Wednesday, May 31, 2006

U of O's new and improved diversity plan

You've just got to read this terrific column about the University of Oregon's new 46-page "Diversity Plan."

If you recall, the University released its first run at a diversity plan last year, and it was deemed too politically correct for even the faculty at the famously liberal U of O. It was Orwellian in the extreme, filled with double-speak about tolerance and diversity while proposing policies that would have severely limited speech that the Universities "Bias Response Teams" deemed intolerant.

So they tried again. Strike two.

The columnist analyzes it better than I could, in the form of an open letter to U of O President David Frohnmeyer.

Go read it - it is fabulous.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Portland again on the bleeding edge of loopiness

The Portland Tribune reports today that Portland might be the first U. S. city to adopt a "Youth Bill of Rights."

It seems Mayor Potter and outgoing county chair Dianne Linn are leading a "Youth Summit," where about 1000 students from Portland area school districts will vote on the details of the Youth Bill of Rights. Then the city will vote to adopt it, and Mayor Potter has indicated he wants its elements to help form city policy.

The bill is still in draft form, but the "rights" it will list are things such as the right to education, the right to extracurricular activities, the right to school funding and the right to physical, spiritual and mental health.

It was 100% predictable that the enumerated "rights" in the bill are not rights at all. Nobody bothered to explain to the kids that rights are things that government can't do to you, they are not things that government must do for you. You'd think that the adults involved with this effort might care a little bit if the children actually learned the definition of what it is they are trying to produce.

But that wouldn't serve the purposes the adults in charge so obviously have for this effort - to use the kids' involvement to push for all their favored social policies. Plus, of course, liberals are almost always confused about what rights are in the first place.

Followup: The Netherlands have long been on the cutting edge of liberalism when it comes to children's rights. Now a new political party is getting organized in the Netherlands that has as its central issue advocating for the right if children to have sex with adults. Who said there's no slippery slope?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I wish I was as smart as George Will

I've never posted on illegal immigration before, because there are plenty of bloggers who focus on it and I don't think I have a lot to add.

George Will wrote something on the issue of declaring English our national language that makes a lot of sense, and so I post it below:

“….Declaring English the national language is a mere gesture. But by ending bilingual ballots, American law would perform its expressive function of buttressing, by codifying and vivifying, certain national assumptions and aspirations.

"Among those is this: The idea of citizenship becomes absurd when sundered from the ability to understand the nation’s civic conversation.

"What makes Americans generally welcoming of immigrants, and what makes immigrants generally assimilable, is that this is a creedal nation, one dedicated to certain propositions, not one whose origins and identity are bound up with ethnicity. But if you are to be welcomed to the enjoyment of American liberty, then America has a few expectations of you.

"One is that you can read the nation’s founding documents and laws, and can comprehend the political discourse that precedes the casting of ballots."

Bingo. This is a creedal nation. Assimilating here means you understand and are committed to that creed - the foundational principles of our nation: individual rights and the rule of law. This is what unites us as a nation and is what has created our unique American culture.

Can people who do not speak English both understand and be committed to these principles? Of course.

But can they participate in the political discourse that helps strengthen and preserve our republic and our culture? Not really.

What has always made me nervouse about so-called "multi-culturalists" is that they implicitly take the position that there is no such thing as an American culture that is worthy of being preserved and protected. And so they seek to preserve and protect the native culture of all immigrant groups by supporting policies such as bilingual education in schools, ballots with multiple languages, etc.

But there is a unique and important American culture that is closely bound together with the founding principles of our nation. If immigrants want to come here, become a part of our culture, and adopt these principles, then I welcome them. This does not mean they have to give up any of the rich cultural traditions of their native land - unless those traditions are in conflict with the foundations of American liberty - individual rights and the rule of law.

It is no accident that the people and groups who support "multi-culturalism" also tend to be pretty fuzzy on the notion of individual rights. In fact they are pretty much the same people who are always pushing group rights and identity poltics.

