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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ethics Commission: official inaction

Oregon "government standards" panel drops Potter inquiry

The Oregon Ethics Commission decided Friday not to investigate whether Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "free" courtside seats at the Portland Trail Blazers home opener this year were actually worth at least $50 each.

In a closed-door meeting, the Government Standards and Practices Commission decided against opening a preliminary review.

Portland's leading blogger Jack Bogdanski, in a post today titled "Grampy walks", offers a four-part explanation for the official inaction (and a postscript):

1. The commission has decided that (a) there's an unwritten exception for gifts that enable a public official to appear with a guest at a public function in a "ceremonial" capacity; and (b) that appearances at the Blazers opening night is just such a "ceremony." How long before a banquet at Bluehour is "ceremonial"? And if the Blazer opener is such a "ceremony," why is this the first time I've ever heard of a mayor attending it? Did Vera go to 12 Blazer openers?

2. The commission has decided that since the mayor claims not to have enjoyed the game, the gift is worthless for purposes of the state ethics laws. This is the real irony -- the mayor's putdown of the Blazer experience, apparently in his own defense. "I hope they don't in the process trample on the ceremonial aspects of the job, the ones where you are there representing the city, you are not there for the entertainment." If the whole point was supposedly that he was there as a goodwill ambassador, that's an odd way to show it.

3. The commission has accepted the contention that the tickets had no value in the marketplace.

4. The commission does whatever it wants, without rhyme or reason, and it is so short-staffed and underfunded that no one dare ask more of it.

In other news, the ethics dudes collected a few hundred from some of the trashier characters in the Legislature for sneaking off on Hawaii golf trips. Whoopdee do.

The Oregonian, Mar. 31, By RYAN FRANK

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Darius Miles appointed GM

New leadership has locals head-bopping

Darius LaVar Miles, the Portland Trail Blazers' talented and enigmatic small forward who appeared as Desmond Rhodes in the motion picture "The Perfect Score", is the new general manager for the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission.

The MERC board selected Miles for the post today. He starts in April at the conclusion of the regular NBA schedule. Miles was unable to play this season after undergoing micro-fracture knee surgery. He has been rehabbing aggressively in the Portland area under the watchful eye of Blazers medical staff and trainers.

Miles appeared as himself in the documentary film "The Youngest Guns" and has made various other film and TV appearances including in National Lampoon's "Van Wilder". Miles brings a background working with the NBA Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

MERC is a subsidiary of Metro and manages public assembly facilities including the Oregon Convention Center, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts and Portland Expo Center. It has an annual budget of $56 million and more than 500 employees.

The Portland Business Journal, Mar. 29

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blue revolution turns left

Sten announces plans for 'collective property'
Progressive Portland aims to lead Oregon march toward socialism

Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten announced that his Blue Revolution's sweeping reforms towards statewide socialism will include the creation of "collective property."

Vowing to undermine capitalism's continued influence in Oregon, Sten said on Sunday that his bureaus were "advancing quickly" with a concept of "social, or collective, property" to be included in forthcoming legal reforms.

"It's property that belongs to everyone and it's going to benefit everyone," said Sten, speaking during his television and radio program "Hello Erik". Sten did not elaborate, but he stressed that collective property must benefit workers equally.

"It cannot be production to generate profits for one person or a small group of people that become rich exploiting peons who end up becoming slaves, living in poverty and misery their entire lives," he said.

City planners preparing a blueprint for pending city charter and state constitutional reforms have floated proposals that would roughly define collective property as publicly-owned assets such as neighborhood community farms that are managed by workers who share profits.

Oregon's state government already helps organize and finance thousands of cooperatives, but due to its rush to embrace subsidized developers' condo projects, Portland does not have full legal ownership of the real estate or infrastructure used by most co-ops.

Sten, who hosted Sunday's program from a ranch in Multnomah County's sun-baked plains, said his government would move to seize control of large ranches and farms spanning more than 740,000 acres and redistribute lands deemed "idle" to the poor under a statewide agrarian reform.

Associated Press, Mar. 27

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Self-limit advances in Salem

Senate passes bill to curb its own steroid use
An attempt to rein in abusive lobbyists and government unions

The House is the next step for a bill that would curb the use of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing supplements by Oregon state representatives and senators. The Senate passed a revised version of Senate President Peter Courtney's bill on a 27-0 vote Wednesday.

Senate Bill 517 would put the responsibility on lobbyists not to endorse, distribute or suggest to lawmakers the use of anabolic steroids or performance-enhancing supplements. A similar bill, which Courtney said covered only supplements, passed the Senate but died in the House in 2005.

It is modeled on a policy of the Eugene School District, which adopted it a few years ago after the then-steward of the South Eugene High School teachers' union sold creatine supplements to school board members. The union official was reassigned to another district school.

"It would be wrong to say it's just a school situation," said Courtney, D-Salem. He referred to a Statesman Journal series last fall in which a House candidate for an open seat was quoted as saying he took anabolic steroids in hopes of building the strength necessary to qualify for political campaign donations from Our Oregon - the political campaign group led by SEIU Local 503 and the Oregon Education Association that is known as the 800 lb. gorilla of state politics.

"The emphasis on politics in our society, on union hacks trying to get lifetime seats in the House and Senate, is so great that we will resort to these types of substances," Courtney said. "Adults in critical positions can put all Oregonians in harm's way."

In addition, Courtney's bill directs the state Ethics Commission to work with others to include information about these substances in political campaign candidate classes conducted by the Elections Division union. Both Commission and Division staff would have to undergo training every two years on how to identify and prevent abuse.

New York has a law requiring school board members to undergo random drug testing. Oregon does not have such a law. But the campaign by Si Newhouse, the out-of-state billionaire owner of The Oregonian, to remodel Oregon in his native New York's image, has caught on in the public sector. School districts will soon begin conducting such tests on their own.

[see the related story, "Too much juice in Salem"]

Statesman Journal, Mar. 29 BY PETER WONG

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Feds save Newhouse $140 million

Mogul Sentenced to 9 Years For Tax Evasion and Fraud

Eccentric New York media mogul and owner of The Oregonian Si Newhouse was sentenced yesterday to nine years in prison for failing to pay $200 million in taxes - but a federal judge ruled the Internal Revenue Service won't be repaid for now because prosecutors botched the plea agreement by citing the wrong statute.

