Around the County

 By Peter Toll

 Stay-At-Home Voters Avoid Long Voting Lines

Clackamas County residents and other Oregonians are scratching their heads watching televised voters in Wisconsin standing in blocks-long lines to vote.  Milwaukee County could muster only five polling places to serve 600,000 registered voters.  

Oregonians look to our 20-year history of total vote-by-mail and have to wonder:  Why do people put up with such absurd situations around something as important as voting?  

How could this occur in Milwaukee?  The convoluted answer involves a Republican legislature, a Democratic governor and the chance to elect a GOP member to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bottom-line impact makes typical civics students just shake their heads in wonder.

Meanwhile, being a stay-at-home in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is giving the term a whole new positive meaning. But that’s another story.

Let’s look at some reports from around our county:

County Commissioner Ken Humberston is doing yeoman’s duty keeping everyone abreast of Clackamas County’s COVID-19 information. To date, the county has more than 100 people that have tested positive, and, we unfortunately already have seen three fatalities here. Ken has been vigilant in emailing official posts once or twice a day, with most posted on his Facebook page. 

County Chair Jim Bernard is coordinating frequent in-county virtual briefings and “Learning Sessions” via YouTube.  People actually do want to know what’s happening in the face of the pandemic, and we can thank Jim for adapting to the situation and keeping us informed.  Check the special section on the Clackamas County website for links to videos and coronavirus updates.

We can be grateful to our legislators, notably Sen. Jeff Merkley, for also providing timely contact information.  State Representatives Rachel Prusak, of West Linn, and Courtney Neron, of Wilsonville, are particularly adept and helpful with virus-related contacts and news.

Our Clackamas Democratic Chair, Peter Nordbye, of Brightwood, is conducting monthly Executive Committee meetings on Zoom as face-to-face, close-up and personal gatherings don’t apply right now.  

Speaking of Zoom, we’re all still getting used to it.  And crazy stuff can occur, as a young Lake Grove couple learned the hard way. The woman was involved in a Zoom business meeting when it was suddenly interrupted by her husband shrieking in the background:

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Remember 2020

“It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of the connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we’re going, but where we want to go.”  ~Utah Phillips, US labor organizer

It took us 102 years to forget the Spanish Flu epidemic.

It took us only 76 years to forget FDR’s call for universal health care.

It took us fewer than 52 years to forget LBJ’s war on poverty.

We are still in need of affordable health care. We still have poverty. And economic inequality and equal opportunity for all are further away today than when FDR or LBJ made their calls on the national conscious.

Yet we may be closer to obtaining the goals of both of these administrations than we think.  As the quotation from Utah Phillips implies, we need to know where we want to go before we can get there. The TRUMPID19 Pandemic (formerly referenced as COVID-19), coupled with a uniquely vigorous (although for too many, disappointing) primary process, helped to reveal where many of us want to go.

Affordable healthcare enabled our Party to regain the US House and played a role in expanding our majorities in the Oregon legislature. It is a unifying issue. One barrier was the issue of employer-based health insurance. Prior to two weeks ago, it was difficult to envision a transition from our current employer-based system to a public option or universal care. With millions now unemployed and their health insurance either already curtailed or about to be, it seems like there is an opportunity to address this issue.

Likewise, as millions of us who live one paycheck away from crisis during normal times, are plunged into a world where the next paycheck has become an unknown, the public debate on expanding unemployment insurance to match the rest of the developed world, funding medical leave and forgiving student debt has taken a very positive turn. Our own Board of County Commissioners has enacted protections against foreclosures for victims of TRUMPID19 who cannot afford to pay their mortgage or their rent.

The complete mishandling of this pandemic by the White House has proven the Reagan statement that has guided conservatives since 1980 to be a lie.  As Governors fight each other for needed medical supplies and more than 5,000 of us have already died, we know that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help” just isn’t true. To the contrary, the nine most terrifying words in the English may well be:   “I’m from the Government, and I have no help.”

Prior to the 1980s, both parties supported raising the minimum wage, expanding help to those in need and protecting workers’ rights to decent work. Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act and created the EPA in 1970. Our own Senator Hatfield was a co-sponsor of a bill to expand the right-to-strike.

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OR Primary Staying on Schedule for May 19 . . . So Far

By Peter Toll, Chair, Campaign Committee

With ballots scheduled to go out starting April 29th, all signs point to continuing with Oregon’s May 19 Oregon primary election.  Consider:

  • The US Postal Service is considered an “essential service” which means the USPS folks, including many of our union friends there, are pressing ahead with service until they can’t come to work anymore.  (And we’re glad that all-mail voting has been our Oregon way of life since Bill Bradbury was Secretary of State).
  • Down-ballot races demand we all pay close attention and support County Chair Jim Bernard and Commissioners Ken Humberston and Martha Schrader.  Two Tea Party characters, led by avenging Tootie Smith, who wants her old job back, are not lounging around eating bonbons.
  • All of our incumbents—including eight State Reps. and two State Senators (Ginny Burdick and Kathleen Taylor) are on the ballot, and so are six Democratic challengers: Jamie Morrison (State Rep. HD18,) Dacia Grayber and Keenan Casavant (HD35, open seat), Tessah Danel and Julia Hill (State Rep. HD39 against House Minority Leader Christine Drazan), and State Senate candidate Jim Hinsvark (SD9).  His opponent is Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton.
  • Secretary of State Democratic candidates are Sen. Shemia Fagan (Happy Valley), Sen. Mark Hass (Beaverton), and former Congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner (Redmond).  Cameron Smith, who withdrew, has been named Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Bev Clarno.  He replaces former GOP Rep. Richard Vial, who departed his Deputy Secretary position under a cloud.
  • Both of Clackamas County’s Members of Congress are challenged in the primary.  Stirring up the most dust is Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba against Rep. Kurt Schrader in the seven-county 5th Congressional District.  Rep. Earl Blumenauer has four opponents: Charles Barnett, Matthew Davis, Albert Lee, and Dane Wilcox.
  • Although the official race for the Democratic presidential nominee is down to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, Secretary of State Bev Clarno says Tulsi Gabbard and Elizabeth Warren will remain on the Oregon ballot as their withdrawals came too late for Bev’s press time.
  • Oregon will be sending 61 pledged delegates (apportioned by the ballot response) to the National Democratic Convention in Milwaukee, WI.  We also have 14 superdelegates, state-wide office holders such as Gov. Kate Brown and Sen. Jeff Merkley, who are unpledged.  
  • Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, informs us the legislation authorizing the state to pay for mail-in ballot postage will be in effect this election.  Postage to mail your ballots to the County Clerk will be paid. (It’s unclear as to what form this takes; probably covered on the provided return envelope.)
  • District Attorney John Foote is not running for re-election and his Chief Deputy, John Wentworth, is the only person on the ballot.  He has been endorsed by your county Democratic Party.
  • Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts, a Democrat, is also not running for re-election and four people want that job. Two are Republicans and two are non-affiliated.  Your county party has not endorsed in this race.

