GOP again overturning the will of the voters

Over at the Grumpy Forester, Jack K. is blogging about the GOP leadership in the House pushing through a bill to overturn Ballot Measure 3 - which was approved by 67% of Oregon voters in 2000. The measure relates to a reform of the property forfeiture laws in Oregon.

The commentary by this new bill’s supporters makes it clear that they think that the majority of us who voted for Measure 3 were either too stupid to understand the issues involved or were incipient crooks anxious to protect our belongings. Unfortunately that wasn’t really the case.

...what is most disturbing about this is that the running commentary makes it clear that this slap-down against the voters is only tangentially about combating drug crime. It’s about money; in effect it’s just another ramification of the disastrous taxing strategies and successful property tax initiatives that have brought Oregon to the place it is today. The combined dope-slaps of increased state responsibility for funding things once covered by property taxes and the recent recession have put the state in a difficult position where something has to give in the budget battle, and part of that something has been drug enforcement...

Check out the piece, and (since Grumpy Forester doesn't allow comments) discuss it here.

  • glenlivid (unverified)

    Interesting. They must have read this article in the Seattle Times. Wow. Nothing says honesty in the police department like drug money and property seizures. rimshot

    If Oregon really wants to differentiate itself from the rest of the country, in addition to medical marijuana, and gay marriage, we should come to the conclusion that we don’t agree with the federal policy of incarcerating people for smalltime drug busts. As it stands now, according to Human Rights Watch:

    "Contrary to popular perception, violent crime is not responsible for the quadrupling of the incarcerated population in the United States since 1980. In fact, violent crime rates have been relatively constant or declining over the past two decades. The exploding prison population has been propelled by public policy changes that have increased the use of prison sentences as well as the length of time served, e.g. through mandatory minimum sentencing, "three strikes" laws, and reductions in the availability of parole or early release.

    Although these policies were championed as protecting the public from serious and violent offenders, they have instead yielded high rates of confinement of nonviolent offenders. Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes. Only 49 percent of sentenced state inmates are held for violent offenses.

    Perhaps the single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national "war on drugs." The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased twelve fold since 1980. In 2000, 22 percent of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges."

  • (Show?)

    in terms of the politics involved, funny that on this issue, the wingnuts want to overturn a majority vote of the people. but with M37, which is a badly flawed piece of work that needs massive amounts of clarification, suggesting that the legislature get involved is decried as anti-democratic.

    once again, they want to eat their cake and have it, too! (and they want most of your cake as well.)

  • Kfish (unverified)

    I guess we can look forward to more of kind of nonsense in Oregon again.

  • kfish (unverified)

    They'll take your cake, and you'll have to sue them to get it back!

  • glenlivid (unverified)

    I think this is pretty telling:

    "Chief sponsor Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, a retired police detective and the former head of the Linn-Benton narcotics team, said drug-fighting efforts across the state were dealt a major blow by the ballot measure.

    His former command, known as VALIANT, has since shut down because of lack of funding, he said."

    A retired cop that doesn't get to play "CODE NAME: VALIANT" anymore.

    "Olson said voters were bamboozled by the ballot measure, which was financed in part by out-of-state interests, including billionaire George Soros, a supporter of drug legalization."

    I wonder if he really said "bamboozled", because, I've got to tell you, nothing says "old codger" like that word does.

    "Those that brought Measure 3 sold you a bag a goods that stunk," he said. "The 67 percent of voters that voted for it clearly (did not know) what they were voting for."

    67 percent of the voters don't know what they are talking about, but codgery ole VALIANT sure as hell does. Please. Who should I trust more, a retired NARC agent, or 67 percent of the voters?

  • jeffk (unverified)

    Ah, insight! I see what the Rethug strategy for funding is - get someone else to pay for things they support, and screw the rest.

    So rather than, say, increase taxes to pay for law enforcement, they want to go after "those" people, and not only make the poor poorer, but add the insult of stigma to the injury of, essentially, conviction and punishment without trial.

    But, hey, that would just be an opportunity for them 'liberal and activist' (read 'intelligent and informed') judges cause problems.

    I hope the Oregon Senate does the responsible thing and puts Measure 3457 in the compost where it belongs.

  • Becky (unverified)

    I think the meth problem changes everything related to drug crimes. Meth users are causing huge crime problems that are not inherent in many other forms of drug abuse. So we can't just carte blanche stop locking up drug related offenders. I'm sick of having my car broken into and things stolen from me so these creeps can buy their drugs. But I know prison doesn't help them. Neither does confiscating their property. It only makes them more desperate. I think we should give these peole the option of going to residential drug treatment centers - places where they can get cleaned up and receive the therapy they need to have any chance of getting away from the stuff. As for those who are bringing the ingredients across the border, however, they ought to be locked up for life. They're destroying our society. If you want to know what this stuff does to a society, go check out Tijuana. I was there 20 years ago, and then went back a couple months ago, and I could not believe the difference. It was heartbreaking. Meth related crimes are serious crimes - not private crimes or "personal choices" like smoking pot, for example. We have to tackle it hard or we're going pay dearly.

