Gov. John Kitzhaber's resignation just as the 2015 legislative session was getting under way was unfortunate, but the timing also could yield benefits for Oregon government.
For the most part, Oregon's political history has not been marred by the kind of systemic corruption common in other states. To some degree, that is the result of Oregon's public records and public meetings laws.
Once among the strongest in the country, those laws have been weakened little by little over the years as lawmakers carved out exemptions. Former Attorney General John Kroger launched an ambitious effort to overhaul the statutes, but the legislation died under pressure from the public agencies that would have been affected by the changes.
Among those changes was a proposal to set short deadlines on responses of public agencies to requests for public records. That's also among the proposals of Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn. Gov. Kate Brown says she, too, supports more timely releases of public records, and has vowed her office will quickly catch up on public records requests that Kitzhaber allowed to accumulate for months.
Other changes being discussed are strengthening the state Ethics Commission by increasing its funding and giving it more independence from the governor; banning the governor's family and staff from earning outside money for work related to state government, and giving the Legislature the power to impeach the governor. Oregon is the only state that does not provide that power.
None of these ideas has yet been drafted into bill form, and the Legislature has plenty of business already on its plate, not the least of which is adopting a budget for the next two years. But these reforms are too important to put off until some future session, when the sense of urgency has faded.
(Medford) Mail Tribune
Sometimes, alphabet soup can be bad for you
We regret to report that HUD is using ACS to establish LMISD to determine CDBG funding.
We regret to report that because it's a tangle of federal government alphabet soup. And there's serious worry it's hurting Oregonians in small towns.
Small towns have the same kinds of needs that big cities do for infrastructure improvements. But because of the way the government decides which communities get federal funding, small towns can get denied funding even though they qualify.
Here's a rundown of the alphabet soup:
The HUD is the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It has a program to help pay for infrastructure improvements. The federal government prioritizes which projects get funded by looking at the economic status of communities.
The ACS is the American Community Survey. The survey — done by the Census Bureau every year — looks at a small sample of the population. Small sample sizes in small towns can create survey results that don't accurately reflect the community.
The LMISD is the Low and Moderate Income Survey Data derived from the ACS. That data is used to determine eligibility.
The CDBG is Community Development Block Grants. Those are the grants that small towns in Oregon can qualify for.
Actually, eight towns in the Eastern Oregon counties of Baker, Grant, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa lost CDBG eligibility with this method of using the ACS. Oregon's Congressional delegation recently wrote a letter to HUD Secretary Julian Castro requesting that it investigate the adequacy of its calculations.
Small towns should not be denied funding because the federal government can't count. The federal government should pay to ensure its count is correct.
The (Bend) Bulletin
Oregon chub finally off the Endangered Species List
Federal wildlife managers formally announced a few weeks ago that the Oregon chub has been removed from the Endangered Species List — the first fish ever taken off the roster of imperiled species. Other fish have come off the list because they went extinct.
About 100 people gathered at the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge 10 miles south of Corvallis to celebrate that several thriving populations of chub now live there in the shallow freshwater habitat.
Such shallows used to be common in Oregon's Willamette Basin, but they were filled in by construction and agriculture. By 1993, when the chub was added to the Endangered Species List, only about 1,000 fish remained in eight known populations. Today an estimated 140,000 chub in 80 populations live along the Willamette River and its tributaries.
Credit goes to the ESA, but it also goes to private property owners and stakeholders who worked together to secure havens and habitats for the fish — and the other species who call those shallow waterways home.