Thursday, July 28, 2005

Vision THIS

From the "I still got no clue" category:

Tom Potter wants to spend almost a million dollars to conduct "visioning" sessions. Ok, let's get this straight.... Portland still is chasing business away, unemployment still way above the norm, traffic is worse than ever, the city budget is so bad that they want to tax cell phones, and what does Potter propose? The "Community Visioning Project!

So he's going to convene a series of public forums where he will "engage the community to create a shared vision for Portland's future, 30 years from now and beyond."

A shared vision? He knows there is no such thing. There is no consensus "vision" as to how Portland should grow. There are vigorously competing views, and political processes decide which view wins. For decades now, the central planners (the auto hating, choo-choo loving, congestion creating, density dealing, bike boogiers) have dominated the political process.

They've had their way. Their policies have been winning. That's why we have the N/S light rail even though voters said no. That's why Highway 26 is still two lanes each way, as it was 30 years ago when Washington County had about half as many people in it. That's why the economy is Portland is so bad, while the rest of the nation is on the upswing. That's why we have tax-abated $300 per sqauare foot condos. That's why we'er bleeding millions of dollars out of schools, fire departments and police to line the pockets of favored developers.

Folks like me who think Oregon's land use policies make us uncompetitive, and who think it is absurd to invest the lion's share of transportation dollars in a rail system only 3% will use, and who know that high taxes drive productive people out - we've been losing. We are not a majority in Portland or Multnomah County.

Our vision lost in the Portland political arena. OK, I get that, and although I am of the opinion that the victors are ruining the city I grew up in and love, I'm a big boy. They won.

So why the "visioning"? Why does Potter want to pretend that there is some consensus vision, and that by asking the "public" there will be revealed some true north that all people can rally around heading toward?

We've all seen how it works. They convene public outreach sessions, dominated by people of the prevailing vision (new urban, auto-hostile, light rail friendly). Anybody with an opposing viewpoint is barely tolerated, and their views certainly have no impact on the proceedings.

They gather in large rooms, yammer on and on, then separate into "breakout groups," to yammer some more, then report back to the full group to tell everyone what they yammered about, while a scribe furiously writes down the various "results" on butcher paper hanging on the walls.

And those "results" are then selectively complied into the "summary of proceedings" and we have our "Vision."

It's a farce. There is no such thing as a shared vision that reflects everybody's views. Anybody who pretends there is should not be taken seriously.

It is simply a way to claim some kind of legitimacy to the policies that they want to shove down our throats - "sustainability," "smart-growth," "new urbanism" or whatever name for their nonsense is currently in vogue.

Don't buy it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Potter's Brilliant Anti-Terrorist Strategy

I was talking with my good friend and fellow talk show host Randy Leonard prior to my radio show yesterday, and it hit me: we just don't understand the innovative and brilliant anti-terror strategy being implemented by Mayor Potter.

Vera Katz started the initiative. Remember - one of the Portland Seven worked at two different times in her office.

She also refused to let Portland cooperate with the voluntary FBI interviews of persons of middle eastern heritage.

Potter took it to the next level by pulling out of the anti-terrorist task force.

And now we hear that there is probably a connection between the London bombings and that terrorits training camp they tried to establish in Bly, Oregon.

I finally figured out what Potter is doing. He had me stumped for a long time, because his policies seem so ridiculous - -I couldn't believe anyone would take the terror threat so casually after the gruesome events of the last several years.

Now, I won't say that Randy Leonard confirmed this. All he would say is "That Rob Kremer - he's just HOT!"

(Yes he said this on the air, right at the end of his show. Proving that Randy is not just a good guy, but has excellent taste in men as well.)

Anyway, here's what Potter is doing: He wants to keep Portlanders safe by making sure that Al-Qaeda cells are able to plan their activities from Portland.

Think about it! This is the LAST place they would strike if Portland is their home base!

The message Potter is sending is loud and clear: Terrorists, come to Portland, live here, plan here, play here - -because then you won't strike here.

You've got to admit, it IS brilliant.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

John Roberts and the Oregonian

The Oregonian editorialized the other day that John Roberts was "an inch to the left of a filibuster." Obviously implying Bush didn't leave anything on the table in his calculation of just how conservative he could go and still get his appointee through the Senate.

Now, if that is true, it is more evidence that Bush is hardly a dunce. I don't know much about Roberts, so I can't really analyze his credentials as a constitutionalist.

But the Oregonian went on to say:

"But he does have a troubling spot on his record. As a deputy solicitor general for President George H.W. Bush, he endorsed a legal brief that read, ". . . We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled. The Court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion . . . finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."

This is another example of the damage that is done by Portland being a one newspaper town. A monopoly newspaper can regularly insult half its readers and really pay no price.

Since when is a legal critique of Roe v Wade a black mark on a jurist's record? There have been many legal scholars - both liberal and conservative - who agree that Roe was an awful piece of jurisprudence. It has been vigorously debated for more than 30 years, and if anything, the notion that Roe was an egregious example of outcome-based jurisprudence that invented rights in the constitution out of whole cloth has pretty much become the majority opinion.

But rather than admit that there are valid criticisms of Roe, which every honest person I know regardless of their position on abortion admits, the Oregonian characterizes such criticisms as some sort of character flaw, as if Roe had the standing of Brown v Board of Education.

Little wonder that the editorial board at the O finds its influence so dramatically on the wane.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Catch Kremer & Abrams on KATU

My radio show co-host and I will soon be doing political commentary on KATU's evening news broadcasts.

The segments will be called "Face2face" and will run twice weekly, probably on Tuesdays and Thursdays around 5:45 pm.

