Oregon Democrats Fail to Compete with Republican Ballot Measures

By Ted Blaszak of Portland, Oregon. Ted is the CEO of Democracy Resources of Oregon, a progressive signature collection firm that pays a living wage, provides a health care benefit, and doesn't hire the usual suspects and mercenaries.

We very much have the capacity to put initiatives on the ballot, but I worry that Oregon Democrats don't have the ideas or the will.

We have Democracy Resources, my company which gathers the signatures necessary for ballot access. We have never failed to place a measure on the ballot, and have done such campaigns in Oregon as raising the minimum wage and saving the Salem Public Library.

The handful of measures we have helped put on the ballot are dwarfed by the avalanche of campaigns that conservatives mount.

We Democrats win on every other level in Oregon. President, Congress, Governor, State Legislature, even Judicial offices, but yet we don't even try to compete for the ballot measure.

Ask yourself: what has done more damage to Oregon? A Republican-controlled House or Measures 5 and 37?

When I moved to this state ten years ago we had great schools, excellent government services, and the most advance land use laws in the nation. Now we rank somewhere between Mississippi and Arkansas.

In just ten years! And all because of Republican ballot measures.

The initiative is cheap and easy, but we disdain them. "Oh I just hate initiatives, we should just ban them" said one party activist to me at last year's conference in Bend.

This attitude stems from the fact we are almost always voting "NO" and spending millions on these no campaigns. But as Sizemore proved in 2000 you need not spend much to put six initiatives on the ballot.

By crowding the ballot, Republicans frame the campaign debate in their favor, increase their voter turnout, and force millions of Democratic dollars to be spent to defeat the thousands that Republicans spend on these ballot measures.

The ballot measure is not going away though. It has been with Oregon for close to a hundred years now. Instead of simply wishing it would disappear, we should make it our own.

The ballot measure once gave women to the right to vote, the dying death with dignity, and permanently raised the minimum wage of workers. It can do even greater things if we have the will and the ideas.

We should start with ideas and perhaps BlueOregon.com is a good format for that. So, I ask you: What would you put on the ballot? What progressive measures would you put before the voters?

  • Becky (unverified)

    This is exactly why you don't have many measures on the ballot. You have always in the past let the good ideas lead the way, rather than searched for reasons to use the initiative process. This is entirely the wrong approach. It is much more reasonable to first have the great idea, to then try to get the Legislature to pass it, and if that fails, to put it before the people. If you have a good idea and the Legislature knows that you're willing and able to take it directly to the people, they're much more likely to try to do something about it.

    Your much-despised Measure 5 was brought to the people only after several Legislatures failed to address property taxes running out of control. Same with Measures 47/50. And Measures 7 and 37 came about again because there were legitimate problems with Oregon's land use laws that were harming too many people, and finally the issue was taken to the voters.

    Obviously, you have a vested interest in convincing Democrats to bring you ballot measures so you can make your living. But to Democrats I would say, ask yourself what you have been trying for years to get the Legislature to address. What is the ignored, serious need out there that has built up to the point that resorting to the initiative process is legitimately justified? Do you really want to model yourselves after Sizemore, flooding the ballot with initiatives just to force Republicans to spend a lot of money, without having first tried to get a Legislative fix? Or would you rather use the initiative process as it was intended to be used - as a last resort when our elected officials fail to act on matters of serious importance to the people of Oregon?

  • Aaron (unverified)

    Like I have stated before, in Oregon Democrats were hell-bent to crush Bush but we fell asleep at the wheel on defending a couple of our party’s core principles: protection of Equal Rights, Effective Government and the Environment.

    Now we will have to live in the shadow of urban sprawl, clear-cutting, bias and bigotry.

    By crowding the ballot, Republicans frame the campaign debate in their favor, increase their voter turnout, and force millions of Democratic dollars to be spent to defeat the thousands that Republicans spend on these ballot measures.

    I disagree on this statement that it would have cost millions; I think that it would have been an issue of framing the message and sending it out too County parties and having the PCP’s canvass the state on a couple of weekends. Measure 34 was a regional issue, specifically NW Oregon—but it has overall effect is the full state of Oregon; and that was the core issue. Measure 36 was a simple issue of Equal Rights and not Marriage. Measure 37 is about the desire of not becoming Los Angeles, Houston or other mega-metropolitan areas.

    We Democrats deferred tax issues—a core issue for our party; and Republicans attack our core issues: effective government, civil rights and the environment; too the voters; with the same effect—Democrats lose.

    Yes, M38 passed because of all the small business realized that it was a bad thing for SAIF to dissolve. In addition, M31 and M32; were overall trivial things for the voters to care about. M33 was tough one because of the core issue of Marijuana. M35 was not a hard one to figure out for the voters.

    When will Democrats have ballot measures that attack Republican core issues?

    As well, the Governor’s State of the State speech focused on M37 and the potential consequences of it—where was he 6 months ago. Now he is talking about the importance of not turning on our backs on gays or lesbians—where was he on M36 six months ago. Protecting the salmon runs around the state; M34 has issues about protect the streams and rivers temperatures for the safety of the fish there—where was he six months ago.

    As for a statement from State President, Senate Peter Courtney: “The Governor is the CEO of State of Oregon.” If the Governor is the CEO for the state—these three issues should have been championed last summer and not during the current legislative session. I am not blaming all of these woes on the Governor; it is equally on the other party leaders. This is where it is important on not willing to compromise on core party believes—be confrontational and not hide behind the office that they hold

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    Let's look at the voting patterns in the five-county region of the metropolitan area (Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, and Yamhill) in the 2004 general election.

    The bluest voters in the 5 counties are in the precincts within a square area bounded by Killingsworth to the north, 82nd Avenue to the east, and the county line on the west and south.

    The further away from that square area the more voters reversed those areas in that square area defined in the previous paragraph. The point here is through examining voter patterns we learn where voters stand when they cast their votes.

    These days people want managed forests rather than a ban on logging.

    These days people recognize the need for thoughtful use of the land balanced with owner's property rights.

    These days people are concerned with tinkering with Oregon's constitution. Most voters are able to support gay and lesbian civil rights without changing the constitution.

    Kulongowki struck the perfect balance during his opening remarks to the legislature.

    PS The orginal poster appears to be marketing his company.

  • Stacey Dycus (unverified)

    I've known Ted Blaszak for many years- his company is a valuable asset to progressive Oregon. He is offering us the opportunity to think about what measures will promote our goals of building the progressive movement. Sure, it's good for his business, but many of us make a living at politics- nothing wrong with that.

