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October 22nd, 2014

The War At Home and Abroad 

Dear ROPnetters, 

A few weeks ago we sent you a message looking at the war abroad and what is likely to be endless war into the next presidency.  You can read that ROPnet here.

Today is the National Day of Protest Against Police Violence. Let’s talk more about the face of the war at home.

A recent article on theFreeThoughtProject.com revealed that the number of people murdered by police in the last 10 years is higher than the number of US soldiers killed in the Iraq war:

In the last decade alone the number of people murdered by police has reached 5,000. The number of soldiers killed since the inception of the Iraq war, 4489.

It also reveals that you are 29 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than you are by a terrorist.  Check out the full article here.

Couple this with the surplus military equipment that is now being gifted to local law enforcement in counties across the country and we have the makings of a war at home.

Mapping the Spread of the Military’s Surplus Gear

Deschutes County, for example, now has 40 assault rifles, 40 body armor pieces, 30 night vision pieces, 3 grenade launchers and 1 armored vehicle.   Clackamas County has several of the above and a mine resistant vehicle as well. Click on the above image for details about your county.

For years ROP and human dignity groups have been making the links between the wars abroad and the wars at home: exposing policies that bomb other countries and deport people of color immigrants (now over 2 million deportations since Obama became President).  In addition, human dignity groups in over a dozen counties have been engaging their local sheriffs in conversations - and applying pressure - around local sheriff's relationships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  This pressure helped win national news this year as Oregon sheriffs all over the state publicly stated they will no longer honor ICE holds without a warrant, meaning they will no longer keep someone in jail just so ICE can come pick them up. This is a huge victory.

With eyes and ears on Ferguson and press covering the murders of young black men by local law enforcement (and police officers getting off without so much as a trial), now is the perfect time to push for a shift in our national psyche. This is a real opportunity to take our work exposing the wars at home and aboard to another level.

One big outcome of the most recent ROP Tour with Walidah Imarisha on “Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon?: A Hidden History” is interest in engaging local law enforcement on what systems they have in place to address violence and injustice against people of color, immigrants, people with mental illness and addressing local militarization.  Questions include:

  • Are there policies, practices and/or training in place to track violence against and incidences with people of color, homeless, people with mental illness and other marginalized communities?  Is there a civilian review board or another form of external oversight in place?
  • How are sheriffs and local law enforcement currently engaging with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – what information are they providing, what ways are they collaborating?
  • What kind of military equipment do they have? What kind of combat training have they had? What rules guide future use of such equipment?  What is the role of citizen decision-making?

ROP is putting together a Kitchen Table Activism that provides the tools and questions to sit down with your local law enforcement.  What questions would you add to the list?

Send us your thinking by emailing cara@rop.org.

Warmly, Cara

PS- And don’t forget! The Rural Oregon Listening Project is under way! The best way to know what is happening in our communities is to ask! Download the survey here in English and Spanish and help collect information and stories on the experiences of low income folks and communities of color in our local communities.  ROP will compile results for the state and share information back with your group about the survey results in your county. Email Jessica@rop.org for more information or call 503-543-8417.  We have already collected over 150 surveys – let’s reach 500.

Ballots are landing in mailboxes any day now, which means human dignity groups across the state are passing out STAND Voter Guides, holding ballot forums and candidate forums, and marching for Measure 88 for Drivers Cards -- all to get voters engaged, educated, and ready to vote!

Below you will find articles from our STAND Voter Guide, including ballot measure recommendations by and for rural Oregonians, more information on Drivers Cards, and a guide to choosing which candidates to vote for. Take a look, share with your group, friends, and neighbors, and, most importantly: vote!

Want STAND Voter Guides but forgot to place an order? It isn't too late! Email me at jessica@rop.org or call the office at 503-543-8417 to place an order and we'll get them in the mail!


PS: Would you like STAND articles in Spanish to share? Email me and let me know!

STAND Articles:

Talking About Tough Issues

In this critical election year, we face important choices that will impact Oregon for years to come.  Some of the choices that we are asked to make require us to respond to issues that can be misunderstood and manipulated in ways that do not support real democratic values.  

