Author: SW Editorial Board

The Truth about “Illegal” Immigration

It is time that Americans faced the truth about “illegal” immigrants from Latin America.  That over ten million are now living in the United States is not due to their nefarious scheming to enter the country to live as parasites and criminals.  Contrary to Donald Trump’s ravings, the vast majority of undocumented migrants are neither “rapists” who “are bringing drugs,” nor members of the brutal MS-13 gang.  They are, rather, driven here by circumstances largely created by U.S. and Latin American elites, whose policies, depending on the time and place, have fueled civil wars, economic dislocation, and social pathologies that have forced people to move in search of security and work. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be scrapped, but not because, as Trump asserts, it has been a bad deal for the U. S.  It should go because, when implemented in 1994, Mexico was not, as its elites advertised, economically prepared to compete with the U. S. and Canada.  The weakness of parts of Mexico’s economy, such as agriculture, had serious consequences for many sectors of the population, especially those on the land. While some American workers lost jobs because their bosses decided to outsource production to low-wage Mexican plants, the flood of cheap American corn destroyed the livelihood of millions of  Mexican small farmers and drove them off the land into the cities, where industry...

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AN OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR COURTNEY AND SENATOR WINTERS

Dear Senate President Courtney and Senate Minority Leader Winters: Salem residents should take pride in the fact that our state’s two state Senate leaders also represent us and have done so very ably for so many years. You have both distinguished yourselves by collaboratively serving the people of Salem and working together to advance the long-term interests of the state on innumerable occasions. We call upon you to once again do the same during the 2018 legislative session by supporting a Clean Energy Jobs Bill.  As you know, environmental pollution issues have often taken a back seat to other concerns which may seem more immediately pressing. A proposal to cap carbon emissions and make large carbon polluters pay a price for their pollution has been advanced during the last several legislative sessions only to be sidetracked by other immediate priorities that required your attention.  There will certainly be more issues demanding your immediate attention this session, as with all sessions. But, it’s kind of like ignoring your doctor’s advice on an advancing medical condition because you simply feel too busy with other life issues — at some point neglect can become dangerous. We’ve reached this point with carbon pollution.  Scientists have been telling us for years that human-caused carbon pollution adds a heat-trapping blanket to our atmosphere. Some carbon in the atmosphere is natural.  Scientists say that we averaged...

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Vote YES on Measure 101

On January 23 Oregonians should deliver a resounding “yes” on Measure 101, which asks voters to support a modest fee of 0.7 percent fee on insurance companies and 1.5 percent on hospitals.  The revenue generated provides the state with funds necessary to leverage billions of federal Medicaid dollars and thereby secure insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians.      During the last legislative session, most Democrats and Republicans understood that Oregon needs to take action to ensure access to medical care for all residents.  That is why a strong bipartisan majority voted for this tax, which is supported by over 160 organizations across the state including the AARP, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Kaiser Permanente, Providence Health, the Oregon Medical Association, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, the Oregon School Boards Association, the Oregon Educational Association, and virtually all the state’s major trade unions and civil rights groups. A joint statement by Peter Courtney, the leader of the State Senate’s Democratic majority, and his Republican counterpart at the time, Ted Ferrioli, exemplified the bipartisan nature of the bill.  They declared that the measure “protects health care coverage for the hundreds of thousands of kids, families, seniors, and people with disabilities on the Oregon Health Plan. It [also] stabilizes insurance markets, saving working families an average of $300 per year on their insurance...

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Time for Salem to ‘Bag it Better’

Portland does it. Eugene does it. Even the city of Brownsville, Texas — part of Senator Ted Cruz’s district and considered one of the poorest municipalities in the country, does it. So when is Salem going to ban the bag? Last year, in the fight against the blight of plastic bags, McMinnville became the sixth Oregon city to ban stores from stuffing products in disposable plastic bags. The ‘Bag It Better’ campaign was spearheaded by Zero Waste McMinnville, and after a short time, it won unanimous support from the McMinnville city council. According to a recent article in the New York Times, even Rwanda is more environmentally responsible than Salem when it comes to the ubiquitous plastic bag. Rwanda’s ban, adopted in 2008, is one of the strictest in the world. They don’t even allow food items in the grocery to be wrapped, except for frozen meat and fish. Stores violating the ban face heavy fines and can even be shut down, and bag smugglers at the border can receive up to six months in jail. The ban in Rwanda is not uncommon. The Times reports that 15 countries in Africa have some sort of ban. They are among 40 nations around the world, including China, France, India and Italy. In 2015, Hawaii became the first U.S. state to ban plastic bags. California passed a ban in 2014, but...