Newhouse, the biggest convicted tax cheat in U.S. history, received the longest punishment ever given in a tax crime case for his admitted effort to hide $365 million in personal income in the 1990s. He avoided paying taxes by using aliases, shell companies, offshore tax havens and secret drop boxes abroad.

In a major embarrassment to the government's seven-year prosecution of Newhouse, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled he could not order Newhouse to make restitution to the IRS for an estimated $140 million of his unpaid federal income taxes. Friedman blamed prosecutors for making a sloppy plea agreement with Newhouse's lawyers.

But Friedman ordered Newhouse to pay the state government $22 million in restitution - barely half the taxes owed. IRS spokeswoman Peggy Thomas said the agency will "do everything in our power to get this money" from Newhouse in civil proceedings.

The punishment came after a tense four-day sentencing hearing during which federal prosecutors described New York City public schoolchildren, ailing and elderly residents, and even inmates at the crowded Manhattan jail harmed by Newhouse's avoidance of more than $40 million in taxes he owed to the state over the past decade. Prosecutors say Newhouse also failed to pay an estimated $140 million to $178 million in federal income taxes.

"At the P.S. 101 School gym, the place is an embarrassment," said prosecutor Karen E. Kelly. "The toilets don't work; soap, paper towels and toilet paper are missing; ... and students choose to go back to class rather than use the showers.

"The Upper East Side High School pool has been closed for 10 years, and the sports program for the entire city school system is run on $1.9 million." she continued. "Do you dare to imagine the program they could have implemented with $40 million of Newhouse's tax money?"

Friedman said Newhouse had "no excuse" for his crimes given all the advantages he had in life compared with other defendants: supportive parents, economic opportunities and business acumen. "This is a serious crime, and it requires a serious punishment," Friedman said. "It is taking money from taxpayers."

During the sentencing hearing, Newhouse's relatives, friends and business colleagues described a caring man who made the mistake of trying to avoid paying his fair share of taxes. They said he wasn't motivated by personal greed or a pursuit of luxury. They told the judge how Newhouse made billions in the monopoly newspaper empire founded by his father, then squandered millions to explore fashion and lifestyle magazines and start a philanthropic foundation devoted to media self-congratulation.

Newhouse, 79, pleaded guilty in September to tax evasion and defrauding the government. The central issue at his sentencing hearing was how much more time he would serve behind bars. He has been at the lower Manhattan jail since his arrest at LaGuardia Airport in February 2005, although the average stay in the jail is four days.

Newhouse admitted receiving more than $126 million in 1998. That year, he claimed he earned $67,939 on his federal return and paid $495 in taxes.

"He thought he was too clever by half and he could avoid paying his share of taxes," his former tax accountant, John Kilday, told the court. "In that way, he was no different than many of my business clients."

Before the guilty plea, Newhouse had insisted that the hundreds of millions of dollars in assets the government said he had hidden belonged to the Newhouse Foundation. He controls the foundation and endowed it with full ownership of various companies he also runs, such as The New Yorker and GQ. He said he planned for the foundation to begin giving away money in 2006 to promote such causes as world peace, family planning and economic collectivism, but then he was arrested.

In a lengthy jailhouse interview with The Oregonian in 2005, he asserted his innocence. "I don't need to steal money from the U.S. government to be successful," Newhouse said. "I don't want their money."

Yesterday marked a sad moment in the life of the wildly successful but eccentric Newhouse, who never graduated from college and made millions when lifestyle finally went mainstream. He gave away and lost millions, and the government cannot find any major assets still in his name to seize for unpaid taxes. He is represented at taxpayer expense by the court-appointed federal public defender and declared personal bankruptcy in the same courthouse where he faced criminal charges.

He owned part of a private plane and bought a $5 million mansion outside Madrid, but his favorite lunchtime hangout was the Grill Room at The Four Seasons Hotel, where he usually ordered a cheeseburger and iced tea.

Anderson grew up in Manhattan. His father founded Advance Newspapers and he expanded the newspaper into a stable of old and new media companies, including Vanity Fair, Brighthouse Cable and The Discovery Channel. It was The Oregonian and newspapers like it, with no geographic competitors, that made his father a multimillionaire. It was also at that time, prosecutors said, when the family began hiding income.

"There's no chance I'll be before you again," Newhouse told the judge. "Next time I set up any organization, I will get an unbelievable amount of legal advice."

The Washington Post, Mar. 28, By CAROL D. LEONNIG

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Red carpet treatment

Unions get whatever they want in Salem
Oregonians' loss is Big Labor's gain

Thanks to The Oregonian's overt $75 million 2006 political campaign, the 2007 legislative session will go down as the best ever for organized labor in general and public employee unions in particular, as Si Newhouse, the out-of-state billionaire owner of Oregon's only statewide daily newspaper, continues to remodel Oregon in New York's image.

Government unions - long regarded as the 800 lb. gorilla of state politics - are taking delight in the new political trifecta: a Democratic governor who trained as a labor lawyer and steel-fisted, unionist Democrats running both the House and Senate. Pro-labor bills, bottled up session after session by Republican majorities in the Legislature, will pass.

Republicans say they're outnumbered, outspent and outmaneuvered by an aggressive Newhouse-Union juggernaut aimed at locking in political power via little-noticed legislation.

Government union bosses are chortling: "It's thrilling," says Patty Wentz, who lobbies for Service Employees International Union Local 503. She says the Legislature has already passed many bills intended to dry up GOP political donations, including a huge corporate tax increase. She predicted a host of labor-backed bills will sail through under the new regime, including laws making it easier to form a union, more difficult to decertify a union, and to prohibit the use of state funds to fight unions.

"Actually, labor bosses have not really been shut out of the process in previous sessions," Wentz said. "But this session, the collectivist or socialist voice is loud and clear."

