Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for March 2017

Focus is the monthly newsletter of the League of Women Voters of Marion and Polk Counties.

President's Column

Cindy Burgess Cindy Burgess

Dear Members and Friends,

I'm sure you've all heard the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," and that certainly seems to be true of the current days. Many community groups and coalitions are revitalized and forming anew. We have gained eight new members in 2017. To welcome them, Kathleen West is planning an event at her home on March 8. [See Page 6]

February has been a busy month for the League of Women Voters, which is both invigorating and a bit like juggling plates. Despite illness, care-taking and vacations, we have accomplished a great deal this month, especially in advocacy.

Advocacy: At the Joint Ways & Means Public Hearing on February 10, at the suggestion of LWVOR and with the help of Chris Vogel and Elsa Struble, I gave our less-than-two-minute testimony at a public hearing. I used the LWVOR suggested testimony: The LWVOR Legislative Action Team prioritized Revenue and Tax Reform for the 2017 legislative session given the $1.8 billion deficit for the upcoming biennium. We strongly urge adopting stable and fair revenue policies and tax reforms to adequately fund services and functions critical to the well-being of Oregonians--education, social services, public safety, health care, natural resources and other vital services. Additionally, tax credits and other legislation that take away from revenue, while perhaps a good thing to consider in better times, must be rejected this session unless additional revenue is provided... Since every single person or organization who had testified prior to me had mentioned Oregon's ranking of 50th in the nation in corporate taxation, I asked, Who are you going to choose, the people or corporations? I added that LWVOR had supported Ballot Measure 97 to raise the minimum tax on large corporations.

Heartfelt and heartbreaking testimony from other people at that hearing is in a separate article below.

Inclusivity Resolution in Salem: At the suggestion of League member Sandra Gangle and with the help of Chris Vogel, our Action Chair, and of Andrea Williams of CAUSA and Jaime Arredondo of PCUN, I drafted a letter encouraging the Salem City Council to adopt an Inclusivity Resolution. My letter included our positions on Immigration Law (which the LWVUS studied and adopted in 2008), our local position on Acceptance of Diversity from 1996 and our LWVOR position on Farmworker Issues adopted in 2001.

I also wrote up slightly different testimony which I presented to the Salem City Council at their February 27, 2017, meeting. After greeting the mayor and council, introducing myself and explaining how League studies an issue before adopting a policy statement and that we had done that for Immigration in 2008, I said, The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that immigration policies should promote...unification of immediate families; meet the economic, business and employment needs of the United States; and be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises. The League supports federal immigration law that provides an efficient expeditious system (with minimal or no backlogs) for legal entry of immigrants so they need not wait years to come here or come the dangerous path of the undocumented. In achieving overall policy goals, the League supports a system for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status.

While policy reforms, including a path to legal status, remain unachieved, the League does not support deporting undocumented immigrants who have no history of criminal activity. The League supports due process for all persons, including the right to a fair hearing, right to counsel, right of appeal and right to humane treatment. Regarding immigrants under city, county or state arrest or custody, the City of Salem should follow Oregon Revised Statute 181.A820 and the decision in Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County, which said holding an immigrant without a federal court warrant or order is a violation of the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The League of Women Voters of Marion and Polk Counties supports efforts to raise awareness of the wide range of cultural and racial diversity in our community and celebrate the contributions of immigrants, not only to our economy, but our society as a whole. Salem is the home of the World Beat Festival and the World Beat Gallery. It's the city of Shalom. The City of Salem must continue to foster an atmosphere of safety and inclusivity. We are here to support CAUSA, PCUN and other groups who have proposed the Inclusivity Resolution that is before you tonight. Please vote `Yes.'

The Council Chambers held a standing-room-only crowd of all colors and several religions. Much testimony was very moving, but three things stood out to me: 1) Teachers, social workers and a medical translator testified about the anxiety being experienced by children and young people to the point of having seizures or needing mental health care; 2) An immigrant, even though not a criminal per se, can be criminalized if he/she is caught driving without a license, which Oregonians voted to not allow them to have; 3) The idea that undocumented immigrants should go back to their country and get in line and come in legally (which at least two people testified they should do) is a false narrative because there is no actual line. Immigrants must have a sponsor--someone who lives in the United States who wants them as an employee or to whom they are related. The Council passed the resolution unanimously. However, an amended version is coming. I will draft a letter to the Statesman Journal editor on this issue, and I encourage you all to do so in your own name as well.

