Bits and Pieces from the Policy Trail

Occupy Portland marchers: Have they overstayed there welcome?Here are some worthy tidbits — from a prediction of a recessionary echo to a call for merit-based appointments of judges, with thoughts about international trade, the Greek debt crisis and Occupy Portland thrown in for good measure.

  • Tim Duy on Oregon's Economy: The Oregonian cites Duy's report on a small improvement in Oregon's economy in September, but not enough to allay fears of an echo recession. The way Duy, from the University of Oregon, put it: "...I become very cautious that, in fact, a recession is brewing beneath the surface." He said the European financial crisis could push Oregon and the United States over the recessionary cliff.

    That's not good news for legislators as they head to Salem for "legislative committee days" later this month, including a report to the Joint House and Senate Revenuye Committee on the next state revenue forecast. Duy's comments portend more bad news and that could mean cuts in K-12 education, higher education, cops and prisons and human services, including health care. The further downturn also could put a dent in Governor Kitzhaber's plans for health care and education reform, both of which will be up for consideration in the February 2012 legislative session and both of which rest, at least in part, on decisions about the state budget.
  • It's All Greek To Me: Speaking of the European debt crisis, especially in Greece, Symeon Symeonides, spoke last week to a group of Oregon and Washington citizens planning a trip to the Greek Isles next spring. Symeonides, Dean Emeritus of the Willamette University School of Law, is one of Salem's best kept secrets. A national and international constitutional law scholar, Symeonides, who will lead the trip, said he believes that "things will get better in Greece" after the decision not to hold a national referendum on a deal to provide debt relief to the country. Of course, there is still a lot of unrest in the country, Symeonides said, even as the Green Prime Minister George Panandreou dealt with a vote of confidence.
  • Jack Roberts on International Trade: Eugene businessman Jack Roberts, a former state labor commissioner, used an Oregonian opinion piece to say it's time to stop complaining about global trade policies and learn to compete. In an on-ine piece that drew 22 most substantive comments: "If we are serious about reclaiming a greater share of the world's manufacturing — or simply halting our current decline — we need to revisit our approach to international trade. Not, certainly, with a retreat to protectionism. Instead, we should consider making the kind of investment in competitiveness made by China today and Japan yesterday."

    Roberts, who some say may be a candidate again for governor down the road, says he understands advocacy for tariffs on imports, including those advocated by SolarWorld on their Chinese competitors and supported by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
  • Should We Elect Judges? Rep. Chris Garrett, D-Lake Oswego, says no. He wrote an opinion piece in The Oregonian arguing it makes more sense to use "a merit-based appointment system with input from broadly representative screening panels." Or, Garrett went on, there should at least be limits on special interest money for judicial races in Oregon, especially in light of looming high-profile campaigns for two open seats on the Oregon Supreme Court.

    Garrett, an attorney in Portland, has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, who has announced that he will not run for re-election.
  • Occupy Portland — Overstaying Their Welcome?: Two Portland citizens, Beverly and Richard Maass, have pointed out what they called mixed messages given by the City of Portland as its mayor, Sam Adams, recruits businesses in Asia while, at the same time, tolerating the Occupy Portland movement that has become a threat to businesses in downtown Portland. "Any verbal progress the mayor believes he has made with prospective businesses must surely have been negatively overridden by his failure to enforce the very ordinances and regulations that he swore to uphold when he took office."

    In a way, the Maass echo comments from citizens in Portland, Salem and now, even, Mosier, where the "Occupy" forces are heading for further demonstrations. How long will it take city governments to enforce local laws that the majority of the public follow?
  • CFM's Tom Eiland on Business Confidence: In cooperation with Oregon Business, CFM's own top researcher, Tom Eiland, has produced another survey on business confidence, which is featured in the November issue of the magazine. "The survey reports that jobs are the number one concern for Oregon business leaders. While 78 per cent of the 660 respondents surveyed in late September say they expect their businesses to improve or stay the same in the next year, that figure has slipped from 82 pear cent 16 months ago. And, while taxes continue to be a concern, the respondents strongly believe that the best way to help the economy is to increase efforts to attract new businesses and industry to the state."