What Jim Hill Said . . .

Marc Abrams

Folks asked me to report back on what former state Treasurer Jim Hill spoke about on Kremer and Abrams this morning.  Darn, why aren't you tuning in?  Anyhow, here's a brief recap.

Jim and Rob got right into it on the matter of PERS reform, with Rob insisting the system's still broken and Jim reminding him that the local governments sued, they won, and there needs to be time to assess the impact to see if any further change is needed.  He also pointed out how little many government workers are paid relative to their private sector counterparts and noted that "we want the best people we can have teaching our children."  Later in the show, Jim also offered a spirited defense of state workers, and decried the intellectually lazy habit (my words, not his) of bashing government and government employees, which tied in well to the earlier discussion.

Jim did note that government cannot simply ask for money without demonstrating that it merits confidence.  He had supported a bill by the Secretary of State that would have given the SOS's office the ability to audit school districts.  He also felt that government can be reduced in an appropriate way by utilizing improvements in technology, and that the workers themselves can offer improvements and there needs to be a reward system in place for that (well, actually, he said "incent," and as I hate using "incent" as a verb, I've cleaned it up a bit).  I asked whether there was any specific progam he'd cut, and I mentioned my pet peeve -- OLCC (in my view, a clear private function), and he demurred, noting that he didn't want to create a change that would make alcohol more readily avaialbe (and, in that vein, noted he does not support further expansion of gambling in the state).

Jim spoke to the need to focus on Pacific Rim business development, and that Oregon is a "great brand," not merely for tourism or food products, but for the percieved quality of Oregon goods and services overall, and this needs to be exploited better.

Jim also felt that the state clearly at least needed to explore the pruchase of PGE, and that the current administration missed an opportunity.

Anyhow, that's the report.  For the record, I have also invited Ted on the show, but his staff has not gotten back to me.  Jim's webstie is www.jimhill2006.com;  Ted's is www.tedforgov.com.

The opinions and representations expressed herein are those of the blogger, and do not represent the campaigns of Jim Hill, Ted Kulongoski or, for that matter, Kevin Mannix.  If symptoms, such as yearning for retention of a D in Mahonia Hall, a sense that more can be done, or an aversion to public employee bashing persist, please contact your county party and volunteer.  Candidates should not be ingested while operating heavy machinery.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Oops. Not to leave the wrong impression -- we had Pete Sorenson on the show months ago. His website is: www.petesorenson.com.

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    For another perspective on Jim Hill's comments, go to my blog.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
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    Jim Hill is probably a likeable fellow but beyond that he's nothing more than a political hack for the public employee unions.

    The Oregonian today did a comparison between Oregon and Washinton. One of the little statistics in fine print: Washington pays 3% above the cost of salaries toward pensions while Oregon pays 13% above salaries towards PERS. WOW...and Jim Hill thinks "PERS is fixed"?

    Ted, with all his warts, is looking better and better to me.

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    "Candidates should not be ingested while operating heavy machinery."

    Thanks for the warning, but I do wonder: When is it appropriate to ingest candidates?

    Rural Oregonians are a gentle lot, and for the most part, haved refrained from eating candidates. On occasion, that's worked against us -- Wes Cooley comes to mind.

    On second thought, we might be inclined to eat as many candidates as our urban friends, but are equally inclined to follow Marc's advice. There are lots of folks out here operating heavy machinery.

    Or do you mean that candidates shouldn't be ingested while THEY are operating heavy machinery? That brings to mind Michael Dukakis. In this case, not such a good rule -- the mere threat might have kept him out of the tank.

  • native of Michigan (unverified)
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    Wayne, thanks for the levity.

    I am really concerned about the level of anti-union rhetoric like " a political hack for the public employee unions."