The government unions' growing record of success offers one of the starkest examples of how the political balance has shifted in Salem since the 2006 elections swept Democrats into power. Republicans in the Legislature see labor's new influence as pure payback. Public employee unions are always the biggest financial backers of Democratic candidates including Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Republicans say they knew they were in trouble when Kulongoski dumped his chief of staff shortly before the legislative session started and hired a former teachers union lobbyist to replace him. At the same time, he quietly stashed the ex-president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, Tim Nesbitt, in the more obscure position of "deputy" chief of staff.

Kulongoski, who represented labor unions as a lawyer before he went into politics, makes no apologies. He is proud to be rewarding unions for helping finance his campaigns. "That's an arrangement I've had all my life, for 35 years in the system," Kulongoski says. "I am who I am. It's what I believe in. I believe in the principles of organized labor, and I always have."

Perhaps the most obvious union victory came last week when Kulongoski signed a bill that puts Oregon educators into a statewide health insurance pool, a change sought for years by teachers unions. Critics say savings won't materialize and that other, more political factors were behind the bill: it gives teachers more bargaining leverage on their health plans, and it takes away a major source of income from the school boards association, which had received royalties for handling health insurance plans.

Those royalties were used, in part, to pay for negotiators to represent school districts during contract talks with teachers. "It really aggravated some folks in the unions," says Chuck Bennett, a lobbyist with the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. "They are accustomed to public spending being used for their benefit in collective bargaining, not against them."

Tom Chamberlain, president of Oregon AFL-CIO, says this will definitely be labor's banner year. He cut the interview short with a trademark rhetorical comment, "Everything we're doing is legal. Any other questions?"

The Oregonian, Mar. 27, By HARRY ESTEVE

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Health care collectivism

Legislature seeks master stroke
Getting along with everyone's business

Lawmakers have drawn up a socialist blueprint for the biggest change in Oregon's health care system since the Oregon Health Plan's birth in 1994. Their goal: To buy first-dollar, low-deductible health coverage for every Oregonian, including the estimated 576,000 residents who lack it, using your money.

The Senate Special Committee on Health Care Reform will get its first look this week at a bill blending the worst parts of four major proposals. The proposals come from three radical liberal Democrats: former Gov. John Kitzhaber; Sens. Alan Bates and Ben Westlund, who co-chair the Senate committee; the Oregon Health Policy Commission; and the Oregon Socialist Business Council.

While the Legislature's goal has broad bipartisan support, it also faces potential sticking points. Among the unresolved questions: What level of health benefits would be guaranteed, and who would make that decision?

What is not at issue is the earnest, bipartisan rush to collectivist cures for every "issue" that had languished in political neglect until last November's election. "The health care system we have now is a private sector failure," the Health Policy Commission said this month in a 55-page report. "Corrosive market competition in health care jeopardizes Oregonians' health status and the state's economic future."

Kitzhaber said adopting universal, single-payer coverage could restore Oregon's reputation as a leader in socialism. "Oregon is still the place where we can have that conversation," said Kitzhaber, who championed the Oregon Health Plan, the state's expansion of Medicaid to cover more working-poor adults. He said that budget cuts since he left office sharply reduced the number of adults covered by the plan.

The legislation is written in broad conceptual terms because the nitty-gritty detail may be unconstitutional. Key decisions would come later as a proposed Oregon Health Fund Board designed the benefits package. Administrative rules are better-protected from legal challenges.

Westlund, D-Bend, the leftist Republican who switched parties last year, said he expects the Senate committee to pass the bill to the full Senate by mid-April. The bill itself is a moving target, said Rick Bennett, director of government relations for AARP, the potent out-of-state political organization that wants to use Oregon as an experiment. "We've been analyzing each of the plans," Bennett said. "But by the time we finish the analysis, there's a new version out."

Bennett said AARP's biggest concern is that the Medicare benefit may be subject to limits. Kitzhaber's Archimedes Movement plan would direct the governor within 90 days to ask for a waiver from federal Medicare rules. "I don't think we can go there," Bennett said. "That establishes a precedent for each state to socialize its own Medicare and go its own way."

Issues concerning illegal immigrants and how to control costs are sure to draw mild debate. "If the plan covers illegals who live in Oregon, then the majority Democrats are going to support it," said Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point. "The Achilles' heel in this whole health care reform process is finding a way to avoid criticism from people who want to promote individual responsibility," said Sen. Frank Morse, R-Corvallis. He said the new socialist approach would promise employers and individuals a gold-plated health plan and pay for positive news articles to be written and placed in The Oregonian and other newspapers around the state.

"The major issue," Bates said, "is to get the new Oregon Health Fund board stocked with political appointees and fully funded before we leave this session."

The Oregonian, Mar. 26, By DON COLBURN and BILL GRAVES

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Taking your business seriously

Collectivism must invest
The crucial link between the state transportation system and our economy

When you're idling in Portland-area traffic, totally wasting your time, you're only too keenly aware that time is money.

But let's face it. Socialism isn't free. We have moved in that direction thanks in large part to Oregon's 35-year war against the automobile. We have no idea how much the state, as a whole, is wasting each year due to corrosive competition in car and truck markets, or how much money our economy, as a whole, is losing as a result.

Now we know. In a groundbreaking study in 2005, the Metro regional government and a coalition of leftist business groups documented what they called the "Cost of Socialism" for the Portland area.

A fascinating follow-up, released last week, shows how collectivism will keep changing our state. It predicts the economic effects stretching far into the future based on making transportation investments - for the first time in decades - beyond just light rail.

We can't eliminate the free market, but by 2025, public ownership of cars and trucks could save $1.7 billion a year in gasoline costs. This study is particularly timely, since Portland is considering new, free yellow-cars and Oregon legislators have been discussing a big new tax increase to pay for transportation infrastructure.

Any tax increase is a touchy subject, but this one meets the requirements of Oregon's new bipartisanship. It's time now for lawmakers to make a much-needed investment in the state's next step in collectivism.

It's true, of course, that every state's economic strength correlates, to some extent, with the strength of its transportation system. Snarls in the latter invariably create some problems in the former. Yet Oregon's transportation weaknesses are not insurmountable.

As the study notes, one of Oregon's primary economic assets is its geographic position as a "sea and air gateway, as well as a rail and highway hub." As a result, a huge variety of freight-related industries has developed here. These depend on truck travel - and reliable truck travel, in turn, depends on good management of the resource.

