Dear readers, this is my 75th and final Insider Baseball column. In my first yammer, three years ago, I told you about the upcoming 2001 legislative session and admonished you to pay attention locally to the Newspaper Guild members at The Register-Guard who were without a contract, and to boycott Bi-Mart because of their treatment of Teamster warehouse workers.
A lot has happened since then. The R-G and its union settled their three-year dispute, and the Teamsters lost out at Bi-Mart. We've also had 9/11, an economic crash in Oregon, the U.S. and around the world. We've had two regular sessions of the legislature and six special sessions. But the news hasn't been all bad: Arnold Schwartzenegger was elected California's governor; and we here in Oregon can take some solace in the fact that 12,690 Californians voted for Gary Coleman and 4,864 voted for Gallagher. And, Eugene Weekly has donated $750 in the past three years to the Cottage Grove Relief Nursery as payment for this prodigiously poorly written claptrap column.
In early September, I told you I was going back to work and very concerned about the hostile work environment that awaited me. Sure enough, it got ugly quickly; I was even forced into a disciplinary investigation regarding comments in my last Insider Baseball! Of course, the union claimed that none of this was retaliation for my work on PERS, it was simply business as usual. The boss said: "So, Corcoran, we told you in July that your consulting contract was canceled without warning, this homecare job is the only job available at the moment, and you get the supervisor that comes with the job, even if she did try to fire you two years ago. But this has nothing to do with PERS. Yes, we did create a bunch of new jobs over the past few years; yes, we have, in the past created special jobs for spouses of some of our union bosses. But darn, we just don't have anything available right now." As my good friend, Sen. Lenn Hannon, would say: "Excuse me while I dust myself off, I just fell off the turnip truck."
To make a long story short: I resigned. I will begin my new job on Nov. 7. Since it's an appointment to an executive position, as a member of the Employment Appeals Board, I am forced to resign my Senate seat. And just to set the record straight for Bill "Don't-bother-me-with-the-facts" Smee and the other meatheads out there who think it's a "cushy" job from "my PERS-gutting cohort, Gov. Ted Kulongoski," the job pays less than my current OPEU/legislative salary and benefits. Now, I know I'm Irish and all, subjected to many moral and mental shortcomings, so to speak. But you must have ridden in on the same aforementioned turnip truck to think this was a financial conspiracy on my part.
If the Oregon Public Employees Union Executive Director Leslie Frane had a website it would be entitled: disingenuous.com. Her pathetic personal attack in The Oregonian Oct. 15 ("Sen. Corcoran was a victim of his own choices") speaks volumes about the jam she's in. I'm content to let the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries decide if she violated ORS 171.120 by discriminating against me as a legislator for my work on PERS.
I can honestly say I've never worked harder for an employer than I did in my 15 years at OPEU. I deeply respect the state and local government workers I represented; I admire the member leaders and my co-workers at OPEU. But I'm seriously disappointed in union bosses, like Leslie Frane and Rich Peppers, who have transformed this union into something I don't recognize anymore.
The other night in Eugene, Jim Hightower said: "The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it's complacency. Even a dead fish can go with the flow down river." Leslie and Rich went with the flow, misled their members about the crisis in PERS, and then decided to scapegoat me for speaking the truth.
Again, thank you, Anita Johnson and Ted Taylor, for allowing me to rant in EW, and for your generous contribution to the Relief Nursery. Readers, thank you for your support. I will continue to offer my observations on state politics periodically as the situation arises — if anyone cares.
Until November, 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
of Our Parts
More good news this time. It used to be when we were frustrated with the Democratic Party — and what it wasn't doing or saying — that well, we could blame the Democratic Party.
Happily, we don't have to anymore.
Legal changes, created by the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, actually make it a illegal for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to create the coordinated plans for winning presidential states — and of course, that's how we make a president.
So — cue trumpets — we're going to have to do it all by ourselves — using existing coalitions, new creativity and a bottom-up, grassroots organizing model that blends high-tech and high-touch approaches.
Confused? Think of it this way:
Every four years there are about 50 million Democratic voters who get counted, more or less, depending on Florida's mood.
The rest of the time, the Democratic coalition divides up into card-carrying party activists, passionate environmentalists, pro-choice voters, trade union members and at least 28 more great flavors of Baskin Robbins/Democratic/Green/Progressive/liberal values-based, you name-its. Of course, we're all individuals, we all hate being labeled (so no letters about this!), and we all want more community and more cooperation. Yet somehow we're less than the sum of our parts — and expecting "the Democrats" to fix this situation is no longer an option.
So how can we rally our troops, state by state? Frankly, it's an open question and there is no one-size-fits-all solution
Here in Oregon, for example, it may take an army of angry parents to step up and demand serious action to preserve and enhance public education — rather than more bickering over Band-Aid solutions. Doing that right may require organizing every living room, school, place of worship, workplace and mall into a new network that Salem can't ignore. It certainly will require "strange bedfellows" politics — since we'll want business leaders to join in and say we need a well-educated workforce if Oregon is to incubate new ideas, technologies and jobs. This new movement will probably also have to take positions on issues besides education — by painting a new vision of Oregon's future. Long-term success may also involve creative "Civics 101" efforts to make clear to voters that sidewalks and fire trucks are not free.
What will this new network be called? Well, it probably won't be called just the Democratic Party. Because it can't involve just Democrats. It probably won't live under just one roof. But this emerging network will end up serving as a focal point for growing new community leaders and inspiring a return to old-fashioned, face to face conversations about our future. Hell, under some scenarios "politics" could even become fun — or gasp, about real issues.
Look at Engage Oregon and The Oregon Bus Project (www.secretplan.org)for a promising start down this new path we'll need to walk. Better yet, check out their Hood River conference Nov. 13-16.
In other states, the focal point for organizing new hybrid state Democratic networks might involve health care (the lack of it), ending special interest corporate welfare (too much of it) or investing in green growth or some other rallying cry that ties together neighbors and communities across the state.
For many political folks used to simpler times, the substitution of loose-knit, state networks for the ease of shopping at "Window A" at the DNC is a sad day. Mixing back together all 28 flavors of Democrats into a new, tastier milkshake will take a while.
Yet while a new era has dawned, it need not be dark. State networks, not national parties, will be the easiest place to gain traction and drive social change. Optimism is key — and it's worth remembering that there are more of us little "d" democrats than Republicans. Lots more.
Beyond the proven recipe of hope and hard work, we must also be open to some strange ingredients. All groping aside, the emergence of a Republican like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who actually favors big values like tolerance, privacy and some respected role for government (read his acceptance speech), could be the biggest thing since Oregon's Tom McCall.
But don't hold your breath — pick up a hammer instead. We've got a lot to do between now and Nov. 2, 2004.
Dan Carol is a Democratic political strategist and a founding partner of CTSG (www.ctsg.com),a progressive consulting firm based in Eugene and Washington, D.C.