In other words, they do not support (and in some respects are outright hostile toward) the most fundamental of American principles.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Oregon School Trust Lands

One of the little known elements of Oregon's school revenue is the "Oregon School Trust" lands that are managed by the state. The state is statutorily required to maximize revenue from these lands, and the money flows to the Common School Fund.

The Trust lands include the Elliot State Forest, a 93,000 forest near Coos Bay, and a slew of rangeland. The state is now in the middle of a long term "forest management plan" which will specify which parts of the forest are harvested, the annual cut, habitat preservation, etc.

According to the state, the market value of the forest is upwards of a half a billion dollars. The management plan expects to yeild about 4% on that value. Why so low? Mostly because the state is uniquely ill-suited to actually manage a forest for maximum revenue, because priorities other than revenue maximization always carry the day when they grind though their bureaucratic public planning processes.

All the greenies have the ear of the state bureaucrats who draw up the plan. So they accept a far lower yield than they could get if they actually followed the state law and maximized revenue from the forest.

Who comes out on the short end? The schoolkids. Just the forest lands - ignoring all the other lands held in the trust - could easily spin off an additional $20 million to the Common School Fund.

John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute has a great idea how to do it: Sell the Elliot State Forest and let the Oregon Investment Council invest the proceeds on behalf of the Common School Fund.

The OIC has routinely made 15+% on the funds under its management. But for the sake of argument let's assume that the proceeds from selling the forest simply yeild a long term average of 8%. (This is a very realistic long term average return for a portfolio of financial assets.)

That means $20,000,000 each year additional fund for the schools.

Who is making the decision to short Oregon's schoolkids by $20 million? The Governor, Treasurer and Secretary of State form the board that makes this decision. Together they are each year deciding to take $20 million out of the schools in order to placate their buddies the environmental groups.

(Remember - the actual figure is probably far far higher than $20 million. If they sold off the range lands as well, and if the actual return was closer to the OIC's long term average, the annual return could easily be upwards of $80 million.)

Ron Saxton should ask Governor Kulongoski why he hasn't fulfilled his statutory responsibility to maximize the revenue from these trust lands at a time when he is touting his plan to increase school funding.

I think it would be a great campaign issue.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Let's Move Forward

Ron Saxton is going to be the next governor of Oregon.

This was a tough primary. People got bruised. Time to show that we are indeed a party, and while we can have a vigorous - even nasty - family fight, when it is over we all know who the opponent really is.

Had Kevin or Jason won, I would fight like hell to get him elected in November. I hope Kevin and Jason's supporters will do what both of them so graciously pledged in their concession speeches last night - to help get Ron elected.

I hope those of you who are skeptical of Ron's conservative bonafides will come to know him as I do, and understand the full measure of his core conservatism. There will obviously be times when I disagree with one or another position Ron takes. That is normal, and it would be scary if it were otherwise.

But if this Party gets behind Ron Saxton, we will break a quarter-century curse on the Republican party in Oregon.

Let's go!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Another poll shows Saxton with commanding lead

Survey USA released a poll today of more than 400 likely Republican voters. Saxton by 13%

This could mean that all the negative ads run by Mannix have fallen on deaf ears. My criticism of the last Survey USA poll was that they did not qualify likely voters. They did in this time. They excluded roughly half the people they called, as not likely to vote. That's about right - turnout last primary was 46%.

This poll was taken on two nights this week - after the Clapper ads and Mannix ads have had a little running room. But Saxton's lead has crystallized.

I'm biased, because I'm supporting Ron, but I find the story this poll tells to be credible.

If it is accurate, it means there is a good chance Ron is the nominee.

If/when that comes to pass, I hope my good friends and comrades in arms who supported one of the other candidates will help push Ron over the top in November.

I will certainly work hard to elect whichever Republican candidate wins. I assume every other committed Republican will do the same, whomever they supported in the primary.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Loren Parks plows another quarter million into Mannix

A week to go and the race is in the ugly stage.