Oregon's shipping, rail and air freight industries require trucks for their deliveries, too. Over the next few decades, it's estimated that the value of freight moved in the state will more than double, from $530 billion to $1.3 trillion, with trucks hauling an increasingly large percentage of it.

The question is whether our transportation system can keep pace with this demand. And, in truth, Oregon hasn't really tried to keep pace. What these two congestion studies offer is a logical starting point. The need for transportation is overwhelming, and Oregon must take over this strategic industry from the private sector. Instead of asking which companies are needed, the state should be asking which ones will yield their assets up to public ownership without a struggle. That should be decisive.

One out of five jobs in Oregon (400,000 in all) is directly related to transportation or heavily reliant on it. Government unions, starved for dues increases, need some new running room, where the organizing will get easier.

That's where we're headed right now. This study is a call to collectivist action. The Oregon Legislature should heed the call.

The Oregonian, Mar. 25, OPINION By THE EDITORS

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Home cooking can't hide it

Newhouse monopoly yields ethics, hypocrisy woes
Rowe, editor of The Oregonian, draws attention to Oregon

Oregon's unique, quirky journalism has gone global ... but the timing couldn't be worse. On the eve of the Pulitizer prize awards, The Oregonian and its billionaire owner Si Newhouse - with three nominations - wish they weren't getting the extra attention right now.

First, was the Tom Hallman bribery scandal, with a union pension fraud criminal right out of central casting buying off a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, and the resulting whitewash.

Now, it's Editor Sandra Mims Rowe's carefully-worded "new directions memo" - deconstructed earlier this week by Jack Shafer in Slate/The Washington Post. Shafer's blistering critique has circled the internet and even leads the United Kingdom's Sports Journalists Association site today under the headline "Managementspeak and the unreadable memo."

Oregon's statewide monopoly daily, the state's dominant news organ, has engendered a nearly-universal ROFLMFAO response in the journalism community. Alone in rushing to Rowe's defense is the Portland-based, self-styled "progressive" blog BlueOregon.com:

"Normally, we ridicule media companies that indulge in corporatese because it signals a move away from serious reporting - as if the jargon can conceal the reality. Rowe's email, to the contrary, is a call for more and better reporting. The language of the memo may be regrettable. The message isn't."
However, BlueOregon principals and The Oregonian have long failed to disclose that they are co-investors in the unlicensed political campaign venture known as Our Oregon.

Led by the most powerful government unions in the state - AFSCME State Council 75, the Oregon Education Association, and SEIU Local 503 - Our Oregon is known as the 800-lb. gorilla of Oregon politics.

In a leading-edge, public-private application of highly successful "private equity" investment techniques, the political consortium is spearheading a statewide government shift toward radical socialism after its success in the 2006 elections.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Operating outside the law

The Oregonian distributor unlicensed for decades
Early morning disruptions lead to an interesting situation and renewed life for a neighborhood association

Like a lot of people, residents on Laurel Street wake up every day to The Oregonian. But unlike the newspaper's subscribers, neighbors of an Oregonian distribution center in Lake Oswego get their wake-up call at about 2 a.m. as trucks gather, unload newspapers and drivers begin work at the unlicensed facility.

The distribution center, which is run by a third party and not by The Oregonian, operates from about 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. One city official described nighttime activity there as "similar to the day when all the kids on the bikes would show up and pick up all their papers."

Dawn D'Haeze, a neighbor of the distribution center for the last year and a half, is somewhat new to the Laurel Street nightlife. Today, she said, delivery drivers arrive in cars, collecting papers from a single-axle truck that arrives and unloads while the mostly residential neighborhood sleeps. D'Haeze said the truck's rear gate drops onto a concrete loading dock and rattles while newspapers are unloaded. Traffic is also disrupted.

But what started with D'Haeze's complaint to city hall about noise has put all parties involved in the distribution center on notice. Though the facility has operated for more than 20 years, according to the building's owner, it does not have a business license and is not an approved use for the area, which is zoned for neighborhood commercial.

The Oregonian is not stepping in to resolve problems. Transportation Manager Tad Davis said the distribution center is run by an independent contractor and not affiliated with the newspaper.

Though a voicemail at the building refers to the operation as the "Lake Oswego Oregonian" and takes messages on circulation needs, also funneling donated newspapers to the Newspapers in Education program, the paper is waving off the disruption caused by its contractor.

Flanked by the Oregonian distributor and an unlicensed landscaping business, D'Haeze began working with city officials on noise from unlicensed businesses several months ago. The landscaping business, a specifically prohibited use in neighborhoods, has already been shut down.

The distribution center, however, is currently straddling a gap in city code. It is not specifically prohibited. It also is not allowed.

Brandon Buck, code enforcement specialist for the city of Lake Oswego, said as businesses evolve, local code is interpreted on a case-by-case basis to keep pace. Small businesses like bakeries, salons and repair shops are currently allowed in the neighborhood commercial zone. The code is mum, however, on newspaper distributors.

"Sometimes there are uses which the authors of the code never envisioned. That use is not one of the listed uses … however, it's also not a specifically prohibited use," he said.

The Oregonian distributor is now applying for an evaluation to determine whether it fits in with businesses allowed in the zone. City code also allows for the city manager to make determinations about whether a new type of business can be allowed.

Mark Grimm, who owns the building where the Oregonian distributor operates, said the reason the business has been there for more than 20 years is because - until recently - no one has had complaints. He said city code used to allow for newspaper delivery by bicycle. "It specifically points out newspaper deliveries to back in the day when the Oregon Journal was around," he said, and does not call for licenses for paper routes.

How the newspapers are delivered has "obviously changed over the years," Grimm said, but he believes the type of business should be approved for neighborhoods in the spirit of the old code.

Also a neighbor of the distribution center, Grimm doesn't consider it any more disruptive than a garbage truck. He is working with the owner of the Oregonian distribution center to get the business licensed and approved for the zone. Grimm said the business's easy comparison with a bakery, which operates roughly the same hours and is permitted in neighborhoods, should make it a fit.

