By Russell Sadler
Former Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh, who left office in 1986, has some advice for his party following its repudiation in last month’s election.
No Republican has been elected Oregon governor for the last 20 years, despite the fact that the Republicans controlled the legislature for most of that time.
Democrats won control of the Oregon Senate in 2004. Voters gave Democrats control of the Oregon House last month and reelected a Democratic governor despite doubts about his performance. Atiyeh thinks he knows how Republicans can regain the confidence of Oregon voters.
“Focus in the center of the electorate,” advises the former governor in a recent op-ed piece in The Oregonian. Regular readers of this column know I banned the words “moderate” and “centrist” because they mean so many things to so many people that they are no longer useful terms. But Atiyeh explains what he means by the “center of the electorate.”
“Those in the political middle in Oregon cannot be defined by any single issue but, generally speaking, are fiscally conservative, socially tolerant and moderate in their approach to problem-solving,” writes Atiyeh.
That may or may not be the middle, but it is a pretty good description of the independent crossover voters that GOP statewide candidates have been unable to attract for about two decades.
“Ideology is not a substitute for policy,” warns the former governor. “Republicans need policy ideas to go along with our core principals to address the everyday economic and social concerns facing Oregonians. Too often, our candidates rely on the ideological slogans of ‘smaller government’ or ‘traditional values’ to define our answers to complex problems.”
Oregon Republicans have been trying to push national Republican ideological prescriptions down the throats of an increasingly skeptical electorate in exchange for campaign cash from the national party and ideological pressure groups.
Oregon Republicans are obsessed with toll roads, privatization, contracting out, charter schools, abortion and parental notification while the everyday concerns of Oregonians like overcrowded schools, rising college tuition, health care, loss of benefits, lost manufacturing employment, agricultural food processing moving to South and Central America and protecting the environment are simply ignored.
“Build a quality team of candidates,” advises the former governor. “All too often first-time candidates for major offices make political mistakes and lack credibility with voters. Campaign and government experience make for stronger candidates and better elected officials.”
But the Republican legislative leadership does not put a premium on campaign or government experience when they recruit candidates. They demand partisan loyalty in a effort to elect lawmakers who will vote for the legislation Republican leaders have promised to various interest groups in exchange for campaign cash. The kind of independent thinking Atiyeh admires is not wanted by most Republican legislative leaders.
Republican legislators who deviate from the party line are purged from the party. A number of legislators, disgusted with this practice, quietly decided not to run again. Others, like Sen. Ben Westlund, D-Bend, very publicly quit the Republican party.
“Focus on Washington County. Republicans will never win a statewide office and won't control the Legislature if we can't win in Washington County,” Atiyeh warns. “In the last few elections, Democrats have run the tables, picking up city council, county commission and state legislative seats across Washington County.”
This is Atiyeh’s most perceptive advice to his party. Washington County is the heartland of Oregon’s high technology industry. These folks tend to be fiscal conservatives, but they also tend to be socially tolerant. The Oregon Republican Party is neither anymore.
Oregon Republicans abandoned their traditional practice of pay-as-you-go government. During the recession of the 1990s, the party leadership opposed a bipartisan temporary income tax surcharge and borrowed money to balance the budget. This reckless practice of borrow-and-spend pushes today’s costs into the next generation.
Oregon Democrats now favor the once-conservative practice of raising enough money with additional taxes to balance the state budget.
In recent years, the Oregon Republican Party has been under the influence of politically conservative fundamentalist Christians who dismissed Oregon’s traditional “you-leave-me-alone-I’ll-leave-you-alone” conservatism as “liberal permissiveness.” As long as Oregon Republicans cater to Christian conservatives, socially tolerant high-tech Republicans and crossover voters in Washington County are likely to vote for Democrats.
“Republicans will make a big mistake if we simply blame our local defeats on the Iraq war,” warns Atiyeh. “ While recognizing in every election there will always be contributing political factors outside of our control, we must also look at ourselves, learn the lessons of defeat and make the changes necessary to be competitive in the future.”