A just democracy is defined by the World Book Encyclopedia as: the inclusion of all; respect for majority rule and minority rights; a well-informed and educated public; and a reasonable standard of living. 

Vote Pro-democracy November 4th – We have a lot to win…or lose.

Oregon Ballot Measures
Do these measures advance a just democracy and uphold basic rights for all?

Yes on Measure 86 (R)

Creates access to higher education for students in need by creating the Student Opportunity Fund and authorizes the state to issues bonds for the fund without raising taxes. Oregon has seen some of the highest tuition hikes in the nation and this is one step in addressing the student debt crisis.

Yes on Measure 87 (R)

Allows judges to serve in the National Guard and state colleges and allows school employees to serve in the Legislature.  Determined to be straight forward and without unintended consequences.

Yes on Measure 88

Allows access to a four-year limited purpose, limited duration driver card for those who can provide proof of living in the state for at least one year and can pass drivers’ tests. Advances safety and justice for all by allowing everyone to drive safely to work, school and the doctor, regardless of documentation status.

You Decide on Measure 89

Amends the Oregon Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from discriminating based on sex.  Women are a group that experiences discrimination and we support all efforts to protect all communities that face discrimination.  This measure, though, is redundant to existing protection in the Oregon Constitution (Article 1, Section 20). Symbolic repetition is a distraction to systematic action. Opponents worry this measure could put others who experience discrimination at risk - including people of color and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks - because it suggests that current constitutional protections against discrimination are inadequate. Advocates suggest that this could help with challenging gender discrimination such as wage gaps and hiring practices. You decide, is this repetition worth the risk?

No on Measure 90

Creates a top-two primary system.  Allows all voters to vote on all primary candidates, regardless of party affiliation.  Only the two candidates with the most votes would proceed to the general election.  We firmly believe in the need to stop money from dominating politics, but we are concerned that this measure falls short. This measure may also have negative consequences, including increasing the overall cost to run for office, favoring more privileged candidates with more access to money.  Is one primary for all voters more democratic? Will 3rd parties be helped by access to May primaries or hurt by being excluded from the November ballot unless they win “top two” in the primary? Will adding endorsements by multiple parties to the primaries hold major parties more accountable? These are important questions that concern us.

Yes on Measure 91

Legalizes use and tightly regulated sale of marijuana for adults 21 and over, freeing up law enforcement for more pressing priorities. Regulates and taxes the sale through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission; tax revenues would benefit schools, state and local police and alcohol and drug treatment and prevention programs. People of color are disproportionately more likely to be arrested for and incarcerated longer for marijuana possession than white people, also making this measure a step toward reducing unjust impacts of the prison system on people of color.

Yes on Measure 92

Gives consumers more information by requiring food manufacturers to label food containing genetically modified ingredients. Demonstrates support of small farmers to maintain control over their crops and livelihoods, and is a step towards taking back power from corporatized agriculture.

(R) indicates that these measures are referrals from the State Legislature.  All others are citizen initiatives.  ROP recommendations were decided by the Board of Directors with input from the overall membership.  Our Board is comprised of small town Oregon leadership from eight counties: Crook, Deschutes, Douglas, Klamath, Marion, Polk, Yamhill and Union.  ROP members live in all 36 counties.

Thinking About Our Rights

Measure 88 would create a four-year limited purpose, limited duration driver card for Oregon residents provided that they, 1) pass the driver’s written test, 2) pass the behind-the-wheel test, 3) provide proof of residence in Oregon for more than one year, and 4) provide a passport, consular identity card or other document proving their identity.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because in 2013 the Oregon legislature and the governor already agreed to make drivers cards available to everybody who qualifies. Now the bill they passed has been referred to the ballot, where a majority of votes must be YES to make the driver card a reality.

There are a lot of distractions flying around about what this measure is about, but don’t be fooled! This is about all of our neighbors – including many immigrant families who would be impacted by the measure – having equal access to get safely to the places we need to go. And in rural and small-town Oregon where public transportation is rare, driving is often the only way to get around.