  • JTT (unverified)

    glenlivid: 67 percent of the voters don't know what they are talking about, but codgery ole VALIANT sure as hell does. Please. Who should I trust more, a retired NARC agent, or 67 percent of the voters?

    You definitely have a point and I agree with you, but you have to be careful when employing this type of reasoning...

    Remember these are the same voters that passed Measure 37 and Measure 36 for that matter.

    I would have to strongly agree with Becky and also affirm to jeffk that we DO have civil forfeiture in Oregon and we should be going after these drug bums and meth cooks, but we should also employ the approach that someone is innocent until proven guilty and that due process is necessary to protect fairness in our judicial system. That’s what Measure 3 was about and what HB 3457 tries to circumvent.

  • adam j. smith (unverified)

    Civil Asset Forfeiture is part of the economic engine of our flawed and corrupt "war on drugs." The federal law allows local police agencies to keep 85% of the value of any property they can get their hands on (it goes straight into the locals' budget) when they bring the case to the feds. And, as mentioned, the case doesn't even have to be pursued in the criminal sphere for your property to be assumed "guilty."

    This type of set-up leads to situations like the killing of Donald Scott in Los Angeles where local police decided in advance that they wanted his ranch. Liberalized forfeiture requirements lead directly and inexorably to property siezure for profit.

    There are countless other stories, mostly less sensational and involving people with far fewer resources than the late Mr. Scott. Motorists who are pulled over having their cash taken, cars impounded on the say-so of "confidential informants" and on and on.

    And no, Becky. meth doesn't "change everything" any more than crack "changed everything" regarding the lunacy of criminally enforced prohibition as a national drug policy. Meth is the bathtub gin of our generation's version of prohibition. During alcohol prohibition - long after it was universally regarded as a failure of policy - the argument went that if we re-legalized alcohol, then everyone and their mother would be killing themselves drinking home-brew. The truth is that Prohibition insures that the most prevalent substances (especially in poorer communities) will be the ones that are cheapest, strongest and easiest to make or smuggle.

    Before alcohol prohibition, we were a beer and wine-drinking country. During Prohibition, we became a nation of hard liquor drinkers. After repeal, we slowly went back to the softer stuff.

    Do you know anyone who really really wants to use crank but won't because it's illegal? Because they can't find it? Hah.

    Our efforts to find ways to make drug prohibition work pushed state and federal legislators to pass more and more draconian sentencing laws, and the impact has been the world's highest per capita rates of incarceration, and exactly ZERO drug-free communities. Hell, we're spending around $100 billion per year on this "war" and i doubt that we have a single "drug-free" high school.

    Having said that, leaving prohibition in place but unenforced is maybe the worst of all possible worlds. And there is no doubt that under any scheme, behavior that is destructive to the health or property of others cannot be tolerated and must be punished.

    In the end, we need to totally re-think the ways that we want to deal with substances and the desire of humans to alter their consciousness. Giving the state the right to take your stuff without even charging you with a crime, and putting the onus on you to "prove" the "innocence" of your property, is not part of any solution that we should be endorsing.

  • Becky (unverified)

    Adam -

    Maybe you haven't seen a meth addict, but I've seen a lot of them. If the stuff was legal, they'd still be in the same dire situation. It's unbelievably addictive and devastating. I remember the crank thing - knew people who took it and knew people who got hooked on it. But it wasn't as bad as this stuff. If I understand you, you're saying if softer drugs were legal (i.e. pot?) people wouldn't turn to meth. That's nuts. Nothing gives a person as long a high as meth, as far as I've ever heard, and if you're into adrenalin rather than deep thoughts, no softer drug will do it for you like meth. Plus it makes people literally lose their minds. You can't look the other way on a drug like this, even if you set aside the theft that it leads to. It's got, for lack of a better word, a demonic hold on people that makes them forget every decent human impulse. I nearly lost my brother to it, I've lost a cousin to it, and I've lost a best friend to it. You're naive if you think it's no different than prohibition. I'd rather my brother was an alcoholic any day than a meth addict.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    My guess is that almost all meth is cooked in rented space. Besides, a house is not worth much after it is impregnated with toxic meth byproducts.

    Another guess: if less harmful drugs like pot were not criminalized, there would be less use of meth, crack, and heroin.

    The old forfeiture law stunk to high heaven.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Before I was a real estate appraiser, I directed alcohol and drug treatment programs both here in Oregon, and in California. In 1988 I attended the first White House conference for a drug free America.