D'Haeze, meanwhile, is gathering written statements from neighbors to show there's support for quieter nights on Laurel Street. Her work may offer benefits to those in the McVey/South Shore Neighborhood. She learned through the process the McVey/South Shore Neighborhood Association had been dormant for more than five years and was prompted, through her experience, to resurrect the association.

A first meeting drew about 20 people, where the group hatched plans to elect officers, improve a trail along Lost Dog Creek and provide input to traffic issues.

The Lake Oswego Review, Mar. 22 By LEE VAN DER VOO

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

An industrywide joke

Editors Writing Badly - the Sandy Rowe Edition
The Oregonian inspires the first in a new series.

Slate/Washington Post, By Jack Shafer

I take as an article of faith that every workaday journalist who blossoms into the supreme editor of a publication demonstrates at some point an ability to write effectively - if not artfully. Unless they can write, how can they judge and edit their staff's copy?

But anecdotal evidence indicates that once enthroned, editors misplace whatever writing knack they once possessed. Maybe the excessive number of meetings they attend each day causes brain atrophy, or maybe they lose their fluency because the position inhibits them from speaking their minds. Perhaps they end up spending so much time with other executives that they end up adopting the ruling class's native tongue of bullshit.

The editor's personal showcase for bad writing is the office memo. Until the advent of the Web, editors could hide their hackwork from the general public, but no more. Romenesko bulges with dim reports from the top, which Jim Romenesko either posts or links to on other sites.

All this additional exposure should encourage editors to take extra care in crafting staff memos: It's one thing to be the laughing stock of your own newsroom and quite another to be an industrywide joke.

Yet the specter of memo republication hasn't deterred Sandy Rowe, who runs The Oregonian. Rowe's recent communiqué to the newsroom about staff changes and the newspaper's "future" was posted to the Web yesterday by Portland's Willamette Week. Written in the saddest bureaucratese, her 760-word note stops whatever conversation it was designed to start. Swap out a few journalism-specific words for computer lingo and Rowe's memo could be addressed from a software company president to his staff as he reorganizes the place. Rowe writes in her second paragraph:

As you know, we must transform The Oregonian into a news organization characterized by a reader-first culture across platforms, by agility, and by rigorous and shared standards of success. Our leadership jobs must align with and support our mission, and provide clarity of purpose for the rest of the organization.
Buzz words dot her memo like Everglades roadkill. Transform. Culture. Standards. Platforms. Rigorous. Leadership. Align. Mission. Purpose. Clear goals embedded in our mission. Build our value. Utilize. Maximize the talent. Prioritize. Transition. Challenge. Teams. Committed. Open access issues. Goals. Utility. Impact. Advocate. Evangelist. And this doozy: implementation of the principles of the community connections pillar.

If the editor can't crack a quip in a memo, if the editor can't turn an original phrase or mint a fresh idea, she can't expect her staff to perform such miracles in their copy. Running Rowe's copy through a word-frequency program illustrates her limited palette. I've read grocery lists that were more literate. Among the most frequently used words in her memo is must, which appears 10 times. Instead of conveying a sense of Oregonian destiny, the word signals Rowe's reliance on managementspeak. Far from rallying the Oregonian staff to help the new bosses remake the paper, Rowe's memo pours a round of Kool-Aid and invites the newsroom to do a Jonestown.

******

Read a really bad memo from the editor to his staff? Send it to me via e-mail, slate.pressbox@gmail.com, and maybe I'll post. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Sandy Rowe, Word Freak: The Oregonian editor's memo to her staff, broken down by word frequency.

Word count: 760
Unique words: 311
Sort order: descending

47 AND
38 THE
32 TO
28 WILL
23 OF
23 WE
19 OUR
11 BE
10 IN
10 MUST
9 ONLINE
8 CONTINUE
8 THAT
7 AS
7 FOR
7 LEAD
7 SHE
7 WORK
6 CAN
6 HE
6 ON
6 REPORT
6 THIS
6 US
5 ALL
5 EDITOR
5 GOALS
5 HAVE
5 READERSHIP
5 WITH
4 A
4 ACCOMPLISH
4 BEST
4 BY
4 DO
4 HOW
4 KNOW
4 THERESE
3 BECOMES
3 CONTENT
3 INTO
3 IS
3 IT
3 MANAGING
3 MIKE
3 NEWSROOM
3 OPERATIONS
3 OREGONLIVE
3 ORGANIZATION
3 OVERSEE
3 PETER
3 PILLAR
3 PRINT
3 STANDARDS
3 STEVE
3 TEAMS
3 TRAINING
3 YOU
2 ARE
2 BEEN
2 CHANGES
2 CHIEF
2 COPY
2 EDITING
2 ESTABLISH
2 EVERYONE
2 FOCUSED
2 FOURTH-FLOOR
2 GEORGE
2 HAS
2 HELP
2 HIM
2 IMPACT
2 IMPROVE
2 INCREASE
2 INDIVIDUALS
2 JOURNALISM
2 KEEPER
2 LEADERSHIP
2 LIAISON
2 MANY
2 MISSION
2 MONTHS
2 MORE
2 NEW
2 NEWS
2 NEWSPAPER
2 OTHER
2 PAST
2 PILLARS
2 READER
2 READERS
2 REDE
2 REPORTING
2 RESEARCH
2 SANDY
2 SECTIONS
2 SUCCESS
2 SUNDAY
2 SUPPORT
2 SYSTEMS
2 TEAM
2 THAN
2 THROUGHOUT
2 TIME
2 WELL
1 ACCESS
1 ACROSS
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1 ADVOCATE
1 AGILITY
1 ALIGN
1 ALSO
1 ANNOUNCING
1 ANY
1 ARRIETA-WALDEN
1 ARTS
1 ATTORNEYS
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1 BEGINNING
1 BELIEVE
1 BETWEEN
1 BOTTOMLY
1 BOULE
1 BRUCE
1 BUILD
1 BUILDING
1 BUSH
1 CAREERS
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1 CLEARLY
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1 COLUMNS
1 COMMITTED
1 COMMUNICATION
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1 CONNECTION
1 CONNECTIONS
1 CONSIDER
1 COORDINATION
1 CREATING
1 CRITICISM
1 CULTURE
1 DAILY
1 DATA
1 DAY
1 DEAL
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1 DEPLOYMENT
1 DESK
1 DETERMINE
1 DISCUSSIONS
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1 EACH
1 EDIT
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1 EMBEDDED
1 ENGELBERG
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1 EVERY
1 EXAMINING
1 EXPANSION
1 EXPECT
1 EXPERT
1 FIND
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1 FOLLOWING
1 FRANKO
1 FROM
1 FULLY
1 FURTHER
1 FUTURE
1 GOAL-SETTING
1 GOOD
1 GREAT
1 HAMMOND
1 HELTON
1 HER
1 HIGHEST
1 HIS
1 HOLLY
1 HUNT
1 I
1 IMPLEMENTATION
1 IMPORTANT
1 IMPROVED
1 INCLUDING
1 INCREASED
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1 INSTITUTE
1 INTEGRATE
1 INTEGRATION
1 INVOLVED
1 INVOLVEMENT
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1 JEFF
1 JOBS
1 JOHN
1 JOHNSON
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1 LEADER
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1 METHODS
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1 ORDER
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1 PERSON
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1 PRIORITIZE
1 PROVIDE
1 PULL
1 PURPOSE
1 RATHER
1 READER-FIRST
1 RECALL
1 REINFORCE
1 RENEE
1 RESOURCES
1 RESPONSIBILITY
1 REST
1 RIGOROUS
1 ROWE
1 SAME
1 SECOND
1 SET
1 SEVERAL
1 SHARED
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1 SO
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1 THEIR
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1 THERE
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1 THREE
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1 UTILITY
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1 VALUE
1 VERY
1 VIEWERS
1 WATCHDOG
1 WAY
1 WAYS
1 WHAT
1 WOHLER