It is too bad it had to get this way, but we all knew if Kevin got behind he would go negative. That's how it is done. Ron Saxton is a big boy. He knew if his campaign caught on, that Kevin would have to attack. No whining.

But it is OK to hit back.

Saxton's response ads started today, and will continue through the week. They highlight the zillions of tax and fee increases Kevin voted for as a legislator, among other things.

So, fair enough. The negative campaigning has started, and it was inevitable, unless the race was a cakewalk. Voters always say they hate negative campaignng, but it works. So they must not really hate it that much.

Here's what we know: Loren Parks has given Mannix another quarter million. That makes it about a cool $750K counting the "independent" ad campaign done by Gregg Clapper.

Is that bothersome? One reclusive zillionaire provides the bulk of the funding for a governor candidate. Problem?

At the very least it reflects the fact that Kevin Mannix does not have a broad base of financial support. At the most it means that some shadowy out-of-state eccentric recluse has bought himself a governorship.

Here's what the Saxton campaign has to say about it:

Statement Regarding Mannix C&E Report and Loren Parks Contribution:

The following statement is to be attributed to Felix Schein, Saxton Campaign Manager.

"Republican voters ought to ask themselves whether they are comfortable with a candidate who's willing to sell his campaign to the highest bidder - especially when that bidder is a Nevada sex therapist who has repeatedly been sued for sexual harassment, operates a questionable sex therapy website, and whose values so clearly oppose those of Mr. Mannix's other supporters.

"It reeks of hypocrisy for Kevin Mannix to tout his values and respect for women and yet allow his campaign to be bought by Loren Parks.

"Contributions in excess of $500,000 to Kevin Mannix by Loren Parks beg the question - what does Loren Parks get for his money, could Kevin Mannix ever say no, and are Oregon Republicans going to accept an out-of-state contributors attempt to buy the gubernatorial election."

Seven days to go.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Saxton Leads by 3%

KATU is releasing a poll tonight that shows Saxton leading Mannix by 3%.

This is a very tight race and now is crunch time. Ten days left. I thought this would be a good time to repost my original endorsement of Ron, which I first put up in January:

Saxton for Governor

I am supporting Ron Saxton’s effort to win the Republican nomination for Governor.

I have taken awhile to make this decision, because we have three very solid Republican candidates. I would happily and enthusiastically support any of them in the general election, but I think Ron Saxton is the best candidate, and so I will work to help him win the primary in May.

Before going into my reasons for supporting Ron, I want to address an important issue: lots of conservative bloggers have been trying to paint Ron Saxton as a liberal, or as an inauthentic Republican - a RINO.Let me put it simply: They are wrong.

Ron is not only the most fiscally conservative candidate running for governor, I believe he has the best grasp of precisely what is wrong about they way Oregon government operates right now and how to correct it.

On social issues, Ron is conservative where it matters: he would sign a ban on partial birth abortion, and he supports parental notification. He may not be as much as an abortion purist as the other candidates, but I have news for you: it doesn’t matter who the governor is – you’re not going to get more than this.

There’s been a lot of discussion about Ron’s association with Diana Goldschmidt, which, it is claimed, taints him because she is married to Neil Goldschmidt. Diana is a long time loyal Republican, and she supported Ron’s last run for Governor. Ron was instrumental in bringing Diana in to serve as interim superintendent of PPS, which was a very good move.

Did Ron’s firm also have various business dealings with Neil? Of course. Ron was the managing partner of a large law firm in Portland. Goldschmidt was involved with most every significant business deal in the city. Their professional lives inevitably crossed.

The real issue here is that Ron’s opponents want you to believe that he is a part of the “central planning/pro-light-rail/anti-car/anti property rights” culture that Goldschmidt ushered in and that has so badly damaged Portland and Oregon.