Other Activities--This month several of our members conducted legislative interviews for LWVOR. Thank you Chris Vogel for arranging the legislative interviews and for attending all of them as a member of the LWVOR Action Committee.

Chris Vogel, Sally Hollemon, and Jean Sherbeck interviewed Rep. Paul Evans.Pictured at right: Chris Vogel, Sally Hollemon, and Jean Sherbeck interviewed Rep. Paul Evans. He commented: It would be helpful if people would contact me in support of the measures or parts of measures they support. (He hears from the people who oppose measures, especially from people who have money).

If you would like to sit in on a legislative interview, contact Chris Vogel at 503-586-8314 or chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com.

I hope you all are taking a look at the LWVOR Legislative Report for updates on legislation and calls for action. You can also follow bills on olis.leg.state.or.us and submit testimony by e-mail. During this seemingly chaotic time at the federal government level, I think many of us are thinking it is a good thing to become involved locally. As former U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local."

Voter Service--Ward 6 Candidate Interviews: On February 28 we conducted candidate interviews for Salem City Council Ward 6. If you live in Ward 6, you can watch the program on YouTube at https://youtu.be/m36yCeJx_Xg. Thank you to Deanie Anderson, Kathleen West, Cindy Burgess, Sally Hollemon and CCTV for making this happen on a short timeline. Ballots for this Special Election are due March 14.

To go along with the Inclusivity Resolution and some earlier meetings I had attended regarding race and policing, I attended half of the workshop facilitated by Dr. Johnny Lake on Joining Hands: Addressing Individual and Institutional Racism Together. The three main ideas I gleaned were: 1) We all assume we know about someone by how they appear rather than asking them about themselves; 2) There is no such thing as race; it is a construct, which as an anthropologist, I must admit I struggle with a little; 3) We should use our privilege to raise others up or protect and advocate for them. To quote Dr. Lake, "Do not hesitate to try to change the world. You can do it in simple ways. Reach out to the person next to you. You can make a relationship and build a bridge."

Program--Public Postsecondary Education Discussion and Consensus: Alice Bartelt of the LWVOR study committee and Chris Vogel did a great job of getting us through the many consensus questions on this interesting study. When I saw the thick LWVOR report, I wasn't sure about how interesting it would be, but it really was fascinating to read of all the administrative changes and the challenges ahead. If you haven't had a chance to read it, you ought to get a cup of tea and enjoy it.

Celebrate Women's History Month: Coming up on March 14 is another AAUW-LWV event. It is a movie titled She's Beautiful When She's Angry. Let's all go and learn more about women's history.

Cindy

Women's History Month film: "She's Beautiful When She's Angry"

The documentary film She's Beautiful When She's Angry will be shown on Tuesday, March 14, 7 p.m. in Salem Library's Loucks Auditorium, 585 Liberty St. SE. Everyone is invited to attend the free event.

She's Beautiful When She's Angry resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women's movement from 1966 to 1971. The film captures the spirit of the time--thrilling, scandalous, and often hilarious. That story still resonates today for women who are facing new challenges around reproductive rights and sexual violence, as the film shows present-day activists creating their generation's own version of feminism. She's Beautiful When She's Angry is a film about activists, made to inspire women and men to work for feminism and human rights. LWVMPC is a co-sponsor with AAUW and Salem Public Library.

Hot Topics: "Oregon and Guns"

Deanie Anderson, Program Chair

The idea behind Hot Topics is a (usually) small-group meeting with a speaker or two to lead a round-table discussion of a timely topic over lunch. This month we have invited speakers from CeaseFire Oregon to talk about issues of gun use and safety as well as ideas on action for reducing gun crimes and deaths. We will also review our related LWV positions and talk about possible advocacy.

We'll meet on Wednesday, March 29, from 11:30 - 1 in the meeting room of the West Salem Library, off Wallace Road behind Roth's. There is plenty of parking. Everyone come! Bring your lunch. Dessert will be provided.

State LWV Convention May 5-7 at Holiday Inn in Wilsonville

The Keynote Speaker will be Rick Shenkman, author of Political Animals - How Our Stone Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics. Put the dates on your calendar. More details to come.

Community Forum: The Conversation--Alternatives to the Death Penalty

A forum called The Conversation--Alternatives to the Death Penalty will be held on at 7:15 p.m. onThursday, March 16, at the Willamette University School of Law in the Paulus Lecture Hall #201. The School of Law is at 245 Winter Street in Salem.  Speakers will be former Governor John Kitzhaber, former OSP Superintendent Frank Thompson and former DOC Director Dave Cook speaking about alternatives to the death penalty in Oregon. The forum is sponsored by Willamette University Office of the Chaplains and Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP).

