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A few words from the Editor February 2005

A coincidence. I’m sure that’s all it is. These things happen all the time. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

On Oct. 29, 2003, Diana Goldschmidt spends a tough day persuading the Oregon Investment Council to take $300 million from the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund and drop it into a hot plan by the Texas Pacific Group to purchase Portland General Electric. Until now, hubby Neil, one of the most powerful men in the state, has been working overtime to torpedo a grassroots campaign to create a people’s utility district. The following day, Neil is offered a piece of the action by Texas Pacific Group, a piece that could translate into millions for the ex-governor. The offer comes a day before a Goldschmidt op-ed in The Oregonian levels both barrels at the PUD measure.

Coincidence. That seems to be what Attorney General Hardy Myers and his team of gumshoes are going with after conducting 23 witness interviews, and going through thousands of documents, including telephone logs and e-mail. Myers happily announced no evidence of criminal activity by any of the parties concerned at a Jan. 21 press conference where the full investigative report was released.

I suppose it should come as no surprise. Myers, after all, seems to view his duty as attorney general in a strange way. Take something like gay marriage and he’s ready to weigh in against the county that chose to start issuing licenses. Immerse him in an environment that makes the Gilded Age look like an Amish town meeting and he can’t see a single thing wrong.

Of course, Myers isn’t alone here. The idea that government should be serving a real regulatory role over corporations and moneyed interests is becoming an increasingly alien concept here in Oregon (a wellspring of the progressivism that gave us our first round of regulatory agencies a century ago). What does it say when the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year criticized our Department of Environmental Quality of being too willing to accommodate polluters? Remember, that’s the Bush-led EPA saying progressive Oregon is going soft on pollution.

Things aren’t much different closer to home. The City Club just finished a review of the Portland Development Commission. Three decades ago, the City Club recommended disbanding the commission because it was an appointed body that showed little interested in being accountable to the citizens of this city. As this issue goes to press, the Club has revised its judgment in a new report. It seems the Club sees a need for a certain amount of autonomy now so the commission can carry remain involved in the public-private deal-making it so enjoys. Forget the fact that they use federal dollars tagged to create local businesses in depressed, low-income neighborhoods to add a new theater and a bit more luster to the Brewery Blocks development. Also forget the fact that the PDC had to get approval from the Port of Portland to move forward with their tax deal for many of those Brewery Block improvements, one of the Port votes being cast by Michael Powell, whose City of Books sits right in the middle of all that activity.

What’s going on here? As Oregon moves into the 21st century, we’re seeing the final retreat of Oregon liberalism. Never really comfortable with the masses served by the social welfare programs they protected, Oregon liberals are joining with their counterparts elsewhere in the nation to find and cross that political centerline.

What the rest of us are getting in return is an increasingly unresponsive form of government that is happily facilitating the transfer of tens of millions of dollars from public coffers into private ones. Liberals, those who still feel any responsbility to the people that voted for them, may add on a bell and whistle here and there to give the impression of public participation. Just don’t ask the wrong questions or try to go inside those back rooms where the sweetheart deals are being cut (you’ll recognize them because those boys aren’t being fed the stale cookies and tepid coffee the “citizens panel” receives.

I don’t think there’s much difference between being mugged quickly but roughly or more gently and slowly. The end result is the same. So as our favorite liberal politicians go on about working together with the opposition party, coming up with “win-win” solutions and bringing civility back into our political world, we’re left with only two choices. We can let them continue to lead us down the path and hope they will have an epiphany along the way, or we can start taking direct action now. There’s no shortage of targets: the PGE takeover, police accountability, criminal justice reform, reorganizing city government, real enforcement of workers rights. The list is very long. All we need to do is take that first step.

It’s a lot better than hoping for coincidence to take care of things.

—Dave Mazza




The Portland Alliance 2807 SE Stark Portland,OR 97214
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Last Updated: April 3, 2005