He’s not. I know him; I’ve talked with him at length about every one of these issues. I’ve literally drilled him on the gamut of things that drive me crazy about the political culture in Oregon. He’s as disgusted as I am about the way things are done here.

More important, he understands what he needs to do as governor to correct it, starting with a wholesale change of the people at every level of state government.

He understands that we need more roads, and that light rail is a bad investment if our goal is actually to move people as efficiently as possible. He understands that the land use system in Oregon has created hundreds of planning fiefdoms in city halls and county seats in every corner of the state that make building even the simplest structure an expensive and frustrating nightmare.

He understands that government’s job should not be to pick winners and losers, and that our land use laws are one of the single biggest obstacles to job growth in Oregon. (The tax structure is another.) He understands that competition is critical to reforming schools, and that PERS is devouring the budgets of every level of government.

I’ve talked with Ron at length about all of these things and more. I think his rural/farming background combines with his legal/business dealings in his professional life to give him a visceral understanding of what is wrong with Oregon. I don’t think the other candidates grasp it quite as well.

And that is why I am supporting Ron Saxton for governor.

One last thing: Ron has the best chance of any Republican candidate to win in November. Hands down. Any Republican who wants to win a statewide race in Oregon better have some strategy to pull 33-35% of the votes in Multnomah County. Ron is the only one who could do that.

In fact, I think that the primary will be a harder race for Ron to win than the general election.

So I urge you to take another look at Ron Saxton, and make a judgment for yourself. There are plenty of people I respect trying to make him appear to be a latte liberal RINO. I get that – they have chosen sides and are trying to help their candidate. But it's not true. I like the other candidates both personally and politically, and I will not attempt to run either of them down.

They each have many things to recommend them, and I would hope that their supporters would focus their energy on convincing people of these positive attributes rather than trying to denigrate Ron Saxton.

I don't think most people think I am a liberal, nor Don McIntire, who is also supporting Ron.

All I ask is that you take some time to listen to what Ron has to say, and judge for yourself whether he has a good handle on how to turn around the damage done in 25 years of Goldscmidt/Roberts/Katz/Kitz/Kulongoski rule in Oregon.

Stop Leaving Most Children Behind

Dr. Howard Fuller, a national leader in civil rights and school choice, is coming to Portland on May 23rd for an evening event to talk about why minority parents should not settle for school reforms offered by school districts.

Fuller was superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools when the nation's first voucher program was established in the early 1990's. Unlike most big city superintendents, Fuller embraced the voucher program and oversaw its implementation in Milwaukee.

Since the voucher program began, none of the opponents' scary scenarios have come to pass. The Milwaukee Public Schools spend more money per student, not less, than before the voucher. Student achievement has grown in BOTH the new voucher schools and the Milwaukee schools.

Fuller went on to become Chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the nation's leading minority school choice advocacy organization. He is dynamic, articulate and extremely intelligent. I've been lucky enough to have dealings with him on various initiatives.

His visit is part of a school choice project for the Jefferson High School attendance area spearheaded by my friend Matt Wingard. A week ago, the project released their analysis of the long history of failed reforms the Portland School District tried over the years.

The Oregonian's S. Renee Mitchell wrote this story about the project.

The Fuller event is May 23rd at 7:00 PM at the Emmanuael Temple Church, 1033 N. Sumner St. You can call (503) 242-0900 to learn more or to RSVP (requested but not required.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mannix TV ad

The new TV ad by Mannix is a very interesting development in the governor race.

It shows Mannix is behind, for starters. Up until now, Mannix has more or less run a "Rose Garden" campaign, seeming to think he could run the general election campaign in the primary because he thought he was ahead.

It was apparent to me after Dorchester that Saxton had all the momentum, and Mannix had to take his primary opponents seriously. Atkinson was clearly taking a chunk out of Mannix's hide, and Saxton was clearly surging.

Now that Mannix has gone openly on the attack (we of course know that the phony "independent" campaign by Clapper, paid for by Loren Parks, was hardly independent) we can assume that he knows he is behind.