    Regarding his challenge for us to think about measures that could go before voters- we need to be thinking along the same lines as those on the right who put forth M36 to turn out conservative voters. We need to think strategically about what we want to accomplish. Who do we want to activate?

    I would set forth that any measures we consider should be A) Revenue neutral B) Build our base.

    One idea that I am intrigued by is the concept of equity in contraceptive insurance. For many sessions, we have tried to get a bill through the legislature to require insurance companies to cover contraceptives. They may cover viagra- but not the pill- that's unfair. The pro-choice community has been on the defensive for so long- a proactive battle might be just what the doctor ordered to help us turn out more women voters.

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    I hate to say so (you all know I despise initiatives as lawmaking), but the man's right. The legislature has already abdicated it's duty, progressives have already conceded the initiative battle, and scary people have already established that their issues will frame the debate. Bill Sizemore and Carol Bobo dropped off 14 initiatives for '06 just last week (Sizemore notes, "all these are serious"). At least 3 of those will be on the ballot. What have progressives got - faith in an incompetent legislature and long-view hope for a better day that seems to be coming at a glacial pace? Good luck with that.

  • Aaron (unverified)

    As for progressive ideas and causes, we need too work the full state and not just the large urban areas of the Willamette valley.

    For those BlueOregon'ers outside the Willamette Valley: What progressive cause/idea that could start from your neck of the woods.

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    Conservatives did not spend thousands getting their Measures passed. They spent MILLIONS. Measure 37 had some mighty large farm and timber donors that drew up a nearly $1 million cash cow.

    Progressives need to get real. We have paltry Measures that make us look bad. Conservatives put forth Measures that make them sound good. In reality, we are trying to maintain a civilized society; they are trying to make a buck.

    Let me introduce Measure 2005 - increase the number of signatures needed, put caps on the amount of money that can be spent, and limit the number of Measures that can come from one group. People talk about property taxes and land use rules overdone, but it's the ballot measure system that's starting to be abused in this state.

    Laws are supposed to be made in the Legislature where real debate can take place and compromise is forced. We elect officials so they can research issues and solutions and we can go about our business of working and raising families. I don't have time to comb through the fine detail of this stupid Measures.


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    Ted raises a great issue, that has concerned me for some time as well. (He announced his interest as a signature gathering company at the outset, all we have to do is look at whether that colored his ideas; I didn't see any problem with it. I don't know Ted, his organization, etc. and I have none other than as a concerned citizen.)

    One can argue that the initiative process should be a last resort, but it doesn't work that way.

    One can argue it should go through the legislature first, but, after all, the legislature is not a great place to get ideas in front of the public and the realities may make it clear that it won't fly there anyway.

    But really we should look at is how do we, in the general scheme of things, most increase our chance of successully getting our desired outcomes. So we should use both the legislative and initiative processes to our best advantage.

    We should learn from what the right is doing, but not try to emulate their process exactly since we are unlikely to be better at what they've honed for decades. We need to adapt to our needs, our strengths and weaknesses. (In fact, per another commenter, if we think that the initiative process should be a last resort, introduce an initiative to change the initiative process to require, say, 20% of voters to sign instead of the current 8% (constitutional; 6% law) so it is clearly a tough hurdle and shows substantial support.)

    It is much easier and cheaper to frame an issue if you are the one bringing up the issue than if you are the one responding, defending against the leaders frame. This can be a great way to get our positions out there.

    I see using the initiative process as having a couple of motivators: - some new idea you want to take the lead on - heading the other side off at the pass - solving outstanding problems before they become touchstones for the other side to "oversolve" the problem - breaking through a political logjam in legislature/governor

    Some examples in order, perhaps.

    Some new idea you want to take the lead on: Death With Dignity.

    Heading the other side off at the pass: We know from watching the rest of the country, and particular California, the kinds of things the right is likely to try here, so let's get there first. For example, at some time, they will be trying to get dumb-down the definition of science and put "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" required on the school ciriculum and subvert evolution -- whether at the legislative, initiative or school board level. We should head them off by developing an appropriate definition of science and the requirement to teach science, including evolution.

    Solving outstanding problems before they become touchstones for the other side to "oversolve" the problem: We could have done this with land-use issues. "Everyone" knew that the $80,000 farm income rule didn't work well (You can't get $80,000 revenue from either of my 20 acre lots in Yamhill, period.) If we'd been looking strategically at the problem and the fracas being raised by the other side repeatedly over the years, we might have solved the problem that lead to the easy stories used for Measure 37 by solving the real problems in a reasonable way instead of leaving them fester until Measure 37 came along and made a hash of the whole land-use system instead.

    Breaking through a political logjam in legislature/governor: Funding for schools seems like a good candidate.

    Democrats have failed to look at strategically at the initiative process. That's water under the bridge, now we need to get to work on it.

  • Aaron (unverified)


    I totally agree with you idea.

    However, by capping the overall number of measures, could infringe on the freedom of speech and congregate the purpose of debating these issues.

    Your idea of capping the measures by PAC's and individuals would be good; but instead of a couple of them to watch--these numbers would explode by the permutations and combinations of the Roman numbers and letters that we use today.

    Then if we limit the individuals to head up these PAC’s could yet again infringe the freedom listed above.

    Therefore, I think it is one of those dog-eat-dog situations that we progressive need to attack back with fundamental issues that we can frame against the conservatives.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    Obviously progressives can't trust the voters to see things their way unless you remove or reduce their democratic franchise.

    Afterall, it's in their own best interests....those sad, stupid voters.....so the progressives must prevent the voters from hurting themselves (take away their forks so they don't poke out their eyes).

    Just need to come up with a real catchy name for the powergrab movement.


    How about labelling your political organization the "Guardians of Oregon's Collective Common Sense"?

    Those poor boobs (voters) are bound to eventually recognize that you are only trying to help them.

    You can start by chanelling Nurse Rachett.

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    OK, we're progressives, so we're great at critiquing. Now for some proposals! An earlier poster suggested "equity in contraceptive insurance". Here are a couple more:

    Depoliticize redistricting: Only redistrict after 10-year census to avoid picking political opportunism; have a non-partisan group, say of retired judges, do the redistricting. [there are probably a whole raft of other "clean election" things things to improve in Oregon before we become the next Florida/Ohio.]

    Fix the $80,000 farm income rule (to take some of the teeth out of Measure 37).