    I grew up in Michigan and people there seemed to be born into not only demographics like family history, ethnicity, and religion but also political party and attitudes about unions--at least around 5 decades ago when I was young. My grandfather knew Henry Ford. Ours was a Republican family and not a union family. I grew up hearing stories about the "Battle of the Overpass" which was a turning point in labor history.

    http://www.hfmgv.org/exhibits/fmc/battle.asp is the URL to the story about it from the website of the Henry Ford Greenfield Village Museum website.

    But never growing up did I hear the venom expressed in recent years against public employee unions. Anyone who thinks all problems would be solved if we just went back in history and repealed all the Oregon collective bargaining laws should run on that platform--at least they would be stating a positive. Or is that too difficult?

    Are we to believe that whatever problems there are with PERS, those were caused by individual public employees (incl. secretaries, accountants, lawyers who made the decision to work for government rather than in the private sector)? Does no blame fall on the PERS Board because whatever decisions they made, because they were not members of a union they are therefore blameless?

    It is time for this to stop.

    I found this refreshing: Jim reminding him that the local governments sued, they won, and there needs to be time to assess the impact to see if any further change is needed. He also pointed out how little many government workers are paid relative to their private sector counterparts and noted that "we want the best people we can have teaching our children." Later in the show, Jim also offered a spirited defense of state workers, and decried the intellectually lazy habit (my words, not his) of bashing government and government employees, which tied in well to the earlier discussion.

    If someone has a better system, they should propose that system. But the comments on this blog and elsewhere by several people begin to sound like "whipping boy" propaganda.

    And it makes me wonder what they do for a living. Do they work with customers in any capacity? Do they work in politics? Do they hire people and then treat them badly, verging on breaking the wage and hour laws about breaks and overtime because employers should be able to do whatever they want with their employees (although there is considerable research that employers who treat employees well have not only more loyalty but more productivity)?

    Sometimes the wisecracks against public employees get those speaking into situations they did not expect. At a candidate forum in 2004, candidate Kim Thatcher made the flat statement "only businesses pay taxes" . Only to be startled afterwards to be confronted by a state employee in the audience saying something along the lines of "do you mean as a public employee I needlessly filled out tax returns all these years because only businesses pay taxes"? I worked in retail for over a decade, and found the people there to be hard working and often with little sympathy for Sizemore or McIntire or Lars or any of the other loudmouths who proclaim the anti-tax, anti-union line. The attitude among these people was "fine, let's trade jobs for a day--but I doubt they could go a whole day standing on a hard floor, being courteous to all customers, and answering detailed questions, informatively and courteously".

    I am not a member of a union, but I was a substitute teacher for 15 years. I have probably spent more time in public schools than most of the opponents of teacher (or other public employee) unions. I saw hard working people who cared about kids.

    There was a comment on one of the recent topics where someone said "the OEA wants all teachers to think like Teamsters".

    First of all, I know lots of teachers who have argued with people from the OEA, so the idea that if you picked any teacher in this state randomly they would parrot the party line strikes me as bogus. Secondly, there is a Teamster living across the street from me. He has a good contract from what he has told me, but he works hard and gets up early in the morning to drive a garbage truck.

    And that's the thing: I wonder if the people who demonize unions know the value of hard work. Is it that they want to repeal Oregon's collective bargaining laws? And replace them with what--individual contracts for all employees? Or all public employees being "at will" employees being paid as little as possible and with no say in workplace conditions? Do teachers deserve half an hour away from students for lunch, or shall we go back to the days before that was negotiated? Or do these people want to go back to the early 1930s before the Wagner Act when there were no laws in this country regulating collective bargaining? There aren't many people still alive in this country who remember those days.

    Is it possible for the anti-union people to state what they believe in the affirmative? Or is their slogan "Unions are bad--vote for our side"?

