR’s central assessment model is based on enterprise value and requires valuation of intangible assets, even though each broadcaster’s most valuable intangible assets -- FCC licenses -- are exempt from assessment under Section 308.671 of the Oregon statutes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the broadcast industry. But even during these trying financial times, the state of Oregon and the federal government have received immeasurable value from local broadcasters who have continued to inform our communities on COVID-19, rampant wildfire destruction, Census collection, hectic election coverage and other essential community information. Broadcasters continue to put the safety and education of our communities first.
Ad revenues are the most significant source of income for broadcasters. Unlike cable and satellite companies, broadcasters do not benefit from a subscription-based revenue stream. Ad revenue has plummeted due to shutdowns, even as we help our communities understand and adhere to shut-down regulations. At this point there is no recovery in sight. Local advertisers have either closed or can no longer afford to advertise. This additional tax burden is not only financially insurmountable but constitutes a lack of recognition of the free airtime provided to local, state, and federal governments.
In the Comcast decision, Oregon’s Supreme Court ruled that data transmission services, which are centrally assessed, provide the means to send data from one computer or computer-like device to another across a transmission network. While DOR has determined that over-the-air broadcasters are included in this definition, reasonable legal minds would disagree. DOR’s interpretation of the law shows a wholesale misunderstand of the broadcast business.
The bottom line? A unilateral change in how over-the-air broadcasters is assessed based on the DOR’s legal interpretation and regulatory overreach will have a far-reaching negative impact on broadcasters throughout Oregon, putting the survival of some of them in doubt.
Shemia Fagan doesn’t have to wait for that governorship to follow in Kate Brown’s footsteps. Oregon Secretary of State Fagan flat-out said in her debate with Kim Thatcher that she would not run for governor in 2022.
She calls herself “lieutenant governor” and HB 2908 gives her similar powers that Governor Brown has been exercising over our lives. Representatives Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro), Anna Williams (D-Hood River), Senators Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), and Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland) introduced HB 2908, authorizing Secretary of State investigative powers into personal bank accounts and “other documentation” if a complaint is launched against a candidate you donated to, petition you signed, or an election law complaint.
The investigation isn't just an accounting of an election committee of illegal receipt or use of funds, but it authorizes the Secretary of State and Attorney General to investigate into personal donors and individual signers of a petition. Upon reasonable suspicion that a violation has occurred, requires, in addition to any other action permitted by law, examination of the accounts of the person, political committee or petition committee or election law complaints with access to bank accounts and other documentation for the three prior months with access to two years prior.
The requirement to provide access to committee bank account records and other documentation under this bill may be enforced by writ of mandamus issued by any court of competent jurisdiction. Applies to any independent expenditures made or campaign finance statements filed on or after the effective date of the 2021 Act.
Our personal lives have been turned inside-out in lockdown limiting our social interaction, how many people you can invite to your home, attendance of our churches, mandating of wearing masks to conduct business, and invading our bodies with vaccines without choice. The only personal area left to invade is our financial information. What better way to get access but through your generosity? An attack on personal rights and privacy just for donating or signing a petition gives them the power to access your personal bank account records and “other documentation” that is unlimited personal intrusion. The discrepancy trigger isn’t you, but you become the target, which could give them access to your cell phone, social media pages, internet use, and anything else they think of that can be connected.
A little peek at the greasy boot of the party in power.
In the Oregon Legislature there is a jovial time at the beginning of the session when all is "Kumbaya" time and we all get along. There is a "non-partisan" spirit about the place. Then, quickly it fades away and once again the super-majority party exerts all its full control. When I say "full control," I mean it.
The Legislative Policy and Research Office are the folks who work "behind the scenes" to help committees flow. Now, I like all of our LPRO staff a lot and admire their hard work and dedication. Still it's literally advertised as "non-partisan." The graphic shows their job announcement.
In the video below, a new LPRO staffer introduces herself. "I did work for the Utah legislature. I was with the House Democrats, which is s super-minority, so it's definitely nice to be in the majority, so it's good to work with you guys." So I’m not concerned with hurting this staffer, anyone can make a mistake. It’s the fact that the Leadership in the Oregon Legislature is so non-transparent and so entirely biased. IT’s not just that House and Senate Republicans have to deal with the super majority legislators, it’s like doing that with one hand tied behind our backs and blindfolded to boot.
Oregon needs to wake up and see how this place really works. There is no -- I mean zero balance in this process. I wish no ill will to this staffer, she’s done nothing wrong. It’s the Leadership that needs to be addressed.