    Definition of science and requirement to teach evolution in schools. We know this has happened elsewhere, so let's not assume it can't happen here! Let's get there first.

    At some time, they will be trying to get dumb-down the definition of science and try to make "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" required on the school ciriculum and subvert real science and evolution -- whether at the legislative, initiative or school board level. We should head them off by developing an appropriate definition of science and the requirement to teach science, including evolution.

    Set school funding at 3.75% of Oregon GDP.

    The problem isn't the source, which everyone focuses on, it is the amount. "State-izing" school funding means the legislature allocates the $ but doesn't have responsibility in the running of the schools. The legislature often hasn't figured out how much to allocate until after the school year is in session, throwing things in chaos for parents, testing, kids and contracts the local schools have already entered into, teachers, etc.

    Polling shows Oregonians want a top school system in America (80% say "be among the best" or "be the very best"). But agree that we don't have it (24% think their local schools are very good). Most think their kids school is pretty good, but the others aren't (24% that their local schools are very good, but only 9% that Oregon's schools as a whole are very good). see Chalkboard Project poll graphs and charts.

    Worldwide studies have ranked spending and achievement by country and by US State. Set school funding at 3.75% of Oregon GDP (we can argue over the exact number prior to finalizing the initiative (sorry i don't have a reference for this at hand)), which has been shown worldwide to be adequate to produce an good, competitive school system (maybe add 0.25% since we want to be among the top rank, not just above average).

    If the legislature fails to provide adequate funding, then an automatic surtax is applied to income or property tax. (I know this a bit more complicated than this to avoid pathological cases like the legislature "unfunding" schools to avoid explicitly raising taxes elsewhere and then being "forced by the constitution" to raise taxes for schools, but there's some provision needed here to guarantee the funding is there.)

    Make the 3.75% based on a two- or three-year trailing average of GDP. This is because the amount shouldn't go up and down wildly based on economic conditions independent of the number of students -- their educational needs are the same. Also because that makes it predictiable for all involved. Set the date of when that # is determined such that we have the GDP for the previous year and are far enough in advance of the next school year for budgeting.

  • Stacey Dycus (unverified)

    Aaron- You asked about outside the valley? I've lived in Bend for almost a decade and haven't been represented in Salem by any D's. Moving to a nonpartisan legislature- an initiative idea being floated by Charlie Ringo could go a long way towards giving voice to progressives outside the beltway-- out here just having an R after your name will get you elected. Removing this might force rural voters to look at the issues and the person.

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    How about calling what conservatives are doing the "Regressive Association to Sneak in Tax and Environment Reform Disasters"--otherwise known as RASTERD's.

    Those RASTERD's whine about too high of property taxes, but instead of doing good by the voters their Measure 5 & 50 scheme flipflopped property tax revenues to the point where schools that once received 70% of their budgets from PT's now get 30%.

    And let's talk about the real motive behind Measure 37--to let farms and the timber industry have at the environment. I would like you to spend some time walking through a European forest. It's like walking through shrubs. And lets destroy wildlife habitat so fat Americans can have berries on their McDonald's Partfaits (trademark).

    Get out of here with your conservative stupidity. Go get an education - oh wait, I forget it's too expensive nowadays.

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    For an update on quickly strengthening "Intelligent Design" movement to corrupt school science teaching, see The New Monkey Trial.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    I like the concept behind your first idea, but I am not sure that retired judges will be above suspicion of political collusion (afterall, most judges were first appointed by a politician at some point).

    Perhaps it would be possible to have a computer program redraft legislative boundaries based upon a neutral set of published criteria that could be extracted from census results every ten years?

  • Aaron (unverified)


    I know the Sen. Ringo is working on the non-partisan initiative for the legislative body; I truly think that it is a great idea. However, it will be a Herculean task to get it passed, from his own party let alone the full state.

    Then what are core issues out in central and eastern Oregon that will be easily framed for progressives from that side of the state; to take charge on: fair statewide economic development, irrigation, transportation infrastructure and municipality transit, airport development funds. What is an issue(s) that the 130000+ Democrats in the 2nd CD take charge and lead the state; in a statuary or constitutional change of Oregon law?

    I know a solid problem is that we, inside the beltway; do not ask what is needed outside of it; and then if there is conversation then we frame it for those inside the beltway. This then disenfranchised those outside the beltway from the future process.

    As well, what are the Republicans state senators and reps. proposing from Eastern Oregon and openly stating these ideas? How can you, or other progressives in Eastern Oregon—if you cannot; deliver the counter-message?

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    It's interesting that it was progressives who initially championed the right to initiative petition in Oregon around a century ago. At the time, conservatives argued (correctly) that the US is a republic rather than a democracy. The conservatives championed the idea originally put forward by the founders that "the common man" couldn't be trusted to do the research and make informed decisions.

    Sound familiar?

    The petitioners for measure 34 that I engaged in conversation during their petition drive were hard core, but uninformed environmentalists. Their leaders new what they were doing, but the rank and file did not.

    Likewise the petitioners for the old measure 5 that took control out of the hands of the local taxpayers and gave it to the state.

    We've gotta face the fact that there are huge numbers of folks on both sides that do no research at ll before making decisions that will affect their lives for years to come.

    Here's a quote from Darrell Waltrip, being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on his reasons for supporting Bush in the last election:

    "I believe that, you know, you've got to be a good, honest person, you've got to have integrity and all those good things in order to be a president. And George W., our president, current president, meets all that criteria. He's a man's man. When he shakes your hand, he looks you in the eye and you know that you can believe him and you know you can trust him.

    I'm not a huge issue guy. I know the issues, I know what they are, I know what the American people want to hear. But I also know that you've got to have a good person that's compassionate and caring and wants the best for everybody to be in the White House to get any of those issues resolved. And I love the president."

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    I'm going to remain violently ambivilent about measures--with wildly alternating love and hate for the damn things.

    But I think we should consider the two phases of a successful initiative campaign: getting it on the ballot, and getting it passed. The Tillamook forest initiative is a case in point. We got it on the ballot, but it failed. This is the hardest part for progressives--we can use shoe leather to get things on the ballot, but that doesn't mean we can ads about them on KATU during prime time.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    Seems you suggest we can't even trust the voters to vote for President?

    Voting intelligently is a responsibility some people understand and others don't. Voters are much more likely to connect the dots between cause and effect when they get a chance to vote on things.

    They will get the chance to see the consequences of M37 (we can all agree to disagree on them for now).

    They are already witnessing the consequences of raising the minimum wage.