To secure a ticket for this event, call 503-990-7060.  Seating is limited and will be provided on a first come, first serve basis.  There will be a free-will offering to support the work of OADP.

Joint Ways & Means Public Hearing--What People Said

Cindy Burgess, LWVMPC President

On February 10, Co-Chairs Representative Nathanson and Senator Devlin gave background on the State's $1.8 billion shortfall which could cause Oregon to go backward on healthcare, human services and education. They said the resources are not adequate to fully fund these things, as well as implement the three new ballot measures passed in November.

Representative Nathanson attributed some of the shortfall to "choices made decades ago," referring to the property tax limitation measures 5 and 50 in the 1990s. These decisions moved funding of 2/3 of education to the state from local property tax. She also cited 355,000 additional Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan due to the Affordable Care Act. The federal government helped pay for this, but starting this year, Oregon must pick up more of the bill and the federal government may further reduce funding.

Senator Devlin referred to the effects of Ballot Measures 11 and 57 which increased prison sentences by setting mandatory minimums. He also mentioned pension system cost increases. He did say Oregon has the largest amount of money in reserves in history, but expressed the need to keep that money in reserve for a time of recession.

Some of the people and groups who testified were from the Oregon Nurses Association speaking about corporations paying their share. Next, was a private citizen, who works for the Employment Education and Job Training Division, who said businesses do not need untrained people, but we need businesses with a conscience. Someone else recommended that the legislature eliminate tax breaks for large corporations and the early payment discount. A PERS retiree who worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Revenue pointed out that PERS and the General Fund were separate but did affect each other. He pointed out the Oregon Supreme Court cases show Oregon has done as much as it can in limiting PERS. He said corporations used to pay 18% of Oregon taxes and now pay less than 6%. A spouse of a Chemeketa Community College faculty member said the corporate tax is really low and Oregon needs to improve corporate tax transparency.

A student from Oregon State University spoke about enormous student debt. A student from the Oregon Student Association, who is a student representative on the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, said Oregon is 46th in the nation for funding education. She is a sophomore at Lane Community College and anticipates that she will graduate with $50,000 in debt. She is ineligible for any financial aid because she is an undocumented immigrant. She was concerned about her family splitting up. An alumnus of Western Oregon said he was still paying his student loans and that budget cuts will erode the quality of education. Dr. Mark Perlman of Western Oregon University, who wrote the book Failing the Grade, said that due to greatly reduced state spending, Oregon higher education has trouble attracting and retaining faculty. A person who works at Oregon State University Student Health Center said OSU and WOU have had furloughs, delayed step increases, no overtime rules, people working the jobs of two or three people. Now they don't have enough employees at the Student Health Centers so they are making the students pay for care, which turns them away.

A father and teacher said public schools have had a long, slow decline since Measures 5 and 50 and his son's kindergarten class has 31 students in it. A second grade teacher from Cesar Chavez school said the class sizes are too large and asked that the Oregon Legislature support educators and early childhood education. A special education teacher said Oregon has the third lowest graduation rate and is third in largest class sizes. She buys many things for her classes. She recommended that Oregon tax corporations at the same rate as the personal income tax. She pointed out that Comcast has a $145 million unpaid tax liability. Bill Clark, a teacher at an alternative teen-parent school in Salem, said Oregon chooses to be fiftieth in corporate taxation.

A mental health advocate said the criminal recidivism rate is over 50% and that a public health model, rather than a corrections model would be less costly. Two women, former inmates, spoke for the Family Preservation Project at Coffee Creek Correctional Institution for mothers which has been so helpful in keeping them in contact with their children.

A young man who is deaf said his parents are farmworkers. They have no medical care or childcare services. He said there is no work for him and asked for funding for childcare, the elderly and people like him. A woman testified that her stepdaughter takes her child to three different grandparents in different cities in order to go to work and there is a desperate need for affordable childcare and living wages for childcare workers. Another person asked for paid family medical leave.

