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Entries in Brad Witt (3)

Thursday
Aug232012

A Happy Tale of Two Cities

It may seem strange to write about disparate developments in two Oregon communities in the same blog post, but what happened illustrates the solidarity of Oregon citizens when they face challenges.

In one case, hundreds of citizens, accompanied by a host of public officials, turned out in Vernonia this week to dedicate a new school building that replaces a former school ravaged by the disastrous floods of 2007 — which left many people homeless and resulted in a state and federal disaster declaration.  

The new school is a beautiful facility on higher ground that will help 600 Vernonia students from kindergarten through high school learn in a modern, quality environment. But it also is a tribute to the resilience of citizens who after the flood raised almost $50 million to finance, design and construct the new school. The last piece of the funding puzzle came in the waning hours of the 2011 legislature when Joint Ways and Means Committee leaders finally made good a session-long pledge to provide the last $3.9 million in bonding authority.

Citizens who ate the first meal in the cafeteria of a school that should last well into the 22nd century cheered as Reps. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, and Debbie Boone, D-Cannon Beach, and Senator Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, complimented them for pulling up their own bootstraps in the aftermath of the worst flood in the history in this small Columbia County community.

The phrase "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps" reminded me of a time many years ago when, as deputy director of the Oregon Economic Development Department, I spoke to a graduate school class in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Leaders there wanted to hear about how Oregon had diversified its economy after the decline in its forest industry. They reasoned Oregon's experience could help them identify a strategy to diversify beyond making Michelin tires.

My French translator that evening had difficulty communicating the meaning of "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps." He ended up gesturing as he grabbed the seat of his pants and stood up.

That's what went through my head as I watched citizens in the small town of Vernonia celebrate their own success in lifting themselves up by the seat of their pants.

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Thursday
Aug182011

Special Election Could Tumble Legislative Dominos

The legislature’s 2012 session is more than five months away, but already legislative leaders are making contingency plans for a possible shake-up in control and session management, hinging on who might prevail in the special election to replace Congressman Dave Wu.

Governor John Kitzhaber set January 31, 2012 as the special election date when the party nominees will square off, the day before the legislature convenes. If one of the sitting legislators running for Wu's seat wins, it could trip a series of changes that upset the balance of power in the Oregon Senate and House. Currently, Democrats hold a 16-14 margin in the Senate. The House is tied 30-30 with shared control by Democrats and Republicans.

Senator Suzanne Bonamici, D-PortlandDemocratic Senator Suzanne Bonamici is in a pretty good place to win the race.  A widely respected member from Beaverton, she is the only woman in the race for a district that hasn’t elected a Republican since 1972.

If Bonamici wins January 31, she would resign her state Senate seat to head to Washington, D.C. (Nancy Pelosi won’t let a new member linger in Oregon too long). That would shrink Senate Democratic control to a 15-14 margin until a replacement could be appointed, a process that could take about three weeks at best.  In other words, most of the shortened session.

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Monday
Jul182011

The Post-Session Shuffle

Do you hear that sound? That pitter-patter of feet is what's known as the post-session shuffle, where legislators and staff leave their posts to run for office and work for other organizations, or replace those who left. Here's the list of confirmed and rumored switcheroos:

Reps. Mary Nolan, D-Portland (left), and Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, are leaving the Oregon House to pursue other elected positions.Oregon House

Rep. Mary Nolan, D-Portland, is running for Portland City Council against Amanda Fritz. Sharon Meieran, a lawyer-turned-emergency room doctor, is thinking about running as a Democrat to replace Nolan.

Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, says he'll likely retire at the end of his term. No word yet on serious candidates looking to replace him.

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