  • Joanne R (unverified)
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    The chinciest boss a person could ever have is John Q. Public, who would pay his employees nothing if he could - actually he does in some cases, volunteer fire departments come to mind. I once thought of aplying for a job with the state in the maintenance department of a building in Salem. They wanted someone who could do electrical, plumbing, painting, drywall, concrete work, masonry, carpentry, among others, and all for a whopping $11/hour plus bennis. Try to find someone in the private sector who can do all that for those wages. And forget about the fact that unless you're a licensed or certified electrician or plumber, it's illegal for you to do that type of work in the state of Oregon. I guess the state doesn't have to play by the same rules the rest of us do. On the other hand, you have the unions, who's job it is to look out for the best interest of it's members. The group who agreed to the PERs plan that's costing the state so much money dropped the ball during the negotiations plain and simple and let the union take them. My boyfriend is a retired firefighter - L.A. County. When he joined the firedepartment they weren't paid enough to feed themselves, and were not allowed to engage in any political activities, I'm suprised they were even allowed to vote. The public tried to prevent them from having a second job also, but they would have had to quit the dept. They unionized and now they have good pay, bennis, and retirement. L.A. Co. is one of the premier fire departments in the US and because of their rating, the residents in their area enjoy some of the lowest home insurance rates for their type of area in the country. People down there scream and holler about how much they pay the firemen, I'm sure. It's the give and take between the unions and their signatory employers that needs to be fair. Either party gets the upper hand and someone is going to get taken to the cleaners.

  • Dickey45 (unverified)
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    Joanne, I agree. Another point is: Is it in the taxpayer's best interest to have public employee managers be able to easily remove employees - ones that might have a difference of opinion that may help the public organization save money or do something more efficiently? Is management that much more intelligent than their employees?

    You get rid of unions and it now gets easier to remove dissenting employees...

  • Larry (unverified)
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    D45 said: "You get rid of unions and it now gets easier to remove dissenting employees..."

    Allow me to add a couple other thoughts on that line of thinking:

    You get rid of unions and you can finally get rid of negligent employees. You get rid of unions and you can pay good employees more than adequate employees.

    Unfortunately, I was only able to listen to about 20 minutes of Mr. Hill's interview and to say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. I know I missed a lot of it, but I didn't hear a single new idea or anything of substance that made me think "Now here's someone who deserves my vote". He just kept repeating that we shouldn't bash public employees, instead of debating whether or not there is room to further reform PERS, etc. That doesn't bode well.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
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    Well Larry....you have to admit....the underwhelming start for Jim Hill does bode well for Ted.

  • LT (unverified)
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    You get rid of unions and you can finally get rid of negligent employees. You get rid of unions and you can pay good employees more than adequate employees.

    implies that all non-unionized workplaces are great places to work because there are no negligent employees and good employees are paid more than "adequate" employees. Is this because of personal experience, or theory? Where is the proof?

    I have worked in non-unionized private sector workplaces where that was far from true. And it depended on the quality of the managers whether or not it was a positive workplace.

    I'm getting tired of hearing that ending unions would be Nirvana. If that is what you truly believe, then find a candidate who will run on that issue and debate it publicly, not just on a blog.

    Remember, there are people who have never blogged and spend their time in other ways who have as much of a vote as bloggers--and there are probably more of them in the voting public.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Charlie in Gresham informs us:

    The Oregonian today did a comparison between Oregon and Washinton. One of the little statistics in fine print: Washington pays 3% above the cost of salaries toward pensions while Oregon pays 13% above salaries towards PERS. WOW...and Jim Hill thinks "PERS is fixed"?"

    This is one of the more meaningless comparisons I've seen in awhile. How much more does Washington pay in salaries in comparison to Oregon. Forget the pension difference for a moment and concentrate on the salary portion. I suspect you'll find a different scenario.

    Example:

    My counterpart at the University of Washington (same title, same rank, same duties, same tenure level, same years of experience) had a base salary $50,000 per year higher than I had. No matter how much Oregon paid toward my pension, or Washington paid towards his pension, the fact remains that my counterpart in Washington had significantly higher compensation than I had when all factors were considered. That Washington pays 3% above salary for pension is meaningless to me because it doesn't tell the whole story.