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A SOBERING CENTER IN SALEM?

What is a sobering center?  Is one needed in Salem/Marion County?  Who would pay to build and operate it?  Where do first responders now take people needing sobering? Currently our police officers, sheriff deputies, firefighters and paramedics have only two options for delivering individuals under the influence.  Jail or the Emergency Room.  Neither is a best practices option.  In Oregon, police are mandated to transport any at-risk publicly intoxicated person to “an appropriate treatment facility.” (ORS 430.399)  Police can take a person to jail if he or she has committed a crime or is violent or extremely belligerent. Most frequently the choice is to deliver to the Emergency Room, often at Salem Hospital.  The ER is not designed to be a sobering center.   The costs to Salem Health are significant.  Costs mount for space, resources, staff time, stress, and often unpaid bills.   Chronic alcoholics often have no insurance or income to pay the $500 to $1000 bill for a visit.  In other major Oregon cities there is a third option – a sobering center specifically designed and staffed to receive intoxicated individuals.  The sobering centers in Medford, Eugene, and Seattle are reportedly modeled after Portland’s Hooper Center, which was opened in 1973 by Multnomah County.  The Hooper Center is part of non-profit Central City Concern.  In addition to a short-term sobering center, The Hooper Center operates a...

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A YES VOTE ON THE LIBRARY BOND MEASURE IS NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK

For all of its 105 year history, the Salem Public Library has been a cheap date for the residents of Salem. It’s been a low cost, discount, bargain basement public library. It’s been that way from the beginning. The library started with a “book social” hosted by the Salem Woman’s Club in 1904 at which about 50 books were donated. When the club approached the City fathers to let them put their collection in the City Council chambers, Mayor Frank Waters agreed, “provided it should not cost the Council anything.” In 1909, when Andrew Carnegie was giving away libraries to cities that would provide a site and an operating budget, it was the Women’s Club that bought the site at the corner of Winter and State streets. But when the City refused to appropriate sufficient funds to operate the library the deal fell through. A year later the Club tried again, and this time got the City to appropriate $3,000 in operating funds to secure the free Carnegie library that opened in 1912. The free Carnegie library (which still stands today) housed the Salem Public Library for six decades and was seriously outgrown and undersized when the library was finally able to relocate to the present library in 1972. That library was paid for with a 1968 bond measure that also built City Hall and the downtown fire station....

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TAX CUTS HURT THE ECONOMY

A protracted congressional consideration of tax reform looms menacingly in our near future.  This is a prudent time, before the predictable partisan bombast begins, to take an analytical nonpartisan look at exactly what a tax cut means and what it accomplishes.  Especially, we need to anticipate the familiar clarion call for the most misleading “axiom” you’re about to hear: a tax cut to stimulate the economy. From a strict benefit/cost perspective, who is helped and who is hurt?  Technically, a tax cut is merely a transfer of spending power from public hands to private hands. Thus, it means that the expenditure of those dollars will be controlled by private “former” tax payers, and not by those who control the public budget.  Private spending replaces public spending. An important proviso must be mentioned.  The analysis assumes that public spending will be reduced by the amount of the tax cut, or in other words it is deficit neutral.  Of course, we all realize that this is rarely the case in practice, which is ironic in that those who usually argue for tax cuts and less public spending also tend to abhor the government deficit.  However, cutting taxes and simultaneously reducing spending by more than the amount of the tax cut is both a skill our political system is yet to master and potentially devastating economically.  Whether possible or desirable or not,...

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Health Insurance for All

As the Republican-controlled federal government attempted to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this summer, Oregon’s government moved in the opposite direction.  Instead of stripping hundreds of thousands of Oregonians of their health insurance, bipartisan legislation raised $600 million in revenues needed to trigger $5 billion in federal funds to shore up Medicaid and ensure that one million people continue to receive health coverage.  In addition, the state’s expanded coverage for reproductive services, including abortion, places it in the forefront of providing high-quality care for its citizens.  These actions, along with ACA subsidies for hundreds of thousands of privately insured Oregonians, represent important steps toward providing universal access to health care in our state. But they are not enough.  Five percent of Oregonians still fail to qualify for coverage even under the ACA and, as even the ACA’s supporters concede, the system is riddled with problems.   Premiums continue to rise rapidly in some places, some rural areas lack a choice of providers, and many people remain underinsured.  In addition, out of pocket costs for many plans remain high, many small businesses have difficulty covering their employees, and costs for drugs and medical services continue to increase well beyond the inflation rate. Many of these problems could be fixed if Republicans in Congress were willing to work with Democrats to address them, but even if they improved the ACA...

