Imagery Takes Center Stage

Wing walkers need to hold on to at least one rope...Governor Kitzhaber won plaudits for his rhetorical eloquence last week when describing his Early Learning Council initiative (House Bill 4165) using analogies.

At one point, a legislator on the House Human Services Committee, Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, responded to the governor with the analogy of a wing walker.For Early Learning Council reform to go forward, Greenlick said, those involved should think of the wing walker, who always had the instruction to not let go with one hand without having a good grip with the other.

Greenlick's point? Before the state goes all the way down the road of Early Learning Council reform, it should not lose a grip on the good programs operated by the longstanding Children and Families Commission system.

Kitzhaber, never short on words to describe his vision, quickly responded with another image. What he is asking groups to do in adopting a new system for early learners, the governor said, is like a rope-climbing experience for someone working out. Sometimes, he said, you have to let go of one rope before grabbing another.

...while climbers sometimes need just to let go.Two more legislators — Senators Al Bates, D-Ashland, and Jackie Winters, R-Salem — continued the use of analogies when the health care transformation bill, Senate Bill 1580, came up Friday.  

Bates said it was important for legislators "to stay on the path" toward reform. Winters, in supporting a medical malpractice reform proposal, which wasn't added to the legislation, said, "it's not like we are blazing a trail here; many other states have taken the initiative we are proposing to take."

Those who are good at public podiums often use analogies to drive home a point with a word picture.

So how about an analogy to portray the short month-long legislative session? Possibilities include: Group grope.  Three-ring circus. Watching sausage being made.  

It's easy to be cynical about the legislative process, especially if you are a lobbyist "up to your eyeballs in alligators," if you will pardon the mixed metaphor. Momentary respites, such as the dueling analogies between the governor and Greenlick, often shed a little light on the difficult choices ahead, while bringing a smile to your face.

COUNTDOWN: As of Friday, February 10, lawmakers had been in session for eight days. If they are to meet their self-imposed February 29 adjournment day, they will spend 19 more days in Salem...if they work weekends.  If they don't work on weekends, there are 13 days to go.