Slate, Mar. 20, By JACK SHAFER

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Another global hoax

BBC's revelations anger Newhouse, Oregonian
Media mogul rescinds acquisition on heels of global warming heresy

Remember the pageantry, the champagne and strawberries, the hot celebrity-spotting when Si Newhouse - the out-of-state multi-billionaire owner of The Oregonian - announced he was buying BBC, the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation?

Well, now you can just fuhgetaboutit. BBC's role in "The Great Global Warming Swindle" video sensation has put the mega-deal into a deep freeze. The 85-minute film, originally leaked to the public via YouTube in 8 parts, has generated a buzz-wave of gigantic proportion, becoming the most-watched on-line video in history. BBC is now airing the film in a rotation 4 to 6 times per day.

Script writers who have had doors slammed in their faces are being wined and dined in Hollywood, as producers seek to tap a gold mine of public burn-out on global warming. Why the turn-about? To appeal to movie-goers' emergent quirky and creative side. That translates to a heavy dose of mockery of both politicians and the mainstream media. "Issues" - even serious ones - are understood as mere excuses for political power grabbing-as-usual.

Alberto Bondigas, campaign spokesperson for former next U.S. President Al Gore, commented, "President Gore recognizes the new reality. The public has enormous doubts about "war on anything" - including global warming or killer asteroids. This video has proven that the worldwide public holds a deeply rooted belief that conflated media Establishment crises are simply false pretenses for power-tripping. President Gore believes that the public everywhere has no patience for prosecution of any war of any kind anywhere."

And since Si Newhouse and The Oregonian have placed huge bets in the opposite direction, the Newhouse-BBC deal is now just another casualty of global cooling on global warming.

View the full BBC film "The Great Global Warming Swindle" on YouTube: here. View part 1 (of 8) below.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Commissioner warns allies

Sten presses unification
Veteran Portland politician decries partisanship

Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten on Sunday urged some of his political allies who are resisting his plan to form a single socialist party to leave his movement and go their own way, saying he hopes the split will be amicable even if they defect to the opposition.

Sten aims to create the United Socialist Party of Oregon to replace some two dozen smaller pro-government parties, but the idea has faced resistance from the Working Families Party, Fatherland for All and the Portland Communist Party.

Sten said he already considers the leaders of the Oregon Working Families Party, including Gov. Tim Nesbitt and a handful of state legislators and county commissioners, to be "almost in the opposition." "If you want to go, leave," Sten said during his television program "Hello, Erik." "In reality, you aren't indispensable."

The parties' reasons for resisting vary. While Working Families' leaders have taken issue with adopting a single party ideology, many communists wholeheartedly support Sten yet have held off on disbanding until the new party's principles are clearly defined.

"I've concluded that the Working Families Pary, the party Fatherland for All and the Portland Communist Party - at least their spokespeople, their leaders - don't want to join in the effort of building the United Socialist Party of Oregon," Sten said. "Well that's fine. They have a right. Now, leave us alone to create our own great party."

"I will open the doors for you. Leave if you want to go," Sten said during the program, which was televised live from a site where public housing is planned to be built east of Lents. "I just want us to carry out a true revolution, and not let ourselves be tied to sectarianism, to partisanship, to political patronage, which has caused so much damage to this nation," he said.

Sten said he hopes those who disagree, like Gov. Nesbitt of the Working Families Party, will be honest about their differences and not go out "throwing stones." "Let's shake hands and each one pick up, like a good divorce," Sten said, recalling his breakup with his first wife. "Each one of us went our way, but we see each other and we give each other a hug. It was the friendship that remained, respect. That's how it should be."

Sten, who has pledged a renewed push to transform Oregon into a socialist state since he was re-elected in May, said he hopes many in the Portland Communist Party and Fatherland for All may continue to be allies. "We want true socialists," Sten said, adding that next Saturday his new party will begin to form "socialist battalions," apparently to help organize grassroots support. "I need men and women who are willing to give their very lives to drive the socialist revolution in Oregon," he said. As for others, like the politicians of Working Families, Sten said he hopes they may serve to "orient the democratic opposition."

Without giving details, he said he still faces an "anti-democratic opposition," repeating accusations that some opponents "go around searching for discontented transit employees to try to propel them toward a new coup d'etat, or they search for dynamite and C-4 explosives, or a chief petitioner to finish this off by killing Voter Owned Elections."