    Every political decision requires a tradeoff of some sort. Letting voters make those decisions will better enable them to evaluate the consequences of those decisions.

    For those who can't be bothered to read about ballot measures because they prefer Democracy-Lite, move somewhere else.

    In Oregon, the people decide.

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    Ted's writes, "By crowding the ballot, Republicans frame the campaign debate in their favor, increase their voter turnout, and force millions of Democratic dollars to be spent to defeat the thousands that Republicans spend on these ballot measures."

    Having spent most of last year successfully fighting such a measure- ironically promoted by Blaszak's firm- I couldn't agree more.

    I think progressives should use this tool proactively- insurance reform makes the most sense to me on the politics and the merits- but before that, a few words about Democracy Resources' contribution to the 2004 election cycle.

    The truth is that Ted's "progressive" signature gathering company brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue promoting Republican ballot measures that drain progressive resources, hurt Democratic candidates, and complicate the political environment.

    Last year, Blaszak teamed up with the insurance and medical lobby to gather signatures for Constitutional Amendment 35, which was opposed by a broad coalition of senior, labor, consumer and health organizations. (35 would have amended Oregon's constitutional to limit the jury rights of terribly injured patients).

    Don't think that 'tort reform' is just about taking away the rights of families harmed by negligent, severe medical error. What's at the core is a concerted effort to systematically target financial sources of progressive campaigns. Similiar to 'paycheck protection' aimed at unions, this is about creating Karl Rove's vision for a one party America and increasing an already formidable conservative funding advantage.

    If Democracy Resources wants to help progressives, one good place to start would be to stop profiting off the Bush agenda and draining progressive resources during a critical election cycle.

    Charlie Burr

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    The only way to enact campaign finance reform in Oregon is by initiative. The officeholders elected under the current system are not going to change the system themselves and would need in any event to refer a constitutional amendment to voters in order to do so.

    Note that the number of progressive ballot measures has steadily declined since 2000, far more than the right-wing ones. A major reason is that SoS Bradbury and his staff have taken to applying "unwritten rules" to disqualify tens of thousands of valid voter signatures on the basis of "rules" that they create after the signature drive is over. For examples, see ftp://ftp.cirights.org/cir/legal/PlaintiffsReplySuppMemo.pdf. That means that a successful petition drive now requires a huge additional margin of signatures. This generally is not a problem for the well-funded measures of the establishment (such as the medical malpractice limits measure, the abolish SAIF measure, etc.). But it is a problem for grassroots measures with limited funds.

    And every session the Legislature considers dozens of bills to make the initiative process more difficult. Again, this harms only grassroots groups. The well-funded entities simply spend more money and get so many signatures that the new restrictions are irrelevant.

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    Sign me up Charlie. The insurance industry has been virually regulation free since before WWII, and only baseball has less regulation.

    That many physicians are drinking the koolaid of tort reform (which would at best reduce health care costs by a fraction of a percentage point) truly boggles the mind. Meanwhile insurance rates for small businesses and individuals climb at double digit rates annually while insurance company profits do the same.

    The correlation seems pretty hard to ignore.

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    So I'll cool my temper. But it does make me really mad to think that as we have terrible budget cuts, the voters of Oregon wanted Measure 37 to pass with all its subtle detail. Either they hate schools or they don't really understood M37. It will cost us hundreds of millions to implement.

    But here is a more logical measure. Why don't we cap how much donors can give to these Political Action Committees that are running these Measures. Let's stop the practice of allowing huge companies from spending tens of thousands of dollars to circumvent the legislative process and saturate us with Measures that benefit working Oregonians slightly, but benefit Special Interests obnoxiously.

    That goes for Insurance Companies as well. If you try and work against the insurance industry now, you will have a massive up hill climb. Almost a vertical jump.

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    Jenson wrote, Why don't we cap how much donors can give to these Political Action Committees that are running these Measures.

    Sorry, Jenson, can't do that. Supreme Court already said so. Basically, the ruling is that if a given company or industry is under attack via initiative, you can't limit their right to defend themselves.

    In many states, contributions and expenditures by candidates are restricted - but initiatives are not. There's a reason why initiatives are different: they're not actually "electioneering". Rather, they're "lobbying".

    The IRS, for example, considers the voting populace to be the "legislature" when they're voting on an initiative. That's why nonprofits can work on initiatives, but not on "electioneering" which relates to candidates.

    Remember, the right to lobby is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution - "petition the Government for a redress of grievances"

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    Of course, I'm not a lawyer - and I don't even play one on T.V.

  • SteveL (unverified)

    Others have made good arguments for and against ballot initiatives. I would suggest that is the wrong way to approach the issue. Do not overlook Ted's thesis: the Rabid Right conducts a campaign of ideas to attack. Battles are more frequently won when one is on the offense. It is time to attack the Republican's paradoxical positions. I don't particularly care where you take the ideas, but I do care that you put them out under the spotlight and make Republicans answer to the Blue Barrage, rather than allow them to continue to lob cherry bombs at us.

    As another poster said: these ideas need to be budget neutral. That means no "spending requirements" for education--it didn't help in Cali, why would it here. (Can you hear me rolling my eyes?)

    Ideas: - Patient's bill of rights: Include contraception. - Reform the Kicker Rule: Allow for a portion of a matching surplus to be held in a rainy-day fund.
    - Accountability in Salem: When state employees are found to have cheated, partially expose them personally to the consequences. Include fraud, embezzlement, forgery, assault, vehicular manslaughter, etc. - Ethics in governance: Attack the role of lobbyists in Salem. Bar legislators and their staffers from working with lobbyists in Oregon within ten years of leaving the capital. Take redistricting away from the party caucuses (HINT: see also current action in Florida on the topic).

    If you like it, feel free to adopt it. I am already committed to the gills in other projects.

  • LT (unverified)

    Any ballot measure needs a cohesive group behind it and a simple message. If people argue whether alternative 8 is better than alternative 12, the thing will never get approved for a ballot title, much less get on the ballot and pass. Look at the adult adoptee measure--that was basically a grass roots effort.

    I think supporting SB 201 is a start--if 10% of signatures need to be collected before a ballot title is issued, that would cut down on ballot title shopping. Have the group which campaigns to pass the ballot measure be a diff. legal entity than the signature collecting entity--with restrictions on carryover money from signature gathering group to passage group. This could hamper initiativemeisters like Sizemore, but shouldn't hurt grass roots--orig. suggested by the chief sponsor of the adult adoptee measure.