    Please return when you have something meaningful to report other than simply parroting the WhOregonian's misleading statistics. Return when you've had a chance to learn more about PERS than you actually know. Return when the Oregonian learns more about PERS than it reports.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
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    Hmmmmmm....Fearless....I suspect youa re comparing apples and oranges. I do know that elementary and HS teachers in Washington make slightly (2%-3%)less than PPS and other metro area teachers.

    As for you....maybe your buddy at U of Dub is just more valuable to that university than you are to yours. Work harder.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Charlie in Gresham writes:

    "Hmmmmmm....Fearless....I suspect youa re comparing apples and oranges. I do know that elementary and HS teachers in Washington make slightly (2%-3%)less than PPS and other metro area teachers.

    As for you....maybe your buddy at U of Dub is just more valuable to that university than you are to yours. Work harder."

    So, that dog won't hunt. We're both retired now - we both graduated from the same school at the same time and both started teaching in the same year. Our starting salaries were about the same. We both published nearly the same amount, both won teaching awards from our universities, both brought in large sums of grant money to our universities, and both served as Department Chairs of departments nearly the same size. The difference is that Washington Higher Ed gave bigger raises to all faculty, much more frequently than did Oregon with attendant higher salaries. By the time I'd been in OUS for 20 years, he was already making about $25K more than I was. In exchange, I got better pension benefits - on paper - but he's making more in retirement than I do. I make about 85% of my Final Average Salary; he earns 60% of his final average salary, but his final average salary was 50% larger than mine.

    I don't think this is an apples to oranges comparison. It is simply a stunning counterexample to your assertion that somehow because Washington's pension costs appear lower than Oregon's that this generalizes to all elements of compensation.

    And before Bailie pipes in here, I'm not talking about K-12 compensation; I don't have the data (yet) to support a more direct comparison.

  • Larry (unverified)
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    LT -

    Nope, wasn't trying to imply that all non-unionized worksites are Nirvana. I think we all know that's not true and that slugs are present in every workplace....

    But at least in a non-union environment, the employers have the OPTION of dealing with those slugs. Instead of being forced to pay them equally with good performers and not being able to can them for being lazy-as*es. That's all I'm saying.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Larry:

    "the employers have the OPTION of dealing with those slugs. Instead of being forced to pay them equally with good performers and not being able to can them for being lazy-as*es."

    This is also true for public employees. The only thing the unions force upon employers is some discipline and documentation before firing. I was an administrator in higher ed for 21 years. I successfully fired half a dozen union-represented employees during that time period for non-performance, failure to improve, and outlandish behavior. Only 2 of these were faculty members - both tenured. It is true that burden of proof is higher in a unionized shop, but it does prevent arbitrary and capricious behavior, which characterizes many firings in non-union shops.

  • LT (unverified)
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    But at least in a non-union environment, the employers have the OPTION of dealing with those slugs. Larry, thank you for making public your belief that employers have more rights than workers.

    I have worked in non-union jobs where in one case I was laid off with a "don't go into work tomorrow, your job has been eliminated" phone call and another couple jobs where I was eventually terminated for things not mentioned in the job interview (in one case hired for a diff. job than I interviewed for, in another, because how dare I lack specific skills that I was not asked about at the job interview).

    But that's OK because employers have all rights and workers have no rights?! That is what all these anti-union screeds are saying.

    I am just really tired of people who would like to eliminate all unions but don't have the gumption to campaign for office on that platform--at least the Working Families Party is honest in that regard. Why not start an official Anti-Union movement? At least that would be honest! If any of you posting anti-union messages here believe that Mannix or Saxton or any other candidate (or initiativemeisters like Sizemore and McIntire) will move your agenda forward, why not devote all your spare time to their causes and quit trying to tell those of us here at Blue Oregon that if we support workers having some rights that means we endorse everything any union ever did.