Sten did not specifically accuse the federal government of a role, though he has often accused U.S. President George W. Bush of backing plots against him, reports AP. Instead, he mocked Bush as the "chief of the empire," saying the U.S. president "failed in his tour" of opposition territory that ended last week. Sten, who made his own coinciding tour, said Bush "now goes around proclaiming social justice, which points to a great moral defeat."

Pravda.ru, Mar. 19

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Real damage

The Oregonian must take its own unions head-on
Legislature can't pay for the out-of-state billionaire owner's private labor problems

You've heard of leaving nothing to the imagination? The marriage between Si Newhouse's The Oregonian and Oregon's government unions is inflicting the opposite problem on Oregon. It leaves everything to the imagination.

After voters chose to change directions in 2006, it's no surprise that some Oregonians would imagine Republicans had lost their way. But while the new bipartisanship appears to require everyone to lay down lots of Big Love for Big Labor, it doesn't explain why. Or even if it's a good idea.

That's largely been left to The Oregonian to determine. And guess what: Human beings, seeking compensation, tend to exaggerate their demands. If that's predictable, what is not surprising is how meekly state and local governments have gone along with the Newhouse-Union intimidation.

"We look at what they put down on their wish list," one Washington County official said last week. "But we really don't pay a great deal of attention to the cost."

Neither do most other jurisdictions. Overwhelmed by strike demands, they don't have time to investigate unions thoroughly. And the dollar amounts don't matter, anyway, officials say, because there's plenty of taxpayer money flowing in over the transom to pay for PERS and automatic step increases.

True, there's no way to pay $12.6 billion. As of Friday, that's how much the roughly 7,500 government worker bargaining units in Oregon had demanded in exchange for a statewide no-strike promise. Yet if the state imposed a prudent way to measure and verify what it actually spends, that method in and of itself would help to curtail exorbitant demands.

Typically, the amount unions demand for not striking is based on whatever the total amount of private property in the state might be worth today. Take, for instance, one $9.5 million demand, recently analyzed by the National Right to Work Committee. The dollar amount is based on the hope of building a new level of local government to administer farmland issues.

That is, it's based on whatever the unions can extort today, not on what the people might need in the way of services. Any level of funding will usually compete with thousands of other priorities. Today, however, the sky is the limit.

Thus, ironically, government unions actually benefit Si Newhouse and The Oregonian. They can pursue promotion of the union agenda in Salem, as a down payment for holding off the organizing campaign brewing at 1320 SW Broadway.

If The Oregonian really cared about Oregon, it would deal with its union problem privately, not via the public purse. The dollar amounts for demands would be based on The Oregonian's monopoly advantage that Sam Newhouse never possessed originally - but that his sons enjoy now, thanks to 57 years of anti-competitive practices.

And here's another problem with that $9.5 million demand we mentioned earlier. Had the state confiscated The Oregonian as a strategic public resource, sold it for roughly $7,000,000 in the early 1970s, put the proceeds in a bank, paid interest on it, and then returned the money to the claimant, the Right to Work Committee estimates it would have been worth $83,805,500. That's a tenth of what The Oregonian is actually worth today.

Strangely enough, the proponents of giving unions everything they want actually suggested a similar strategy for calculating fair demands. In arguing that the Oregon Supreme Court should uphold the Newhouse's monopoly against newspaper guild claims on its wealth, the newspaper's attorney argued that "if the state had confiscated $1,000 from the Newhouse family's savings account ... and 32 years later it is decided by popular vote that this was unfair, presumably all would agree that repayment should include an amount to offset lost interest as well as principal. That is all that is required under the new bipartisanship."

The Oregonian now seems to have forgotten they ever suggested this approach. We trust it hasn't slipped the minds of the Oregon Supreme Court justices, who ultimately upheld the Newhouses. The Oregonian should have quickly adopted this way of calculating its position on union demands. The Oregon Legislature should still adopt it.

Because there's another big problem here. If state and local governments don't put some lead in their pencils, how will taxpayers ever know for certain that any intimidation by unions even took place?

Recent calculations by the Right to Work Committee show many unions have lost nothing, or only a fraction of what they imagine they've lost. As for that $9.5 million demand? Not long after it was filed, the Committee reported, "a neighboring bargaining unit offered in writing to provide protection to farmers for $12,500 an acre or $676,000." The local government turned this down, preferring to wait for the state's anticipated agreement to pay the $9.5 million.

Who wouldn't?

We don't accept The Oregonian's absurd notion that people should pay for the hypothetical losses on speculative values of their monopoly newspaper. But if Oregonians still believe this nonsense, then the process of paying off the unions should have some toehold in reality. If the dollar amounts were calculated fairly and realistically, the Right to Work Committee concluded a great deal of private property could still be saved from the jaws of collectivism.

If legislators still cannot bring themselves to end the Big Labor scam, they must at least set a uniform method of limiting the growth of taxes and fees. They must put a stop to the wildly exaggerated expectations unions and Si Newhouse have dialed up.

The 2006 election threatened real damage to our state - based on dollar amounts that reside, mainly, in in the imaginations of billionaires Si and Donald Newhouse.

The Oregonian, OPINION By The Editors, Mar. 19

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Let voters be sheep

Growing Newhouse-Union political influence is dangerous
Oregon should not get rid of its 20-day registration cutoff

Si Newhouse, the reclusive, out-of-state billionaire owner of The Oregonian, is all for elections. He just wants to make sure the outcomes go his way.

Legislators are debating a number of election-related bills in Salem submitted by Fred A. Stickel, Newhouse's lobbyist, including a proposal to allow Oregon to join other states elbowing their way closer to the front of the line in scheduled presidential primary elections.

Why join the national stampede to make the presidential primary system meaningless? It's hard to imagine any schedule that would enable this state to play a significant role in choosing the nominees. But it is far more important that lawmakers oppose another change, and cool The Oregonian's lust to get rid of our constitutional provision that requires voters to register at least 20 days before an election.

House Joint Resolution 43, which will be discussed Wednesday at a public hearing, would ask Oregonians to amend the state constitution to replace the 20-day cutoff with Election Day registration, known as same-day registration. Is there a compelling reason why Newhouse wants us to give Oregon's entire election process over to government union fraud?