Which brings me to another point to discuss. The Oregon Republican Party recently released a statement on the impeachment process and 10 US Representatives. I am a State Representative, so I don’t get involved in national politics. Neither should the ORP. What the ORP should concentrate on is things like what I’ve brought up here in this blog post. I have presented tangible proof of the absolute uphill battle that Oregon’s House and Senate Republicans are fighting every day. I am tired of Republicans who “look back” at the past. I am moving forward and moving toward what’s important to Oregon. And much of that is the imbalance of power in the Legislature and the state wide offices. Press releases condemning Republican Representatives from other states does nothing to win seats in here in the Oregon House or Senate, nor does it help Republicans win the Governor’s seat in 2022. Let’s get our focus off of the national news and on to the state of Oregon. The statement made by the ORP is one of which I disagree. I want that to be very clear. This is “looking backward” while I am “pressing onward”.
To the ORP I say: it’s none of our business what US Representatives from other states do. Though I may disagree with the decision made by those Congressmen, it’s not my place to condemn them. Instead, I condemn the Democrats who have “lorded” over this state for 30 years. Focus please!
One effect is that local parties won’t get to nominate his replacement
Senator Brian Boquist (I-Dallas) stunned Oregon political observers last week when he changed his voter registration from Republican to Independent and appears to not be caucusing with the Senate Republican Caucus, without offering an explanation. It's not the first time Senator Boquist has caused buzz and speculation. He represents Senate District 12, which includes much of the western Willamette valley.
One clear impact -- and it's not clear if this is Senator Boquist's intent, is that were he to retire, he has removed the local county Republican parties' involvement with his replacement. Boquist's sprawling district spans parts of the counties of Washington, Yamhill, Polk, Marion and Benton counties, and if he were a member of a majority party -- a Democrat or Republican -- those party members would assist in naming his replacement.
ORS 171.060 describes two procedures for filling a vacancy. Section (1) describes the process that's been used several times in the last few years -- the filling of a vacancy of a seat held by a member of a major party. In this case, a convention of the Precinct Committee People from that district and members of the same party as the vacating member and they vote to send between three and five nominees for the seat. The County Commissioners from the counties in the district then vote to select a replacement from those nominees. In the case of a seat, such as Senator Boquist's seat, where the seat is not held by a member of a major party, the Precinct Committee Person nominating convention is skipped, and the County Commissioners are free to appoint anyone to the seat -- even one of themselves -- and they can appoint from any party.
Recall that a voter who registers as an Independent becomes a member of the Independent Party of Oregon. A true independent would be a Non-Affiliated Voter. The statute governing vacancies for minor parties reads:
(2) When any vacancy as is mentioned in ORS 171.051 exists in the office of Senator or Representative not affiliated with a major political party and that vacancy is to be filled by an appointing authority as provided in ORS 171.051, the Secretary of State forthwith shall notify the county courts or boards of county commissioners of the counties constituting the district in which the vacancy occurs of the vacancy and of the number of votes apportioned to each member of the county courts or boards of county commissioners under ORS 171.062 and 171.064. The Secretary of State shall set a time for a meeting of the county courts or boards of county commissioners and by rule shall establish procedures for the conduct of the meeting. If the district is composed of more than one county, the Secretary of State shall name a temporary chairperson and designate a meeting place within the district where the county courts or boards of county commissioners shall convene for the purpose of appointing a person to fill the vacancy.
Boquist, who is 62, has been a member of the Oregon Senate since 2009. He was first elected to the Oregon House in 2005. From time to time, he has spoken of retiring, but has always re-filed for re-election each cycle.
Teachers’ unions want to be vaccinated, but not so hot on returning to teach
"Governor Brown has mishandled nearly every aspect of the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Her administration's mishaps range from giving seniors mixed messages on when they could receive the vaccine to sluggish distribution. Now, she is on pace to botch school reopenings.
“I share the Governor’s eagerness to open schools, but not at the expense of lying to seniors,” said Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod (R-Lyons).
"The Governor first told seniors that they would become eligible for shots starting last week. She then changed course after she mistakenly counted second doses for first doses.
"To date, there has been no agreement with school districts and teachers unions to ensure schools will actually reopen once teachers are vaccinated.
“If teachers are going to jump the line ahead of seniors, they must go back into the classroom,” Girod continued. “The science says this vaccine is effective. We cannot allow politics to get in the way of getting our kids back to school.
“The Governor continues to say that she trusts that teachers will return to the classroom, but last time she relied on others to fulfill her plans, she ended up lying to seniors. She should not set parents and kids up for disappointment. Her words are empty until there is a guarantee that kids will get back to regular instruction. No agreement, no cutting in line – that’s the deal. We need to see something in writing.
“Governor Brown must get together with teachers unions and hammer out a plan that will result in kids back in the classroom. Without that, teachers will simply cut in front of seniors for no reason, costing lives.”