But old habits die hard. The Republican leadership is unrepentant. There is no indication the Oregon GOP will heed former Gov. Atiyeh’s perceptive advice.
Editor's Note: Vic Atiyeh's advice to his party is solid gold. But as RS suggests the radicals in charge of the GOP aren't listening. But it's not just the leadership of the GOP that is tone deaf; it is the rank and file as well.
The GOP has been captured the so-called Christian Right and economic libertarians. These are the ideologues that vote in the primaries making it virtually impossible for candidates like a Jeannette Hamby, Dave Frohnmayer, Norma Paulus or Mark Hatfield to make it to the November election.
If one looks at county-by-county breakdown in the governor's race another factor is at play that underscores the ideological split in Oregon, as well as the nation. There is a huge urban/rural divide that separates Blue urban and increasingly suburban Oregon from the 'other' Oregon, eastern, southern and coastal Oregon.
Incumbent governor Ted Kulongoski lost 24 of Oregon's 36 counties. But he won the voter rich metro area, especially big time in the "Peoples Republic of Portland." But at the end of the day, Oregon like the nation is divided between Red and Blue voters who seem to be firmly bunkered in.
These divisions favor the Ds in statewide races but they make who controls the legislature a key battleground. With the 3/5s vote required to pass revenue measures in the Senate and House, the Ds will need GOP votes, especially on the House side. In the House where the Ds have a slim 31-29 edge it won't be easy to get 9 GOP votes from the survivors of November's GOP bloodbath.
By Russell Sadler
This has been a high risk winter season for visitors to Oregon. Getting lost in our mountains can have tragic results. Sometimes even well educated and experienced people make bad decisions. And apparently our rescue efforts are not always as efficient as one expects. One wonders if all the money spent post 9/11 for homeland security has been well allocated and spent.
But when people fail to read road maps correctly or go up a mountain in the middle of winter bad things can happen. One should error with an abundance of caution. But those who are seeking adventure in the wilds of Oregon should also take care to make sure they have made appropriate preparations just in case "what if" happens.
While the families of the victims of the Siskiyous and Mt. Hood have our deepest sympathy, the first responders deserve our empathy. But as many readers of the Oregonian have noted, the bill for these rescue efforts is paid by the taxpayer. To steal a phrase from poet Robert Frost, in both cases sometimes the "road not taken" is the better choice. But then again 20/20 hindsight is always better.
From OPB's Oregon Considered, December 20, 2006: "Two Years Into Portland's Ten-Year Plan To End Homelessness," by Rob Manning.
Editor's Note: Housing advocates for low income residents of Washington County are talking about our county developing a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. Our friends in Portland have pointed the way. However, if Washington County develops a strategy it will focus on families as much as individuals. The key is to get people into a stable living environment along with providing supportive services, a continuum of care, to deal with a host of issues the homeless often face from addiction, mental illness, domestic abuse and/or being an education dropout. But the key to stability is a safe place of one's own. Portland is pointing the way, but we in Washington County need to develop our own homeless strategy and tool box adjusted to realities of a more suburban and rural county.
PORTLAND, OR: Thursday, the City of Portland marks two years of its "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness." The plan goes after the cause of the problem by prioritizing permanent housing and supportive services.
Advocates say the hundreds of people who have moved inside and stayed there are evidence that the so-called "housing first" model is working. However, city commissioners just postponed a proposal Wednesday focused on symptoms of homelessness -- like panhandling and occupying sidewalks. The council is likely to adopt that plan next month.
City Commissioner Erik Sten is quick to praise the ten-year plan's success. When it debuted two years ago, Sten's optimism was widely shared among business leaders and homeless advocates. But Sten also backs an idea that's gotten a chilly reception from some in the homeless community.
