Category: SW Editorial

Overcoming Historical Amnesia -Salem Weekly Editorial

American discussions of contemporary political issues often occur with little or no reference to historical context, especially on matters of foreign policy. One of the most egregious examples is our discourse on Latin American immigration, a major theme in American politics for over thirty years.  Focusing primarily on the large number of Mexican migrants, debates generally revolve around what to do with the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States.  Long-term causes of this migration, such as economic underdevelopment, endemic social violence, political repression, and civil war, and especially the U.S. role in creating these conditions, usually get short shrift in our sound-bite-oriented media. The recent case of tens of thousands of Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran children who, unaccompanied by adults, crossed the border from Mexico between 2011 and 2014 illustrates well our short-term thinking.  Sent by families desperate for them to escape communities wracked by poverty, lack of educational or economic opportunities, organized crime, and murderous political and gang violence, after paying smugglers thousands of dollars these children travel to the U.S. and turn themselves in at the border.  Some hope to find family members already in the U.S.  All hope to stay and find a better life. The United States has agonized about how to treat these children.  Should they be immediately sent back or granted asylum?  How should their cases be reviewed? ...

Read More

Suspend the Kicker

There is a reason that Oregon is the only state in the nation that rebates surplus tax collections to citizens. It’s a bad idea. The “kicker” was a bad idea 37 years ago when it was first enacted by the Legislature and it’s a bad idea today. What many other states do with their surplus, and what we should do with ours, is to save it for a rainy day. Rainy days always come, especially in Oregon, which has one of the most volatile tax systems in the country, one that is especially sensitive to economic downturns. Like the last time the kicker kicked. It was in 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession. Taxpayers received a $1.1 billion kicker just before the bottom fell out of the state and national economy and the state budget. The next few years saw huge cuts to school funding, to higher education funding and to other needed services. Higher education funding still has not recovered nearly a decade later. Now we are about to repeat the same mistake. If the Legislature does nothing,  an estimated $473 million in kicker funds will be credited to state taxpayers when they pay their state income taxes in 2016. That’s $473 million that we ought to be saving for a rainy day. We know, for example, that the recent Oregon Supreme Court decision to overturn...

Read More

SALEM CITY MANAGER SEARCH -Salem Weekly Editorial

The City of Salem is beginning a search for a new city manager to replace the retiring Linda Norris.  Linda has, by most accounts, enjoyed a successful tenure as the highest appointed City official.  Salem employs the weak council/strong manager format, which means that the mayor and the city councilors are elected volunteers, and the City Manager, whoever he or she might be, essentially runs the mechanisms of City government while the Council oversees for the public and attempts to set and monitor overall policy. This is a noble concept that supposedly fulfills the criteria of a functioning democracy.  The people are represented and yet trained professional leadership is present.  We are in no position to judge whether it has worked out this way, and in no way do we overtly criticize the performance of Linda Norris.  She has a reputation as an outstanding and well organized internal staff administrator. She has, nonetheless, not been a highly visible presence in the community, preferring apparently to maintain close relationships with the mayor and councilors and run a fairly tight ship with her staff – i.e., the other City employees. One thing we would like to see in a new City Manager is somewhat more openness with the general public.  We realize that this can be a no-win situation, since the wide (and sometimes wild) diversity of opinion one finds when...

Read More

The State of the City -Salem Weekly Editorial

Mayor Anna Peterson’s State of the City address provided an upbeat overview of Salem’s condition.  The Mayor is right that Salem’s volunteer councils and professional staff have long responded responsibly and skillfully to literally decades of shrinking resources. Essential City Departments such as public works, police, fire, the library, and parks have continued to serve the community well even with ever-tighter budgets. Salem’s finances are well managed and, as the Mayor noted, the council’s prudence has improved the city’s bond rating, which reduces its interest rate and saves money, and prepared it to deal with costs resulting from the Oregon Supreme Court’s reversal of Governor Kitzhaber’s unconstitutional reduction of PERS benefits. Salem’s economy is benefiting from the general recovery of the last few years. The mayor was keen to note new investments in local industry; she has high hopes that Mill Creek Industrial Park will attract more businesses; and she believes that improvements at Salem’s airport will invigorate economic activity there. How much of the city’s economic recovery is due to local policy or simply part of larger forces at work is hard to discern.  Time will tell if the trends are long lasting. Mayor Peterson also touted the key role of volunteers in creating a vibrant community and keeping Salem’s ship afloat.  Volunteers are essential to Salem’s many boards and commissions, its neighborhood associations, and much more.  They...

Read More

sw-house-ad-for-web-donatepdffinal

sw-house-ad-for-web-donatepdffinal