Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Representative Peter Buckley-Oregonian Workers Are Not to Blame

Representative Peter Buckley is exactly the kind of legislator and public servant that inspires us to keep believing in the political processes that we have been so shaken in over the past few (or longer) years. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Maine Librarian Speaks Our Deep Fears Outloud

I believe we are afraid in this country. I am not talking about the fear that we have of hard economic times, mounting personal debt, losing our homes, or not being able to put food on our tables (assuming we have a table to begin with). No, I am talking about a deeper fear, as Americans. I think we are afraid to face the falseness of our identities as Americans...of what that means about who we are, and who we are not. We already figured out that the country that champions human rights is not above the periodic torture episode. That the "greatest democracy on the planet" has no problem supporting various dictatorships or turning a blind eye to repressive regimes, should it fit our interests. That, in this country, women and communities of color have been losing progress for years instead of gaining ground toward equality-not to mention the LGBTQ community. But more than that-more than any of those things, the thing that we fear the most, as a society is the realization that NO, we don't actually have a representative democracy-that our voices do not count.

While there are plenty of people who have believed and recognized that potentiality for a long time, our collective identity has held strong, labeling those people "conspiracy nuts and radicals"...the exceptions to the rule of belief in America.  Kelley McDaniel, is not among those (most labeled that way aren't either, for that matter) "outliers." What she is, however, is someone whose strong faith in this country has been shaken, and with good reason. She absolutely voices that deep fear that most citizens don't. They don't let themselves go there; afterall, what then?

Here is what she had to say, to her elected representatives-the people elected to represent her (and her community's) best interests:

She told the committee that she recently won a national "I Love My Librarian" Award from the Carnegie Corp. and The New York Times -- an honor that included a check, made out to McDaniel, for $5,000.

"I plan to report that money on my income tax and I expect to pay taxes on it," she told the lawmakers. "Even though I donated the money in its entirety to the public middle school where I work."

You heard that right.

She gave the whole five grand, after taxes, to her school. If you live in Portland, that's your school, too.

It was only the beginning.

McDaniel said she's "happy to pay those taxes" because the way she sees it, taxes are "like membership dues" for being a citizen of this great state.

She said that while she gets lots of things (education, health and safety, arts and recreation) in exchange for those "dues," she realizes "I may not personally benefit from everything that tax money is used for."

She has no problem with that. As McDaniel put it, "I try to trust that elected officials will spend money to the best benefit of society and not just to a handful of individuals."

Then, without missing a beat, she turned her attention to the budget.

She talked about how, over there, the budget contains $200 million in tax cuts -- including an expansion of the estate-tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million -- that largely would benefit Mainers who aren't exactly scraping to get by.

And how, over here, that loss of state revenue is more than offset by $413 million in various curtailments on benefits earned by retired state workers -- many of whom, like McDaniel has at King Middle for the past 11 years, served long and nobly in Maine's public schools.

Observed McDaniel, "I don't understand the rationale for this proposal."

She said she doesn't buy the idea that the tax cuts, putting significantly more money back into the pockets (or portfolios) of Maine's wealthy, will stimulate the economy.

Citing reports from the Congressional Budget Office, McDaniel said "the best way to stimulate the economy is to give modest increases to the poor. Wealthy people tend to hold on to their money, while poor people tend to spend it as they get it."

Then McDaniel, as those experts might say, "re-framed the issue."

"I don't think it's a moral decision, because taking money from people who don't have much money and giving it to people who have more money than the people you took it from seems, well, greedy," she said. "Greed is frowned upon in every major world religion -- and I don't think agnostics and atheists look too kindly upon it, either."

She wondered aloud, "Is this about a quid pro quo? A gift from elected officials to wealthy people who have donated, or will donate, to election and re-election campaigns?"

Finally, as the clock wound down, McDaniel dropped the hammer.

"It's not economically sound. It's not morally sound. And I think you know that," she said. "I would be embarrassed to support something so ludicrous -- taking from the poor to give to the rich.

"Maybe you're testing us, checking to see if we, your constituents, are really paying attention, really listening," she continued. "I hope that's what's going on, because the alternative involves me losing faith in representative government, in democracy and in you, the elected officials."

And here is the rest of it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Campaign for Stronger Democracy

"The Campaign for Stronger Democracy is a new coalition that emerged from a series of convenings to encourage greater collaboration among democracy reformers, called Strengthening Our Nation’s Democracy. The meetings were convened by AmericaSpeaks, Demos, Everyday Democracy and faculty from Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Innovation and Governance."