Senator Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls) released the following statement in observance of National School Choice Week:
"Under the control of Democrats, Oregon schools have been failing our kids and parents for years. Oregon has consistently ranked in the bottom in terms of graduation rates, currently tied for third-worst in the county, despite spending nearly $14,000 in tax money per pupil per year. Barely 50% of our students are proficient in English, and less than 40% are proficient in math. Yet, year after year, the Legislature gives public schools more and more money even while they are shut down by Gov. Brown’s disastrous lockdowns.
"Every legislative session, Senator Linthicum proposes common-sense school choice reforms, like SB 659, that would give kids and parents the freedom to escape failing schools. But Democrats and their public-sector union special interests deny statistical reality and continue the decades-long cycle of poorly-performing schools that fail to provide for Oregon’s kids.
“I have been a consistent advocate for school choice because the best way to give people opportunities to be successful, to break cycles of poverty, and to allow people to lead fulfilling lives is through high-quality education. For too long, outdated government dictates have trapped our kids in failing schools, just because they happen to live in a particular zip code.
“Increasing school choice for our kids and parents doesn’t just promote freedom, competition, and quality of education, it also provides a way to break cycles of poverty. School closures due to the Governor’s lockdowns have only exacerbated educational disparities of failing schools which are disproportionately found in low-income and minority communities.
“That is why I am introducing SB 659. It will allow students to attend any school in the state. There is no justification to lock students into struggling schools. I call on the Democrat supermajority to hear this bill so that students can get the education they deserve and makeup lost learning due to school shutdowns.”
Following the resignation of State Sen. Alan Olsen, Clackamas County and Marion County commissioners will hold a joint session on Monday, Feb. 1, to interview candidates and select a replacement for the open Senate District 20 position.
Oregon law requires that a legislative vacancy be filled by county commissioners representing the district in which the vacancy exists. Senate District 20 overwhelmingly falls within Clackamas County, but a small pocket extends into Marion County.
Finalists were selected by the local Republican Party (as deemed by state law), since Olsen belongs to that party. The three finalists are:
Steve Bates, community advocate
Bill Kennemer, former state legislator and county commissioner
John Lee, Jr., CEO of Stumptown Sales Success
The person selected will fill the remainder of Olsen’s term, which runs through 2022.
The meeting will be held from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1, in the Board Hearing Room in the Public Services Building on Red Soils Campus in Oregon City. The address is 2051 Kaen Road.
Due to COVID restrictions, physical space in the Hearing Room for attendees is limited. The public is welcome to virtually attend the proceeding over Zoom. Zoom and phone connectivity information is available online.
The meeting will also be broadcast live on the county’s YouTube channel and Clackamas County Government Channel.
As the Oregon Legislature considers several measures to address the housing crisis in Oregon, it's a good time to reflect on Oregon's land use laws and what impact they have had on the supply of housing in Oregon.
The high point for housing starts in Oregon was in the mid-1970s when builders started on nearly 45,000 new units. Despite consistent high demand over the decades since then, housing starts in Oregon have never reached that level. The graph shows how, when beaten down by recession, housing starts struggle to recover to previous levels and since the mid-2010s trended flat. Another watershed event of the 1970s was the passage of Oregon's land use system in 1974.
Like many economic trends, perennially sluggish production in the housing sector has various causes. One of the simplest causes, however, is the reduced inability of builders to acquire buildable land, and when they can acquire it, the cost of the land is so high that it often makes sense to put larger, more expensive properties on it. The biggest cause of this is the decreased supply of buildable land due to land use laws.
According to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, the problem lately has been supply. "In fact, one of the largest issues has been that the supply of products has not been able to keep up with the demand. Employment for wood products manufacturing and construction are down, seemingly in expectation that demand would dry up due to the recession. However these goods-producers tied to the housing market are adding jobs and looking for workers to meet the stronger-than-expected demand." In hindsight, the COVID-19 recession is a service sector recession and little else. It's had little effect on housing.
The damage due to fires will surely support something of a rebound by creating demand, but there are legitimate worries over access to raw materials. The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis says, "the wildfires are a complicating economic factor. Early indications are that the amount of timber burned is equal to a quarter or a third of the annual harvest. While certainly not insignificant, this is likely a manageable amount from an industry perspective. Markets should not be overwhelmed with burned logs, driving prices down to the point where it hurts the viability of logging. This is not always the case following large fires. Already, crews began as soon as possible to salvage log private lands before the rain started, and will return to do so next year."
The Oregon Department of Transportation is advising that drivers traveling over southwest Oregon mountain passes, including those on Interstate 5, should prepare for severe winter driving conditions Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday due to heavy snow and blizzard conditions, especially if traveling into northern California.
National Weather Service forecasts call for blizzard conditions and up to 3 feet of snow in the Shasta Valley and Mt. Shasta City area and 4-to-6 inches on I-5 Siskiyou Summit and the I-5 passes north of Grants Pass as well as U.S. 199 Hayes Hill. On Oregon 42, up to 3 inches are forecast on Camas Mountain.
