Negotiations are plodding along at a snail's pace, but folks are still talking. The education debate is at a standstill: Republicans aren't budging from $4.9 billion for K-12, so we're only $700 million apart on that budget. Democrats also want to fund a tuition freeze in community colleges: cost is $20 million more. For OUS: restoring lost funding and tuition remissions, funding the Early Intervention program and a tuition freeze will cost an additional $76 million. Restoring Headstart hasn't even come up yet.
In Human Services the good news is there's a bi-partisan agreement on saving the Oregon Health Plan; the bad news is Republicans have shown no interest in funding anything else. These programs are not in the Republican proposal: school-based health clinics, prenatal programs, relief nurseries, court-appointed special advocates (for abused kids removed from the home), children's mental health, emergency services for kids, System of Care (a legal promise the state made to the Juvenile Rights Project regarding child abuse), county health services, crisis mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, non-Medicaid mental health programs, gambling addiction services, the Staley Settlement, restoring care levels for seniors and the disabled, partial restoration of Oregon Project Independence, independent living centers — easily $150 million in programs. Oh well, it's only June 23.
There is a working group made up of the chairs and vice chairs of the House and Senate Revenue committees — and a fifth member appointed by the House Republicans to keep an eye on their own chair, Lane Shetterly. This fine tradition, the Gang of Five, first emerged during the special sessions: The Republicans didn't trust Ben Westlund's liberal compassionate conservatism in a room cohabitated by noted socialists like Lenny Hannon, Kurt Schrader and Peter Courtney. Lane and his buddies — Judiciary Chair Max Williams and Rob Patridge — had to form a secret cell just to talk to the infidel Democrats. Their colleagues originally called them the RBC, the Rat Bastard Caucus; but being shy moderate wallflowers relative to the rest of their caucus (and lawyers besides) they now call themselves the Usual Suspects. The BFC — Butt-Faced Caucus — has subpoenaed these guys to our hearing next Tuesday to explain accordion-folding and other weapons of mass distraction.
But I digress. These folks have been meeting and they're actually making some progress in identifying sources of additional revenue. A retired Democratic lawmaker remarked: "Hell, I can't see what's takin' 'em so long. When we were in control, we taxed everything that moved. And if that wasn't enough, we'd go after things that didn't move, like death certificate fees, and actuaries and pension lawyers.
But we're making fabulous progress in other areas of public policy. To wit: We bravely waived state park user fees for foster kids and disabled vets and active duty military folks, but only on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veteran's Day. I kid you not, we did.
And great news for outdoor recreationalists: A monster compromise has been reached between the Sierra Club and the NRA; yes folks, someday you'll be able to hunt wolves from the air. But, political sausage-making compromises being what they are, we have agreed to hear from the wolves before we start shooting. (Gollee, I'm getting a chill up my spine, this feels like the Camp David Accords; this is what political life is really all about!) We did this by saying: If the definition of "game mammal" in ORS 496.004 is modified to include wolves, the Fish and Wildlife Commission can kill wolves only if they have a management plan. Brilliant! I can see it now ...
"For the record, Chair Shields and members of the committee, my name is Trampus Lupus, I'm a 4-year-old visiting from Idaho — although my family tree goes back thousands of years in Oregon — and I'm here on behalf of OWSHIT, the Oregon Wolves Society for Humane Intelligent Treatment.
"We are here today, Sen. Beyer, to understand the dash-3 amendments to HB2209. In fact, Senator Beyer, we would like to take you personally to our lodge in the woods and discuss this management plan ... No, Sen. Beyer, we do not want to take your personal airplane, and firearms aren't allowed at the lodge anymore, after that drinkin' incident with Betsy Close's pickup a few years back … Yes, Sen. Beyer, you're more than welcome to bring your guide, Sen. Atkinson … yes, fine, he can bring his fishin' pole, but we'll probably be having lamb chops for dinner. It's on us. Thank you for hearing this testimony, distinguished senators."
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
How can we be so blind? For the past 50 years, it seems the Bush family has been planning for this moment in history. They have created fortunes for themselves and others and now it's time for their grand finale.
The Bush family's association with the oil business in Texas goes back to 1917. Since 1952, they have been gathering together friends among the richest, most powerful oil producers in the U.S. Most of them and their lawyers now hold top positions in the Bush Jr. administration.
Did you know that in 1988, now Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was trying to make an oil deal with Saddam Hussein? The deal fell through because Saddam felt he was being overcharged.
Did you know that in 1991 a group of power brokers got together and designed a plan to control the Persian Gulf region? In 1997, they drafted the Statement of Principles for "The New American Century." You can read it for yourself, in their own words, at www.newamericancentury.org.Check out the list of signatories. You'll recognize most of the names: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, to name just a few.
Is it possible that the reason Dick Cheney doesn't want to release the transcripts of his Energy meetings is because they were talking about Iraq and Iran and the plan to control the region? It seems plausible to me. As a matter of fact, it seems incredible that the topic didn't come up.