Will this ad turn things around? Hard to say. Last time, Mannix was behind at about this stage and won in a three way race by a late campaign questioning Saxton's conservative bonafides.

But things are different this time around. First, Saxton has far more clearly defined himself in this race. Conservatives identify with him strongly, the polling shows. It won't be so easy to get Republicans to abandon him.

Second, the three way dynamic is a lot different this time. Mannix has Atkinson bleeding some of his pro-life support. Last time Mannix was the only pro-life candidate.

Finally, a lot of Republican voters are tired of Kevin Mannix, and more tired still of losing in the general election. Saxton is overwhelmingly considered to be the most electible candidate of the three.

These factors suggest that the Mannix hit pieces, while they may take a chunk out of Ron's hide, won't be enough to completely erode his lead.

Ironically, there is an upside for Saxton here. Bloody primary fights usually leave the winning candidate wounded headed into the general election. Their money is drained, and their negatives are high within their own party after the brusing primary fight.

But these attacks on Saxton, because they try to portray him as a Portland liberal, could actually HELP him in the general election by moving him to the center in the minds of voters. The usual route to victory for a Republican in a statewide race is to run to the right in the primary, then to the middle in the general. It is hard to pull off, because voters will accept only so much nuance.

But these ads help Ron to do just that, without him appearing as some craven politician. Maybe Ron should report the Mannix ad buy on his C & E reports as an in-kind contribution!

School district shenanigans

The following is my BrainstormNW column from April. This problem is growing worse, and eventually we may need to file a lawsuit to stop it.

School District Shenanigans

It has been more than six years since Oregon passed its charter school law. Since then, I’ve been involved with dozens of charter school projects, mostly helping the schools navigate the approval process in which they must convince a school district to grant them their charter.

Time and again I’ve seen school districts pull shenanigans that should land them in court, but they know they benefit from the classic power imbalance: a fledgling non-profit with few resources can afford neither the time or the money to run to court every time the district jacks them around, and the districts know it.

Districts have had six years to figure out how to neutralize charters. Led by the Oregon School Board Association legal staff, school districts have pretty much figured out how they can stop any charter proposal they don’t want, even if legions of parents in the district want the school.

In a column I wrote last year, I wondered aloud whether the charter school movement would avoid the fate that has met every other promising reform to come down the pike in the last fifty years: become assimilated by the “Blob” (Big Learning Organization Bureaucracies.)

I’m sorry to report that in many respects, that is exactly what is happening in Oregon. School districts have not only learned how to complicate the chartering process to discourage all but the most persistent schools, but have also learned how to use the law to suck down grant dollars that were supposed to go truly independent charter schools.

Charter schools can apply for a federal start-up grants of about $350K over the first three years of the project. For most new charters, there is no way they could pay for the start-up costs without these grants. The grants are administered on a competitive basis by the Oregon Department of Education. They give about 10-15 of these grants each year.

In the last several years, the majority of the grants have gone not to independent charter school projects, but rather to “charter schools” that are run by school districts. In many cases, the district charters are simply alternative schools by another name.

Districts are required to offer alternative education programs for students who have dropped out or left school because of disciplinary reasons. Why not “convert” their alternative school to charter status, and get $350K from the state to do it?

There has even been a case of a district getting the grant to convert an alternative school to charter status, then when the funds run out, converting it back to alternative school status!

The State Department of Education could put a stop to this, but despite our repeated complaints, the bureaucrats there don’t see it as a problem.

Frustrating as that is, it pales in comparison to the runaround some charters are getting from the school districts during the approval and start-up phases. When a charter proposal is fortunate enough to get approved by the board, it must then negotiate a contract with the district that is supposed to reflect the provisions of the proposal. That's when the fun really begins, especially if the district retains the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) to handle the “negotiation.”