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Time to End the Salem River Crossing Project

Last fall Mayor Anna Peterson and her pro-3rd Bridge majority on the Council had a problem. In May of last year three new City Councilors were elected, all of whom ran on a platform opposed to moving forward to complete planning on the 3rd Bridge. The three would take office in January, joining long-time 3rd Bridge opponent Tom Andersen. So half the Council would be anti-bridge, and might be in a position to stop progress on a Final Environmental Impact Statement which the Council had been working on for years. What to do? The answer was to rush, and to get as much done as possible before the new Councilors took office. The immediate need was to expand the Urban Growth Boundary for the path of the bridge and to add the project to the Transportation System Plan and Comprehensive Plan. The Council sprang into action in October and held one mega-public hearing bringing together all the inter-governmental partners in the project. Then they rushed through the needed land use actions at their second to last meeting in December. Now this strategy has backfired on the remaining pro-bridge Councilors. On August 10th the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals ruled that the strict procedures required under Oregon law to expand an Urban Growth Boundary and pass related land use actions were not followed to the letter. They have remanded...

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A Message to Parents About CTE

Last November the Salem Weekly Editorial Board called upon the Salem-Keizer School District Board and Superintendent Christy Perry to convene a committee of doctors who have expertise in neuropathology and bioethics to make recommendations about the future of football and other contact sports for students in our district. See November Editorial here. We recommended this based upon the scientific evidence that has been mounting in recent years concerning Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition caused by repeated head trauma, as is common in football and other contact sports. CTE has been found to be the cause of severe memory loss, depression, dementia and even suicide, as in the case of a number of former NFL players. In that editorial, we quoted Dr. Bennett Omalu who is credited with the discovery of CTE. The quote bears repeating: “If a child who plays football is subjected to advanced radiological and neurocognitive studies during the season and several months after the season, there can be evidence of brain damage at the cellular level of brain functioning, even if there were no documented concussions or reported symptoms. If that child continues to play over many seasons, these cellular injuries accumulate to cause irreversible brain damage.” Now we learn in a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on July 25th of new evidence that is even more definitive about...

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Protect Everyone’s Right to Privacy

With one major spectacle after another dominating the national news, it can be easy to forget that the new administration’s policies still reach us on a personal level. Possibly the most troubling example of federal policy impacting Oregonians’ daily lives comes in the form of the crackdown on undocumented immigrants who make up an important and valued part of the fabric of our state. More troubling still is that some of our own state politicians are working to bring the predatory policy to Oregon. Time magazine reported in May that detentions of those in the country illegally are up nearly 40% this year compared to the same time in 2016. Under the Obama administration, immigration authorities were encouraged to focus deportation efforts on immigrants who had committed violent crimes. Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order which expands the groups of people vulnerable to deportation; agencies like I.C.E. may detain criminals, but it doesn’t end there. Those accused of crimes that have not been adjudicated yet, those suspected of abusing public welfare, and anyone “considered a threat to public safety…in the judgment of an immigration officer” can be detained. These broad parameters have opened the door to immigration raids on communities throughout Oregon, and the result is a culture of fear in a state historically noted for its efforts to protect vulnerable immigrant populations. And in...

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A Whiff of Fascism

During his campaign for the Presidency, Donald Trump won support by promoting slogans such as “Make America Great Again,” and “America First!”  Trump identified “America” with working class whites, who, he claimed, have long been exploited by the policies of the ruling elites and exposed to unfair competition from “un-American” groups such as undocumented Latin American migrants, whom he also labeled as dangerous criminals.  He argued that protests against police violence, led by communities of color, threatened American security from within, just as “radical Islamic terrorism” threatened it from without.  Thus, he succeeded in painting a picture of a beleaguered “America,” one that could only be saved from future “carnage” if he were elected. Trump’s mixing of fact and fiction would have won him the admiration of Mussolini and Hitler, who set the standard when it comes to creating myths about membership in the “national community.”  Both men attacked liberals, socialists, and communists as enemies of the nation, both appealed to the “common man” against plutocratic elites even as, like Trump, they allied themselves closely with the latter while betraying the former, and both argued that the “nation” should take precedence over everything else.  Hitler added a powerful dose of racial anti-Semitism to Germany’s brand of fascism, but the basic idea was always the same:  to conjure up feelings of national unity based on the exclusion of those perceived...