    And support Charlie Ringo's non-partisan legislature measure after what stunts the House majority has already done.

  • Nev (unverified)

    Here's an idea for a ballot measure:

    Government Accountability in Energy Use

    Over the last blah-bity-blah years, energy costs to local governments have increase by XXX%. Technology can and conservation can avoid these growing costs to taxpayers. Measure sets targets for local governments and schools to implement energy conservation measures, become and/or rely on local energy producers (the eastern oregon farmers will love this because it immediately gives them a market for their wind power?), and invest in on-site energy production.

    Local gov'ts need to diversify their energy budget by 10% by 2010; 20% by 2020; and 50% by 2050 (I picked these because they follow the recommendations in Solar Today magazine's recent issue).

    I don't know much about any of this other than we need to get our schools and local governments to start implementing energy efficiency measure--because it's a long-term cost tax payers can avoid, it can diversify the income stream for our farmers and ranchers, it creates more local jobs, and it makes good environmental sense.

    I don't write this kinda stuff or do research on it. Maybe something like this exists right now. But it's an idea...

  • Nev (unverified)

    Another ballot measure might be to require the state to develop a state-run pharmacy for its employees and for individuals on OHP.

    This would allow insurance companies to drop the pharm benefit from the bids given for both OHP and state benefits negotiators. If the state could bulk purchase medications from pharm distributors on a large scale, there could be cost savings to the tax payer while containing costs for public employees (maybe) and keep more money in OHP.

    Again. No I don't have any data but it seems like there could be significant savings for many involved parties. Maybe local governments would opt to join in the system?

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    Thanks Pat for the interest. If insurance reform goes forward, we'd love to enlist your help!

    Jensen wrote: "If you try and work against the insurance industry now, you will have a massive up hill climb. Almost a vertical jump."

    You are right to assume that the insurance industry would spend millions of dollars trying to defeat any initiative that sheds more light on how they set rates and requires open public hearings for rate hikes, but having seen recent (relatively) polling on this, I can tell you this is a very politically viable initiative.

    Think about it- there's not enough money in the world to convince people that their rates are actually reasonable and low or that a little accountability wouldn't help consumers.

    The environment for reform's never been better- health care costs are soaring and there seems to be a new insurance industry scandal each week. Plus, I think there's a growing hunger to take the fight to the other side, whether on this or other issues.

    What would likely happen is this: an insurance reform init would start out polling in the stratasphere, the insurance companies would spend $6-8 million raising doubt in voters' minds on secondary issues (poorly worded, unintended consequences, red tape, ect..), and the init would probably end up passing with 52% to 56%. House Dems could continue using it as winning issue in swing districts and the insurance money spent trying to defeat it would be money not spent beating the crap out of our candidates.

    Comparing this to Blaszak's "tort reform," I believe that it easier to pass meaningful insurance reform than it is to defeat medical malpractice limits.

  • (Show?)

    I like a couple of Vermont initiatives that passed during Dean's tenure as Governor.

    Civil Unions is an easy choice. It gives progressives something to vote for, rather than against, and it restores some rights that otherwise unmarried people (not just gays and lesbians) have a right to.

    The one that's most interesting to me, though, is the School Funding initiative they passed. Measure 60 (back there) took all of the incoming revenue devoted to schools (I think they were still using property taxes), and then apportioned it out to school districts on a strict "per number of students enrolled" basis, no other factors.

    Later the courts had decided that districts could fundraise over and above the amount, but at least the basic budget was distributed equitably.

    I'd love to see that happen in Oregon.

  • Jimmie D. (unverified)

    One problem with a lot of initiatives -- they're drafted by a bunch of tunnel-vision idealogues who don't know anything about drafting law or policy. I'm talking mostly about Sizemore here, 'cause he'd be a lot more of a threat if he actually knew his ass from his elbow when it came to drafting, but grass-roots progressives do it to.

    Maybe progressives can improve our measures by having the legislature do the drafting. Try to pass it in the legislature, and use the initiative as backup. What's the cause? Health care? Education funding? Kicker reform? Non-partisan legislature? Pesticide regulation? Ask some progressive Democrats to introduce a bill and push it through the process. Testify for it, work your legislators, write letters to the editor about it, try to build public support.

    Even if the bill fails, it's been through a professional drafting process and a public vetting, and it hopefully got some supporters along the way. Anything that's short, simple and to the point can be a good ballot measure.

    What progressives really need is funding if we're going to be proactive on initiatives. We've lost some great measures in the past because we were outspent 20-1. If we don't improve fundraising, our wins will be few and far between.

  • LT (unverified)

    Here's a couple of ideas to modify constitutional ammendments. Of course these would have to be framed well enough to get by the skepticism of people I know who vote against all constitutional ammendments unless given strong reason to do otherwise.

    1)Reform Measure 25 which was a legislative referral in May 1996 requiring the 3/5 majority to raise taxes. First, someone should research the actual measure and see if it is true or just GOP hype that ending tax breaks requires the same 60% vote as legislation like HB 2152 (balance the budget with tax surcharge last session). There is no current member of the House who was there in 1996--either went to the Senate or now doing something else. Many young people never had a chance to vote on this and should be given the opportunity.

    2) Kicker reform. Ideas: a)Specify more clearly (esp. dep. on how the Supreme Court case comes down) whether "general funds" are only those dollars collected directly from Oregon taxpayers or include federal money. B) Does it say in the measure that checks must be mailed out in the fall? Can't we go back to the system of returning the money as part of the tax refund process, thereby saving the cost of printing and mailing? c)How about changing the 2% number? Maybe make it 3 or 4%, maybe put the money from 0-1.9999999% in a reserve account and only refund the money over 2% d)Separate the indiv. and corporate kicker. Returning the money to individuals is one thing. But with all their other tax advantages do businesses really need/ deserve this money?

    Of course these would be fights, but they would be progressives (rather than regressives) framing the debate if done right.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    Re taxes and education spending: Like many people, I’ve been wondering about how a better long-term system of state funding for education (and everything else) could be achieved in Oregon. This question, of course, relates to a whole range of tax issues, including: the mix of property vs. income vs. sales taxes, the balance between corporate and personal tax rates, the appropriateness of local levies, property tax limitations, supermajority requirements, state reserve accounts vs. “the kicker,” and I’m sure lots of others.

    For more than a decade, the legislature has done nothing much, and the voters have continued to graft these new silk purses onto this pig’s ear, with no one very happy with the result.