A Willamette student said she wouldn't be where she was today without the healthcare she had as a child and pointed out there are still 17,600 uninsured children in Oregon. A registered nurse from the Oregon Nurses Association expressed concern about cuts to the Oregon Health Plan, high prescription costs, and the alarming number of patients who needed care sooner than they received it. She also asked that school clinics not be cut. Oliver Alexander, the co-founder of Orchid Health Collective, LLC--which focuses on rural health care and has clinics in Oakridge and Estacada, including a school based clinic--said these clinics improve the lives of rural residents.

Willamette Law Professor Michael Wise who is on the Board of Northwest Human Services said they treated 2061 patients for mental, dental, and urgent health care and urged continued support of the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) that helps with these medical costs. Susan Scott, a recipient of help from the Oregon Health Plan and a board member of Northwest Human Services, works as a family caregiver. She used to not be able to work because she had no health insurance and undiagnosed diabetes. Now, with the Oregon Health Plan, she can deal with her multiple health conditions and work rather than needing emergency room care and caregivers herself.

Dr. Kathleen Harder of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon said they focus on prevention of disease and see 70,000 patients annually. She said since Texas has forced the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics, there has been a 27% increase in unintended pregnancies there. She and another person pointed out that a budget is a moral document and they recommended a yes vote on House Bill 2232 related to Reproductive Health Care. Katrina Rothenberger advocated for public access to reproductive health services through Polk County Public Health. She said that since Oregon scaled back the disease investigation program in 2015, there has been an increase in sexually transmitted diseases in Polk County.

Other topics on which people testified on the need for more funding were for rental assistance and homeless prevention, for the Department of Justice Child Support Division, for maintaining water systems and resiliency for drought conditions, for more public transit for longer hours.

Local Efforts to End Homelessness

Cindy Burgess, President

At our Program Planning meeting in January, homelessness was one of the issues raised for our next program year, but many things are happening already. The Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Initiative has come out with its report after a year of study and meetings. The city is considering hiring someone to be the point person on implementation of the plan. I was heartened to see the words "bona fide" in the 1.4.2. Task "Explore the possibility of systems development charges (SDC) waivers and/or reductions for bona fide affordable housing projects." The League generally supports systems development charges, but we also support help for people who are homeless.

Perhaps some of you saw the article in the Statesman Journal about the accessory dwelling units (ADU), aka "tiny homes," and the difficulty of giving up on the safety of building codes in order to provide this type of shelter. Similar issues surround zone codes and the space between homes and between homes and the streets. Keizer has added ADUs and cottage clusters to its development code. Marion County has proposed legislation that would allow ADUs or secondary apartments in rural areas.

Since I was out of town for the LWVOR Advocacy Day, I decided to attend the Interfaith Advocacy Day on February 7. I attended the workshop put on by the Oregon Housing Alliance. We were to speak to our legislators about two bills. One was HB2004, which prohibits a landlord from terminating a month-to-month tenancy without cause except under certain circumstances with 90 days' written notice and payment of relocation expenses. It also repeals statewide prohibition on city and county ordinances controlling rents. HB5012 supposedly relates to Emergency Housing Account and State Homeless Assistance Program increasing the fund to $50 million but on the Oregon Legislative Information Service (OLIS) the bill isn't that specific. The last I checked, not much was happening on either bill.

Rose Lewis, Bill Burgess and I attended the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Fourth Sunday at Four meeting at which Delana Beaton spoke about homelessness in Salem. Delana told about the Arches program, which is a place on Madison Street where people who are homeless can go for a shower and a single washer and dryer load.

Jimmy Jones, consultant to the Arches program has interviewed over 1000 local households experiencing homelessness. (There are nearly 1000 homeless students enrolled in Salem-Keizer public schools.) He found there is a myriad of reasons for homelessness. Salem has twice the per capita rate of homeless in the nation. We are in the top five cities for chronically underserved people. Some of the issues are that they have lost their documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, or other identification and they don't have the money or ability to get replacements so they cannot get jobs. If they do have these things, they need a locker for safe-keeping. They don't have a place to take a shower or go to the restroom. City restrooms are locked at night due to fears that they will be vandalized or used as shelter or that illegal activities will take place within them.

The funding for Emergency Food and shelter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been reduced again. Several churches and other groups provide a midday meal under the Marion Street Bridge for 100-200 people every day. Andy Wilch, head of the Salem Housing Authority, reported that there are now 8,000 households on the waiting list for housing vouchers. Fifty percent of the households or persons who get a voucher cannot find a place to use it because Salem doesn't have enough available housing.