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3rd Bridge Supporters Need a Topography Lesson

One of the arguments you commonly hear for a 3rd Bridge across the Willamette in Salem is the fact that we only have two auto bridges, the Marion and Center Street bridges, while many cities our size and even smaller have many more bridges. A certain right-wing radio talk show host in Salem, in arguing for the 3rd Bridge, likes to compare our town to his former place of residence, Des Moines, Iowa, which has at least seven bridges across the river that cuts through the center of that town as you can see in this Google Earth image: What’s wrong with Salem that we’ve only built two bridges in the 160 years that we have been a city? Are we cheap? Are we stupid? What is the problem? Simple. The problem is our peculiar topography. As with many cities, Salem’s founders had the wisdom to find just the right place to locate our city relative to its topography. At our location, the Willamette River has two huge floodplains, both to the north and to the south. They are nearly a mile wide, and they used to flood with great regularity before the Detroit Dam was constructed in 1953. They still flood during unusual weather events like many will remember in 1996 and in 2012. We have more recently learned that these floodplains are earthquake liquefaction zones that will...

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Salem’s Vision and Mission

We applaud City Manager Steve Powers for initiating and funding a strategic planning process for the City of Salem. The council is now about half-way through the process that should be completed later this year. It’s been sorely needed. Our city council has been drifting for years with little direction. They have not taken the time to step back and chart a course for the future with measurable goals that represent the highest aspirations of our city. Now that’s changing, and at a good time, with new city leadership and new city management. That being said, the process thus far has had a few hiccups. There was the “stakeholder charrette” that became a vehicle for the mostly well-connected to try to exercise undo influence on the process. Luckily, enough ordinary citizens saw what was happening and pushed back to the extent that the results of the charrette have now been largely discarded, and the planning consultants do not plan to hold another one. But another flaw in the process that has gone largely unnoticed is the “Vision” and “Mission” that the City Council developed in a work session on January 30th with no public comment or participation. The city staff and city council are now using this Vision and Mission as if it has already been adopted, despite having had no public comment or approval in a regular council...

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Keeping the Public in the Public Lands

The public lands, whether federal or state, belong to all of us. At a time when many Republicans in Congress are demanding that the federal government cede control of extensive public lands to the states, and others are calling on the states to privatize their own public lands – such as Oregon’s 82,000 acre Elliot Forest – it is essential to mobilize public support against such short-sighted policies. Of the 2.28 billion acres of land that comprise the United States, the federal government owns 637 million acres (28%).  The great bulk of these lands are in the West, with 52% percent of Oregon’s 61.6 million total acres federally-owned and managed by agencies such as the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.  The State of Oregon’s own public lands total a relatively modest 780,000 acres. Some public lands are managed to preserve – and provide access to – unspoiled wilderness, others allow visitors to engage in a wide range of recreational activities, while still others are used for natural resource extraction and grazing.  There is no question that these lands are a source of enjoyment and of great wealth for the people of our country.  Their use also comes at substantial cost, since all of these activities must be responsibly managed, and human created and natural disasters on the public lands, such as pollution...

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What About the Salem Police bond ‘Plan B’?

On May 16th, Salem area residents will decide whether to pass a bond financing the construction of a new, modernized police facility. The bond proposal is dubbed “Plan B” because it is the second time the city has come to the voters for money for this project. The first time, in November, Salem Weekly opposed the measure. Six months later, however, we find ourselves solidly ambivalent. The unsatisfying compromise reached by City Council has won over some initial opponents of November’s measure but the bond measure continues to remain controversial. Proponents and opponents of Measure 24-420 are generally in agreement on a few things. The current building housing the library, police facility, and City Hall was not constructed to withstand a significant earthquake and will likely collapse when the plates of the Cascadia subduction zone give way.  People also appear to agree that the police facility itself is too small and outmoded to serve the Salem area effectively. In addition, many are satisfied that the City Council trimmed the size and cost of the facility since November’s original proposal. Measure 24-420 reduces the size of the facility by 33,000 square feet to 115,000 square feet. Commensurately, the cost of the new project has dropped  $20 million dollars to $62 million. This concession mitigates some, but not all of our concerns. Curiously – and perhaps foolishly – the Council refused to compromise...

