Many committees closed Friday the 13th; it's that time of year. Most of the substantive bills have gotten through, but a lot of bills died in committees this year. The Senate D's and R's shared-who's-in-charge-today-co-leadership group exacerbated that phenomenon even further last Wednesday when they had a little dustup over which bills would go to Rules. Bills that don't move to Rules die as committees close. The House and Senate Rules Committees traditionally stay open until the end, meaning I get front row seats, and a vote, when things go sideways at the end. The speaker has now moved her projection of the "end" of session, by the way, from June 6 to July 6 and now to late July. Too bad there's not a kicker on that bad forecast, eh? Speaking of the kicker, don't look for the Senate referral we passed to get out of the House without an unacceptable spending cap.
The House and Senate Revenue Committees will either stay open or re-open when there's some sign of budget movement. For this late in the session little common ground has been reached on the education budgets or human services budgets or a transportation package; the public safety budget is close. But the bigger problem is the style of bargaining in which the leaders are engaged. The Republican leader says to the Democrats: In addition to the woefully inadequate co-chairs budget we presented in May, here's an additional $113 million for education, $175 million for human services, and $70 million for public safety. That, coupled with the $650 million shortfall in the May forecast, will require about $1.1 billion in new revenue, which we'll help identify/steal. The Democrats respond: Excuse me, about that $113 million for education — is that for everything? Headstart, K-12, community colleges, universities? If so, how do you propose we divvy up that money? Because our caucus members need another $600 million for K-12 alone, not to mention enough to stop tuition increases at LCC and the UO, and bring back 875 Headstart slots that were cut. And about that human services figure — $175 million — that's already eaten up in proposals that you Republicans just endorsed to save the Oregon Health Plan! It wouldn't cover mental health cuts, A&D treatment, senior and disabled cuts, and on and on. The Republican response: We're telling you — this is as far as our caucuses are willing to go with a search for new revenue or taxes. Does that sound like the end is near?
Why? Here are the results of a recent national poll of legislators that I participated in for the Pew Center of the States (pun unintended I'm sure). The big shocker: Democrats were much more willing to consider tax hikes to fix budget shortfalls than Republicans. OK, no big surprise there. But the size of the margins explains why we'll be fubarred in Salem for a while: 63 percent of the Democrats polled said they were considering tax increases, while only 17 percent of Republicans were. There are 35 Republicans and 25 Democrats in Oregon's House, and a three-fifths majority of them are needed to raise revenue. You do the math. Note to self: Speaker in for long summer.
Play ball! Meanwhile, Major League Baseball showed up in our Senate Revenue Committee. Interesting group — the Oregon Stadium Campaign — their literature promised "not a penny from our pockets … new jobs for Oregonians … Affordable fun." Their spokesmen were articulate: Steve Kanter, highly respected professor and former dean at Lewis and Clark Law School; Harvey Platt, highly respected Oregon business owner and citizen; and some slick guy from the Indianapolis Pacers who claimed he didn't know squat about baseball but swore up and down that the city of Portland and the state could never be left holding the bag. Hmmm…
Here's how it works: MLB sends the Montreal Expos-factos to Portland. The city requests a grant, approved by the Legislature, but safeguards are included so the state has no liability. Then, once the players are here playing baseball, their state income tax is used to pay for the stadium bonds. Humm? Who's the final guarantor, like, if there was a strike? "Well there isn't one right now, you see, it's all part of the grant application." My biggest concern is still not answered: the final guarantor. If it's Portland or the state, fuggedaboudit!
Sen. Tony Corcoran of Cottage Grove represents portions of Lane and Douglas counties in Senate District 4, which includes the UO area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
We learn from the past, but dykes my age have all hit mental-pause. We forget where our keys are, our own phone numbers and why we just walked into this room. But dimes-to-dental dams we all remember coming out. I'd wager that every single lesbian/gay/bi/trans/intersex/queer/two-spirit person recalls that defining moment when we first recognized ourselves and alerted the media — or at least our best friends.
Thanks to increased media visibility (all bow to Ellen!) and the coming out trend of relatives, neighbors and sports heroes, our kith and kin discover their sexual orientation and burst out of the closet quicker and more gracefully than ever before. In their quest to know their roots, new homos and homettes look to their elders, those of us the National Organization for Women once labeled "The Lavender Menace."
Young queers want a sense of history and perspective from the folks who lived through Anita Bryant's campaign to Save Our Children. The orange juice queen's heinous PR efforts taught us nothing if not that we're the ones who have to save the children (and that a Miss America tiara fits fine on an empty head.) That's why we reach out to the next generation — and I'm not just talking about the miniature softball glove you're bringing to that dyke baby shower. The new crop of teens and young adults coming to terms with who they are needs cross-generational allies.
It's not like homophobia got old and died. No matter how out and proud gay kids might be, their families still kick them out, schoolmates beat them up, and teachers don't get it. "That's so gay" is still the big insult on campus. High school and college classes need lesbian/gay/bi/trans/intersex/queer/two-spirit guest panels now more than ever.