    You don't know me, you don't know how many union people I have argued with over the years. Just because I believe unions have a right to exist doesn't mean I believe they are infallible.

    But I don't see what problems (more troopers on the road, health care for everyone, etc.) are solved by bashing unions. I think that just shows people who are enemy oriented and don't really want to discuss positive solutions. They just want to say unions are bad and anyone who won't say unions are bad is saying that no one can ever be fired. PERIOD! End of discussion.

    Should teachers not sign contracts? Should public employees work month to month? Or are you folks incapable of stating an affirmative position? And what about the debate between the Oregon Restaurant Assoc. and others who want tip credit for restaurant staff and those of us who support all restaurant workers being paid the full min. wage? Or is that different because there is not a restaurant union you can bash?

  • Larry (unverified)
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    Whoa, LT - relax a bit.

    You said, "Larry, thank you for making public your belief that employers have more rights than workers." followed by "But that's OK because employers have all rights and workers have no rights?! That is what all these anti-union screeds are saying."

    Looking back at this discussion, I don't feel I did any union-bashing at all. Simply pointed out a few benefits of NOT having unions. Dickey45 started the discussion by pointing out that it's harder to unfairly fire a union worker than a non-union worker. I agree. So I pointed out back to him the inverse of that - that's it's easier to fire a non-performing non-union worker than it is a non-performing union member. Wouldn't you agree to that as well?

    Obviously, different unions have different levels of influence. I'm sure you'd agree that in some unions, it IS damn near impossible to lose your job. That's not healthy for anyone, INCLUDING the employee who's drifting through his life at a low performance level and ESPECIALLY his co-workers who, depending on the job, may be at increased risk of injury or death because they work next to a slug who knows that his job is secure no matter what.

    So that's union bashing?

    And by the way, I'm an employee and not an employer, so your statement that I obviously want the employer to hold all the power is silly. I just want accountability and personal responsibility, by employers AND employees. And sometimes I think unions can get in the way of that. I know you'll disagree with that statement, but it's how I see it.

    MrFearless, thank you for your rational response, and it's heartening to hear that your union experience has been in a scenario where members WERE held accountable.

    But back to the main topic of this thread, and really, what I intended to be the main point of my initial comment - which was that Jim Hill REALLY REALLY REALLY didn't impress me during the short time I was able to listen to his interview. Especially lame was his response when Kremer asked him for his one-sentence "vote for me" pitch. Geez, if nothing else, you gotta have a dynamic, succint one-liner that you can throw out at a moment's notice. He just muddled through some sentence about pretending that you're hiring a CEO when you vote.

  • pma (unverified)
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    Did you know:

    That bastion of effective government, the Oregon Economic & Community Development Department, is non-union?

  • Larry (unverified)
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    Okay, PMA, thanks for that comment, but I don't understand your point?

  • LT (unverified)
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    PMA, a friend of mine who has both a business background and 1 term experience as a legislative staffer says that Economic Development is so bureaucratic and ineffective that if it were abolished there would be "enough money to buy people jobs".

    So I don't understand: Did you know: That bastion of effective government, the Oregon Economic & Community Development Department, is non-union?

    Aren't these the folks who were going to bring in-harbor ship breaking to Newport without first letting the folks in Lincoln County that this might be happening? Do you know for a fact that those who worried about their fishing/ tourism livelihood if the ship breaking facility polluted their local harbor were active union members?

    Or that experts who say ship breaking should only be done in dry dock to minimize pollution are all union members?

    Thank you for taking hatred of unions to the ridiculous extreme.

  • pma (unverified)
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    I apologize for being overly obtuse.

    My point was this:

    Some posts here imply or state outright that unions are the impediment to effective government. Yet one of the most "effectiveness challenged" state agencies is a non union shop (see, my use of the phrase "bastion of effective government" was meant to be sarcastic). It would seem of the union bashers were right, OECDD would be a top performer, and yet they're not.

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