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STOP THE SALEM-KEIZER SCHOOL BOARD TAKEOVER

Having just ousted a conservative majority from the Salem City Council with the election of Chris Hoy in the March special election, the last thing we need to do is to let the extreme right take over the Salem-Keizer School District. That could happen on May 16th if voters are not aware of the threat and do not reject the social conservatives who are running for three seats. We already have one extremist social conservative on the School Board, Marty Heyen, who unfortunately did not draw an opponent when she ran for the school board in 2015. She is married to the Chair of the Marion County Republicans, Jeff Heyen. It was Jeff Heyen who worked hard to recruit three conservative candidates to run in the May 16th election. Since there are only seven members of the Salem-Keizer School District Board, electing three more social conservatives to the school board would constitute a majority. Two of the conservative recruits are totally unqualified for office. Jesse Lippold is running in Zone 3. He also goes by he name Jesse Olsen and he does not even live in Zone 3, but he promised the Marion County Elections Office he would move there before the election. He is 21 years old and has no experience in education. Jonathan Baker is running in Zone 5 and also brings no experience to the job....

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GIVE HIM A CHANCE TO SUCCEED? Give me a break…

In a democratic society it is customary at the end of a hard election campaign for the losing “loyal opposition” to wish the winner good luck and, for the good of the country, utter parting words such as, “If you succeed, the country will succeed.”  In the best of times, one can wonder at the sincerity of such concession speech statements — but credibility is particularly strained following the election cycle that just elected Donald Trump as the U.S. President. Supporters of the winner often exhort constituents of the other side to “Give him a chance to succeed…”  As we observe initial structuring of the new administration, the question is immediately raised:  How should success be defined?  And, in particular, we are driven to ask:  Who gets to define it? We see a President forming a cabinet with (among other things):  a Defense Secretary who reportedly “likes to brawl,” an oil man Secretary of State who has received a medal from the Russians, a Labor Secretary nominee who has aggressively battled any minimum wage, an Energy Department secretary who wanted the agency dissolved, a climate change-denying EPA Director who wants to downsize or eliminate all consumer protection measures, an Attorney General apparently willing to commit perjury, and an Education Secretary in favor of privatizing many schools and ignoring the desperate needs in our once-envied public education system. Observing the...

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Holding the New Regime Accountable

The limits of the press in a capitalist society are well known.  Most mass-market daily mainstream publications, such as The New York Times or, more locally, The Statesman Journal, are profit-oriented corporations dependent on advertising and not inclined to publish criticisms focusing on the system in which they operate.  The same is true of corporate television and the digital media, where systemic critiques of capitalism are marginalized.  While there are many print and digital outlets providing space to radical voices, these are generally smaller, less frequently published outlets relying on subscriptions and donations along with limited advertising in order to survive.  The Nation, Against the Current, Jacobin, and this newspaper are different variations of this genre. Trump’s assumption of power threatens the entire democratic press regardless of a publication’s particular outlook.  Frequently asserting that only he can solve the country’s problems, Trump sees the world in black and white terms and rejects reasoned political debate with respected opponents.  Over the course of the presidential campaign, he assiduously and ruthlessly discredited, delegitimized, and neutralized all of his opponents and, following the lead of his post-Reagan Republican predecessors, relentlessly attacked the federal government, which he called a “swamp,” whose corruption was epitomized by the Clinton family.  Having won the White House and with his party controlling Congress, Trump is not about to abandon his take-no-prisoners approach.   Since the media is...

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SW Endorsement: Vote Chris Hoy for Ward 6 Salem City Council

The long-suffering residents of Salem City Council Ward 6 have many people to thank for ridding them of an ineffective city councilor two years early. The last issue of the Salem Weekly reported in detail how concerned citizens in both Salem and even in Portland became aware of a racist video on Councilor Daniel Benjamin’s Facebook page last November and refused to be silent. On November 23rd Benjamin resigned his council seat in disgrace. The Salem City Council unanimously passed a resolution to censure Benjamin on November 28th after an emotional public hearing, and unanimously accepted his resignation. Had Benjamin not resigned he would have held the Ward 6 seat through the end of 2018. Anyone who watches the Salem City Council would say that in his two years in office he contributed little to the work of the council. He sometimes made disrespectful remarks to citizens testifying at council meetings with whom he disagreed. He once commented that citizens testifying in favor of early recreational marijuana sales looked “glassy-eyed.” He did nothing to improve the livability of Ward 6 which has many of the lowest income residents of the city. We should not forget that in 2014 Benjamin was the hand-picked candidate of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, the Homebuilders Association, and the realtors who provided him with nearly all of his campaign funds. But now the...

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