When I was a '70s college student, our women's health class always brought in guest speakers. One week a woman came to talk about self-help. She lifted her skirt (hairy legs and no underpants!), inserted a speculum and showed us her cervix. That was some opening act, so to speak.
The next week a woman and two men came and talked about what it was like to be gay. That's the first lesbian-I-knew-was-a-lesbian I ever saw, unless you count Miss Hathaway, who everybody suspects would have been happier skinny-dipping in the cee-ment pond with Granny than pining over Jethro.
That experience was a major turning point in my life — not that the panelists were recruiting. An honest-to-goodness lesbian who was fine with her identity inspired me to explore that aspect of myself. Maybe it would be OK for me to be one.
Now I'm a college instructor, which I think is hysterical because I feel like I still am the Youth of America. But it's my turn to invite guests to tell their stories to the classes I teach. I am amazed at how many of my students are as ill-informed as I was back before I took that fateful cervix- and sexuality-revealing class. That is, until I bring the L/G/B/T/I/Q/T-S panel in.
Last week my guest panel comprised four bright-eyed high schoolers, all gelled, pierced and blasted (their jeans, not their brain cells). These articulate young people talked about what it's like to be young and queer, what a big deal it is to be visible and speak out in their schools, and how hard it can be to come out, even — or especially — these days. The panelists even got my students to question themselves, to wonder whether they might be "that way," too — shock and awe.
My students were cool, though. They showed respect and didn't freak out, even if they'd previously considered sitting in a room with a bunch of queers equivalent to rolling in "Fear Factor" maggots. They turned out to be so open-minded that next term my classroom guest just might be a hairy-legged, speculum wielding woman with no underpants
Now — where are my keys?
Sally Sheklow teaches classes on LGBTIQT-S Issues at PSU, and creative writing at LCC's Downtown Eugene center. To enroll in her summer term writing classes, contact the continuing education program at www.lanecc.edu
Wayne's world. You can't blame our local elected officials for dedicating so many monuments to the late Sen. Wayne Morse. I'm a big Morse-o-phile myself, but I don't think we should name something after him unless it truly befits his legacy. Right now the county courthouse plaza — named "The Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza" — seems incongruous with the ideals of its namesake. The fenced-off area at the corner of 8th and Oak looks more like a dog kennel than a free speech plaza. I applaud the efforts of Commissioner Bill Dwyer, Facilities Manager David Suchart, and a long list of civic leaders and donors who are helping to realize a grander vision for the plaza. I hope that we can report some progress on this plan in the coming weeks. I realize that money is tight and security is a concern, but the champion of free speech shouldn't be memorialized with cyclone fencing.
Let them eat cake. Last December, we learned that Oregon had the highest hunger rate in the nation. In June, we learned that Oregon now has the highest obesity rate among the Western states. Did Oregon solve its hunger problem over the last six months? Marie Antionette wouldn't return my phone calls, so I asked some local experts. I learned that a high obesity rate among a majority of Oregonians could obscure a high hunger rate among the poorest Oregonians. I also learned that some poor families are beset with both obesity and malnutrition. Whatever the explanation, we shouldn't stop worrying about the hunger problem in Oregon.
Skeleton in the closet. Lane County's law library is a tremendous resource. It has references for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, and it's open to everyone. I was wandering around the library recently and I found a full-size human skeleton! I guess somebody forgot to pay his library fines, and we made an example out of him. Actually, this skeleton is a model that tort lawyers use in court to show the location of their clients' injuries. Come to think of it, the skeleton would be a good prop for the commissioners to use when we approve our bare-bones budget.
Don't panic, it's organic. The City of Bend recently considered a proposal to ban defecation on public buses. When I heard the news, I examined our local municipal codes for provisions regulating excretions. I found out that Springfield has banned spitting on public sidewalks. Eugene, by contrast, has no specific rules against defecating or spitting. I'd like to think that the civility of Eugeneans makes such an ordinance unnecessary. More likely, Eugeneans believe their excretions are expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.
Off base. Last week I met one of Eugene's wisest citizens in the video store, and he told me that I shouldn't have criticized baseball in my column on June 5. He's right: Dissing America's pastime is impolitic. (Now I suppose I'll have to shelve my draft columns criticizing mom and apple pie ...) But two other readers of EW detected that I'm secretly a baseball fan. These readers noticed that my column on May 8 cited the win-loss record of the Detroit Tigers, and my other writing is loaded with baseball metaphors. Now that I'm outed, I'll admit that I like watching baseball. I just don't think the state should divert funding from our schools to build a ballpark in Portland. The state should help in some way — perhaps as envisioned by HB 3606 — but not by guaranteeing bonds. When I think of baseball, I think of Barry Bonds, not state bonds.
The home team. If the State pays to build a baseball stadium in Portland, then all Oregonians should have a voice in naming the new team. Of course, if you leave the choice up to Lane County voters, we'll name the team after Wayne Morse. How about "The Morse Force"? As a marketing gimmick, the team could declare its independence from both the National League and the American League. And don't expect to buy any "freedom fries" at the concession stand.
Tom Lininger is county commissioner for the East Lane District.