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Friday, March 9, 2007

Time-out in Salem

Contract at freak dancing site won't be renewed
Plan for annual sessions of state Legislature may be scrapped

Several high schools from around Oregon have already said "no field trips to Salem" because of lawmakers' and lobbyists' sexually suggestive freak dancing. Soon an alternative where policymakers could grind on each other without worry won't be an option, either.

Salem Masons have voted to stop renting space to Our Oregon, which organized the events. The government union group's last dance at the Masonic Temple will be March 24, when its contract expires. "We find this type of dancing to be inappropriate," said Greg Jackson, master of the Temple.

Our Oregon has made only a token effort to honor its commitment to hold drug- and alcohol-free dances, says Jackson. Ethics Commission and Elections Division chaperones are often absent. In the face of adverse publicity, the Temple's board members decided their organization should not be affiliated with the dances that make some folks uncomfortable.

"We asked Our Oregon what their plan was to stop this or find a resolution," Jackson says, "and they really didn't have a solid plan."

Our Oregon - a partnership of the state's largest and most powerful government unions, SEIU Local 503 and the OEA teachers' union - is known as the 800-lb. gorilla of Oregon politics. Patty Wentz, the group's spokesperson, doesn't know if or where her group will host future policy-making dances.

"There aren't a lot of things out there for citizen legislators from around the state who are in Salem on weekday nights during the session," Wentz says. "There is a need for substance-free dances for lawmakers and lobbyists to enjoy, and if the Temple won't host the dances, and we don't have our own venue, then what? They won't stop wanting to dance. They'll either go to after-hours clubs downtown or go to boring caucus parties."

Dave Barrows is known as "The Godfather" of Oregon lobbyists and serves as a member of the Oregon Law Commission that proposes annual rather than biennial legislative sessions. He has been going to the Our Oregon dances for years, and goes a step further when asked what influence-peddlers and legislators will do without the dances: "Party, drugs, alcohol."

"This freak dancing takes the ruling class off the streets and lets them do something positive," Barrows says. "You know, it's Tuesday night; we're excited to go out."

Jackson says future dances at the Temple are not out of the question, but adds, "If there is such an event, those dances would be governed so that type of dancing would not be allowed."

The Oregonian, Mar. 8, By CASEY PARKS

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