    In looking for a way out, it seems clear to me that there needs to be some sort of negotiated settlement. By that I mean, for instance, we would not be able to create a state sales tax unless voters were assured relief in property or income taxes; voters would not remove the Multnomah County levy without being assured that adequate education funding will come to the County from Salem; we would be unable to do away with the property tax limitation without some way of guaranteeing voters that property tax increases would be restrained. (Personal aside: I’m not necessarily advocating any of these particular changes, but am responding to things that have been suggested but which didn’t garner enough support.)

    This sort of give and take is precisely what legislatures do, and precisely what the initiative and referendum can’t do. In Oregon, we have a requirement that initiatives and referenda “embrace one subject only.” Art. IV, sec 1(d).

    This leads me to conclude that it is impossible for any initiative to give us the solution to this structural problem. Let’s face it: people will vote against taxes. If any serious change requires each element to be approved separately, there’s no chance of the package of changes being accepted as a whole, since every voter will revert to his or her particular preferences on each subject. (Indeed, the right of the voters to accept some and not others is precisely what is guaranteed by the constitution’s single subject rule.)

    The bottom line: there’s no compromise possible through initiative/referendum, and --in my view --no real way out though that route. However, the constitution provides for two other methods that could address the problem: a constitutional “revision,” approved by 2/3 or each house of the legislature and then a public vote, or a constitutional convention, which would require an initiative to create the convention and another to approve the result. Art. XVII, sec 1.

    These two ideas have their own pitfalls, of course, but I don’t think there’s any real solution otherwise. I’d love to hear some thoughts on this, and certainly if anybody disagrees with my conclusion, please have at it.

      • *

    Regarding the question of campaign contribution limits on initiatives: If I’m not mistaken, the rationale for the US Supreme Court disallowing these limits is that there’s no issue of potential corruption. That is, there’s no quid pro quo, in appearance or reality, when someone donates money to a cause, rather than to a person. There’s no access being purchased, no special treatment expected once the election is over, and therefore there’s no sufficient state interest in regulating these donations. In any event, it’s certainly true that regulating these donations is unconstitutional... one of the few bright line rules in campaign financing.

    Thanks for reading, John Mulvey Portland

  • Jonah (unverified)

    civil unions...this actually is an easy question. If you have the cash for more than one, how about something that will help people. Progressives actually care about the people, right. So first, a measure to fund all education. Maybe tax credits for job creation (only good,sustainable jobs, no thanks walmart)

    by the way, If even one state legislator sponsors your bill, state employed legislative lawyers draft it in a way that is constitutional. This is a pretty useful part. It doesn't matter if the legislature actually ever passes it.

  • (Show?)

    Ted asks for ideas for progressive ballot initiatives. But it takes more than a progressive idea to justify an initiative campaign.

    Setting aside: 1) the blatant self-interest of Ted in pushing initiatives (which Becky and others pointed out), and 2) the irony of Ted calling for "progressive" ideas when he profitted hugely by circulating President Bush's cruel-hearted tort reform measure (M35) -- I agree with half of Ted's argument. The other half is a bad policy prescription for Oregon.

    The first half of the argument is that the initiative process will not disappear, and Democrats should use it not shun it. The second half of Ted's argument is that intiatives are "cheap & easy" and should be used copiously to make state policy.

    The first half is right. While I strongly favor reforms to the initiative process, it's not going away. We need to use initiatives strategically to shape the dialogue and to force conservatives to play defense, instead of our side being on defense all the time.

    Initiatives that can viably meet that strategic purpose are much more rare than Ted would admit. (That's part of the problem, and explains why Ted whored himself to the Republicans this cycle.) Further, as a policy-making vehicle -- especially when amending the Constitution -- initiatives are terrible. Remember the 2000 election when we had 27 ballot measures? I don't think most voters felt they could make intelligent decisions on all those measures. And they shouldn't have to. That's why in a republican form of government you have a legislature.

    There's a place for the initiative process. But when it's flaunted as "cheap & easy" (a sad phrase that brings to mind prostitutes; but then I repeat myself in describing Ted) it undermines our legislative branch. And I'm sure the founders of the initiative process would not condone money having become its central feature. As a law-making process, there are many disadvantages to initiatives, relative to the legislative process.

    Debating progressive ideas is great. But any discussion of a progressive ballot initiative should focus on the strategic aspects of the campaign it would entail.

  • Ted Blaszak (unverified)

    Dear Joel and Charlie,

    Hi guys, I’ve known you for quite some time, we go pretty far back. We have good mutual friends and have worked together on campaigns.

    On this web page you have called me a “whore” and not a true progressive. You have done this because we disagreed about medical mal practice reform / tort reform. And because you are angry at me for putting the issue on the ballot last year.

    We could argue about the issue, about its merits. I could explain my position and you could explain yours. You could even try to convince that I was mistaken. And maybe I would change my mind.

    But you didn’t do that. You didn’t act like adults. Instead you took cheap shots at me.

    You took a rare public opportunity to somehow punish me for not being in complete agreement with your political views. You called me a whore.

    Tell me was I a good whore when I

    Built shanties and staged sit-ins to get companies to divest from South Africa?

    Or when I gathered the signatures to raise the minimum wage in Oregon?

    Or when I marched and staged demonstrations to disarm nuclear weapons?

    Or when I was arrested and Rocky Flats Nuclear facility protesting the burning of plutonium by products?

    Or when I volunteered at Jobs with Justice, KBOO, Sierra Club, Loaves and Fishes?

    Or when I helped organize workers in their union campaign?

    Or when I worked on Diane Rosenbaum’s campaign, Tom Harkin’s, Charlie Ringo’s, Tom Potter’s, or Howard Deans?

    And who have been my clients since I’ve started my business:

    Save the Library, Save the Forest, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, Back ground Checks at Gun Shows, Publicly Funded Elections, SOLV

    And am I a good whore when I pay my staff $10.50 an hour because I believe in a living wage even though I could get by paying much less.
    Guys when you personally attacked me in a public fashion it was not trivial, it’s a very serious matter. Many of our mutual friends read this web page. You are attempting to shame me. I don’t take this matter lightly.

    Perhaps you could do us both the dignity of at least talking to me directly personally to tell me how you judge my behavior before launching such a public and venomous personal attack. My phone number is 503-236-7208, I look forward to hearing from you both.

    Respectfully, Ted Blaszak

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    You committed the sin of bringing forward an issue that diverted (earmarked) money from trial attorneys during a presidential election.