RAD: Eric Sten is one of our local heros in the political class who has made a career as a city commissioner focusing on tough issues. But he had good mentors and predecessors in his job, Gretchen Kafoury and Margaret Strachan, both who tackled the issue of homelessness back in the '80s when it wasn't chic or on the radar screen. RAD's own former student Chuck Curry, now a UCC minister in Portland, has also been an effective voice in Portland. Our Interfaith Committee on Homelessness is bringing talented people like this together in Washington County.
The so-called "Sidewalk Accessibility For Everyone" ordinance, or "SAFE," would create a day shelter, but it would continue a city ban on sitting on sidewalks. It's perhaps better known as the "sit/lie ordinance." Homeless advocates often say shelters don't get to the root of homelessness. And they say, sidewalk bans create conflicts. They say "housing first" should be the priority.
But Sten says commissioners are concerned that immediate problems test the patience of the long-term plan.
Erik Sten: "In this case, what happens is that you often lose support for some of those efforts because people perceive that the problems in the shopping district are really what the issue is. But often the panhandlers and others creating problems downtown aren't even necessarily homeless."
RAD: As an adjunct professor at PSU fall term RAD rode MAX to get to his MWF 10:15 a.m. class. Riding MAX and Tri-Met buses one sees a cross section of life, including the homeless who are often younger than one imagines and don't fit the stereotype of the knock down drunk one associates with some of the homeless along Burnside or Old Town. While you're shopping at Nordys or Pioneer Square stores, check out the scene just south of Starbucks on the Square or as you walk past the Federal Court House across from Macys.
Just for the record RAD was seldom asked for money and the once or twice it was not anything close to aggressive panhandling. One young woman @ late teens/early 20s RAD recalls was quite nicely dressed on a cold fall day and certainly would not fit anyone's stereotype. She could have fit into the PSU student body easily a few blocks away! The old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" comes to mind. I kept wondering why her? What's the story? But even in laid back Portland a la NYNY one doesn't ask.
The people who are homeless might surprise you.
On this mid-week morning, about a dozen people of various ages are waiting in the lobby belonging to a Portland-area non-profit. It's called Human Solutions. Its leaders say they've got a "menu" of services. It is one of a few organizations that focus on Portland's homeless families, as part of the ten-year plan.
One woman they've helped is Lori Dwight, who's in her late 30's. She lost a job, which sent her her daughter bouncing from house to house for a year.
Lori Dwight: "It wasn't a home, conventionally, where me and my daughter could live in our own space. Everything was disjointed, from the camper, to my Mom's, to back to Eugene for a few months. That idea of not really having a place... It was devastating."
Lori Dwight says past problems like domestic violence, and her drug-addled adolescence, came back to haunt her. Sitting next to Dwight is a woman she considers a friend. She also lost her home, with children to worry about.
Heather Robinson: "My name is Heather Robinson, and I have two children -- a 12-year-old son named Felix, and an 8-year-old daughter named Violet."
Rob Manning: "Who is with you here today."
Heather Robinson: "Yes, and being very good."
Violet Robinson: "Ow."
Heather Robinson: "Oh, you OK?"
Violet Robinson: "Yeah."
Heather Robinson is a recovering drug addict. She was evicted three years ago. She handed her daughter Violet over to family, but her relatives didn't feel comfortable dealing with her son Felix, who is bipolar.
Robinson grips her daughter Violet, as she recalls a trip to the state Department of Human Services, almost three years ago.
Heather Robinson: "I went to DHS, to the child welfare department and told them that I was a drug addict, and that I needed help. And asked them to put my son into foster care."
Violet Robinson: "Mommy (rustle)... better."
Heather Robinson: "Which was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do in my life. It was a complete giving up of control, realizing I had nowhere else to turn."
Both Heather Robinson and Lori Dwight say they couldn't deal with their problems while moving from place to place. Robinson says giving up drugs wasn't going to happen.
Heather Robinson: "I didn't feel like I was ready to deal at the time with my drug problem because when you're homeless, you feel like you have to keep going, and I felt like that was the only way to keep going."