    From the start, the "war on drugs" has been totally bogus. From the Harrison Act that started things 90 or so years ago, with its racist emphasis, to the Reagan "war" - the so called "war" on drugs has really never been about drugs except to those poor folks caught in the middle. It has been about banning mind altering substances used by racial minorities (but not about European/American's drug of choice - alcohol), it has been about a new assignment for the military after the Berlin wall came down, it has been about sending a generation of young African/American men to jail (then with a felony conviction they can't vote), and it has been about class warfare. At one point when I followed this, Lincoln Neb. got more money per capita for drug treatment than Oakland Ca. - another form of "pork barrel". (I don't mean treatment is not necessary, but rather that political power determines where the money goes versus need.)

    A drug is a drug is a drug, and addiction to drugs is a medical problem. I have seen the irony of the Elks club having an anti-drug committee that meets at the back bar. I have been a speaker on drug issues to a Kiwanis club that meets at a bar. I see long lines at drive through caffine overdose establishments (you know, expresso). I see over-eaters here there and everywhere. We should be treating the excess use of all drugs/food, etc. as medical problems. But we treat some forms of drug use as criminal problems.

    If we were really serious about crafting a solution about drugs, according to William F. Buckley it would involve a legalization of drugs, regulation of where drugs could be purchased, and available medical treatment for those who are addicted to drugs. I agree. Imagine a State "drug" store that sold safe versions of mind-altering drugs that aren't tainted with poisons, sold at a price that covered costs plus money that would go into a treatment trust fund. Imagine nursing staff at the "drug" stores that could check on the health of drug users, and pro-actively get those with addiction problems into treatment. Would that increase the drug problem? No. People who want to use drugs seem to do so with or without government sanctions. We would save billions of dollars decicated to the criminalization of drugs in the law enforcement arena, courts, prisons, etc.

    I could go on and on about what type of system would make sense to deal with mind-altering substances, peoples craving for them, and how to deal with that part of the population that becomes addicted. But I won't.

    I will just end this with my understanding of why we don't have such a sensible system in place today. In a word: Religion. We have moralized on the human body to the point where biologically normal situations are "good and bad". And people that use some types of drugs are then bad according to those who moralize in this manner.

    Ah, if only I had a real magic wand.

  • (Show?)

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    Steve, I'm pretty sure I agree with you more-or-less completely, but this statement needs explanation:

    "At one point when I followed this, Lincoln Neb. got more money per capita for drug treatment than Oakland Ca."

    Well, yeah, duh. Lincoln is much smaller than Oakland. Given that there are some costs that escalate with greater populations, and some costs that are fixed, the smaller places will have a greater per capita expenditure. To illustrate the point, imagine a town with only one drug addict. That town has the highest per-capita expenses anywhere - because even with one addict, they gotta build a clinic, hire a staffer, and develop a program. Another town, with a thousand addicts would be fine with the same one clinic, one staffer, and one program. But, the per-capita cost would be much less.

    Simplistic example, true enough, but ya gotta be careful with your per capita numbers....

    (Another example: it's why rural schools generally spend more per student than urban and suburban schools. Smaller schools, but they still need a building, a superintendent, a principal, an HR director, etc. etc. etc.)

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Kari - I should have said "far greater". If I recall, Lincoln population about 200,000, got as much money as Oakland, population of almost 400,000. Economies of scale don't explain that.

  • (Show?)

    Hey something I agree with ya'll on. In fact wasn't Dan Meek involved in that signature drive?

    Even some of us conservatives think it is a travesty to be able to confiscate your property without actually being found guilty of a crime.

    However this is not the first time that republicans pushed to overturn the vote of the people. Good O'l Ben Westlund was right out front to overturn term limits even though it recieved more votes than any citiizen initiative in the history of the state of Oregon... AND has continually polled at 69 to 70 percent year after year.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    There are many issues where serious conservatives and progressives willing to buck the liberal establishment [did I really use that term?] have similar positions. While I support government action, I want it to for a good reason and to minimize intrusion into personal rights.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    I wonder if anyone has made the connection between the politics of fear and the errosion of civil liberties? In regards to this conversation, Amend 4, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, extend the conversation to the Patriot act, same. The easiest method of control of a population is the instilling of fear and then the proposal of an antidote. Fear organized crime, fear drugs, fear terrorists, fear guns, those rights "guaranteed not granted" by the government start going away. If you stand still for it regarding one "class" you're standing still for it for all of us. Freedom is a risky and sometimes dangerous state of being, if you want to be free, then jealously safeguard all rights, not just the ones you "think" apply to yourself, when you see anyone's rights being infringed, stand up. Then you will have acted with principle. (How many of you have just said, well, there are rights and then there are those other ones...uh, guns, or whatever?) How do you propose to keep the 1st Amendment safe, is it somehow "special"?


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