We messed around with different formats for several months. We wanted something different than the typical "point/counterpoint" talking heads spots that have been done so many times before. We decided on a more dynamic "back-and-forth" format in which we will take an issue (our first one was PERS) and have three exchanges of points and arguments in about 90 seconds.

I think the first segment will run this Thursday.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Profile in Political Courage

Note: The following is my July column in BrainstormNW Magazine

It's a truth in politics that the hardest vote to cast isn't the one that upsets your opponents- it's the one that angers your friends.

That's why we are so often disappointed in our elected officials: they so often succumb to pressure from their leadership and cast a vote contrary to the principles they espouse.
In fact we've come to expect it. Legislators cast "courtesy votes" all the time, and usually pay little price.

So it's not very often that a freshman legislator stands up to pressure from leadership and refuses to cast a key vote in support of one of their major bills.

The unwritten story of the dog days of the 2005 legislative session involves one of the more remarkable instances of one such principled stand. In bucking her party brass, the freshman lawmaker not only proved herself more committed to Republican principles than many of her more experienced fellow caucus members, but in the process quite possibly saved the House Republican majority from itself.

The legislator is Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, who dislodged three term incumbent Vic Backlund in the 2004 Republican Primary. When Thatcher, a successful small businessperson, was attempting to take out the retired educator/lifetime union member, the House leadership supported Backlund.

I was involved in Thatcher's campaign. After two sessions of frustration with Backlund running the House Education Committee, during which time he blocked my efforts to repeal CIM CAM and willingly sponsored bills for the teachers union that would have severely hindered charter schools, I was eager to help a REAL Republican unseat him.

Thatcher ran a great campaign. Despite being outspent 2-1, being opposed by the House leadership and nearly all the lobby, and getting zero editorial board endorsements, Thatcher wiped the floor with Backlund, winning the primary 59% to 41%. Her decisive victory shocked onlookers, who believed Backlund was a beloved figure, untouchable in his district.

Her reason for running was simple: she thought the voters in her district wanted an authentic Republican to represent them. She was right. But unlike so many of her Republican brethren, she votes like a Republican even when the going gets tough.

Thatcher’s principled stand was over House Speaker Karen Minnis' school funding reform, which she introduced with great fanfare early in the session. The Minnis plan would have provided a stable revenue stream for schools by guaranteeing 51 percent of personal tax income receipts would go to schools.

Although Minnis got the reluctant support for her plan from the OSBA and COSA (two mainstay education special interest groups,) the teachers union never got on board, saying that the funding level guaranteed by the bill was not adequate.

With the unions opposed, no Democrats in the house would support Minnis' bill. With no D's in the house on board, the bill would have a rough time in the Democrat controlled senate.

To win over some D’s, Minnis struck a deal with the Portland School Board, which has huge looming fiscal problems. Among them is that the district’s local option tax hike is expiring, which comprises about 4 percent of the district's general fund budget. The district’s internal polling showed that there was little chance that voters would renew the tax.

So Minnis agreed to amend her school funding bill by adding a provision that would allow the Portland School District to renew its local option property tax without a vote of the people. Portland was the only district included.

That got the Portland School Board to pass a resolution supporting the Minnis bill, but if she thought that would win over some House Democrats, she was wrong. Not one of them joined the bill, which meant Minnis had to get the support of 31 of the 33 House Republicans for it to pass the House.

Understand what she was asking: she wanted House Republicans to support a tax increase as part of her school funding reform. She actually got commitments from 30 members. Kim Thatcher was one of the three holdouts.

Now, if the Speaker couldn’t get her landmark school funding bill through her own caucus, it would be a tremendous blow to her political credibility. She only needed a single vote, and she figured that the sole freshman holdout was the place to get it.

To say that Minnis and Majority Leader Wayne Scott leaned on Thatcher to change her mind would be putting it mildly. What started as a pleasant request quickly turned to a stern demand, then a threat, and finally shouts.

Thatcher stood her ground. A tax increase is a tax increase. The Speaker couldn’t get to 31 votes. She had to pull the bill off the floor, and send it back to committee, where the offending provision was removed.

The irony here is that Thatcher prevented perhaps the most damaging thing the House Republicans could have done – pass a tax increase. That’s the last thing Republicans need as they head into the 2006 governor race.

Kim Thatcher ran for the House because she truly cares about Republican principles. She stood tough – in a pretty lonely position -- and took the heat. Let’s hope that 30 of her peers recognize what REAL leadership looks like.

At Least Diane Linn Could Have Said It Correctly

If the Blazers would have hired Terry Porter, rather than Nate McMillan, as their next coach, I'm pretty sure that Diane Linn would have been spared her latest embarrassment.

Ironically, the Blazers' problems are not all that unlike the Fantastic Four "Women of Hawthorne" on the Multnomah County Commission. Both are seen as out of touch with their fans (voters); both are perceived as arrogant, and both have had one after another public relations nightmares, self inflicted.

Which is why I think the Blazers made a mistake in passing up Porter in favor of McMillan. I'm sure McMillan is a terrific coach, a disciplinarian, and all that. But it misses the point.

What is the Blazers' biggest problem? I think it is that the people of Portland have fallen out of love with them. Too many bad characters, too many underachieving teams. Still, Portland will give the team another chance - heck, it is begging to fall back in love with the team, if only given a reason.

So why hire Seattle's favorite son when Portland's favorite son is ready to come back?

Hire Porter and many of those disaffected fans who are disgusted by the antics the last few years will instantly give the team another look. Sure, he'd still have to keep his players out of jail and out of the gossip columns, and he'd have to win more games than the team has in recent years.

But Porter can obviously coach. His Milwaukie teams overachieved both years he was there.

I hope for the best for McMullin, but I can't help but think that the Blazers once again made a mistake.