With the OSBA involved, they invariably insist on all sorts of contractual provisions that were never discussed during the entire four month approval process. Often the provisions they insist on contradict what the approved charter proposal said. And if the charter school refuses to accept the conditions the OSBA unilaterally decrees, they then tell the district to rescind the approval!

We’ve pointed out that this behavior is against the law. The charter school statute reads:

“The sponsor and applicant shall develop a written charter that contains the provisions of the proposal that have been duly approved by the sponsor and public charter school governing body.”

That means they can’t just try to cram new provisions down our throat unless we agree. So far, we’ve had no success convincing them to follow the law. Their attitude seems to be: “so sue us.”

Of course they know a lawsuit would be a year or more to conclude, during which time the school would stay on hold – not a bad result if your goal is to delay the project anyway. Especially if your attorneys are paid by tax dollars.

Despite these struggles, Oregon’s charter school law has resulted in a good number of terrific schools who were generally fortunate enough to get started before the “Blob” figured out how to strike back.

But I’m not very optimistic, unless the Oregon Department of Education takes a leadership role in holding school districts and the OSBA accountable, that Oregon’s charter law will result in the robust, innovative and high achieving network of schools that it once promised to create.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A year

I just realized that today is my one year anniversary doing this blog.

I've made 135 posts during the year, so that's about one every three days. I know a lot of bloggers are a lot more active than that. I guess I don't think I have something interesting to say more than three times a week.

I do like doing it, though, and I expect I'll probably be a bit more active over the next year.

I hope to have some more news on the Blazer deal to report soon.

Governor Race

It's been a couple weeks since I've posted - I've been very busy working on the Blazer deal.

The governor race is down to the final fortnight, and the fur is flying. I'm of course backing Ron Saxton, and I think the signs are becoming clear that Ron is in very good position to win.

Take a look at this poll, done by Survey USA. It asked about name familiarity, favorables and unfavorables on every candidate running for Governor. It did not ask who they were voting for, but the information is interesting for what it says about how the candidates' messages are being heard and received.

The results not only bode well for Ron Saxton, but are a virtual train wreck for Ted Kulongoski. There is also some fairly bad news for both Kevin Mannix and Jason Atkinson.

Here are the key items:
  • Among registered Republicans, Saxton and Mannix have almost identical favorables - 33% and 34%. Mannix, however, has significantly higher negatives - 25% vs 14%.
  • Jason Atkinson's message is not getting heard, which makes sense because he has not had the money to buy the kind of media that would reach a lot of people. Even among Republicans, only 47% know who he is. Even worse for Jason is the fact that among that 47%, more people have a negative impression of him than positive. So when his message IS heard, it isn't winning people over.
  • Jason continues to have a huge gender gap in his support. This was first identified in a poll that Mike Riley did a few months ago, and it was confirmed in this poll. Women are barely more than half as likely to like Jason than are men.
  • Perhaps the most surprising result is that Saxton does better than either Atkinson or Mannix with Republicans who call themselves conservative. Conservatives were just as likely to dislike Jason as like him. For Mannix, conservatives were twice as likely to approve of him, and for Saxton, a little south of three times more likely.
  • Kulongoski is in trouble. Among Democrats, 34% have an unfavorable impression vs. 44% favorable. Only 20% neutral. That would seem to predict he would get something less than 60% in the primary. The equivalent of blood in the water.
  • Ben Westlund is still not well known, with 56% of all voters not having an opinion. Of those who know him, he's perceived as a lefty. Conservatives dislike him 2:1, and liberals like him 3:2. This lends weight to the argument that he would draw more votes from Kulongoski in the general election.

This poll didn't try to exclude registered voters who are unlikely to vote in the primary, which does give me pause. Primary voters tend to be more politically aware and more ideological than those who only vote in the general election, so there is some reason to take these numbers with a grain of salt.

I am told that a poll will be released tomorrow or Wednesday that will give a ballot test on both the Republican and Democrat governor races. It will be interesting to see if it confirms these numbers.