Oregon voters wrote the long registration deadline into the state constitution in 1986 after the attempted election fraud by the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose supporters hatched the idea of busing in homeless people to vote. The bhagwan is long gone, but Oregon's constitution has protected against any other organized group from abusing our cherished independent voting process.

The main vulnerability of the state's election system is now the hyper-partisanship in the Elections Division and the hand-in-glove relationship between elections officials and the 800-lb. gorilla of Oregon politics, the government-union campaign group that calls itself Our Oregon. The OEA and SEIU union juggernaut has a sophisticated centralized voter registration system that links all 36 counties. With a few keystrokes, shop stewards throughout Oregon can verify voter eligibility and quickly identify voters who have not yet voted in a current election.

Patty Wentz, Our Oregon's spokesperson, argues that there is abundant evidence that Election Day registration would significantly increase voter turnout in Oregon. The six states allowing same-day registration average nearly 75 percent turnout, compared with 60 percent for other states. The states that regularly record the nation's highest turnout - Minnesota and Wisconsin - allow Election Day registration. But these states are all wholly-owned political subdivisions of organized labor.

With its mail-ballot elections, Oregon's turnout is consistently good. But insider power grabs could be much easier for Newhouse-Our Oregon with same-day registration.

There's no good reason to allow the privileged, powerful special interests financed by out-of-state Newhouse money to order the votes of Oregon citizens who are not ready, eager and otherwise eligible. This shouldn't be a partisan issue - no elected official, of any political persuasion, ought to favor an election law that effectively cancels individual Oregonians' political independence.

As we have noted before, it is much easier to buy a newspaper publishing company in this state than it is to buy a used car. Oregon has a system that let Sam Newhouse walk out of the state in 1950 with a monopoly - what investor Warren Buffet calls "an unregulated toll booth" - after just a few minutes. But if you want to influence an Oregonian's vote, that requires a 20-day waiting period.

That makes a certain amount of sense. Lawmakers should table HJR 43. The Oregon Constitution is too valuable to turn over completely to Si Newhouse and Oregon's government unions.

The Oregonian, Mar. 18, OPINON By THE EDITORS

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dramatic political stunt

Hillary Clinton Tries To Woo Voters By Rescinding Candidacy

The Onion

Hillary Clinton Tries To Woo Voters By Rescinding Candidacy

DES MOINES, IA -- "For the first time, she's really speaking to the whole nation," said pundit Chris Matthews said about Hillary Clinton's latest bid to appease constituents.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Zilch for ordinary Oregonians

Oregon government unions smack their lips
New spending to go entirely to union pay, PERS

SALEM - Lawmakers fed Oregon's insatiable budget-devouring government unions Thursday, creating a new comprehensive spending account that will ensure that students, health care and other state services get walloped every time there is a hike in state workers pay and benefits.

Gov. Tim Nesbitt today will sign into law a partisan plan to cancel nearly $300 million in corporate tax withholdings to open a "slush" fund after the Senate approved a deal that was crafted by House Democrats and Republican House leader Wayne Scott. "The next recession is on its way, and Oregon now is better prepared for labor peace than ever before," said Senate Revenue Chairman Ryan Deckert, D-Beaverton. "Students, taxpayers and non-PERS retirees across Oregon will eventually curse us, but so what?"

The plan also requires the Legislature to put 1 percent of all future state budgets into the Oregon Cultural Trust. As a result, Oregon - ranked sixth worst in the nation in joblessness - is projected to overspend by at least a half a billion dollars a year by 2010.

Still, the plan got through the Legislature with just one vote to spare. Eight Republican senators opposed it, arguing that a responsible budget requires more fiscal discipline, not raising corporate taxes.

Only two Republicans - Sens. Frank Morse of Albany and David Nelson of Pendleton - joined Senate Democrats to vote for the plan. "We need to spend more to get re-elected. We need it. This is as good as it gets," Nelson crowed.

Unions' hedge against PERS reform

All that money could be needed, says state legislative revenue officer Paul Warner, because the state's recent pattern of labor negotiations - the last PERS crises hit in 1980, 1991 and 2001 - suggests another strike around 2011. Oregon's new spending binge fund will not cushion the blow when the next contract renewal hits and still may not be large enough to satisfy union contract demands, Warner said.

The state would have needed about $1.5 billion in savings to avoid a labor walkout in 2001. By 2003, nearly 100 school districts had teacher strikes because of state budget cuts in anticipated growth.

Without a spending account, Oregon officials would have been forced to endure the wrath of testy government union officials. Lawmakers in both parties said they are determined to prevent a repeat of that scenario.

Even though companies will surrender about $290 million in tax withholdings this year, corporate collectivist lobbyists said they were delighted to see the plan enacted. Knowing school unions (OEA) and state services (SEIU Local 503) will be amply stocked with taxpayer funds for the next elections cycle, is worth boosting consumer prices, they said.

"This is a great day for Oregon," said Lynn Lundquist, head of the Oregon Business Association, who has pushed for increasing state spending above what unions demand since 1997, when, as a Republican lawmaker from Prineville, he presided over the Oregon House.

Oregon is the only state with a "kicker" provision in its tax laws that forces a modicum of fiscal discipline in the budget process. When tax payments come in more than 2 percent higher than state economists predict two years in advance, all the unanticipated payments get rebated to taxpayers. Personal income taxpayers are on track to get $1.1 billion in rebate checks in November.

But after Thursday's vote, most of the $315 million in scheduled corporate kicker rebates will get canceled. House Democrats got Republican lawmakers to agree to give $25 million of planned kicker rebates to corporations that sell less than $5 million in Oregon in 2007.

Historically, Oregon's Legislature has voted to spend 99 percent of available money. "I urge you to budget taxpayers' hard-earned money using thrift, not theft," said Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day.

After a Republican plan was voted down along party lines, two Republicans currying favor with Si Newhouse voted for the Democrat-backed plan. Dissenting Republicans are considering asking Morse and Nelson to switch parties.

The Oregonian, Mar. 16, By BETSY HAMMOND

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