For Lori Dwight, stabilizing her mental health and finding a job simply was't possible without a home.
RAD: A home of your own is fundamental. When that's secured, then other "issues" can be addressed if there is a continuum of care built into the housing first strategy. In Washington County providers and advocates have established a working group, called the HSSN, to develop policies along these lines for their at risk clients. The OPB report puts a voice into the equation. But having a safe place to live is often the beginning to dealing with the downward cycle that leads to homelessness.
Lori Dwight: "I was on unemployment for a while, I was trying to get jobs, it didn't happen. It just wasn't working, and I couldn't figure out why, and I realized, it's because I need to find a place to live."
Dwight and her friend Heather Robinson got into what's called the "Shelter Plus Care" program through Human Solutions, two years ago. That was about the same time the Ten-Year Plan to end homelessness was launched.
Robinson got her son Felix out of foster care -- where she says his experience was very positive. Both Dwight and Robinson are taking college classes. Dwight seems to speak for both of them when she emphasizes the impact that housing had in turning her life around.
Lori Dwight: "The #1 thing for me in having housing, was being able to get my mental health and physical health under control, which I didn't know I had so many issues that needed attention. Having the stability of the housing and support services, I have high cholesterol, things like that, where I really need to have attention. My mental health now, I'm stable. So through those tiny steps, my long-term goal now is to get a bachelor's degree."
RAD: This is a familiar story which all shelter clients and/or providers could echo. The point is to see shelters as first responders to those in the most desperate circumstances. And in Washington County with only 4 shelters, only serving families and even then sending 88 out of 100 away, we have a long way to go. But long term low rent housing is the key for those whose incomes are in the 50% and lower MFI category whether they are the traditionally homeless or the much more numerous low income working poor.
Dwight says she's headed toward a career in social services, to help people like her. Heather Robinson has the same idea. She's halfway through a two-year program at Portland Community College, to become a drug counselor.
Since the Ten-Year Plan launched, 640 families have moved into permanent housing, like what Human Solutions offers. Advocates say the actual need is much higher -- but there's only so much money for housing and services.
In the meantime, advocates say the proposed Portland day-shelter may help homeless people who for whatever reason can't get long-term services. But they caution those emergency steps shouldn't take the place of the long-term solution they say is slowly working.
RAD: So the lesson here is that homelessness does not end at the border of Portland and its sister counties. It's a regional issue. Clackamas County is on the road to developing their own 10 year plan. Washington County needs to step up as well. But we don't have to reinvent the wheel, we merely need to chose the one which fits our needs and challenges.
As the spouse to a city librarian in the Grove RAD has learned that libraries are often a way station for such folks. So next time you take MAX or visit your local library look around you - you might just be sitting next to another face of the homeless. Any resemblance to your own kids, relatives or neighbors is purely coincidental!
PS: Our local paper, the Forest Grove News-Times editorialized in today's weekly edition: "...As News-Times reporter Nancy Townsley documented in a series of stories earlier this year, the issue of homelessness is not confined to single-men sleeping in Portland doorways.
In Washington County many of those without stable, safe housing are women and children. Few of them are living on the streets, but too many are forced to impose upon acquaintances, scrape together money for a motel room or shuttle between relatives. While shelters are still need as part of a solution, they cannot be the only solution.
We encourage the interfaith taskforce in Washington County to take a tip from the folks in Portland and frame the issue of homelessness as a matter of livability, not just for Portland’s downtown, but throughout the region..."
RAD: That's what the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness is going to be focusing on now that the county public safety levy passed and the Bridging the Gap campaign has been so successful. Our county commissioners will be hearing from us and we've been meeting with our legislators. But the N-T's is right on!
With grading papers for my two PSU courses and the on coming holidays, the RAD blog is a bit behind schedule. Where does one find the time to read the newspaper, hardcopy or online? Besides RAD is busy running, adding to and rebuilding his model railroad empire! But the 24/7 news wire moves on endlessly and without mercy.