If you want to learn more about homelessness and efforts to address it, the Salem City Club has two meetings coming up--March 17 when Jimmy Jones will speak and April 7 when Ron Hays will speak. To get involved, you can attend meetings of the Salem Homeless Coalition on the first Monday of the month at St. Mark's Lutheran Church.

Clean Air

Cindy Burgess, President

The Incinerator in Brooks--Our local League was invited to join with the Salem Chapter of 350.org and Physicians for Social Responsibility in examining and lobbying Portland Metro about their Health Impact Study of Metro sending 20% of its solid waste to the Covanta garbage incinerator in Marion County. Covanta and Marion County want to add a third incinerator to the plant at Brooks in order to make more money. Marion County had been realizing $7 million a year but that has fallen to the point where it may just break even this year because energy has become so abundant that the market for electricity is down. Marion County no longer spends money on efforts to educate people about reduce, re-use and recycle. They have convinced the Oregon Legislature that the incinerator is a recycling plant because it is producing electricity from waste. The incinerator gets medical waste from Washington and California which is the most toxic type of waste. The contract with Covanta expires in 2019 so it is soon to be renegotiated.

The League has not been completely supportive of the incinerator from the beginning, although incineration is included in the options for waste disposal in our LWVMPC position statement. It states that the [t]oxicity testing of leachate, ash and emissions into the air should be impartial, random and frequent with fly ash tested separately for pollutants. The fly ash contains dioxin, lead, mercury, cadmium and other nasty toxins and, as it turns out, is tested only once a year. Covanta knows what day it will be tested and has a say in the emissions standards. The emissions standards are not based upon health and so Metro is to be commended for doing a Health Impact Study which they expect to be finished sometime in March. The coalition is writing letters to Metro, to the DEQ to request a moss study, to the media, and probably to the Marion County Commissioners. We are also hoping to update our individual groups, the Portland Metro LWV and the public about the incinerators via forums and videos of forums held at Willamette University in 2009 that still contain good information. As of this writing Deanie Anderson is drafting our letter as she has much knowledge on this subject.

Possible Legislation--Anita Owen, Bill Burgess and I attended the 350.org's forum on how the Oregon Legislature plans to respond to climate change and how we can become involved. The presenters were State Senator Michael Dembrow of Portland, chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and Sonny Mehta, Renew Oregon Field Manager. Senator Dembrow encouraged us that by joining together we can make change. In 2015 the Legislature passed the Clean Fuels Program against heavy opposition and the trade-off was that the Transportation Package failed, but it is back this session.

The greenhouse gas goals were to be 75% below the 1990 levels by 2050 and Oregon is not on track to do that. The proposal being considered is a cap on emissions and a price on carbon and how to use the revenues to help the transition from carbon emitting fuels and also create green jobs. The effects on the poor and rural people must be considered.

The House and Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committees are meeting jointly to decide how to put a price on carbon. They are also considering the value of forests for carbon storage and looking at forest and agricultural practices. The Legislature created a Global Warming Commission to study the effects on Oregon such as the warming of rivers and ocean warming and acidification and the effects on salmon and shellfish. They also consider businesses such as skiing.

SB557, the Clean Energy Jobs Act, is a cap and invest bill. SB748 a simpler version which directs the DEQ to figure it out; Senator Dembrow doubts it will pass. HB2135 is similar to SB557. HB2468 is a cap and penalize bill; the greenhouse gas producer exceeds the limit, they would be fined and the money used to invest in helping people and companies transition to clean energy. Washington and British Columbia have a carbon tax. Economists like it.

A cap and trade program could put $496 million into public transit, bike projects in low income communities and provide for affordable housing. One problem is that the Oregon Constitution requires that tax on fuel must go to the Highway Fund. It cannot be used for transit. The Clean Fuels program can be used for transit. The other problem is that there is the $1.8 billion budget shortfall and it will take a three/fifths vote to raise revenue, so there will be deal-making. We need to go to centrist companies and shift the debate. Let them know the positive effects on them. The plan at 350.org is to visit businesses, use digital media and grassroots action. Part of the plan is to collect online and offline petitions to present to legislators.

LWV Mission Statement Explained

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League carries out its mission in two ways:

1) Education of voters with unbiased, factual information on issues and candidates appearing on a ballot, so citizens can cast an informed vote; and

2) Advocacy for public policy issues only after members have studied each issue and reached a consensus position.

The League never supports or opposes any political candidate or political party, and any use of the League of Women Voters name in campaign advertising or literature has not been authorized by the League.