    Nevermind the argument that M35 would lead to better access to healthcare, "progressives" have to remember where their bread is buttered.

    You went off the reservation.

    You bit the hand that feeds you.

    (insert betrayal cliche of choice)

    Don't bother explaning what you did because you are not allowed to think for yourself AND consider yourself "progressive".

    Benedict Arnold!

  • (Show?)


    I didn't call you a whore, but charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to circulate the med mal proposal- which Goli Ameri, Dino Rossi, G. Nethercut, George W. Bush, Jim Zupanic all used to beat up Dem candidates- is hardly "progressive."

    If Joel Shapiro is pissed, from my understanding, it's because he discussed the campaign with you early on and was told that "you would never work on something like that." Obviously that's not what happened.

    I'd be happy to call you; I think reasonable people can disagree on this issue- but I think that you are intentionally glossing over the fact that promoting and profiting off right wing ballot measures has consequences for other campaigns, as you mention in your opening statement.

  • Chris Sheesley (unverified)


    One of the qualities of being progressive that I hold dear is tolerance for disparate opinions. The tort reform question is a profoundly complicated topic on which astute people can readily reach different conclusions.

    Ted has done a lot for progressive causes. A fact I can attest to from 20 years of familiarity with his work.

    The recent trend of this conversation threatens to obscure the initial, solid point about fielding progressive measures in Oregon. I'd be more interested in reading about that topic than a skirmish within the Blue camp - which mostly nourises the Reds.

  • Darren Mitchell (unverified)

    As a recent immigrant from AR., I absolutely love the fact that I live not just in a blue state, but this particular state. It is wonderful, to say the least, to see so many people discussing (not just yaw-yawing from their soap boxes) politics on all the levels of government.

    Having said that, this column has turned in to something on the order of what I would expect in AR. Making personal attacks in a political forum should be something left for the ignorant and/or Republicans.


  • shane (unverified)

    I initially jumped on this article to read about how Oregon Democrats Fail to Compete with Republican Ballot Measures and (in the fashion of Blue Oregon) read the intelligent commentary that follows.

    Instead of the usual progressive discussion, I discover a few folks making personal attacks in lieu of logical remarks.

    I have known Ted and his company off and on for several years now and find it appalling that any one who has met him or worked by his side would consider him a “whore” or that he would make a decision not lead by his heart

    I find it a truly sad day when people who consider themselves “progressive” can’t look beyond the rank and file view points within the party. Let alone realize that by holding personal vendettas and not agreeing to disagree on these extremely complicated issues (whether it’s gay marriage, medical malpractice reform or the initiative process in general) we miss the ultimate problem, that every time we take these wedge issues on a personal level we are falling victim to “Roves” ultimate plan……………. to split the Democrats and galvanize the Republicans.

    So lets get off the subject of school yard name calling and personal vendettas and get back to ways we are going to win up and down the ticket across Oregon.

  • Stacey Dycus (unverified)

    I guess if Joel and Charlie are to be belived, progressives must tow Their line to be in the "in group" (thank you willie smith for pointing out to me how much politics is like high school.)

    Ted-- I'm probably not part of the in-group either because even though I have years of progressive organizing (GBLT, pro-choice, economic justice), I'm working for Senator Westlund now (yes, working for an R and a good moderate one at that, hate me for it if you want Joel).

    The problem in Oregon is that strict partisanship divides us. If we are going to effectively utilize initiatives to build our base, turn out our voters and elect progressives, we need to think about issues that unite people, not divide us. Perhaps there are some win-win issues and ways to cut the electorate differently.

    Someone earlier wrote about tax reform and how tax increases get voted down. What if tax reform meant a tax cut for every working Oregonian?

    Currently, Oregon relies on the income tax for over 80% of it's general fund and it's the most unstable form of revenue (and the reason we're experiencing budget cuts). The only way we are going to get a fair, adequate and stable tax system in Oregon will be to cut income and property taxes for individuals. Wouldn't it be great for us to be the ones handing out the cash to the voters for a change?

    If it's coupled with a consumption, value added or business activity tax, and increase in coroporate minimums along with the elimination of some current tax breaks, we could improve the stability of our revenue and avoid these budget battles each session.

    I think being a progressive should be more about solving problems and finding solutions and less about enforcing ideology. Left wing fundamentalism is not a lot prettier than right wing extremism when it resorts to intolerance and name-calling. Let's agree to respect the human dignity and ideas of every individual in this forum even, especially, when we disagree.

  • Phillip (unverified)

    The arguement going on here is a perfect example of why we are losing ground in oregon. I mean the name calling, not the initiatives.

    This is really silly. Someone is a "prostitute" because they disagree with you on one subject while supporting you on the vast majority?

    Having known Ted for years I could defend him and tell you what a wonderful progressive he is, but honestly, i'm offended that I should have to.

    Republicans are laughing at us now. Thank you. It wasn't loud enough before.

  • (Show?)

    John Mulvey re: taxes & schools

    You've hit the nail on the head WRT the problem with the past approaches to school funding: the search for fund sources and raising taxes. But I do think there is an initiative opportunity by turning the problem on its head: the focus has been on the wrong thing: source of funding; it should be on the amount of funding.

    My proposal above for an initiative to set school funding at 3.75% of OR GDP focuses on the spending level needed to achieve the world competitive educational system Oregonians have said they want since 1991, but that we don't have. We have never spent at the level to attain our goal.

    The core initiative idea is: set the funding level. But leave it up to the legislature to represent our state overall interests in either cutting elsewhere to make room or raising taxes to avoid those other cuts. After all, there really isn't much need to debate the amount every year since the educational needs of children aren't changing every year and our desires for a world-class system are undimmed over more than a decade.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    Hey, thanks for responding, William!

    I guess my thought is this: I think part of the problem has been too many rigid rules that lock up funds in the state constitution --the kicker, mandatory minimum sentencing and the property tax limit come to mind, not to mention all the takings claims that will be coming through now. I’m inclined to strip more of that away, rather than add to it.

    I’m assuming a 3.75% of gdp formula would represent an increase in spending from current levels? (Tell me if I’m wrong... I'm sure you've done the math.) Looking at the last few budget cycles, instituting a mandatory spending requirement for K-12 would create a nightmare for higher ed, health care, mental health... all the things left in the shrinking discretionary budget.

    What would your initiative do to avoid this problem?

    John Mulvey

  • (Show?)

    I want to apologize to Ted for my earlier post. I was offended by the statements in his guest column. But I regret my choice of words in this public forum. I’ve called Ted a few times to discuss this with him, and have yet to reach him, but I want to post a public apology. I also want to put the disagreement in context.