Do you know about the Carlyle Group, a Washington-based equity fund that specializes in energy and defense companies? Do you know that this fund is headed by Frank Carlucci, former director of the CIA, and sitting on its board of directors is George Bush Sr. and James Baker III (secretary of state under George Sr. and the man who fought tirelessly to secure the state of Florida for George Jr. in the 2000 election)? Did you know that within a month of 9/11, Frank Carlucci was in meetings with Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz?
Did you know that a recently released transcript of a National Security briefing held at the Bush ranch mid-August 2001, shows that the president was advised that terrorists might hijack planes and fly them into buildings? Yet, President Bush said, after the 9/11 attacks, that they never dreamed such a thing could happen.
Our democracy is being destroyed. Our national religion is capitalism. Oil has become our god. Congress is bought and most of our press is in the pockets of five powerful conglomerates.
This White House shrouds itself in more secrecy than any other White House in U.S. History. I have to ask myself why.
We condemn the CIA and FBI for not connecting the dots and stopping the attacks of 9/11. Yet, here we are, not connecting the dots. We are not children. It is up to us to hound congress until they perform their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. If any of our representatives think our democracy could never crumble, then they are in the wrong job. Their responsibility is to be ever vigilant, always watching for those who would steal our rights for their own profit. It's time to open our eyes and see the whole picture.
It's possible that what is being done will not be stopped and that 50 years from now our children will look back and wonder where their freedoms went. If this is the case, I want to be counted among the millions who fought against it. No one may remember my name or exactly what I did in the fight, but they will know that I was brave and spoke out and did not go gently.
Carol Horne of Eugene writes and directs educational videos on human health issues. Her current goal is to make her FBI file at least two inches thick.
Multnomah County made the headlines twice last month: once for passing a county income tax to support schools, and once for considering whether to hire an interpreter for mental patients who only speak Klingon (one of the imaginary languages from the TV series Star Trek).
The story about the Klingon interpreter was unfair. In fact, the Multnomah County commissioners quickly dismissed the idea of hiring a Klingon intepreter, and they never spent a nickel for this purpose. Here in Oregon, our scarce funding for mental health barely allows us to treat all the deserving human patients, let alone the Klingons. While the Multnomah commissioners' refusal to pay for a Klingon interpreter may have set back interplanetary diplomacy, I agree with their decision.
What's amazing to me is that the Klingon controversy hit the newspapers just days before Multnomah County voted on a proposed county income tax. Talk about bad timing! As one Multnomah official recalled, some voters were holding a ballot in one hand and the newspaper story about the Klingon interpreter in the other hand. Yet the Multnomah County income tax passed by a margin of 56 to 44 percent. Good thing Klingons can't vote!
The Lane County Board of Commissioners wanted to hear more about the experience of our counterparts in Multnomah County, so we invited some of them down to visit with us at a public meeting last Tuesday. The officials who stopped by were an impressive group: John Ball, the chief operating officer for Multnomah County, is a former Lane County commissioner and a great guy; Diane Linn, chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, is a charismatic and energetic progressive (Lars Larson gave her the nickname "Diane Downs," so she must be doing something right!)
The Multnomah officials explained why they proposed a county income tax. They had seen Measure 28 pass in Multnomah County last January, only to fail statewide. They had heard the outcry from the local community about the budget cuts that Measure 28 would have averted. They saw that Portland's schools were ridiculed in "Doonesbury" and in The New York Times. They ultimately decided that Multnomah voters deserved a chance to choose their own funding level for schools and human services, even if the rest of the state might be content with drastic cuts. While a county income tax was unprecedented, the Multnomah officials weren't afraid "to boldly go where no one has gone before" (actually, they didn't say that last part).
After this meeting, several people asked me whether Lane County should try to pass a local income tax. I can see both the pros and cons. On the one hand, our schools and human services are woefully underfunded, and our county's approval of Measure 28 suggests the possibility that a local income tax measure might also pass. On the other hand, only 50.4 percent of Lane County voters approved Measure 28. Last fall, county voters rejected all six of the revenue measures that the county proposed. We'll need to be extremely cautious as we consider whether to emulate the Multnomah strategy. Meanwhile, Benton County, the only other county to approve Measure 28, has just placed a local revenue measure on the ballot.
Iwant to close this column with a suitable tribute to our friends from Multnomah County who were so kind to visit us last Tuesday. Let me say, with deepest gratitude, Heghlu' meH QaQ jajvam. (Oops, I misread my Klingon dictionary. I just wrote, "Today is a good day to die.") Let me try again: Hhab SoSlT' Quch. (No, wait, that means, "Your mother has a smooth forehead.") I can't seem to find a Klingon word for "thanks." Oh well, what does Multnomah County care? If they're too cheap to pay for a Klingon interpreter, they'll have to settle for a salutation translated from the Vulcan language: "Live long and prosper."
Tom Lininger, an inveterate Trekkie, finds time between reruns to serve as the county commissioner for the East Lane District.