Vote Our Values, Not Our Fears

Here’s a fact for people who eat food: according to the US Department of Labor, about half the people growing and harvesting our food crops are “not authorized to work” – they are undocumented workers. It has been this way for decades.  What this means is that the riled up folks who would vote to take away driver cards for undocumented immigrants in Oregon start their days by sitting down to a breakfast provided to them by… undocumented immigrants.

So what is this really about? Do opponents of the driver card really want to prevent the critical workforce behind Oregon’s $1 billion per year agricultural industry from getting to work?

The few at the top hope that by turning workers against each other, they might be able to keep workers from thinking about the real solutions to the problem of making a living, such as better wages, the right to organize, fair taxation on the rich and corporations, and closing the huge wealth gap in our country.

In other words, the folks opposing the driver card are thinking very little about a common sense way for people to get to work and a lot about making all work pay as little as possible.

During this election season, let’s all stay focused on our basic values of human dignity and respect for ALL members of our communities.  Vote YES on Measure 88, YES for Safe Roads. All people should be able to get to work.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) is the primary organization responsible for the driver card referendum. Since its founding in 2000, OFIR has pushed policies designed to create a hostile environment for immigrants and drive them out of the state. OFIR’s efforts are supported by and follow the lead of national anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

OFIR’s efforts to overturn the driver cards through Measure 88 have been funded primarily by Loren Parks, a wealthy business owner who provided an infusion of $100,000 (70% of OFIR’s total budget!) in the ehttp://www.thleventh hour, getting paid canvassers on the streets to collect enough signatures. This is not Loren Parks’ first rodeo! He has worked with buddies Bill Sizemore and Lon Mabon for over a decade, bankrolling political campaigns designed to make Oregon a haven for the rich and unlivable for communities that are already vulnerable, including creating new mandatory minimum sentences and cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Why is Loren Parks the largest political donor in Oregon history, even though he lives in Nevada? Oregon is often seen by big-moneyhttp://www.th political movers as a testing ground, meaning that what can pass in Oregon can pass in other places around the country. This means that the way we vote here in Oregon has echoes around the country… which just goes to show that your vote as an Oregonian means a lot!

How to Choose a Candidate

It is hard to choose a political candidate. How do we know if a politician reflects our values and if they will work for our best interests?

Some people go by “brand name” – political party. Some folks try to figure out where a candidate is at by watching the TV ads, listening to radio spots, reading campaign junk mail (good luck if that’s your method!). Then there’s the trusty coin toss.

The most reliable way to choose a candidate is also the best way to keep that person accountable to you when in office: decide what ishttp://www.thsues matter most to you, make a list, then do what you can to find out where that candidate stands on your concerns.

For example:
All politicians say they support economic development that benefits working people. Is your candidate supportive of programs that benefit small businesses and living wage jobs, or policies that pad the pockets of large corporations? 

What does your candidate mean when they say they support working families? Outside of Portland, 53% of private-sector workers across Oregon lack a single paid sick day. That’s true for nearly 80% of low-wage workers.   Would your candidate support a proposal that affords workers across Oregon the right to earn paid sick time through their job?  What about a raise to the minimum wage in Oregon?

Politicians often say they can be trusted to ”make the tough choices.” Often, elected officials must make difficult choices when budgets are tight. When there is a budget crunch, does your candidate immediately propose cuts to services for the most vulnerable in our communities, such as health care for children or the elderly? Or does the candidate put everything on the table, including tax breaks for powerful corporations?

We believe in democracy: the majority rules, but minority rights are protected.  In these uncertain times, some politicians play on people's fears of economic insecurity by scapegoating minorities. Immigration reform and the rights of child refugees crossing the border are being debated nationally and in every community. Does you candidate stand up for the rights of all?

One good thing about this election season is that candidates are reaching out to voters. Use the web sites and phone numbers from the campaign ads, contact the candidates or their staff and ask hard questions.  Attend candidate forums and events. Get together with friends and neighbors, compare notes, and share information. Remember, information is power. The more you learn, the more you can make the system work for you!

The Rural Organizing Project (ROP) will help you to access election-year information. Call the ROP at 503-543-8417 or go to www.rop.org