    It is important that people know the history behind this dispute. Ted wrote that we should have discussed this before airing differences in public. In fact, well before Ted decided to circulate M35, he & I had a lengthy discussion on the substance and politics of tort reform. At the end of the conversation, Ted said to me, “I get it. I wouldn’t carry that petition.”

    I’m not saying Ted didn’t have a right to carry M35. And I don’t take anything away from his past progressive actions. But having done good things in the past does not give anyone a blank check for the future. And Ted’s past progressive activities do not change the fact that M35 was a conservative measure that hurt the efforts of progressives.

    I don’t believe all progressives should think the same way, and that we can’t have disagreements. But there are some core values that constitute what being a progressive means. Supporting tort reform goes against those core progressive values. Can someone who opposes the right to unionize and bargain collectively be considered a progressive?

    This is not about high school cliques, enforcing litmus tests, or “going off the reservation.” If anyone can argue that tort reform is progressive, I’d like to hear it. (And I’ll be happy to discuss the specifics of M35 with anybody.) But Ted & I had that conversation, and we agreed at the time that M35 was not progressive.

    M35 was part of an effort by conservatives to deny rank-and-file people the ability to use our court system when they have been injured. The goal of tort reform is to prevent corporations from being held financially accountable for injuries they cause that ruin people’s lives. Any concerns about consumer safety will disappear. Politically, tort reform is part of Karl Rove’s stated strategy to “de-fund” the Democratic party.

    So I welcome a conversation on what it means to be progressive. I apologize to Ted for my choice of words. And I applaud all the progressive work he has done throughout his life. But Ted went back on his word to me. And he was wrong to put M35 on the ballot. It was not progressive. It undermines the rest of his column on how easy it is to do progressive ballot measures in Oregon. That was the point I was trying to make in my post. I felt it was my responsibility to speak out. But I regret that I let my personal experience on this influence the way I made my argument.

  • (Show?)

    Good on Joel to do the bigger thing and apologize for his word choice, but it begs the question: Is an apology forthcoming from Ted for Measure 35? I'd like to hear it, or failing that, a coherent justification for carrying tort reform to the ballot.

    It's probably very tempting for people who don't see that kind of money regularly, to fall in with the Republican rush to demonize lawyers and other progressive professionals, but unless PPD and other law enforcement starts locking up the "executive class" for hard time when they commit fraud or some other malfeasance, damages are the only remedy to make sure these very rich men and women are not above the same law that governs the rest of us. And just because your mind can't conceive of a way said damages could climb into the millions, doesn't mean it's not justice in those rare cases when it does.

    So supporting a limit to the amount of damages juries can award plaintiffs for torts suggests to me that someone wants businessmen to be above the law. That polluting our environment, or bringing other harm to regular people, shouldn't carry with it some kind of punishment. One nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All?

    And capping something else, such as the percentage share an attorney takes for successfully litigating such a case, begs the comparison to profitability in other businesses. I'd love to see Gene Ray have to forgo his pay and pay me out of his pocket for sucking the life out of those 400 shares of Titan I own - when's that gonna happen? CEO accountability reform now!

    I'm sure Ted's a lion of progressive action, and didn't deserve to be called a whore, but Measure 35 STILL deserves an explanation not founded on bullshit Republican spin, and deserves it from Ted.

    And I look forward to seeing that explanation posted on this thread.

  • Stacey Dycus (unverified)

    I agree with John that there are serious concerns about setting mandated spending levels. According to the Quality Education Model, we already KNOW how much money SHOULD be going to schools.

    One of the maiin reasons that it's not are other voter-passed measures with mandated spending eating up lots of money. We voters have spent $4.3 billion at the ballot box: Measure 11, mandatory minimum sentencing is now driving Oregon’s largest construction project- building prisons- it’s cost us a billion dollars. Other expensive measures include 44, requiring inmates to work, measure 66 state parks, and measure 99 in-home health care.

    I'm sure many of us voted for these measures. Who doesn't want to put away bad guys and create more state parks? But, if each of those ballot titles had read “Voting yes may reduce payments to schools, human services and public safety,” would these measures have passed? Maybe.

    Rather than address only one service: schools- Oregon needs to look at how it can provide all of the necessary services. We can't fund schools at the expense of people with disabilities, senior programs, OHP, etc. No matter how much we would like to.

    To put forth a school-only proposal is creating instant divisions within the progressive community that includes advocates for other human services. Anyone who worked on Measure 30 saw what happened when seniors were split from the coalition becuase of the elimination of deduction for medical expenses.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    The funny thing about tort reform is that it may be the most "progressive" reform the Bush Administration backs.

    What a dilemma.

    It is "progressive" because it employs limits and price controls in a market relationship, purportedly to achieve greater social utility.

    The (mostly free) market transactions between tort victims and tort attorneys is sacrificed in order to de-incentivize the frivolous litigation burdening the cost of providing broad access to affordable healthcare.

    Like any good "progressive" proposal, it seeks to remedy the symptoms (e.g., lawyers making huge profits; malpractice insurance skyrocketing) rather than deal with the root cause (i.e., lack of "loser pays" system providing no accountability for attorneys gambling on million dollar verdicts).

    When viewed from 30,000 feet, it's downright amusing.

    But just like the neo-cons realize they must throw a few bones to the religious right to keep the base energized, progressives can't afford to oppose a key funding partner in their drive to remain politically meaningful.

  • (Show?)

    To Stacey, Phillip, Darren, Shane and others who have posted advocating conciliation.

    I'm all for getting along, talking from different viewpoints and other touted "progressive" values, but it's also useful to accept that there are objective facts that are not amenable to compromise, nuance, or hugs.

    The fact is, that if "tort reform" as proposed by the Republican think tank boys were enacted, there would be virtually no diminuition in skyrocketing insurance premiums or in skyrocketing insurance company profits. All reputable studies point to a fraction of a percentage point in savings, using this tool.

    The people pushing "tort reform" at the top have a clear goal in mind and it has been openly stated by some of those who gain more by honesty than by obsfucation. Their interest is first to defund the Democratic Party by attempting to limit the income of plaintiff's attorneys, as these attorneys are a major source of funding to the party. Their secondary interest is to keep punitive awards from actually being punitive, or to rephrase, to keep damages reliably below a threshold at which a plaintiff or group of plaintiffs could actually harm a defendant enough to force behavioral changes or cessation of business.

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