Iraq: It looks like despite the change at Defense that Dubya is going to add more American troops to the mess in Iraq. How sad and stupid can one be? It's akin to throwing good money away after bad money except of course it's American lives which are going to be sacrificed along with countless Iraqi civilian lives.
And if Condi Rice is on point there will be no discussions with the Iranians, or Syrians. The Iraq Study Group Report seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Rumy may have been sent to the woodshed but the selection of Gates simply seems cosmetic, the staying the course game plan is still in play.
Israel: Jimmy Carter and Alan Dershowitz are in a major twit over Carter's critique of Israel's imperialistic agenda on the West Bank and Gaza. If the question is who started this ugly Hobbesian "war of all against all" there will never be a resolution to this human tragedy. For the true is that both sides are guilty of overplaying their geo-political hands and of using violence as a tool of policy.
It's about time Israel took a good look around her neighborhood. With the American induced decent of Iraq into a failed state, the rise of Iran and Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East, Israel will be surrounded by enemies on all sides and if any of her neighbors get the bomb, it won't matter that Israel already has it. And her US sugar daddy will not be able to protect her.
Congress: Apparently the Grinch stole the newly empowered Democrats holiday spirit. They apparently are going to keep a tightened '07-08 budget they inherited from the Scrooges of the GOP. This will mean cuts across the board of social programs - education to health care. So much for "change."
As RAD has pointed out previously, the Democrats have a short window of opportunity here. If they don't do something positive in the next year on major domestic issues such as the economy, health care, education, minimum wages, they will be punished in '08.
Presidential Politics: The Democratic presidential field seems to be narrowing to three major contenders: Hillary
Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. The GOP contest seems down to John McCain and Mitt Romney.
The latest head to head polls indicate that a Hillary vs. McCain contest is now a dead even match according to today's Cook report.
RAD is wary of Hillary's staying power in a long primary contest. And her negatives are very high. McCain will be hard for the old hands of the GOP to swallow. Romney, who is playing the Gay bashing card, may be their default candidate.
Yes, it's way too early to count votes, chickens, ducks, yellow or blue dogs. The political hot stove league is not where the rubber hits the road. But it's the only game in town right now and god knows we need something to look forward to past the prince of darkness in the West Wing.
RAD's pick: Edwards & Obama. Keep Hope Alive! To my GOP readers - you are on your own. It appears that Rudy G will not be in the mix. Besides Rudy is too NYNY and he probably couldn't pass the Oregon test - Orygun not Orygone? So it's "bombs away" McCain or Romney "the basher" right now. Good yuck.
Oregon: Susan Castillo, Superintendent of Public Instruction, is planning on terminating the CIM & CAM. That's a good decision, but why did it take so long to figure out it was a scam? The problem is what will replace it? And in light of NCLB does it make any difference anyway - the testing machine will grind on and on.
If the Democratic leadership is serious about having a short session for '07 that would end in May then besides K-12 funding and health care reform what else will be priorities? RAD hopes the Housing Alliance agenda of adding 100 million for affordable housing in the biennium gets careful attention.
After all the keys to success for Oregon's kids are a good school to attend, proper health care, economic security and last but not least - a home of their own. For those whose families are in the 50% or below of MFI safe and subsidized rental housing is the most likely option. And if those units are near where one works we can take a bite out of the global warming hazard.
Tiger Woods wrapped up a remarkable season Sunday at the Target World Challenge seizing the lead from U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy in just three holes and coasting to a 6-under 66 for a four-shot victory in the last tournament of the year.
He started the year with a playoff victory in the Buick Invitational and ended it by beating an elite, 16-man field to win his tournament for the third time in its eight-year history. Between those bookend trophies was a mixture of triumph and tragedy.
After missing the cut at the U.S. Open in his return to golf after his father's death, Woods never finished worse than second place in stroke play the rest of the year, winning two majors and six consecutive PGA Tour events. He's clearly the dominant force in golf today. How does anyone deny Tiger's the best ever?