By Carla "KC" Hanson of Portland, Oregon. KC is the Chair of the Multnoamh County Democratic Party, which has endorsed YES votes on all 3 PPS and Parkrose School Measures on the May 17 Ballot.
Pure coincidence lead me to a decision not to run by my SE Portland shop after a long day at work on Friday, April 22nd. Had I been there, one of the 3 bullets that ripped through the shop's west wall could have caught me at precisely the wrong time, and right at eye level. Sadly, another young Portlander was the target of gun violence and lay bleeding on the asphalt of the neighboring gas station.
Seeing the news, most Portlanders shake their heads, hope the police apprehend the shooters, and quickly move on. We don't necessarily stop to contemplate how our community got to this point of violence anywhere, anytime... much of it perpetrated by youth.
The greater question is not how to catch and punish the shooters, but how to address the paradigm that creates these young offenders. And if we have the courage to look under that surface, we will have to confront the question of whether to successfully fund our public schools and offer our kids both tools and opportunities, or throw up our hands and claim we are just too broke.
Over the past generation, skillful propaganda campaigns have promised "relief" from taxes while in fact "relieving" us of the institutions that make us a civilized community, including a functioning system of public schools. As schools were increasingly denied the resources to do the job we expect of them, increasing numbers of kids hit the streets instead of the books. Cynically, the campaign for 1990's Measure 5 claimed that it would "hold schools harmless", something it was clearly not designed to do.
Our school facilities are deteriorating; many programs that inspired our youth have been cut; teachers are challenged by increasing class loads and class sizes, and parents are asked to pay up for everything from participation in clubs and sports to crayons for kindergartners.
We offer our youth less and less positive support and attention, and then are shocked and amazed that they find fellowship in gangs, exhilaration by brandishing weapons, recognition from street-fighting and adventure in using drugs. We are horrified that teenagers become accomplished drug-business leaders as we close the doors to both educational and economic opportunity.
We have been duped by a calculated campaign to disinvest in our public institutions. While major money consistently backs campaigns to cap or reduce taxes, their polished and contrived emotional appeals work with voters who don't recognize what they must give up in return.
The fresh bullet holes in my shop are a stark reminder that pretending we are not part of a greater community is both cruel and foolish. Whether it's fair or not is immaterial right now; we are the only ones holding the life preservers. Arguing about who ran the ship aground will do little to address immediate needs.
It's up to us to make a loud and clear statement that we DO care about our kids, and vote for the School Measures on our ballots. Just maybe, one less stray bullet will tear through a business or home, and one less Portland kid will leave a mourning family behind.