Democrats still outnumber Republicans in our county.  We have 96,241 registered Democrats, while non-affiliated voters rank second, with 91,347; the GOP has 81,491.  Minor parties add up to some 17,000 more. A typical 40 percent primary turnout would generate about 114,431. Those numbers will change after the primary registration deadline of April 28.


A Community Comes Together

County Commissioner Ken Humberston shares the below helpful (and encouraging) information about what our community is doing to help one another.  These are but a handful of the cooperative efforts underway, and as Ken says, they reveal “the amazing hearts and generosity of the people and organizations of Clackamas County who are looking out for their fellow community members.”  We join Ken in saying, “Thank you for all you do!!”

Ken Humberston
  • The Clackamas Town Center is offering its parking lots to the county to use as staging areas, testing or temporary facilities.
  • The Monarch Hotel is offering rooms for people with hotel vouchers and is lowering its daily rate for people with these vouchers.
  •  Retired nurses are contacting the county asking how they can help.
  • Community members have personally donated N95 masks.
  •  School districts in Clackamas County responded quickly to provide meals to students during the closure. Five of the ten districts are even offering food during spring break, which is a huge help to families.
  •  The Emergency Operations Center reports donations of gloves, masks and gowns from the following school districts: Canby, Gladstone, Lake Oswego, Oregon City and West Linn-Wilsonville. The Center has also received donations of gloves from Willamette Valley Transport and SLR International Corp.
  • Our 4H members are volunteering to make masks and gowns for health professionals.
  • The Oregon Humane Society has agreed to donate 5,000 masks and 50 protective suits to protect the county’s front-line medical responders. The Humane Society heard about the request via a daily call from the county’s Emergency Operations Center and immediately stepped up.
  •  And the Hamlet of Beavercreek is making 100 breakfasts and 100 lunches daily for children in need in their community. Residents are using their own funds to do this.

COVID-19 and Climate change: A Convergence of Crises

“Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.”
— Niccolò Machiavelli

What appears to be the hallmark of the COVID-19 crisis at the peak of the curve, that place where fatalities are highest, is lack of capacity within the health-care delivery system.

We have seen it in Italy. We are seeing it in New York.

The Governors of both Oregon and Washington are taking extraordinary measures to prevent this scenario here by constructing temporary care facilities in tents on soccer fields and at the Fairgrounds in Salem. These needed actions do raise a question. Why are we so unprepared for situations where emergency care is crucial for survival?

We live in an earthquake subduction zone. Significant portions of our population reside in Tsunami Inundation Zones. Every major city in the Willamette Valley is within the impact area of a dormant volcano and an air-quality inversion area. The devastation caused by major forest fires is no longer a distant memory of a prior generation.

Yet in order to address this pandemic, we are forced to build temporary field hospitals. We do not have sufficient ventilator capacity in the state, and local health-care organizations are seeking volunteers to sew safety masks for providers. The forces that created this situation are neither new nor unique.

In 2006, Lord Nicholas Stern, economist, issued a 700-page report on climate change on behalf of the United Kingdom. In it he cites that climate change is the result of the greatest market failure in human history. The logic now-a-days is well accepted by most. If modern managers of most corporations can avoid a cost, they will. This is not new. For decades

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Timber Unity Isn’t

A small number of rural residents who are funded by timber and fossil fuel corporate money have been able to amplify their voices beyond their size. They claim timber unity is their goal, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The corporate founders behind Timber Unity have spent millions on high-priced attorneys to prevent their workers from having safe and decent work. They have fought several unionization efforts at their mills. It is difficult to understand how they can claim to speak for a group whose rights they routinely seek to impinge.

Their current crusade is to fight the State’s effort to invest in a future for the next generation of Oregonians. They are targeting any and all efforts to reduce carbon pollution in Oregon. This should not be too surprising since they have close ties to the 11 Republican Senators who walked out to stop the bill last year and again this session. These 11 Senators received more than 65% of their funding from corporations, including fossil fuel giant Koch Industries.

While cap-and-invest isn’t the most enlightened approach to mitigate carbon pollution, it is a method that should be supported by moderates of both political parties. The approach is a compromise, just as Obama’s Affordable Care Act was a compromise. In both cases, the compromise was rejected and weaponized by groups funded by the those who stood to lose billions on Wall Street.

Instead of blocking all efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution in Oregon, Timber Unity should be asking their corporate donors how much they have invested in next generation low-carbon logging and transportation equipment. How much money taken from our rural

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