Drivers traveling on the Interstate 5 and U.S. 97 and U.S. 199 corridors into southern Oregon and northern California should be aware and prepare for the severe conditions.
Heavy snow events quickly overwhelm resources. Given the forecast, ODOT and Caltrans will likely need to stop traffic at Ashland and Redding to ensure public safety and to make sure they have accommodations such as food, fuel and motels.
“We want travelers to be prepared and safe and not stuck on the roadway. When that happens we can’t plow the snow and everything shuts down,” said ODOT Interim District Manager Jeremiah Griffin.
On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown doubled down on her decision to deprioritize vaccinating seniors. The decision flies in the face of science as the data clearly shows that seniors die at a disproportionate rate than other groups.
Even the Governor, in her Friday press conference, admitted, “It is absolutely true that our children are not dying at the same rate... as seniors,” but then proceeded to explain why seniors must wait another 2 weeks to receive a vaccine.
Senator Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) released the following statement:
“This decision will cost lives. Last week, reporting by The Oregonian and Willamette Week pointed out the Governor’s flawed decision-making process. If the Governor was really “following the science” as she is so fond of saying, she should not be pushing seniors back in line.
“I understand the desire to get kids back in school for regular instruction. Kids and parents alike are suffering. Teachers unions have said they will only go back to school if they receive the vaccine. Now that they have pushed seniors back in the line, they are balking at going back to school. If we have no guarantee that in-person instruction will even happen after teachers are vaccinated, then the Governor’s whole argument collapses.
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“It would be one thing if the Governor has had a consistent message, however anti-science it may be, but she told seniors in my district, and across the state, that they could get the vaccine. Then after discovering the federal government had a limited number of doses available, she rescinded her decision to vaccinate seniors and decided to let teachers go first.
“I call on Governor Brown to make vaccines immediately available to our seniors so we can prevent any excess death from COVID-19.”
If Antifa and BLM don’t finish off the cops, the Legislature will
As part of the ongoing slate of police reform bills -- dating back to the special sessions during the summer of last year -- State Representative Janelle Bynum (D-Portland) has introduced two bills, HB 2931 and HB 2932, which will receive a public hearing Wednesday at 8:00am before the House Committee on Equitable Policing. Perhaps not coincidentally, she chairs this committee.
HB 2931 requires person who arrests another person to ensure arrested person receives medical assessment. The Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs has taken a stand against the bills, or at least to have them re-thought. Their statement on HB 2931 says:
The first and most obvious concern is that -- should both of these measures pass -- an officer faced with an arrestee who refuses medical assistance may be faced with a choice between violating HB 2931 (allowing the individual to refuse an examination) or appearing on a publicly-searchable database by dint of threatening or utilizing force to ensure compliance.
The awkward confluence of these two measures might be addressed if the Committee were to first inquire as to current practices and policies. In fact, the vast majority of police agencies in Oregon already have policies in place requiring officers to have EMS come out to the scene when certain levels of physical force are used or if the suspect is exhibiting any forms of physical distress. In fact, the Portland Police Bureau’s directive 630.45, Section 5 is broader in terms of who it applies to, though stops short of mandating examinations.
There is also a significant concern among ORCOPS membership that such mandated medical examinations conflict with a person’s right to refuse treatment. While cases such as Washington v. Harper (494 U.S. 210 1990) outlined the state’s ability to mandate medical
treatment when a compelling interest existed, HB 2931 makes so much test and broadly applies the requirement to all arrested persons.
HB 2932, the companion bill, directs Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to establish statewide database of reports of use of physical force by peace officers and corrections officers The Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs is asking the committee to make amendments to this bill.
First, we are not clear as to what objective the proposed database is serving. Since the database is intended not only to chronicle threats or uses of force that are alleged to constitute misconduct, but all such actions -- even when unquestionably within policy -- it is unclear to us why the Committee would feel the need to individualize this data, contrary to the recent model used in the “stop data” project. Many officers will naturally be using a “threat of force” via implication in order to compel adherence to certain lawful orders. In many cases the threat of force is a part of a successful de-escalation strategy. The idea of noting that a particular officer “threatens to use physical force” in a scenario or even has such a pattern of activity, may be indicative of many things unrelated to the disposition of that particular officer. ORCOPS would ask that only sustained complaints of misconduct are individualized in such a database.
Frankly, the list of information to be collected about these incidents seems to be focused very much on vilifying the officer in question without providing adequate context about the subject.
There has been some speculation that Bynum's position as chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee -- and the creation of the House Subcommittee On Equitable Policing -- was a gift to her for standing down in her bid to become House Speaker.