We don't even have to wait for them to go after everyone else. They are ALREADY coming after us. You know the main reason why all those times in the past when "our very democracy are under attack" end up seeming like overblown hysteria? Because during those times, someone somewhere made a stand and said "hands off my democracy!" And those who would deny us and take away the democracy under which we live (republic form or otherwise) knew they had better back down or else face a full-on revolution. Now is no different.  WE are the ones who must back them down now

And here is the rest of it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Multnomah County Budget Hearings-Reminder

YOU ARE INVITED!!-2011 MultCo Community Budget Forums in Portland & Gresham

For the 11th time in as many years Multnomah County again faces funding reductions to programs and services. With significant reductions in state funding looming next year, understanding and giving input into the County’s budget is more critical than ever!

Learn about state funding to the County and then tell decisionmakers which programs and services are the most important to you!

The forums are:
• Gresham--Thursday, Feb. 24, 6-8:15pm at the Multnomah County East Building, 600 NE 8th St. Accessible: by MAX Blue Line and buses: #1, 4, 9, 25, 26, 80. Parking is available.

• Portland--Thursday, March 3, 6-8:15pm at the Multnomah Building Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Accessible: by buses #4, 6, 10, 14. Parking is available. Child activities will be provided.

Russian and Spanish language interpreters will be provided.

Please see the attached flyer for more information. For additional questions or to request a sign language interpreter contact: Office of Citizen Involvement at 503-988-3450 or

Robb Wolfson, Citizen Involvement Coordinator
Multnomah County Office of Citizen Involvement
503-988-3450 |
Multnomah County Building | 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Room 192 | Portland, OR 97214 And here is the rest of it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 Multnomah County Community Budget Forums

I read recently, in one of my texts, that Portland's spirit of public engagement may be waning, in comparison to its peak in the late 80's and 90's. I have some of the same concerns, based on my own experiences. To that end, I received this email from Multnomah County. 

"With significant reductions in state funding looming, understanding and giving input into Multnomah County’s budget is more important than ever. Do you prefer Multnomah County move funds from another program to make up the difference? Which programs should the county prioritize? Come to one of MultCo's budget forums sponsored by County Chair Jeff Cogen and the Multnomah County Citizen Involvement Committee to understand how the funding system works and tell the Board of County Commissioners what you think! The forums are:

* Gresham--Thursday, Feb. 24, 6-8:15pm at the Multnomah County East Building, 600 NE 8th St.
* Portland--Thursday, March 3, 6-8:15pm at the Multnomah Building, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

For more information contact: Office of Citizen Involvement at 503-988-3450 or"

The budget process, never easy, is underway under some severe circumstances.  What caught my attention about these particular forums, is the focus on understanding how the budget process works.  More public policy processes should include that educational piece, so that we, as citizens can provide educated feedback on what our priorities are and be a part of the process for making it work, as opposed to being the recipients of policies that we neither understand nor have a say in.  More than any other place I have lived (and research supports the reality of my experience), municipalities in this area-Portland, Multnomah County, Metro, for example-provides for citizen engagement.  That is not to say that, there are not times when powerful people wish to move without our input, but the system is designed for us to be involved.  If we are to ensure that the high level of engagement that this region is known for continues, then we must be engaged.

And here is the rest of it.

National Transgender Discrimination Survey

These are some highlights from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey:

1. Respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with household income of less than $10,000.
2. Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace, and one in four were fired because of their gender identity or expression.
3. While discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, it was particularly pronounced for people of color. African-American transgender respondents fared far worse than all others in many areas studied.
4. Housing discrimination was also common. 19% reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. One in five respondents experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression.
5. An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population.
6. Discrimination in health care and poor health outcomes were frequently experienced by respondents. 19% reported being refused care due to bias against transgender or gender-nonconforming people, with this figure even higher for respondents of color. Respondents also had over four times the national average of HIV infection.
7. Harassment by law enforcement was reported by 22% of respondents and nearly half were uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
8. Despite the hardships they often face, transgender and gender non-conforming persons persevere. Over 78% reported feeling more comfortable at work and their performance improving after transitioning, despite the same levels of harassment in the workplace.

The full report can be found at the National Center for Transgender Equality.
And here is the rest of it.